In Everything Give Thanks

October 21, 2014 | My Jottings

It’s a grey fall morning, the trees have given up over half their leaves, and the blustery winds are trying to help the birches and maples in our neighborhood let go of the rest. It’s a yearning time of year for me, is it for you? I love the fall and it invigorates and thrills me, but it also does something deep inside me that I can’t explain. The best I can come up with is that it feels like a deep, profound, yearning, beautiful ache.

It’s also a Gabriel’s Oboe kind of morning. Are you familiar with that song? You must listen if you haven’t, and even if you do know it, just give a little click right here, and this deep, profound, yearning, beautiful, aching song will play in the background in a different window, while you read on.

I was up when it was still “peach black” outside, as Vivienne used to say, and preheated the oven so I could bake some cinnamon orange rolls for our in-group coffee in Community Bible Study today. When I open my bedroom door and head down the hall toward the kitchen, Edith and Millie literally tap-dance all over the hardwood floors while they wait for me to feed them each morning before they go out. I wish I had a video to show you. Then they each get their electric fence collars snapped on, so they don’t leave our small yard when they go out to sniff where the deer have been during the night. And they each have to have their anti-bark collars buckled on, so they don’t do any Schnauzer shrieking and bother the neighbors. And it bothers me too, so now the Collar Ritual is automatic each time they need to go out. Such high-maintenance pooches, they are.

After having a great discussion about 1 Corinthians 5 in our CBS core group, I headed home to many things on my plate today. First, a cup of tea and a quick blog post before I head to appointments and tend to tasks with deadlines. I can hear the washing machine tumbling its big load of whites I just threw in (and turned the dial to “sanitize”) and I’m so thankful for washers and dryers. If I had to kneel over a tub and scrub our dirty clothes on a washboard like the men and women of old? Oh my, what a filthy bunch we’d be around here.

Michael has been on his new medication (Exelon) for a few weeks now, and if you prayed that it would help him, I thank you. It has helped him. The nursing staff folks tell me it hasn’t erased his evening confusion, pacing and wandering completely, but that it seems to have helped lower the agitation he was experiencing (I call it torment because that’s really what it was) each night. I have been going up to spend Wednesdays and Sundays with him and I can’t get there fast enough in the mornings. I miss him so much. Our home feels empty without him. I can also tell that his cognition seems a little better during the day, but there are some visits and phone calls where he’s just in a different world. Last week he told me he had been framing in a deck at the veterans home, which of course wasn’t true. He also told me about a pleasant visit he had with some old friends who came to see him, except I learned that they really hadn’t been there.

The best part of these last few weeks of Exelon has been Michael’s smiles. He has a smile like no other person I’ve ever known. Just to see him grin makes me giggle and experience a little blast of joy. Here’s a picture I took of him last week in his Schnauzer “Fear the Beard” tee-shirt.

IMG_1537He’s looking forward to meeting the newest member of our family, little Miriam, who will be one week old tomorrow. Carolyn brought her over for a visit yesterday and everything about baby Miri delighted me. Her little, quick and shallow infant breaths were amazing! Her tiny grimace that turned into a half-smile while she dreamed? Stunning! The way she smelled and the softness of her skin? Mind-blowing! I think the older I get the more I’m undone by things like babies and trees and water and sleep and words on a page and the smile of my husband. Such riches I can hardly contain.

I’m reading a book right now that I want to savor slowly so it doesn’t end. I can already tell that when I turn the last page and close the back cover I’ll be bereft, and nothing in the pile on my nightstand will look even remotely interesting. I’ve shared before on this blog what my five favorite books or series are, and Jan Karon’s Mitford books are on that list. Well, she has finally released a new Mitford book called Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good and it’s making me laugh and sob over and over again. Jan Karon is a genius. She somehow tucks the most life-changing truths and mysteries into such simple-seeming words (some say fluff), and they almost knock me over with their grace and power. I’m about two thirds done with this long book and it’s such a consolation. Have you read the Mitford series? If you haven’t, go get them! Read them in order, and be patient. Keep going. They will take you by surprise and perhaps accomplish something unforgettable in your life. Not that you need unforgettable things to be accomplished in your life…but I know I do.

