Grayness and Grace

December 18, 2014 | My Jottings

(Written three days ago…) I woke up this morning around 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep for a long while. I pulled back the curtain behind my bed and watched the snow fall for a while. We’re supposed to get three inches today. The wind is howling and it seems like a good day to stay home, except I have a doctor’s appointment at 9:20 this morning, so I’ll be venturing out. I don’t really want to go to the doctor because he’s new to me, as my old, beloved family doctor of 32 years no longer works at our clinic. Our new guy is friendly, loves his work, listens well, has a beard, all good things in my book. I’m going because I think I need a sleep study. I have awakened a few times in the past couple of months with a loud, desperate, air-sucking gasp, halfway sitting up, with my heart pounding so hard and fast it feels like it will come out of my chest. I think I can tell my heart is doing this because I stop breathing, and the severity of the pounding makes me think my breathing lapses are long. I don’t think I’m having a dream or nightmare. Maybe I’ll get on the CPAP wagon now, who knows? I have a couple of friends who use CPAP machines at night and these little whirring boxes have truly transformed their sleep. I never thought I would be headed down this road since I’m not much of a snorer and haven’t had other sleep apnea symptoms. Oh well. I guess putting on my plaid nightgown and climbing into a strange bed while being hooked up to various wires, and being observed by strangers while I sleep with my mouth open is the next thing on my list of adventures.

My sweet seven year old granddaughter Li’l Gleegirl spent the night on Saturday and helped me make cookies for the annual cookie exchange my three daughters and I do together. We made Spicy Molasses Cookies and they are so scrumptious with a small glass of milk. Li’l Gleegirl wanted to go with me on Sunday to spend the day with Grandpa, so she brought some toys and books, we packed a lunch for her, and off we went. It’s almost an hour’s drive, and after we had gone about twelve miles she said, “Are we half way there yet?” I forget how quickly time can drag when you’re young, and how true the overused cliche “time flies” is for us older folks.

Anyway, Grandpa was so glad to see her and they shared a long hug. She enjoyed seeing all the birds again, and she explored the big gameroom they have there, played some little instruments during the Gaither Homecoming Gathering that was on the TV in Grandpa’s living room, and was very good company for me. When the time for afternoon worship/church rolled around, Li’l Gleegirl and I were getting ready to take Grandpa to chapel when a staff person from the veterans home approached and informed us there was a confirmed case of influenza in the building and we were to put on a mask. All visitors were also encouraged to limit their time there to fifteen minutes, and we’d already exceeded that, so we returned Michael to his neighborhood called Birch and prepared to leave. Because this was a sudden change in our plans, chapel canceled, no nice long goodbye with a quiet prayer, Michael became agitated. The delusional thinking that is part of Lewy Body Dementia kicked in and he thought the whole flu thing was a big conspiracy dreamed up by the powers that be to keep us apart, and he didn’t think I should leave. I hate trying to explain things to him that he can’t understand. This is one of my roles at this point in our lives now, and I hate it. 3741001103f41e2024a1d9e0f95f488c

Driving home, the landscape of the north shore of Minnesota and weather was as bleak as I was feeling inside. Gray and colorless, no signs of life, nearly frozen, lacking light. Li’l Gleegirl was a bright beam in the midst of it all, though…

I have a small white tree in my bedroom, decorated by some of my grandchildren. I haven’t put up the larger green tree in our living room, and am not sure I will. My daughters may think I’m becoming like Mrs. Scrooge or something, but that’s not it. I’m not sure how to articulate it. I’m happy about celebrating Jesus and the hope, love and mercy He brings and I am desperate for. I just crave a pared-down, condensed, slow walking out of this celebration. Yet I know I cannot impose my Advent journey/desires on others.

I do look forward to our family get togethers so much. But somehow everything has become wistful, nostalgic, tinged with sorrow for me, and you can imagine how fun that is for everyone. Some would say, “and this too shall pass…”, but I don’t want to rush these times. I don’t want them to quickly pass. When life gets harder and narrower, I hope the Lord can cause me to go deeper.

