At This Point in Time

September 28, 2020 | My Jottings

Anticipating each Tuesday morning for Community Bible Study on Zoom. Listening to audiobooks as much (or more) than reading books normally. Baking bread in a Dutch oven. Purchasing an ebike. Saying goodbye to a 16-ounce Byta and hello to a 20-ounce navy blue Yeti. Having longer hair than ever with almost silver roots that I like. Feeling constantly chilled when it’s 70 degrees inside. Still savoring the riches from our annual summer Bible study (Jen Wilkin’s The Sermon on the Mount) on Zoom. Not being able to see my family as much I would love. Getting a speeding ticket. Making Dutch Babies for breakfast (see photo). Feeling unproductive. Listening to music by the group Secret Garden. Leaving dishes in the sink for 24 hours. Getting tested to see if I have antibodies for COVID-19. Living life as a kidney donor. Helping to homeschool two granddaughters. Getting behind on paperwork. Waking up too often at 3:15 a.m. Liking my new iPhone cover a lot. Learning about laundry stripping and being shocked at the results. Feeding squirrels bits of apple on the front deck. Wanting to learn more about Bach. Wondering when I’ll start the online German class I ordered. Learning (again, and again, and again) how to pray. Delighting in my gratitude journal. Dreaming about building a small log home in the woods. Being encouraged about John Zebedee and how long it took him to change. Praying I’ll see a moose. Fellowshipping in the cemetery on camp chairs. Doing jigsaw puzzles and actually liking it. Marveling that I have been married three times (gahhhh.) Taking a food sensitivity blood test. Wishing there were more episodes of Shetland or Endeavour. Loving my job. Feeling like my life is up-anchor and slowly sailing to that horizon. Wanting to meet my nephew for the first time. Paring down, organizing. Delighting in grandchildren to the point of deep aching. Savoring hot jasmine tea with a bit of ginger-infused honey. A sheet pan of roasted vegetables, often. Craving older, truer, ancient in everything. Wishing I knew how to write better. Hoping someday to attend Evensong at the York Minster. Regretting I didn’t become a dendrologist. Thinking about writing a weekly devotional on the organs of the human body. Having the occasional dream about Michael. Wanting to go deeper, yet still afraid. Needing my clean laundry to smell like lavender. Itching to move furniture around. Trying to remember to moisturize my face every blue moon. Curious about who my kidney recipient is. Yearning for Scotland, especially now that I’m a Scottish landowner. Feeling my grip on things loosen. Grateful for the wisdom of friends when I’m in the dark. Resting in the peace of those who love me no matter what. Needing beauty and grandeur more than ever. Not wanting to decorate for Christmas. Remembering my mother’s devil’s food cake with her peanut butter and chocolate frosting. Planning to take an art class at this fine art academy. Aiming for 100 ounches of water each day. Considering painting my living room. Being drawn to needlepoint. Feeling my love for Christ grow and deepen. Thinking I need to see Western Montana and North Carolina. So wanting to be transformed. Trying to stay open. Praying for you.

Wednesday’s Word — Edition 144

September 23, 2020 | My Jottings

“This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, but why, He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you. The mould in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key: and the key itself a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions. For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you—you, the individual reader, John Stubbs or Janet Smith. Blessed and fortunate creature, your eyes shall behold Him and not another’s. All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good way, to utter satisfaction. The Brocken spectre ‘looked to every man like his first love’, because she was a cheat. But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it—made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.”

C. S. Lewis

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Pottering About or Puttering a Bit

September 14, 2020 | My Jottings

I have several things on my to-do list this morning, but have taken to puttering around the house instead. Or pottering. What do you say? I think pottering sounds old-fashioned and I like it. But puttering is more familiar to me, so…. I’ll just use both.

Here’s what’s on my list that I would like to accomplish today: 1. Call some tree people because I have some trimming in my yard I don’t think I’ll attempt to do myself.  2. Pick up a prescription for my foster gal.  3. Call on a medical appointment I need to schedule — one that needs to be done every ten years and I can’t believe ten years has gone by and I’ll have to drink that awful tasting stuff again and I pray I can get it down without throwing up in the kitchen sink and perhaps this will be the last time I ever have to have this invasive test done because maybe in ten years I’ll be with the Lord. 4. Make some progress on the big organizing job I’m doing in my office closets. 5. Take many bags of items to the Goodwill. 6. Clean the kitchen. 7. Shake and wash some rugs. 8. Pay some bills. 9. Read.

