Wednesday, November 25, 2009

High School Football in Texas

My brother has been a coach for many years.  Our son Scott has been a coach for not quite so many years.  Chuck and Scott have always had a close relationship, ever since Scott was born, and now they are coaching at the same high school in East Texas.

If you asked either one of them why they teach, they would say, because they won't let me coach unless I teach.

Chuck played football in high school and college.  So did Scott.

We lived in Denison, a small town near the Texas-Oklahoma border.

Denison won the Texas state football championship two years in a row.  Scott was part of that.  And so were we, and the rest of the town.  

During the playoffs, businesses closed on Friday night because everybody was at the game.

Season tickets were handed down like family heirlooms.

More people showed up to watch practices than were in the stands for other teams during game time.

In bigger cities, high school football is not quite as intense, but in small towns, with only one high school, it is literally the only game in town.

In Texas, coaches' careers ride on the backs of teen-age warriors battling on the football field.  If the team wins, the coach gets to keep his job.  If the team looses, he starts looking for another job.

Scott and Chuck are working together now.  Their families spend a lot of time together on weekends.  We go to the games, and sit with family, watching our guys work.

This year, Jefferson went two-deep in the playoffs.  The game was a close one, 14-7.  Jefferson lost, but it was a close game.  The boys played hard.  Only 8 starters are graduating, so next year's team will have a strong foundation of experienced players.

Our grandson will be playing next year.

Once more, we will be sitting in the stands, whether it is 105 in the shade in August, or 45 in November.  If it rains, we have water-proof boots, a large plastic dropcloth, and a big umbrella.  If it snows, we have thick jackets, fleecy scarves, and wooly gloves.

Rain or shine, hot or cold, we follow our team.

When Scott stopped playing, we thought those days were gone forever.

Next fall is going to be a lot of fun.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Indian Summer Day

Gaggle of geese, sleeping on the banks of the lake, heads tucked under wings.

One gander, neck stretched high, head swiveling, watching for predators.

Sunshine on our shoulders, warm as a hug.

Lake rippling in a light breeze.

Chicken salad, fresh whole-grain homemade bread, crisp lettuce, sweet onions for a picnic lunch.

Wick laughing as a goose eats stale bread from his hand.

Grandchildren running, climbing, laughing, shouting to one another.

Sated geese drifting away across the water like scattered bread crumbs.

Cast your bread upon the waters, and it will return to you ten-fold.

Mostly in the form of goose poop all over the grass.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

An Airline Brat Goes Camping

Jeana's husband works for an airline.  Most of their traveling is by airplane.

However, a few weeks ago, they decided to go tent camping.

They were in the process of gathering up equipment, packing clothes, and putting food in ices chests, when one of the kids asked:

"Hey, will the campground provide towels?"

No, and they don't do hot breakfasts, either.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Going to the Zoo

Ever since my long illness last winter, I have struggled with limited mobility. I can walk, with a cane, but not very far. I can walk with a walker a little further, because it lets me sit down frequently to rest.

But long walks, trips to the mall, for example, are just out of my range for now.

My darling husband realizes how frustrating this limitation is, and tries to find ways to compensate. He got me an electric wheel chair, but it is large and hard to load, and impossible right now with his right arm in a splint and sling.

So he found me one of those lightweight electric scooters. He struggles to load it one-armed, but it is surprising how often someone volunteers to help with loading and unloading.

A couple of weeks ago, on a beautiful fall day, we took my little red scooter and went to the zoo with Jeana and her children.

Since they are homeschooling, we got to go on a Tuesday, when most kids are sitting in a classroom, instead of roaming the zoo, laughing at the monkeys, and racing up and down the ramps.

We had a picnic, sat in the sun and soaked up its late-fall warmth, picked up the reddest leaves I have ever seen...soft and supple still, a vivid russet red that seemed to glow like an ember in my hand, holding within itself the promise of winter and of the renewal of life in the spring.

Our grandchildren took turns walking along with me, talking about everything we saw, and expressing pride in me for coming along on their adventure, even though I had to do it on my little red scooter.

Wick and I "walked" along together, me able to keep up with his long strides, and laughingly lamenting that we can't hold hands as we stroll--I because I need to steer the scooter, and he because he has his right arm in a splint--closest thing to a normal walk in a long, long time.

Life is full of simple pleasures, things for which to be thankful. On this day, I realized it in the moment, instead of days or years later.

Life is a gift. Love is a gift. I am blessed to have both.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Winter Is on Its Way

Cold weather, wind blowing, leaves falling like snow.

Chicken is simmering on the stove, filling the air with its fragrance.

We are sitting in front of the fire, toasting our toes, and looking at the lake through the window.

Quilts are on the beds.

Warm houseshoes have been found where they were hiding in the depths of the closet, and sweats, warm, cozy, comfortable, are the attire of the day.

Clouds blow across the sky, with patches of blue sky and sunshine peeking through now and then.

The pantry is full; the freezer is stocked.

The harvest is gathered in.

Our hearts are filled with thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

She Has Her Mother's Sense of Humor

Conversation between daughter Jeana and her eldest, Katoushka, age 13:

K: Why are you wearing a Christmas sweater in October?

Jeana: It's not a Christmas sweater.

K: Yes it is, it's red and green.

J: No, it's red and shades of grey, see?

K: Red and grey? What kind of Christmas sweater is that?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What's REally Important

Yesterday I wrote about the stuff stolen from the cabin.

Tomorrow Wick will have surgery on his arm.

The stuff that was taken was just stuff. As Wick said, a year ago he was just praying that I would live one more day.

Today I am praying that the surgeon will have the skill to restore Wick's hand and that he will regain total function.

Compared to the risk of losing each other, stuff pales by comparison.

As the Bible says, our true treasures are in Heaven, where no rust corrupts, no moth consumes, and no thief can steal what is truly valuable.

Tomorrow... we have been hoping for two weeks for this surgery to be scheduled, and now it is less than 12 hours away. Jeana will go with him, since I still can't drive. I will stay here with the grandkids, and pray.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


We were away from the cabin for more than two weeks after Wick's incident, and apparently, while we were gone, we had uninvited guests.

Unwanted guests.

They took Wick's air compressor, a satchel full of tools, the computer printer, and a digital camera.

They also took most of my jewelry. Not the junk. No, they are much too discriminating for that. They only took the good stuff.

The pearl necklace Wick gave me when I graduated from high school.

The ruby ring I got when I finished my PhD.

My grandmother's opal ring.

Things that have comparitively little monetary value, but to me were priceless.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Banking on the Kindness of Strangers

Last week Jeana took us to see a surgeon regarding Wick's arm. We had to drive a long way, on unfamiliar roads, and for a long stretch we were on a toll road.

As we approached the toll road, I said I needed to make a pit stop. With all the meds I take, that's a pretty frequent request.

Unfortunately, the lead-up to the toll road is rather desolate--no convenience stores, or fast-food places, or anything else that we could see. Finally, the last exit before getting on the toll road, we saw a bank.

I told Jeana to pull over at the bank. She said, are you going to ask to use their restroom?