My friend Ember wrote this to me: “Spring always comes. ‘As long as the earth remains’. The human heart will also have its time in the sun and its season of life rising anew.”

I know this is true.

So this is my refrain for today: “Oh, for grace to trust Him more….”

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 117

December 17, 2014 | My Jottings

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“I have sometimes thought that we cannot know any man thoroughly well while he is in perfect health. As the ebb-tide discloses the real lines of the shore and the bed of the sea, so feebleness, sickness, and pain bring out the real character of a man.”

~~James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States

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For your perusal…

December 12, 2014 | My Jottings

I’m always glad for Fridays. It means no appointments for a couple of days, it means getting into my nightgown before the sun goes down (much to my daughter Sharon’s constant surprise), it means being able to sleep in on Saturday morning past 6:30, and it means I’m just a little over a day from seeing Michael again. Yay!

I thought I would share a few unrelated things that have had me thinking this week. Some of these issues inspired deep thinking, and some, not so much. But do with them what you will, and maybe you’ll find something of interest to peruse.

First, I read a very sobering piece written by Kay Warren, wife of famed Saddleback Church’s founder and pastor, Rick Warren. Many of you might know that the Warrens lost their son to suicide last year, and what she writes about how insensitive our Christmas cards can be to those who are grieving, is worth considering. We all know someone who will be grieving or going through very difficult times this Christmas, so I hope this is as helpful to you as it was to me. Click here to read Kay’s very transparent thoughts.

Next, I usually try to buy one Christmas CD each year to add to our collection. This year I gave away three Christmas CDs that never got used, and I bought one called “Christmas At Downton Abbey.” It’s very traditional and European sounding, which I love, and some of the songs are performed by the characters of the show. What Christmas CDs are you listening to this year?

I’ve been spending some time with my grandchildren lately, as their daddy traveled south for a few days to be with his mother, who is ailing, and their mama is working hard getting Christmas photographs ready for the many families she’s photographed these past weeks. Two of my grands spent the night last night and I threw their school uniforms in the washer and dryer so they’d be fresh and ready this morning. One of Mr. McBoy’s pair of khaki pants had been in his backpack for quite a while, long enough for a smear of thick mud that covered the whole thigh part of his pants to dry and penetrate nicely. I treated the pants with a pretty good laundry spray, washed them in hot water in my favorite liquid laundry detergent, and when they came out the mud-stain was still there. Boo. So I decided to try once more, and was so surprised at the results I thought I’d share. I put the pants back in the washer, using the same liquid detergent, and this time I added about 1/2 cup of powdered Borax. k2-_51d3df44-6fe2-456f-89d3-39b35d9a5af0.v1I washed them on a hot cycle, and when they came out, the mud stain was gone. I was impressed. I keep Borax in my laundry room because I’ve found it’s the best thing for keeping front loading washing machines fresh. Do you have a front loader? If you do, you know that you’re supposed to always keep the door ajar, and occasionally “treat” the inside with a special freshening dealy-bob to keep it from smelling icky. Well I’ve tried the dealy-bobs and I’ve also tried a cycle of bleach, and I finally read that 1/2 cup of Borax does the trick, and it does. It works better than anything. So there you go.

I’ve shared on my blog before how much I have enjoyed Radio Theatre’s productions over the years. I own most of them, and Michael and I have listened to At Home in Mitford, A Christmas Carol, At the Back of the North Wind, Oliver Twist, The Chronicles of Narnia, Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables, among others. Well, there’s a new production out called C. S. Lewis at War and I just finished listening to it today. I like to keep these in the car, especially for longer drives. This one is fantastic, just as all of them are. I cried and exulted as I listened to the back story of how C. S. Lewis began to work on his incomparable book Mere Christianity, which I also highly recommend. The acting and quality of these Radio Theatre productions are top-notch. If you’d like to see more about this particular one, click here and you can also hear a sample. I’m almost ready to listen to this one again!

