I’ll Pray About That

“You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed.” A.I. Gordon

I sat for a while this morning looking at my prayer board (yes, I have one) and praying (yes, I pray) and being grateful for the wealth of friends I’ve been given. Of course there are family members up there too, but they are also the best of friends. My life has been changed in some way by each and every one of the relationships represented by the notecards tacked up on cork. I can look at them and remember the times and circumstances. I feel rich.

Not everyone on my board thinks like I do, believes what I believe, votes like I vote – you get the idea. I know that God created them all, loves them all and for some reason (not always one that I know) has given them to me to know and care about. Caring about them, and praying for them, changes me. I feel it happening every time I sit here.

It’s more than just a walk down memory lane too. What I have in common with “my people” is that we are all trying to make it through this life and figure out why we are here. When I pray I believe I’m talking to the only one who knows that answer. I ask him to move us all closer to knowing and understanding our purpose. Knowing and understanding our real identity. Knowing and understanding that there is a good plan. Move us all, one day at a time. I don’t even have to know who has it figured out and who doesn’t. (Frankly, I believe anyone who thinks they have it figured out… well, they’re wrong. No one has it all.)

And the prayer board is just a start. Every day two or three more people come to mind.

If you’re my friend or family, I’m praying for you.

If I’ve had an interesting conversation with you, I’m praying for you.

If I’ve stayed in your home, or you’ve stayed in mine, I’m praying for you.

If we’ve had an adventure together, if we were childhood friends, if you grew up with my daughters, if you live in my neighborhood, if you read my blog, I’m praying for you.

I’m not sure what you need most but I’m praying to the God who does.

I can’t promise you a miracle, but considering who I’m talking to, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit. Just sayin’…

“Talking to men for God is a great thing but talking to God for men is greater still.” E.M. Bounds

A Place to Practice

I remember when I was in my teen years, sitting in church, and feeling great discomfort as the pastor asked if anyone wanted to give their “testimony”.  I should have a testimony, I thought. Other people have testimonies, and they sound so glowing and spiritual. I would scramble to think of something to say and hope that the time allotted would be done before I got myself together to volunteer.  And then I wouldn’t think about it again, until the next uncomfortable time, when I would also not be ready again. So went my first uncomfortable church experiences.

Since then, I am happy to report, I’ve discovered a new way to deal with discomfort in church (other than staying away from church – not the best solution). This is partly due to training I’ve had in Bible Study Fellowship, where they taught me to think about my own spiritual experiences, beliefs, and even feelings ahead of time.  We have a somewhat “churchy” language when we call it a testimony, but it really is an explanation of what I experience, believe and feel about my relationship with God.  And how odd was it that I had never realized I could think about those things ahead of time?

 The last two weeks in church, the pastor has offered an opportunity to practice being vocal about our relationship with God.  Last week he asked for examples of God’s faithfulness during the week. This week he asked what thanks we had for God.  Such general questions are great nudges for us to practice speaking about things that are important to us. Church gives us opportunities and a safe place to practice in order that we grow and improve. Speaking these things gets easier the more we do it.

In this day of TED talks and podcasts, people are all over the place, talking about what is important to them. Not everyone is meant to be a public speaker, but it looks to me like God gave most of us mouths and the ability to speak. He is faithful to us, blesses us with things to be thankful for. Every week he makes it possible for us to be back in church in front of a friendly, compassionate audience of friends and neighbors. I should be the first on my feet. That’s why I am.

Being first up is my philosophy of the last few years. It really cuts down on anxiety, vacillating on whether to speak or not, those moments of racing pulse and stage fright. I don’t always know exactly what I’m going to say, and sometimes I say something a bit strange and wish I’d said it differently. But overall, the practice has been worth it.  The Bible says that when we are brought before authorities to answer for our faith, that God will give us words to say. Somehow, I don’t think it’s saying that should be the first time we’ve ever opened our mouths.

