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’…

Autumn and Family

A past Thanksgiving in the place that is now my home.

I’m not sure I can blame it on the season, but there is something about fall that makes me miss my family in far away places. Sitting here at breakfast with the husband, I even miss our  family members that live down the street. Maybe I’m thinking longingly of Thanksgiving gatherings. Maybe it’s the thought that the long winter is coming and we should see people now, before travel gets risky. Maybe it’s because life is so obviously changing for all of us and I feel the need to KNOW how it’s affecting everyone.

We do a lot of sitting and talking. Good stuff.

Mom and I were sitting in her living room, doing our sunrise chat one day this week. She brought up the fact that many of our southern family members had moved recently. They were in houses she had never seen, so she didn’t know how to picture them at home. We started reflecting on how much better we know someone if we have visited them in their home – or at least we think we know them better. We know where they sit to relax, where they stand to talk on the phone, where they let their cat in and out, where they set the table for a meal. We know a lot of things, if we’ve been there. 

This topic is also on my mind because it was just a year ago this summer that we moved.  For quite a while friends and family didn’t know where to picture us. Even scarier, we didn’t know where to picture us. We were kind of floating and fitting in. A year into being Hayward residents, I feel like we are gradually setting our stamp on our home. There are beginning to be ways that it reflects who we are, our interests, our activities and priorities. As that happens, I feel the need to be known.

I am grateful today, for all the times I’ve been able to visit friends and family in their homes. I’m grateful for the times I’ve been able to host them in my abode. Those sharing times add to my awareness of their personalities. I know the ones who find minimalism comforting, and the ones who surround themselves with ALL their treasures. I know who is handy with tools, who loves creative touches, and who spends most of their time outdoors. I love knowing these things.

 And since this is Saturday sabbath, I have to consider that God is leading me to think about what I consider my “real home”. What will I find there and in what style am I getting ready to decorate it? From what I have seen of God (who I believe came up with the idea of home and family), the good things here on earth are meant to show us, in a small way, what he will let us experience in the future. He is such a hopeful God. 

I know not everyone is comforted by their knowledge of family togetherness. Some have never known a family. Some would like to forget what they know of family.  If that’s you, I want you to know that when it is done God’s way, family is wonderful. My family experience is not perfect – no one’s is, but even the hard and sad times have purpose. They create a holy longing for the perfection that will come when God makes bad things good again. I think it’s that simple, maybe. Just sayin’… 

Why? Just… why?

I am not into “cat think” yet, unlike people in the cat litter marketing video I’ve watched about ten times.

I try. Take today for instance. I imagined I had run around outside chasing things, getting tired, perhaps tasting raw frog or feathers. Then I came inside and took a nap in a really warm room for hours, perhaps a little mouth breathing. I wake up and I imagine I’m getting really thirsty.

Why would I walk past this

And do this instead?

Why? Why?

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’…

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

I Love My Refrigerator

9-4-2019

Highlight of the day, and probably the whole month – I got a new refrigerator.  I’m just saying that refrigeration is one of the things we take for granted, and shouldn’t.

Eldest daughter said “what happened to the old one? It’s just you and dad so you couldn’t have needed a bigger one!”  But we did.  It may seem like an inconsequential need compared to those who have no refrigeration at all and that is true. But think of how many times in a day that you go into the fridg for something. I am a tall person and every time I had to bend over or get down on my knees to look on shelves that were low and deep. At times, I was nearly crawling into the thing. The only part I could look into standing up was the freezer where I seldom needed to go.

And then some really smart person came up with bottom freezer refrigerators. I have had one of those ever since my first bout with really bad back problems, and what a blessing they have been.  They make so much sense.  That’s the main reason for getting a new one. It’s just so sensible to put the stuff you need most often on the top where you can get to it.

However, there’s more. The old refrigerator with the freezer on top only produced ice cubes by me. I filled those plastic trays – the ones where two or three cubes never pop out until you pound them on the kitchen counter, then they fall out on the floor and you don’t find them until later when you step in the puddle. For my company meals I would empty four or five of them and have to fill them up, find a level spot in the freezer to put them down, and get out again before the door swung shut on me. If I forgot and didn’t do it immediately guess what? No ice next time. Have you ever timed how long it takes for an ice cube to freeze?

I purposely did not shop for the double door refrigerator with the water/ice dispenser and all the digital readouts. I don’t like being constantly reminded that I need a new water filter. I especially don’t like having to take the whole ice maker apart every time there’s a jam, although it’s not hard and I’m very good at it. It’s just a pain when you think ice is at your fingertips, and then it isn’t.  My opinion – there’s just too much to go wrong with those models.

In the middle, between ice cube trays and digital dispensers there sits a reliable, sensible solution. A bin in the freezer which fills itself with ice. It’s effortless. Put a scoop in it and shovel away. I am so blessed.

This new fridg is four cubic feet bigger than the old one too, which means that I only have to stack the containers of leftovers two high. Also nice, I open the door and nothing falls out by itself. Everything is right there, upright in its own space, at eye level, in good lighting. It’s just lovely. I may actually stay in the kitchen and cook tomorrow just to be around the refrigerator and enjoy it.  Rarely do I do something that extreme.

One last benefit was just demonstrated to me. The husband, who is also primed to enjoy the new appliance, just came in and got directions on how to find the prunes on the second shelf. With nothing except a brief description of the jar, he opened the door and pointed right to it. Way to go LG. Life is good, just sayin’…

Complete with magnets, pics and coupons…

Six Communication Tips (Help Me Remember!)

8-26-2019

Communication is so important. I am drawn to think about it this week since I have been twice (that I know of) in situations where my communication was less than sufficient or completely missing, forgotten. In my world of “communication rain”, it was pouring!

And if I could just read people’s minds, and they could read mine, miscommunication would not be an issue. But I guess, or assume, and things go awry.

I forgot to invite a family member to a family gathering. And when I did contact them late, I neglected to find out if they knew where the gathering was. I neglected to exchange cell phone numbers in case plans changed. I spent half of the family picnic feeling worried about why they weren’t there and wondering if they had gotten lost. I couldn’t call them to find out. I felt the guilt. It was the hardest thing ever to pick up the phone later that evening and find out what had happened.

The very next day(!) a series of late decisions and wrong assumptions led to disappointing some friends and leaving them waiting at a restaurant for us to meet them for dinner. Mom was in on this one and her observation was that her aversion to talking on the phone often kept her from necessary communication. We could have just made a call, earlier than we did.

Realizing that I have caused someone inconvenience or emotional pain/upset is stressful for me. I don’t need more stress! And I don’t want friends, family, or anyone for that matter, to feel confused, unloved or unimportant. That is stressful for them. So, thought and prayer brought some things to mind. From now on I will tell myself:

Shirley, listen now,

1. If you are in doubt, pick up the phone and find out! People don’t have to answer if they are busy. They will know you cared and will call back when they can.

2. Let people know that you don’t mind being called. They might have that phobia or aversion to calling. I always feel cared for, not bothered.

3. Text, if they use texting enough to be familiar with it. Be sure to SEND the text after writing it. (Yes, that one is for me.)

4. Call sometimes when there isn’t a pressing reason. This is how to make sure you have the correct contact information, home phones and cell phones.

5. Realize that it’s hard to over communicate. Talk plans through if you make them in person, and agree to confirm later if needed.

6. Probably the most important thing, pray about any plans, that they would be under God’s direction. Even if things seem to be going wrong, if he’s in charge, he is working something out and he isn’t expecting you to worry about it.

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.