I said, any port in a storm.

As I hobbled through the door with my cane, a lovely young lady with a charming smile asked, how may we help you today?

I said, may I use your restroom?

She could have just pointed, but she walked me across the lobby, past the tellers and the glassed-in offices, to a door leading to a hallway where the restrooms were.

With a gracious Vanna White motion, she said, Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you.

Wow. How lovely, to be treated as a welcome guest, even though I did not have any legitimate bank business to transact, and don't even have an account at that office.

Aren't people kind?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Drugs, Mayhem, and Chihuahuas--The Saga of Little Bob

One night Jeana and I were talking about our friends Bob and Deen. I happened to mention their little dog, Bob. Jeana wanted to know why they would name the dog the same name as the owner.

So I started telling her about Bob, who is Frankie's only doggy friend.

Now this is an East Texas story, which I pieced together from different sources. I can no longer remember who told what part of the story, but the most noticeable feature of all the narrators was the sense of place--the East Texas way of telling a story, rambling from one thing to another, from one person to another, and all told in that deep East Texas vernacular.

I have consolidated all those voices into one narrator, and tried my best to reproduce how those voices sound.

Wall, y'all ain't been in the neighborhood long enough to know who is who and what is what, but y'all know that house that's right opposite y'all's house on the circle? [We live on a road that makes a full circle.] The one with the fenced yard?

They's just somethin' about folks as would fence up their front yard. Don't seem very welcomin' somehow, does it? Like they don't really want you to come visit. Don't set out on the porch, nor in the yard, nor come 'round nobody else's place neither. And they had a big boy, nearly growed up, and he don't go to school, nor work, nor nothin', far as any of us could tell.

Never seen his daddy hit a lick at a snake with a stick, don't know as he ever worked much either.

The mama, now she had a whole passel of them lil ol dogs, you know them little Mexican dogs, like that'un on the Taco Bell ad, that always said Yo, Key Arrow Taco Bell [yo quiero Taco Bell]?
Them lil dogs ain't big as a minute, none of 'm.

Wall, she had a whole herd of them lil dogs, and she sold'm to folks as wanted one. But then they fell on hard times. Couldn't even pay the light bill. Said they just couldn't afford to feed so many dogs, no matter how little, and just opened the gate and turned 'm loose on the neighborhood.

Wasn't long after that the laws showed up. Just went right in through that open gate, busted down the door, and hauled 'm off to jail.

We always suspected they was dealin' drugs or somethin'

Lots of folks took one of 'm, just picked 'm up off the road. [We are back to the dogs now.]

But a few of 'm hung around, all skinny and scrawny, and lookin' pitiful.

Joyce, across the road, she felt sorry for 'm, and she took up with lil Bob. He was so skinny an' poor lookin', she just had to feed him.

Then, o'course, he kep' on comin' round to her house, lookin' so pitiful, she just couldn't turn 'im away. But you know she's got two dogs already. That big 'n, the one with the crazy blue eyes, that she calls Sonica cuz they found her at the Sonic, and that little'n that looks sorta like them Mexican dogs, that she calls Puppy--that Puppy is mean as a snake, she'd as soon bite you as look at you.

Anyways, she couldn't keep lil Bob cuz of her dogs, she was scared they'd eat him up, so she calls Bob and Deen and asks 'm to take lil Bob.

Now Deen, after her chows Sam and Pam died, she said after somethin' happens to Tabby, that lil black cat, she ain't havin' no more animals.

But she seen lil Bob, and he didn't weigh but two pounds, just skin and bones he was, and she couldn't turn 'im down.

She carried him home, and took him to the vet, and fed him up til he weighed more 'n five pounds--real plump he is now.

Bob, he didn't care much for havin' a dog with his own same name, so they tried to change it, but he wouldn't pay them no never mind no matter what they said, unless they called him Bob.

Wick said it would be easier to change Bob's name than to change the dog's name.

So we call him Bobby, or Little Bob, and he just loves on everybody that comes around, licks on 'em, and wants to sit in their lap, and just wags his tail til he nearly wags hisself off his feet. Cute as a button, and real smart. Hardly ever barks, except at the cows.

He's a good little dog, that Bob. If you like them lil ol' bitty dogs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Not an Early Morning Sort of Person

I've never liked getting up early. I need time to wake up, to gather my thoughts, to drink coffee, and pull myself together.

When I worked, I liked to get to school about an hour early, to get organized and ready for the day ahead.

I still get up early, to have time with Wick before he leaves for work, but he doesn't expect much more than minimal communication, a little snuggling, and a few kisses before he goes out the door.

Morning at Jeana's house is different. Saturday morning.... I was not at my best.

First, I had to get up earlier than I wanted, because Frankie insisted on going outside at the crack of dawn.

Then everyone else was up.

All those kids' smiling faces.

Paul Simon's Graceland playing in the background.

Jeana making coffee.

Scott chirping like the early bird who gets the fat, juicy worm.

All that cheerfulness--it's downright depressing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What Next?

On Nov. 7, we will be looking back a whole year at the beginning of my hospitalization. I am still far from where I want to be, but still making slow but steady progress.
We have been talking about my progress, and how our relationship with each other has grown during this year, and how much closer we are for having this experience.

Thursday morning, my cell phone rang before 9 a.m., which is unusual. When I answered, a woman's voice said she was calling from the school where Wick teaches.

This is not a good sign.

And I was right. She was calling to tell me that Wick was being loaded into an ambulance as we spoke. He was pushed through a plate glass window, by a student. He was bleeding copiously. The paramedics were applying pressure to try to control the bleeding on the way to the hospital.

So far, up to now, not being able to drive has been just an inconvenience, mostly a matter of waiting for Wick to have time to take me somewhere. Now, I wanted--needed--to get to the hospital to meet him at the emergency room, and I couldn't.

I called Jeana, who agreed to meet him at the ER, find out what his status was, and call me as soon as possible.

It was a long wait, which I could only fill with prayers for his safety, and the skills of the people treating him.

I called his cell phone twice. The first time he sounded fairly normal, even though I could hear the paramedics in the background, questioning him and talking to each other.

The second time, he sounded tired, almost drowsy. He didn't know if they had given him something for pain, and I was afraid he was suffering from the blood loss.

Finally, Jeana was able to call, to tell me more details about what had happened, and what was being done in the ER.

Apparently, the student in question had been a behavior issue even before school started that morning, and Wick was taking him to the campus police officer to discuss his attitude and actions. The student didn't want to go. He struggled with Wick, finally pushing him hard enough, and catching him off balance enough to send him through the window.

He had several cuts that needed stitching up, and had lost a fair amount of blood. The worst news is that some tendons in his right arm were severed, and affected his ability to use three fingers on that hand.

His building principal and an assistant superintendent from the school district came to the hospital to see how he was doing, and to tell him they supported him. His principal brought him out to the RV park, where Jeana was to meet me.

Jeana brought us to her house to stay until Wick sees the surgeon, and we know what is going to be done. Right now, his right arm is in a splint, thickly covered with gauze and ace bandages from shoulder to fingertips.

