February Goodness: Permission

YesterdayI stepped outside into several inches of new snow. It fell most of the day as well. I also saw that the next seven days were going to be our coldest streak of the winter – staying below zero degrees most of the time. It was as if February was giving me permission to “chill”. So I did.

January and February are our most serious winter months and often have the most severe weather. When I was a child it was with great anticipation that I listened in the dark, pre-dawn hours for the radio announcer to give the school cancellations. Back then -30 degrees was the bench mark for us to stay home, the buses would not be running that day. Or, at least, they wouldn’t be running until it warmed up a little.

I have that same feeling now when I see a blizzard, or a arctic freeze coming. It’s permission to curl up under a blanket, start the fireplace, read more books. Yesterday’s good things were:

A puzzle that got started.

At my house puzzles get covered with plastic. I have a cat.

Knitting projects brought out

At my house knitting has to be kept out of harm’s way. I have a cat.

I made soup. We ate it before I could take a picture. Sorry. It was Lentil Soup.

It was the kind of day that brings relief to the parts of you that have been getting tired (unless you’re the one responsible for shoveling the snow…). It’s okay to get sleepy and take a nap. It’s okay to sit by a window and watch snow fall. Spend a few extra minutes with a cat on your lap. Yesterday February gave permission for those good things.

February Goodness: Blessings

I am learning to recognize blessings, not actually counting them, like the old song describes, but realizing that all the small surprises in my day are really blessings. That was the common denominator of all the good things on this Wednesday in the first week of February.

A stunning sunrise that kept evolving so fast that I ran outside in the freezing temps at least three times to capture its stages. The brightest spot is no longer hidden behind a building like it has been for several months. The sun is moving! (I know, not really…)

Our family pod of five, gathered together to have a meal. And our extended family and friends on ZOOM who took the time to throw a virtual birthday party for our Ryan, my youngest daughter’s fiancée.

The catalog promising that spring is coming eventually for us, and even now for some happy gardeners. I have already planned, and ordered but that doesn’t keep me from reading it all again. Gardens are such hopeful things!

I’m especially grateful for these blessings on a day that also holds much tension. A dear friend battling cancer went into the hospital on an emergency basis. Blessing and trial, side by side, else how would we know that by contrast they sweeten each other. We are praying for this situation and appreciate all who join us in hoping for more time with our friend.

February Goodness: Movement

“I have got to get out of here!” This thought comes to me every now and then and thankfully I can do something about it. I can move. I often think, well, what if I couldn’t?

I’ve seen the frustration of people who can’t move due to life changing paralysis (former client), or chronic disease (the husband) and it never fails to produce gratitude. But, when I’m not looking right at it and thinking about it with intention, I sometimes take movement for granted.

Today was one of those days when I knew I should get out and move a little, because I still can. It’s cold outside (yeah, winter…) and the first few minutes I felt it. My face got cold and I felt the warmth being sucked out through the multiple layers of leggings, shirts and jackets. I was breathing differently to protect my lungs. A few minutes later as I started moving my skis, I forgot all about the cold. And by the time I’d been out an hour and a half, circling the property multiple times, stopping here and there to take a picture, I was actually hot inside all those layers. Movement wakes my body up, and it feels really good.

Wide, open spaces where I can move (to keep warm).

The ability to move is something to be thankful for, and it’s worth protecting. I ask God daily to help me keep moving, both for my own sake and for those I help, because they can’t move as well. Maybe it’s aging that is giving me more awareness of how wonderful it is to move. Maybe it’s February, and winter, and the cold.

If you got up today, stretched and walked out of the bedroom, savor that. Move it, while you can.

Good Things in February: Kindness

An interesting thing at the end of this first day of February – a relief, and a miracle of sorts.

The husband has a condition, Lewy Body Dementia, which wreaks havoc with his autonomic nervous system, among other things. This is the system that controls blood pressure, and it shows up as giving him unstable pressures from time to time. He has been on medication, but even that is trial and error in keeping him stable. So we check it fairly often.

This morning I found his medication from the night before. He had missed taking it with his other pills and it was still in the container. Sure enough, his pressure was on the high side, so he took a diuretic in addition to his morning medication. Late this afternoon I asked him to check his pressure again and he got this:

A scary blood pressure reading, 197/116, yikes!

