Taking Time Off to Recharge My Batteries

By , SparkPeople Blogger
There comes a point in our lives when we need to step back and take some time to re-evaluate where we are. As many of you may have read in my previous blogs, 2010 was a very trying year for the Howards. Having lost my mother-in-law to liver cancer within six weeks of her diagnosis and dealing with some other family issues, the stress was quite high. Thankfully our friends rallied around us and had it not been for my running, I could have easily found myself turning to food for comfort.

I was hoping 2011 would bring brighter days ahead. This was after all, the year I was hoping to find balance. What I am discovering is we are never completely in harmony for long. Just when all is going well, be prepared for life to take you in a different direction. A direction none of us can foresee.

So you may be asking where I am heading with this. Well, I wanted to give you all heads up that I am going to be taking some time off from writing my Saturday blogs. This comes with a very heavy heart and the decision did not come easy as I love my job. It was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make in a very long time. I must confess I have never been one who can do too many things at one time and feel as though I am giving 100 percent to everything that I do.

It was ironic to read Stepfanie's blog earlier this week from Gail Sheehy regarding the survival guide to caregivers. It really struck a chord with me. The person Ms. Sheehy was describing was me--I am the almost 50 year old woman responsible for the care of an aging parent! One of the blessings with my job at SparkPeople is the flexibility it allows me in caring for my father-in-law. My husband is an only child so he does not have siblings to share in the care of his aging father who is closing in on age 90 and no longer drives. His father still lives independently at the moment, but we are now being faced with the task of looking for assisted living facilities. Unfortunately, this is becoming a bigger challenge than we thought, as the places we have located are either out of his price range or have a waiting list years long.

When I was asked to join the SparkPeople family in August 2008, I never imagined how much my life would change. It has allowed me to step outside my comforts to find a confidence that we all have but it was so much easier to hide behind my weight than to put myself out there for rejection or judgment. While I will not be totally gone from the dailySpark, I will still be writing my fitness round-ups and other blogs on Tuesdays, I am just stepping back on my Saturday blogs. You will still find me on the message boards and the SparkTeams I lead.

I also plan on continuing with my travels. If you happen to live in the Pittsburgh area, we would love to have you join us on Saturday, March 26th as Coach Nicole and I will be traveling to the area to participate in the Just a Short Run event with over 80 other SparkPeople members. This event is not only for runners, but walkers too, so come on down. They have a 5K, 8.1 miler, Half-marathon and 30K events or you can just come and join us for a day of SparkPeople fun!

I will also be heading to San Diego the first weekend in June to run the Rock N Roll Half-Marathon as well as Seattle at the end of June to run the Rock N Roll Half-Marathon.

I want to thank you all for being so kind. When I read your comments on my blogs I am truly touched. I am not a writer by profession, but I do my best to relate to my audience. I think my high school freshman English teacher, Mrs. Golightly, would be quite proud. She was one of the toughest teachers I ever had, but I think she taught me well.

Thank you all for being a blessing in my life. Whether you agree or disagree with any of my blogs, you guys teach me humility and that the greatest gift we can give anyone is love. You all do that for all us here at SparkPeople every day. I wish you all well and I look forward to coming back with batteries recharged and ready to share some awesome blogs.



Do you care for an aging parent? Do you have others to help you along the way? How do you manage the stress?

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You and I have both been through hard times. I'm glad you are still finding the time to run. My downhill journey started right after the Sparkpeople Convention in Cincinnati, and hasn't stopped yet. Physical problems caused me to stop running and exercising. Work stress challenged my sanity. My weight started going back up. My husband did a 6-month stint in Iraq that was extremely difficult for me and the children. My mother in law is still terminal. I think we have been reorganized 3 times in the office over the past year. Things are supposed to be better now. I started riding my bike to work, and I take it one day at a time. Wish you well. Report
God bless you and yours. Please remember that being a caregiver also requires that you give care to yourself. If your bucket is empty, you have nothing to give to others.

