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.

Meibomian Glands and Other Matters

November 11, 2014 | My Jottings

Good Tuesday morning everyone…I hope you are safe and warm and snug wherever you are. Winter walloped us yesterday and the most slippery eight inches of snow I’ve ever driven in fell all the livelong day. Tiny flakes are falling as I sit in my toile wallpapered office and type this, and the temperature on our deck is twelve degrees.

Anyone who has been in our home knows that I love toile (pronounced TWALL) and plaid. I have both everywhere in my house. They don’t exactly make the best combination in the decorating world I guess, one being French and the other Scottish. But I don’t have any professional decorators scheduled to visit, so I just keep toile-ing and plaid-ing away to my heart’s content. Actually, my heart is struggling with that contentment issue, but I’ll get to that in another post.

Here is the latest addition of toile in our home:

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It’s a delightful little footstool I decided to put in front of the Glen plaid chair in our bedroom. The larger plaid chair has its own ottoman so I thought a dainty little something to rest one’s feet while sitting in the smaller chair was the next logical choice. I always think toile (or plaid) is the next logical choice.

The wreath behind the chairs was a gift from my friend Su, and it’s made from the pages of a hymnal. I love it. It’s a little too high, because a tall dresser used to sit against that wall and the wreath was right above it. I changed things around without moving the wreath. I might just leave it where it is because as I said, no professional decorators will be visiting my house in the near future (at least none to my knowledge).

You can click these photos to enlarge them if you like.

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This little spot in the corner of our bedroom is where I sit and write in my gratitude journal, where I often do my CBS Bible study, and it’s where I do a lot of praying and crying.

And speaking of crying, I just learned that I have some major issues going on with my eyes. If you’re the type who doesn’t like to read endless details about middle-aged women’s maladies, here’s your warning to click away now. I’ve shared in graphic detail before about my wart-ectomy, my knee replacement surgery (with x-rays!), and now I guess it’s time to share about these faulty eyes of mine.

For about five years I’ve had exceedingly dry eyes, and the condition has only gotten worse. I’m never one to try medicines very willingly, and I know about Restasis for dry eyes but haven’t tried it. Instead I use Systane, my favorite eyedrops (I’ve tried many), and I’m very adept at quickly leaning my head back and getting one drop expertly into each eye. Days are okay, but at night when I sleep my eyes are absolutely terrible. They wake me up they’re so dry. My upper lids feel plastered to my eyeballs and I can hardly open my eyes, so about four to five times a night I wake up from the discomfort, reach to my nightstand to grab my Systane, lubricate my eyes and then go back to sleep.

Well, it has been five years since I’ve gotten new glasses. Remember them? I decided recently to have my eyes checked and pick out some new, larger, clunkier, decidedly ugly frames. I’m not even kidding. After the exam, my eye doctor wrote out the new lens prescription and then pulled his little rolling stool up close to me to have a compassionate doctor-patient chat about his findings. His findings are that I have blepharitis, Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (known as MGD), collarettes, and the beginnings of cataracts. (Are you sure you don’t want to click away now while you have the chance? No?)

Okay, here’s a picture of the Meibomian Glands each of us have on our eyelids. You can just barely see them but the arrows help. They produce the oil and mucus that help make up healthy tears (I learned there is such a thing as unhealthy, damaging tears too). Some people’s Meibomian Glands get clogged, some just malfunction and don’t keep the eyes moist for other reasons. I have an appointment now with an ophthalmologist for further assessment and perhaps he’ll tell me what the deal is with my Meibomian Glands. I didn’t even know I had Meibomian Glands until a few days ago and now I’m all Meibomian Glands this, Meibomian Glands that…

Anyway, what can happen is that icky Meibomian matter can collect cylindrically around the base of the eyelashes, and I guess my eye doctor saw some of this, and these delightful blobs are called collarettes. Here’s a photo of some. Gah. There are worse pictures but I didn’t want to ruin your day, so I linked to a mild one. Now, I can’t see my collarettes at all no matter how hard I try, so maybe (please Lord) mine are tiny. My doctor noticed them when he was peering into my eyes with a blinding light one-half inch from my face.

Here’s what should be known about this condition:

It’s incurable.

And I have to apply hot compresses to my lashes twice a day and gently scrub my lash-line with baby shampoo on a sanitized washcloth with warm water once a day, every day for the rest of my life.

What?

The hot compresses aren’t bad at all. It’s the gentle scrubbing with the supposedly non-toxic (ha) baby shampoo that isn’t working out well. I’m doing it, but it’s leaving my eyelids feeling like the Sahara desert. And I’m a little nervous that my eyelashes aren’t going to withstand even the gentlest treatments, day after day, year after year. I don’t feel like I’m particularly vain (being fifty-seven and hefty helps with this), but I have to be honest: the thought of losing some or a lot of my eyelashes makes me almost want to cry. I have never once aspired to the reptilian look.

And the reason all this is so important? It’s not just for Collarette Clearing. It’s because evidently collarettes can be tiny, wonderfully hospitable breeding grounds for staphylococcus, which likes to invade the closed eyes during sleep each night.

Many things can cause dry eyes. Menopause, immune system issues, certain eye surgeries. I hope to learn more at the upcoming appointment with the ophthalmologist. I’ve been reading online and decided I’d seen my quota there. Maybe I’ll end up trying Restasis after all, and all these conditions will go away. I can hope.

Back to the weather.

Here’s what happened yesterday as I was inching down a steep, snow-covered street not far from our house.

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There were over 100 accidents in our city yesterday and I was in one of them. There was a pileup of crashed cars at the bottom of the street we were on, and I was going about three miles an hour, trying to ease down the incline as slowly as possible in order to get home. About half way down the street my car just took off and my brakes were useless. The folks standing around their already crashed cars at the bottom of the hill saw me sledding toward them and high-stepped and scampered out of the way, and BOOM, I hit the back of a Honda CR-V, which had plowed into a Toyota 4-Runner minutes before. Thank the Lord, no one was hurt! And no one was cranky, and the police were already there and saw it happen and cheerfully gave us all our accident reports to submit to our insurance companies. I was the only car that didn’t need to be towed.

I drove the half mile home going about one mile per hour and with the hood bent in half, and I didn’t care. There were still two steep streets to drive down before getting to our street, and I wanted to make it home without another collision. My grandson and one of our Fosters were in the car with me and when we finally parked the car in the garage and walked into the house we raised our hands and cheered and thanked God out loud over and over. Safe at home.

Then I turned on the soundtrack to Little Women, lit the fire in the dining room fireplace, hung up my coat and put my slippers on, poured a cup of tea, and gave thanks again.

I have more to share, but the tow truck will be here soon, and then the rental car company after that, to pick me up and take me to their office so I can rent a car while mine is being fixed.

I hope your week is blessed,

Dad and Daughter

November 6, 2014 | My Jottings

Sara took this picture when she visited Michael last Saturday, and I thought I would share. She told me that her visits with him now are much quieter, since Michael’s ability to make himself understood continues to fade. So she decided to hug him many times during the visit. Not just a hello hug and a goodbye hug, but lots of hugs all throughout the hours of her visit.

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When I went up to spend the day with him on Sunday, Michael and I were sitting together in front of one of the aviaries where we love to watch the colorful birds. After a while I asked, “How was your visit with Sara yesterday?” And he nodded and smiled, indicating how much he enjoyed seeing her. Then Michael said, with great effort and the smallest amount of volume, and the sweetest look on his face, “She hugged me.”

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