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.

Writing and Discouragement

I love writing. It’s like talking to people, except I don’t have to find someone who has time to listen to me. Much easier. I enjoy being a blogger.

Last winter and spring, my writing path led me to join a community of writers for encouragement, support, direction, all that good stuff.  I had no clarity about what might be next.  I wasn’t sure being a personal blogger was the endpoint for me. It sounded like hope*writers could help me sort that out. I got pretty excited about moving ahead – enough that I made a commitment to attend a conference. I actually bought the ticket and made a hotel reservation months in advance. Did I do this just to make sure I would go?  Not consciously.

And then life happened. Summer took some unusual turns. For weeks my husband struggled with his diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia. The anxieties and fears he battled had us moving from place to place. I didn’t stop blogging, but I did stop listening to the podcasts, doing the writing exercises, connecting with my support group. There wasn’t a lot of time for that and, honestly, I just lost heart. It’s been hard.

As summer faded off, I found I was having a lot of pain in my hands, especially the left thumb joint. Arthritis had been coming at me for a while, but now it was time to stop living with the pain and regain use of my hand. I had surgery a week ago and have at least six weeks of recovery, in a cast, before I can start therapy.

Back to the writing conference, which is now only two weeks away. The deadline for selling my ticket to someone else has passed. I’m now contemplating whether it is even possible for me to get to Charlotte, NC to attend. The expense of travel, my impaired condition, my husband’s need for help, all seem like hurdles, like roadblocks. Will it be worth the effort to make this happen? I don’t know. It’s not like me to throw away an expensive ticket for an event  I was once pretty excited about.

Believe it or not, i can still type with a few of these fingers.

So, my hand is starting to hurt again as I peck away with two fingers on my computer. I’m feeling a little teary, but I know I have to write in order to think things through. That’s what writing does for me, and that’s why I love to write. Does anyone out there understand this?

A Night at Intercontinental MSP

Picking up the daughter flying in from Seattle tonight – it only made sense to stay overnight instead of driving home till 4 am. It’s been quite a while since the husband and i had a special night out. This is it.

This is a new hotel, and the only one right at the airport. Two restaurants, beautifully appointed rooms, the feel of luxury. We are enjoying it immensely, although feeling a bit out of place.

There is a wedding party upstairs – and what an easy place to gather for guests flying in just for the celebration.

There is a TSA checkpoint right at the hotel that gets one into the airport via a skybridge. Its only staffed during peak morning hours, but facilitates an easy get away for those early flights.

Very modern, beautiful place with friendly staff. You do pay a price for the convenience but there are times it would be worth it. Just sayin’…

Countdown, Three Days Left…

Today I was thinking of all the things I might not feel like doing for a week, or more (lots more) after the surgery.

There was the furniture moving, for instance. There were some heirloom pieces stored in the barn that I wanted in the house. They were things I’ve wanted to look at and enjoy for a long time – but it was unreasonable to get them to Florida. But now, I’m right here where they are so it was time.

One is a dresser that was in my grandmother’s bedroom for her whole life, I think. The other is her cook stove, a woodburning Monarch that weighs a ton even though it looks small. Years in the barn meant they were dirty. The cook stove even had ashes in the ash box from the last fire – I can only imagine when that was. Doing this kind of cleaning and handling of heavy things is probably why my hands hurt tonight and probably why they are in such bad shape overall. But isn’t work what hands are for? In my world, yes.

I did laundry. I shopped for groceries for next week. I talked on the phone to the pre-op nurse who asked me a lot of questions she already knew the answers to and told me to be at the hospital by 7 am on Monday. The surgery is at 9. I hope that means there aren’t too many people ahead of me, and that I will get home before the day gets late.

I’ve read a couple different accounts of how restricted I will be after the surgery. The video even showed how my hand will be wrapped up and cast. My doctor indicated that I will be in a splint of some kind until my first post-op appointment, when a hard cast will be put on. That will stay on for the next three or four weeks and then I will get a softer, removable cast for another month. My thumb will be immobilized but I think the rest of my fingers will be free to wiggle.