While I was puttering in the dining room, I thought I’d take some pictures of the beautiful flowers Sara put on the table last night with some leftover flowers from a floristry job she did recently. This is my favorite red — dark and rich, cool and moody and mysterious. The blue and white bowl is a beautiful gift from my friend Su, who blessed me recently to overflowing on my 63rd birthday.

Su and I had the nicest time together. We met outside, six feet apart, at the highest, hilly part of the cemetery, where old trees overhang the lanes and tall grave markers covered with lichens eerily lean and topple. We sat in our camp chairs and visited, and Su served me so many delicious things on a tray with fall-themed napkins. A Cuban sandwich, fresh fruit, artichoke dip with crackers, California rolls, and for dessert an eye-rolling peanut butter and chocolate layered delight. Two hours passed in what seemed like minutes, and we had to reluctantly leave and go back to our non-cemetery lives. I was humbled by the thoughtful gifts she picked out for me, and this blue and white dish with a friendship quote I love was one of them. I could use it for a ring/jewelry dish, but I don’t take my rings off. I could use it for a soap dish, but I want to be able to see the words. I think I will just keep it out so I can be reminded of a decades-long friendship that has been over and under and through the woods, and has come out as a treasure to both of us.

I have two sets of little cardinal salt and pepper shakers, and I can’t decide which ones to have on the table, so I just keep both sets out. Aren’t they adorable? They make me smile.

One of the most unique birthday gifts ever was from my daughter Sharon, which I will share about in another post. She gave me some land (no joke) in Scotland, the country of my heart.

My three daughters and I met last night for our voting meeting of the book club we’re going to have together for the coming winter months. It was so nice to be with the three women I love most in the world. And we all got along, which is such a bonus! I made this dish, which was something I made often when they were little. We had some fresh cut cantaloupe, some sliced chicken, and for dessert some chocolate chip banana bread with Georgia pecans, made as a birthday gift for me by one of Lloyd’s neighbors.

Each of us presented three books and told briefly about them, and we voted on one title from each of our three. The four books we chose will see us through the end of January, and then if all goes well we’ll continue after that, probably reading from the others that were presented, since all twelve looked so good.

Our reading list for the next four months (we’ll read one book a month, then get together to chat about it) is: October (Sharon):  I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, November (Sara):  My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, December (me): Dream Big, and January (Carolyn): I am, I am, I am.

My son-in-law Chris continues to slowly improve after his kidney transplant on August 5th. It hasn’t been smooth or comfortable sailing, and there are still challenges. His appetite is very suppressed and he is losing more weight than he should, but the Mayo Clinic experts say this isn’t unusual. He gets very tired, and doesn’t have the energy we’d heard many transplant recipients feel after a new kidney moves in and cleans house. Hopefully that will come. But Sharon told us last night that after taking three blood pressure meds for a long time, he is now taking zero blood pressure meds. This young male kidney from Colorado named Magnus has taken over the regulation of Chris’s blood pressure so efficiently, his BP is now around 117/78, which might even be too low for someone his size.

Have you ever considered what one kidney can do? I had never, until of course I gave one away, and prayed for someone to give one to my son-in-law. Take care of your kidneys and you will never be sorry — drink lots of water. I’ve been drinking 80-120 ounces of water a day for as long as I can remember, not doing drugs or drinking alcohol, and I think it might have been a good thing.

Chris was taking 13 anti-rejection drugs and has been able now to go off of two of those. Hopefully at the end of a year he will be taking the bare minimum and will begin to feel more like himself.

It has now been almost six weeks since my left kidney Justine has been in her new person in Madison, and I feel pretty good. I get more tired than I’d like, but I am patient with myself, with the healing that’s happening, with the adjustment Verna is making as she takes on all the kidneying herself. The three spots of irritation I was feeling deep inside (which I learned were probably surgical staples purposely left at the renal artery, ureter and lymph node sites) have eased considerably, and I’m so grateful for that. I pray for my recipient often.

I have a dear friend named Kay, and she and I have known each other for years through Community Bible Study, and she and I do a summer Bible study together each year, along with several other wonderful women. She was seriously injured in a biking accident recently, and the internal bleeding that was found at the hospital was the blood supply to one of her kidneys, which is now a loss. She was told her body will absorb the dead kidney, and of course the remaining one will increase and take over. She went through surgery and is still having a difficult recovery at home, so if you’re reading this, will you lift Kay up in prayer? She and I are now One-Kidney Kindreds, and who knows what might come of that? Maybe we’ll have a traveling One-Kidney Show someday, although for the life of me I can’t fathom what that would entail. It’s scary how the brain works when you get old. It doesn’t do what you want it to, and the things you don’t want it to do (like envision a traveling One-Kidney Show), it does.

