Small Stories Series

Life produces many small stories. Being small doesn’t make them “less than”, except maybe in word count.

Static Electricity (or What Is That Doing Out Here in the Field?)

I will start by saying that I don’t have a clothesline so I dry our laundry inside with an electric dryer.

It was about a week ago in early spring, so early that neither Mom nor Dennis, the husband, had been outdoors much. We were a month into the COVID 19 pandemic and tired of it already. Snow had just melted and the fields were bare, but it was a warmish , breezy evening.

We had just finished a “tea party” with family and weren’t quite ready to quit having fun. In a rare burst of energy the husband decided he wanted to walk down past the barn and to the pond to see whatever could be seen. Off he went.

Mom and I had the golf cart out for the first time of the season and we headed out past the pond to tour the wetlands and meadow. It was exhilarating, partly because the wind was still chilly. We did one big circle and headed back. I could see the husband had passed the pond and was making his way toward some neighboring condos. He had been in one of those “do it myself” moods so I decided to get Mom home first and then come back to see if he was tired and wanting a ride.

We had just crossed the bridge when I saw something on the ground ahead of us. It didn’t look like debris and it hadn’t been there when we passed by earlier. It looked like clothing of some sort.

Coming closer, I thought it looked like underwear! How strange, I thought.

And closer still, it was underwear, and in fact, it was MY underwear. What!?

I swerved over and snatched them up, and once again I noticed the husband in the distance, his pant legs flapping wildly in the breeze. There was no other way those panties could have made their way out into the field except he must have had them. They must have been stuck inside his pant legs and the wind had shaken them out as he walked. He never noticed them stuck in his pants and never noticed when they left either. His “do it myself” mood had started earlier when he had taken his shower and had chosen his recently washed and dried pants to wear. Let’s just say he’s not a real careful dresser. (But I would so have noticed if someone else’s underwear had been stuck inside my pants…)

For a minute it looked like Mom might fall out of the golf cart, laughing as hard as she was. I figure with the pandemic and all going on, God knew we needed some comedy and decided putting something common in a very uncommon place would fit the bill. (At least it was some of my prettiest underwear…)

Yep, right out there in this grassy field…

A to Z Challenge 2020: Theme Reveal

I don’t know how to categorize my topic. It’s about health, emotional, mental and physical. It’s often about family. It’s personal. It’s definitely about a particular lifestyle. It’s about caretaking.

Lots of us are caretakers these days. We care for our children with disabilities, our aging parents and family members with dementia. Some of us work in healthcare institutions and give care to patients of all ages and conditions. It’s a special calling, a special task.

This year I’m using the April A to Z Blogging Challenge to share my own experience, my stories, my thoughts and feelings about caretaking. I am a retired RN, retired in the sense that I’m not getting a regular paycheck, but I’m still learning and doing, in the field of caretaking.

I live with my husband, diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in 2018. I’m also across the yard from my mother, a courageous 87 year old, and within a short drive of my uncle and aunt, both in their 90’s. Like so many others these days, I have a friend and a dear sister-in-law who are fighting cancer. While not giving daily care to all of these people, I’m often involved with their needs and I do care.

I’m interested in hearing from others about their experiences, since I have already found that caretakers, as a group, have much to share and teach each other. These posts are an invitation to all who read to contribute and connect. The A to Z format doesn’t cover all possible topics of caretaking but serves as a starting place for discussion. Please join me this month as we explore being caretakers.

There is a moral task of caregiving, and that involves just being there with that person and being committed. When there is nothing that can be done, we have to be able to say, “Look, I’m with you in this experience. Right through to the end of it.” Dr. Arthur Kleinman

The Next 2000 Words

For the next 2000 words, I am a writer. (Don’t worry. They’re not all going to be here.)

Back before the start of 2020, I made a few bold (for me) promises about progress in my writing journey. I am three months along that path now and haven’t felt like saying much about it. My irregular schedule of posting on my blog hasn’t given much evidence of progress either. But, in taking stock, I’m happy that some things have happened. I’m not standing still. I’m moving at my own pace and I’m thankful that there aren’t a lot of scary deadlines imposed by others.

I have installed a writing program on my iPad and am using it. Like with any powerful tool, there is a learning curve involved with the program (Scrivener) so I also had to invest in a course to teach me how to use the thing. Amazingly, I’ve found time to listen to most of the lessons in the course. The lessons have taught me that even after the course is finished, I know only the tip of the iceberg of Scrivener knowledge. It is only a start, but there it is!

