Countdown, One Day to Go

10-12-2019

We are in Minneapolis at the airport hotel having a very pleasant wait. Esther will be here around midnight, but we get to sleep instead of driving all night! So blessed!

It was cold and snowing for the whole drive down. Winter in October! This is snow on our patio table before we left.

Can you believe it?!

This little get away is great for getting my mind off surgery coming up on Monday. I’m never real excited about being unconcious in the hands of complete strangers who will make painful cuts on my body on purpose. Better not to think on it too long.

Supposed to say “wish you were here” but I suppose some might be wishing you were her too.

We’ve had a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant and I think the husband is about ready to go to bed. New places and experiences are good but really tire him out and leave him feeling disturbed. Nevertheless I’m glad he’s along and not home with only the cat for company.

Tonight and tomorrow will be important times to get rested up for the early start on Monday. I don’t know what to expect post surgery pain to be like. I only hope it will be different from the pain I have now.

In a couple hours I will take the hotel shuttle to the arrival area and find Esther. Hoping she has a good flight. I saw her only briefly last spring and will enjoy this week with her. I hope I don’t have to be waited on too much.

Two nights, one day until I have a different hand. Trusting God to take me through this.

Countdown to Monday 10-14-2019

It’s evening and I’ve just finished watching a video of a surgery that I’m going to have next Monday. If you faint at the sight of cutting and bleeding, don’t click this link Basilar Thumb Joint Arthroplasty with LRTI, but know that it is a good surgery with a high success rate. It’s also probably the most common surgery done worldwide. It is called CMC arthroplasty and ligament reconstruction. Simply put, if all goes well, they are fixing my painful thumb joint.

I’ve encountered a number of people who have arthritis in the basal thumb joint so I know it is common, especially among women. I want to do a few posts on this experience, mostly to inform, but also to work out the pain of the recovery period. Writing is helpful to me when I’m in pain or stressed because it ascribes purpose to what I’m going through. I hadn’t heard of or considered this surgery until a couple of months ago and there might be others, in the same situation, who will find my account helpful.

It’s not known why some people get this problem and others don’t. My thumb pain started several years ago. I have treated it with NSAIDs, with cortisone injection, and with platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections (a precursor in the stem cell therapy family). Of all these, the thing that has been most helpful is the thumb brace recommended by the PRP therapist.

A large part of my problem has been the loosening of ligaments that normally stabilize the thumb. Loose ligaments have allowed more movement and that causes more pain. The Push thumb brace holds my thumb firmly in place and keeps that joint stable – it’s been protecting me from the most unbearable pain for two years now. I have recommended it to others and they have also loved it.

Unfortunately, the pain is now more constant and not only the result of movement. It is time for a more permanent fix. The surgery is outpatient, but it will be with general anesthesia. I’m not allowed to drive myself home so my youngest daughter has generously arranged to come and help with the day of surgery and the first week. I’m hoping the fun of her visit will greatly distract me from what my poor hand will be feeling.

Check back tomorrow and I’ll describe what medical science has come up with in this remarkably successful procedure.

Family, Festivals, Fire Trucks

10- 5-2019

It is blustery, rainy and cold today. The electricity went out mid morning. My brother is visiting and we had planned an early breakfast outing to Delta Diner but gave it up after thinking on it. The weather wouldn’t keep the place from being busy, but it would mean we would have to sit in the car waiting for a table. We always have to wait there.

This is October, month of Cranberry Fest (today) and Apple Fest (all weekend in Bayfield) and the area is hosting people from all over. Some just come to see the fall colors which have not disappointed, in spite of rainy weather. Hayward is a destination. For us, family is the draw.So, we gathered one by one in Mom’s living room while it was still dark.

I’m first. Like Mom, I usually can’t sleep much past 5:30 so I get up, dress, make a cup of coffee and peer out towards Mom’s condo. She turns on her outside light when she’s up, just to signal that she’s alive and okay. Today I managed the short walk in the rain with my cup of coffee and the umbrella, my coordination challenge for the day.

