Our Tribute

February 15, 2015 | My Jottings

IMG_0053Friday was my husband Michael’s funeral. I don’t know how I’m going to write about everything yet, so for now I will share the tribute our daughter Sharon compiled for her dad.

This wonderful slideshow was played at the funeral, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the church. I’ve watched this over and over, and it makes me weep and smile and remember and pray and laugh out loud and praise the Lord each time.

I will never get over the gift of having a husband like Michael. To have had his love makes me feel like the most blessed of women.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch it all the way to the end, and let me know what you think. It’s an absolute treasure to me. (Thank you, dear Sharon…xoxoxox)

Please be sure to turn your speakers up, and click here to watch.

God bless and keep you all,

The Best Man

February 9, 2015 | My Jottings

My beloved husband of 33 1/2 years, Dennis Michael Balmer, died at home this morning at 3:07.

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I will share more when I’m able, about the very best man I know. I thank you with all my heart for your prayers for our family.

Five Odd Things

January 31, 2015 | My Jottings

Good Saturday morning to you all! Well, unless you’re not in the States. It could be late in the day where some of you are. Maybe I should rephrase my greeting and say Good Saturday morning to you some!

I read a fun blog post the other day about ten odd things that people might not have known about that blogger. I thought I would try the same except I’ll only bore you with five.

Here are five (sort of) odd things about me:

1.  I have long had an aversion to clowns. It’s not a true phobia because I don’t run screaming from them when I see them (not that I see that many clowns hanging around my neck of the woods), but I think they are truly creepy and not fun or jovial at all.

2.  I have always liked to go fast. All the wheel-based things I’ve ridden in my life — my skateboard when I was eight, my bicycles, my Vespa motor scooter when I was a young teen, my Opel station wagon which was my first car — I’ve loved the thrill of speeding in them. I love roller coasters and super-high water slides, and know I would love sky diving if I could be certain of a good outcome. I don’t necessarily go fast anymore. I’m a cautious driver who mostly stays under the speed limit now that I’m older. But even at my age (57), no one would have to talk me into going on some ride that goes upside down, all around, and 80 miles per hour. I’d be ready in a minute.

3.  I have learned to like a lot of foods since I moved to Minnesota in 1981. I was a picky, non-adventurous eater as a child, and still in my early twenties had not ever tasted broccoli, asparagus, beans, fried eggs, raw tomatoes, cucumbers, mayonnaise, or raw onions. I began to see how limiting and foolish this was, so I started making myself eat all kinds of things I’d always thought were “icky.” I developed a taste for all of the above and more, but there are three things I’ve never been able to like, even though I’ve tried many times. So all that to say, I hate tuna, beets and lentils. I have eaten them when I’ve been served these things at peoples’ homes, but I’ve had to silently pray that I could get them down without bad things happening.

4.  I am not fond of the months January and July. I know that sounds ungrateful, since life happens during those months and that is a gift from God. But I experience a sort of visceral wince when I think about those months and I breathe a sigh of relief on the last days of those months. Like today! Yay! No more January this year! (And no trauma has occurred in those months to make me feel this way. I have loved ones born in both of these months so this has redeemed them for me….I think my odd feelings are more weather related than anything. Simply put: January is waaaayyyy too cold, and July is waaaayyy too hot.)

5.   I am a meaning addict. I have this built-in tendency to believe that everything means something, that even the most insignificant things can point to something bigger or other. I look at trees and see them pointing upward, picture their roots going ever deeper for water and nourishment, and of course I see the ways of God in all of that. I read about the precise placement of the two hydrogen atoms on one oxygen atom that forms a water molecule, and how if the hydrogens didn’t bond at the exact angle they do, nothing as we know it would even be. And I think, what does that mean? Apart from the obvious, what does that mean? Thursday night at my monthly SAGs meeting with my friends Pat, Gail and Lorna, a very brief mention of the McCaughey septuplets came up when we were talking about babies. We spent maybe ten seconds on the McCaughey septuplets. The next morning I was reading the news online, and a link about the McCaughey septuplets popped up. Some people call this synchronicity, and it happens to me all the time. But I want to know….what does this mean?

Hello? Are you still with me?   10417447_826164694074116_3915982279316567321_n

I will be meeting my dear friend Su for a cup of tea this morning at The Snooty Fox. We have made a new verb together from the title of this little establishment. Snooty is of course known as an adjective, a descriptive word telling us about the fox. But Su and I now say that we are going to snoot. Do you snoot? I am going to begin snooting today, and will snoot with all my might.

