“Nisky” of Chincoteague
April 10, 2009 | My Jottings
When I was a little girl, I read most of Marguerite Henry’s books, and my favorite was Misty of Chincoteague.
Little did I know that I would have grandchildren that would someday live close to Chincoteague Island (off the coast of Virginia) and that I would be posting pictures of their recent visit to that island on my blog.
First, here’s an older cover of the book I loved:
And here’s a sweet photo of two of my beautiful grandchildren taken last weekend on Chincoteague Island — almost-seven year-old Mr. McBoy and almost-five year-old Mrs. Nisky. Now you know where the title of this blog post comes from – I just couldn’t resist.
And I was tickled to learn from my daughter Sharon that Mr. McBoy and Mrs. Nisky were able to see some of the wild ponies that still live on the island, like the ones that inspired Ms. Henry to write her beloved horse stories many years ago. Here are some of the ponies my sweethearts saw on Chincoteague:
So now I think the Marguerite Henry books might mean something to them, and I’m ordering some today and having them sent to my grandbabies in the east.
I haven’t seen these dear little ones for almost one year. I’m counting the days until they come to visit us this summer. There are no wild ponies nor tall wind-blown ocean grasses in my part of the country, but we might just be able to spy a cardinal or two, and I can guarantee that we’ll see a small herd of white-tail deer in our backyard. And a few squirrels. And a murder of raucous crows in the white, peeling birches. And a couple of chipmunks. And some chickadees at the feeder. And moonlit bunnies in the flower garden. And a pileated woodpecker in the pines. And countless sparrows. And some juncos on the deck. And robins waiting for worms in the yard. And two pesky Schnauzers in the house.
After Mr. McBoy and Mrs. Nisky have been fortunate enough to see the wild ponies of Chincoteague Island, do you think our Minnesota critters will do?
Meet Mrs. Nisky
September 20, 2008 | My Joys
This is my beloved granddaughter, E. If you look closely you might be able to see the light beaming from her face. She is the second child of my oldest daughter Sharon and her husband Chris. Auburn-haired and copper-eyed, Miss E. has always looked to me like she could have been named Penny.
Although we learned when she was in utero that E. was going to be a Long-Femured Woman, this sweet four year-old is a peanut. Uncharacteristically petite (for our family, anyway) and thoroughly feminine, she reminds me of a pixie: gracefully flitting here and there, quieter by nature than her older brother and younger sister, yet fierce and feisty when she’s bossed around. She has a unique quality about her that is hard to put in words, and it’s apparent whether she is with you in person or just talking to you on the phone; she has this luminous essence that shines out from her and beams right inside of you and wrenches your heart. She has a whispery voice that, when accompanied by that pure and disarming smile that no one else on the earth has, just sort of melts me completely.
Miss E. loves to draw and paint, color and create. If her brother, Mr. McBoy, isn’t often trying to engage and direct her in playtime, it’s likely she’ll be found stretched out on the rug, chin resting on one hand and legs behind, intensely concentrating on the small figures she’s drawing.
E. has a penchant for collecting things. It started way back when she was a mere toddler. She always wanted to be carrying a purse or basket of some sort, and all throughout the day she would select small things to put in it, and then treasure and guard them carefully. If she was playing with a saucepan, little bits of things had to go in it. If she chose a decorative basket to put over her arm, hair bows and crayons and pennies and beans would be added. For a while she said her Rs in the endearing way so many young children do, and one winter when visiting Grandpa and Grandma she proudly announced, “I’m the collecto of the family.” Little does she know that she has collected and carries around our hearts as well.
This summer her parents gave her the best present for her birthday, one totally in keeping with her personality. She attended a week of “Cinderella Ballet Camp”, where this group of little girls were taught the fun basics, and got to be ballerinas and princesses at the same time. It culminated with a darling recital at the end of the week, and the photos of E. doing her broom dance show a little girl truly aglow with satisfaction and excitement.
E. loves music too. Sharon says that she loves to sing and is always making up her own little songs, and she wants to know what the title is to every song she hears on the radio. Sometimes when the music is instrumental and Mama doesn’t know the title, she’ll explain to E. that it’s classical music. So now E. thinks that the name of all instrumental songs she hears is “Classical”.
Miss E. likes being a big sister, and evidently thinks that very exaggerated baby talk is the best way for her little sister to understand her. “Are you the cutest baby in the whole wide world, you big girl honey? Yes you are! YES YOU ARE! You’re the cutest little sweetheart!” I wish I could be there to hear it, and to see little sister M.’s delighted reaction.
When I was about three or four years old, I used to grapple verbally for ways to tell my parents how much I loved them, and apparently I used to declare, “I love you two chibben and fee!” which was my way of saying the biggest number I could think of – two, seven and three. This bent for hyperbolic expression must run in our family, because Miss E.’s parents tell me that when she expresses affection to them, she says things like “I love you twenty-four six hundred!”, meaning, of course, lots and lots.
Over a year ago when her parents were talking with her and of course, using her first name, Miss E. interrupted and said firmly (and out of nowhere), “Don’t call me E.! My name is Mrs. Nisky!” They never knew where that new moniker came from but had to restrain themselves from laughing because she was so serious. So while other families have nicknames that make sense, as in Bobby for Robert or Jenny for Jennifer, our little Miss E. wants to be called Mrs. Nisky.
When I talk to E. on the phone I often ask her when she is coming to our part of the country to visit us. “How ’bout Saturday?” she always cheerfully answers. Oh, how I wish it were so. We live far away from each other, so twice a year visits will have to do for now, along with frequent phone and e-mail updates.
When I look at E.’s sweet face and deep into her eyes, I think of the song, “This little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine!” because that’s exactly what she does. It’s who she is. She has this wonderful and steady little light inside of her, full of innocence and love and spirit, and she lets it shine, and shine, and shine. Our family is so happy and thankful that God has blessed us with the luminous Mrs. Nisky.
Kids, kidneys, a kite, and the knot.
September 20, 2019 | My Jottings
Hi friends. Happy autumn to you. I hope you are experiencing lovely leaf colors, cooler weather, fires in your hearth or in your heart, pumpkin something or other, a good book, and/or a return to blessed routine.
I follow an old childhood friend named Ann on Instagram, and not long ago she posted this picture:
I had never seen it before, but I remembered the birthday party immediately. The two “twins” who are playing Twister are my oldest childhood friend Denel (in the front), and me. My mom made those bell bottoms with the daisies on them. Behind us are two schoolmates I haven’t seen since then — Jill Crabtree and Doreen Castro. It was fun to think back on that slumber party, even though I never quite felt like I fit in anywhere. That thought doesn’t bring pain anymore, only a matter-of-fact recollection of what was. I wish I could tell other young girls that this feeling is often universal and that you will live through it and become your own person someday, and hopefully learn to be more welcoming to others.
It has been so hot and steamy in Northeastern Minnesota this summer I don’t even want to talk about it. The time that gets wasted because of humidity is frustrating. Do I want to walk at the cemetery when it’s 88 degrees and dripping per cent humidity? No I don’t. Do I want to bake cookies and put a yummy pot of soup on to simmer? No. How about having people over or taking grandchildren somewhere fun? Nein. Or going to church on Sunday in a beautiful old building with stained glass windows and no air conditioning? Nyet. So, yes, summer is basically dead to me, and if fall doesn’t make itself known pretty quickly I might have a pouty attitude.
We do have some leaves showing off, though. What do you think? Would you yawn at that? I hope not. I sound like a broken record, but I never, ever, get tired of fall colors. If only they would last three months.