Well, I will have to share about how I’ve been spending some of my sleepless hours in another post. It’s actually kind of exciting to me. I don’t like waking up at 1:54 a.m. and not being able to get back to sleep until 4:00, but I’m trying to make the most of it and I’d like to share about that sometime.

We have had our share of difficult things these past couple of weeks, aside from the things I always seem to write about. There’s one thing that nevertheless keeps flowing through my mind, and it’s this:

“…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 — ESV

Today I’m giving thanks for my perfect new granddaughter, for my beloved daughters, for our quirky little dogs, for a treasure trove of a book to read and the sight that makes reading possible, for hot water and clean clothes, for the desire to praise Him in the dark of night, for music that goes to deep places nothing else can reach, for falling leaves that assure us there’s beauty in death, for friends who love and pray and love and pray, and for my husband’s smile.

Are you giving thanks today? It would be a blessing to know what things are on your gratitude list…

It’s a Beautiful Life

October 15, 2014 | My Jottings

Our family is so happy to announce

the safe and long-anticipated arrival of…

Miriam Loretta

born October 15, 2014 at 4:59 a.m.

She weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces and is 21.5 inches long.

Daddy Jeremy, Mama Carolyn, Clara, Elijah, Vivienne and Audrey love her so much already, and are all doing well.

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I never get used to the wonder of a beautiful new life…I’m giving thanks to the Lord today!

Scenes from a Sister-in-Law’s Sojourn

October 14, 2014 | My Jottings

If you’re new to my blog you might not know that I like alliteration. If you’ve been here before you’ve probably seen that I often use it, sometimes to the point of forcing the words a bit. Perhaps “Scenes from a Sister-in-Law’s Sojourn” could be better said as “Christy’s Visit” or “One Fun Week” or something like that, but “Scenes from a Sister-in-Law’s Sojourn” makes me smile, so I’m going with that.

My sister-in-law Christy flew in from Tennessee last month to spend a week in Northeastern Minnesota with me. We hadn’t seen each other in almost two and a half years. She’s the type of friend who is fine doing just about anything you have planned, even if it’s not much of anything. A super-fantastic evening for Christy is sitting around in some comfy jammies, knitting or reading, maybe watching a good movie on TV, having a little snack, chatting about life and loved ones now and then, being completely comfortable with long silences, and going to bed early. That sounds like a pretty great evening to me too.

We did actually leave the house a few times, though. Here are a few photos and phrases that come to mind from my sister-in-law’s sojourn…

Shopping at Yarn Harbor so she could help me choose the yarn and pattern to knit a hat for Michael… riding Segways all along the beautiful shore of Lake Superior and the attractive helmets required…

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…eating just a few homemade salted caramels from a little shop up the North Shore

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…meeting Carey at the Duluth Grill… sharing our hearts over slabs of Carey’s scrumptious, coma-inducing Peanut Butter Chocolate Birthday Cake…

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…sleeping on an air mattress (Christy, not me)… Millie’s meanness… Christy fixing my knitting… a lemon Bundt cake… the best Vietnamese food… seeing my beloved Michael… a nap under the moose… reading in silence… seeing our autumn trees begin to change… making Christy tell the Savannah Gate story for the umpteenth time… talking about our dreams for our daughters… getting moan-worthy Marcona almonds at Mt. Royal… enjoying the aviary birds… Pippa tales… watching the moods of Lake Superior… amazing food at The Scenic Cafe… (pictured below is Christy’s wild mushroom crepe filled with asparagus, sitting on falafel and garnished with sprouted corn…)

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…and a barbecued pork roast sandwich with cole slaw and cilantro. See the fig by the strawberries below? I knew Sara would love a fresh fig so I put it in my purse to bring it home to her. Guess what sat at the bottom of my purse for too many days?

That’s a first for me — I’ve never heard or read of anyone in the world finding a rotting fig in their purse. Could that be a book title? Finding the Rotting Fig….

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…an evening with lots of pizza and many grandkids… being willing to resemble Dick Butkus and Bozo the Clown in order to have a good time… watching One True Thing… having lunch with Michael… a week passing too quickly.

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Do you have someone you can knit, read, Segway, pray, laugh, snore, sit and dream with? Or someone you can chat, walk, crochet and kayak with? Or maybe someone you can cry, giggle, eat and believe God with?