For a "one-armed" guy, he manages pretty well, but I am having the opportunity to return in very small portion some of the help he has showered on me this past year.

So here we are, staying at Jeana's again, only this time is for Wick, instead of for me. We are hopeful that he will recover full use of the arm and hand, and be able to go back to work after surgery and physical therapy.

Not exactly where we thought we would be, a year ago. Praise God for keeping Wick from bleeding to death, or being injured much worse than he was. Thank God for the people at his school who tried to stop the bleeding, for the paramedics who got him to the ER so quickly, for the nurses and doctors who stabilized him and pieced him back together with all those stitches. And most of all, thank God for Jeana and her family, their willingness to take us in, take care of us, share their home and time and family worship with us.

How do people get through scary experiences, if they don't have God to talk to?

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Fishy Story

For the past few years, our daughter and family have invited us to join them for a couple of days of their vacation at a condo on a lake. It's always fun, and we usually do something special while we are there, such as going to the wildlife sanctuary or visiting the diosaur tracks in the river nearby.

This year, because I am still not as strong as I hope to be eventually, we just hung out at the condo. The condo has two decks; one is at the level of the sliding glass door, and is lovely for sitting outside and watching the moon come up.

The lower deck, down a flight of steps, has a boat slip, and plenty of space for chairs. The kids spend a lot of time there, swimming and fishing.

Jeana's husband told the kids to keep the small fish they were catching, and later they would use them for bait.

Lolly was excited about catching fish, even tiny ones, but when it came time to cut them up for bait, she got a little teary.

Since I still have trouble with stairs, Scott brought one of the little fish up to show me. As he stood over me (he was standing, I was sitting), the little fish, which we thought was dead, suddenly leaped out of his hand and went right down my cleavage.

Predictably, I squealed and started digging for the little fish, which was squirming his way right down my shirt.

Scott, Jeana, and Wick were laughing so hard they had tears in their eyes.

I finally had to go take a shower and change clothes, because I was so certain I smelled like fish.

I'm telling you, I couldn't make this stuff up!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about memorizing scripture, and how meaningful it was to me to "hear" those words in my head during my long illness. I set it to auto-post on Monday, 17 August.

At the time, I did not know that on that day I would be back in the hospital, having a defibrillator/pacemaker implanted.

I may have mentioned here that anxiety has plagued me since the long hospitalization last winter. Just thinking about having an i.v. put in pushes me into a full-blown anxiety attack, crying, shaking,'s not pretty.

Because of this, the surgeon gave me something to take the night before, and again that morning, to "take the edge off" my anxiety.

It did not work.

When the anesthesiologist came in with the i.v. equipment, I went into full melt-down. I ended up in the fetal position, sobbing uncontrollably, with the sheet pulled up over my head. I was shaking so hard there was no way he could get a needle in a vein.

Wick finally asked everyone to leave the room, so he could talk to me. He rubbed my back and my arms, stroked my face and hair, whispered nonsense phrases, and as he talked, suddenly my voice of comfort emerged from the haze of fear, saying,

Peace. Be still. Be still and know that I am God.

He motioned the anesthesiologist back into the room, who gave me a shot of something, and in a few minutes, the i.v. was in place, and I was drifting into unconsciousness.

But that voice of comfort followed me into the darkness.

It's been more than two weeks now, and everything seems to be working fine with the pacemaker. My incision is healing. My shoulder is not so sore and painful. I am still sleeping a lot, but for me that is part of the healing process.

Was it coincidence that my post about scripture auto-posted on the very day I was having the implant? No. I think it was God's providence, a reminder that He is with us in all things.

I called upon the Lord in my distress, and He answered me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bible Verses

When I was in high school, I had the privilege of taking a two-year Bible study class for credit.  Our teacher, Kenneth Istre, was not only our preacher, but also a true student of scripture.

He believed strongly in the value of memorization, a concept that has fallen out of fashion in our schools today.  We memorized the books of the Bible, the names of the major and minor prophets, the kings of Israel, and Bible verses.

At the time, I mostly memorized because he required it, and because I wanted to do well enough on the final test to get credit for the class.  I also appreciated the poetic beauty of the King James version, which I prefer to all others even now.

As an adult, I have come to appreciate the value of memorizing scripture.

When I was so sick last winter, I couldn't even read.  I was too sick, too doped up, to make sense of anything I tried to read.

I had trouble following conversations, or understanding what the doctors and nurses were telling me.

But inside my head, like a never-ending tape, I could hear the verses of comfort I had memorized.

"I lift up my eyes unto the hills;  whence cometh my help?  My trust is in the Lord"

" He will give his angels charge over thee, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone."

" He took me out of the pit, and lifted me from the mirey clay.  He set my feet on a rock and established my path."

An unending stream of comfort and love, bathing me night and day, every waking moment.  All because one man expected me to memorize scripture.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Wick hung up a hummingbird feeder out on the deck a few weeks ago.  We have enjoyed watching the tiny birds zoom around, and have discovered that they have personalities.

One is very aggressive.  He apparently feels that the feeder is his personal property, and whenever others show up, he chases them away, twittering loudly.  He then returns to the feeder, perches on it, and chirps, as if to say, I won again.

Another is quite cautious.  He flies in circles around the feeder, finally landing, but can't seem to sit still long enough to drink.  He keeps jumping into the air, turning himself around in circles, as if watching for the aggressor.

I've read a little about these birds.  They are attracted by the color red.  They "know" how long a blossom takes to refill its cup with nectar after a feeding, and won't return to that blossom until it has had time to refill. 

The little aggressor doesn't know that we keep the feeder replenished, and that whenever he returns, there is always more nectar.

I guess sometimes we are like that with God;  our human nature can't encompass the unending bounty of God's love and care for us, so we worry and fret, instead of waiting on the Lord to supply our needs.

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Monday, August 03, 2009

First Monday

We went to First Monday in Canton Saturday.  First Monday is the biggest "garage sale" in the world.
It started in Canton many years ago, when farmers came to town on the First Monday of each month.  Court was in session, and while people took care of their legal business, they could swap for fresh butter, eggs, and produce, and then by a natural evolution, they began to swap for all kinds of other things.  First Monday is now a huge tourist draw.  

We are lucky enough to live close.  We went Sat. morning, poked around for a couple of hours, and had lunch before heading home.

I have missed going to First Monday since I haven't been able to walk far.  I still couldn't walk from the parking spot to the first pavillion, but Wick got me a powered chair, and it worked great.  He loaded it into the back of his pickup with a couple of ramps, unloaded it when we got there, and presto, I was able to keep up with him and our niece all morning.  It was great.

We didn't buy much, but got a lot of ideas about decorating the cabin when we get to that stage.
We lookked at life preservers, ship's wheels, fishermen's floats, old nets, everything from fine antiques to pure dee junk.  It was fun just to look and browse, and watch people bargaining.

If you have never been to First Monday, it's worth the trip.  There are all kinds of places to stay, and even if you don't buy anything, it's an adventure just to make the rounds.