Okay, I’ll go back to my pottering and puttering.

How is your Monday going? Thanks for stopping in, and may God give you His unshakeable peace in these shaky times,

A Slow Month — My Kidney Donation, Part 6

September 2, 2020 | My Jottings

Four weeks ago today I was letting a strange man look at my butt. A nurse named Steve had to put an adhesive pad across my lower back (to help prevent skin breakdown) as I prepared for my kidney donation at the Mayo Clinic. It was more traumatic than I expected, brought quiet tears and deep breathing, and a prayer for God’s help and grace. I hope I never have to let a strange man see my backside ever again.

Four weeks ago today my left kidney Justine was surgically removed, carefully placed on ice, flown to Madison, Wisconsin, and then placed into the lower abdomen of a person I don’t know anything about. Except that he or she was very ill, and had waited a long time for a healthy B positive kidney. I learned yesterday that my recipient is “doing great, and kidney function is excellent.” So Justine is doing exactly what we prayed she would — rolling up her sleeves and cleaning up and setting things right in her new human. I truly praise God for how miraculous He made the human body, and that perhaps that person will have more time with their family, more laughter and hope and walks and gazing at the stars and hugging children and reading, and knowing the love of God through Jesus Christ.

Four weeks ago today a generous man in Colorado had his kidney removed too, and it was put on ice, flown to Minneapolis, and picked up by a courier and driven to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. That kidney was transplanted into my son-in-law Chris, who had been in sudden and severe kidney failure for over a year. Chris is home now, and the kidney was a good match. He is on many anti-rejection drugs that make him feel exhausted and he has a hard time eating as much as he should. The viral times we are in make life uncertain and challenging for Chris and Sharon and their family. Kidney transplant recipients who get COVID-19 don’t fare well, so they have to be so cautious it’s disheartening. It’s hard to know if you can let your children play with a friend, when you can go back to work and what those risks might bring, will you ever travel again, eat at a restaurant again, do anything at all without assessing the risk.

In the last four weeks I’ve taken it easy and allowed my body to dictate my healing. My remaining kidney, Verna, is enlarging and learning to do all the filtering, detoxing, Vitamin D making, blood pressure controlling work herself — something called Compensatory Hypertrophy. I’ve been tired a lot and have taken it slow. My granddaughter Margaret (age 13) stayed several days with me and was such a help. I’m not supposed to lift anything more than 10 pounds until after Labor Day, so she carried laundry for me, emptied the dishwasher, made molasses cookies, BLT pasta salad, and helped me organize three horrible areas.

Margaret took everything out of my kitchen baking carousel, I decided what needed to be tossed out. She cleaned the shelves which had flour, sugar, bits of nuts and smears of molasses on them. Then she put everything back as I directed, and I have a baking cabinet that is so easy to deal with now. A few days later we tackled the toy closet in my hallway, which looked like someone had bought up seventeen old games and sixty-eight toys at a rummage sale, brought them to my house and thrown them into my closet. While I sat in a chair, Margaret and I sorted big Legos from small Legos, Magformers, Monopoly pieces, dolls, puppets, dice and games. Many things went to the Goodwill bags. My toy closet is camera-worthy now, and the clutter hum at the back of my mind went down several decibels. Margaret said, “That was a lot easier and went a lot faster than I thought it would.”

Then a couple weeks later Margaret came back and helped me organize the linen closet in the hallway, which doesn’t hold linens, so I don’t know why I call it the linen closet. It holds lightbulbs, diapers, Kleenex, old folded quilts, a first aid kit with flash lights and other miscellany. Three more Goodwill bags were filled, and now that closet is organized and has space on the shelves. It feels so good to have these three spaces done, and it really makes a difference when you have a partner working with you. I need to do my office closet but I don’t want to do it by myself. If someone (Margaret?) would help me it would seem doable. I guess I need some kind of Organizing Aide by my side at all times now that I’m old and have a Compensatory Hypertropic Kidney.