Fall Flower Boxes

October 6, 2014 | My Jottings

When we moved into this house two and a half years ago, Sara took on the job of keeping the three large flower boxes affixed to our front deck filled with seasonal beauty. It’s a challenge in the summer months, since there’s no shade over the deck and the sun rises toward one end and sets at the other, giving us full solar exposure all day long. It’s wonderful for winter, but hard on most flowers. This last summer Sara planted various sun-resistant plants and flowers, and made each box monochromatic — one was filled with yellow flowers, the middle box was all purple, and the one to the west had red. It was stunning, and I asked her to do it again next year.

She has also put cut evergreens in our boxes each December. We bought some inexpensive but large outdoor ornaments at Menard’s and she wired those in with all the gorgeous greenery, and when a soft blanket of snow fell on them? Oh my, I loved that. Here are some pictures of Sara putting together the winter boxes before the snow, and click here if you’d like to see how they looked after snow had blanketed them.

Well, last week Sara decided to surprise me and transform our flower boxes into something autumnal. I can’t even tell you how wonderful it is to sit at our dining room table and look out onto this beauty. It takes my breath away. Fall is my favorite season anyway and I never tire of the colors even though I’ve lived in northern Minnesota for over 33 years, but these boxes have been a feast for the eyes and a balm for the soul.

These photos can be enlarged by clicking if you like. You might be able to see the purple kale, dried hydrangea, red sumac leaves and blossoms, and dogwood branches:

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Box after box, mounded with fall’s beauty:

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The rain we’ve had the past few days has made the leaves a little soggy, but they’re still vibrant. Sort of like people? Are you a little soggy but still vibrant? I don’t know if I am…soggy sounds about right, but vibrant… uhhhhh, not so much.

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Here’s a view from the front…I like the wild and twisty twigs and branches that poke up here and there:

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And this is a view from our front door:

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Sara has a Facebook page for her floral design business if you’d like to check it out, here. And if you click here to see her gorgeous web page, as the slide show plays you’ll see the floral hats and shoes she designed as well!  :)

We also have some fall decor inside our house, and maybe I’ll share some pictures soon.

Do you decorate for fall? If so, what kinds of things do you do?

Our Moose’s Moniker? Mendelssohn!

October 4, 2014 | My Jottings

How fun it was for me to read all your really fantastic name suggestions for the little white moose head we’ve hung on our living room wall. Thank you so much for responding and being the cause of many smiles! If you didn’t see the photos of our living room moose, you can click here.

I honestly liked every single name, and could tell you all understood what I was after — something a little out of the ordinary and a bit quirky. My five favorites, however, are:

Milton
Magnus
Mountgomery (such a cute pun Ronda!)
Moses
Mendelssohn

And Mendelssohn it is! Thank you Jodi! I am going to insist that everyone in our family call him by his real name too. I have a feeling they’re going to just love that.

Doesn’t this guy look like he could be a Mendelssohn too?

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So, very soon I will be sending Jodi a $20.00 online gift certificate for Amazon.com.

I have been fighting the flu for the past couple of days, so will write some more soon.

Have a peaceful weekend, dear Moose Namers,

A Mounted Moose

September 30, 2014 | My Jottings

Moose are very Alaska, very Maine, very Canada, and very Minnesota. I’ve seen one live moose in my lifetime, and it was on an autumn walk Michael and I were taking in the north woods of the Gunflint Trail in Northern Minnesota. We rounded a bend in the path and the moose, which was about 30 yards distant, lifted his head to peer at us out of his poorly sighted eyes, then turned and trotted off on his stilt-like legs. Have you ever seen a moose trot? You can click here to see.

Sara gave me a decorative plate and a canvas with a red bird painted on it for my birthday recently, and I’ve been thinking about where and how to hang them. I subscribe to the decorating rule/idea that odd numbers are visually better for groupings, so the plate and the canvas seemed like they needed a third item to go with them. I like moose. So I decided to buy a whimsical yet very anatomically accurate moose head to go with them. What do an aqua plate, a red bird and a white faux moose have in common? Nothing that I know of except that a quirky woman needing distraction likes all three of them and isn’t worried about what the Pottery Barn folks would say.

Here’s a picture taken from a distance, so you can see that the grouping hangs on a narrow-ish patch of wall in between our living room window and a tree we have in the corner.