I’m just sayin’ this because I know others have this same discomfort at times and I want to encourage, if this is you. Think of something to thank God for each day, and be ready to say it.  It’s really that easy.

Up North: Money

Finances.

Today we go to a financial advisor. It’s not that we have great stores of wealth to manage but we have tried to be smart with what the husband has earned in his many years of service.  We would rather not have to make others support us in our old age. Given how quickly money can disappear these days, it is good to have advice. And is it really money when all you know of it is numbers on digital screens. It’s a strange world.

With me, it gets stranger still. I am not an astute financier. The thought of me managing any amount of money is not a good thought.  I am in awe of CPA’s and financial advisors, even of bank tellers. But I have to do it now that the husband gets too tired when he thinks about numbers. God helps me. Oh, and I have this.

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Secret weapon

What people like me need to do, I think, is find and hire others who have the gift. The IRS is my enemy at present, so we have hired our own army of money soldiers. They are mercenaries from some other planet judging by the language they speak. I don’t understand most of what they say. They seem friendly.

As I said, God helps me. I just ask him that none of my mistakes be fatal, and that there will always be a roof over our heads and beans and rice to eat. So far, he has greatly exceeded my requests. I am grateful. And I am amazed at how many interesting things I can learn along the way. There is a website for everything, of course, and a password or two for each portal. There are secret questions and chosen pictures to keep me from wandering into the dark web, whatever that is.  All I have to do is keep my memory intact. Hmm….

Oddly, I am comforted when my bank makes a mistake. When there is no one there who can explain why I’m getting monthly service charges on an account that shouldn’t have them, I am happy to know that there was a human somewhere who, like me, makes mistakes. And there is a human who can make a phone call and tell me that they will remove the charges, just like that. Sometimes it’s still that easy.

So, I am praying today for my “soon to be” financial advisor and putting him in God’s hands. It will be okay. We will be okay. (The stock market goes down, the economy collapses, but we will still be okay, just sayin’.)

Mid September “Up North”

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This is a September sky in Wisconsin.

September is more than half over, wow.

As often happens when a large, mind-consuming task is done, I’m left wondering what to do next. All the things that I haven’t thought about while concentrating on our trip to Mayo Clinic, are probably still there needing to be attended to, but I’m not sure I’m remembering them all.  That is my most frequent prayer, that I would be reminded to do things at the right time – that nothing would fall through the cracks.  Things that do fall through the cracks unnoticed create bigger problems later.

We are becoming a little more devoted to our keto eating plan now that the husband is motivated to protect his brain cells, keep those mitochondria healthy, and all.  It is a good diet for neuro-degenerative conditions, as well as cancer, diabetes and heart issues. Since I wrote about his condition of Lewy Body Dementia I have received lots of suggestions of things to try and things to avoid. We already know about some of them but will probably try them all eventually – none are ridiculous, or lacking in a good success story.

Which brings me to the point of how different this disease can be from one person to the next. Each individual kind of paves their own way down this path. There are some common traits, but even those come and go.  While it is interesting and hope producing to read stories of cures and great improvements, it can be equally devastating to read about unsuccessful outcomes. I would rather think that the husband’s story is his own and it’s not been told yet. Let’s just live well and watch what unfolds.

We can do this.

Thank you to all our friends who have responded lovingly, given us encouraging words, and have let us know that you are praying for us. A health threat is a bad reason to be drawing attention, but because of it we are newly aware of people out there who care.  I think that we could relieve your fears for us if you could be around Dennis for a while. I think you would be reassured that he is still himself, and thinking well. Circumstances are troubling, but God pays no attention to circumstances since they do no control him in any way.  It only makes sense to us to trust God and try to think like he does.