Initially the pain will be eased by the nerve block given during surgery. It must last a day or so, after which I will be switched to oral meds. So no driving while on pain medication. I will be dependent on my daughter to cart me around, if I feel like going anywhere.

One video I watched said that driving would be permitted as soon as I could grip the steering wheel with both hands. My doctor didn’t say differently, but she added that if there were to be an accident, my insurance might not cover it. I would be considered an “impaired” driver because of the cast. I’m thinking I will be less impaired than many others on the road – not going to worry about that.

Three days…

The Shadow, Renamed…

Most people my age have had numerous pets of their own, and also have had their children’s pets to contend with. In addition to that, I have a soft heart for strays of all kinds and have successfully passed the gene on to my daughters. I have grandpets. I truly know the joys and sorrows of pet ownership. Most people my age could live very well without any more pets, thank you.

But there was this small cat, barely out of its kitten hood, that my brother and his wife found. It was under their car as they were leaving a graduation party this spring, mewing pitifully. It was skinny, wet and cold, probably hungry. And it was black. For some reason, being black is a strike against a cat. They are least likely to get adopted once they are abandoned. My brother tried but could not find the owner and since the cat was overwhelmingly friendly, they took it home.

More than that, they had their vet look the little creature over and give it some drops for its eyes and an appointment to be spayed. It was litter trained already and acted grateful for a warm bed, food and people petting it.

This is where I came in, thinking that the husband might enjoy having a cat to pet and take care of. He’s retired and spending a lot of time at home without much to do. He’s gotten attached to cats in the past. It seemed reasonable. And the first few days, when the cat was tired and half starved, were peaceful days. And then it got frisky.

Now, several months later, I am very much reminded of what cats do. I have wiped up mounds of semi-digested cat food from the carpet. I have awakened in the middle of the night to find the cat sleeping on my chest. I have taken to smelling any pile of laundry left on the floor for the all too familiar odor of cat pee. I frequently walk around the house feeling like the cat is tied to my leg with string, trying not to trip over it. I sneak to doors and try to get through them before the cat hears me. I could go on – you’ve all heard about cats, if not experienced them yourselves.

So Shadow, as my niece named her before I took her, finally got well enough to keep her surgery appointment. We thought she might be in heat because of the way she kept running to open windows and trying to get through the screens. It was hard keeping her inside. I was glad she was getting spayed.

The vet called later that morning. “You have a very lively cat”, he told me. “She’s unusually active (which made me wonder what kind of fun they had anesthetizing her) and it took a little longer than we had anticipated. Oh, and by the way, we couldn’t find any female organs. She must have been spayed already. We looked extensively to make sure so she’s going to be pretty sore for a while.”

She was. There were a few more peaceful days until she had recovered somewhat. I cautiously let her go outside to sit in the sun. That’s what I would have liked to do if I were a cat. I would leave the sliding doors to the patio open just enough for her to squeeze through. She was definitely an indoor/outdoor kind of cat, who loved both worlds. She came running when I called her and loved to nap inside, but was just as eager to get out again.

It wasn’t long after that when I realized what she was doing outside. She was hunting. One morning I found a mostly dead mole, inside the house. I found him by following the trail of blood spatters on the floor and wall. It had to have been a tortuous way to go. This was followed in short order by several frogs who also bled and lost body parts. I got suspicious of her antics any time she seemed to be having fun “playing” with something.

I knew her skill was increasing one day when she brought in a bird. She had it cornered under a bookshelf and I was able to rescue it. It was so tiny and had a numb, dazed look in its eyes. I took it outside, wondering what to do with it, when it flew away!! I had saved it! I wish I could have done the same for the next two she caught. But I had to wonder… how is she catching birds?

We were having dinner on the patio one pleasant evening. The cat was also out and we were watching her tear around the lawn. Without hesitating she aimed at a tree and went up it like a squirrel to a fairly high branch. Hugging the dark branch, with leaves all around her, she was hard to see. I think that’s why the large flock of sparrows flew into the tree all around her and perched – poor unsuspecting things. So now we know she doesn’t wait for them to come down. She goes up and gets them.