And now I ask you, what does that mean?

It’s time to smile.

January 22, 2015 | My Jottings

Take a few minutes today to check out these three links below. They will make you smile!

smiling

Walrus.

Walter.

Norman.

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 118

January 21, 2015 | My Jottings

index“It is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that, and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

~~C. S. Lewis, in Surprised by Joy

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Chalkboard Wall Update

January 19, 2015 | My Jottings

I’ve been adding words to our dining room chalkboard wall these past couple of weeks, attributes of God to remind me daily of what my heavenly Father is like. As I’ve said before, I preach to myself on this wall. I might be preparing lunches behind the kitchen counter and I’ll glance across the dining room and see that “God is the lifter of my head” or that “God is near,” and I love pondering what that means for me at that very moment. Sometimes this wall inspires praise and prayer.

Thanks to those of you who shared ideas — you might see some of what you suggested here.

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And there’s space on the edge for more:

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Today I am so thankful that our God is mighty and gentle.

I’ll keep adding words to this wall throughout the year, hopefully, until the whole wall is full. And then I might just keep them there for a good long time.

I pray you have a blessed week, dear friends and family!

Apathy, Atrophy, Aridity and Agorophobia

January 16, 2015 | My Jottings

This is the A-team I’m doing battle with these days. The Alliterative Quartet of Woe, to state things a bit melodramatically.

The first word, apathy, I have been sensing because my desire to pray seems pretty anemic. (Ah. Another A-word. Perhaps I’m up against a Quintet of Woe.) I have found myself wondering silently, do my prayers really make any difference at all? Because I’m so tired and I miss Michael so desperately, and I’m praying every single day but all around me it seems like people are losing ground and what do my prayers accomplish anyway? (I do know that prayer is communion with God, that it’s learning to align yourself with His will and ways, that it’s learning to listen, and isn’t always about answers to a prayer list.) The Bible says the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man/woman availeth much, so that leads me to conclude that my prayers are not fervent enough, I’m not righteous, and that something is missing. Is this a dark night of the soul like so many believers experience, or am I just not trying hard enough?

So I asked God to show me if prayerfully reading my Bible every morning (I’m still going through the Bible chronologically this year and just finished the book of Job — WHOA), if praying and asking Him to give me bread from that day’s passage and then writing down what comes to mind, hoping to make what I’ve gleaned the focus of the coming day, if kneeling in prayer (gingerly, on my Smith and Nephew ceramic knee that doesn’t love kneeling) is making a difference, in any way. Within days I had two dramatic answers; experiences and confirmations which were so unexpected and personal I wept with joy. candleinthewindThank you Jesus. I will keep praying. Thank you Lord. Oh, how good you are….I kept breathing these words in and out, in and out, grateful that He is so kind and patient with me. I will keep showing up, in my old woman/hermit sort of way, and I trust that the flame will grow brighter someday. At least there’s still a flame, flickery as it is.

The second word of woe, atrophy, I sort of don’t want to talk about, even though it affects every step I take every single day. My right knee replacement was a resounding success in resolving the horrible, grinding, burning pain (and the growing deformity) I was experiencing with each step. But it has resulted in such weakness in my right quadriceps muscle that I can’t rise out of a chair or climb a step without holding on to something. This is the stuff an eighty year old woman is made of. Consequently, the compensating I’ve done for my right knee has now resulted in some pretty cranky left hip pain, which I’ve read is common after knee replacement surgery. The answer to muscle atrophy is usually strengthening exercise. And this is why I don’t want to talk about this. Because the hamster’s wheel of my life is: I need to exercise but am tired and busy, so I don’t exercise, then I get more tired, ad infinitum. But I have to do something soon.

The third woe on my A-list is aridity, and this refers to my eyes, which I wrote about a couple of blog posts ago. I was diagnosed with Meibomian Gland Disease and am doing a regimen not for the faint of heart. I take some giant flax seed oil and fish oil pills (for Omega 3) each morning and at night before I go to bed. I now use sterile eye drops in these tiny daily vials instead of the kind in squeezable bottles with irritating preservatives in them. (Who knew?) I have to treat my lids and lashes each night before I go to bed by scrubbing them with these little wipes that feel like they’re soaked in Essence of Jalapeño, and let that dry before I open my eyes again. A few times during the night I wake from the aridity of my eyes and grope for the tiny vial of sterile drops so I can get relief. Then in the morning I have to take a sanitized wash cloth and wet it with the hottest water I can stand to clean the accumulated gunk and delightful little collarettes off my lashes, and massage the Meibomian glands under my lower lashes, in hopes they will start functioning as they should. Then I have to treat my lashes and lids with a different wipe (these don’t burn) before I begin my day. photoNeedless to say, my eyelids are feeling just a little bit desert-like, even if I use a moisturizer. Here’s how things are looking after a morning treatment now, but I’m hoping that things don’t look like this person’s eyes before my sixtieth birthday, what with all the scrubbing and hot water and treated wipes I’m beating them up with. But that would be vain to even think about that, so I guess I’ll spend my thoughts more productively.