On a breezy day in late August, I took my granddaughters Mrs. Nisky and Li’l Gleegirl to fly a kite. Oh, did I find a fantastic kite on Amazon. It’s so fun, so sturdy, and so good at lifting itself into the wind, that it began to fly when it was barely out of our hands. I have not done a lot of, ahem, running, in many years, because I have a knee replacement and
a few several pounds of jiggly here and there. So I was hoping when we drove down to Park Point on the beach of Lake Superior, I wouldn’t have to run to get the kite to fly.
It actually took effort to get the kite to stop flying, so it was a successful afternoon of kite flying. Mrs. Nisky is 15 now, and Li’l Gleegirl is 12 1/2. They reached these ages in some eye blinks.
We actually flew the kite while sitting down too. We let the entire roll of string out and the kite was so high we had trouble seeing it at times.
Can you see it? It’s waaaay up there, dancing around in the wind off the largest freshwater lake in the world, which (I have never mentioned this before, have I?) I can see from my living room, my dining room, my kitchen and my bedroom. I am grateful to live here.
My oldest granddaughter Clara is 17 now, which is another shock to the system. She is a senior in high school, and is enrolled in college at the same time, taking classes she will ace, and drawing cartoon strips in her spare time. She’s a gifted artist and I follow her “Seabeast” comic strip on Instagram of course.
Clara had her grad pictures done recently, and it’s very convenient to have a professional photographer in the family. My oldest daughter Sharon took them, and here is one I love:
Clara is the oldest child of my second daughter Carolyn, and she is about 5′ 11″ now. We try our hardest to grow them tall in this family.
Carolyn and Jeremy also have this little cutie, who started preschool this month. She’s almost five, and her preschool spends most of their time outside. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, they dress for the weather and go exploring and playing. Miriam looks so much like Jeremy’s beautiful mother Diane.
Aaannnd… there is this kid. He is Chris and Sharon’s oldest, and is also a senior in high school this year. He likes football and sports and basketball and sports and spending time with his friends, and sports, and working at his job, and sports. Cullen is just a hair under 6′ 7″ tall, and out of all my children and grandchildren, he is the most Sooterish. Meaning he looks like a Sooter, which is my maiden name. I am frequently told that he looks like me, and sometimes if I squint I can see it.
A while back I posted about how my son-in-law Chris was recently (shockingly) diagnosed with severe kidney failure. He needs a kidney transplant as soon as possible. If you would be willing to fill out an easy questionnaire to see if you or someone you know could possibly donate a kidney, please click on the recent post at the left called “Every Good and Perfect Gift.” Toward the bottom you’ll see Chris’s picture and a link to the Mayo Clinic. If you do, you’ll need his birthday so please leave a comment and I’ll email you. Everything will be paid for and you will be taken care of.
Anyway, out of the few people who were willing to see if they could donate, somehow I, a 62 year old woman, have risen to the top of the list of possible donors so far. I just returned from three days of amazing, efficient, friendly testing at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, where I learned that I may be able to donate one of my kidneys. Not to Chris, since our blood types don’t match. (This is why we still need someone to donate for him.) If I donate, it will qualify Chris to be in Mayo’s Paired Donation Program. I could give my kidney to someone, Mayo would look for someone to donate to Chris, and we could all four potentially go into surgery on the same day. Kidney donation surgery takes 40 minutes, is done through a small scar below the navel, and hospital stay is two days.
I still have two more tests to go through, but here are my kidneys from the CT scan Mayo did. I now know I have a slight curvature of the spine. 🙂 I think I should name my kidneys. I read this morning about a young woman who named her kidneys Jeff Left and Dwight Right and I like those names. She made it possible for a stranger to live. Do you have any suggestions on what I should name my kidneys? I already know that if I become a donor, they will take my left kidney, because it has one artery. My right has two, which apparently complicates things in surgery a bit.
And now an abrupt segue. Do you see this church below? It’s my church. I’ve been a member there for two years, and I love it. It’s a big departure for someone who grew up a Baptist and then raised her family in an Assembly of God church. But it has been rich and new and very healing for me to be there.
I love the stained glass windows in my church. I gravitate toward dark, jewel toned colors, and I particularly like the dark reds in these.
Soon, in this blessed church with the pretty stained glass windows, I will be participating in a solemn and happy ceremony where these very rings will be exchanged and vows will be said, and granddaughters wearing jewel-toned dresses will carry flowers down the aisle and adult children will stand up as attendants, songs will be sung, scriptures will be read, prayers will be prayed, friends will be there to celebrate….
….and after almost five years of living without Michael, I will marry again. I will wear a dark sapphire colored dress.
His name is Lloyd and I’ve mentioned him here before. He and I met at a local senior citizens’ grief support group over three years ago. He lost his Rosemarie two months before Michael died. Lloyd and Rose were married 51 years. Michael and I were married 33.
His family has welcomed me so lovingly, and my family has welcomed him the same. I am so proud of the way my girls have loved and supported me as I took a long time to come to this decision.
Lloyd lives in a log cabin he built in the woods, about 50 miles south of me. We will go back and forth between my house and his as we can. When I decide to retire from doing adult foster care, we may well sell my house and get something smaller for the two of us. But all those decisions can be made slowly.
What helped me eventually say yes to Lloyd’s many patient marriage suggestions (he didn’t actually officially propose until he knew I had worked it all out in my heart) was what a kind man he is. What a good conversationalist. How servant-hearted he is. How sensitive he is. How ready his laugh is. How he loves his children and how much they love him and want to be with him. How thoughtful. Here’s an example of the latter. Recently we were in church together and as soon as the scripture readings commenced, I began to cry. It’s not unusual for me to react to the reading of God’s Word that way, and I try to be quiet when it happens. On this day I had no kleenex in my purse and Lloyd didn’t have a clean handkerchief. There were no boxes of tissues around, so he went to the nearest bathroom and brought back some brown paper towels from the dispenser for me. When he sat in the pew and handed them to me so I could wipe my nose and eyes, I noticed they had been wadded up and opened, wadded up and opened, so they would be softer to use and not so stiff and rough. He does a lot of things like this without fanfare, and I am grateful.
I hope you’ll pray for us as we begin our life together. I’m a little nervous to be honest. Not about Lloyd, but about getting married at this late stage in life when I’m so set in my relatively solitary ways. It’s not like it was when I was 18 and threw caution to the wind and said “I do” to someone who wasn’t any more prepared than I was to make that kind of commitment. Now I’m old and overthink things and entertain myself with too many what-ifs and am much more practical than I used to be.
I’ll share some wedding pictures when we get back from our After Wedding Trip. I am refusing to call it a honeymoon, because at my age that seems weird.
I told the transplant team at Mayo that I can’t give away a kidney until November when the wedding and After Wedding Trip are behind me, and they are more than willing to work with anyone who would take that step.
I’ll close with this curious and serendipitous fact I learned at the Mayo Clinic, which by the way is 4.5 hours south of me. The transplant surgeon is a woman named Julie. And when she was little, she used to live in the house where Michael and I raised our family. How about that?
Thank you for reading. Thank you for praying for my family. Tell me how you’re doing now…okay?
February 11, 2019 | My Jottings
I’m grateful for a Monday morning at home, no appointments, no company coming, nothing tugging at me. Except foster care paperwork and four sessions I’m writing and praying about for a women’s retreat, and a couple of untouched books and a kitchen sink full of dishes. Just those things. 🙂
It has snowed off and on for days, and this morning when I woke up I couldn’t see the front steps that lead to my house. If I were a younger woman I’d be all bumbled up (as one of my fosters says) and doing the shoveling myself, but those days are behind me. Especially since my back has been healing and I don’t want to undo that. It’s seventeen degrees above zero and since a couple of weeks ago we had twenty-eight below with sixty below wind chills, this seems like a gift. The forecast for my city says one to three more inches of snow tonight.