Dennis, my brother, was next, raincoat and hood in place. Somehow he had managed to keep his toast from getting rained on, and he graciously chose the wooden rocker, saving the recliner for his older brother. Gary came out of the guest bedroom a few minutes later and we sat, three siblings and Mom, talking about life and the world. I’ve come to love these times, whether we are two, three, four or all six.

Deciding we would be happier making our own breakfast was fairly easy. The night before we had gone to a notable fish fry at a resort in the area. I say “in the area” when it was actually as much as 20 miles away. It was so busy the host couldn’t even determine what the wait time would be. We left. It was not a total waste of time because the drive was beautiful, and we did find another fish fry, as good or better, and were seated immediately. I’m learning that life is like this when you live in a tourist town – be it in Florida or Wisconsin.

The rain and wind continued even later as we sat around the table. We had finished our blueberry pancakes, eggs and sausage, and fruit salad when the place went dark. Strangely, we had been talking about things like the power grid going out and how we would handle that. It seemed appropriate for us to think about it more.

The husband and I are back home now, wondering why there is a fire truck and more than usual commotion next door. It is a blustery, rainy day – a good day to stay home, which I intend to do. Just sayin’…

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

Day of the Jaeckel

It’s been years since I walked for a cause – the three day, 60 miles breast cancer walk. Today I joined my brother and his wife and a couple hundred other people from our small community to walk a 5k for ALS.

John Jaekel is a Haywardite, former coach and educator at the high school, and friend and neighbor to most everyone he meets. He is also one of the longest survivors of ALS and a spokesperson for the cause all around the state of Wisconsin. The walk was started by his family and other supporters around four years ago and has become a regular event in Hayward.

We met at the Lutheran Church in town where John is a member, and went inside to look at the silent auction items. There is no fee to join the walk, so the auction is the fund raising portion of the morning. There is an online auction as well as the one we saw, and many Hayward businesses and individuals were represented there. I bid on a small piece of furniture. Lumber from the lumber company, 2 months membership at the local gym, hair cuts and beauty supplies, art and specialty food items, and tickets to Packer games(!!!) as well as other creative and tempting offerings were up for bid.

The walk was leisurely, led by John Jaekel himself in his motorized chair. There were parents with small children in wagons and strollers, elderly people being pushed in wheelchairs, and all ages in between. The weather was cooperative, actually could not have been more perfect. I’m not kidding, there were cheerleaders and encouraging signs along the route.

One family walking close to me came from a city 80 miles away to join the walk. They had lost a brother to ALS the year before and knew John through the support network they had been in together. I didn’t get to talk to John but it was clear that he was a beloved member of the community and had been successful in stirring people to action. One of the signs along the route pointed out that the purpose of the walk was to make sure that someday there wouldn’t have to be any walks. Research toward a cure is the goal.

At the end of the walk, volunteers at the church had breakfast ready for all the walkers. Someone had upped the ante on my table bid, so I pushed it up a little higher. I didn’t get it but it went for a better price and that was good.

This was a day to walk and talk with others, over a common interest – that of helping people like John Jaekel and others who are battling als. I admire his enthusiasm and dedication, and wish him well. I thank him for bringing our community together around a good cause.

The Lake and the Swimmer

8-17-2019

The Lake and the Swimmer

I went through this day feeling like it would have been a perfect day to be at the lake. It was warm, sunny and the weekend. But for me, the most pressing reason was that “almost fall thing” that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you know it when you feel it. People are talking about school starting, goldenrod is blooming, there is a branch here and there with some color starting – scary stuff when summer is short, sweet, and you haven’t been out to the lake enough.

There were, however, other plans for the day. They were good ones and I enjoyed them right up until 7pm when company was gone, the kitchen cleaned up, and I was finally seated in my chair, still thinking about the lake. I felt kind of sad for a minute, and then it dawned on me that the day was not over yet for another hour. The lake was out there, and I could go. Sometimes I forget I’m a grown up and don’t have to wait for permission, just sayin’.