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And here’s a closer shot:

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If you’d like to check out the other animal heads this business offers, click here.

I can envision his antlers being a good place to hang a few Christmas ornaments this December, too.

Now I’d like for him to have a name. You might already know I like alliteration, so I’m leaning toward an M name. This is obviously a manly mounted moose, so a man’s M name would be good.

Any ideas? If I choose your suggestion, I’ll send you a gift. You can list as many names as you like.

Have a blessed week!

Finches, Fall and Freedom

September 25, 2014 | My Jottings

It’s been a big adjustment visiting Michael only two times a week now. Whether or not my visiting less frequently is helping him is still something we don’t know. Monday and Tuesday I didn’t drive up to see him (if you’ve never taken the virtual tour of the veterans home, click here) and he didn’t have particularly good days, and yesterday I spent the day with him and he was fairly peaceful.

Because the Lewy Body Dementia episodes of intense agitation, pacing and delusion have increased, his doctor visited Michael on Wednesday and prescribed Exelon for him. He will wear a patch and we are praying it helps him. Will you join us in prayer for that?

When I arrived yesterday morning after a beautiful fall drive up the north shore of Lake Superior, Michael had just finished breakfast. Cindy, the cook in the Birch household where Michael is being cared for, spoils him rotten and it makes me cry to just think of her. She is such a blessing with the way she teases him, makes sure he gets his glass of Kombucha in the mornings, makes six sausage links for him along with his eggs, and dotes on him like a mother.

After breakfast, wonderful, encouraging Laurie, who has worked at the veterans home for over twenty years, came to get Michael for physical therapy. Yesterday he went twenty minutes on the NuStep while Laurie played 1970s music and set out some of her own baked goods for the residents she helps each day.

Then we saw Michael’s doctor as mentioned above. Next, I wheeled Michael to the beautiful sun room (you can see all the different rooms on the virtual tour link above) where we sat and watched the many birds in the huge aviary. The low, golden autumn sun poured in through the windows, and we watched baby Society Finches practice their first fluttering flights. We listened in delight as the Weaver Bird warbled. We saw the Gouldian Finches poke their multi-colored heads out of the nest while they brooded their clutch. I took some clippers and cut Michael’s finger nails while we sat with the birds. They do nail care there, but Michael’s nails have always grown quickly and I had an ulterior motive in doing it myself. Blade Time. What is Blade Time, you ask? Well, Michael’s nails always feel like tiny blades after I clip them, and for thirty-three years he has lovingly scratched my lower legs and ankles with his “blades” while we sit on the couch and I slip into a semi-conscious state. It feels so relaxing. So after saying goodbye to the birds we went to the Great Room and I helped him transfer from his wheelchair to the couch. He sat on one end, I laid down toward the other end and put my feet in his lap, and there was Blade Time.

Soon we headed back to his neck of the woods and had a snack. Fresh baked sour cream/lemon cookies (cookies are baked fresh every single day in each of the four households in the building) and milk for Michael, and a cheddar cheese stick and some watermelon for me. The refrigerators are kept stocked with all kinds of food at all times (sandwiches, juice, fruit, cheese, shakes, yogurt, ice cream, etc.) because they want the men to feel at home and help themselves. This is in addition to the three huge and quite yummy meals they serve.

Michael and I sat at a table in the dining room and “visited” for a while. I use the word loosely because he isn’t able to say much that I understand, but holding hands and whispering “I love you” a dozen times is working for us. While we were waiting for lunch to be served, Michael leaned forward with an earnest look on his face and said just loud enough for me to hear, “I’m really happy with your looks.” Hahaha! That made me laugh and he chuckled right along with me. Just the way he worded it. So I leaned toward him and said, “Well, I’m happy with your looks too!” We grinned at each other and I thank God for a sweet memory made yesterday.

After a good lunch (BBQ ribs, red potatoes, vegetables, oranges, milk, ice cream sandwiches) Michael wanted to take a little nap. So once again I wheeled him to his room and helped him on to the bed, and we squeeeezed together and were able to cuddle for a while. We listened to soft, soothing piano hymns on his little CD player and he feel asleep quickly. When he woke up after about 40 minutes, I reached for my iPhone and took this picture of us:

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After Michael’s nap we went to the Birch living room and watched a weird movie with some of the other residents, an old black and white film with a confused blonde woman who seemed to be wandering around looking dramatic and having amnesia.