What’s the weather like where you are? I see online friends posting pictures of spring flowers breaking through the ground, but in northern Minnesota we are months away from that.
My oldest daughter Sharon and her husband Chris recently took a trip to Maui, and their three daughters stayed with me. I felt bad that the worst of the cold weather prevented us from doing much outside, so we watched more TV than I preferred. We also played Farkle, Backgammon, Gin and Uno.
Her older brother calls her Louis and some friends at school call her Lisa, and she isn’t thrilled about that. She told her mother recently that people can call her Louisa, Weeza, Cheetah or Snoodlepoop, but not Lisa. She is so good-natured and I am having a difficult time watching her grow up so quickly.
Here’s a picture Sharon took a few weeks ago when we were celebrating Carolyn’s birthday.
They are twenty months apart and are so alike, and so different. I love observing the women they’ve become, and learn so much from each one. They have both comforted and wisely advised me now that I’m nearing my dotage. And they make me laugh.
Sharon is blonde and is six feet tall, Carolyn is a brunette and is 5′ 10″. They obviously look like sisters, but our family has never been able to understand the twin thing. Both of them have had strangers approach them and think they were the other.
What do you think? Do they favor each other a lot? Is it so much they might be twins?
Carolyn is mother of seven (six on earth, one in heaven) and Sharon is mother of four. They have made me rich in grandchildren and love.
Our elderly Schnauzer Mildred has struggled with our bitterly cold temperatures. We noticed that if it was colder than 10 degrees out, she would run out into the yard to go potty, but then would get stuck and have a hard time walking back in. It is treacherous to go outside quickly to pick her up and bring her in, when there’s a layer of ice under the snow and it’s frigid enough to cause frostbite in less than a minute.
So my youngest daughter Sara bought booties for Millie (not shown in the picture below) that she hated because of the Velcro sound. And next Sara brought home a puffer jacket, which Millie was thoroughly delighted about. Can’t you see the pure joy in her schnauzery face?
It took several times for Millie to adapt to her winter wear, but oh, what a difference it has made. She submits to the donning of the booties and jacket now, and can be outside more comfortably without getting stuck. We are so proud of her.
Sara has been going to college, working, and fitting in a few fun things whenever possible. I so appreciate the help she gives me around the house, and the respite care she provides when I need a little work break.
She and a friend are taking a belly-dancing class together, and she comes home and shows me what she’s learned. Apparently belly dancing has very small, precise-yet-jiggly movements to it, and is not at all easy. We’ve had some laughs when Sara tries to instruct me in the small, precise-yet-jiggly motions. I am doing well in the jiggly, but the small and precise elude me.
Sara and I have been looking at pictures of Michael and reminiscing a lot lately, because the four-year anniversary of his death was on February 9th. How is it that my beloved husband has been gone for over one thousand four hundred days? She has been counting her blessings because she felt unconditionally loved by her father, and I have been thanking the Lord for all He’s done in my life through Michael.
For those who grieve, the pain does fade. Tears still come for me, but I don’t feel that desperate, raw sorrow that I did four years ago. As I put on my Instagram account recently, no matter what happens, I will always be Michael’s and he will always be mine.
My oldest grandson is going to be seventeen in a couple of months, and he has a very sweet girlfriend. They went to their first Sweetheart Dance at their high school last month, and since Carissa’s dress was red satin, she asked Mr. McBoy to rent a gray tux with a red vest and tie. Plus, their school colors are red and gray, so I guess they were totally sick. When I was his age we said far out and cool and outtasight. Now they say sick.
Mr. McBoy is 6′ 5″ tall and the doctor says he’s not done growing. He played high school basketball but loves football more, and enjoys singing in his A’capella choir. If anyone reading this knew my father, you might be able to see those Sooter genes beaming out in that face. I’ve been told that Mr. McBoy resembles his grandma, and once in a while I get a fleeting glimpse of that. 🙂
I see the sun rise over Lake Superior almost every day, and it never fails to give me a thrill. Here’s a picture I took a couple of weeks ago when the morning temperature was twenty below zero and the ice was beginning to form. If you enlarge the photo, you can see the ice on the surface.
Since then, the Lake has frozen solid enough to beckon
crazy brave ice fisherpeople to set up their ice tents, drill holes in the ice and sit for hours waiting for a bite. There must be a lot of biting, because a couple of days ago I drove by a portion of Lake Superior and there were over a dozen tents and even more people standing out there, mere yards from the open water.
While my granddaughters were with me (twelve days, the longest visit so far), fourteen year old Mrs. Nisky drew this for me. It took her less than an hour.
I have a wonderful carved cross my friend Ember gave me, just perfect for holding in a closed hand while praying or pondering the love of Jesus. Mrs. Nisky drew this of her own hand holding the cross, and chose this verse, which I took as a word from the Lord to me. I am going to have this framed and will hang it in my room.
Mrs. Nisky plays the cello and is on the girls basketball team at her high school. She has the most beautiful copper colored hair and eyes, and has been a blessing to me from the day she was born. I don’t mind at all either that her middle name is Julia, sort of after me.
Speaking of sunrises, Lloyd sent me this picture taken from his bedroom loft window in his cabin in the woods. Isn’t that breathtaking?
He gets up every morning and makes a cup of coffee, suits up and goes outside to feed the birds, deer and wild turkeys that wait for him to thump on the bucket to let them know breakfast is served. After he spreads the corn and seed around, he goes to his huge shop/guest room and builds a roaring fire in the wood stove to keep the in-floor heat from freezing, and by the time that is done, over a dozen turkeys have come in to feed. When they’ve had their fill they roost in the trees surrounding Lloyd’s home, and then they all walk jerky-turkey across his pond and back into the woods. I enjoy the pictures he texts to me from fifty miles away.
Well, laundry is calling, my work on the April women’s retreat is waiting, and I haven’t had breakfast yet. I think a small bowl of Muesli sounds good. Here’s the recipe if you’re interested.
How are things with you?
April 6, 2017 | My Jottings
Not long ago one of my granddaughters came over to spend the night and do fun stuff with Grandma. I’ve called her Li’l Gleegirl since she was tiny because it fits her so well, but one of her family’s nicknames for her is Moo.
My usual birthday gift for my grands is a card with a note in it, giving them the choice between some money so they can buy something they like for themselves, or a date to spend the night at my house and go out to dinner together. The older kids lean toward the money now (sniff) but the younger ones still think being with Grandma is fun, and that’s what Moo chose.
She chose a local Italian restaurant down by the lake, and it was a thoroughly delightful meal. Moo is cheerful, chatty, energetic, diligent in her academic and dance endeavors, and is a really wonderful companion.
Here’s a picture of this ten year-old with her birthday dessert:
There are many traditions my grandchildren take part in when they spend the night. There is always a book to be read aloud, a tubby to be taken in the deep and fancy tub, snacks to be munched, games to be played, snuggles to be had. When Moo was here we finished reading the book Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John, which I have read out loud to my children and six of my nine grands so far. It’s one of the best books a child could hear. The new edition has been terribly revised, so I don’t recommend it, but if you ever want to buy a book that will profoundly bless you and those you read it to, you can find used copies online. The cover of the best edition looks like this.
As I read the last two chapters out loud, Moo listened intently with her eyes wide, anxious to hear how the hearts of the Swiss children Annette and Lucien were so dramatically changed by “letting the Savior come in.” I have read Treasures of the Snow at least nine times, and it always makes me weep at its beauty. It never grows old.
