One hour at a time, sweet Jesus…
June 27, 2014 | My Jottings
I keep wondering if I should put my blog into suspension until I’m not such a sniveler with a martyr complex, or if I should just keep unloading my spinning thoughts on it every once in a while as a sort of cathartic therapy. It helps me to write, but I’m quite aware that it isn’t always fun for others to read about someone else’s hard times again and again. For those who are hoping for upbeat posts and happy photos, I’m sorry.
I woke up this morning with a slightly bloody looking right eye, a strong headache, a constant rushing river sound in my ears, a swollen left hand, and a wooden neck. And that was after a decent night’s sleep. I have never had high blood pressure in my life but I wondered if mine was elevated. We used to have a stethoscope and sphygmomanometer because I used to monitor Michael’s borderline blood pressure, but Parkinson’s meds dramatically lower BP and he hasn’t needed medication for that in years. I donated the BP stuff when we downsized and moved to our current house. My dear friend Su and her husband Danny promptly brought their blood pressure monitor over and I was relieved and perplexed when my reading was around 108/70 numerous times. My sister in law asked if I had had a particularly high sodium meal the day before, and I had not. As the day has passed my eye looks better and my swelling has gone down. In fact, in this picture of my right eye, there’s almost no trace of the smear that colored my sclera this morning.
The first thing I thought when I woke up feeling so yucky was that the stress of being a caregiver had finally worked its way out, which is not a huge surprise, I guess. I have been well aware that there will be a limit to my ability to care for Michael as this relentless disease stalks his brain. I think I’m getting close to that point, and to even say those words makes me feel so unbearably sad and angry I don’t know how to put words to it. So I’ll write about that another time and move on to the rest of our day.
Even though it’s the end of June, the thermometer on our front deck never rose above 48 degrees today. The winds of the past several days have churned up the bottom of Lake Superior because today’s view is of a muddy looking lake rather than the majestic deep blue we usually see. We love the many moods of our big lake, though. Sitting at our dining room table and being able to see the water just a couple of blocks away always strikes me as such a gift.
When Michael’s home health aide Paul arrived today, I set out in our Highlander to have some time alone. I crave time by myself. These days my dear husband doesn’t even like me to leave the room. It’s like I’m his all in all, his security, his peace of mind. Sara told me recently that Michael isn’t really at rest until I come home, even though she is used to caring for him when I have appointments. If I need to put a load of laundry in, or clean the kitchen, I have to give him many reassurances that I won’t be gone long, in order for him to stay safely seated in his recliner. He is such a fall risk now, doubly so because he forgets he has walking trouble, and often tries to get up and walk without assistance. Like many PD patients, he has fallen, but thankfully without severe injury.
So late this afternoon I drove straight to the end of Park Point, a seven-mile long sand bar at the very southern tip of Lake Superior, parked the car by some water, reclined the seat and read for a while. I looked up now and then to watch a dozen greedy grackles feeding on something in a patch of park grass nearby. Have any of you read Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years? It was recommended to me a long while ago and I’ve downloaded it on my Kindle and have been reading a chapter or two every few days. On Park Point today while reading this book, I belly laughed out loud with my eyes squinched shut and my head thrown back. It felt so good. If you’ve read the book I’d love to know what your thoughts are.
After an hour I looked up the number to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, called them on my cell and placed a to-go order for dinner. Michael loves Spicy Beef Cashew, extra hot, I like Spicy Chicken Cashew, mild, and our Fosters love the Beef, Vegetables and Fried Potatoes. All with white rice of course, and the best spring rolls in the universe. I reluctantly left my peaceful place by the lake and drove toward the restaurant, but had to stop for some time as a string of cars got “bridged.” A 1000-foot ore boat was chugging into our port and it took about ten minutes before our Aerial lift bridge had risen to accommodate the massive vessel’s passing from lake to harbor side, then lowered to allow traffic to cross over again. After picking up our order I drove home, knowing that Paul had given Michael a shower, helped him brush his teeth and dress in the clean clothes I’d laid out, and would be chatting cheerfully to Michael about fishing, about his interest in the History Channel, or the long lines at the new Chipotle that just opened in our city today.
