Caramore, Part 2

Those of you following the blog may recall Jerri’s interview at Caramore Community back in October –the one cut short when she confessed she’d smoked crack the day before. Yep. Not one of her more stellar moments. If you’re new to the blog, you can catch up here.

I’m sort of crushing on Caramore. I know, I know. It can’t possibly be ALL THAT but what I’ve read and observed is truly impressive. Caramore is a structured, residential support program for adults with mental illness that uses a step-up approach to empower independence and community employment. Not sure why this is such a novel approach–but trust me, it is– no one else seems to be doing it. Caramore puts brain disorders in their place; chronic conditions to be managed as you get on with the business of living your life.

At first, participants establish a daily work regimen, 30 hours a week, as employees on Caramore’s janitorial or landscaping work crews which provide services to the community. The janitorial crew, for example, cleans churches, businesses, and homes. Participants live in Caramore apartments where Residential Advisors supervise and help them establish personal goals like sticking to a budget or improving social skills. There are 4 participants to an apartment. Everyone has his/her own bedroom, shares a bath with one other person, and shares the kitchen and den with all housemates. Chores are assigned and everyone contributes to maintaining the living space.

Participants earn minimum wage which is applied to their housing. Disability income goes into a savings account which after several months is enough for a deposit and first month’s rent on an apartment outside the program.

As you progress in the program, there’s gradual lessening of supervision and Caramore helps you secure employment in the community at sponsoring businesses. A HUGE shout out to Lowes, Target, Whole Foods, and UNC for being Caramore employers.

After 3 or more months of steady employment, participants move into community apartments. Many split the cost with housemates they met at Caramore. Slowly, Caramore’s services are reduced and eventually phased out. Eventually, participants “graduate” but can continue to network and get support from other alumnae.

Did I mention Caramore has a 90% success rate?

At first glance, it might appear Jerri doesn’t need this kind of program. After all, she’s already able to live fairly independently. She takes her medicine on her own, does her own shopping, pays bills, and has her own apartment. Still Caramore has a lot to offer. Jerri’s not great with money and spends it all within days of getting payed. Probably as a technique to remain clean (if she doesn’t have any money, she can’t buy drugs) and perhaps as a post-traumatic stress response (if she doesn’t have any money, no one can steal from her.) Caramore could help her work through money issues. Jerri is also ready to get a job but fears losing disability and the possibly of getting sick again. Caramore has experts in disability law and can help navigate this. On her own, she lacks the discipline to get up every morning and go to work. Plus she has a felony on her record and that makes it difficult to even find employment. Lastly, her social skills aren’t great. These are all challenges, Caramore can help address.

After the botched interview back in October, Jacob, the Admissions Director, said typically new admissions have to be clean and sober for 6 months prior, however, he would cut that to 3 months for Jerri and scheduled another interview for January 8th. Jacob has since had a promotion and on the 8th, Jerri met with Blake, the new director. The interview went well – no drama this time – and Blake scheduled a trial visit for Jerri to test drive the program.

That was this past week. Trial visits are supposed to be 5 days but with Martin Luther King day on Monday and the ice storm on Friday, Jerri’s visit lasted only 3. She worked on the janitorial crew mostly vacuuming and complained of backaches daily. She described the other participants as “heavily medicated” and likened the experience to “being in a mental hospital” because Caramore dispenses all medications and you have to take them while they watch. When I pressed for one positive thing about the experience, she said “everyone is really nice to me.” She also felt better about the visit after talking to her Residential Advisor for the week.

Yesterday morning, we sat down with Blake and discussed the visit. He said the 3 days really hadn’t been enough time for Caramore or for Jerri to fully assess whether the program was a good fit. Jerri is concerned she might not be physically able to vacuum for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. (Ha! Who among us is?) So Blake asked her to do another trial visit, for a full week, starting Monday.

For my part, I’m trying my best to remain objective. To me, Caramore seems like a life-saver. On the other hand, what could possibly be worse than ending the relationship with Telecare (her current mental health provider), letting her apartment go (for which there was a waiting list to get in), and moving all her stuff to Caramore only to receive a call 2 weeks later saying it’s not going to work out? Jerri has said as much. “I want to be sure I can physically do the work before I commit.” She was seriously doubting herself when I picked her up yesterday.

“What will you do, Jerri, if you decide you can’t manage the Caramore program? Just go back to watching TV all day?”

“No. Catherina will take me to Vocational Rehabilitation and I’ll try to get back into work that way.”

She’s got good intentions – I’m just concerned about follow-through. And likelihood of success without more structured support than what Telecare can provide. I know, it’s out of my hands. God, grant me the serenity . . .

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Liebster Award

20130120-121058.jpgThanks to Laura at pajarigirls, I’m the proud recipient of a Liebster! (My husband said, “Lobster? Someone gave you a lobster?”) It’s an award that fellow bloggers bestow on “up-and-coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers.” Hey, I’m up-and-coming, who knew? The word ”Liebster” comes from the German language and can mean “sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, most beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.”