Of course, buying stuff is sort of the point. 

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Obsessions, Compulsions, and General Craziness

I'm not really obsessive/compulsive. But, like most people I think, there are a few things that I really have to do.
1. Folding things: t-shirts, towels, sheets, pillow cases, underpants...all have to be folded into thirds.
2. Stacking things: all washcloths have to be stacked so that the nice fold is on the outer edge, and the edges of the washcloths are to the back or side. Same with sheets and pillow cases.
And towels.
3. When I fold socks in pairs, I alternate the folded edge, so that the stack stays even, not lop-sided.
4. I count things. Like steps. When I go up stairs, or down stairs, I count the steps. If I walk on stepping stones, I count them. If the ceiling tile has rows of dots, I count them. If we are at a football game, I count the number of players on the field, the number of girls in the drill team line, the number of kids in the band playing percussion.
5. When I eat M & Ms, I lay them out in rows, sorted by color. I eat only one at a time, starting with the color of which I have the fewest. I suck on each M & M (if it is only one, is it still M & Ms, or just M?) until it melts before I put another one in my mouth.
6. When I eat dip and chips, it has to come out even. If I have dip left, I need more chips. If I have chips left, I need more dip.
7. I sit on the back deck every morning and drink coffee with lots of cream and a spoon full of Splenda in it. If, for some reason, we have to leave early, and I don't have time to sit out there, my whole day seems off.
8. I don't check my e-mails every day, because when I check, I have to answer anything that needs an answer right then. I can't stand to leave one unanswered. So if I know I don't have time to answer, I don't read.
9. I like for my shoes to match my outfit. If I don't have a pair of shoes that match, that's okay, but if I do, I have to wear them. I can't just wear another pair. I have to wear the ones that match.
10. There are certain blogs I have to read, if I am on line. I don't necessarily comment often, but I do have to read them. It's a good thing there aren't too many of them, or I'd be on line all day.
Well, there you have it, the general nuttiness of my day to day life. Could be worse, I guess. At least none of it hurts anybody else.

Ten things Meme

Diane, at Diane's Place, posted a meme. Since I haven't been thinking of much to blog about, I thought I'd answer her questions.

1.] How come I can never find: my glasses. my scissors. my cell phone. my memory.

2.] I wish I'd never started: getting pedicures. I love them, and they used to be one of my "life's little luxuries", but now that Wick has to take me everywhere I go, I won't ask him to sit there for an hour while I get my toes painted and my feet massaged.

3.] I wonder why: sometimes I can't think of a thing to write about, and other times, I can't find time to write down all that occurs to me.

4.] Mama always told me: to always wear nice underthings, in case I ever had to go to the emergency room. Naturally, the night I got so sick last November, I had on my oldest, tattiest underthings.

5.] There's this one thing in my closet that I just can't seem to get rid of: shoes. I love shoes. I've worn the same size since I was fourteen. I keep buying them, but hardly ever et rid of any.

6.] My favorite guilty pleasure is: chocolate. Chocolate cake. Chocolate cookies. Chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate ice cream. Mocha Java Chillers from Sonic. Mocha Moolattes from Dairy Queen. Chocolate Thunder from Down Under at Outback. Chocolate ice cream. Chocolate sundaes. Hot fudge sundaes. Chocolate. Did I mention Chocolate?

7.] I always forget to: get a bulb for the reading light in my bedroom. It's an odd size, and I need to take it with me to make sure I get the right one. I keep thinking I will get it as I walk out the door to go to town. But I haven't yet.

8.] I have never: been to Europe. Or the Orient. Or Australia. Or South America, central America, or Canada. I have, however, been to Mexico, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica.

9.] I'm obsessed with:
oh, now see, if we are going to talk about my OCD tendencies, we need a whole post. Or maybe a series of posts. Because while I am pretty laid back and easy going about most things, there are a few things about which I am Obsessive. Compulsive. or maybe just Crazy.

10.] One of my favorite memories is: when our children were young, and we used to spend cold Sunday afternoons sitting on the rug in front of the fire playing board games and laughing like loons.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Traumatic, Life-Altering Events: Musing

I've been thinking about traumatic events in people's lives, and how it affects them, mostly because I recently experienced a traumatic, life-altering experience.

I have known for at least all my adult life that people experience traumatic events, and are forever changed afterward. I myself have had a few of those experiences. But never before have I felt as fundamentally changed, different, no longer my own self.

I can't explain in what ways I have changed, other than that my writing is not as funny as it used to be. I only know that I'm not me any more. I don't know who I am. I don't react the same way as I used to.

I cry more easily, and more often.

I spend a great deal more time alone.

I have a strange reluctance to be where there will be large numbers of people, and when I am with a lot of people, even people I love, I feel uneasy, and find it very stressful, to the point of needing a two-hour nap afterward.

I often have a sense of dread, as if something really bad is about to happen, and I don't know what it is or how to stop it.

Anxious. I feel anxious.

Tomorrow is my birthday. My darlin asked what I want. I told him I don't want anything; I am just thankful to be alive.

But there is something I want, and I don't think I will ever have it again: I want my life back.

I want me back.

But I think that me is gone forever.

I'm stuck with the new me, and I don't know who I am.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Child-speak, part 4

When Katoushka was two years old, she did not talk baby talk. She talked in complete sentences, in a very melodic voice, quite clearly, and not only seemed to remember everything she heard, but also to be able to use new words appropriately.

Her parents had a discipline plan, which I had not totally grasped yet, but it seemed to be working very well, and I had a great deal of respect for it, and for them.

So when they left Katoushka with us, I tried to do as I thought they would do. But one day Katoushka did something that she knew she wasn't supposed to do. I told her I was not sure how Mommy and Daddy would handle it, and we were going to wait until they got home and find out what they wanted to do.
She sat in the little red rocker quietly for a few minutes. Then she said, "Mimi, Mommy and Daddy say that those who love me chastize me."

I knew that chastizement meant some kind of punishment, so I called her to me, and gave her a couple of little swats on her thickly diapered bottom, saying, "Precious, I would not want you to think that your Mimi doesn't love you." She returned to the little red rocker, rocked vigorously for a few minutes, and wiped her tears.

I could hardly stand it. My precious little grandbaby was hurt.

But before I could say anything, she came back to my side, spread her arms wide, and said, "Mimi, can we reconcile now."

My heart twisted in my chest. I gathered her into my lap, hugged her, and we rocked until Mommy and Daddy came home.

Note: For clarification, I am adding Jeana's response: " We told her that we chastise her because we love her. I think the difference is important. We certainly do not expect everyone who loves our children to chastise them, nor would we be happy at all if they did."

Jeana wants to be sure there is a distinction between what they actually said, and what Katoushka and I thought she said.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Child-speak, part 3

Our first grandchild, Pie, wanted to talk, but frequently ran out of words. She was between 18 months and two years old, and her total repertoire included a number of isolated words, mostly names, please, thank you, no, and me (meaning roughly I will do it myself, thank you very much), and a few short phrases.