I keep soft footed sleepers in various sizes here for my grandchildren, so they don’t have to pack jammies when they come over. I know this might sound sappy, but I want even what they sleep in when they’re here to make them feel warm and safe and comforted. I know they will have memories to unearth someday, and I want them to recall even the colorful soft one-piece sleepers at Grandma’s. After a tubby full of mountains of bubbles, Moo put on the bright pink sleeper with the black print, and then sat patiently in front of me while I carefully brushed and detangled her long hair, and then put it in a French braid. I tell the girls that even loosely braiding their hair at night before they go to bed will save some tears the next morning from trying to brush out the knots.
Moo loves games and can be competitive, so we played Farkle, three games of Backgammon, and Gin. I love sitting across a table from her and watching her expressive face and listen to her near-constant chatter as we make our way through a game.
Moo takes weekly dance lessons and showed me the tap routine she’s working on. Her older sister Mrs. Nisky takes lessons at the same studio and is graceful as she learns ballet. I will attend their recital in May and will sit in the darkened auditorium with hundreds of other grandparents and parents, keeping a secret from them all: my granddaughters are the sweetest, most talented, radiant and lovely dancers in the world. I’m content to hold that truth close to my heart and wipe tears as I watch them perform, and send up prayers for their tender lives.
If Moo has homework she likes to get to that right away, and she asks me to check it. She might have a snack of peanuts and raisins or a cut up apple with string cheese. We might watch a kid’s show in the evening. She loves for me to make her a cup of hot chai tea.
When it was time for bed, we brushed our teeth together, turned on some pretty music in my bedroom, and read books. Moo sang a couple of songs for me, and she has a clear and lovely voice for a ten year old. She told me she thinks her name will be on the Hollywood Walk of Fame someday, and while that wouldn’t be one of my dreams for her, I can’t say I doubt it could happen.
When we got up on Saturday morning, I gave her choices for breakfast and she chose her usual: two fried eggs over easy, toast with butter, and an orange or clementine.
When our time together is drawing to a close, I always ask my grands to name with me the things we enjoyed together in the last sixteen hours or so. We take turns, and say simple things like, “We had dinner at Valentini’s.” Then, “We played two games of Farkle.” And “I took a tubby and you braided my hair.” And “We finished Treasures of the Snow.”
I realize Moo already knows everything we did, but somehow going through every little thing, the snacks, the songs, the games and books and conversations, the bath, seems like we’re making an altar of sorts, as happened often in the Old Testament. I’ve read about how sometimes God’s people built altars of remembrance by piling up stones at certain important locations (one example is in the book of Joshua when God parted the Jordan so His people could cross over on dry land). Moo might not realize it, but in my mind I’m ever piling up stones of memories, altars of remembrance and thanksgiving for the precious times I have with my grandchildren.
My most fervent hope and prayer is that when they’re drawing baths and reading aloud and braiding hair and frying eggs for their own precious grandchildren, they’ll remember old times with me and begin to build altars of their own, marking and acknowledging the unfathomable kindness and faithfulness of our God.
One of the kindest things He has ever done for me was to give me a granddaughter like Moo.
An Ocular Arc and the ER
March 4, 2017 | My Jottings
I think that sounds like a tongue twister, don’t you? Instead of “She sells seashells down by the seashore,” or “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,” we could add “An Ocular Arc and the ER,” to our tongue-twisting repertoire. No, not really. That would be silly, because “An Ocular Arc and the ER” are not that hard to say.
Before I talk about the ocular arc I want to mention something a whole lot more fun. Last night one of my grandchildren spent the night. Miss Louiser was apparently so excited when I texted her mama to see if Friday happened to be open on her calendar. It’s so nice when a grandchild loves you so much she can hardly contain herself! I feel the same way about my grands, but some of them are teenagers now, and as my friend Sue mentioned to me the other day, we grandmothers are about as interesting and important as lamps to our teenaged grands now. Sigh.
I picked up Weezer from preschool yesterday around 2:45, and she was so happy when I peeked through the classroom door at her, she started jumping up and down and squealing. After we gathered her things we walked down the outside steps of the school, down the sidewalk to Grandma’s blue car. I strapped her in the back seat and she chattered happily at me the whole three miles home.
She asks for snacks every thirty minutes or so, and here’s a list of what she had while she was here:
*Peanuts and raisins in a little custard cup (did you know you can squish a raisin between two peanut halves and it looks like a hamburger for a Barbie doll? My grandkids have done this for years.)
*One half of an orange
*One carrot stick
*Three apple slices
Then for dinner we tried a new Papa Murphy’s about a block from my house. You walk in, order your pizza, they make it immediately and wrap it up, and you bring it home and bake it yourself. It’s not like you all didn’t know about places like this before, but it’s the first time we’ve been there. So I thought it was semi-newsworthy. (Pause and feel sorry for me here.) We liked the pizza all right, and then Auntie Sara brought home a Red Box movie, Pete’s Dragon, which made me cry. I would so have a pet dragon if I could. I wouldn’t want a mean dragon like Tolkien’s Smaug, but a humble dragon like Elliot would be welcome in my home if he took me on regular flights out across Lake Superior. Please watch this very brief clip and tell me if you would do this if given the opportunity.
Louiser loves to take a tubby at my house. Bubbles galore, water that comes out of the ceiling instead of a regular spigot, bath toys, and some warm snuggles with books afterward always make her happy. Her hair needed a trim and Mama said I could even things up a little, so I cut about an inch from the ends and shortened her bangs a bit while she sat quietly. Then she requested a French braid, which I gladly did.
By the time the movie was over, our little four-year old was almost nodding off in the plaid wing back chair, so we decided to brush our teeth and get ready for bed, even though it wasn’t even 7:30 yet. In less than fifteen minutes this happened:
I picked up a little after I made sure she was sound asleep, then let Millie the Schnauzer out for the last time. I read a while and then after I turned off the lamp on my nightstand, I listened to Weezer’s breathing, which is so precious. Breath is precious in a precious life, isn’t it?
Around 1:45 a.m. I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep for almost two hours. Gah. I am not a fan of that kind of night. I listened to some music on my iPhone, turned down low so as not to disturb Louiser, and when I heard my alarm go off at 7:00 it seemed like I had just shut my eyes. Little Miss slept pretty well, except for one time in the night when she turned over with the teensiest little whine and said clearly, “Nevermind!”
Today she asked for a fried egg for breakfast, and all the snack requests commenced after that, but they were all healthy ones so I just handed them out every hour or so. She wanted to watch a couple Saturday morning cartoons and explained to me that the flying lions on Elena of Avalor were not called flying lions, but Jackwins. At least that’s how I heard it. I later looked it up out of curiosity and saw that the creatures are called Jaquins; children’s programming has changed considerably since I was Louiser’s age. I watched Felix the Cat, Mighty Mouse and later, The Archies. Do any of you remember those shows?
Around noon, Mama and big sister Mrs. Nisky came to pick up Mrs. Baby. That’s another nickname Weezer has had since birth. And often her family shortens that one to just Mrs., which she happily answer to. Sara cleaned the kitchen, I did a little foster paperwork, and then I decided to move the furniture in my bedroom around. It was time for a little change, and I always enjoy the fresh, new feel a room takes on with a bit of rearranging.
We put sliders under the big mahogany dresser and that was easy. Then I decided to move the king-size bed by myself, and I realized three things immediately: 1. I am weak, 2. My carpet is thick, and 3. I can grunt very loud. I had to move it a couple of inches at a time, and finally Sara must have heard my vocal commotion so she came in and helped me finish. We moved the chairs, nightstands and lamps, and I sat down to rest and look around with a pleased expression on my face, when all of a sudden something got my attention.