I have done a lot of reading because I believe all those who say that reading is one of the most important things I can do to become a better writer. I think I have finished all the books on that past list, and have a deep well of subjects to think about and discuss with others. I have a whole new list of books for the next few months, which I’ll share later.

I’ve planned out the month of April, which is the one month every year when I write a post every day (except Sundays). The April AtoZ Challenge is definitely challenging for me. Looking back, I see that I’ve gone from random, “anything goes” topics to more purposeful, planned out writing. This year my topic could actually turn into a small booklet that would be helpful to others. I’m excited about that.

Hope*writers has been my biggest financial investment in my writing life and it has been inspiring any time I’ve let it be. It’s my online community of writing resources. The best thing about it is that it has actual “faces”, friendly ones, that consistently show up on social media, phone, and the hope*writers website with encouragement and so, so helpful direction. I’ve taken to listening to their hour long interviews with successful writers while I walk on the treadmill in the morning.

Light box, tread mill, podcast… so many good things at once.

One of the lecturers this week left me with this useful information. From a scientific study, it has been shown that even short periods of creative writing, done regularly, affect mood in a positive way. I’m taking that advice and choosing some event from the past or present, as long as it has some emotional energy attached to it, and writing about it for 20 minutes. I’m describing what happened, what I thought about it, and what feelings were attached to it. I’m doing this because it’s the end of a so long winter, there are some critical things happening in life, and I need to find some positivity. Give me some good mood! Help my brain think right!

I’ve had to give up a few things to make room for these new demands on my time, but that is okay. These new practices are better than the ones they’re replacing. If my desire and love of writing is something with a God-given reason behind it, I had better be finding out what the reason is. I no longer have thirty or forty years to play around with the whole writing thing.

Most importantly, I’ve become deeply interested in who you are, my reader. I’m asking myself what I have to offer you. I realize that my most compelling reason for writing has been for myself – what it does for me. While that is still important, it’s not enough anymore. I want to add value somewhere.

Wesley and Buttercup kissing, eeww!

Movies

This re-post from June 2012 is especially appropriate since I just watched “Princess Bride” again last week. It’s all part of reviewing past writings looking for that elusive book that might be in there somewhere…

The truth is, I don’t really remember lines from movies the way I sometimes pretend to do.

I remember one quote from “Star Wars”, “the Force be with you”, or at least I think that was said there.

I remember several things I loved from “Princess Bride” but I can’t quote them exactly, something about a peanut, and something about the RUS’s.

I remember the shrubbery in “Monte Python’s Holy Grail” and the blood spurting hand (which I’ve tried to forget and can’t).

“UHF” is responsible for my love of enterociters (spelling?).

 Lastly, I remember laughing till my sides hurt during “Three Amigos” but I’ve watched it since and couldn’t quite relive the experience. I sort of remember being sick and having a fever while watching it the first time and that may have accounted for it seeming so funny.

That’s it for movies. That’s all I remember. Not impressive.

But I do enjoy a good movie and can get caught up in a thought provoking plot, if it’s not too weird and unbelievable, and if the characters are compelling.  I also have an emotional memory of how I was affected by most movies, even when I don’t remember the plot.

I rarely choose to watch a movie a second time though (exception – Princess Bride). I guess I just don’t want to clog my neuron pathways with most movie content when I have trouble remembering my own life that I’m actually living.

And then there’s the actors … I put them in the same boat with sports figures. They simply get paid too much for what they do, even when they do it well. If they’re a high salaried actor it should be part of their job to go feed starving people in Africa with a lot of their money. It’s ridiculous, and no wonder so many of them end up getting disillusioned with life in general. That being said, you must be aware that this is an opinion and you are entitled to feel differently. 

Yep, here it is.

Vitamins

This was written February 18, 2011 but surprisingly, not much has changed. Our vitamin experiment is in its eighth year. So far, we have both gotten older and are wearing out. This will have to go into the book about the husband…

Have you taken your vitamins today? I haven’t. I’m having a morning cup of coffee. I’m so thankful they’ve discovered some antioxidants in it along with the caffeine. I have probably survived this long because there are antioxidants in my coffee. I can taste them and they are good.

There is an experiment going on at my house. It’s the Grand Vitamin Survival Experiment.

Both Dennis, my husband, and I have read a lot of books about nutrition and have some newsletter subscriptions to Mayo Clinic and several vitamin companies and as a result we do think there are some marvelous discoveries out there – magical things in our foods that were designed to make our bodies function at their peak of performance. I don’t doubt this at all and the evidence of malnutrition is out there for anyone to see. The questionable part is this – are we really capturing that magical element and transferring it unharmed into a pill? And, assuming that, if we’ve already ruined our bodies, will taking the pill help us?