We all enjoyed a delicious dinner. When we were done I helped Michael walk from his dining room chair to his recliner, then headed back to our bedroom to change into one of my super comfy and warm plaid flannel nightgowns. The Minnesota Twins are playing the Texas Rangers as I type this, and Michael never misses a Twins game if he can help it. Edith snoozes in the plaid wingback chair and Mildred jerks in her sleep on the couch near me as she chases chipmunks in her doggie dreams. It’s raining outside now, and my thoughts turn toward those in the northern part of our state near the Canadian border, where they’ve been sandbagging to protect homes from floods for weeks. The news people say that if the 1-2 inches of forecasted rain really falls, then huge Rainy Lake will rise again and homes will be flooded. 🙁
Tomorrow is our 33rd wedding anniversary. We don’t have anything special planned, but I know we will do some reminiscing. If Michael feels up to it and we can get him down the basement stairs and into the car in the garage, maybe we’ll take a little drive. Or even get ambitious or courageous enough to go out to lunch. Or we might stay home and watch an episode or two of Foyle’s War. I don’t like war and am not usually interested in movies or television shows about war, but I really like Michael Kitchen’s portrayal of laconic Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle. The show is extremely well done and is set and filmed in Hastings, England, where my friend-across-the-pond Penelope Wilcock lives with her family. I have a dream of visiting there someday.
In a few minutes I will wake up the schnoozing Schnauzers, put their no-bark collars on and send them outside for their last tinkle before bedtime. They will try to fib to me by coming back to the door without ever having gone into the yard, because they hate the rain so much. I will have to toddle out onto the front deck in my nightgown and say sternly, “GET out there and go potty! Go on!” and they will dejectedly obey, but they’ll look terribly forlorn when I let them back in and they shake the rain off their backs.
I will lock up the house, turn out the lights, help Michael get ready for bed, and then settle in beside him in our big bed to read as I listen to him quietly snore. I will reflect on the day, probably shed a few tears for all the ways I see I’m failing my husband as his suffering increases, and ask the Lord to forgive me and throw those sins of selfishness, self-pity and blindness from the East all the way to the West. I might play a few rounds of Words With Friends with Christy (a sister in law given to me by God), and Ginny (a long-time friend given to me by God), and Vicki (a new friend given to me by God and one who understands so much of what I’m walking through), and then I’ll turn out the light and be asleep myself within five minutes.
Tomorrow morning when the Lord brings the sun up at the edge of Lake Superior, I will look out our window at the glory and ask Him again to pour His love and patience and joy into me, this cracked and broken vessel that doesn’t seem to be able to contain very much. I will ask Him to help me pour His love out on my husband and give me strength for the day ahead.
And tonight, that’s about all I know.
Tears, travel and thankfulness
June 21, 2014 | My Jottings
I had leftover Mexican food for breakfast, and it was a great way to start the day. I prepared traditional breakfast fare for everyone else, but imagining the cheese enchilada and bit of rice and beans I was going to enjoy after serving everyone else was the second thing I did this morning.
The first thing I did was shed a few self-pitying tears that dripped down my chubby cheeks, ran into my ears and ended up on the pillow. The tears were prompted by this song. And by life too, I guess. Go ahead and click — it will open in a separate window and you can listen as you read. You might ask me — Julie, if these classic songs you’ve been listening to make you cry, why listen to them? And I would answer, I love the songs, and it doesn’t matter how they make me feel. I just love them.
Yesterday Michael’s home health aide Paul arrived at 3:30 for his weekly two hour shift. We have a nice woman named Liz who comes on Monday mornings, and for those two hours I am able to hole myself up in my office to catch up on Foster paperwork, write out bills, answer letters, return phone calls and read a few of my favorite blogs. On Fridays when Paul comes for his two hours, I usually leave to grocery shop or run other errands. Paul helps Michael shower, dress, fixes him a snack and keeps him company, and Michael really likes him. They have some things in common (both are former Marines, rock hounds/agate pickers, and avid fishermen.) Yesterday I had a little shopping to do, and then impulsively I decided to have an early dinner by myself at our favorite Mexican restaurant. I ordered food to take home for dinner with me, and Michael was pretty happy about his #8 combination meal.
A couple days ago Michael awakened from an afternoon nap and I laid down next to him for a few minutes. He grinned at me and I was struck again at how much I love his smile. I asked him, “What would you like me to do for you?” He thought about that for a bit and then whisper-answered, “Take me to Italy.” I could tell he was serious. I felt he was wanting to go on a trip while it’s still physically possible, although in my opinion that’s iffy. There is no way I could take him unless we did some kind of accessible tour for older folks with wheelchairs. Everything would have to be planned for by other people, buses for wheelchairs would have to be the transports, and all hotels and tours would have to accommodate wheelchairs as well. I told him that a tour like that would probably be exhausting; he gets completely worn out if I have to take him in our car to the doctor. I honestly can’t picture a flight across the Atlantic, airport waits, bathroom hurdles, tour lines in Rome and Florence and Venice (do they even have wheelchair accessible gondolas?) without some kind of crisis.
I know I sound whiny, but I even doubt my own ability to take Michael on a tour like this, even if all those things were provided. I am worn out. I think I could go to my beloved Pacem in Terris if given the opportunity, and sleep for a week. But since Michael asked, I’m thinking and praying. It could be something wonderful and miraculous, or it could be just a really bad idea. If I were choosing the destination of our imaginary trip, most of you who visit here regularly know it would be the UK.