On the left periphery of my left eye, I saw an arc of multi-colored, flashing bright lights. It was as if a miniscule mirror was broken, and tiny triangular shards were arranged around a half circle in my field of vision. I saw the arc, the kaleidoscope of blue and pink and silver flashes, and very pointed and geometric shapes clinging to the arc.
It looked sort of like this, but mine was more colorful, and the triangles were smaller:
No matter where I looked, the flashing arc was there, and I thought to myself, weeelllll, THIS can’t be good, so I googled something like “flashing arc with triangles in eye,” and saw several sites that said I should see my ophthalmologist without delay. I knew Dr. Treacy’s office would be closed on a Saturday, but called for the answering service, and the doctor on call telephoned within five minutes. Since this happened right after I had physically exerted myself moving my bed, I felt sure I had done something bad to the retina. I was already mentally calculating how things would be taken care of at home with my foster gals while I was having eye surgery.
But the ophthalmologist felt certain that what I was describing to her was an ocular migraine. I had never heard of an ocular migraine and I doubted her right away since I have never had a migraine in my life, and I had just moved furniture. She was very matter of fact and said to rest a bit and she would call me back in 25 minutes to see if there was any change. When I talked to my daughter Sharon, she had just read of a case like this on Facebook, and the delay had been a bad thing for the patient. The ER folks told him he should have come in immediately. With that information, I decided to go to the Emergency Room, and Sharon offered to drive me. I am legally blind in my right eye, corrected to 20/40 with glasses. This ominous arc was in my good left eye. I didn’t want to take any chances.
So to bypass all the things like registration, sitting and waiting, vitals being taken, and seeing a doctor, the verdict was that he also believed I was having an ocular migraine. Since I didn’t have a dark curtain come down in my vision, or splatters of floaters, he didn’t believe it was a retinal detachment. But since the ER didn’t have the right equipment to examine my eyes, I will make an appointment with my ophthalmologist first thing on Monday morning. While I was at the hospital the flashing arc with the mirror-like triangle shards resolved itself, and I felt okay about going home. Sharon dropped me off, and I decided to rest for a couple of hours.
Here was my view as I began this blog post, and the new way my room is arranged:
The picture is distorted since I was using the panoramic feature of my iPhone and my hand wasn’t steady, but it’s good enough. Millie is at the left, worn out by the bath Sara gave her this morning.
I’m so grateful my vision seems to be okay now! I’m grateful for medical insurance. And for my time with Louiser… her hugs and giggles and sweetness. I will try not to think about how lamp-like I will be to her in less than a decade. That will be terrible.
I’m also giving thanks that even though I still have no idea what I’ll be speaking on, I know by the time March 14th rolls around, the Lord will have helped me write the opening I’ll be doing at Community Bible Study. I have been praying, taking notes, trying to discern what the Holy Spirit might want to say to the beautiful women in our class, and so far, I’m in the dark. It seems like this is the pattern every single time I’m ever asked to share, and I don’t get why it works this way. I’m thanking Him in advance for His faithfulness, and trying to learn to rest while feeling so uncertain.
Well, it’s time for bed. I’ll bet your Saturday night was a bit more lively than mine. After my post-ER rest, I made dinner, watched part of the Lawrence Welk Show, took a bath, brushed my teeth, and cleaned my Invisalign trays.
I’m glad you stopped in… God’s peace to you all,
December 7, 2016 | My Jottings
As I sit here in the early morning dark, I can hear the lovely sound of the wind chimes playing outside my office window, as the mean December wind tosses them about. We had some snow last week but most of it melted the next day. Yesterday we had horizontal snow and the temperatures dropped, and I see that our distant forecast has below-zero numbers predicted. Two apt words come to mind when I see that: gaaahhh and waaahhh. I say let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, but keep the arctic temperatures at bay until at least the end of January.
I decided to put up a small tree this year instead of our big one, and Sara carried it up from the basement and set it up for me. She and I decorated it while watching A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey. If you haven’t seen that movie and you like the Dickens tale as I do, I recommend it. At first glance it might seem too comedic since Jim Carrey’s own cartoonish likeness is Scrooge, but the movie was so brilliant and touching I think I’ll watch it again. The special effects or special animation or whatever it’s called, were stunning. Here’s a short trailer if you would like to see.
Here’s a poor picture of our little tree:
And here are a couple of close-ups…I made the lettered banner a few years back and still like it because of the plaid paper behind the letters.
Michael and I bought this copper maple leaf in Alaska when we were on a cruise.
And every year Sara fills the three flower boxes which hang on the railing of our front deck with various fresh greens, and puts oversized ornaments in amongst all the lushness.
And Sara tied a little ribbon around the console table lamps in the living room. Probably no one else would notice but we were quite pleased with them.
This little vignette sits in a corner of our living room. Our (almost obsolete) CDs are stored in this cabinet.
Sara also tied some bells up on the three hanging lights we have over our counter that divides the kitchen from the dining room. I love how festive they look.
Last week I had four of my nine grandchildren here for one week. Seven days. In a row. Round the clock. Things went well, but I learned something about myself during that time, which is that I am old. I had a sneaking suspicion about this before, but having Sharon and Chris’s kids here and having to make sure they all arrived at their respective activities confirmed it…I am officially elderly. Or at least that’s what my body is telling me.
Chris and Sharon both have full-time jobs and they had planned a long time for this much needed vacation for just the two of them. They flew off to warmer climes, enjoyed uninterrupted meals together with quiet conversation, slept past 5:00 a.m. each day, and also did this:
I’m so glad they had such a peaceful and relaxing time.
I had to make a chart to keep each day straight. Mr. McBoy had to be up at a certain time and off in the dark on his bike to freshman basketball practice at his high school. The girls had to be up at a different time and taken to school, one to one school and two to another. Lunches had to be packed the night before, which they all did. Uniforms had to be washed and ready. Homework done and gathered. Snow pants and boots dried out and mittens found. I made a different breakfast each morning — oatmeal and fruit, cheese omelettes and toast, sausage and waffles, etc. Li’l Gleegirl had to be taken to choir practice and picked up. Mrs. Nisky had a Friday night 7th grade girls’ fun night from 7:00 to 10:00, which meant I had to keep regular clothes on past 5:30 p.m. for a change. Li’l Gleegirl needed a BD party present and had to remember to pack clothes for an overnight at a friend’s house. Mrs. Nisky had to be picked up from school at 2:30 because she had her cello with her, Li’l Gleegirl at 5:00 due to keyboard lessons at school. Little Louiser stayed home one day since she had a bad cold, and there’s more. I don’t know how their parents do it. By the time the seventh day rolled around, they were all so ready to see their mama and daddy again, and even though things went well these seven days, I was in my nightgown and sitting in my recliner with a glazed expression on my elderly face by dark (which is early this far north) within minutes after they were picked up.
Yesterday after Community Bible Study, the women of my core group came to my house for our Christmas luncheon. We had sandwich loaf which looks something like the photo below, chips, fruit, veggies and hummus, and Christmas cookies with our coffee and tea.
The women in the core group I lead range in age from late twenties to ninety years old. The mix of wisdom and calm, and freshness and energy, are such a gift to all of us. Some have little children, some are great-grandmothers. Some have never had children. Some are widows, some divorced. But we all gather around God’s Word and ask Him to change us, and to help us know and love Him more.
We went around the table and shared either a Christmas memory or tradition, and after everyone left I cleaned up while pondering how rich it was to listen to such beautiful women openly share. We laughed, marveled, and cried a little at what was said, and it felt like we were on fun and holy ground. I love knowing that fun and holy can go together.
Well, this was a bit fragmented, but I hear some footsteps down the hall, so off I go to make breakfast and get meds ready for one of my fosters. I will make sure she is well bundled before she leaves for the bus, because I can still hear the wind knocking the wind chimes around. The sun is just now coming up.