This brings me to today. This morning Shadow brought in a small grey mouse and let it get away. She was waiting patiently by the couch where it had fled for shelter, waiting for it to come out and play again. I got down on the floor with the flashlight and witnessed it scurrying back and forth, trying to find a safe escape route. Definite mouse panic. I felt sorry for it, but what could I do? I couldn’t get under the couch either.

I don’t know where the mouse is. I came in the living room this afternoon to find the recliner upside down – the one the husband usually sits in. He’s doesn’t know where the mouse is now either, but he’s pretty sure it was in/under the chair. I think we now have two house pets.

Do I hope the cat will catch the mouse? I can’t quite decide. But I am renaming her. I’m calling her Shadow of Death because it fits her very well. Just sayin’…

Running Out Ahead

The husband keeps repenting of “running out ahead” of God. He is a problem solver and problems drive him crazy – it always seems to him that because he is aware of the problem, it is his to solve. He is not comfortable waiting for God. It’s usually in retrospect that he realizes his “running ahead”.

I am not saying that I condone inaction, waiting on everything because one is too lazy to address issues. That drives me crazy. When a problem is there to be solved, I am willing to pray about it and do whatever comes to mind in a reasonable fashion. Do something, do one thing and see what happens next…

Lately, almost daily, new problems are coming up on Dennis’s radar. He thinks about them obsessively. When there isn’t an actual problem, he thinks of a possible problem. He comes to me three or four times in the space of an hour, with more to say about the developing structure of the problem. It grows, takes shape in his mind and is often described as a dangerous situation, not just to him but to others as well. He must figure out what to do and intervene. He must convince others that action is required because he is not physically capable of doing what is needed by himself. What a dilemma. His world has a lot of anxiety in it.

The basement where his stuff is stored is likely going to flood because there are springs on the property.

The coming trip back home is dreaded because something in the truck is messing with his eyesight and making him sleepy. His wife will fall asleep and there will be an accident.

He hasn’t heard that the AC in his daughter’s house has been serviced in the two years she’s lived here. Danger, danger…

He might run out of vitamins, or pineapple on the trip home and his whole health regimen will go down the tubes.

There must be a reason he’s had the word “Fabian” given (by God) to him to investigate. Who is Fabian Farrington and how can he discover why he needs to know?

How can he keep from being further brain damaged while his wife is using the hotspot to access the internet?

How can he convince the code officials of the need to reverse their thinking about grounding rods in duplexes? People’s lives are at stake.

Who wouldn’t be anxious? It seems to me that the challenge is to be aware of possible problems AND aware that someone more capable than one’s self is working out the solution. Trust someone else. Trust God. Learn to wait without stressing out. Like the sign I saw yesterday in the barn I was in – ” Remember stressed, spelled backward, is dessert”. Yes it is, just sayin’…

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

An Old House: If Walls Could Talk

Actually, if walls could talk this house would not have a lot to say. Most of the interior walls are gone

The backstory:

Pennsylvania is a historic state, having been one of the first settled. This means there are a lot of old houses with stories to tell. The valley that the husband’s family lives in is full of old, two story, frame houses. Both in the small villages and the outlying farms, I’ve been seeing these fascinating structures and I love to take pictures of them and wonder what they look like inside. My brother-in-law and his wife have bought a farm that enjoins their property and on it is a collection of farm buildings and an old farmhouse. We went over there to look yesterday. It was a treat for my passion about old buildings.

The outbuildings:

There is a very interesting turkey barn – reminiscent of old covered bridges. I’m not sure why it was built this way, or if it’s original purpose was to raise turkeys, but that is what it was known to have housed last.

There was a barn with a stone foundation. There are lots of them in this valley, probably because there is no shortage of stones for building material. The barn is gone but the foundation remains, begging to be used for something.

There are other sheds to house machinery, and a modern cement block building that was a butcher shop, presumably to process the turkeys raised in the turkey barn. And of course, there was this outbuilding.

