Wisconsin Winter

There is no getting past it – we are definitely into winter now. It looks so much like last year’s many months of winter that I’m wondering if my hazy recollection of summer was just a dream. Maybe the snow never goes away. That’s how it seems as we anticipate the fourth snow in the last two weeks.

Every day when new snow has fallen I hear the plows starting to work, early before light. The major highways, two of them, near our house have to be kept as clear as possible. There are also quite a few big parking lots. It is early in the season and more snow can be expected, which means that room must be made for it. My brother plows our subdivision and he pushes the snow as far back on the lawns as his machine will allow. He makes the road as wide as possible.

On the other side of our back fence, the Walmart Alps are forming. The parking lot is rimmed by white peaks, large enough to be dangerous should they tumble down on someone. I had to take pictures, amazed at how much they resemble real mountains with cliffs, abutments, scree and all.

Walmart Alps

On Monday I tried to get into town during a snow. Our drive had been plowed but when I got to the slight rise onto the highway my wheels just spun. I back up and tried several times with no better results, so I turned around and went back home. I do not have 4 wheel drive. Even though the back of my truck is loaded with sand bags, it doesn’t provide enough traction to match the slush covered ice. It is an every day occurrence to feel the vehicle fish tailing on corners. A different set of driving skills is in order.

The wetland fields are getting a deep covering too. I walked there this week, thinking there would be a packed trail from a snowmobile, but no. Nothing had been out there but the deer, leaving trails where they had followed each other. I didn’t have my snowshoes so I cut that walk short. You can get a lot of exercise walking in snow.

Shadow the cat is still wanting to go out, but stands in the snow shaking her feet and licking them. She can’t decide if snow is something she can dig a hole in, or not. Finally she jumps in the snow, squats quickly and comes back to the glass door. Her meow sounds a bit frantic if I’m not there to open it right away.

It was -12 degrees F. last night.

My Turkey

12-2-2019

My poor turkey. I can see why there is the custom of pardoning a bird every year before Thanksgiving. No bird should have to go through what my turkey is still enduring.

It started out early in November when the grocery store started giving points toward a free turkey – one for each dollar spent. I shopped in that store several times instead of going to Walmart and pretty soon I had enough points for my free Jennie-O turkey up to 16 pounds. I searched the bin of frozen turkeys. Most of them were 10 to 12 or over 17 pounds. Only one was big enough for my crowd but not too big to disqualify itself. We went home together.

This was a little over a week before the dinner but I know how long it takes those frozen birds to thaw, so into the refrigerator he (or she, I couldn’t tell) went. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I took him out to examine him. He was frozen in kind of a lopsided position so I was hoping he would look more normal as he limbered up. He still had ice inside so I bathed him in some warm water. I picked off a few pin feathers, found all the parts someone had hidden inside him and prettied him up a bit. The extra parts (well, they weren’t really extra for him – necks and hearts are kind of necessary) I stewed for gravy. I wasn’t ready to cook him yet so put him in a baking bag and back to jail he went.

Thanksgiving morning early, I took him out again. He got seasoned, stuffed with an apple, which he would have liked I think, and put back in the bag on his tummy with some flour and lots of celery and onion. Poor turkey – an existence either way too cold or way too hot. Into the oven he went for probably more time than needed. He came out ready to give up every shred of meat. But we didn’t take it all, so a good bit of him went back into the refrigerator.

Bits and pieces of him appeared on the table for several days – in and out of the cold. Finally, what was left, which was a good sized pile of bones and… stuff, went into the crockpot with some water. By this time the only way to recognize him as a turkey was the smell. His bones were at a slow boil for a day and a half leaving no doubt that he was cooked. But I didn’t have time to separate the broth and meat from the bones, so back in the refrigerator he went – “home sweet home” by now. Everything in the pot is quite brown and savory.

Tomorrow is soup day. He doesn’t know it yet. I plan to tell him that he was appreciated at every step and that I have great respect for his usefulness. He was an excellent turkey (even though slightly misshapen).

Sunshine Again

I feel like I’m flooding cyberspace with snow pics but, I can’t help it. It’s just so beautiful.

It slowly collects on the patio table like a giant muffin top. It hangs precariously off the eaves. It’s way over the tops off my boots as I try to walk about in the yard. That water can be turned into this kind of showy event is mind boggling to me. Water, wind and distance from the sun…

The Other Side of Thanksgiving

If I had remembered to take pictures at the right time, I could have shown you my beautiful table, decorated and set for our Thanksgiving meal. But I didn’t and through that I realized there is an “other side” of Thanksgiving.

