You don’t have to be a person to have a personality. No, you don’t.
Winter saw me buying seeds at Walmart this week and decided to throw a fit. I was awake numerous times last night, listening to the wind howling outside, coming down the fireplace chimney. Sure enough, this morning there was new snow, and drifts everywhere. Window screens were flocked with wind driven whiteness. Hungry birds and squirrels were trying to find the sunflower seeds they knew were there yesterday. It would be another day of shoveling and plowing in our community.
I feel sorry for the geese I’ve seen flying around, looking for nesting places in the marsh. I’m a little sorry I had the car washed this week. I’d like to see green out the windows instead of white. But I am not at all dismayed by this fury. I know that the fight often intensifies because someone or something knows it’s going to lose.
Apparently winter also knows its days are numbered and wants to get in as many punches as possible before wandering off to a different hemisphere. I’m hopeful that nature is giving us a metaphor for the craziness in our world – it could be. The natural world is God’s spokesman and his creation. He came up with the plan for seasons and they’ve been happening ever since, in nature and in the history of man.
So today, I am walking in snow, but also planting some seeds and putting the pots in a south facing window. I intend to wait winter out, and I think I’ll win.
I’ve missed the deadline for the official April Blogging Challenge theme reveal but the wonderful thing is, this is my blog and I can write what I want, official or not. Hahaha…
I have about a week to decide if I want to add the stress of a blogging challenge to my caregiving life. For years I’ve used this April A to Z Challenge as a way to inspire and stir up my will to write and share my writing. It’s a lot of work to write something worthwhile for 26 posts in one month. Having a theme sometimes makes it easier and I’ve been hunting for a theme.
How hard would it be to work on my ability to introduce interesting characters to readers? My thought is that I would start with 26 of the interesting people I’ve known, change their names of course, and add a few disguising details. I would end up with a fictional character based on reality. I’m not going to write a book so there will be no plot, yet. These would be character sketches.
The more I read, the more obvious it is to me that developing a believable character that readers like and identify with, or at least find intriguing, is vital to a good story. I don’t know if I’m good at that, but I would like to be. My favorite type of reading material is historical fiction. I want to learn while I’m reading but I need a plot to follow, some excitement, some wonder, problems, questions to be answered. All that requires people. I’ve already chosen my people.
And the reason I’m writing about it in advance is, well… you might think you’re one of the people. You might recognize yourself or someone you know, even though the characteristics don’t exactly match. If that should happen, remember it’s not you. It’s a fictional character and the parts you don’t like about him or her, well, those are the parts I made up. You are perfectly wonderful, as am I, wonderful and probably boring.
And even though I am making a plan, April may come and go without the plan being realized. But I do like the idea, just sayin’…
I was sitting by myself, in a Cracker Barrel restaurant, on Thanksgiving. My favorite family holiday was anything but that in 2011. I was having dinner and writing my first post on this blog. I was in Atlanta, on the job as a private duty nurse for my client who was a quadriplegic. It was the most miserable job I had ever taken, and writing out my misery was comforting.
Scottie was an unforgettable client. She had a diving accident in her early 20’s that ended her career as a flight attendant and changed her life drastically. In fact it changed many lives, because she went through the years having a marked effect upon her family and all her caregivers and friends. Being so vulnerable and helpless was not easy for Mary Scott Stoddard, or Scottie, as we all called her.
I found Scottie’s ad on Craig’s List of all places. I was needing a job to help my daughter Julia through veterinary school and was having trouble finding one. Even though I’d taken a refresher course, the hospital had passed me over and hired new grads instead of older nurses, like me. I was pretty desperate to get something so I went to the interview even though the salary was low, even though she was really wanting an LPN, even though I would have to drive out to Longboat Key to work.
It turned out that she was glad to hire me. She was in the habit of losing nurses, about one a month, and had gone through lots of them. Word was out there about how difficult an employer she was. The nurse who oriented me was an LPN, working on her BSN, and she hardly ever got a day off and even did some nights because there was no one else. It was a pattern I came to expect over the next six years as I became the senior employee who oriented new people.
I could go on at length about what made Scottie a difficult employer, and I did do a lot of venting in my writing. But I have since spent more time being grateful for the unique experience I had in her employ. Where else would my job description have included trapping raccoons, taking carriage driving lessons, and traveling to Nova Scotia? Our many trips to Atlanta and north Georgia were filled with interesting stops and people. We spent time at Bluegrass festivals and the North Georgia fair. We stopped for fresh peaches in the early summer and apples in the fall. She loved music, so we went to concerts. She loved the inter coastal waterway so we went out in her pontoon boat. She shared her Longboat Key cottage with me when I had family come to visit.