49114766ce237002c8ceae5054b57eceTo continue on with my plaid kick, I’m actually thinking about doing something really huge, dark and dramatic with plaid wallpaper in our house somewhere. Our dining room would be a good place, since it’s smallish and full of very bright natural light. Our hallway would also be a good choice.

I actually gasped when I saw this large scale tartan plaid wallpaper. Using something like this would not be out of the question. I would draw the line at using several pairs of shoes and duffel bags as decor items, however.

They say that you either love wallpaper or you hate it, and I guess you can figure out that I’m in the former camp. I have seen some of the most gorgeous wallpaper used by decorator Sarah Richardson lately, and it always strikes a chord deep within. You know someone is a bit strange, or at the very least, quirky, if the things that make them happy are Borax laundry booster and bold wallpaper.

And I got a new pair of glasses, the first pair in five years. I wanted something a little larger and clunkier than what I had, and here they are.

Photo 50There’s only one thing. They’re heavier than my other frames, and after a day of wearing them my nose feels tired and achy. That’s JUST what I need in addition to all my other tired and achy spots. (Have I mentioned my left hip? Remember I had my right knee replaced eighteen months ago? And yes, now my left hip is waking me up three or four times at night and hissing, “Stop laying this way! Turn over! No–not like that! Like this!” and I’m getting ready to smack her.)

So after wearing my new glasses for several days, I put them on my desk and put on my old ones and the bridge of my nose said, “Aaahhhh. Thank you!”

I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do about this yet.

Earlier today I met my dear friend Su for lunch at a local burrito place, and it was wonderful…the food and the company. We agreed to meet again soon at a new little tea house in our city called The Snooty Fox. I’m really hoping I love The Snooty Fox because I love the name so much.

It’s getting dark now, so I will go and warm up some dinner. I made the Pioneer Woman’s hamburger soup for dinner last night and varied it a little bit, adding some red wine to the broth. I always make a lot of soup so we can have it two nights in a row. A day off from cooking! Yes!

So I have some questions for you now. What is your favorite soup? Do you have any wallpaper in your house by choice? Have you ever enjoyed a Radio Theatre production? Does your front loader ever get smelly, and if so, what do you use to freshen it up again? (If you don’t own a front loader and are thinking we must be quite the filthy household to have such washer issues, just google “front loader smell” and see the hundreds of articles that pop up about it.)

And….what are you doing this weekend?

Faithful Friend

December 9, 2014 | My Jottings

I loved this video and had to share. This sleeping pooch is apparently having a bad dream…maybe he’s trying to get away from a pursuing bear or a wolf!

His friend notices his doggy distress and decides to wake him up, to get him out of his nightmare.

“Wake up, wake up! It’s going to be okay! I’m here! Now let’s just rest here a while together….”

Aren’t dogs wonderful?

True Friendship

December 8, 2014 | My Jottings

Good Monday morning! It’s beautiful in my neck of the woods today — a very fluffy two inches of snow has fallen, and every twig and branch is covered. I went outside last night to let Edith and Mildred go potty, and some of the flakes falling were the size of quarters.

Have you read any of Shauna Niequist’s books? I thought her Bread and Wine was one of the most honest, inspiring and comforting books I’ve ever read. Now I’m reading Shauna’s Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life, and as I read last night before being afraid to go to sleep (more on that later), this paragraph on friendship was a balm on my soul:

“True friendship is a sacred, important thing, and it happens when we drop down into that deeper level of who we are, when we cross over into the broken, fragile parts of ourselves. We have to give something up in order to get friendship like that. We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect. We have to give up our ability to control what people think of us. We have to overcome the fear that when they see the depths of who we are, they’ll leave. But what we give up is nothing in comparison to what this kind of friendship gives to us. Friendship is about risk. Love is about risk. If we can control it and manage it and manufacture it, then it’s something else, but if it’s really love, really friendship, it’s a little scary around the edges.”  p. 50, Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist.