That side is as much a part of the good memories I hold as seeing that perfectly cooked turkey, the smorgasbord of pies ready to be served, or that plate full of food artfully arranged. The other side is seen here…

and here…

and here.

It is experienced as I wash dishes with help from guests, wipe counters clean, search space for an extra chair at the table, empty garbage, and wipe a spot of gravy off the floor (okay, it was really cat throw up but that’s not the point).

The other side includes that kind of relaxed, awkward time after eating when no one is quite sure what to do so they do this…

or this…

or this…

The other side is dear, but also a little stressfull as the number of people in the house swells, the kitchen counters are crowded with supplies, refrigerators are full of leftovers and entryways look like this.

Those necessary inconveniencies of travel, trying to keep rested over a long weekend, trying to connect in meaningful ways with each loved family member and guest – all are parts of almost every Thanksgiving I can remember. They are the other side that is maybe not so photogenic or talked about.

I think I love the other side too – the mess, the chaos, the spills, the broken dish, the menu item that gets forgotten in the fridge, the cat that dips its paw in my guest’s water glass.

Thanksgiving is a singular, memory making holiday with two sides. It might even be my favorite. All this goodness makes it easy to say “thank you family!” And “thank you guests!” And most of all “thank you God!” for another great Thanksgiving.

Snow for Thanksgiving

November 27, 2019 The Day Before Thanksgiving

Anyone who listens to the weather reports for the U.S. now knows who “Dorothy” is. It snowed last night. I have to say I much prefer snow storms that come at night while I’m asleep. The result is a stunning morning.

Half of our Thanksgiving travelers arrived last night right before the storm. The other half will travel today after the storm leaves their area. We are set for a nice family day tomorrow, before “Ezekiel”, the next approaching storm, hits us.

I love our barn in all seasons, but isn’t it pretty in winter?

I was out for a stroll this morning, taking pictures of course. I may have taken the same ones last year, but I can’t help it. It was also a good opportunity to test my new coat and breathe some very invigorating air.

I have been planning, buying, and cooking for Thanksgiving for nearly a week now. It seems that I’m only thinking of one or two things at a time when I shop, so there is always something that’s forgotten. (I do make lists. They don’t help with my problem.) I get home, unload and immediately start some new thing, for which I require something I don’t have. I went to Walmart four times yesterday. Thanksgiving is definitely the time to be thankful Walmart is in my back yard, literally.

Having company come also instigates some ridiculous things that I wouldn’t normally take time for, like cooking. And cleaning. I ended up cleaning shelves in the extra refrigerator in the garage this morning. That’s where my huge 16 lb. turkey is waiting in his roasting pan, next to the two gallons of chili I put together yesterday. If I send someone out to fetch those things, I can’t have them seeing the shriveled up garden produce left from summer, dirt included.

It is also birthday time. Mom turned 87 last Sunday and I couldn’t let that pass without having a few people over. Or twenty people over, which is what happened. Saturday night I was getting brunch ready for the party when I remembered the beets I had been planning to can or pickle, or at least cook. They are the last of the precious beet extravaganza that Mom and I harvested from the garden and, like I said, they were in that fridg, getting a little shriveled.

I decided to cook them up, which ended up looking like a late night massacre in the kitchen. I thought I’d never get done. Peeling beets the size of marbles takes forever, especially since I have one hand in a splint yet. There were quite a few of them and I couldn’t face canning them so, in the freezer they went. But Mom loves beets, which made it kind of appropriate to be doing this the night before her party. It was a good party.

Can I say that I am so thankful to God for everything? Yes, every single detail of this life is something he is aware of and responsible for. I did not plan to be born of my parents, in this country, in this time any more than others who suffer in horrible conditions for no fault of their own. In being thankful I’m equally aware of the responsibility I bear to do something with what has been given to me. There is also the awareness that everything could be gone in an instant, as many have experienced.

I am thankful for all this physical wealth, and the safety to enjoy it. But the physical perks are not why I love my God. I love him as a child who loves a good parent. I love him for the same reasons Chinese Christians huddle in secret home churches to worship, for the same reasons that brave souls get down on their knees and submit to being beheaded. There are reasons, logical and thought out reasons, to love God and buy in to what he tells us. It is not a mindless path.