Laura said she nominated Trophydaughter “because I want more people to read your words and know they are not alone.” Wow! This really touches me and is something I want too. Laura also said (bless her) that she couldn’t believe I qualified in the “Less than 200 followers” department. You know, me neither, because who doesn’t want to read the rants of a mad sister trying to bring her sibling back to life and rid the world of stigma while teetering, herself, most days on the edge of insanity?

When I first started this blog I thought, “If you write it, they will come.” Doesn’t really work that way so I’m discovering. But I refuse to be a numbers gal. If even one person takes away something of value here, it is enough.

So here are the Liebster rules (because you know us Trophydaughters are all about the rules;-)
1. Thank the person who nominated you. (Check!)
2. Post 11 random facts about yourself
3. Answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
4. Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (and notify the bloggers that you nominated them!)
5. Write 11 NEW questions directed toward YOUR nominees.
6. You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated your own blog.
7. You paste the award picture into your blog, Google it or steal mine.

11 Random Facts:
1) I just finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Has definitely earned its spot on the best seller list.
2) My corgie wears TinkleTrousers.
3) The last iPad app I downloaded was Nook.
4) My lab/boxer mix wears Thundershirts.
5) I will always regret never having learned to play the drums. But not enough to actually buy a set and take lessons 🙂
6) I drive one-handed with my left hand at 7:00 on the steering wheel. It’s the only thing I do left-handed. Just trying to get in touch with my inner South Paw, I guess.
7) I’m strongly considering selling the house and moving into a warehouse condo downtown. That or a very tiny house preferably under 1000 sq. ft.
8) I’ve been married for 26 years to the same man and sometimes I dream we’re just still dating. Wonder what Freud would have to say about that.
9) I’m completely and totally addicted to Downton Abbey. I even PURCHASED season 2 to catch up since I couldn’t find it anywhere online for free.
10) Buying TV shows really grates against my moral fiber. Grrr!
11) The last iPhone app I downloaded was Flashlight.

Questions for me to answer:
1.) Does YOUR sister pick on you, too? Nagging and such?
No, not really. I think she got it all out of her system back in grade school.

2.) When was the last time you shoveled poo?
Uh, like 2 days ago and thanks for asking.

3.) What would be the first thing you’d do if you won the lottery?
Quit. My. Job. Yeah, baby!

4.) How YOU doin’? (It’s just not the same without an up-nod and a bad Sopranos accent.)
Eh. I’ve been better . . .

5.) What do you want to be when you grow up?
An author. I want to see my name on the spine of a book. And not written with magic marker.

6.) If you could live anywhere on earth (and take whomever you wanted along), where would it be?
Hmmm. This is a daily conversation at our house as we’re not sure we can afford the US after we retire. We’re toying with Costa Rica where you can still purchase an oceanfront lot for $40,000 and live comfortably on $2400 a month.

7.) What do you admire most about yourself?
My ability to read upside down. Ha! I crack myself up.

8.) What would you most like to change about yourself?
I’m the cowardly Lion. If ever I make it to Emerald City, I’m going to ask the Wizard for courage.

9.) What are you waiting for?
A metal. Or as Stan would say, a chest to pin it on.

10.) Why did you start blogging?
Susan talked me into it.

11.) What is the most-watched movie/DVD in your collection?
Hmm. That’s a hard one. I’m a big fan of watching movies over and over and over. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables (so I’m a big fan of kid lit, what about it?), Mama Mia

Questions for my nominees:
1) Why did you start writing a blog?
2) What are you currently reading?
3) How would you describe your singing voice?
4) What gives you the giggles?
5) What’s your favorite movie one-liner?
6) If you could have one do-over, what would it be?
7) What’s your fav Chinese dish?
8) How are you going to change the world?
9) When is the last time you sobbed, truly sobbed?
10) What do you want to be remembered for?
11) Who’s a tough act to follow?

As for nominees, not everyone shares the number of blog followers they have. If this applies to you, please know this nomination does not imply any assumptions on my part. It just means I enjoy your blog and not posting your follower stats makes you fair game 🙂

And the nominees are (in no specific order):
…But She’s Crazy
bi[polar] curious
Manic Muses
My Bipolar Bubble
MANagING maNIA
Let us not mince words
DeepThinker52
The Witty and the Mundane
Narcissism – One Woman’s True Story of Marriage to a Narcissist
Warm Ginger
Rusty Doodle


So This is 2013 . . .

My father has lung cancer. Neither of my parents are talking to me about it. What I hear trickles down from conversations between Mom and Jerri. I have no idea what the truth is since history has shown my mother to be an unreliable narrator and Jerri doesn’t understand much of what Mom says. At first, Jerri said it was stage 1 which meant the cancer had been caught in the earliest phase, consisted of a single tumor in one lung that could likely be removed with surgery, and my dad would have a 60-80% 5-year survival rate. Now Jerri says it is stage 4 which is the last phase and indicates the cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body. About 40% of lung cancer patients are already stage 4 when diagnosed. Average life expectancy following diagnosis is about 8 months and less than 10% survive for 5 years. What a difference one little number makes.