Last Tuesday was the first week of the annual summer Bible study I host in my home. We are studying 1 and 2 Thessalonians. There’s a beautiful heart-knitting that takes place each summer, and I’m always a little bit in awe over how the Lord does that. I think there’s a common theme running through many of the twelve women’s lives this year — fear and loss. All of us have been Christians for years and years, and there isn’t a spring chicken among us. But here we are again at the feet of Jesus, asking Him to show us how to truly trust Him, live in His peace, and experience joy in the midst of these painful circumstances we find ourselves in.
Michael has been napping in his recliner next to me as I’ve been typing, and he’s now awake and needs some assistance. Later I will put a roast in the crockpot for our dinner tonight. Rosemary roasted red potatoes, spring greens for a salad, and sliced, lean tenderloin are all on the menu. Soon I will tell you about the lavish meals that two friends have brought to our home recently. And the generous check we got in the mail so we could order dinner out instead of my having to cook. Such burden lifters! I have been humbled and overwhelmed by the generosity and love of the people God has put in our lives.
I hope your weekend is either peaceful or fun or productive….whatever you need it to be to be blessed. I ask God to touch and bless every person reading these words.
In His grip,
Pardon me while I wax nostalgic…
June 16, 2014 | My Jottings
Sometimes I step back and take a look at the way things are, the way I am, the things that are happening to my husband, and I don’t recognize us. We had a couple of days recently that were so grim and ugly, I kept asking the Lord, what happened? how did I get like this? what in the world is going on here? and other possibly-not-productive questions.
I hesitate to come to this blog and write about negative things, but I’ve never tried to pretend that I have it all together here so I guess I won’t start now. I want to make my husband Michael feel like caring for him is the biggest blessing in my life. And deep down, I know there are hidden blessings to all difficult things the Lord allows which we entrust to Him. But the blessings in this case are hidden deeply. Buried down toward the core of the earth, I think. I’ve had a hard time finding them sometimes, even though I know they’re there. I feel tired, and old, and selfish.
Our youngest daughter Sara was looking through an old scrapbook over the weekend and when she was done I decided to page through as well. I came across this picture and stared at it for a while.
In case you don’t recognize her, I almost didn’t either. It’s me, almost exactly 33 years ago, when I was 23 years old. It was early June of 1981 and some dear friends threw a surprise wedding shower/going away party for me. I showed up at a friend’s house thinking I was invited there for something else, and was so moved that they did this for me.
I noticed my Birkenstocks — they were my first pair. Navy blue suede and I wore them every day. I noticed that my jeans were pressed. All I have to say about that is hahahaha.
And I noticed of course that I was laughing. Hard. I can’t remember when I last had a good laugh like that, or had a merry heart.
I was so happy in this picture. I had met Michael only one time and was engaged to marry him in just a couple of weeks. If you’re new to this little blog and don’t know the story of how we were engaged before we ever met, you can read a short poetic version of what happened here.
I had given notice at my good job in Anaheim, California, and was getting ready to pack my things and move to Northeastern Minnesota with my two little girls, who were then four, and two and a half years old. I looked forward to the future with such gladness. I knew I was marrying someone special, and these three decades have done nothing but confirm that over and over and over. Michael is one of the most kind, forgiving, generous people I’ve ever known. In a world of rampant narcissism, selfies, self-promotion and entitlement, he stands out in the most beautiful ways. (He’s not perfect–I’m not saying that. Even now this disease has changed things in his personality that are so sad.)
I’m not the same person I was all those years ago either. But I keep reminding myself that I have the same God. He hasn’t changed, His love for us hasn’t changed, and He is not daunted by what has happened with us. I’ve said this until I sound like a broken record — how grateful I am that His mercies are new every morning.
“…even to your old age I am He,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”
* * * * * *
I feel like I need to be carried, yes. And saved, day in and day out. I give thanks today that the Lord says He will carry me and save me.
Are you thankful that the Lord is carrying and saving you too?
June 7, 2014 | My Jottings
1. It’s raining today after a few days of beautiful sunshine. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. when Schnauzer Edith did her little dance at our bedroom door, telling me she needed to go outside. I got up and fed Edith and Mildred, put their anti-bark collars on them, put their don’t-run-away collars on them, let them outside, and then had to yell-whisper at Edith to actually go down the deck steps into the yard. She’s so prissy she would prefer not to get her feet wet. “Get out there!” I whispered loudly, and gestured toward the yard with as much authority as I could while wearing an old plaid nightgown and sporting a nice case of bedhead.
2. My grandson Mr. McBoy is coming over this morning to visit with his Grandpa Michael while I go grocery shopping. Some things always on our list: Kombucha, Babybel cheese, and golden delicious apples.