I have said before "Nancy is the kind of person I would like living next door." I respect you for taking the time and helping to care for your father-in-law. We will all miss your blogs but look forward to the day you will be back full-time with SP.
Remember, the Lord never gives you more than you can handle.
Glad to see you are going to Pgh, PA, but sorry I no longer live in that area. After retirement we settled in NC and FL, but know you will love the friendly folks in Pittsburgh! One of these days we will meet. Report
You are setting a good example for taking care of ourselves (remember the airline emergency instructions) and in the future I hope you and Coach Nicole can come to North Carolina for a Spark Meetup! Report
I am sorry but glad you are available to help with your father-in-law. I am blessed to not be needed by my parents right now but know the day may come. I have many friends whose parents are needing care or transition and it is never easy. God Bless, Report
I realized quickly that this blog hit a nerve so my full response to it can be found in my public blogs.

The condensed version is I believe there is no better feeling after someone dies than to be able to say "I have loved well." If loving well means to be there in the final season of life, it is a challenge but you will be graced with the skills and resources to do it. The best way to be an effective caretaker is to make self-care a higher priority. If you don't take care of yourself you may not be there to take care of your loved one.
Good luck in making arrangements for your father in law. Report
I do not care for my aging parents. Both of my parents are gone, and I only wish that I could be their caregiver :( I know it's a hard job and a very stressful one at that, but please try to remember that his life is coming to it's end and you can make it so much better for him. I wish I could give you some tips on handling the stress, but I can't. I'm sure there are others who are doing this who can help you. Giving up your Saturday blog is a sacrifice for you, but look at what you will be doing! Making a difference in his life :) Report
God bless you! (((((((HUGS)))))))) Report
Nancy, I wish all the best during this time of trials. I too am a caregiver for my mother who lives 1500 miles from me. I have 2 living brothers and they are too busy to help out so I am "flying" solo. We went down in Jan. and after being home for a week, I was call that mom was in the hospital. Do I go down again? Her friends said wait and see. Mom (age 84) was in the hospital 12 days and these wonderful friends help out with everything! I have been talking with mom daily and find she is doing much better & is ready to get out and go again.

You take care of yourself 1st then do the caregiving. I know when you are a caregiver, the party you assist takes your time & energy. Blessings are being sent your way. Report
Nancy - all the best in this next stage of life's journey. Having been a care giver for both my Mother and my Father, I know full well the challenges and the happiness that results.
All of our life is a journey and we have to make sure that we enjoy and appreciate each and every stop along the way.
Your committment to helping others through SparkPeople is an inspiration for many of us.
Thank you and take care
Nancy, wishing you the best! May you find peace and strength during this part of your life's journey. As with so many of your readers, I too have cared for elderly parents. They are both gone now, and what I wouldn't give for one more day of difficulty just to be with them again! As hard as this may be for you, trust me, you won't regret it. Try to focus on the positive, be grateful for the gift of time and take care of yourself. Looking back on the past few years, I am happy I did everything I could to ease Mom and Dad's transition from this life. These are peaceful, uplifting memories for me. May you have the same! Report
Good luck to you. Life can throw big curves when you least expect them. How well I know. We were retired and life was great, then I was diagnosed with breast cancer 3.5 years ago - now all treated and resolved. Then came a diagnosis of Parkinsons Disease - a potentially debilitating disease. The only thing I can do to slow down the progression of the disease is EXERCISE. I can do that and I am. I also have great support from my team and support group. I live across the country from my 95 year old mother who lives alone. It can be very difficult but things are working well at the moment. You never know what is next in this life! Report
Nancy, I wish you well. May your find grace for your journey.
I am beginning to realize that parenting our parents is one of the most challenging tasks we will undertake. Balancing reality with dignity is not easy. Sometimes I wish my parents were 2 or 3 years old so I could just tell them to do what I say, but I want them to have as much input as possible into the decisions regarding their care in their last years. I also want to be gentle with them in the midst of the many losses that advancing age and declining health mean. I know my frustration sometimes shows when I feel like we are getting nowhere and major decisions are close at hand, but I keep working at this process. As a pastor, I walk through this process with many families. I now have a greater understanding of how hard this is for all involved. Report
My heart aches for you and your family - I know from personal experience how difficult a time this is for you.

I want to remind you to take very good care of yourself - you can not take care of anyone else if you do not take care of you.