For those who might not have had to know anything about blood pressure, the top number is the pressure in the system when the strongest part of the heart, the ventricle, is squeezing. The bottom number is supposed to be the pressure when the heart is “resting” in between beats. The top number is ideally below 120 and the bottom number should be less than 80. The husband’s reading of 197/116 – not so good. I blinked a bit, held my breath and tried to get my plan in mind in case he stroked out. He’s had this happen before, but knowing that it changes quickly, I’m not one to speed him to the ER.

We prayed. I told God we would check Dennis’s pressure again in a few minutes and asked him to please let us know whether to stay home or get help. I gave him another diuretic, hoping it wouldn’t keep him up all night going to the bathroom.

About 15 minutes later, after we had finished eating dinner, his pressure was 128/84. His medications had not had time to work yet so we either had faulty equipment or a miraculous change. The equipment checked out okay. I have no trouble believing that I was spared spending an evening in the hospital, even spared the decision of whether or not to go. That’s really the hardest part of my caretaking role, deciding if it’s time.

There were other good things in this day, but this was probably the most dramatic. I’m happy to share it because it wouldn’t be right not to give God thanks for doing me a favor. And I would encourage anyone – don’t be afraid to ask him for things like this because he really is kind. Just sayin’…

Back to watching his phone. Not a worrier, that one.

Something Good in February

It’s 2021, it’s February, it’s still winter. I’m challenging myself to find something good to be celebrated every day this month, in the interest of mental health. I need help, and thinking on good, deserving things is going to do wonders. Yep.

A lot of my southern friends have felt sorry for me, having to live “up north” in the winter. I will be the first to admit that the winters are long and can get pretty cold, but there are bright spots to being here.

Entering Wisconsin from the southern border, most of what one sees are farms, lots of farms, and small cities and towns. About 2/3 of the way north, things change and when you finally reach Hayward, you find… trees, lots of trees. Real forests, that go on for a long ways.

Mosquito Brook runs through the forest. There were no mosquitoes. None.

Thirty years ago when I was living here, logging was a huge industry. I used to see the logging trucks, fully loaded, on the roads, and wonder how there could be any trees left in the forests. That was years ago and there are still as many, if not more, logs being hauled out. The forests are so well managed, and so BIG, that there is no apparent shortage of trees.

Back view of sweet machine

And now for the bright spot. Today I got to go out in the forest with my brother on his snowmobile. We rode tandem for two hours. On the way home we switched places and I got to drive. Miraculously, we did not fall off the trail. The experience is a cross between riding a boat in choppy water, riding a dirt bike on rough roads or maybe a bit like posting on a horse with a rough trot. All done out in the forest, at speeds between 0 and 30 (40) mph and at temperatures usually below freezing. We call it winter recreation.

Recreation is pretty big here in the Hayward area because there aren’t a lot of other ways to make a living. People take ice fishing, snowshoeing, skiing and snowmobiling very seriously. There are about eight snowmobile clubs in this northwest corner of Wisconsin that have found ways to get from here to there, mapped them, created apps and invited the “world” to get up here and have fun in the snow. On good weekends the motel parking lots are full of trucks and trailers from as far away as the Dakotas, and the sound of snow machines is in the air. The trails are groomed often. Some are like the “interstates” of the forest and some are “one laners” complete with mile markers and signage.

Not exactly crowded out there, but we weren’t alone either.

My brother’s new machine has heated seats, hand grips, and the throttle (for that cold thumb). Even the helmets plug in and stay warm. It’s a very comfortable, maybe even luxurious, ride. However, they haven’t yet learned how to make them quiet. We live close to a major trail into town and I hear the snow machines a lot. I can only imagine what the deer, bear, wolves and coyotes are thinking now that their forest homes have been invaded.

Groups of snowmobilers travel for hours, stopping for “refreshments” and fuel at designated resorts and bars, bringing a lot of business to our area. All this happy influx of business hinges on two requirements. There has to be snow, preferably quite a bit of snow, and it can’t be so cold that it’s no longer fun but dangerous. This winter has not been bad so far, but we have February to get through yet.