This is a great time of year to be curious about these things, and to be thankful. I want to learn and grow in this season – this time that holds incredible beauty but is also remarkably dark and cold. Winter…, just sayin’.

The cat Shadow… one leap was all it took. She turned around and came back. Don’t blame her.

November Moods

One of the few colors to penetrate November’s grey cast – the greenery I gathered today.

November Moods

November is colored a hundred shades of grey

As if summer had used up all the colors in the world

Grey is an easy, undemanding color, more like a feeling

November tells me I have reasons to be thankful

Now there is time – I don’t mind looking for thankful thoughts

With every leaf I pick up, and every walk I take.

Thankful that I made it through the summer challenges

The unfamiliar roles I had to play, the confusion, helplessness

Thankful for wise ones who shared the load, who came alongside

I can hear the travelers in the sky, honking

I can see their dark V against the grey background of clouds

The comfort of knowing that nature knows it’s November

Geese take turns leading, how wise of them.

Hand Fashion

Hand Fashion

Removable, with wiggle room, and white which goes with everything.
I had a green one just like this but it didn’t last long.
The ugliest of all, but very utilitarian.

I don’t blame anyone for not being interested in the various splints and casts that can be worn connected with CMC arthroplasty – medical speak for fixing an arthritic thumb joint (although I KNOW some who aren’t interested now will be in the future… just you wait.) I mean to finish this expose for those of you who are interested.

I am now in my second month of recovery after this major reconstruction of my hand. The doctor was fairly accurate in saying I would hate her for the first month. It’s been painful, awkward, inconvenient, and at times depressing. I’ve gotten a whole different way of viewing those with this kind of handicap.

Last Thursday the second of the hard casts was removed. The pin, the one that I was sure was causing most of my pain, was removed. It had worked its way out nearly an inch farther and was lying flat under the cast. At least that made it easy to remove. I didn’t take my phone/camera with me for this procedure. I was glad not to have it when I saw what skin looks like after a month of being wrapped up with no air and no washing. Gross.

I then got fitted for a new splint. It’s plastic that softens in warm water and was molded to the inside of my thumb, wrist and arm. Thankfully, it can be removed by simply undoing Velcro strapping. It is less bulky than the casts. I can wear my long sleeved shirts and my coats again which is great because it’s gotten to be winter up here.

I wish I could say that the pain was gone. It’s not, but the pain pills are. Ice bags have become my best friend. It seems that cold not only reduces swelling, it causes a distracting pain of its own which is much more tolerable than the pain it is covering up. The scar is especially sensitive with a burning pain that I attribute to nerves that are trying to heal. We’ll give them one more month…

I get to start occupational therapy tomorrow, at the crack of dawn. By 7:30 I will be doing thumb exercises which I’m sure will be quite strenuous. The whole imperative of not using the hand to do any lifting or thumb to finger pinching is hard for me to follow. Now that I don’t have to worry about getting a cast wet, and my fingers are more free, I find myself breaking rules all the time. I’m even typing with both hands now, in spite of it being a little uncomfortable.

I go back for another check-up December 19th. I am glad that the worst of this is over, although I’m warned that the second month is still not a “picnic”.

You Are Special

To all my readers:

I’ve been to a writing conference this week and it’s made me examine why I write. I have to conclude that it’s not just for myself. I want it to be for you too. I’ve been cheered by the compassion expressed after my latest painful posts (and painful pictures). It’s made me thankful for you. I feel like you are all kind of “my people”.

I feel like I should attempt to tell you why I write here. But first,

The NOT WHYS – I’m not:

trying to make you feel sorry for me

trying to present life as only full of hard things

trying to be sounding hopeless or bitter

trying to compare my life with anyone else’s

Really, I’m not.

THE WHYS

What I want to do is offer the events of my life as an example of the hope that a very average person can have. We all have seasons when life is hard, and seasons when it is not so hard, maybe even joyful and fulfilling and interesting. Life is given to us as a learning experience and I love the ability to share the ordinary things that happen to me with you. I feel a responsibility to be fully aware of what can be learned from the ordinary and to think deeply on what might be of value to you as you read.

I love to show you the beauty of our physical spaces like my northern forests and wetlands. I share with you the fear of doctor’s visits and threats to physical health because we can learn that we are not alone. I tell you about the crazy stuff because I know we all need to laugh at the things we (I) do. I love to tell you about people like yourselves that are precious to me.