What I haven’t mentioned about each time I visit are the many interactions with the staff that occur. Cheerful, respectful aides help him to the bathroom, nurses hunt us down wherever we are in the building to give Michael his medication, recreation staff take the men on outings and plan activities to help them enjoy this home away from home as much as possible. The day before yesterday Michael and a few other men were taken on a drive to see the brilliant fall colors in our area. Here’s what many of our trees are looking like:

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In just the past week Michael has played (and won actual money at) bingo, participated in (wheelchair) yoga, gone leaf watching, had a picnic, enjoyed some excellent live music performed by a local group in the facility’s Great Room, gone to chapel twice, and done some painting. There are at least three things each day, and even though to younger folks these activities might seem like nothing much, they help the time pass more pleasantly for the residents and I am so grateful. I am always so happy when I call to speak to Michael and nurses Donna or Tim tell me, “Oh, Michael’s not here, he’s having lunch with a group of the guys in town” or “he’s trout fishing on the pontoon boat today” or “he’ll be back soon, he’s out on a scenic drive and ice cream run.”

In spite of everything though, the beautiful facility, the dedicated and loving staff, the many generous activities tailored for veterans, and the very skilled nursing care, it’s not home. I don’t know if Michael or I will ever get used to being apart like this. That is the thought that seems to randomly come and violently tear at the fabric of gratefulness I’m trying to weave each day. I’m still writing in my gratitude journal, and it’s filled with things like: #3942 – Michael said his spa bath was “awesome” today, #3961 – Aide Amanda’s ready, cheerful help for Michael, #3987 – the breathtaking colors which remind me of your faithfulness and power, Lord, and so on.

When the grief comes, I’m trying to just be. The sadness envelops me and I often weep, but I sit and put my mind on the Lord and know He is there with me. He is well-acquainted with grief and sorrow.

Yesterday one of the veterans home employees named Denise came to visit briefly with Michael and me and she said the Lord had put something in her heart as she was driving to work. It was the account of John the Baptist, who was conceived, dedicated and raised to be the mighty prophet who pointed the way to Jesus after 400 years of silence from the Old Testament prophets of God. John did everything right — his whole life was given to preparing himself and others to meet the soon coming Messiah. He minimized his own importance, confronted the hypocritical Pharisees, baptized Jesus, and spoke against the corruption of Herod, resulting in his death by beheading.

Before John died, he wondered why he was locked away in a prison, and sent his men to ask of Jesus, “Are you really Him?” Because if Jesus really was the Son of God, why was John in a cell after serving Him so faithfully his entire life? Why didn’t Jesus do something about that? If you know the story, you know that Jesus didn’t give John the answer he was hoping for, didn’t supernaturally swing that prison door open for John and set him free. No. Jesus set John free in another way.

After Denise shared all this with Michael, she looked at him with tears in her eyes, put her hand on his shoulder and said, “Michael, you feel like your body is a prison and maybe wonder why Jesus isn’t setting you free from it. But even in this state, you are great for Him, and He is good and can be trusted with your life.”

I don’t know about tomorrow, but today this is enough to sustain us.

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 115

September 24, 2014 | My Jottings

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“Have the audacity to live this day as someone wholly forgiven and utterly clean. Never confuse faithless self-loathing with humility.” 

~~Beth Moore

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Ahhh, yes, Lord.

A Worthwhile Link

September 22, 2014 | My Jottings

Good Monday morning to you! I’m hitting the ground running this morning, with hours of foster care training ahead, and a few other errands. I will have some things to share later on in the week, but for today I wanted to share a blog post with you I thought was quite profound. It’s by Sharon Hodde Miller and is about reading the Bible.

After reading this post I also realized that the approach to Bible study mentioned in it is exactly what Community Bible Study does.

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So here’s the link:

Bent.

And if you would like to see if there’s a Community Bible Study class near you, click here.

Blessings,

A Song for Michael

September 20, 2014 | My Jottings

This song by Ellie Holcomb has been playing on repeat in my house lately. It makes me think of my dear husband and all he’s going through right now.

I’m asking that these words would be true for him….

Have a peaceful weekend, friends,

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