I pray your day isn’t too busy and that you find some moments of peace and gratitude.
May Jesus bless you today,
July 1, 2016 | My Jottings
“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person he puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only he can see.” — Corrie ten Boom
Yesterday I had three of my nine grands with me for a few hours. Mrs. Nisky had a cello lesson, so we drove up just north of Duluth and dropped her off for that. Then Li’l Gleegirl and Louiser and I drove to one of the larger grocery stores called Super One. We picked up a watermelon, some bananas, organic half and half, lean ground beef, and a rotisserie chicken, among other things. They both sat in front of one of those shopping carts with a kiddie car attached to the front of it, and by the time we were halfway through the produce section I leaned down and whispered to them to please limit the beeping of the squeaky horns in the little pretend steering wheels to once every aisle or so. Shopping in a fairly crowded store while maneuvering the wide turns of a forty-foot long shopping cart with two little hands continuously sounding the beep-beep-beep-beep-beeps made me realize how very alive I am.
When we were ready to check out, I unloaded our groceries onto the conveyor belt, reached for my wallet in the depths of my Vera Bradley purse, and my heart sank. My wallet was gone. I knew right away it had been stolen. The reason I thought this was because everything to do with my purse is large and intentional. I always buy a big purse (usually a pretty Vera Bradley fabric tote) so I don’t have to rummage. I look at other women with these tiny little clutches only big enough for cash and credit cards and I think, “How can you possibly fit your computer in that?” My Macbook Air will fit in my purse, a large library book will easily fit, and the other things I carry are pretty well organized. The pens are together in one side pocket of the purse, my cell phone in another, and my lip glosses are kept in a zipped pouch that’s easy to find. My keys are on a huge jailer’s key ring and I have never lost them in my life.
I also like a large wallet, so I can fit every wallety thing in it — cash, credit cards, my driver’s license, rewards cards for Great Harvest Bread Company, Qdoba and Walgreen’s, band aids, pictures of my loved ones, etc. I can reach into my purse without looking and grab the large key ring or the large padded checkbook or the large pouch of lip gloss or the large book or the large wallet, and this system has served me well for years. I don’t lose things, I don’t rummage around in frustration, and I hardly ever have to give my purse or its contents a thought.
But sometimes intentional and organized women can be idiots.
Like when they’re shopping in a crowded grocery store with their granddaughters and they don’t zip the top of their well-considered and spacious purse. My wallet was at the bottom of my purse, so whoever decided to just slip their hand in yesterday saw the unzipped opportunity, watched me very carefully and did it within about 2.5 seconds. Thankfully the woman at the cash register let me write a check without showing ID.
We picked up Mrs. Nisky from her lesson and drove home. Of course I looked for the wallet at home, but I knew it had been with me, so looking in trash cans and in the garage and under paperwork was fruitless. I called Super One and nothing had been turned in.
I spent the next hour calling my credit card companies and canceling my cards, and I texted a few friends and asked them to pray. My prayer is that whoever stole the pretty padded blue and green wallet took the cash and then discarded the wallet in a public place. I’m hoping its bright colors will draw someone’s eyes to it, and they will find it and contact me from the information on my license. I want my pictures back.
I fretted quietly for about an hour, I really did. But then I thought of the quote above by Corrie ten Boom, and I decided to believe that my wallet was in God’s possession, no matter whose human hands it was in. I praised the Lord out loud while I was emptying the dishwasher, thanking Him that my checkbook wasn’t taken. I thanked Him for my grandchildren, for my home, for the things I still have. I asked Him to give me His perspective on this little tiny thing that had happened, and I think He began to do just that.
I started thinking about all the people I know who have lost things, or are lost themselves. And I was ashamed to realize once again that I don’t always pray for the most important things with the care, passion and focus I was feeling as I was praying about my wallet. Gahh.
So I prayed for my friend whose relationship with her daughter and grandchildren has literally been stolen from her. I prayed for my friend who has lost the marriage and family life she cherished. I prayed for my friend whose son has lost his way and isn’t reaching out to the hand Christ offers him. I prayed for my friend who lost her beloved husband this year, also to a disease caused by Agent Orange, like my Michael.
This morning I woke up and was thankful to tell the Lord again that I knew my wallet was in His control, and that I would wait on Him for it to be returned to me. Not the money, but the other contents, especially the pictures of my human treasures. I asked Him again to smite my soul so that I care about lost people like He does.
But I also remembered the parable Jesus told about the lost coin. Even though He was teaching people how wonderful it is when someone repents and turns to the Lord, I think He was also acknowledging how even a lost possession can bring distress, and interrupts everything in our lives until it’s found.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
— Luke 15:8-10 ESV
So when my wallet is returned to me, will you rejoice with me? Thank you! I think I heard a yes out there somewhere.
And until that happens, I will ask the Lord to give me His heart for things and people who need to be found and rejoiced over.
Is there someone or something lost to you? I will pray for you today, if you leave a comment. (You can remain anonymous when you leave a comment if you like too.)
A Friday Mishmash
February 26, 2016 | My Jottings
The sun is coming up as I type, and the magenta, dusky purple and cantaloupe orange streaks are exquisite. I’ve been up for over an hour, and am always glad for the sun. Getting up when it’s “peach black,” as my granddaughter Vivienne used to say, becomes a little less desirable as one ages.
Last week I took care of Chris and Sharon’s four children while they jetted off to a land of turquoise waters and fine yellow sand, swaying palms and clear rain forest pools, cabanas and swimming with dolphins, and personal butlers and sleeping late in canopied beds and reading while listening to the gentle lapping of waves….
I’m not bitter at all.
The kids had the whole week off from school, and I decided that while Mr. McBoy, Mrs. Nisky, Li’l Gleegirl and Baby Shamrock (also known as Louiser) were with me, we would try to do one fun thing a day outside the house. One day I took them to the library and out to lunch at the Duluth Grill, two of my favorite places on earth.
Another day we bought two loaves of bread and drove up to the cemetery to feed the ducks and geese who for some reason never migrated and now huddle together in the cold near the iced over pond. The birds were obviously not a gluten-free species, and flew to us in a frenzy and gobbled up every crumb we offered, and the kids loved it. Then we decided to break the rules and drive to Dairy Queen in Canal Park to each have a mini-blizzard before going home for lunch. Dessert before the main meal is what grandmas can do if they want.
Another day I took my grands to the Timber Twister, which is quite the thrill in the winter. Ice cream headaches without the ice cream, and wonderful exhilaration.
Another day we went to Bayfront Park, which of course was almost empty because there was snow everywhere. The kids were warmly dressed in snow pants, boots, mittens, coats and hats, so playing outside in the 20 degree weather wasn’t bad. The nearby outdoor skating rink was open, and they took advantage of the free ice skates and sleds, and had a great time ice skating for about a half hour. Louiser is too little to manage skating, so she sat on a sled while her almost fourteen year old brother skated and pulled her around the rink with a tow rope. What a beautiful memory for me, watching them skate by as I sat and watched, huge grins on their faces and cheeks rosy from the cold.
When at home we played countless card games of Gin and the dice game Farkle. I’m not a Monopoly lover but the kids are, so they played that several times. I put on some kind of movie for them each day too. A grandma needs a few minutes here and there to rest and recuperate in a recliner. They watched an old animated favorite called The Rescuers, Tangled, and I introduced them to one of the best films ever, The Hiding Place. Here’s the trailer, and if you’ve never seen the entire movie and would like to, click here. Absolutely unforgettable. Mr. McBoy has a great sense of humor so one afternoon I put on a DVD by Michael Jr. for him. He’s a comedian who happens to be a Christian, and here’s a clip of his to prompt a smile for you today.