Which brings us logically to the fourth A-word — agoraphobia. Since my soul and my knees and my eyes seem to be ailing a bit, I kind of don’t want to go anywhere. Now, I do go places, all the time. I spend the day with Michael two times a week, I grocery shop, I attend grandchildren’s functions, take our fosters out for fun outings, take them to their medical appointments, and I do have lunch with a friend now and then. I enjoy all these things. But I’m becoming more reclusive in my mind, and breathe a sigh of relief when I walk in the door of my peaceful home after being away for even the shortest errand. I don’t really have a fear of wide open places like a true agoraphobic, but I think I could easily move away to a tiny little stone cottage in the most remote part of the Highlands of Scotland, and be utterly content. Except there are a few complications with that scenario — I have a husband who still needs me and who I’m bereft without, and I have a job I enjoy.

For those of you who’ve read this far and are ready to be done with my Alliterative Quartet of Woe, here are a few unrelated tidbits I’ll leave you with.

If you have trouble falling asleep at night, you might want to look at this. I heard it’s all over Facebook too, but I wouldn’t know. I could not believe for one second that it would be possible to fall asleep in less than a minute by doing a simple breathing exercise, but thought I would try it. It’s called the 4-7-8 method and I googled it also, to find a video of someone demonstrating it. The counting is a bit quicker than one might think, so if you are interested, just find a youtube video of a Dr. Weil demonstrating the 4-7-8 method. The first night I tried it, I don’t remember getting past six breaths. Six breaths and I was asleep! The second night I tried it, it took longer, but I fell asleep before I got to twelve breaths. Can you even imagine? Let me know if you try it and whether or not it works for you.

Also, we had delicious Creamy Chicken Curry for dinner the night before last, served over basmati rice and accompanied by homemade Naan bread. Prepared by yours truly? Nein. My dear friend Carey came over to my house and cooked for us, and I can’t tell you how guilty and delighted I felt simultaneously. While Carey cheerfully cooked and chopped, I sat nearby in the dining room and got a TON of paperwork done, while we listened to this audiobook, which is a phenomenal book every human should read. Or listen to, if you like audiobooks.

Lastly, I’m taking our fosters out for dinner and a movie tonight, something they always love. I hope Paddington Bear doesn’t put me to sleep faster than the 4-7-8 method.

And tomorrow? I will be driving north to spend the day with the light of my life….

Scents and sensibility

January 13, 2015 | My Jottings

imageIsn’t the power of smell amazing? Many of my memories are all tied up to the scents I remember, and I know you relate. One familiar whiff can instantly transport me back to a room I was standing in as a child, or to a recollection of a person I dearly loved. So today I have four questions about the scents in your life.

1. What scents (perfumes or otherwise) do you remember from your childhood?  I remember the aroma of baking persimmon cookies from my mother’s kitchen, even though I hated persimmon cookies. I remember the Old Spice on my dad’s jawline. I remember what a new Nancy Drew book smelled like when I opened it. I recall what my mother’s home-fried corn tortillas smelled like as I walked in the front door and knew she was making her wonderful tacos. I remember a rarely touched bottle of White Shoulders perfume sitting on my mother’s dresser. She didn’t wear it, but I used to open it and think it smelled very sweet. I can still remember the way my father’s clean shirts would smell on Tuesdays as my mother sprinkled them with water, and the steam rose from the cotton fabric as she deftly pressed and smoothed the iron over each one. And the smell of chlorine from all the pools I swam in brings strong and pleasant memories.

2. What perfume or cologne did your mother wear?  My mom wore Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew, and occasionally Jean Naté.

3. What perfumes or colognes do you wear?  I like Estee Lauder’s Beautiful. I used to wear Jovan Musk Oil as a teen — it was all the rage in the 70s. I smelled Red Door on a woman at the mall recently (I asked and she told me) and I thought I would like to try it.