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I think one of the reasons this paragraph struck me as it did, is because I have always had this lurking core belief that if people stuck around long enough, they would eventually leave. Not knowing the seeds they were planting, my parents used to tell me when I was a little girl that I would never have any friends if I didn’t stop being so bossy. I thought I was just directing and helping things along when I would tell my friends what we were going to play and how, but this began to nurture in me a false belief that I was not worthy enough, interesting enough, for people to be friends that would stick around forever. I have other good reasons to have this icky, corrupt core belief, even if it’s a false one. I do not embrace this belief at all, but do all I can to make it shrivel and die. It has definitely shriveled over the decades. It used to be this big, juicy poisonous thing, watermelon-sized. In my thirties it had shrunk to the size of a prune. I think it’s pretty much like a raisin now. Shriveled and small, yes, but not completely dried up yet.

Maybe someday when my skin is as dry and shriveled as the two exquisitely beautiful women friends pictured above, all my crippling thoughts and ways will have completely dried up as well.

In the meantime, I’m grateful for books written by brave and transparent people who come alongside, so to speak, and whisper kindly, “You are not alone…..”

Mad About Plaid

December 4, 2014 | My Jottings

It’s no secret that I love to decorate with toiles and plaids. I thought I would post a few pictures of the newest plaid items in our household.

Sara recently bought this throw for me, and Mildred thinks the back of the couch is the perfect place for it.

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I also like buffalo plaid, even though I’m not a fan of the name. I have a set of summer sheets for our bed and now a set of winter, flannel sheets. How did this black and red check/plaid get its name, I wonder?

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And we normally have plain white shades on our dining room chandelier (maybe it’s more like a hanging light — chandelier sounds fancier than it really is…), but for a richer, darker touch, we now have these:

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And I love to put a buttery piece of Scottish shortbread on one of these small plates and sit down to enjoy it with a hot cup of tea:

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There’s more. But I don’t think I’ll line up all my long, flannel nightgowns and take a picture of those just yet. I will someday though. It’s inevitable…when you’re mad about plaid.

Thanksgiving, a tour, and some thoughts…

December 2, 2014 | My Jottings

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful day. I did the turkey and stuffing and rolls, and my three daughters did the rest, and the food was delish. We had a fresh turkey (which I may have cooked 30 minutes too long), sage and onion stuffing, French, dense rolls and butter, mashed potatoes and gravy, baked yams, roasted asparagus, cranberry sauce, a relish tray with dip, apple pie a la mode, pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream, French silk pie, wine and coffee.

Right after breakfast I drove up the North Shore to pick up Michael. I pulled into the garage when we got home, helped him up the basement stairs and got him situated in his living room recliner, I let the whining, tap-dancing Schnauzers out of their kennels. They rushed at Daddy, jumping in unison up on his lap and chest with such excited energy they knocked him back in the recliner and his glasses came off. Edith and Millie squealed and licked and showed all their doggy joy at having their daddy home. I will never forget that scene and how hard Michael was laughing.

Michael wanted to lay down for a while after that so I helped him to our bedroom. Another memory I will always cherish happened a few minutes later. Jeremy and Carolyn and their children arrived, and filled the small entry with the Minnesota Family Holiday Look, with multicolored winter jackets, boots and other winter outerwear placed wherever possible. Jeremy came back to our bedroom right away and climbed in bed right beside Michael and cuddled him. I have tears to recall it now. Then Carolyn came in with beautiful baby Miriam, and held her close so Michael could see our newest grandchild. I haven’t written in my gratitude journal in a few days but these scenes will be written down when I open it next, and I will sit and ponder how lavish and kind God has been to me, to our family, and how much He has brought us through.