She often sat in my lap, and when I talked to her, she would respond with one of her words or phrases, whether it fit my comment or not--a steady stream of non sequiters.

When she had run the gamut of her vocabulary, she would stare at me intensely. If I said nothing, she would put her little hands on my cheeks and squeeze them together until my lips opened, and say, "Talk. Mimi. Talk."

I finally figured out that we were having a conversation, and I was falling down on my end of it. She had contributed all she could, and I was supposed to keep the conversation going, while she tried to come up with something else to say.

She is seventeen now. She still sits in my lap occasionally. But now I am the one who feels like saying, "Talk. Pie. Talk."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Child-speak, part 2

Speaking of children, have I ever told you about our son Scott? He was the most energetic, active, challenging child I have ever known.

When he was two years old, he decided that he needed to explore the larger world, outside the chain link fence surrounding our back yard.

Now this yard was the perfect yard for little children. Dozens of shade trees, lots of toys, stuff to climb on and ride on. But he longed to expand his horizons.

So he climbed the fence.

He went over a chain link fence, the kind with wire "spikes" on the top. He was two years old, so he received a series of bleeding scratches on his little tummy, but that didn't slow him down.

He then walked past our nearest neighbor's house, and found his way into the parking lot of the nearby convenience store, where he spent some time investigating the sucker someone threw down, the ice cream cone someone dropped, the chewing gum someone spit out. How do I know he did this? The evidence was all over his face.

He then decided to direct traffic as cars and trucks pulled into and out of the parking lot. That is what occupied his attention when we, his hysterical parents, found him.

And this was just the first time he "ran away."

No wonder my hair started to turn gray.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Child-Speak, part 1

When Jeana was small, she had a little trouble with certain words, such as mayonnaise. She pronounced it "bandaids."
She also had a little trouble with the word moustache. Her daddy has had a moustache most of his adult life, and all of her life.

One day we were looking at old pictures; we had looked at pictures of her grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, talking about who they are, and how related. We came to one of her daddy, pre-moustache.

I said, who is that? She hesitated, then said firmly, Uncle Tommy (daddy's brother). I said, no, that's Daddy.

She looked at the picture, and at me, and then back at the picture, insisting that it was Uncle Tommy. When I held firm that it was indeed Daddy, she said, No! It not!

That not Daddy! He don't have no mattress on his lip!

It's a story we still tell, whenever one of the grandbabies has difficulty with a word.

Precious memories.

Where's My Sense of Humor?

I spent a couple of hours yesterday rereading some of my oldest posts. The thing that struck me was how many of them were funny, compared to my most recent posts.

I have a strong sense of the ridiculous, especially in my own behavior and attitudes. I used to relate the silly, aggravating, foolish things I said, did, or observed.

What happened to my sense of humor?

Will it come back?

Or is it gone, never to return?

I love to laugh, especially at myself.

Will I never again crack myself up, describing the events of my life?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I LoveYou More

"I Love You More" is a game we used to play with our children. Here's how it is played:

Press forehead to child's forehead. Whisper, I love you more.

Child responds by holding thumb and forefinger about a millimeter apart, and says I love you more than this.

Parent responds similarly, with thumb and forefinger slightly further apart.

The game continues until both are saying, I love you more than this, with arms outstretched as far as possible. Both then dissolve in laughter and hugs.

Antique Mommy brought up the subject of games we play(ed) with our children, and got me to thinking about precious moments with our children and grandchildren, and I may just do a whole series of these memories.

Right after I wipe away the tears.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Respite From the Heat

I thought I would write more this summer, since I have more access to the on-line world now, but I haven't. Much of my time has been spent sitting on the back deck, watching the wildlife and the lake and how it changes as the light changes.

But then it started getting hot. I mean, HOT, as in summer in Texas hot. Upper nineties, near 100 or a little above 100 degrees every day. Even in the evenings, the temps lingered in the upper 80s, and with such humidity that sitting outside was not comfortable for long.

So I retreated to the air-conditioned in-doors, and continued my watching under the cooling breeze of the window unit, and an almost unobstructed view, thanks to the twenty five feet of windows across the back of the cabin.

Then...suddenly...a cool front came through, bringing with it wind and rain. It's hard to believe, I know, for anyone who has lived in Texas in the summer, but I actually needed a lap quilt this morning.

It rained almost all morning. Huge lightening strikes and rumbling, growling thunder, as well as sudden thunderclaps that made me jump and made Frankie the Pom bark like a mad thing.

The lake was covered with whitecaps, and the branches of the trees bent and swayed as if they were dancing.

It's mid-afternoon now, and still in the 70s. Unbelievable. Precious time to enjoy being outside again, before the dog days of August arrive. Precious time to be at peace with nature and myself.

Time to ponder a question inspired by Antique Mommy's question: what would your autobiography be titled, if you were going to write one? I came up with one I consider appropriate, given all that has happened in the past seven months: "I Should Have Left a Trail of Bread Crumbs: Where Did My Life Go, and How Do I Get It Back?"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Is Here

Three weeks ago, we bid adieu to the r.v. park, hitched up the fifth wheel, and came home to the lake for the summer. The days have been warm and sunny for the most part, with a good breeze blowing most of the day.

Since my heart med was increased again, I have been feeling a little under the weather, and have been spending a large part of each day sitting on the shady deck, enjoying the breeze, watching the ducks, geese, herons, egrets, bluebirds, and squirrels.

Sunday was the first day of summer, but since one day has been much like another, it barely made a ripple in my mind.

Most mornings, Wick and I sit out on the back deck, drinking coffee, and talking about what he has accomplished working on the cabin, and what is planned for the next day.
This morning, the breeze died. At 9:00 it is already nearly ninety degrees. Summer is here with a vengeance.

I scan the sky hopefully, looking for rain clouds, but there isn't a cloud in the sky. The only thing that makes the deck bearable is the fact that it is so shady most of the day, and that Wick plugged in a fan to create an artificial breeze.

Even the duck and geese have abandoned our little piece of shoreline, clinging to the shade and staying in the brush most of the day.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Even if it is already summer.

Monday, June 01, 2009

One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

In the 6 months since I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, the cardiologist has had me come in every two to three weeks for blood work, to see if the dosage of the RX can be increased. For reasons I don't really understand, this prescription has to be increased very gradually. Apparently, jumping to a high dose all at once would not be wise.

I don't mind going to the doctor's office, although I do wish I could drive myself, instead of Wick having to take a day from work to take me. I don't mind (very much) having blood drawn, since the nurse is very good at what she does, and only sticks me once each time. So far, my lab results have been within acceptable ranges, so the RX has been increased a little bit each visit.

The problem is how I feel after each increase. I feel just awful.

When I first get up, I feel pretty good, and try to accomplish whatever I have planned for the day in the first hour or two. After that, my energy dwindles rapidly. By mid-afternoon, I feel as if someone has pulled the plug, and if I don't lie down, I might fall down.

When I went to the dr. Friday, my med was increased again, and the nurse told me how pleased the dr. is with the results of the lab work. She says I will probably get the goal dose level at the next visit. We have had a similar conversation every time I have come in, and she tries to encourage me to feel that I am making excellent progress. She says I am getting better all the time.