4. What do you do to make your house smell good?  I take out the garbage, have the dogs bathed and groomed, give a single spritz of Michael’s cologne to our sheets, simmer together water, vanilla, cloves and cinnamon on the stove, and write posts about smells to get other peoples’ ideas. My favorite candle is this one – this is what our house smells like most days.

Now it’s your turn. What are your scents and sensibilities?

Lifelines

January 9, 2015 | My Jottings

It has been 189 days since my Michael has been away from our home. I sometimes wonder if I will ever stop counting the days. Sometime soon I will go into detail about how he’s doing.

Today I wanted to briefly share a couple of things that have been deeply comforting to me, as we walk out this lonely, limbo-like journey we would never have chosen.

The first is an article my dear friend Linda sent to me, written by a woman named Carolyn Haynali. It’s called “Into the Hands of Strangers” and you can click the link to read it. I wept when I finished reading it. Carolyn Haynali wrote what I feel, what I have not been able to explain to some, and I was grateful to know there was someone out there who truly understands. I do know that there are probably many people who understand, but the details in her story matched some in mine, and her article hit home.

The second comfort is an email I received many months ago from my dear friend Ember. I asked Ember’s permission to share her words here, and she kindly said yes. She wrote this just before Michael was moved to the veterans home, right around the time I was close to falling apart from grief and exhaustion and guilt and hopelessness. dad-1024x756

“Hello Honey.

Today is St. Joseph’s day, and that has jogged my memory.

The other morning when I was praying for you and Michael, I saw a connection between Michael and St. Joseph. Joseph took care of Mary (as well as Jesus), very decisively and very considerately. Without words, and without being at the forefront of the story. He did what was necessary to safeguard her well-being. He protected and provided for her without needing words.

Michael, quiet and gentle, strong and full of faith like Joseph, has cared for you and travelled with you, comforted you and provided for you as Joseph did for Mary. This is not stopping. In this next stage of the journey, as Michael prepares to settle in to Silver Bay and make that unwelcome and difficult transition, he is still walking the way of Joseph looking after his Mary, doing what is necessary to protect and provide for your well-being; because you are exhausted, and you need him to do this for you — this is his way to look after you now. For this he does not need words or to be physically fit or cognitively sharp, he needs only grace. And Michael, like Joseph, is close to the wellspring of grace, because like Joseph he made the wise choice of welcoming Jesus into his heart and home.

On this St. Joseph’s day I pray especially for you and Michael, and I ask that the Holy Family will watch over you and walk with you as you work out this essential new care package. May all go well.

xxx e”

I have read these pieces more than a few times, especially at night when things slow down in our home and I miss him most acutely. I often wish I could just pick up the phone and talk to Michael before going to bed at night, but that has never gone well, so we only talk in the mornings. His mornings are better than his nights. Lewy Body Dementia has made our few evening conversations confusing and agitating for him, and heartbreaking for me, so I don’t call then.

I don’t know if there will ever come a day when I can put an end to the insane vacillating I do in my mind regarding Michael’s placement in a skilled nursing facility, wondering if there is a better way. I have at least come to this: I know there is another way, but I’m not convinced it’s a better way. In the meantime, the words and prayers and practical helps of friends near and far have been literal lifelines for me. I am so grateful.

Thank you for stopping by, and have a warm, peaceful weekend…

God is…

December 30, 2014 | My Jottings

Some of you might remember that a while back we painted a small wall in our dining room with black chalkboard paint. If you missed seeing what I drew on that wall, here’s a link to see the first one, and here’s a link to see the second one.

With 2015 two days away, I thought I would start a new chalkboard project, and here is the beginning of it:

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(Our house is almost seventy years old and the walls are plaster and have a bumpy texture to them, so they don’t wipe as clean as a sheet-rocked wall would. I’m not sure why the wall doesn’t come completely clean, even with a damp cloth, but oh well….).

I plan to add one word descriptions and/or very short phrases to this wall all throughout the coming year. I know already I will write God is…. love, faithful, powerful, my Father, patient, omniscient, and so on. As the calendar pages turn on the year ahead, I want the whole wall filled with the attributes of God, and I want my own knowledge of who God is to transform into deeper experiences with Him. I use this wall to preach to myself, to remind me of Truth, and what I need to know to get through the day. My prayer is that if I’m still alive at the end of 2015, there are some attributes of God that I will have grown to know and love like never before.

I will come back and post pictures now and then of the progress, with some thoughts too.

Would you like to help me start the wall? I would welcome that. What are some words you might put on a wall like this?

Praying your week is blessed,

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