Tomorrow we are making a fun trip to the nearest “big city” of Duluth, MN. We are seeing some friends and then going to my favorite department store, Sam’s Club (lame, but true). We are looking forward to it. This weekend is Fall Fest in Hayward. It’s also the start of the Feast of Tabernacles. We intend to enjoy both. Life is good. We are not downcast. But don’t any of you stop praying, okay? Just sayin’…

P.S. The husband, a.k.a. “the fan man”, got a work related call today.  His brain is in high gear when it comes to ventilation and fans. He was proud that his company still refers the “sticky” problems to  him – and he deals with them.

“Up North” Mayo Clinic

Right away, let me say that if you have to get sick, this is a really good place to go.

We left my brother’s home near LaCrosse early this morning and in a little over an hour we were in Rochester, MN. The clinic and its hospitals are the focal point of this small city and it is fairly easy to navigate. There are people waiting in every parking lot and in every lobby to answer questions for newcomers like us – they are used to doing it and because they have developed good systems things went smoothly for us.

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Campus map… a lifesaver, and, of course, my phone GPS.

I was amazed that we drove to the 9th floor (top) of the parking garage and were headed back down again before we found an empty spot, and at such an early hour. There were rows of sturdy wheel chairs at curbside for anyone not inclined to walk, good signage that was easy to follow. This stuff is so important! Knowing where to park, and where to go for appointments is one of my main concerns in going to a new place.

There were no long lines and no extended waiting periods! We might run into this later on but today was extraordinarily good in that respect. After check-in we were helped by a appointment specialist, Mr. Smith and put into an exam room to wait for our doctor, Dr. Jones. “Smith and Jones” jokes were exchanged.

Dr. Jones got a detailed report from Dennis. He seemed to be a good listener and made notes as we went along through the exam. He wasn’t a white lab coat doctor which I thought was interesting. He had a nice, expensive looking wool tweed suit, longish curly dark hair, and a trimmed beard. He gave Dennis quite a few tests as he talked with him and at the end announced that he had mild cognitive impairment, maybe borderline dementia. We knew that, but it was nice that someone else actually noticed it too. He is in favor of finding out why.

Not too long after the evaluation, the husband had his brain MRI, with and without scary sounding contrast medium. Very nice professionals conducted this testing with very little wait time. Mom and I had time to eat a light lunch while this was going on. We were done and on our way to the motel before 3 pm. The accommodations are clean, comfortable, adequate.

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They don’t have an extra chair anywhere in the facility for us to each have one, but they do fold the towels really well (cute).

We rested, had a “comfort” dinner at Olive Garden and are back in our motel ready to get to sleep early.

Dennis was supposed to have a PET scan tomorrow but because it was not yet authorized, they postponed it until Thursday afternoon. I’m hoping the insurance will cover it because Dr. Jones said it was probably the most definitive test and will show whether he has normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or Lewy body dementia (LBD). We need to get authorized for this one and that is our prayer for this visit.

The lumbar puncture will take place on Thursday morning. The neuro-psych evaluation was scheduled for next Monday but we are going to be waiting for cancellations the next two days and hoping to get it done this week. It’s a nice enough motel but not where we want to live for that long.

Other appointments the doctor felt to be necessary were another sleep study and an ophthalmology work-up. Those can be done later in October – we will come back for them.

So far, so good. Thank you to all who have prayed for the success of our trip. It is going as well as can be hoped for.  We are in fairly good spirits.

Thoughts on Moving Away

I have been asked when and where we are moving, by people who seem surprised. I have thought about it so much, for so long, that it seems everyone must know. And now I find out that they haven’t been reading my mind…

The husband and I, and our two daughters moved to Florida in 1987. Our children were young and did most of their growing up here. My parents spent their winters here with us. We had frequent visits from my brothers and their families. Over the years we developed many friends through church, work, our daughters school activities, and the neighborhoods we lived in. Bradenton was a busy, happy place for us, filled with people we loved to be around.