I did enjoy my ride today. The forest was wild, the trail was full of twists, turns, hills and ravines – just beautiful! Most of the time I had no idea where we were, but I was glad to be there anyway. Something good happened today, just sayin’…

Donating (again)

Today I donated, not to Salvation Army or Goodwill or Humane Society Thrift Shop. Today I donated to Memorial Blood Center. I’ve done it several times since moving north, since I’ve stopped making trips overseas and since my hemoglobin number has been high enough. It’s kind of strange to think of my blood being shared with someone else, from my body to theirs. It’s strange and amazing to think that I have that much extra, and that I can make more so that it’s hardly even missed.

I became aware of a new kind of donation called double red because my brother had given in that way and told me about it. I wanted to help meet the demand for red cells, which I was told was high, and I qualified so I went online and got on the schedule. That kind of donation has to be scheduled because it takes considerably more time on a special machine called an apheresis machine. Blood is separated into various components and some parts are collected, in this case it would be red cells, and the rest of the fluids and plasma are returned into the donor’s body.

Pulling into the parking lot today, I was a little excited about doing the double red thing. As a nurse, I’ve seen a lot of blood and transfused a lot of blood so I’m not upset or queasy about the thought, but I’ve never been the one hooked up to the machine either. I registered at a table manned by the bus drivers (yes, they do multitasking when the bus is parked) answered my online questions and was sent to one of the buses to get the process going. I had quite a wait and started thinking about the apheresis machine and wondering how it worked and how they cleaned it, wondering if it ever malfunctioned… was even getting a bit anxious (deep, slow breaths, calm thyself…).

Then due to a scheduling mistake they told me they couldn’t get me on a machine and asked me to donate whole blood instead. So, short story, that’s what I did. It was over in a few minutes and was familiar to me. I was fine with that.

The most common blood type is O+ and it also happens to be the one most easily shared with others. I am type O+ and am blessed to be healthy enough to donate, to give back. There’s also a little something to be hopeful about – people with O+ type blood have been showing more resistance to COVID19 and are among some of the most long-lived people as well. I’ll take that.

Oh, and I got a T-shirt and a snack. Just sayin’…

A little wrinkled. I wore it already – a good workout shirt.

Coming Back to Center

Yesterday I finished working a lengthy project. Today I am re-centering. I started to describe it as finding my own life again, but that is not true. It’s all my own life. Choosing to immerse myself in work away from home and my usual routine is choosing how to spend my life, my minutes. Things, like this project, that seem like they could be distractions are really important parts of the main thing. They are my life. Stepping outside the norm challenges me to be resourceful and flexible. It brings new experiences, new thoughts and emotions, reveals areas of needed growth. And when it’s over, it makes coming back to “normal” sweeter and restful.

Be totally honest now, do I look centered?

Today I started back to center. I spent time talking with mom, and praying with friends. I took out the garbage, washed the dishes, found the washer and dryer under a rather large pile of stuff and started reading a new book to the husband. I watched snowflakes float down. I cooked broccoli, zucchini and salmon for dinner. I got a package ready for the mail. This too was all my life. One of my favorite sayings describes it perfectly. “It was all fun, and fun is good.” Just sayin’…

Survival Kit

Today, as I was looking through items from the friend’s house, I came across some small bags. They were labeled “Survival Kit”. A small brochure inside gave crucial survival information, tips, advice, and a list of what should go in the kit. I found it very interesting .

Is there room for some hay in there?

It was obvious that it was written back a while. This, for instance, among “items that might also prove useful” – quarters for emergency phone calls. Right. I wonder if recent generations would be able even to guess at how one might make a phone call with a quarter.

But most of the ideas were amazingly still good ones. I think that’s because survival is questionable only in a true crisis when the things we normally depend upon just aren’t there. The brochure called out several situations we might label as being critical, but followed up with this comforting advice:

“And remember, you can live through almost anything. Most survival is simply an inconvenience. Unfortunately, it is usually the individual who turns the survival situation into a life or death circumstance.” How true. How important it is to think clearly, avoid mistakes, and not panic, to conserve energy and resources for when they are most needed.

Then I had to laugh (and marvel) at the wise inclusion of this general rule of survival. It is probably the most universal and still practiced action, even by those who haven’t prepared for it. Here it is…

“Regardless of personal belief, most people confronted with survival have found great strength in asking for God’s help.”