There are so many untrustworthy types out there and 98% of them have a vitamin company… The good thing is, we don’t really have to know if vitamins will help us, we just have to be able to afford them, eat them, and hope they don’t kill us. If we’ve covered enough bases, they might help. This brings me to the experiment.

One of us at my house is covering ALL the bases. The other one of us can’t remember to take vitamins two days in a row. Which one of us will die first?

Okay, I’m the one who can’t remember to take the vitamins. It’s a fear/hate thing.  I “fear” macular degeneration, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, blah, blah… so I think of the bottles of lutein and zeaxanthin up in the cupboard and take them, sporadically. 

On the days when my hands HURT (not just hurt) I get out the arthritis support and pain relief magical elements and take them – also sporadic. Is it merely a memory problem? No, I remember my coffee without any trouble.

 It’s the non-foodishness of them that I can’t get past. If you wanted people to eat something you were selling, would you make it like a small rock, with sharp edges? We spit out cherry pits and watermelon seeds. Why do they think we would swallow these things that leave furrows down our throats, get stuck halfway down and dissolve for the next three hours on the delicate lining of our esophagus? You don’t have to tell me all the tricks either. I’m a nurse – I’ve ground up every pill there is and polluted good applesauce with the powder. That’s the “hate” part when my applesauce gets ruined.

So back to the experiment – Dennis has a supplement/vitamin for every part of his body and every function possible. We have a three shelf cupboard in the kitchen devoted entirely to bottles of pills. New ones arrive by UPS on a regular basis.  It takes a good five minutes to dish them out which he does faithfully a couple times a day. He has to have a special bowl to contain them and I have no idea how he eats them all and still has room for a meal.

And on the other extreme I sit with my cup of coffee and whatever I can eat in the car while I’m driving back and forth to work. Who will survive longest? 

Unfortunately, it’s the cumulative effect over long, long periods of time in which vitamins produce the most difference. WHAT KIND OF EXPERIMENT IS THAT!? I want to know now, or at least in five or ten years.

I’m just glad it’s the weekend and I get to have a second cup of coffee.

He has managed to cut down – most of them fit into this very full box… most of them.

I Shall Start

Why? Why is it that for nearly 60 years I have written letters to friends and relatives, written in journals, and written my blog posts? I’ve always told myself that it was for my family – so that someday they would have a book. Someday they would be able to read what it was like for their mom/aunt/grandma to live in the last half of the 20th century. I have relatives who have done this for me, and I have been grateful.

I seem to have found too many reasons for putting off the task of compiling this book, in spite of promptings that I would say have come from God. Yes, God wants me to write and I feel his partnership in this project. This is the year that I will do something, every week, every month until there is something to show for it.

I’m starting by reviewing and reposting old blog posts that are still meaningful to me. I didn’t have many readers back in 2012 and most of you have not read these. Here goes…

Furniture

February 2012

I don’t normally give furniture much thought – my house is a decorator’s nightmare – but I love to rearrange what I have. Really, tell me that something is too big and heavy to be moved and I will rise up from my death bed to prove you wrong. And it’s tricky work so you want to wait until you have little to no interference. When I’m in the middle of a complicated move the last thing I want is someone second guessing my strategy, the only exception being someone who is a kindred soul and has a good sense of humor.

 I started young and probably learned furniture rearrangement from my mother. She moved things around a lot to avoid boredom and because it was cheaper than buying new stuff – you just put it in a different place and it looks new, kind of.  I always loved it when things got moved around and required new patterns of sitting, walking, etc…  The only drawback to rearranging is that you have to give people a little time to get used to where things are, and even then, if it’s night and they’re half asleep they might make a mistake and dive into a dresser instead of the bed (sorry Dad, had to tell it).

Yes, Mom was a kindred soul and a mentor to me.  I came home one summer when Mom was “rearranging” and wanted to move an old mahogany dresser out to storage. It was slightly smaller than a compact car and nearly as heavy, and it was on the second floor of our old farmhouse. Many times since I have looked at those 20 steep steps and that narrow stairwell and wondered how we did it without being permanently injured.  My clearest recollection is of being stuck part way down in a very awkward position and having to wait until we stopped laughing to continue.