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“Goodnight John boy”. “Goodnight Mom”. “Goodnight Grandma”….    Photo from FanPop

You know the scene as the lights start winking out in the big white farmhouse and John Boy says good night? And one by one, the whole family responds to him? They had multi-generational living back then. It was more common because the world wasn’t so easily traveled. There was more chance of children meeting and marrying someone in their own community and living close. More people made a living on farms and in small towns. Well, that all changed, and many other things with it.

Our family aged into a different phase. The girls went to school in different, sometimes far away places. They had choices of where to work, where to live. They experienced that feeling, close to disdain, toward their hometown, the place they knew everything about – both good and bad. They left to see what other places were like, if they were better. Sometimes the available job opportunities made the choice for them.

Things changed for my parents too. Travel became more of a chore, and then my dad died.  By herself, mom felt more like a burden and lonelier wherever she was. Last winter she stayed with us in Florida for two months and then went home to Wisconsin. This winter she didn’t want to travel away from home at all.

Mom lives in Wisconsin, one daughter lives in North Carolina and the other in Seattle (only Alaska would be further and more inconvenient). I’m left with this burning question the last few years – how can I possibly spend time with the people that I know best and love dearly when they are scattered all over the country? Why do I settle for only seeing them on vacations and at funerals and weddings? I began to ask God to help me do something about the situation.

The plan to move has come about gradually, but I’m sure you can see the sense in it. It’s the only way we can put feet to the prayer, and the desire to be closer to at least one of the individuals we care about. We have been tied to the area by the husband’s good job for the last thirty years but he will retire very soon, leaving us to choose to go elsewhere if we wish. We do wish.

There are advantages in taking time to plan and work toward a move. I’ve been studying downsizing and paring down for a while now and it is making a difference. I have helped other people move and have acquired definite opinions on how I don’t want to do it when it’s my turn. And taking time also gives us opportunity to think and pray for the best path to take, even if it should turn out to be staying where we are. We aren’t telling God how to answer us, we’re asking for our heart’s desire. We don’t ask to see all the way to the end of this process – just the next step, one at a time.

We do believe in having some sort of plan though, and you have been hearing hints of it in my writing. We are quite close to putting our house on the market. I am looking at the contents of each room, selling some things, packing others, giving some things away. When I finish this, the house will be ready for staging and showing. We will put our boxes and furniture in storage and if the husband can finally say goodbye to the job, we will go…. somewhere.

We want to go someplace where we are useful, because we still feel we are useful. (I am aware that will also change and we will have need of help ourselves.)  I can’t say that the people we would want to live near really need us, because they are getting along just fine now.  I can say that I think we could add benefit to their lives by being physically closer to any of them. The most probable scenario would be to store our things in North Carolina, until we find a suitable house there. We would likely delay buying for a while, living instead with Mom in Wisconsin, enabling her to have our help and company at home if she desires. Her move to an assisted living facility for the winter has given us more time to prepare the husband’s mind – he has mixed feelings about extricating himself from his work. That is understandable.

There, you have it. There are no deadlines or dates attached to anything yet, but unless God stops us, you can know that is where we are headed. Moving is not easy. There are so many emotions involved, so many memories tied to this place of thirty years. The oneacrewoods has been God’s blessing to me personally, a hideout for a country girl trying to live an urban life. But I am ready to consider the next home, with anticipation.

I know there are good times coming.

Being in Poverty, Post 1

20171004_072115.jpgI was nearly asleep in my dark bedroom when my cell phone lit up the ceiling with an incoming text.  “Hello, I need a ride to working in the morning very low on gas if u don’t mind”. It was from D, who had been sleeping on a roll out bed in our lanai for the last month.

“What time?” I texted back.

“530 we can leave”

“OK”, I responded.  I get up early anyway, so it’s not that much trouble. I wouldn’t have to make myself stay in bed, staring at the clock, until 6 like I usually do.

“People Ready, then wirk. Thanks a million. Meant to tell you earlier”.