After our huge meal we went around the table as we always do, one by one sharing the things for which we’re thankful this year. I think that is the best part of the day, and I can still remember what each person said. And later in the evening two-year old Louisa climbed up into the recliner with Grandpa and just snuggled with him for the longest time. So priceless to me.

That night after everyone went home, Michael wanted to go to bed. He was happily exhausted and slept like a rock for about eleven hours, barely moving. The next morning he wanted a piece of pumpkin pie and some coffee, and then later I helped him dress in a new pullover sweater I bought for him. He is sixty five years old and I still think he’s the finest looking man. I tell him that and he smiles sheepishly and acts like it couldn’t possibly be true, but it is. Actually, Michael could probably look like Henry Kissinger and I’d think he was hot. His kindness and love and faithfulness has made him the most beautiful man to me.

After watching an episode of one of our favorite shows, “Doc Martin,” we started to prepare to leave for the veterans home. It had begun to snow and I knew I wanted to be home before dark, so we left around noon. It was very hard, I don’t know how else to say it. I question and second-guess the things I have decided for Michael, and no one truly knows my heartbreak, except maybe God. I have three or four different scenarios I work on in my mind, ways to do things differently with Michael, and there’s hardly an hour that goes by that I’m not trying to figure out what to do. It’s exhausting.

On the drive up the shore we listened to Robin Mark sing songs that helped us focus on the trustworthiness and goodness of God, and Michael pretty much massaged my right hand for an hour as I drove. Every once in a while he would lift my hand to his lips and kiss the back of it tenderly, and I would silently sob, trying to wipe tears so I could see the snowy road ahead. We stopped at Culver’s in Two Harbors and had ButterBurgers, which Michael was happy about.

Once we arrived at the veterans home and I wheeled him to his Birch residence, it was heartwarming to see so many people greet Michael. He is known and loved in this facility, even by employees who work in other parts of the building and don’t help care for him. “Hi Michael! How was your Thanksgiving with your family?” so many asked. I don’t have pictures yet, but the whole place was decked out in Christmas decorations. There are eight Christmas trees beautifully trimmed in the four different residences and all common areas. There are wreaths, lights, and every kind of Christmas display you can imagine on coffee tables, in bookcases, on table tops. Snow globes, glittering sleds filled with shiny glass ornaments, garlands entwined with lights and ribbons. To say they go all out is putting it mildly.

Here are a few photos of the facility that I took a couple of months ago.

This is the main living room or lobby. The real moose head which hangs over this fireplace now has a Santa hat on it.

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Michael and I often sit together on the couches or recliners in front of this fireplace and share a snack or read something.

This view below is the main hall you see when you step into the lobby/living room. It’s made to look like a Main Street, and there’s a barber shop and bank on the left, a computer/phone booth, several family areas and public bathrooms to the right.

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There’s a little cafe of sorts near the living room too. Hot coffee and tea is always available, and there are tables nearby set up with cribbage boards and magazines and newspapers. The four neighborhoods (or residences) are listed below. The whiteboard you see listed the results of a fishing contest they held for their residents. They take the men fishing on a local lake, on a pontoon boat, almost weekly during the summer months.

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The room below is the sun room, at the back of the facility. Michael and I spend a lot of time here. Just to the right of the door is a very large aviary filled with many finches, a canary, a weaver, and for a while, there were tiny little doves. He and I sit quietly together and get so much enjoyment out of watching these beautiful little birds. Many of them build nests and actually hatch eggs — seeing tiny, almost featherless babies emerge from the nests and open their mouths wide for their patient parents to feed them is pretty thrilling.

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I love these two little turquoise-colored finches, who are so devoted to each other.

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You can click to enlarge these photos. The orange and black bird is called a weaver, and the one clinging to the nest at the upper right is called an owl-faced finch.