Keep running GF - if you are like me - it's therapy! Report
Will be thinking of you and wishing you the best. Thanks for all you do! Report
I wish you happiness and balance in your life. Thank you for all the wonderful blogs you have given us. I hope someday you can return to write more, but enjoy the journal you are on now. Take care of yourself daily. Nadine Report
it it is very stressful to care for an elderly, probably forgetful, parent! i had to convince my sister to put my Mom in a nursing home when she could no longer live in her house alone. i was out of state and living with my sister would have been too stressful for everyone so the best place was a religous nursing home. there were teachers of ours that were retired and were there at the home that my Mom knew. my Mom was diagnosed with dementia and was in the home a little over a year. she was a widow since 1959 and putting her in that home insured she got good care. i still miss her even though she died in 95. Report
You will be missed on these Saturday blogs, but one thing have to do is to prioritize the different things in our lives. I understand how it is as I have been in similar situations. Also, recharging your batteries is important because you can easily burnout. I will keep you and your family in my prayers and best wishes to you as you embark on a new area in your life. Report
Great blog. I am a caregiver for a living. I work full time and part time working for people with physical and mental disabilities. I feel so blessed with what I do. It is hard work not so much physically as it is mentally.

Blessing to you. It is well deserved for time off. Report
You know you will be missed as evidenced by the many comments and feelings expressed. But, you do need to take care of yourself and your family first. I am glad to see you will continue with your running. For many of us on SP, it is one healthy way we can better cope with stress thrown in our direction. I will keep you in my thoughts, as usual, and my prayers, more frequently, as life takes you on a new path. (This is the time I would put the ghost icon on my comment, but it doesn't appear to be available~ so I'll say "BOO!") Report
I take care of both my mother and my mother-in-law. At 77 my mother is able to take care of herselft, except when she needs to go to certain doctors. At 82, my mother-in-law no longer drives so I am responsible for taking her to the doctor's and the grocery store.
Sometimes it is difficult. I've been exercising which helps to relieve stress. I've also treated myself to facials and massages. I remind myself that these women took care of us. Now that my children have grown, I have two more children with our mothers.
Our thoughts and prayers will be with you Nancy. Report
My husband's brother and his wife took care of his father up until his brother's death in August. Then their sister took on the task of taking their father into her home. We help whenever we can by taking him for the weekend or when they need to be gone keep him with us. I have seen the stress and at times the anxiety of taking care of their father has taken on them. We are fortunate enough to have help and support from other family members. My prayers will be with you. Report
I'm 53 and I help take care of my mother-in-law. She is 78 and is still grieving for her husband who passed away last August. My husband is an only child and she does not have any close friends. So i know what your going through and wish you the best of luck. Report
Nancy, I have been there too. It was my mom and unfortunately I forgot about myself. I will be praying for you and your family and praying that you do not forget about yourself during this stressful time in your life.. Report
I can't wait to meet you in person on the 26th! I wish that I could RUN the 5k but I am going to be walking it...it is my 1st and will be my pace setter!! Take care of yourself and your family...as everyone has been telling me lately THAT is what should come 1st and everything else needs to take a back seat...your husband is lucky to have you to help him..your father in law is as well...hang in there...it is all worth it in the end.... Report
take care and I wish you much luck, may God bless and continue to keep you and yours. Report
Hello, Nancy. I wish you the best of luck with the aging parent problem. Been there, done that. Now, I'm the aging parent who still lives on my own. But I can see some things starting to develop which cause me concern.

I wish you the best on your new journey. I'm grateful that you are still going to be with SP.

Renie Report
Good for you for taking the time to recharge and do the things that need doing! Report
Coach Nancy, you helped answer so many questions for me when I first started running, and if fact, you encouraged me to start running to begin with. You are my favorite Coach, so I am really going to miss your motivational posts! Please take care of yourself and know that your Saturday posts will be missed! Report
So many sweet and thoughtful comments on this blog Nancy. I am sending you virtual shoulder squeeze hugs, cause I just know that you read every one of them, and there's a pretty good chance there is a tear (or three) rolling down your cheek. Love that you are once again demonstrating the qualitities of a good leader, in that you must take good care of YOU so you can then take good care of others.