 

Morning came and we were both up and ready. People Ready is an employment agency a short way down the road from our house. On the way there this conversation unfolded.

D speaking, “We might have to take four or five people to work with us. I usually drive everyone on the work ticket.”

Me, “Whoa, I didn’t sign up for that. This car only has room for three more and I don’t know any of these folks. How did they get to work yesterday when you weren’t here?”

“Someone else who had a car got the job. It’s alright, if you can’t do it, they will have to make up a new ticket. Maybe the man who drove yesterday can do it again.”

I think for a while because I hate to put him in a spot that will cause him trouble. He gets into so many awkward situations all by himself. He doesn’t need help with that.

“Well, this is pretty early. Do you go right to work when you get the ticket?”

“No, we kind of hang out at the store. We buy food for lunch and sometimes for breakfast when we’re hungry. We go to work around 7.”

It wasn’t that I was afraid of this scenario, but I can say it sounded like one I would avoid, given the chance. It certainly wasn’t in my morning plan…

 

He went into the People Ready office and came back out to tell me that if he couldn’t drive, they would take him off the ticket – he would lose the job. His solution was that I could take him to get enough gas for the trip to work and he would pay me back after the day’s pay came in. This does not sound like a big deal – to give someone $15 worth of gas money – and it isn’t if you don’t do it often. Our gas cans at home that we had filled in anticipation of Hurricane Irma, were empty. Most of the 17 gallons had gone to people who were out of gas and D had been one of them. But it still sounded better to me than hanging out at Mike’s Mini Mart. So that’s what we did. I bought him some gas and he took it from there.

These new experiences are a daily occurrence since God brought three homeless men into our lives here at the oneacrewoods. Every day I learn something about being financially poor. More to come.

 

 

 

 

Going Through Hurricane Irma: Final Thoughts

Over the last two weeks I’ve written several posts, in my mind, as I was raking or hauling brush, but they have never made it into print. This kind of event pushes one into concentrating on what is urgent, and a lot of that is hard, physical work. I have not had the creative energy to write.

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Before the storm…

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and after. I guess this is how tropical depression becomes emotional depression.

Most of the urgent tasks are done now. Each day we hear less about Irma and that is fine. Those of us who are able to move on are glad to do so. I have actually “run away” to North Carolina to visit my daughter, and it’s here that I’m getting the time to reflect on what we went through.

I’m amazed at how longer periods of stress, like a hurricane with its stages of waiting for, experiencing, and recovering from, take a toll on the health and well-being of individuals within a community. I’ve gotten a new awareness of adrenal fatigue issues and steps I can take to lessen the problem. I have renewed respect for the checks and balances that are built into our bodies to help us weather anxious times like these. I am more strongly motivated to eat well and moderately, to pursue healthy sleep habits, to exercise regularly in moderation, to think positively and to honor faith in God.

Even as I took time to help others, I was greatly encouraged by people who volunteered to assist me. Some of our neighbors were the first to come over with chain saws and muscle power, helping to clear away our tree that was blocking driveways. Within three days most of the debris that had littered our yard was raked into piles and taken to the road or burned – by friends, relatives and church volunteers. It was not just the physical acts, but the caring that motivated those acts, that gave me strength. The time spent on these personal relationships has been the best thing about the storm.

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How good to see a smiling man with a chain saw in hand…

Another good thing is simply that a cleaning has taken place. Complicated places have been stripped bare and have a chance at starting over, in a better, more thought out way. It has happened like that in the yard, in the house, and in relationships. We are more aware of basic needs, worthwhile skills, and the things we truly appreciate because of their honesty and beauty. I absolutely have hope in restoration and that things will become as beautiful, and maybe more beautiful in the future. I wish this could happen for every person, in every storm.

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From this…

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back to this, with the help of two strong guys and a handy machine or two.