For me, my hopeful outlook is bound up in my faith. I believe in a God more loving than can be imagined and I should probably be telling you more often how I feel his love applied to me personally. I believe all of us “ordinaries” are unique and specially loved by God. Whether you believe as I do or not, doesn’t it comfort you, encourage, you to know that another person respects and values you because of their belief? Doesn’t it make you curious how that can be? I want to include that kind of conversation in my stories. I hope that in some way you can feel God’s love applied to you through what I write.

I have more to say about the writing conference but I needed to start with this, tonight. Thank you for being there and for reading.

Give Me a Hand, cont… Distractions

November 1, 2, and 3, 2019

Life was going on smoothly with my new, blue cast, for a few days at least. We had a good, but short visit from the North Carolina daughter and another surprise visit from a distant cousin. Events like this are good distractions and I am easily distracted when pain is chronic and below a certain level. And then came Friday, with a totally new distraction.

I had an early morning appointment with the ophthalmologist (tempted to just write eye doctor) and was surprised to see the husband up and reporting to me that his leg had bothered him during the night. He thought it was swollen and felt different. I often don’t agree with his assessments, but I always check to make sure. It did look a little swollen and was slightly warmer. I sent a quick email to our doctor and she recommended we come to the clinic and see what was up. So we were there by 11:30, the husband being examined by a PA.

There was the possibility of a blood clot, a DVT, short for deep vein thrombosis. She ordered an ultrasound of his left leg and we set off down the hall to radiology. Halfway there, Dennis could not go any further. He was leaning against the wall and holding on to the handrail, looking scary. I ran for a wheelchair and helped him sit. He was weak and sweaty. At radiology he was feeling better so the ultrasound was done. I watched the screen as the tech worked and although I find it hard to know what I’m seeing, it was evident that something wasn’t right.

From there we were ordered directly to the ER and met with a whole squad of RN’s. They hooked him up to EKG, put in an IV and started monitoring his vital signs. It didn’t help that his blood pressure was 200/104. The ER doc sent him for a CT scan of the lungs and it showed multiple clots in both lungs – significant was the word they used, as opposed to massive. He was started on anticoagulants and admitted to the hospital. That’s where he spent the next two days until his blood pressure stabilized and his blood thinners had reduced the risk of additional clots.

I don’t remember thinking much about my hand the whole time this was going on. That is not to say that I’m recommending medical emergencies as therapy for chronic pain.

Give Me a Hand, continued

10-24-2019

Ten days after surgery I went back to have the splint exchanged for a fiberglass cast – the next step. The cast tech told me the thing I thought was a suture was actually a metal pin, holding bone and ligament in the right places and coming out of the skin in the shape of an L. Normally they stick out above the skin but my pin had migrated, moved, and was embedded in my flesh. A felt pad meant to keep that from happening had slipped out of place. He didn’t seem alarmed and said that it wasn’t uncommon and was probably due to my being more active. I got another 30 seconds of doctor time and then the head of the pin was pulled out slightly, cushioned with felt again and the cast was applied.

Hmm… there was a piece of metal in that hole.

This cast was less bulky and easier to live with than the splint. But a few days later I was still feeling that burning pain almost constantly.

10-29-2019

I decided to send the doctor a note about the unsatisfactory pain level and it was agreed that I should have the cast checked. It happened that I was going up to the medical complex anyway, for Mom’s dermatology appointment so they agreed to fit me in. Most of our specialists work in a city about 90 miles away so logistics are always in play.

The same tech who put the cast on greeted me with “So, what’s wrong with the cast?”, in a somewhat defensive manner. I told him it was the pin I was feeling mad at, not his cast. And sure enough, when the pretty Packer green cast was sawed off we saw that the pin had rotated again and was making another dent in my skin. The doctor didn’t look at it this time – just told him to put it back in position and wrap it up again. He labored over finding a way to keep the pin out of the sore spot. Vaseline gauze, felt padding and layers of cotton batting went on, covered by the last layer of fiberglass – denim blue this time, which I like better (no offense to the home team). I went home hopeful, but worried because it still hurt from having the pin moved. I was beginning to wonder about the wisdom of putting a pin under a tight cast that will always be putting pressure on it. Does that sound like a recipe for pain?

Such a pretty blue – goes with so many of my outfits.

To be continued…