The Tour

Washington State Veterans Home at Retsil

Yesterday, we toured the facility where Mom will spend her final days. It’s a VA home in Retsil, Washington, just outside Port Orchard. We drove up a slight hill past several well-marked buildings. Maintenance. Shop. Storage. Mom brought her walker but her main caregiver, Connie, fetched a wheelchair for maneuverability and a little more speed.

VA home

A sign taped to the door said “This is a no-weapons facility”. It’s very nice, bright and modern, with inverted cup-and-saucer-style light fixtures. It seemed a hybrid of light industrial and Danish modern. Our guide, Rachel, walked us through the main area. Rachel remembered Mom and Connie.

We walked down the hallway. A queen-sized quilt covered the wall, emblazoned with the words “Thank You For Your Service”. It’s because of Mom’s tour in the Navy that we had this tour.

VA home main entry

“This is the PT, OT and speech therapy room,” she said (below). A small white dog ran out to greet us. He barked at us, sizing us up.

OT room

“Oh, that’s Buster, the therapy dog,” she grinned. “He lives here.” Buster ran off with his toy. Several therapy dogs make their home there.

We wandered into what the home calls “neighborhoods”, which translated into wings or units. Each neighborhood has its own mini dining area. The bedrooms are dorm-style, next door to each other with a shared wall between. No actual door separates the room from the main hallway, only a curtain. The restroom is shared as well. Residents receive several staff check-ins per day. Laundry service and medications are included in the monthly fee.

Va home room

“If you want a single room, I would suggest getting on the waiting list now,” Rachel said. Those rooms had actual doors and total privacy, with en suite restrooms. Rachel pointed out the activity calendar. Every day had something to look forward to. They even have a stripped down version of The Nutcracker performance every Christmas season.

“The first resident here, Ray, came from Orting. He travelled by horseback, canoe and on foot. He died in a duel with another resident,” Rachel informed us. Hence the no weapons policy, methinks.

We wandered outside into a great bowl of blue sky and sunshine. We tried to explore the old chapel, but it was locked. We stepped down the path to the original building. It’s slated to be demolished due to asbestos abatement. Past that building is a great view of the sea. A cool breeze reminded us that fall is indeed here. I think it’s only fitting Mom end up next to the ocean, since she served in the Navy.

The dining hall opened at 11:30. The six of us had tickets to eat there. Who says there’s no free lunch? The menu included main dish choices of chili con carne, chef salad and chicken-fried steak. I heard the chili was good. The chicken-fried steak was not. They also offered jello, which all of us skipped. And not because of Bill Cosby.

VA home dining area

Despite all the windows and light wood, the spaces managed to feel intimate. No area felt too large. Nothing felt impersonal. I could appreciate capturing as much natural light as possible since 8 months of the year Washington can expect gray skies. The staff were kind and caring. Most residents self-propelled in wheelchairs or with walkers and seemed well cared for. Unfortunately, Mom is on a waiting list. The majority of veterans are men. The home meets a quota of settling in a certain amount of men first, then they take a woman. It makes sense. But it’s the opposite everywhere else.

Both Jonathon and I have to work and can’t take care of Mom regularly, which has been hard. Connie, Mom’s friend and a former nurse, does the heavy lifting, and will soon have another gal to spell her.  My brother and I plus our families pitch in on scheduled weeknights until a room opens for Mom. I am proud of Mom for serving our country, for serving her tour. Now our country will serve her. This facility, with their kindness and compassion, will help Mom have a better quality of life. She will be surrounded by like-minded peers, interesting activities, natural beauty, and someone else will do the laundry. I am grateful. I trust God to take care of the rest.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16







Friday Abide



So I ran 3 miles today. Not an accident. My foot has healed, slowly but surely. And somehow, I’ve gotten faster. What in the world?? Do I run without stopping? No. I take walk breaks when needed. Because I think I’ve finally gotten the message that walking is not weakness. In fact, work and rest are synergists. One fuels the other. Resting without hard work makes a person feel listless and restless; working without resting opens the door to injuries and burnout.