I started the higher dose today, and immediately felt the drop in energy.

Today, I wanted to fix a decent meal for Wick for supper, and use some fresh vegetables one of our neighbors gave us this weekend. So this morning, I put out some ground meat to thaw.

After a brief rest, I cut up a quarter of an onion.

After another, slightly longer, rest, I sliced a squash.

After a little longer rest, I sliced a zucchini.

The celery and bell pepper had to wait until I had a little nap.

About two o'clock, I fried the beef.

About three o'clock I started assembling the casserole.

When Wick got home from work, he added the grated cheese and put the dish in the oven.

While it was baking, I took another nap.

My dears, when I am too tired to eat, I know I really have a problem.

On the other hand.....if I am too tired to eat, maybe I won't gain back the 60 pounds I lost this winter.

My question long can I keep "getting better", without getting well?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Carded at the Library

I have had a library card almost all my life. I vividly remember struggling to learn how to write my name, just so I could have a library card of my own, instead of using my mama's. When we started RVing full time, I did not stop to think what that would mean, in terms of getting a library card. Apparently, most public libraries feel rather strongly that in order to get a card, one must prove residence in the applicable town.

Our driver's licenses show our address at our cabin, since that is where we live. However, since Wick still works in the Dallas area, we stay at an RV park during the week, so he doesn't have to drive so far every day. That means that the closest library is in Dallas. Dallas feels so strongly about "non-citizens" of Dallas that the fee for an outsider (that is, someone who has an address elsewhere) is $250 a year.

Two hundred fifty dollars a year. Y'all. That is exorbitant.

Now, after checking my billfold, I found the following cards:
Mesquite Public Library, from before we started RVing full time.
Chandler Public Library, where we live.
Tyler Public Library, because of a reciprocal deal with Chandler's library.
Seagoville Public Library, since I used to teach there.

Suddenly I remembered that shortly before I went into the hospital, I had filled out an application for the Dallas library, which offers a special deal for people who don't have a Dallas address, but do teach in Dallas.

Even though I had filled out the application, I had not received my card. I still have my teacher i.d., so I thought, why not check and see if I can still get the card.

When Wick got home from work, he took me to the nearest Dallas library branch.
I went to the first desk and explained to the tall, thin, stern-looking man who was sitting at the desk. I told him I had filled out the application at the school where I was teaching, but never received the card. He looked at me over the top of his glasses for a long moment. Finally,with a sigh, he turned to his computer and entered my name, after I spelled it for him three times. Somehow, he did not seem to want to look at my teacher i.d., which would have been easier on both of us, since either I was not speaking clearly or his hearing was impaired.

Finally, he announced in stern tones that I already had a library card.

I responded, yes, I had filled out the application, but did not receive the card.

He said again, the computer says you have a card.

I launched into an explanation about having filled out the application when a library representative came to the school, but I never received the card. I suggested that perhaps the card had been delivered to my mail box at school while I was in the hospital. Since a series of substitute teachers had been covering my classes, one of them might have accidentally picked up the card, but really I had no idea where it might have ended up.

Again, he said, the computer says you have a card.

Wick took me by the arm and steered me to another desk, where a lady was flipping through a magazine. When we got her attention, I explained my plight. She responded by turning to her computer.

She did deign to look at my i.d., and typed in my name correctly the first time.

She said, well, the computer says you already have a card.

Once more I launched into my story about how I applied, but did not receive the card itself.

She looked back at her computer screen, looked at me, and said again, the computer says you already have a card.

This conversation repeated itself about three more times. Wick finally stepped in and asked, how much does it cost to get a new card, if you lose your card?

She said, three dollars.

He pulled out his billfold.

She said, oh, wait a minute, maybe it is in the box of lost cards.

She pulled out a box that looked like it had about three hundred cards in it, and began to go through them.

Wick's patience was wearing thin. He drew three dollar bills out of his billfold, tapped them on edge on the counter, and said again, Just give her a replacement card.

I had my own card in my hot little hand.
I felt the same surge of pride and power that I felt when I was five years old, signing my name to get my first library card.

That little piece of card stock was my ticket to the universe. Through books, I could go anywhere, be anyone, learn everything.

It's fundamental.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Home for the Summer

During the school year, we stay in our travel trailer near Dallas to be closer to Wick's job. In the summer, holidays, and weekends, we live at the lake. We are in the process of building a cabin.

We are already living in the cabin, even though it is not finished. Mostly, what we lack is cosmetic stuff, such as ceilings, floor coverings, drawer fronts, etc. The back deck is almost finished--the roof gives us shade in hot weather, and shelter when it rains. I love the sound of rain on that tin roof. This summer, we hope to put up the railings and steps, to give access from the deck to the back yard.

A few weeks ago, several family members came over and helped Wick put the ceiling and floor covering in the living/dining/kitchen area. It looks great. It is wonderful to have people who are willing to give up a Saturday to help.

Next week is the last week of school for this year. We will be home for the summer Thursday afternoon. Home.

Home, where we sit on the deck and watch the sun come up over the lake in the mornings, drinking coffee and waking up.

Home, where we sit on the deck and watch the sun go down over the lake, drinking rum and coke or wine coolers, or hot chocolate or coffee, depending on the weather.

Home, where our hearts are.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hair today, gone tomorrow

As noted in a previous post, I had long, very fine hair, past my waist. Since my hospitalization(s), my hair has been falling out by the handful. Every time I brushed it, I had to clean a handful of hair from the brush.

Daughter Jeana suggested that I might want to consider cutting my hair. I had to think about that for a while. A long while.

Finally, while I was staying at Jeana's for a few days, I made the plunge. She took me to the hair dresser who cuts her hair. When I told her I wanted my hair cut to shoulder length, she stared at me for a long moment, and then asked, "Are you sure?"

No, I wasn't sure. I loved my long hair. I took great pride in the fact that my long hair was silky, shiny, and in great condition. But that was before.

After seven weeks in the hospital, rarely eating, I was malnourished. I have grooves in my fingernails that confirm the diagnosis of malnutrition. I lost nearly 60 pounds--almost a pound a day. My body was shutting down peripheral activities, including growing hair. That's why my hair was falling out.

My hair was in a long braid down my back. The hair dresser cut the braid and laid it on the counter. I had braced myself for that moment, because in the past getting my hair cut had been so stressful, usually disappointing, and always something I dreaded.

This time, as I stared at that braid, I realized that it did not even look like my hair. My hair has always been very thick, so thick that most hair dressers said I had enough for two or three people. This braid was thin. Very thin. Not like my hair at all.

I plan to send the braid to Locks of Love, an organization that takes donated hair and turns it into wigs for cancer patients.

When I look in the mirror, I can see tiny new hairs growing in around my face and along my part. My hair still looks thin, but I have to admit it is much easier to deal with at this length, drying faster when I wash it.

I miss my long hair. I miss how it feels against my skin, and how easy it was to put it up with hair sticks.