3. Sara planted our deck flower boxes last week, and I asked her to do something different. I wanted to try putting one color of different kinds of flowers in each of the three boxes, and we both love how it turned out. You can click to enlarge these if you like.
3. I’m reading this book and am expecting God to speak to me from its pages.
4. While Mr. McBoy is here today I expect we will have a fun time playing with this toy.
5. This summer I will be hosting our annual women’s Bible study in my home, and there will be twelve of us. We’ve been doing this over a decade now, and I’m not sure there’s ever been a time when so many of us have been in some kind of very serious life situation. Here’s what we’ll be studying for nine weeks.
6. Our stinker Schnauzer Millie has a plastic cone on her head to prevent her from doing damage to the stitches she has in her upper eyelid. She had surgery last week to remove a skin tag which was scraping her cornea. Also, she had a mass growing in her lower gums near her back teeth and this had to be removed. The biopsy revealed that it’s a “benign cancer” called an epulis, and while it’s not terribly invasive or dangerous, it could grow back in a year or two. We’ll be doing gum checks around here now. The cone has humbled and quieted our little bad seed of a dog. I wonder if they make them for humans?
7. Our daughter Carolyn and her husband Jeremy are expecting their fifth child this fall — such happy news! I look forward to meeting and smelling my new granddaughter, and have been frequently looking at her ultrasound profile, which of course is stunning.
8. Next week will be the one year anniversary of my knee replacement surgery. What a life changer that was! It took away all the horrible grinding pain of standing and walking, and brought in its place intense stiffness and restricted bending. I wasn’t exactly expecting this, but the pain relief is such a blessing I’m gratefully living with the limitation.
9. I’ve been listening to a set of CDs every day that remind me of my mother, who was a professional organist. Yesterday morning when this song came on, Michael and I sat at the breakfast table and gazed at the blue of Lake Superior while taking in this yearning song. It will open in a new window and you can finish listening to it as you read, if you like. 🙂
10. A sure sign of summer is when I take our heavy black and cream toile comforter off the bed, wash it and put it away for a few months. I did that yesterday and brought out our lighter weight black and cream toile quilt and put that on our big bed.
11. I have my hair highlighted twice a year. It’s pretty short (as you can see from any photos on this blog) so aside from those two visits to the salon, it’s pretty low maintenance. I noticed about two-three years ago that my natural color was getting a bit gray, especially around the temples. And there was about 20% gray elsewhere. I have always planned to stop highlighting my hair when it’s fully gray. Well. I have an appointment to have the highlights done next week, and because I don’t/can’t leave the house very much anymore, it has been several months since it’s been done. I also don’t look in the mirror much these days, so imagine my surprise when I finally looked at my roots the other day and saw that in six months’ time my hair has turned almost 100% iron gray. Sara said what I was thinking when she jokingly said to Michael, “Dad, you’ve turned Mom’s hair totally gray!”
12. The Parkinson’s Disease that dictates so much of what we do each day is slowly advancing. I’ve learned that most people with PD who have a dementia component (which Michael does) have Lewy Body Dementia rather than Alzheimer’s. Michael has all the hallmarks of PD with LBD, and it is CRUEL. I remind him and my own self frequently that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even Parkinson’s.
13. The seventh season of “Foyle’s War” has been released on Netflix, so I’ve been enjoying that in between the almost daily games of Michael’s dear Minnesota Twins. Do you have any movies or series you could recommend?
14. We saw on the news yesterday that there’s still ice on Lake Superior, in June. An iceberg the size of a small car still floats somewhere near Wisconsin, and a few seagulls and two bald eagles have been sitting on it, somberly posing for boating photographers.
15. I believe I’ll make tacos for dinner tonight. Home-fried corn tortillas, red and juicy chopped tomatoes, a little lime juice squeezed into the sour cream we spoon over the lean beef, all sounds good to me. If I were ambitious I’d make some pico de gallo too. Have you ever made it? It’s good on everything, and there’s a simple recipe here.
16. They say daydreaming isn’t healthy, but I do it anyway. I’ve been dreaming of a remote cottage in the Highlands of Scotland, of a small crackling fire at my feet and a thick, transporting book in my hands. I’ve been dreaming of naps and slow walks near the shores of lonely lochs, of bagpipes and no clocks and no illness and no appointments and no hurt feelings and no tears, and of family wholeness and joy. I know that day is coming. I’m not sure if it will be on this earth, but I know it will be here someday.
What are your Saturday Sixteen? Or your Saturday three or seven or one?
Wednesday’s Word-Edition 113
June 4, 2014 | My Jottings
A scatterer of joy or pain. Is it really as easy as just choosing one over the other?
In another life I would have said yes. Now I need supernatural help from Heaven to choose rightly. Maybe that’s the way it’s always been (that I’ve received supernatural help), but now I’m more aware.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this, if you would be kind enough to share….