And, every night after dinner, we watched an episode or two of “The Great British Baking Show,” streaming on Netflix. (In the UK it’s called “The Great British Bake-off.”) If you have Netflix and haven’t seen this yet, you must watch. Even if you don’t think you’ll like this sort of thing, just tune in and watch the first episode and see if it isn’t the best thing you’ve watched in a long while. Here’s a short trailer from the BBC on the first season. I played the show because Mrs. Nisky and Li’l Gleegirl love to bake and I knew they’d enjoy it and feel inspired. But even Mr. McBoy loved it and got into the competitiveness of each episode. We all got to know the contestants and root for different ones, making our predictions about who would win and why. I’m looking forward to when Netflix carries season two.
And now onto something much less interesting and not at all uplifting.
Those of you who have stopped by my blog for any length of time know that I rarely mention politics. But I’m going to say a few words today because I might erupt if I don’t.
I lean a bit right on the political spectrum. I’m not as conservative as some of my Christian friends and family, but I hold to a few of the basic tenets of conservatism, yet also embrace a few of the tenets of the Democratic party. I don’t think I’d go so far as to label myself a right-leaning liberal, but I might say I’m a left-leaning conservative. I have always believed it is a privilege to vote and have taken that responsibility seriously and prayerfully. When candidates I didn’t support were elected, I grieved for a day and then decided to pray for them, as the scriptures clearly admonish us. I have never liked the loud factions that badmouth our elected officials in a condescending, reviling way. I might intensely dislike and even deplore what an elected official stands for and has done, but I want to speak my mind about him/her in a productive way, and I know I’m supposed to pray for them.
Now we’re all watching as we’re approximately eight months away from electing the 45th President of the United States, and we see that Donald Trump is surging ahead of the other Republican contenders. I’ve always believed Hillary Clinton would be our next president, but it seems like anything could happen now.
I’m not surprised that Trump is doing well. What surprises me is that so many Christians wholeheartedly support him. I don’t understand that at all. A friend of mine said Trump is ahead because he’s saying the things that so many people are thinking. Well, he’s not saying what I’m thinking. Trump might want to make America great again, as his motto promises, but if he is our next president, so many new and disturbing precedents will be set I hardly know where to begin.
He says he is pro-life and conservative with family values, but he would be the first president we’ve had who has owned a strip club.
It was a scandal when Bill Clinton was found to be cheating on Hillary in the Oval Office and publicly lying about it. By his own admission Donald has not been faithful to his wives but it doesn’t seem to matter to Christian America anymore. Character doesn’t count, but a good business sense, building a mammoth wall, and deporting millions of illegals does. Never mind that 1 Timothy 6:10 says, For the love of money [that is, the greedy desire for it and the willingness to gain it unethically] is a root of all sorts of evil (Amplified version), and this is one of the traits that characterizes Trump most accurately. A lover and pursuer of money above all else.
And while Trump professes to be a (Presbyterian) Christian and waved his childhood Bible around while making a speech to largely evangelical voters, he admits he has never repented and asked God for forgiveness, and just tries to move on and do better.
I do not have the right to judge someone’s heart, and I have absolutely no judgment for Trump. The intentions of his heart are between him and God. But we do get to observe our candidates and try to discern what kind of fruit their lives are growing, and what kind of presidential fruit they might cultivate if elected. What kind of character traits mark the life of Donald Trump?
At our monthly SAGs meeting the other night, my friend Gail said, “Can you imagine Donald Trump in possession of the nuclear codes?” and we all stared back at her and felt the weight of that ominous possibility.
And I’m wondering if the Democrats are waiting until he wins the nomination to present this tidbit, or if it’s old news and I just didn’t know it. Donald Trump was a stalker. Did you know that? Did you know that while he was married, he tried to seduce a female reporter and then stalked her, for years? And when she ultimately threatened him legally he then repeatedly disparaged and castigated her? Here’s the reporter’s version of the story.
Lastly, the way he belittles and mocks people is almost unbelievable to me. Can you imagine Jimmy Carter making fun of a reporter with a disability, like Trump does in this video?
Even Max Lucado, who usually stays quiet about politics, has had enough of Trump and spoke out recently. You can read his wise words here.
I have no idea who I’m going to vote for in November. It’s the first time in my voting life I’ve been this unsure, but I do know that I will never cast a vote for Donald Trump. If he becomes my next president I will do more than just grieve for a day.
And because I don’t want to end on a strident, offensive note, I’ll share something a bit more buoyant, at least for me. Ever since Michael died I thought I might consider attending a grief support group, or even search out a grief counselor, but as this past year has flown by, I never did. Recently a friend of mine whose husband died a month ago, told me about a grief support group she tried out. Her beloved had Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia from Agent Orange too. Vicki texted that she thought I should try it out, so I acted on that nudge and went to my first meeting on Wednesday. It was very well attended, was for people over 50 who had lost spouses, had a quiet but skillful facilitator, and I enjoyed being there so much. Every person shared. One person had been in the group since 2013, and many had been there for over a year. Several people said they felt the group had been the single most helpful thing for their journey through the valley of grief. There was compassion, openness, unashamed tears, love, empathy, friendship, vulnerable sharing, encouragement and hope in that room. A handful spoke of their Christian faith as well. It meets twice a month and I look forward to going back. It’s nice to have something to look forward to apart from heaven. Just kidding. Sort of.
I’ve stepped down off my soapbox now. And may I lastly say that if you’re a Trump supporter, you are so welcome here, and your comments would be appreciated and respected as well.
I hope you have a blessed weekend, friends…
Feb. 6, 2015 – We Prepared
February 6, 2016 | My Jottings
This beautiful picture was taken of Michael and one of our granddaughters, Mrs. Nisky. 🙂 As we approach the one year anniversary of Michael’s death, I’m republishing the posts from that fateful week last February. Below are my thoughts and some photos I took as we prepared to bring Michael home from the hospital for his last few days.
Friday, February 6, 2015:
Monday through Wednesday I had hoped and prayed that Michael would wake up and come back to me. Thursday’s CAT scan results closed a dark curtain over that hope, and changed my prayers. And early Friday morning I couldn’t believe that I was making breakfast, letting the dogs out, getting dressed, and brushing my teeth, after hearing the news that Michael was very close to leaving this earth and going to heaven. It’s odd to do normal, mundane things after receiving news that makes one feel like life can never, ever be normal again.
I knew from what Dr. McKee had explained that the massive stroke would continue to cause progressive tissue death in Michael’s brain, taking him further and further away from us and ultimately shutting down all the systems of his body. As I drove to the hospital on Friday morning, I knew now not to expect to see improvement, but I sobbed out the most fervent prayer anyway. I cried out to the Lord to give me one final connection with Michael before He took him home. I prayed that God would let Michael respond to me in some personal, obvious way, so that I could know without a doubt that it was real and not just a reflex.
(And may I just insert here that I believe God still heals people today? I believe Jesus is the great physician and I know He can do anything — He can make the blind to see, the deaf to hear and the lame to walk. He can raise the dead! He holds this universe together! My acceptance of Michael’s illness and subsequent journey toward heaven were not because I didn’t believe God could heal him. Over the years I’m pretty certain he was prayed for hundreds of times. He believed God could heal him. We have dear friends who had great faith that Michael would be healed. Our pastor anointed him with oil weekly for many months, and we prayed with faith that Parkinson’s would be healed in the mighty name of Jesus. He even flew with friends once to a healing conference and felt the strong presence of God there. So why wasn’t Michael healed of PD and Lewy Body Dementia? I don’t know. I will trust God with that.