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You can see the doves below, some of the nests up high, and the materials provided in that long wire column, so the birds can fluff and build their nests. Michael and I love it when it’s bath time and one of the employees puts in a large flat pan of water. The birds bathe immediately, fluttering and putting their little heads down in the water, splashing everywhere. Then they return to the many branches above and preen for the longest time. Then they all go to sleep, tucking their heads under a wing, and we can see their little chests rise and fall as they do their little birdy breathing.

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Below, this is a not very good photo of the game room. There’s a pool table, some computers, several computer games, a shuffleboard/bowling table, children’s games and toys, a television which is always playing some sort of sports, and a jukebox. Michael likes the TV show “Duck Dynasty” (that hunting mentality is a huge part of Minnesota culture), so I play the theme song (“Sharp-Dressed Man” by ZZ Top) each time we pass the juke box, and he and I actually do a silly little jive dance to it, him sitting, me standing, holding hands and smiling. Our grandchildren like this room when they visit.

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This is one of the living areas in the Birch residence. That is not Michael’s foot on the left, but believe it or not, that older man (very kind, very quiet, very impaired) used to be a most accomplished ballet dancer in the Minnesota Ballet. Usually this room has several residents and employees in it. There’s a huge dining room and kitchen to the left, with a high wall of windows and a small porch with tables and chairs where people can eat outside in the summer, and have bonfires for s’mores.

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This photo of Michael was taken in August. He has had some kind of a beard for most of our married life, but they began to shave him every morning and he prefers it that way now.

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Part of the front entry:

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Michael’s visit home was such a blessing, but unfortunately the three days and nights following did not go well with him at all. I won’t even go into the details because they’re just too sad.

If any of you know of a Mary Poppins/Julia Child/Maria von Trapp/Mother Teresa kind of person or two who is available for full time employment, please let me know. If a couple of unattached, competent, kind, strong, compassionate, culinary, selfless, patient, cheerful, singing, gentle, godly people were to come along, I might have my answer.

And I know that sounds a bit lighthearted and flippant, but my intention is not that at all.

It has been 149 days since Michael and I have lived apart, and neither one of us wants it this way.

I will drive up to spend the day with him tomorrow, and my heart has already flown ahead…

Read this only if you’re truly lacking in something else to do.

November 26, 2014 | My Jottings

It’s six a.m. and I’ve been awake for a little over an hour. Since today is the last day before Thanksgiving, I have a few things to do, but I have a personal code which dictates that I don’t get to work until the sun does. So even though I’ve been up already, preparing breakfast for one of our Fosters, feeding the dogs and letting them out, making myself a Cappuccino Cooler, turning on the humidifier, putting on some soft music (we’re still listening to the soundtrack from Little Women — in fact, click here and while you read you can enjoy the same music that’s been wafting through our house for many days now — it’s utterly transporting) and putting eyedrops in my desert-like eyes, I’m in wait mode. I’m waiting until the first glow of light comes through these bedroom windows, signaling that I can officially start the day. I don’t remember when it was that I started turning into a pumpkin as soon as the sun went down, but it’s a real phenomenon in my life: no sunlight, no nothing.

And speaking of humidifiers, having a forced air furnace for the first time in my life has been interesting. Ever since I moved to Minnesota in 1981, the houses we’ve lived in had gas hot water heat. A boiler heats water, and that hot water is pumped through pipes that then warm radiators, and a nice, even heat fills the rooms and gives you hardly any cause for thinking about the heat in the first place, except to be grateful for it in such a cold climate. Well, in this new house, the forced air furnace works a little differently. It doesn’t heat water, it scorches the air. So instead of a nice even, quiet heat, we have a quiet roar of hot air blowing out of the finned registers in the walls, then it stops and the air cools, then more hot air blows again, then stops, etc. The house stays warm and I’m so thankful for that, but I’m learning some things about drier dry skin than ever before, and how important it is for health in general to keep the air in our home at the right humidity level.