Carpet and other floor coverings are in much the same category as furniture. Changing what is on your floor can be liberating, and I have been liberated two or three times in my career. The same farmhouse, a downstairs bedroom with old wall to wall carpet with stains and probably at least fifteen years worth of dust mites… I found some decent looking wood floor under a corner of this carpet and decided to get rid of it one day when my husband was out of town. He is not a kindred soul.

Carpet requires as much or more skill to remove as furniture. Think about it. You either have to move all the furniture out of the room, or you have to move it all to one side, roll up the carpet and then move the furniture over the roll. No small matter. I don’t remember which I did because it was so awful, my mind erased all the memory of it in self defense.  Furniture amnesia is what keeps me doing these things. Once rolled, carpet is very stiff and surprisingly heavy. I could barely lift one end of it and there was no way it would bend around a corner and out the doorway. I had to go out the window with it, and it was a serious rival to the “dresser in the stairwell” for being ridiculously funny and somewhat dangerous. Most people probably don’t remove wall to wall carpet until they’re willing to cut it up in small pieces, and that is the way I have done it ever since.

And all this came to mind while I was moving furniture today. Twenty years ago we bought our first really good set of living room furniture – a large, heavy Lane sofa with recliners on each end (still in the living room) and a rocking love seat with reclining function also.  The love seat has been in a rental unit and has seen better days … kids, dogs, garage storage have all taken a heavy toll and I’ve decided at least twice to put it out by the road on it’s way to furniture heaven. But it was still in the garage and recycling is so “in” now that I decided to give it another chance. I pulled two pencils, a TV remote and a dirty sock out of the cracks, vacuumed and scrubbed the fabric with carpet cleaner and cleared the way through the house.

 I use physics principles when I move furniture; levers, friction reduction, and obstacle avoidance. And I have plastic sliders, which my mother never had but I could not live without. When I made it through the first doorway, I knew I could get it all the way into my bedroom on the other side of the house. It was really a pretty piece of work, especially since the recliners kept unfolding and rocking kind of like a ship at sea. I had to stand it on one end to get it through the narrow places.  It’s now sitting at the end of my bed under the ceiling fan, smelling like a dirty dog as it dries from the scrubbing.

All this to say that it may not stay there long.  It makes the room seem more crowded, and my designer friend, Arlette, says I never should have gotten furniture more than 37 inches deep in the first place. Who knew? If I don’t like it I can always get rid of it, and just like carpet, I may have to cut it up in small pieces this time.

My Turkey

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My poor turkey. I can see why there is the custom of pardoning a bird every year before Thanksgiving. No bird should have to go through what my turkey is still enduring.

It started out early in November when the grocery store started giving points toward a free turkey – one for each dollar spent. I shopped in that store several times instead of going to Walmart and pretty soon I had enough points for my free Jennie-O turkey up to 16 pounds. I searched the bin of frozen turkeys. Most of them were 10 to 12 or over 17 pounds. Only one was big enough for my crowd but not too big to disqualify itself. We went home together.

This was a little over a week before the dinner but I know how long it takes those frozen birds to thaw, so into the refrigerator he (or she, I couldn’t tell) went. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I took him out to examine him. He was frozen in kind of a lopsided position so I was hoping he would look more normal as he limbered up. He still had ice inside so I bathed him in some warm water. I picked off a few pin feathers, found all the parts someone had hidden inside him and prettied him up a bit. The extra parts (well, they weren’t really extra for him – necks and hearts are kind of necessary) I stewed for gravy. I wasn’t ready to cook him yet so put him in a baking bag and back to jail he went.

Thanksgiving morning early, I took him out again. He got seasoned, stuffed with an apple, which he would have liked I think, and put back in the bag on his tummy with some flour and lots of celery and onion. Poor turkey – an existence either way too cold or way too hot. Into the oven he went for probably more time than needed. He came out ready to give up every shred of meat. But we didn’t take it all, so a good bit of him went back into the refrigerator.

Bits and pieces of him appeared on the table for several days – in and out of the cold. Finally, what was left, which was a good sized pile of bones and… stuff, went into the crockpot with some water. By this time the only way to recognize him as a turkey was the smell. His bones were at a slow boil for a day and a half leaving no doubt that he was cooked. But I didn’t have time to separate the broth and meat from the bones, so back in the refrigerator he went – “home sweet home” by now. Everything in the pot is quite brown and savory.

Tomorrow is soup day. He doesn’t know it yet. I plan to tell him that he was appreciated at every step and that I have great respect for his usefulness. He was an excellent turkey (even though slightly misshapen).

