Monday, March 05, 2018

Let the Adventure Begin...Again

“I found my missing compression stocking!”

I had an extensive blood clot in my leg several years ago that damaged the valves in some of the veins. I was strongly urged to keep my leg elevated, which I do by propping it on some storage containers under my work space, and to wear a compression stocking, which I also do. I have several types: some with open toes, some with open toes that I have sewed shut because they tend to creep up over the ball of the foot, and then there is my favorite, a skin-tone closed-toe model that feels silky like a nylon stocking.

I put the compression stocking on in the morning before I go off to exercise, and I usually peel it off in the evening when I am in the recliner reading. It frequently ends up in the crack between the cushion and the arm, which is where I expected to find it this particular morning. I didn’t.

Okay, sometimes I take it off when we are in bed watching TV after dinner. Perhaps it was under the covers. It wasn’t.

I had gone fuming around the house searching several other places where it might be, and had announced my frustration at not being able to find it.

I have a bad habit of picking something up and intending to put it away but then getting distracted before I get there and putting it down someplace not even close to where it should be and then forgetting where I set it down.

“Well,” he wants to know, “where was it?”

“Oh, I put it back in the drawer where it belongs.”

“WHAT?” Are you crazy? Putting it back where it belongs takes all of the adventure out of life.”

This from the person who has a sign by the bed: “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

In the meantime, he took the Easy-Off Oven Cleaner into his office. He says he has no clue why he did this. I mean, there isn't a grungy oven in there that needs to be cleaned, but there is one in the kitchen. He remembers seeing it in there near his work space, but, unfortunately, it isn't there now. He has no clue where it went.

I don't really want to clean the oven, but I do need to find the Easy-Off even if I decide not to tackle the oven. I guess another adventure is in the works.

P.S. The elderly woman I was visiting in the nursing home every Sunday died early yesterday morning. I am so thankful that I got to know her. She was a blessing and an inspiration. I thankful for God's mercy that she was being well cared for and didn't suffer.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Knowing What to Say

I drive a 24-year-old Buick just-get-me-there-and-back-please-God-sedan, so that is why in the Fall a couple of years ago I was in our newer car heading off into the country to do something for my friend Judy at her house. Judy herself was languishing in the nursing home with a badly broken leg – I think she was there about 3 months, first with external fixation to stabilize the bone while she waited for the swelling to go down so the surgeon could repair it, and then recuperating after the 9-hour operation to get all the parts back together.

The radio has not worked properly in the car for a while, and the repair people at Toyota can’t seem to figure out why. The only station it picks up is a classic rock station. When I turned it on, I heard sort of a haunting, strange song with unexpected lyrics:

Teach me how to speak
Teach me how to share
Teach me where to go
Tell me will love be there
Oh, heaven let your light shine down

That song has been on my mind lately, because I find myself not being very sure about speaking or sharing things that are going to be helpful or beneficial. I wish I could be like my dad, who had a gift for visiting the sick and ministering to them in hospitals and nursing homes.

Heaven help me!!

Last Tuesday, the church folk gathered at the nursing home for a Valentines party for Bob and Pat, two members who are residents there now. Pat did not come because her condition had suddenly deteriorated. She was having pain in her legs, wasn’t eating, and couldn’t get out of bed. There were too many people there to visit with her, so I went back the next day.

This time she was her recliner, and so I sat next to her, and she grabbed onto my hand like a vice grip and did not let go. She had talked to her granddaughter in Indiana earlier in the day and told her to come because she didn’t think she was going to be alive very much longer. Her granddaughter had said ‘Hang on grandma. Don’t die until I get there.”

As Pat was telling me this she began to cry, afraid that she was going to die before her granddaughter got there. I started crying right along with her. Not sure how helpful that was. I found myself frantically trying to figure out what I could say to her to give her some comfort.

I told her the story about Richard’s father, who was in the facility in 1993. We were on vacation, and got a call from the staff that we needed to come back. He had pneumonia and was dying. It took us several days to get home. Richard immediately went to the nursing home to see his father. He died about 15 minutes after Richard finished visiting with him. The staff at the nursing home told us they were convinced he had “held on” until Richard got there.

So, I encouraged her to “hold on.” And she did. Her granddaughter came and had a good visit with her. Hospice took charge of her care and began administering pain medication, and probably some sort of tranquilizer as well, because yesterday, Richard and I went to see her, and there was quite a change. The “old” Pat, who loved to talk and had plenty of stories to tell, was gone, and in her place was “zoned out” Pat, with sort of blank expression on her face and who couldn’t seem to complete a thought or respond in the conversations we tried to start.

No one wants to see her suffer physically or mentally, but it is almost like saying goodbye to her before she is actually gone.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Bird Watching 101

People in the United Kingdom who like to watch birds apparently can get quite obsessive about it -- indeed, they have coined a term “twitching” to describe them.