Scottie and I had adventures. Getting a quadriplegic with tons of luggage, two wheelchairs and a Hoyer lift on a commercial airline flight was uniquely stressful. Stopping the van on the side of the road to handle a medical emergency with her was uniquely stressful. Spending nights during hurricanes in her home, with water lapping the floorboards beneath my bed was uniquely stressful. The adrenalin rush of unique stress is about the same as the rush during excitement, and the years have blurred the line. I now think of those times as having been exciting.
I think Scottie got used to me praying for her, especially during those times of crisis when we didn’t know what to do. She even began to ask for it, and to do her own praying. And I think she would say that we got a lot of our prayers answered. Scottie died a couple of weeks ago, at her home, on a ventilator, feeding tube and IV’s. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy ending but she was ready to stop suffering.
Today, I know that the difficult years with Scottie provided me with two things. They gave me income to help a daughter through veterinary school, which was the goal at the time. But they also prepared me for the present time with my husband. I would not have had the experience and the confidence to bring him home, had it not been for the things I learned caring for Scottie. His physical care is almost the same as hers was. I could not have foreseen that part, but I believe that God knew and was even then putting things in place to help us through this difficult time.
Thank you God. And thank you Scottie. May you rest in God’s peace.
I have heard that normal people often go to coffee shops to sit and connect with the world over unsecured internet and drink expensive coffee. I needed to try this during my two hours of freedom today.
For some reason I have a hard time thinking of things to do when my Hospice volunteer comes for her weekly visit with Dennis. I haven’t yet found the friends who are free during work hours to do things with so end up going to Walmart for groceries and prescriptions and whatever excitement Walmart provides. I need to do better. I would like to make Tuesday free time a treat, a time to do some “normal people” stuff and have fun. Spend money someplace other than Walmart.
There is one stand alone coffee shop in our small town, and I admit I was a little worried when I got to the parking lot. It was parked up pretty good. I knew I was taking a chance to do this on Birkie week, when thousands of skiers show up to do this ridiculously long cross country ski event. But it is early enough in the week and town is still in the preparatory stage. The coffee shop had empty tables and I am sitting at one, drinking my medium Chai and having a scone, and writing, of course.
I’m enjoying watching the activity outside as the street is getting marked with “no parking” signs. The temporary bridge has already been erected over the main highway where the skiers will cross over and head up Main Street for the finish line. It is such a fun winter event – one of several claims to fame that our town enjoys. Winter storm Olive is due to make it even more interesting this year. I would love to be volunteering at the food tent as in other years, but I’m also glad to be staying home. Staying home is what I have to do and being content with what I have to do is my main winter goal.
Being content is a worthy pursuit. It takes a little practice but so do most good things. I will not always be in this season of having my husband to care for. Being content leaves me free to look around, enjoy this moment, really notice people and things around me. I enjoy sitting and not wanting to be anywhere else. I’m looking at the people going in and out of the shop and guessing whether they will be skiing the long race or not. I’m aiming prayers at them, hoping their experience will be safe. I’m praying that as they ski through this beautiful northland they will sense God and wonder at his creation.
The scone is gone. The Chai was good. I found four hundred seventy-five words to express how it feels to be normal today.
This strange week between two holidays always has a distinct feeling about it. There’s drama on both ends of it that kind of leak into the middle. I never feel like it’s a normal week where normal work should be done. It feels somewhat like a holiday but because it’s five days, it needs to produce something worthwhile, something to mark the end of a year.
So, I cleaned the pantry. I didn’t just wipe the shelves. I threw away all the things I didn’t want to eat. Ever.
I threw away all the food with best by dates of a different decade, all the food that wasn’t it’s original color, all the things I didn’t remember ever buying, everything that smelled “funny”, and everything that was just too healthy to really enjoy. Pantry space is too precious to waste. It was a lot of stuff.
I still have probably more food than one person can eat, especially a person who doesn’t really like to cook more than once a week. I have been reacquainted with many things I had forgotten I had and now I know where they are! It’s like being made new again. Slimmer, neater, more organized me.
Back several weeks ago, in July, we were getting ready for our family reunion, enjoying walks like the one in my last post, and having a great summer. And then the husband had a stroke, a cerebral vascular hemorrhage (CVA). He has survived but our lives have changed, a lot.
Since then, most of what I’ve written has gone in a separate blog, one that tells the story of our experience since his diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia. I won’t tell it again here, but in summary, we now have first hand knowledge of ICU’s, ventilators, tracheostomies, feeding tubes, and several other things that the husband never wanted to know about.