Between the master’s classes, serving at church, work and family obligations, I felt tapped out. My mom’s losing the battle with Parkinson’s; she is nearly homebound now. We are working to get her into a VA home in Port Orchard soon. I haven’t felt like I could breathe or relax or think. At least not for very long. I snapped at people closest to me. Hope ran low. I found myself responding in cynicism instead of empathy and kindness. I sensed something was wrong. I couldn’t quite get out of the funk. I blamed it on the end of summer, on the difficult classes, on morale at work.

After one particularly bad day, Jonathon heard me out. He looked at me thoughtfully.

“You know, Sue, you’re burned out,” he said.

I didn’t like his analysis at first. I mulled it over. Could it be? He explained how he had reached that point not too long ago and stepped back from some responsibilities for a time to focus on receiving refreshing and vision. He came back to tasks ready to serve and engage again.

Yeah. His diagnosis of my mindset was right on. I guess after 27 years of marriage he *does* know me.

I’m learning at my advanced age that it’s okay to stop and rest. It’s okay to take breaks. You have not lost if you step back for a season. It is not a defeat. It is not a concession, merely a pause. You can take a moment to regroup and restrategize, come at it all again with renewed vigor and drive.

I am learning to lean even more on Jesus, the True Vine. Gonna spend some time abiding. He truly knows where I’ve been and where I’m going. So I’m taking 6 months off from worship team, the only place I can really ramp down. That starts October 1. I dearly wish I could take 6 months off work. However, since I’m the only one employed at the moment, probably not a good idea.

I fully expect resting to chafe. I like being busy and feeling like what I do contributes, even if in a small way. I like doing stuff. Just like it did with running, I hope to find that resting brings unique benefits that checking boxes, although sexy, does not.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing…” – John 15:5

Summer’s End

summer's end


The silver curtain has fallen. Summer is over in Shelton. Outside resembles a November storm. Temps won’t even hit 60 today. Leaves fall and the light has shifted. Plus, pumpkin spice. So, yeah. Summer, we barely knew ye! Please come again.

But there is good news. The summer term of Capella’s master’s program is over. It officially ended last Friday (the 13th). The infamous Dr. P of Ethics in the Public Sector sent out several emails. Wanting to finish early, I turned in the last of my work for that class on Saturday, September 7. Every time I got email, my heart would leap. It leapt very high when he created a new running calculator in Blackboard based on all the class assignments, not just on the ones that were graded. In other words, taking points earned divided by total points possible. That put me at a 69.9% in his new category called “final grade”. My heart plummeted into my socks. Still not sure why he did that, since Blackboard, the grading system, runs a current tally all the time based on submitted work, not all the assignments for the class. I did not respond to this email either, because his creating that category seemed unnecessary busywork and would cause more problems than solutions.

Maybe the emails would stop? But alas. “You should consider taking this FEMA training” with 14 paragraphs on how non-emergency management personnel needed the free seminar. Or “Capella offers these writing classes focusing on different areas”. Delete. And of course, “the class ends September 13. Here is every policy in the world Capella has for courses and grades”. Delete. Next up, “just touching base with everyone. Do you need anything from me?” Sigh. Maybe grade something?! Delete. Lastly, “here’s my personal email. I’m available outside the courseroom”. I emailed him a thank you because that needed a response. Not quite lastly, I guess, since 2 more emails came extending due dates because of Capella’s website conking out on folks.

Then nothing for 3 days. The last assignment for week 10 counted as 30% of my grade. It could still tank my GPA. I waited. I stalked the gradebook several times a day. Crickets.

Then last night, another email. “An attempt has been graded for 10A1”. Eek! I clicked and clicked to get to the grade. I got a….drumroll, please…99! I about fainted. Then I danced awkwardly because I could and it was dark. His feedback said the work was “outstanding” and “well thought out”. Yippee!

I breathed a sigh of great relief. Thank you, Lord. Let the break begin! Can we rewind summer?!