I enjoy watching birds. There used to be a local chapter of the Audubon Society in town, and I went on several bird watching field trips with them, and I spent time sitting in a lawn chair in our front yard watching with binoculars, and I had a friend who enjoyed bird watching and I took her places – and on one memorable occasion when we stopped at an excellent spot in an old cemetery, I found my legs covered in seed ticks – but I was not a twitcher. Most of my bird watching these days is done looking through the windows of our house.

One of the last poems in my Ogden Nash paperback is about bird watching

Up from the Egg: The Confessions of a Nuthatch Avoider

Bird watchers top my honors list.
I aimed to be one, but I missed.
Since I'm both myopic and astigmatic,
Bird watchers top my honors list.
I aimed to be one, but I missed.
Since I'm both myopic and astigmatic,
My aim turned out to be erratic,
And I, bespectacled and binocular,
Exposed myself to comment jocular.
We don't need too much birdlore, do we,
To tell a flamingo from a towhee;
Yet I cannot, and never will,
Unless the silly birds stand still.
And there's no enlightenment so obscure
As ornithological literature.
Is yon strange creature a common chickadee,
Or a migrant alouette from Picardy?
You rush to consult your Nature guide
And inspect the gallery inside,
But a bird in the open never looks
Like its picture in the birdie books—
Or if it once did, it has changed its plumage,
And plunges you back into ignorant gloomage.
That is why I sit here growing old by inches,
Watching the clock instead of finches,
But I sometimes visualize in my gin
The Audubon that I audubin.
I had just read the poem the day before I went to the nursing home to visit the 92-year-old woman from church who is convalescing there from surgery to remove colon cancer but is not recovering as fast as she would like. She wants to go home!

The nursing home has hung bird feeders in front of many of the windows, including hers, and she does enjoy watching the colorful cardinals and the other birds. I was sitting on the love seat under the window sort of at angle and we were discussing the birds. I was half turned around and looking out to my left, and I saw a large black bird sitting on what looked like a tree limb at the edge of one of the buildings, which is barely seen in the photograph from her window. I thought perhaps it was raven because it looked too big to be a crow. Perhaps it was a vulture.

But it didn’t move… and it didn’t move… and so I finally got up and got closer to the class and realized what I was looking at was the profile of a small satellite receiver...

I have trouble with warblers sometimes...
unless they are mobbing the suet feeder and I can get good look at them...

but I am otherwise reasonably good at identifying the birds I see.

At least I thought I was. Now I’m not so sure.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Same old same old

Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning. -- George Carlin
Sometime in the early 1990s, my mother gave me The Book of Days as a present. I am not sure when exactly.  The year is organized in 5-day increments on a page with the date but not the actual day, so it is “perpetual.” Every other page is a painting or a detail of a painting from the National Gallery of Art. It is beautiful.

The first entry that I wrote in it was in 1993, when I noted on September 16 and September 17 that that I spent some time both days digging bulbs and replanting them in the front flower bed. Then on November 6, which would have been a Sunday, I got dressed for church and put on for the first time that year my long gray wool coat that was full of moth cocoons and worms. I had quit smoking by then but was still plagued by "smoking dreams," and I noted a few of those in November as well.

On March 4, 1994, I had cold. On November 4, 1995 I was working in the garden and dug up a toad that had buried itself for the winter and we were apparently having a problem with fruit flies in the house. 

Then in January 1998 I began writing a brief comment about that day’s weather.
  • January 6: cloudy, rain
  • January 7, temp dropping, rain, possibly freezing rain
  • January 8: Snow off and on all day. Not much accumulation
  • January 9: snow melted...
  • January 20: dry, in the 50’s.
In fact, January 20 was the last day that I decided to keep track of the weather, and I stuck it on a shelf and mostly forgot about it until I visited my sister in September and noticed she was writing scriptures or promises in a similar book every morning as part of her devotion time.

After I returned home, I decided to do the same thing. I have been using the book since January 1 of this year to jot a verse or part of a verse from that morning’s reading that speaks to me in some way (today’s verse: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer in whom I take refuge… I will call to the Lord, who is worthy to be praised…”).

When I saw the weather for today from 1998 -- 20 years later -- I went on the internet to check the temperature (every outside thermometer we have purchased so far has broken so we have given up) in town, and at that time it said 49 degrees.

So I called my friend Judy and asked if she would like to meet me for coffee. Although a friend came and got her on Friday for a doctor’s appointment, she had not driven off her place herself since last Sunday when snow started falling. The back country paved and gravel roads in these Ozark Hills can be very treacherous. Snow plows do not go down these roads, and the snow and ice can linger long after it has melted everywhere else because of the shade and the thick woods on either side. There are a few particularly steep hills between her house and town, and one is particularly dangerous – it is steep and curves about halfway down and deposits you at a low water crossing over a creek. That road is not safe to drive sometimes for days after a snowfall like we had on Sunday.

She was happy to meet me in town and we spent a delightful 90 minutes chatting (and each of us trying to remember what we had just been thinking about before it flew out of our minds) over very good coffee. Coffee that I found was good enough to drink black given that the person who served us forgot to bring cream for mine until I was about halfway done.