Love you. Report
Look for the Rally NW team on the Seattle Rock N Roll course, I'll be there! Report
Nancy it is admirable what you are doing and you will never regret it. It is not easy to take on such responsibility but many of us do it and it is important to take time for yourself.
As a child, my mother & I lived with her parents and at an early age I had to help take care of them. I don't think they realized my grandmother showed signs of early dementia or alzheimers back then, but she was always going off and forgetting things she was cooking so by the time I was 7 or 8 I was right there to be sure she did not burn the house down! I always felt it was my job to look out for them and my other cousins never understood why I felt I needed to care for our grandparents but they were not with them 24/7.
Then in my 30's, my husband became disabled and I cared for him for the next 9 years while working full time, raising two boys, going to nite school to get my bachelor's degree. I imagine my sons still feel like they came second to their father, but I don't regret anything because he passed away at just 41 years old.
Now I have remarried and my husband has many health issues and about 18 mo ago we moved my step-father from ILL to FL so I could care for him. Luckily he is able to be in his own home with me doing pretty much everything for him (he is 99-will be 100 in Sept) because he does not like the temperature we keep our house and we don't like the same tv shows-just a couple of minor differences but having our own space makes life easier. When he is being cantankerous, I can come home and vent to hubby and feel better. I have 3 brothers and only one offers any help with anything. However, dad thinks they do no wrong. Like someone mentioned, just once it would be nice to hear thank you or I appreciate it that you have put your life on hold to help me. We can't even plan a vacation for fear of something happening to him while we would be gone. In 18 mo, we have managed to go to see our kids and grandkids & great-grandkids up north just once for 3 days. Not one of my brothers offer to come and relieve us for a week, one did come for the weekend so we could go.
Write a little journal to remind you of things because things you think you won't forget will blur with time. It will remind you why you do this and later on it will allow you to look back and reflect on this time.
God Bless and come back when you are able. Report
You will be missed, for sure!!! I will keep you in my prayers and wish you and your family well during this tough time. Report
May God Bless you and your family during these difficult times.
Tough times don't last, tough people do. Report
I'm sorry for your loss. I wish you and yours the best. We all will be looking forward to your return :) Report
I've rowed that same boat a couple times now and have to share a quote I stenciled on our living room wall a few years ago... "Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors!" I know you will never be sorry for the time and effort you are giving a loved one... and you have made an excellent decision to take some time for yourself. I will miss your Saturday posts and pray that you find balance in your life because YOU deserve to be healthy too SparkSister. Report
Nancy, I am so happy you are doing this as I know you have been struggling with all things going on in your life. As I will sorely miss your blogs I truly look forward to keep the ol' Spark burning with you as a very cherished friend. Thank you everything you have done for me and you know what you mean to me. Love you, my friend!

See you in Pittsburgh, baby!!! Report
Hi Nancy,
I have been there and I have done that. Do it with as much love and patience has you can find in your heart. Taking care of a parent in intimate ways is stressful, painful, heartbreaking and the most wonderful thing you will ever do. Many people will tell you that there is no gratitude for doing this and that there is nothing positive to be gained through this experience but I disagree. Knowing that you have given so much, so honestly, with no thought of return is a reward in itself. Knowing that when you must let your beloved parent go, that you did everything possible to care for them or make certain that they were cared for lovingly and properly makes it a little easier to live with the loss. That you are willing to share this responsibility with your husband is a tremendous statement of your love for him, too. You will come out on the other side stronger and you will be free to pursue the activities that you love the most again. God bless you on your journey. Come back to us when you are ready! Report
I too was a caregiver for my father for 6 years. Three of those years he lived with us and the other three he was in assisted living. Prior to those 6 years he lived 75 miles away and was dependent upon someone to help with chores. He moved in with me when he could no longer take care of my stepmother. We placed her in a nursing home and she lived only an additional four months.

Even though I had a sister for support, she lived over 100 miles away. I had to be careful not to over burden her with travel here to help with Dad. If I had it to do over I would probably not change anything even though it was very stressful on my husband and I. I decided to go from full time work to part time so I would have the time necessary to care for the home and dad.

I wish you the very best as you move into this new era in your life. And as others had it is important for you to take care of yourself so that you can be of service to those around you that you love. Report
Please remember to always be kind to yourself. With out you, were would the rest of them be. We all need each other, sometimes it is more often than some. Take care of yourself and when you are ready mentally as well as physically we will always be here waiting. Stay strong and keep on Sparking.