So to clarify: in the summer when we have a lot of Midwestern humidity in the air, it creeps into the house and if you don’t use a dehumidifier (especially in your basement), your books can turn moldy and spores can float around in the air willy-nilly and land and bloom where they may. So we run a dehumidifier pretty much all the time, to keep the humidity down. Then in the fall when all the moisture in the air goes on vacation to Australia, we have to bring in a humidifier so the living beings in the house don’t get lizard skin and nosebleeds.

The little tabletop humidifier we used wasn’t really making much difference, so I did some research and learned we need a Whole House Humidifier. I read reviews and decided on a unit on wheels called QuietCare by Honeywell. I placed it near the air exchange vent in our hallway, out of the way of the most frequented rooms in our house, but in a place where the moister air could be drawn through the ducts and keep things comfortable everywhere. Well. QuietCare is a misnomer if I’ve ever heard one. This humidifier does the job, but its decibel level is more like an industrial fan. I’m sensitive to sounds and I’m not sure I can stand it. So I ordered another humidifier and will compare that to the QuietCare. Whichever one is best stays, and the other will go to a deserving family, because who wants to pack up an appliance the size of a small dishwasher and mail it back?

And, as if this weren’t enough excitement, I learned that it’s a good idea to have a hygrometer in the house when you’re running a humidifier. So I bought one to be able to keep the humidity at optimum levels…not high enough to produce mold in the rafters or low enough to cause my lips to crack and bleed. But then I learned something about hygrometers that was a bit of a surprise: they are all possibly a teensy bit inaccurate and need to be calibrated by putting them in a sealed plastic freezer bag with a shallow dish of wet salt.

Huh? Is this some sort of a practical joke? I have to pay for a brand new hygrometer but need to immediately do a quality control check on it? Yes, it’s true. Did you know that if you place a hygrometer in a sealed bag of wet salt it should always read 75% humidity? Well I never knew that until just this week. And think about all this time you’ve spent reading this blog post and this is all you get for it. I’m really sorry.

So the hygrometer read 74% after 24 hours in the salt bag, which means that I will mentally add one degree to its reading from now on, wherever it’s placed in the house. All I can say is my lips had better appreciate this.

On a much more serious and hopefully happy note, Michael will be coming home for Thanksgiving and will spend the night before returning to the veterans home on Friday. Some of the nursing staff thought bringing him home wasn’t the greatest idea, some of them said, “Go for it!” so I’m going for it. He wants to be here and I can’t imagine sitting at the table without him, so early tomorrow morning I’ll put the turkey in the oven and then head north to pick him up. I’m a bit apprehensive about how this will affect him, but I have to let it go and put that in God’s hands. I’m praying that it’s not confusing and upsetting to him…if you think of us will you pray too?  Thank you so much, friends.

9780767929714_-_Destiny_of_the_RepublicBefore I get dressed and start the day (the sun is now up and fine snowflakes are falling), I wanted to tell you about a book I’m reading. My friend Pat recommended it to me and I’m about halfway through. It’s called Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard. Did you ever think you would like to know more about President James Garfield? No? Well let me assure you, you do! The subtitle of the book is A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, and it is masterfully written and so compelling. The writing reminds me a bit of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. The book fairly gallops and is absolutely brilliant. If you know someone who loves history, this would make a great Christmas gift.

What are you reading these days? I always love to ask that question and hope folks will answer.  :)

The next thing on my reading stack after this one is My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman. Just the title makes me feel like the author might be a kindred spirit.

Dear friends, I pray that your Thanksgiving is full of thanks. I could wish you time with family, peace, prosperity, good food, fun and festivities, but I realize more than ever that not everyone has this kind of holiday. Things are certainly different for us this year. But no matter what road we’re walking with the Lord, we can give thanks. There’s always something to look up to the heavens for, something from the hand of our good God, to be grateful for.