This is the first day in five weeks that I’ve been home all day. Dennis is in a rehab hospital now, a really good place, and making progress slowly. I felt he would be okay if I didn’t see him every day. The hospital is in Duluth, 90 miles away, and I’ve grown a little weary of the drive. I’m often in the car eating things I shouldn’t eat, just to stay awake – a bag of popcorn can last nearly 70 miles if I don’t spill too much of it.
Although I have wonderful support from friends and family, these changes leave me feeling physically alone quite often. Fortunately, I am spiritually befriended. God is such a friend. Jesus is such a friend. I took a walk this evening, kind of like the one in my last post, on the wetlands trail and saw evidence of my friends. It was almost like things were being pointed out, to look at, to talk about and enjoy. And I took pictures, of course.
It’s September now. August was surreal, hard, and so different from anything we have known. We have yet to find out what our new normal will be. But it’s coming, and it will be okay.
It is sinking in that summer is really, finally here. This usually happens about four weeks before it gets cold again, so I am being very much in the present, eyes wide open, walking without a jacket, swatting at deer flies and even getting a bit warm at times.
It is getting late, almost 8:30 but I have sunlight still and it’s been a few days since I walked the wetland trail. We’ve had regular rain so the meadow is green. There are a few clouds but no wind. The sunset is getting better by the minute.
Even with the rain, the creeks and ponds are low but I love the way this one looks like a ribbon of reflected light.
The first sections of my path go past fields where milkweed plants abound. They are in full flower now which makes for a rather stunning plant. I often see deer in the fields in the evening and tonight I got to lock eyes with this young fellow. I thought he was stunning too.
Farther out in the marsh, I’m seeing “my geese”. I’m getting a sense of ownership – after all I’ve watched them grow up. Most of them look like adults now. Tonight they have the company of a pair of sand hill cranes. None of them seem to mind that I am taking pictures of them so I spend quite a bit of time watching.
Passing the wildflower field makes me happy because the black eyed susans are the color of happy. Passing the wildflower field also makes me sad because black eyed susans are a mid to late summer flower and I don’t want summer to be over anytime soon.
I am reminded that this beautiful greenspace used to be a small golf course every time I see this sign, which now makes me laugh. It’s all green so I guess we can exit anywhere we want to.
The sun is nearly down and I am feeling like I’ve just had a shower of peace and blessing. Even the deer flies have gone to bed and are no longer following me. Time to be thanking God for helping me to be here in this place, at this time. Time to rest. Thanks for coming along.
Up north where summer is cool (except when it’s 100 degrees F.).
We are having a family reunion in, roughly, two weeks. This time we number around 45 individuals from the east coast, the west coast and in between. They are coming from Alaska, and Florida, from Washington, Georgia, Michigan and North Carolina. By plane and by car. The meeting place is Hayward, WI and thankfully that is close to the middle, however it is also over two hours from the nearest airport. Everyone flying in has to shuttle, rent a car, or find someone to give a ride. Travel arrangements are getting wildly complex.
Family reunions are somewhat about food, since we all need to eat. But it’s not that simple. Everyone has favorite meals and food traditions that we like to recreate. Like most families, we love grilling outdoors, pizza, good coffee for breakfast and cinnamon rolls. We love popcorn and ice cream. We love a meal out at an interesting restaurant. We have kids who only eat one food. We have adults on special diets. Food arrangements are getting complex.
We love to sit around and talk, and for some of us that is the most physically active we can be. We have others who would add a silly game, a movie night, or a campfire to their talk environment. There are some of us who have to float the river for four hours or it’s not a real reunion. There are some who have to be on wheels, or boats doing something potentially dangerous. And all of us care about sharing worthwhile, memorable experiences with each other. And although I have never felt that boredom is a fatal condition, I would prefer that no one remember our time together as BORING. It’s getting complex.
The next couple of weeks this reunion is going to be on my mind pretty regularly. My four brothers and I, along with Mom, are the linch pins of the event and are talking, calling each other, and figuring out all these complexities. I appreciate how it draws us together, joining our particular skills, taxing our creativity. It’s work, but good work. It’s going to make some interesting journal entries and I hope I have time to write them.
I love that our complex family cares enough about these periodic reunions to consider planning, spending for them and coming to them. I know it probably will not always be possible. Our families are getting larger and developing groups within groups and that will change the when, the who and the where for our future get-togethers. That is okay, because no matter the size of the gathering, we are teaching the tradition to the next generation. We teach cooperation. We teach sacrifice. We teach commitment. We teach fun. We teach family.
Do you have family reunions? If so, do you look forward to them? Are there special traditions or ways of handling complex arrangements that you can share?