Saturday, May 24, 2008

Visiting a Nursing Home

My students and I participated in a Service Project to a nursing home yesterday. We really were not prepared. As we arrived we could smell that peculiar smell of some care facilities(edited). After being there a while we couldn't smell anything out of order. We walked on in and went to a community area where the residents played games and chatted. Once we were briefed we were asked to go down two corridors and greet those residents that were bedridden and chat with them awhile. That was a challenge.

Sometimes they were bathing, others were sleeping, and some resisted visitors. In fact, two males students who I know were totally respectful were asked to leave a room. Yet there were many who were very happy to see visitors. They ranged from many different levels of needs, cultures, and ethnic backgrounds, just like us. It makes me smile to think how they ministered to us.

After we walked the halls and said hello, and got some students occupied, I thought maybe I can sit down a minute because I had done a lot of walking earlier at school in heels and my feet were aching. Then I spotted some of my students talking to an elderly lady. I asked her if she would like to go out to the lovely butterfly garden next to the commons area. There we found a table where we all could sit and chat.

One of the purposes of the trip was to interview the residents about their life stories and memories. As we talked to Miss M. we realized that her memory was not quite clear and if we asked her if she had ever held a job, or did she have brothers and sisters, or anything beyond, the fact that she had been born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, she would pause, search her mind and then sing, recite, or simply say " away in a manger no crib for a bed my little Lord Jesus, lay down his sweet head..."

It dawned on me that she liked Christmas songs, so I asked the kids if they would like to sing one. They could only think of ones in Spanish since they were mostly Spanish speaking ESOL students and also because it was such an emotional moment for all of them. So I started to sing the first one that came to my mind, which was Jingle Bells (in the middle of May in 80 degree weather!) and they all sang it, and there was a burst of smiles, laughter, and clapping. Then someone, I think Marietta, who had joined us in her wheelchair asked me to sing another song. So I sang a song, my little granddaughter, Zee, had sung at school: My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty there's nothing my God can not do. They loved it and laughed and smiled. It was a beautiful moment. We continued talking and sharing, and then it was time to go visit other residents, and some of us left, though some of the girls stayed on with Molly and Marietta.

When we went down the hall we saw a Mr. G. W. He seemed a little gruff at first, but he turned out to be a very educated distinguished fellow. He had been a lawyer, Minister of Interior in El Salvador, and a diplomat. His last name and demeanor was Irish, since his grandfather had been an Engineer who migrated to El Salvador when they developed the railroads there. One of my students overheard us talking when he said El Salvador, and she said she was from El Salvador, too. She is half Salvadoran and also very espanola on her dad's side, so I was surprised. She came in the nick of time and they had a chance to talk about all things Salvadoran including favorite foods, his high school, and university. What a curious conversation.

It was wonderful to see all the goodness and kindness they showed the elderly. Later I took them aside and told them how proud I was of them! They were so transparent in feeling and showing compassion and affection. That is something very hard to get from a high school student in a classroom setting. As a result of seeing and making friends some of the kids are signing up to be volunteers because they fell in love with the people there.

Finally when it was time to go, we did get to say goodbye to Molly. She gave all of the kids a kiss. When I went to say goodbye, she held my hand, and kissed it. She said we need more of this and this is all we need. Then I bent down to give her a kiss and she kissed my cheek. It was all very touching and will not soon be forgotten..
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Restoring Furniture


I found that some neighbors were throwing out some old rattan furniture and I love rattan. In fact the first furniture I bought, well we bought when I first got married was rattan. Rattan Living room, rattan bedroom, and a restored rattan dining table that Tio Pepito refinished for us. Personally I like the natural wood tone, but it is much easier just to paint over it, than having to sand it. The good thing about Rattan is that is lasts for ever, and sometimes like many other things we outgrow it.
Though I don't think I will outgrow this.

But anyway, I found three chairs, a center piece stand, and a thick glass table top and drove right past it on my way to work and said if it is still there when I come home, I will stop and get it. To my delight and chagrin there it was. How will I fit it into my car, and what about the restoration? I slowly and carefully crammed it into my PT Cruiser and drove home.

That was too weeks ago. I had sandpaper and some varnish. So I started sandpapering it away, removing all the dead paint, and stains. I thought wow I will be able to restore this without any extra expense, but the varnish just vanished after a few minutes because the rattan had to be sealed with a stain first. So I ran down to Lowe's and my only expense has turned out to be ten dollars and the cloth for the cushions which I plan to sew today (I already had cloth). I can not believe I will have a beautiful rattan set in my porch practically for nothing.

Take a look at how the restoration is going. I bought a polyurethane stain, which both stains, seals, and protects as you can see in the photo. We had heavy rains last night, with wind, and the water came in.

Droplets curled on the rattan.
No damage.
Big smile.
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Alarm Broke Heaven

Broke Heaven
The day you laughed
the day they laughed at me

Alarm broke Heaven
I prayed
You heard
the day I shared
my pain within

Bells rang in heaven
I forgave
I praised your Name
regardless of the pain

Angels sang in Heaven
Molly sang
Away in a Manger
no crib for a bed
she had lost her head
she kissed my hand and *
this is all you need

Bells rang in heaven
Angels sang
This is all we need

Alarm broke heaven
They laughed
Bells rang
I raised my head
walked in

* Molly is the elderly lady in the nursing home that kissed my hand when I went to say goodbye. An angel in disguise. See next blog entry.