But, as Jo March noted once, maybe my brains needed a little airing, and maybe I was too vain about it, considering it my one great beauty.

At any rate, I did cut it, and while it may take several years to reach the length it once was, it has already grown noticeably, my bangs already needing a trim after just three weeks.

I wish I had a great punch line to end this post, but I can't think of anything funny, or witty. Oh...except....I didn't cry when my hair was cut this time. Maybe I am growing up after all.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sisters, Sisters

Sisters, Sisters;
There were never such devoted sisters...

Fans of the old Bing Crosby movie White Christmas will recognize those lyrics as coming from a duet/dance sequence by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. Two of my granddaughters have entertained us with their own version at our family Christmas.

But they take on new meaning as I think about my recent hospital experience. They describe my own two sisters.

Jill, the baby, has a very tender heart and great compassion. Because of work and family commitments, she was not able to stay with me a great deal, but she offered a steady stream of support--books, magazines, cozy house shoes, a dress to wear after I went home, when I couldn't tolerate the pressure of trousers or jeans on my incisions; decorative book marks, phone calls, visits, anything she could think of to comfort me and occupy my thoughts.

Middle sister Judy is retired, and thus able to spend many days and nights in the hospital with me. She talked to nurses, questioned the reason for various procedures, made sure my allergies and diabetes were taken into consideration, and most of all she helped make sense of the flood of information and opinions; during my stay, I saw cardiologists, surgeons, nephrolgists, endocrinologists, psychiatrists, residents, interns, an ever-shifting entourage of medical students who came to view a condition my surgeon said most of the doctors at the hospital had never seen.
Judy listened to everything, remembered it all, and was the liason among all the specialists, making sure that each knew what the others were doing, and that no conflicting medicines were administered. She even talked to the nutritionist about meals that were not appropriate for a diabetic.
When my husband arrived after work, or my parents for their morning visit, Judy was able, as I was not, to explain what was being done, and why, and what the doctors said as they made their rounds.
When I told her how little I remembered, because of all the drugs, she told me what was going on, and reassured my anxieties.

Daughter Jeana had French braided my hair in an effort to keep it tidy and contained, but after several weeks, my hair was a huge matted mess. My sisters, along with my mother, daughter, and husband, took turns for three days, trying to comb it out without pulling it out by the roots or cutting it short.

Such devoted sisters.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Whole New Me

Losing more than 60 pounds has affected me in many ways.

For one thing, I didn't recognize myself for a while, when I saw my reflection unexpectedly in mirrors or reflected in windows.

It has certainly affected my wardrobe, which was once rather extensive. I have gotten rid of more than three large trash bags of clothes that were one to three sizes too big.

Just before I went into the hospital, my baby sister told me she had some clothes for me. Her friend's sister had passed away after a battle with ovarian cancer, and the clothes had been hers. I was really looking forward to getting new (to me) clothes, especially since most of them were more expensive than I normally can afford. Now, all those lovely clothes are hanging in my closet, waiting for me to find someone that size who needs a professional wardrobe.

Currently, I have one pair of jeans, one pair of black pants, and three tops that fit.

On the other hand, all my shoes still fit.

I can paint my own toenails.

I can bend over to tie my shoes, and breathe at the same time.

My tummy is flatter than it has been since I had my first baby--and he is in his thirties.

My little granddaughter pointed out that I have lost "a whole me" (she weighs less than the pounds I have lost).

My brother says that since I have lost weight, my face looks like it did when I was in high school (!)

These are all positive developments.

On the other hand....I still need a cane or walker, since my core muscles are so weak.

One of my legs is weaker than the other, which affects my balance.

My exercise routine takes up an inordinate amount of time each day, but then I have nowhere to be and nothing to do at any certain time, so I guess that is not really a problem.

Cooking, while needing a cane or walker, is an adventure, and sometimes a small disaster if I drop something that I can't readily retrieve. I spend several hours a day prepping food and cooking--not because I am making elaborate meals, but because it takes me so long to do.

My hair--oh, dearie me, my hair. I have very long, very fine hair, past my waist. It used to be very thick. But it is falling out. Every time I brush it, a big handful ends up in the brush, and then in the trash.

Not only that, but my eyebrows are disappearing, as well as the hair on my legs--I'm not really complaining about that, though, since it means I really don't need to shave my legs--just pluck about six fine blonde hairs.

Apparently, though, the hair has migrated to my chin. Jeana plucks it for me monthly.

Some of these things will eventually return to normal, I hope, as I progress through physical therapy. Some of the changes, I hope, will be permanent, such as the weight loss.

Some things, such as being retired due to disability, will be permanent whether I like it or not.

So....if you have enjoyed coming here, some things will stay the same. Other things will change. It's going to be interesting, either way.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Home Alone

Tuesday was a full day. On the way to my two dr. appointments, we stopped at my previous high school to deliver a letter of resignation. I saw my principal, my department chair, and a couple of teachers. It was good to see familiar faces, and to achieve some kind of closure. It also made me wistful....I am going to miss teaching. In fact, I miss it already.

After contributing some blood for lab work, and seeing my surgeon, it was on to the Central Administration building for my school district. We expected to be in and out in five minutes, but were there more than an hour, filling out paperwork, getting advice, and having three different people checking to be sure that I had sent in all the forms I was supposed to complete, and that I had taken care of transferring my insurance.

By the time we stopped for lunch, I was so exhausted I felt like lying down on the tile floor and falling asleep. I was too tired even to eat. So Wick took me home for a nap.

Three hours of sleep, and I was ready to go shopping. After losing so much weight, I now have bought one pair of jeans and one pair of black pants, and three tops. I need new underthings, summer clothes, and some walking shoes, for when I am actually able to go for walks again. We went into three stores, using my walker for balance and for a place for me to sit down when I got too tired. You might think that I would have been excited to be shopping for smaller size clothes, and you would be right--for about five minutes.

After that, I was exhausted again, so Wick took me home for another nap. He was concerned that I might not sleep that night, after sleeping so much that afternoon, plus the late-afternoon nap, but I slept like a rock, and never even knew when he left for work the next morning.

Retirement is not what I expected. We had planned to retire together. I never planned to be home alone all day, while he still had to work. I miss my fellow teachers. I miss the mental stimulation. I do not, however, miss lesson plans, grading compositions, or the pressure of standardized testing.

After three and a half months at my daughter's, with four lively grandchildren to keep me entertained, being home alone all day has been a huge adjustment. I had gotten used to frequent chats with Jeana perched on my walker, and I miss her jokes and sense of humor. I miss her company.

I have never been a huge television watcher. I don't like the constant noise. I can't go outside unless Wick is here, because of the danger of falling on the stairs--my strength and balance are still problematic. I don't know anyone else in the RV park, so I have no visitors. I have been embroidering some kitchen towels with ducks and fish for our cabin kitchen, and it is pleasurable, but not something I can do eight hours a day--it eventually makes my hands ache. If not for Frankie, our Pomeranian, I would be lonely indeed. He keeps me company, entertains me with his funny expressions, and warns me whenever ducks get too close to the window.