May He find us all being grateful this week,

How I hang my scarves

November 19, 2014 | My Jottings

I like to wear scarves now and then and have received many as beautiful gifts. I’ve tried several ways to store them over the years, from tying them on hangers like this, and folding them neatly in drawers. I knew I didn’t want something like this scarf hanger, because the scarves would lay on top of each other and wouldn’t be as easily accessible.

I searched around for a while online to find just what I wanted, and these little individual hangers are what I settled on:

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They’re perfect. I like that they’re all separate and can be slid across a closet pole just like other garments. This was just a part of our closet where shirts would have been hung, and I decided it would be my scarf rack.

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These aren’t the best photos — the light in the closet is high and rather dim for photography. There is absolutely no orange on any scarf, in spite of what you see. It’s really a delightful coral color. (You can click to enlarge them.)

When I glance at my scarves I see Diane, Kay, Sharon, Carolyn, Sara, and Scotland…

And here’s a really neat video about how to tie a scarf 25 ways in 4.5 minutes. It’s fun to watch. The two ties I do most often are called The European Loop and The Magic Trick.

Do you like to wear scarves? How do you store yours?

Remembering

November 14, 2014 | My Jottings

I was driving recently and an old Amy Grant song came on. It was one I’ve always loved by her, and the melancholy of it swept over me and tears overflowed these dry eyes of mine and streamed down my face as I sang along. I thought of Michael as I sang and cried, and realized that lately I’ve been having difficulty remembering how he used to be, when he was vibrant and healthy.

I have flashes of memories but they seem more like snapshots in my mind, rather than moving memories. Michael climbing a ladder to install siding three stories up, whistling his joy and so surefooted. Michael coming in the back door after a long, dirty day at work, putting his woolen plaid shirt on the back of a kitchen chair and giving me a kiss while I stirred at the stove. Michael’s deep voice singing praises to the Lord next to me on Sunday mornings. His eyes, huge and kind, fixed on me when we sat across a table together at a restaurant. Walking through the woods with him and the way he knew the names of so many plants and trees. Hiking to Carlton Peak in the fall and how he bent down to pick up a globular pod of some sort at the side of the trail, cut it open effortlessly with his Swiss army knife, and showed me the labyrinth of chambers inside, each filled with a tiny worm. Michael raving about my cooking, no matter how rave-worthy it was. The way he loved all animals, especially birds and dogs. The way it felt when I’d come into the kitchen at night after all the girls had gone to bed and see him sitting at the table with his Bible open. Michael driving. Michael laughing. Michael reassuring me. Michael kissing my cheek while we waited in the checkout line at the grocery store. Michael reading the Bible out loud during our morning devotions. Michael being able to fix anything broken in the house. Michael and I having a conversation together, me understanding him and he understanding me. Michael, full of life and spirit.

I want to write about these things because I don’t want to forget. It’s alarming to me how foggy some of my memories have become. Maybe I will have memory issues someday, who knows? I want to take these memories I have and turn them over in my mind like a jeweler inspects a fine gem, to see the perfections and the flaws beneath the facets, and let the wonder and brilliance of them blind me for a little while.

So I will share this song with you all today, because in a way that’s what listening to it does for me. It stops me right where I am and helps me reflect on the thirty three years I’ve known and loved (and fought with and despaired with and prayed with and exulted with) this man. If you have the time, I found a video with the lyrics, so if you’re not familiar with the song you can see why it touches me so deeply.

I feel like Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia open the door to a very long goodbye, but I don’t want to say goodbye. Michael is still very much alive because his heart and lungs and vital systems are in good shape. But we have said goodbye to so many things, and are saying farewell to things even now.

Michael and I have lived apart for 134 days now. I have a little peace when I spend my two days a week with him and see the care and love and food and activities he is experiencing. But when I come home and I get my work done here, and the house is quiet and I wander around missing him, peace is elusive. I wonder how one weighs and sorts out the benefits of outstanding physical care and safety against the aching loneliness and emotional yearnings both of us have from this whole journey. I still can’t figure it out.

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