It’s only seven miles from town to Round Lake, which doesn’t sound like very far now, but seemed like a significant distance when I was a kid. I drove out to the Narrows, a public beach on Round Lake Peninsula at the place where the peninsula is so narrow that you can access water on either side of the road. One side is a boat landing and the other a swimming beach.

When I was young, I felt kind of like my family owned that beach because we went there so often. It was about a mile from our farm and almost every hot day we were there cooling off. Sometimes it was after a sweaty, dusty day helping put up hay. Sometimes it was after milking the cows. The neighbors would come by on their way to the beach and we would throw our inner tubes in the back of the truck and go with them. Sundays after church, we would picnic with other families and spend time water skiing, and swimming until we were “pruney” with wrinkles and blue around the lips from the cool water.

In later years, signs with rules were posted. A chain link fence was added to keep kids from running across the road in front of cars. More people frequented the beach, from town and the nearby reservation and it began to seem more crowded. I swam there less often. When I would walk or drive past it, it seemed smaller than I remembered. The buoy wasn’t out as far, maybe, and there wasn’t as much sand to spread a blanket on. It’s been thirty years away and time will do that to a person’s perspective. I know that.

Tonight, there were some cars in the parking lot with boat trailers but no one was at the swimming beach. I was so glad. It was almost seeming like a spiritual experience to me, one that I didn’t really want to share. I swam and it was still cold. I took pictures because it was still beautiful, the water my favorite shade of blue, the sand my favorite brown, the woods my favorite shade of green. Swimming out to the buoy and looking back to shore, the distance seemed greater, more like I remembered.

I was out, drying off and about to say farewell to the water when I noticed a swimmer far out on the bay. The person came closer until it was obvious he was headed to the beach where I was standing. From watching him swim I knew he appreciated the lake, maybe even loved it like I did. I even knew that it would be easy to talk to him about it. We talked for half an hour like we had been friends for years.

Paul was his name. His dad had died a few weeks earlier. He was having trouble getting settled down, meeting the right girl. We talked about online dating sites, social/cultural changes, jobs, families. We were both upset about the demographic changes around the lake, and the county. I don’t know why it was so easy to talk to him. I think it might have been just the magic of the lake, and the readiness for serendipity. A small gift of friendship from the God who knows I need moments like this.

With smiles, we said goodbye and headed to our vehicles.

I went to the lake today. I cooled off in that clear, clean water. I met a swimmer. And strangely, it feels like it might have been a spiritual experience.

Take Me Out (to the ball game)

7-27-2019

It’s a beautiful morning in North Carolina.

I’m thinking about the fun time I had last night at the baseball game. Normally, baseball is not one of my passions. As far as watching the game, I put it a notch above golf on the excitement scale, which is why I have only gone maybe three times in my life. However, the whole ambience is interesting and attractive – the crowd, the camaraderie, the food, all that.

I really did not know much about the nuances of play and the organization of the teams and leagues but luckily, daughter Julia’s special friend Kevin, was a baseball player in a semi-pro league. He was the host for this night, and through family connections he had tickets to a box suite. It is a whole different experience to have a choice of air-conditioning, or outside balcony. Add in free popcorn and peanuts and it becomes a place I could take for several hours whether there was a game to watch or not. It was also informative and entertaining because Kevin’s three children were along, getting tutorials from dad on the plays.

I once did a stint working refreshments at several baseball games in Florida. I didn’t get to watch those games but I did learn that people spend way more on refreshments than they do to get into the game, in most cases. I didn’t need a hot dog or other food but I was thirsty enough to order a souvenir cup of Dr. Pepper for $ 6.50. This will help me remember the experience.

Greensboro Grasshoppers souvenir cup

Another reminder will be the picture that the kids and I had taken with the team mascot. You wouldn’t be able to tell, so I will inform you – he’s supposed to be a grasshopper. He wanders about, with an escort to help him see where he’s going, getting pictures taken with youngsters. I kind of snuck in there. It’s not every day I get photographed with an insect.