Afterward we went to the antique store next door, and I found a nice 8x10 picture frame for $1 in which I put the photograph of my brother behind the wheel of our dad’s pickup truck that he restored, dressed in costume, for his scene as an extra in a movie (I think it was Jersey Boys).

The weather today was about the same today as it was 20 years ago. As the day progressed, the temperature rose to 59 degrees – a welcome relief to the minus 3 the other morning when we woke up. It is lovely to see liquid water in the bird baths and that the snow has melted. It almost certainly will not last, but we’ll take it with joy while we can.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Don't try this at home

Having discovered that the nearly full bottle of cayenne pepper was ruined by mold or mildew or ?, and having gotten confirmation that it was not fit to eat from my dearly beloved, and being unwilling to hop in the car and drive to town pick up some more, I tossed it in the trash and decided to grind up red pepper flakes in my coffee bean grinder as a substitute.


Very bad mistake.

The fumes were immediate and powerful. I am relieved that I did not cough up part of my lung.

I will drive to town tomorrow and buy a new container of cayenne.

Monday, January 01, 2018

To resolve or not to resolve?

My kitchen window faces due East, and in the winter, this is the view I have at about 6:45 every morning.

On this first morning of the New Year it was –1°F when daylight broke.

Yup, it was cold all right when I ventured out to feed the birds. But, it wasn’t too bad compared to other places North and East of here. It could be worse.

I have thought a bit about making some resolutions to put into practice this year. I’ve thought about spending 15 minutes every day cleaning something in the house besides the usual mess in the kitchen. I have thought about making a list of people that I need to pray for and then actually praying for them.

I intend to do both of these things. I feel very motivated to succeed, possibly because these are reasonable goals – small steps – rather than high and lofty goals or resolutions that mean a total upheaval in lifestyle that are unrealistic and that almost always fail. I’ll have to see how it goes…

Our pastor gave a thought-provoking sermon yesterday about the New Year. She adapted three suggestions from Father Rudolph Novecosky’s book Homilies for Everyday Life:

Pull Back: choose 1 day a month to start with to pull back from judging and criticism and send out love instead.

Pick Up: pick up a worthwhile value others have started

Put Down: put down last year’s emotional garbage – hurts, disappoints -- and leave them behind.

Sounds like a plan...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Keeping Quiet

How often have you invited someone over for a meal or to visit and immediately begin apologizing for the condition of the house or the food or…? Or perhaps someone drops in unexpectedly and the house isn’t looking its best.

Well, to quote the end of the Ogden Nash poem "Just Keep Quiet and Nobody Will Notice" about this very topic:
I think there is one rule every host and hostess ought to keep…on a handy shelf,
Which is, don’t spoil the denouement by telling guests everything is terrible, but let them have the thrill of finding it out for themself.
Which brings me to yesterday.

Earlier in the week I bought a whole chicken and roasted it in the oven. After I picked the meat off the bones, I boiled the bones and made chicken broth. Well, what does one do with nearly a quart of wonderfully flavorful chicken broth?

One makes soup, in this case Golden Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup, and then I remembered my best friend telling me how much she enjoys eating soup, and so I got the brainstorm idea to invite her over for lunch. Before I could talk myself out of it, I called her and invited her. Done deal.

And then what do you do? You panic.

The house is a wreck. So you apply yourself to wiping the grime off the appliances and the kitchen cupboards, you get as close to the kitchen floor as you are physically able (which involves sitting on a fold-up metal “church chair” because the knees aren’t cooperating very much these days) and scrub certain really nasty spots with a stiff wire brush. You sweep down a few noticeable cobwebs and dust a little, which ends up being a “lick and a promise” because you have gotten distracted by something else and fail to finish. Out comes the vacuum.

(Did I ever tell you the story of how I was sweeping the kitchen floor and saw something else that needed to be done and wandered off and about an hour later I came back to find the pile of debris still sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor?)

I had recently read the poem “Just Keep Quiet and Nobody Will Notice,” in my Pocket Book of Ogden Nash that I thought deserved a Post-it note for further review. Before my friend arrived, I read it again and reminded myself to keep my mouth shut if I happened to see something I should have taken care of but unfortunately missed…

Everything was fine until she arrived and said, “Can I use your bathroom.” And then I wished I could have dug a hole and crawled in, because although the inside of the toilet bowl was clean and I did sort of wipe down the sink the night before when I took my shower, the bathroom was really not very clean.

Oh well.

The soup was wonderful and the cornbread I made (from scratch) was good, which pleased me a great deal because frequently things I bake in the oven do not turn out very well. We had a lovely visit and we talked about the poem. She said she has told guests “don’t look in the corners…” as a way of apologizing when she thinks her house could be cleaner.

She is such a good friend and has been in my house many times, She has seen it when it was a total disaster… so I know she isn’t there to see my house.

Why do I put myself through this? Good question that deserves an answer. I don't know. I am thinking that it would be such a good idea to set aside some time each week to do routine cleaning instead of waiting until the condition of the house gets too bad. My track record of keeping New Year’s resolutions is terrible, but perhaps I can manage it for 2018.