Some would say that God’s will was thwarted and Michael should have walked in the healing that Christ died to give us. I’m not sure how to answer that, except to say that every single person on this earth will die someday, and most of them will die from some kind of illness. God does take His people home, and He often uses an illness or tragedy to do it. When it became apparent that Michael’s health was rapidly failing these last two years, I still prayed out loud for him often. I prayed that Jesus would heal him from the top of his head to the soles of his feet, and Michael would whisper, “Amen, amen” as I prayed and the tears fell. But…I have known about families who have lost loved ones too early, and some of them weren’t able to enjoy the blessedness of a good and peaceful death because they refused to believe that their loved one’s passing could be God’s will. [Psalm 116:15 — “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.”] So I believe in a healing God, and also in a sovereign Father who can be trusted when His answer is no.)
Just like I had for the past three days, I arrived at the hospital so anxious to see my Michael. I had my iPhone in my right hand, ready to take a picture because I knew there weren’t many days left to do that. With each step down the hallway toward his room, my prayer was, “Lord, please let him respond to me, please….one more time…one more time….” When I got to his bedside he seemed to be so deeply unconscious, because his jaw was open so much more than on Thursday. I bent down, rubbed his chest a little and greeted him, “Michael…I’m here. It’s me, Julie. I love you Michael! I love you, love you, love you…”
And will you just take a moment to try to imagine what joy and wonder I felt when my husband roused a bit, slowly moved his head back and forth, and did this:
He couldn’t open his eyes and of course couldn’t speak, but for about twenty seconds Michael moved his head and grinned at me like this, while I kissed his face and tried not to let him hear me sob.
I am still thanking God for this gift. An answered prayer.
I know I’m biased, but I think this is one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen.
The rest of the day was filled with dear people coming in and out of Michael’s room, either friends or family who learned the news that Michael would be meeting Jesus soon, or hospital and hospice staff, doing all the things needed to bring Michael home. Two of our dearests, Steve and Diane, drove three hours to come and be with us.
I received many texts and emails on Friday as the news traveled. I honestly treasured them all, but I think the one that touched me the most was an email from my friend Sue P. She wrote:
Hi Julie…..Please excuse my words if they appear clumsy for it is so hard to put into print how the heart aches. Dave and I are in prayer for all of you. My mind keeps going back to Michael as a true worshiper. Soon he will be free of the body encasing his spirit. I had a vivid picture in the early morning hours today of two very large angels on both sides of his bed, sitting at the ready to usher him home. Oh, the glory that awaits him on the other side of the thin veil that separates us from heaven. I love you my dear friend. Take courage today. xxooo Sue
Even now the thought of powerful angelic escorts waiting to take Michael to meet and worship His Savior makes me cry. Oh, the things we cannot yet see!
I met with the hospice nurse in the early afternoon and she had much to explain to me. She gave me instructions and some liquid morphine, liquid Ativan, oral syringes, and a compassionate hug. Since Michael was not exhibiting any discomfort at all I wondered about the morphine. She explained that as he neared death his breathing would most likely become labored and the morphine was to help with that. The Ativan was in case he became restless.
I was a little surprised to learn that hospice would only come to visit two times per week. I think my perception of hospice was that they were more present to do a lot of care taking. Maybe that’s the way it is elsewhere. I didn’t need to worry about that, though, because my family encircled me and for the next couple of momentous days I never had to care for Michael all by myself. My daughters each took time off from their jobs and all but moved in with us…such a blessing I will never forget.
Next, the hospital social worker came in to tell us that he was having difficulty securing a medical transport to bring Michael home. Apparently when the available companies learned we have semi-steep stairs without railings leading up to our front door, they became unwilling to move him. Too much of a risk. The social worker told me that our only remaining option was to call a Gold Cross Ambulance for transport, and he apologetically told me the cost would be $1200. I immediately responded, “Okay!” and knew this significant amount was something I wasn’t to be concerned about. My singular goal was to get Michael home quickly, safely and comfortably, and I suppose if the cost had been $5000 I would have said okay to that too.
The hospice folks had made the speedy arrangements to have a hospital bed delivered to our home, and I was called on my cell phone with the news that it would be delivered within the hour. Sara left the hospital right away to let the delivery people in, and to set things up in our bedroom for Michael. (Have you ever seen our bedroom and how spacious it is? If not, click here and you’ll be able to see.) She texted me a picture of what she had done, and it was beautiful. The hospital bed was placed close to my side of our king-sized bed, and Sara had made it, fluffed pillows, put a pretty comforter on the bed, gathered chairs all around the area, put flowers on a nightstand nearby, and made everything lovely and welcoming. Somehow I knew that even if Michael never opened his eyes to see he was home in his own bedroom, he would know that he was in a room of love, surrounded by people who adored him, and that this would be the sacred place from which he would depart this earth.
Right before the two ambulance attendants arrived at St. Luke’s, one of Michael’s neurology nurses gave me a quick demonstration on how to turn him every two hours and prop pillows up under him to prevent skin breakdown. She showed me how to make sure there was a “draw sheet” under him at all times, completely wrinkle free to protect his skin, and how to keep his mouth moist and his briefs changed. Plus about fifty other things. She reminded me to keep the hospital bed at 45 degrees for his breathing comfort, and I learned later what she meant by that.
The sun was beginning to set and it was finally, finally time. I drove home several minutes before the ambulance arrived. A light snow was falling. I knew the angels my friend Sue had envisioned were guarding Michael and would grace our home while we waited for the end to come.
The two ambulance attendants quickly assessed our home. There are two ways in: up the outside front steps which I mentioned before, and through the garage and into the basement, then up our basement steps which go up one way to a landing, then turn sharply before coming up through a door into our kitchen. They decided to back the ambulance up to the garage and bring Michael in that way, but they told me they were concerned enough to call for assistance.
They surely must have been informed that this man they were carrying was coming home to die, because all six of them were extremely quiet, very measured and deliberate in their movements, and so respectful. (I took this photo from our bedroom window when I heard the fire truck arrive, and Sara ran down to move our car out of the driveway.)
They made it up the basement stairs, went slowly through our kitchen, the dining room, down the hall past the office and laundry room, and into our bedroom, where they gently placed my treasure on the waiting hospital bed.
I didn’t know then that a few weeks later the Gold Cross Ambulance bill I received would not be $1200, but only $197. Our wonderful friends Pete and Ginny had been in the hospital room when the social worker originally informed me about the considerable cost, and had decided between the two of them that they would bless us by paying for a huge part of Michael’s transport home. To say I was humbled and stunned when I received their generous check in the mail is an understatement. In the end, a smaller check covered it, but Ginny and Pete’s gift to us is one of the countless memories of God’s loving care through His people I will always carry with me.
Sharon brought her stuff over and informed me she was staying, and I was so thankful. It didn’t take long for us all to learn how challenging it is to care for every physical need of a 185-pound person who is dying. Just to turn Michael every two hours and prop three pillows behind him took a minimum of two people.
By the time we went to bed that night, Michael’s breathing had become loud and labored, and he looked like a man very close to slipping away. We took turns all through the night, turning him, changing him, moistening the inside and outside of his mouth, giving him liquid morphine to ease his breathing, whispering our love to him, and trying to take in all that we were feeling. This was tragic. This was holy. This was impossible. This was inevitable. This was a privilege. This was glorious. This was God’s mercy. This was wondrous.
And this was heartbreaking.
Even our little Schnauzers, Edith and Mildred, acted like they knew something solemn and momentous was happening to their daddy. Both were very subdued and stayed close to Michael’s bed the whole time he was home. Animals know things.
And so, with the unseen angelic guard I believe was in that room, and with the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit nearer than our breath, our vigil began.