I have one complaint after these four weeks, and I’m praying things ease as time goes by. My surgical sites have healed nicely. I had three laparoscopic sites and one large incision under my navel. No swelling or redness ever appeared, no tenderness remains. But inside something is hurting. On the side where Justine used to reside, there are two spots that feel like something sharp or abrasive is constantly rubbing. It feels like deep inside as I move, a rug burn type of pain is always being irritated. And on the other side where Verna still is, only much lower and toward the front of my body, is the same kind of pain. Of course I Googled this, but nothing definitive came from my few searches. I finally emailed my transplant team at Mayo and was called back the same day by my Transplant Coordinator Kay. I asked the question I didn’t really want an answer to: “There aren’t staples inside me, are there?” And you already know the answer I’m guessing — yes, yes there are. The blood supply to the removed kidney had to be stapled. The ureter that used to go to the bladder had to be stapled. And one of my lymph nodes was stapled so it wouldn’t leak. I’m not sure why stitches aren’t used, or maybe they are along with the staples. But most likely, those staples are jabbing my internal tissue all the livelong day, and there’s not a lot that can be done. I’m waiting to hear back from the surgeon, but I’m hoping calluses will develop instead of constant wounds that get worse and worse inside. It’s not unbearable, but it’s there. And I guess it’s unusual for a donor to feel them.

For the last four weeks we have had the most humid weather I can ever remember since moving to The Air Conditioned City on the shores of cold Lake Superior in 1981. My central air has been on non-stop for over a month, night and day. So that has contributed to my slow month as well. Who wants to go for a walk when the dew point is 70 and the temperature is 92? Not this woman.

For the last four weeks, Lloyd and I and Margaret have worked on a lovely jigsaw puzzle. My friend Tauni in San Diego sent it to me, and it is very Minnesota. A cabin, a loon, a canoe, a cardinal, a plaid blanket…. here’s a picture of it finished.

The last few days however, autumn has begun to show herself. The light streaming in the windows is coming in at a lower angle and seems more golden. The dew point has been in the high 40s, the temps in the high 60s. The windows are finally open and a wonderful breeze has billowed the curtains, and I’ve turned on my little bedroom fireplace again in the morning dark. My hydrangeas are blooming in glory and beginning to blush, as if someone paid them a lavish compliment. There are flannel sheets on the bed and I’m thinking about making a pot of soup soon.

I’m looking forward to getting back on my e-bike soon, too. Community Bible Study begins in a couple of weeks, and all over the world the classes will be held virtually. I will be helping one day a week with some of my grandchildren as they begin home schooling. I’ll be returning to Mayo in early November for my three-month checkup. This may be the first year in my life that I won’t be meeting with my whole family for Thanksgiving and Christmas… we will cross that bridge when we get closer.

I woke at 3:30 a.m. this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, something that happens to me more often than I would like. I don’t want to get up at that time, but I don’t want to lay in bed either. So this morning I just took a cue from my beloved Michael, and I quietly praised the Lord in the dark. I thanked Him for how trustworthy He is, how beautifully and carefully He has made His creation. I thanked Him for His mercy to me, how unspeakably patient He has been with me for almost sixty-three years. I thanked Him for the desire to praise Him, for the understanding that praise and gratitude really does something, really matters, even though I might not be able to see and grasp all the whys. The name and the person of Jesus sustains and thrills me in these times. He is a firm foundation and I ask Him to help me build my house on Him each and every day. I ask Him to help my children and grandchildren build on that Rock too. No shifting sand for a foundation, Lord.

Thank you for stopping by, and your prayers would mean so much,

Ten Things My Mom Taught Me

September 1, 2020 | My Jottings

This is a repost from May of 2013…. been missing my mama these days.

Did you have a nice Mother’s Day on Sunday? If you’re a mom, did someone give you a card or a hug? If your mom is still living, did you spend time with her or give her a call?

My daughters blessed me on Mother’s Day with cards, a soup/salad cookbook, lip gloss, and some home-fried corn tortilla chips, homemade salsa and homemade guacamole to munch on while we visited. That was my mouthwatering Mother’s Day dinner — piles of fresh salsa with cilantro or chunky guac balanced on still-warm chips, about seventy-nine of them, with some iced tea. Yum.

sc000fc163My own beautiful mama died in February of 1993, so it’s been a long time since I’ve picked out a Mother’s Day card. I think of her so often, and thought in her honor I’d share some things she taught me:

1.  Always cook twice as much food as you need at every meal, just in case an army stops by unannounced. I think Tupperware was invented for my mom, because she was unable to make a meal without a huge heap of leftovers. She was definitely one of those 1950s/1960s moms who showed her love by serving good food, with second and third helpings urged.