My parents called our other relatives to tell them of Dad’s cancer. They did not call me. Having NOT notified me, Mom still managed to be shocked that I hadn’t called Dad to express condolences. She told Jerri I would be sorry after Dad is gone. Sadly, it feels like she is almost looking forward to the day so she will have one more weapon in her arsenal to wield against me. “Your father was dying from cancer and you didn’t even visit him. You never even called!”

I emailed my parents the following:

It’s unreasonable to expect me to respond to news I receive third-hand—you don’t even know for sure that I’ve received it–so please know that in the future, I will only respond to news that comes from you. For example, if Dad is in the hospital and you or Dad don’t tell me, I will assume you don’t want me to know and you don’t want me to visit. Please don’t use Jerri to communicate information to me or to gather information about me. If there is something you’d like to share or know, you can call or email at anytime.

Mom’s reply:

Terri, I assumed that you did not want ANY CONTACT WITH US AS IT HAS BEEN YEARS SINCE YOU HAVE.

What is interesting in this response is I have never, not once, told them I don’t want contact. I just stopped initiating contact myself. They interpreted that to mean we were no longer speaking. They have never, not once, acknowledged that it takes two parties to “not speak.” They have informed our relatives that “Terri is no longer speaking to us.” They failed to inform the relatives that they are no longer speaking to me. They accept no responsibility in any of this which demonstrates that all along the responsibility for our relationship has been mine and mine alone. I suppose I’ve always known this. It is why, after the fallout, I stopped calling them. I needed to validate my theory. And now I have.

Is this twisted or is it just me? Please, somebody, some objectivity!

As the Trophydaughter in this family, there is immense pressure for me to step up now and “do the right thing” which is presumably forget all the pain they’ve inflicted on all of us (Jerri, her children, and me), the coercive scheming that has gone into making me an accomplice in their sins against Jerri, their vindictive attempts to punish and lasso me back into their dysfunctional world, their slanderous propaganda about me to the family, set all that aside and be a good daughter to my dying Dad. Whatever that means.

My friends have counseled me to imagine how I will feel after his death. To do what I need to do in order not to have any regrets. Honestly, I don’t even know how to process that. It’s almost impossible to explain to someone who has an actual relationship with a father who participates in their life the enormity of the dysfunction that is ours and how it so skews the normal, expected human response that even the laws of physics seem not to apply.

Will I regret not having spent time with him over the past 6 years? The truth is even if this rift didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have spent time with him. Whenever I was with family, I had to spend all my time with Mom or else she would pout, cry, get jealous, get angry, get moody, and generally become unbearable. Perhaps in Dad’s mind, keeping Mom happy was equivalent to spending time with him. I can tell you, in my mind, it is not.

Will I regret not talking with him? The truth is even when we’re communicating, we’re not actually talking. He talks to Mom and she tells me. When I heard of Dad’s diagnosis, I texted him (don’t judge, it was the best I could muster under the circumstances) that I was very sad to hear it and even sadder he hadn’t told me himself. He did not respond. He did not text back. He simply showed the text to Mom according to Jerri. In her email, Mom wrote, “Your Dad and I have been married 53 years this April and your attitude toward me has hurt him as much as me.” Really? I guess I’ll just have to take her word for it. As I have my entire life.

When I’ve tried to force the issue and talk to Dad directly, it has not gone well. The last real conversation we had was about their decision not to allow Jerri to stay at their house a few days after her release from the hospital following her colostomy. Her surgeon did not want her to be alone given the possibility of complications such as a clot. He asked my parents if she could stay with them for 2-3 days and they said no. She had no one else to stay with in town. Jerri called, crying hysterically, “I just want to go home. I’ve been here for 2 weeks and I just want to go home. They won’t let me leave unless someone commits to staying with me. And Mom and Dad won’t do it. They say I can’t stay with them.” She was living about 100 miles from me at the time but only about 7 miles from our parents. I called Dad and challenged him. He said, “It was a family decision.” I know it was not. Left up to Dad, he would have said yes. He went along with Mom because if he hadn’t, she would have made his life miserable. I said, “I can’t believe you won’t take care of your own daughter. For 2 days, Dad. Two measly days!” He said nothing. “Don’t you even care what happens to her? The doctor doesn’t want her alone because if something went wrong, she could die!” He said nothing. “Don’t you know that one day you will have to give an account for your actions to God?” He said nothing. “Fine. Don’t you worry about Jerri then. I’ll take care of Jerri.” He said, “Are you finished?” and hung up.

You may think me heartless. I am not. I am deeply saddened that Dad is now at the end of this life. But I don’t believe death is the ultimate end, just the opposite, I believe it is the ultimate beginning.

When I think about regrets, I think mostly of things out of my control. Like Dad’s seeming inability to have a relationship with me that doesn’t go through Mom. There are some things I’d like to say to him but I can’t decide which I will regret more: saying them or leaving them unsaid.

So this is how 2013 begins. Taking into consideration the family drama and the fact that right before Christmas I fell over one of our dogs while running and slid on the asphalt on my face, you’ll understand why its been a few weeks since you’ve heard from me.