Imagine that. What a timely reminder.

The Final Mess

It’s not done till it’s all done. This is not a political post. There are other messes.

How many of us have never moved from one house, one location to another? Those few who have stayed put all their lives have not experienced the final mess. I have seen it multiple times. Maybe it’s possible to learn to avoid some of it’s aspects, but… no, I think there’s always a final bunch of weird stuff that turns into a plague at the end.

Sometimes I have gone room by room, trying to collect the most valuable items and making sure they are packed. That is not the hard part. As the “keep” boxes stack up and increase in number, I start looking for a way to sell the “not so important” stuff. That can take a while and is a skill, a real job actually. Then there is the stuff that can’t be sold and I beg my friends to take off my hands, followed by the stuff that I have to load up and donate or take to the landfill. When it goes to the landfill, I am paying for it to be taken off my hands.

Who would have thought this little storage chest would have created a buying frenzy on the marketplace. I must have had it priced too low.

Lastly, there are the things that didn’t make it into any of the above categories – probably just hidden somewhere, or forgotten. This stuff is sitting on the floor, because all the furniture is gone. The boxes are all used and gone so there is nowhere for it to be packed. I’ve picked these items up a dozen times and not known what to do with them, and I still don’t know what to do with them. No one is around to want them, but they are good enough to cause guilt if put in the trash. They are the final mess.

I’m almost there with the project I’ve been working on – packing up a house for friends of mine. The last two days I listed big furniture on Facebook marketplace and spent most of both days answering questions, texting and meeting people as they came to pick things up.

The wise people bring pickup trucks, preferably empty, and a team of men. Other people, well, maybe being wise is optional. It will all fit in there somewhere.

This load… what can I say? Luckily they didn’t have far to go.

Since this has not been my own house, and I am uncertain what the final destination of some items should be, I am taking them home. My house is starting to look like their house, my garage like their garage. My closet smells like mothballs just like their closets did. I’m hoping if they remember something they still want, I’ll still have it here somewhere.

I wish I had been thinking more about writing as I was dealing with this house project. The April A to Z Challenge is coming up and I should have taken pictures of items through the alphabet as I was packing them. I’m sure I could have covered every letter. As it is, I will have to think of another theme.

Not Wasting Time

Time is a very strange commodity. I always think about this with birthdays and anniversaries, and of course with the turning of the year. When time is gone, it’s really gone and we have no control over its passing. It’s so impersonal. Yet we do have control over what we do with the present moment.

I was thinking about that over the last weekend when my brother posted a writing to all of us siblings. It was about not postponing the things we want to do thinking we will always have time to do them later. Being in your 50’s, 60’s, and yes (gulp) 70’s, we should begin realizing that there’s not a lot of “later” left.

I was especially considering that when I went outside on Friday, New Year’s Day, to take a walk in the snow. It was a perfect snow day. There were a couple of snowmobiles being noisy out in the wetlands. Seeing them zip around made me remember the days when I used to ski, and how much easier that was than plodding around in my boots. I wanted to ski again but wondered whether it was a bit too risky. If I fell and broke something it would really impact others in my life. Recent experience had made that pretty clear.

My skis, my boot, my thumb.

Talking it over with God, in my mind, drew my attention to fear and how it could keep joy away. I’m not sure it was all God’s doing, but I found myself bravely walking into New Moon Ski Shop. It conveniently adjoins our wetland property. More surprisingly I found myself walking out with skis, boots and poles. Three days of skiing have not only been very fun, but I also have not fallen even once. There are no hills to speak of, and the poles are there for balance. It is great exercise and will make my long winter much more bearable. I am so glad I did not leave this for a “later” time that probably wouldn’t have come.

Time is a construct that God understands much better than I do. I believe he wants me to respect and value the time he’s giving me, and he’s not against creative enjoyment of it. I’m so grateful for that. I love the line from the life story of Eric Liddell “I believe God made me for a purpose but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.” I’m not a world class skier, but I know what it is like to feel God’s pleasure when I’m out on my skis, in his world, being grateful. It is anything but wasted time.

I see beautiful things everywhere.