2.  One of the joys in life is to take a drive in the cool of the evening while eating an ice cream cone from 31 Flavors. I was the youngest of three children, but I was born late in life to my parents, and I thought going for a drive was totally boring. What does a seven year old want to do with her free time? Probably not sit in the backseat of a behemoth Buick LeSabre station wagon for two hours while her parents gawk at fields, trees, houses and flowers. I think that’s why ice cream was always involved, so they could bribe me to go along without pouting. Now that I’m older, I love taking drives too. It’s always a treat for Michael and me to take a drive up the North Shore of Lake Superior — the blue splendor never gets old.

3.  Little girls’ hair looks best without bangs. My mother could have started a rabid anti-bang movement had her personality been a little more fiery. You can see here and here how her “foreheads should been seen and not covered” philosophy was enforced with her only daughter.

4.  Blues and greens are classic, soothing colors to decorate with. mdXjfXWkpgklY5hPfz8piaAIn our home we had avocado green carpeting, a blue and green floral couch, a deep blue velvet chair and ottoman, dark green painted kitchen cabinets, blue and green kitchen wallpaper, textured blue wallpaper in our foyer, blue and green glass grapes on our coffee table, and a dark green recliner in the living room. I didn’t pay much attention then, but those colors must have seeped by osmosis into my bone marrow because to this day they’re my favorites.

5.  Always buy Duncan Hines cake mixes, never Betty Crocker or Pillsbury. I rarely make a cake with a mix, but when I do, I’m a total Duncan Hines snob, turning my nose up at the other brands in the baking aisle. There really is a difference. 🙂

6.  Doing something artistic or creative each week feeds the soul. My mother had creativity oozing from her pores. She was musical, artistic, and crafty. She had long slender fingers that danced over our Hammond B-3 organ keyboard and she could of course read music but never needed to. Once she played a song, it was in her brain forever and she could play it thereafter in any key. She loved taking classes to learn how to china paint, macrame, decoupage, and knit. I still have china plates hanging in my house that were her first attempt at painting, that look like a master did them. She loved needlepoint and rug hooking and sewing. I didn’t know it then, but I can see now that my mother loved beauty, and was innately drawn to create beauty in our home.

7.  Morro Bay, California, with its huge, brooding rock and morning fog, is one of the best places on earth. While my friends who had younger parents were being taken on water-skiing vacations to Lake Nacimiento or to beach houses in San Diego, my parents loved the little central coastal town of Morro Bay. It was sleepy, foggy, cooler than our city in Los Angeles County, and they dreamed of living there someday. They both eventually did, but only after they divorced.

8.  A clean, clutter-free house really does make life easier in the long run. I was not a fan of my mother’s clean-up-a-mess-as-you-go policy when I was little, preferring instead to “store” things under my bed or in the back of my closet. Today, clutter-free is what I crave, and I think a little maintenance every day is better than an exhausting overhaul once a month.

9.  Grandchildren are some of the greatest treasures God gives. Had there been such a title, my mom would have worn the sash and crown awarded to The Ultimate Grandmother Supreme of the Universe. She loved her grandbabies, sacrificially devoted her time to them, taught them how to cook and bake, powdered their bottoms with Estee Lauder dusting powder after a bath (“because they’ll sleep better if they’re dry and powdered!”), and had them spend the night often. I wish I were half the grandma she was.

10. Being a good friend means listening, laughing, encouraging, sharing, remembering, and being real. In spite of her many gifts, my mom wasn’t an overly confident person. It’s like she was unaware of how deeply she was affecting peoples’ lives. I thought having 100 friends was a normal thing when I was a little girl, because both my parents knew how to be loyal friends and were sought out by many people. I look back in my memories now and see that my mother somehow always made her friends feel as though they were her favorites. And she wasn’t duplicitous at all so it’s not like she planned this. I think each friend truly was her favorite friend; she knew them well and made time for them and laughed and cried with them. After my parents’ divorce and my mother’s nine-month emotional collapse, my mom’s loving and generous employer Helen Hasabales hosted a Virginia Sooter Day, to help welcome Mom back to work as an organist, and to the land of the living, basically. Over one-thousand people signed the guest book on that day. I will never forget how my humble mama touched lives, mostly without ever knowing it.

So I guess I have a few of these lessons my mom taught me down pat. I have tested her Duncan Hines theory numerous times and totally agree. Morro Bay is truly a wonderful little town and I wish I could visit more often. Have any of you been to Morro Bay? And having grandchildren is one of the happiest things that has ever happened to me.

But many things my mother demonstrated I am only now beginning to learn. Hopefully.

How about you? What are some things your mom taught you?