The Grasshoppers are the local team in Greensboro and, fortunately, they won by a healthy margin. The league is entry level professional and most of the players were right out of college, or even high school. All those long breaks waiting for the pitcher to decide to throw the ball were filled with chants, cheers and commercials over the loud speaker and on the giant screen at the back of the outfield. There was also pure silliness going on from time to time promoting the game sponsors. These cows came out and danced the chicken dance – thank you Chick Fillet.

In this league, occasional heckling and teasing was allowed but kept nicely in line by an announcer who led everything with sound effects and cheers at every opportunity. Nice idea and it worked.

And there were fireworks. Impressive ones.

Great night, beautiful stadium, family friendly atmosphere (including a real live rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” by the announcer and some kids) – all the things baseball has been and should probably be. The one sobering moment was at the gate where, as times require, my purse was searched and we had to go through metal detection. I had to take my jacknife back to the car. Oh well, …

Random Paragraphs on Summer

This is my first full summer in Wisconsin in 30 some years. It is turning out as I remembered it, short and sweet, full of vividly colored flowers and nesting birds of all sizes. Family dinners outdoors are weekly events. There are gray, rainy days but that only makes it more amazing when the sun comes out and everything is watered and cool and green. Summer is my favorite season (as is spring, fall and winter).

We are no longer out in the trailer in the meadow. It was a tough time in some ways, but I’m going to remember all the amazing moments looking out the window at the real world. As we stayed on, the deer got used to our presence there and got back to their routines of grazing and play. I started recognizing the call of the red tail hawk and knew just where to look for him. The evening fog drifting in, the fireflies, the stillness as the birds stopped singing. Beautiful memories, all.

Play time
Leaving the meadow
Eventide

The garden. I had forgotten the satisfaction of seeing a plot of ground with nothing but stakes and strings turn into row after row of fresh green plants. All the lessons that come with a garden are coming back to mind, how everything has its time to mature and be ready for harvest, how neat edges and straight rows not only create order but are beautiful and functional, how good gardens take regular tending and lots of hours of work. A garden can be a metaphor for life itself – I always find myself thinking of that when I’m pulling weeds.

My least favorite part is “thinning”. I always end up planting small seeds, ones that are hard to see and handle, much too close together. If they germinate well and grow, I know they will have to be thinned out as they get bigger or they will not develop as they should. It’s painful to pull out perfectly good plants. It’s hard to decide which ones to leave and which to pluck. Again, I think of the many applications to life in general. There is wisdom to be learned in a garden.

Too many beet plants leave no room to grow. Which must go?

Two Lives

6-28-2019

Tonight we fall asleep with the scent of newly mown hay. The meadow and the field outside by the road were cut today by a nearby farmer who rents the field. The waist high grass and clover are down and hopefully have a dry day tomorrow to prepare for baling.

I have two separate and very different lives.

In one of them, I am single and living in a nice condo with my cat Shadow. I live next to my mom and close to my brother and sister-in-law. I work in the garden pulling weeds and planting vegetables. I walk the surrounding wetlands and take pictures of geese. I work twice a week at my brother’s business where I edit and sometimes write in his business blog and clean and empty trash. I grocery shop, wash clothes and all those ordinary things.

Today, in my single life, I laid out a jigsaw puzzle, turning all 1,000 pieces right side up and putting together the edges. I watered the petunias and talked with my Mom

In my other life I am married to Dennis (the husband) and I live in Smith Meadow in a travel trailer. I light candles and use flashlights to see at night since there is no electricity. I carry water from town in plastic jugs since there is no well. There isn’t an outhouse either so it’s a good thing I know how to dig holes and bury. I have a propane heater borrowed from my brother that I can fire up if it gets too cold at night. And (very important) I have another small camp stove to heat water for my morning coffee.

Our perishable food is in a cooler and I replenish the ice almost daily. I take a couple trips into town every day. I shop for things we need. I bring my husband liver and onions from the local restaurant. He isn’t well and this place is where he feels safe for the time being. Today I brought a trimmer out, cut tall grass around the trailer and tried to trim branches that were rubbing on the roof. I took a walk in the woods. And tonight I’m smelling new mown hay.