Going Through: Hurricane Irma (post 3)

We lost our cable and internet before I could publish this post, and it has not returned to us until today – five days later. I’m not complaining as many people experienced far worse during the storm than we did. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017, around 8 pm

Irma made landfall this afternoon around 3:30 near Naples, Florida. It is now about an hour and a half south of us in Ft. Myers.  Since landfall it has weakened to Category 2 with 110 mph sustained winds and we are getting gusts between 50 and 60 miles per hour. It’s path may go east of us, possibly to Arcadia. They were hit by Hurricane Charlie too and I will feel bad if they get it again. The only positive thing would be that they have already lost most of their big trees and shaky buildings. Hopefully we will keep most of ours. However, our worst time with this powerful storm is still ahead.

We were able to cook spaghetti for supper and made a salad. We still have electricity, although over 180,000 in the county are without it. We are  making use of the time together with lots of conversation and bonding through our shared experience. There is ice cream in our near future if all goes according to plan.

An odd thing is happening that I don’t remember having heard of before. People are reporting that the ocean and the rivers go away, leaving boats high and dry and the bottom exposed for as far as can be seen. In some places it returns slowly, in others I’ve heard that the storm surge rose 7 feet in 90 minutes. That is extreme.

At 3 pm a curfew was instated and since the winds are over 45 mph there are no services – law enforcement or medical. Yesterday one of our major hospitals was evacuated. It seems that someone thought that next to the riverfront would be a good place to put a hospital. What were they thinking?

The shelters are full. There are tornado warnings.

We are getting ready to go to our safe rooms as the hurricane is traveling faster now.  Trees are being uprooted, reportedly, in Sarasota.  Will stop now and get everyone together.  I don’t expect to sleep tonight.

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I know I look crazed, but understand that I’m sleeping in a shower during a hurricane.

 

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Small rooms (closets and bathrooms) with lots of walls and no windows are safest but it’s a bit weird to have friends over to sit there, just sayin’.

Going Through: Hurricane Irma (post 2)

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Hi y’all. My ‘rained on’, coffee loving, early morning self along with my friend Kathy.

Sunday morning and we still have power. Kathy and I were both awake at 6 am and having morning coffee while catching up on hurricane progress over the night hours. It is still coming with not much change expected. They talk about wobbles and zig zags but I don’t think it matters much to us yet.

In the night I had “visions” (I use the term loosely) of the trees being nothing but leafless stubs, all the fences gone and many buildings missing. With that in mind I went out early and put more things away that I had previously thought too heavy to move. Winds that tear buildings apart can pick up a potted plant, no matter how heavy. We don’t need those things flying through the air. It was cool and very breezy and raining by the time I got done. The garage of our adjacent rental house was empty so Mark drove his car, with all their valuables, into that space. The renters both work at an assisted living facility and have to be at work during the storm.

Since then we have been eating breakfast and keeping in touch with people on phone and facebook. I finally muted the tv and put on some worship music. I can only listen to the forecasts so long without feeling the tension. Since it’s already about as bad as it can be, anything new will be better and I can catch up on it anytime.

Kathy and I have been brainstorming our inner shelter plans, having picked what we think are the safest parts of the house and what we need to do to be comfortable in them. We will start equipping them with water and food in the next hour or so.

It is definitely getting more wild outside. I realize it more as I sit here looking out the window at the tops of the trees. They are so flexible and there is so much movement up there. As I walked around taking pictures of the outside for insurance purposes, I noticed again the one tall pine on the neighbor’s property that has been giving me concern for years now. If it falls, it will most likely reach our house and come through the roof. It is the weakest of the trees around us in my estimation. Trees are a blessing in that they raise the wind up over the house, but I’ve seen trees that big lying on the ground with the root ball up in the air too – and that would not be good for us.

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The big trunk on the other side of the fence is the pine I’m expecting to come through our roof.

We are a few more hours closer to the end of it, and a few more hours closer to the worst of it. Hopefully our angels are up and on the job.