Not too many of them still standing, but I always like getting pictures of outhouses when I can. I don’t know why.

The house:

This was my favorite excursion into the past. The house has seen better days but my brother-in-law assured me that the structure was sound and sturdy. It has been completely gutted of its interior walls of plaster and lathe, in hopes of being remodeled at some point.

One feature left intact in the kitchen is a large built in hutch which pretty much makes the house, in my opinion. It should definitely stay and become a focal point.

The shanty:

One of the common practices before air conditioning was to keep the heat of cooking out of the main house. This house has what my brother-in-law calls a shanty added to the side of the kitchen. It’s a fairly large room with a huge hearth where cooking fires could be made, or a cook stove positioned. There are huge doors to close off the hearth and when my sister-in-law opened them there was an ominous noise that sent her and Dennis out of the room. They were thinking “rattlesnake”. I went in later with Ron and we were curious to hear the noise, which turned out to be a baby bird that was dislodged from a nest higher up in the chimney. I don’t know what kind of bird it was, but the sound was bizarre.

Flitching:

The stairs were sturdy enough so we went up to look at the upper story.

There was a large central beam that had marks all over it. Ron told me about flitching, a process of making the cuts on the beam. All the wood is exposed in the house and I could see that some of it was rough lumber, with the bark still on. But no termites (I’m still in Florida thinking…)

I wandered around taking pictures of this interesting place and wondering if I would ever have the energy to renovate an older place like this.

Dinner and a Show

7-3-2019

Dinner on the deck

We are still at Smith Meadow, and tonight we had our first dinner guests. The menu was my secret recipe Macaroni and Cheese with a salad, watermelon and raspberry cream cheese pie for desert. Brother Dennis and sis-in-law Mary Pat came out to join us (they brought the pie)(and it was good!). This was such a treat for Dennis because he misses out on family dinners now that he isn’t comfortable at the condos.

It’s mighty hot here, for Wisconsin anyway, and we ate outside on our deck which was cooler than in the trailer. It was early enough that the mosquitoes weren’t bad yet, the meadow was half sun and half shade, and the birds were having their final sing for the day. It was remarkably comfortable. We didn’t hurry it.

Family selfie

As we were finishing we heard a tractor approaching and, sure enough, it had a rake attached to prep the downed hay for baling. The surprise was that it was driven by a 15 year old young woman (in a dress), a Mennonite farm girl working to make hay with her dad. I didn’t get a picture of that huge rake and tractor as she ran it around the meadow – a missed opportunity for sure. We watched in awe, and clapped when she left. She acknowledged with a smile and a wave. She was one of eight children from the farm adjoining our land. My brother said he wouldn’t be surprised if she came back with the baler before it was dark.

Tractor and baler (shielded cab with AC of course…)

Sure enough, more tractor noises approached, preceded this time by an SUV driven by a mom with her four children in the back. The tractor and attached baler came next driven by the father with his one year old son on his lap. They start them young.

It didn’t take long for the family to leave the car and come sit on the deck with us. The children were such happy, farm savvy, healthy looking and enthusiastic young people that I kind of fell in love with them, quickly.

The eight year old boy saw the baler stop and immediately announced that his father had put too much hay in and had clogged the baler. He ran out and rescued the one year old while his dad crawled under the baler to fix things. He also gave his opinion on how many bales the meadow would yield and he was right. He had already been around enough hay fields to be knowledgeable.

The little guy would rather be riding the tractor with dad.

The girls sat next to me and conversed while we watched the field get processed. They were surprised when I told them many children don’t know what a farm is all about and think milk comes from a supermarket. We talked about cows, coyotes, their toy room, and how nice it was that their grandpa and grandma lived next door. Janessa, who is five, was the most talkative. She could have played Laura in Little House on the Prairie, if she had been an actress. But how much better to live the life and not have to pretend.

The baler got fixed, the field cleaned up right good with three big bales and a smaller one. The show was over. Our new friends got in their Suburban and went home. Night fell and the fireflies came out. Dinner and a show, but much more interesting and fun than the usual outing by that name… just sayin’.