I spend a lot of time looking out that window. It's a big one, and I have a good view of the small lake here, which reminds me of our lake at home. I see lots of birds, a few dogs, occasionally someone fishing. This view reminds me that I am not truly alone here.

In fact, I am never alone, since God is a constant presence in my life. How do people manage, who don't have a relationship with Him?

The nurse who does my blood work every two weeks reminds me that in December, I could not move my foot six inches across the mattress, and now I can walk with a cane. I no longer have to be strapped into a wheel chair to keep me from falling out. I can get a meal on the table by suppertime, most days, even if it does take me most of the day to do it. I can dress myself again. I can make myself a sandwich for lunch. I am making progress, however slowly.

I have much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

ICU Angel

I have joked around about my hospitalization, but the sober truth is, I almost died.
My mama says that my temp went up to 105, and I was diagnosed with heart failure and kidney failure. A lot of people were praying really hard for me.
When I came out of the second surgery, the surgeon said no one could stay with me through the night, since I would be in ICU (Intensive Care Unit). So they all went home.

Some time during the night, I opened my eyes. The room was dimly lit, but I could see that I was in a regular room, not ICU. Someone was sitting beside the bed, holding my hand. Her forehead was down on our joined hands. At first, I thought it was my mother or one of my sisters.

I didn't say anything, but she seemed to sense that I had opened my eyes. She lifted her head, shaking back a thick mane of auburn hair. In a calm, conversational tone, she told me that she had been praying for me. She told me I had gone through the surgery well, but that I needed extra care through the night. She said that she was an ICU nurse, and that she would be with me all night.

She wiped my face and mouth, smoothed my hair, adjusted the pillow, reminded me of the morphine pump, and asked about the level of my pain. She asked me if I wanted to pray, but I was having trouble talking. She asked if I wanted her to pray, and I squeezed her hand. So she prayed for me--with me. Groggy on meds, in terrible pain, I was able to understand what she said, even if I couldn't croak out a word. In my mind, in my heart, I prayed too.

She sat back down on a little wooden stool, and held my hand as I drifted back into unconsciousness.
Each time that I roused, she was there to give me a sip of water, to make me as comfortable as possible, and to pray with me.
The light was always dim, not the bright lights the nurses usually turned on. No one else came into my room through that long, dark, pain filled night.

At last, I awoke to sunshine, and the faces of my family anxiously watching to see if I was okay. The next thing I saw was the little wooden stool, now empty.

I asked about her, the nurse who had stayed with me all night. My sister went to the nurses' station to ask how to contact her, to send a thank-you for her watchful, prayerful care.

The charge nurse said that no person of that name had been on duty in that section, nor in any other section on that floor. Furthermore, she said that no ICU nurse would have come to my room, and that if I needed ICU care, I would have been in ICU.

Who was she, this auburn-haired woman, who held my hand, prayed for me, cared for me through that night?

I think she was an angel.

If she was my imagination, as some of the nurses suggested, where did that little wooden stool come from? If she didn't care for me that night, who did?

God sent her to help me, to take care of me, to keep me alive. To be an embodiment of His Holy Spirit. To be my ICU angel.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How to Lose 55 Pounds in Less Than Three Months

1. Have 6 infected abcesses in abdomen.
2. Have two surgeries in less than three weeks.
3. Receive diagnosis of congestive heart failure, and kidney failure (reaction to the contrast dye used for CT scans).
4. Spend seven weeks flat on back in hospital.
5. Develop severe loss of appetite and intestinal problems due to infection.
6. Consume less than 500 calories per day, due to #5.
7. Spend two weeks in rehab hospital.
8. Have wound vac for three and a half months.
9. Work with physical/occupational therapists three times a week.
10. Work with wound care nurse to avoid developing infection in abdominal wound that runs from hip bone almost to hip bone, several inches deep.

I could write a book :).

And with that title, it might even be a best seller.

But since those steps involve passing through the shadow of death, I can not in good conscience recommend it.

Four months after the second surgery, I have graduated from wheel chair to walker, and from walker to cane. I am the proud owner of two handicap placards, one for each vehicle. I can eat, dress myself, and even do a little (very little) cooking, sitting at the table, after someone else has assembled the ingredients and stands by to put everything in the oven. I exercise every day, for about an hour, a routine that would take a healthy person perhaps ten minutes.

Every day I am thankful to be alive, to be at home, to be making progress. I struggle with frustration, depression, and my inability to carry out normal daily activities, but when I look back three months, I am amazed at the progress I have made, and thank God for family, friends, and a husband who does for me all the things I can't do for myself.

I know that I will never be the person I was before. In some ways, that may be a good thing. Losing weight is a plus. Having wonderful doctors, and miraculous medicines to keep my heart beating on schedule and my pulse rate from going through the roof.....having family and friends who support and encourage me.......having a God who is with me through it all...... how blessed I am.

I would love to write that book--but I don't think anyone would willingly go through those months, no matter how much weight they want to lose. So I guess my "best seller" will remain a figment of my overactive imagination.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Adventures in Modern Medicine

Just in case anyone is still checking in here, I thought I owed you an update on where I have been. Back in the early fall, some of my teaching compadres shared with me about this weight loss surgery, lapband. They are all losing weight, looking great, and expressing only enthusiasm, no regrets. One surgeon in particular was recommended, and his group offers a free presentation, so my darling and I decided to go listen.
The presentation encouraged me to make a consultation appointment.
The first thing the surgeon wanted to do, after taking my history, was a preliminary exam. Okay.
Now I have to fill in a little background.
About a year ago, I noticed that my lower abdomen seemed to be getting larger, even though I was not gaining weight. I especially noticed that it was asymmetrical--
larger on one side than the other.
So I asked my pcp about it. She sent me to a local surgeon.
He told me I was fat.
I said, "I didn't need to pay you $300 to tell me I'm fat. I already know I'm fat. I want to know what is the deal with this lump on my tummy?"
He said,"It's fat. What do you want me to do, get a knife and cut it off?"

At that point, the conversation was over. This was almost a year ago.

When the weight loss surgeon looked, he said, "I don't know what is going on here, but before we even talk about weight loss surgery, we need to find out."

Long story short: after about a month of trying to aspirate the abcesses he found, I went into the hospital 7 Nov. Two surgeries and several weeks of rehab later, I got out on 1 Jan.

Those of you who know Jeana of Laughter for Days to Come, my darling daughter, already know I am recovering at her home. Relearning to walk has given me new respect for infants. Having my grandchildren cheer me on while I am doing ankle turns or toe circles, having to have help to get from the bed to the bath, from the living room back to bed, having to ask for everything I need, having them checking off my meds and my exercise routines--it's both humbling and uplifting.

God has richly blessed me with family and friends who have visited, brought books and tapes and MP3 players, who have bathed and dressed me, brushed my hair, and put lotion on my feet.

My husband has poured love down upon me like rain. He is my sunshine, and my sustenance.

And in one of those ironies that reminds me what a sense of humor God has, I have lost 45 pounds--I no longer qualify for the weight loss surgery.

Isn't God great?