You Are Special

To all my readers:

I’ve been to a writing conference this week and it’s made me examine why I write. I have to conclude that it’s not just for myself. I want it to be for you too. I’ve been cheered by the compassion expressed after my latest painful posts (and painful pictures). It’s made me thankful for you. I feel like you are all kind of “my people”.

I feel like I should attempt to tell you why I write here. But first,

The NOT WHYS – I’m not:

trying to make you feel sorry for me

trying to present life as only full of hard things

trying to be sounding hopeless or bitter

trying to compare my life with anyone else’s

Really, I’m not.

THE WHYS

What I want to do is offer the events of my life as an example of the hope that a very average person can have. We all have seasons when life is hard, and seasons when it is not so hard, maybe even joyful and fulfilling and interesting. Life is given to us as a learning experience and I love the ability to share the ordinary things that happen to me with you. I feel a responsibility to be fully aware of what can be learned from the ordinary and to think deeply on what might be of value to you as you read.

I love to show you the beauty of our physical spaces like my northern forests and wetlands. I share with you the fear of doctor’s visits and threats to physical health because we can learn that we are not alone. I tell you about the crazy stuff because I know we all need to laugh at the things we (I) do. I love to tell you about people like yourselves that are precious to me.

For me, my hopeful outlook is bound up in my faith. I believe in a God more loving than can be imagined and I should probably be telling you more often how I feel his love applied to me personally. I believe all of us “ordinaries” are unique and specially loved by God. Whether you believe as I do or not, doesn’t it comfort you, encourage, you to know that another person respects and values you because of their belief? Doesn’t it make you curious how that can be? I want to include that kind of conversation in my stories. I hope that in some way you can feel God’s love applied to you through what I write.

I have more to say about the writing conference but I needed to start with this, tonight. Thank you for being there and for reading.

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?

Thoughts on Extended Winter

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I am thumbing through the photos on my phone – the ones taken out the living room window.  They are mostly black and white because those are the only hues out there most days, snow and not-snow.  The “Charley Brown” pine tree, sorry little thing, is my yardstick on which the snow level creeps up and up, storm after storm.  We have lost all sight of the shrubs planted around the condos. Everyone’s attention is being drawn to the heavy snow loads on their buildings, and guessing how many warm days it will take to melt the huge snowbanks. It is snowing again today.

And so goes the winter in Wisconsin. It is much as I imagined it would be. I am amazed that people lived here for ages without modern heat and shelter, and I suppose some still do. I have my own childhood memories of our family around the oil stove in the living room, and ice building up on the insides of the windows. How different it is now. Our two-bedroom condo is often too warm. We walk around inside in our bare feet, and even our car is warm and ready to go in the attached, heated garage.

It’s been a winter of doctor’s appointments. I think that’s what we did in January, although my memory doesn’t serve me well when the days and weeks are all so similar. February was marked by the big international ski race held in our area, followed by my aunt’s health crisis and several days in the hospital with her, followed by my own winter cold/flu and ensuing isolation. March has brought a return to the time change – we “sprang ahead” an hour this morning. When it stops snowing we will have a couple hours of playing in the snow, plowing out and shoveling.

While we are experiencing winter, the larger experience has been learning to live with “our” changing health status.  Because of this diagnosis the husband has received, Lewy body dementia, we are constantly surrounded by the fight to understand and reverse the disease. No detail of his bodily condition has gone unexamined, and since his way of processing his thoughts is to talk about them, we are all kept aware of each day’s change or lack thereof. He is very aggressive, or proactive about his condition and spends much of his time looking up research papers and discussing them with his brother. We discuss how it wears on us and colors our days, but there is very little else for him to put his thoughts on. I have some understanding of his preoccupation and can’t say that I wouldn’t be searching the same way if I were the one with LBD.

I am trying hard to save some attention for the many blessings that come along with winter isolation. There have been good conversations with Mom and my Uncle Wendell and Aunt Lois. They are my elders who hold much of the family history in their memories and are happy to discuss it.  I’m also very thankful for the many faceted relationship with my youngest brother and his family. They are my closest friends who share activities and meals, joys and sorrows, concerns and silly moments. I am often comforted with their words and aware of us having thrown our “soul anchors” in the same deep waters.

It helps me to write about my new life, and although the words don’t often appear here in my blog, they are being written. There will be a time and a place for them.  I have much encouragement in my writing life, having joined a group of writers whose theme is hope, always hope. The snowbanks are high and it may be June before they are completely gone, but spring is coming. Change is the unchangeable characteristic of the future and keeps me curious and ready to experience more. Bring it on, just sayin’…

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