Smith Meadow

How I come to be here is another story for another time, Smith Meadow being enough of a story in itself. A clearing in the middle of a parcel of forested land has become dear to many in my family. Part of the farm my father came to the year he and my mom were married, it has had a part in my brother’s lives as they have cared for it in various ways. Lately the forest around it has been harvested leaving wide paths through the pines and hardwoods that are still plentiful. Dark, cool, and full of mosquitoes, the path winds through the forest all the way around the meadow.

Really if it were not for the forest, the meadow would not have the magic that it does. It is a surprise of openness, with a feeling of privacy. It is a secret that cannot be seen from outside. There is a grass covered road through a field of hay by which to approach the meadow. Those who don’t know it’s there, would not notice it at all. From cars on the nearby paved road all that can be seen is a tall wall of trees on the far side of an expanse of timothy grass and clover.

In the aftermath of a disturbing discussion, I stepped out into the meadow looking for some peace, looking for the path into the woods. Trees have always helped me feel sheltered, covered, and aware of their bigness and the smallness of my problems. It was fall when I last walked on the path so the trees were mostly bare and leaves covered the ground. This evening, everything was green from the floor to the ceiling overhead, an endless variety of patterns and shapes in green, green and green…

The path itself is predominantly covered with white clover and grass, almost like it has been seeded. It creates a perfect dining area for deer and I expect to see one every time I go around a bend, but no. Only once did I hear a sound and see the momentary flash of white in the woods. But the grasses were disturbed and flattened in many places all along the mile or so of my walk. The deer had been there.

I returned, along with my mosquito friends, to my abode for the night. This lonely little trailer house, on the edge of Smith Meadow, no electricity, no water – just peace (and mosquitoes).

A Much Needed Visit

Friends. Most of the time I am aware that I have some, here and there, people to smile at, speak with, do an occasional lunch or other outing with. But then there are those times when people show up, at great expense to themselves, when I am not at my loveliest or in the greatest of circumstances. They are the truest of friends who show up and do life with us, me and Dennis, when they wouldn’t have to. That is what happened last week.

It surprised me when my invitation to come “up north” was accepted not just with “sure, we’ll come someday”, but with “when is a good time – I’ll buy tickets…” Not many visitors make it up here, although it is a great place and to cool off in the summer. I also was thinking of the perfect time for them to come. My whole local family was taking a two week Alaskan cruise. I couldn’t see how we could go with them since I had just done my Grand Canyon trip. I was fairly content to stay home, watch the animals, water the plants and weed the garden. Having friends come would be the perfect thing to keep me from feeling sorry for myself.

Arlette, a.k.a. “French girl” has been one of my best friends for several years. Her husband, Dwight, and my husband, Dennis, started the American Aldes office in Sarasota way back in the 1980’s. They had heard a lot about our Wisconsin home since helping us move last July. Now I had a chance to show them some of its charms.

It started with the three hour trip from Minneapolis airport to Hayward. Then we rushed them off to eat at The River Deck, a waterfront restaurant where my nephew had just started working. It’s also the location of the National Lumberjack Championships, which had to impress them (I think). And although we didn’t visit it, I did point out the gigantic Musky (at least three stories tall) in the nearby park.

Eating out was one of the easiest things for us all to do together, and I had my list of favorite places. In addition to the River Deck, we were able to go to The Angry Minnow, and Garmisch Resort. Each of these places had its own unique vibe and I think we all enjoyed the differences.

One of our lunches was a bit different. It was on a boat, out on my favorite Round Lake. I had heard of the Jacobson’s project from my brother. Ralph Jacobson and several of his friends built the “Galilee”, designing it to host small groups on the lake, as a ministry opportunity. He and his wife Carrene, served us lunch and spent an hour showing us their part of the lake. It was a beautiful day, weather wise.

Thank you, my friends, for your supportive visit.

Dwight and Arlette, the brave ones.

Slapping mosquitoes on a hike. Photo ops were brief.