Maggie j. Report
like my dad (also an only child) always said to my sisters and i, you can't be any good to anyone else if you don't take care of yourself. we'll be waiting for you should you decide to return but for not it's time to take care of you. thank you for all the great words of caring and advice.

peace & love,
shauntay (taygrl)
Life - it's never easy, is it? Like your husband, I am an only child - and my mother lives (independently, for now) 3000 miles away. I try not to borrow trouble, but I worry that the time may come when I will have to make a monumental upheaval in my own life - or live with tremendous guilt. It's a smart person who knows what they can, and can't, do. Sounds as tho you have decided where that line is for you. Best of luck, kiddo! Report
Care givers forget to take care of themselves. I took care of both my parents when they became sick and it takes a toll of you. I wouldn't have changed that and never realized how much it took until after they had passed away. After I took time to replenish my energy and soul. I felt blessed to beable to take care of them. I miss them so much but have wonderful memories to hold on to. Thank you for sharing that part of your life. Report
Take care Nancy,
I have been in your place taking care of my mom. It is not easy -- you have to care for yourself also.
Sue Report
we all need time to pull ourselfs to gether . pull yourself together for the better. Report
Good luck..will think good thoughts and hope that you find the right situation for your FIL. He and your husband are lucky men to have a wonderful woman in their lives who puts her needs and career aside to take care of her family. I'm sure they know that, be sure you do too!! And be sure to take care of our friend Nancy, too. We will miss your blogs, but am sure we'll "see" you around! Report
Thanks for being up front with us. With my parent(s-until two years ago) living a few states away I've not been the caregiver, but the caregiver supporter. I alternate calling Daddy - when it was Mom - I would report to my sister (the nurse) anything that seemed(s) unusual so she could check on it. But I know she's had stress out the wazoo - and I feel so bad that I can't do much to help. And words are not always enough.
I offer my words of support and encouragement whenever you need them.
Hugs too at JASR! See you soon! Report
First, good luck and we will miss your Saturday blogs!! But you must be good to yourself first and formost. I am the caregiver to my mother who will be 100 years old in June of this year. She lives alone but is on oxygen 24/7, almost blind, wears hearing aids, and walks with a walker. My sister and I do most everything for her. And I know what you have been thru. My mother has dug in her heels and refuses to go to assisted living. She thinks she doesn't need it!! I excerise 2 hrs a day just to keep my stress levels down. My husbands mother died of pancreatic cancer and he was an only child and so it all fell to me. He couldn't deal with it. My mom fell in December and is only now recovering from that fall. Luckily she didn't break anything!! Take care of YOU first that is what I try to do. Report
I have always read your Sat blogs and I have enjoyed them alot. I wish you all the best! Remember to take care of you! Report
Yes, my mother-in-law needs and takes up a lot of my husband's time not to mention stress. It wouldn't be so bad if she would work with us but she will not do anything that she should do. She just will not cooperate, her brother has pretty much washed his hands of her, because either she lies a lot or is forgetful, you can not accept anything she says as fact. She really needs to be either in a nursing home where her meds can be controlled or an assisted living facility which she cannot afford. We moved into a smaller home approx. 7 yrs ago and do not have any room so that we could move her in with us. She falls a lot and we believe it is from her medication, either she is taking too much or the doctor is giving her meds that she does not need. I have to mention that she is addicted to pain medication, that she no longer needs, but like any addict she will consistently call the doctor with some reason to get them. Usually my husband takes her to the doctor be when she is trying to get pain meds she will find someone else to take her because my husband will not let the doctor prescribe her any pain meds. We are at a loss about what to do about her, my husband did call and make an appointment for tomorrow, he is taking his mother with him and going to talk to the doctor about the medications he keeps giving her. I am really being to wonder about the doctor personally. My husband took the new meds she just got from the doctor, two days before her last fall and hit her head getting a cut above her eye, from her and she told him that she had the best nights sleep then she has had in months, sleep the night through, some of the meds she is on is to help her sleep but they don't work & when she gets up in the middle of the night of course she is groggy and that is when she usually falls. I would appreciate any suggestions you may have to help us to deal with this situation.

Suez2011 Report
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