Sunday, October 23, 2011

To Have a Friend, Be a Friend

I've always liked people.  They're interesting, funny, obnoxious, and valuable.  Sometimes friends and family get a bit embarrassed at my knowing someone almost every time we go out to eat locally.  I, on the other hand, always like to greet my friends - old or new.

My need to relate to people has been both rewarding and distressing.  One young lady regularly shares with me her frustrations, questions and lack of faith.  I love her dearly, but I can't seem to find exactly the right words to share with her to make it all better.  A small friend, a four-year-old girl from church, hugs my legs tightly and tells me how much she likes me. "I want to go to YOUR house," she says.  Priceless!  I still see people I went to grade school with, and, of course, I simply MUST speak to them and make some kind of connection.

One of the greatest rewards of being friendly is .  .  . well, having friends!  Real friends.  Genuine.  Nothing phoney or pretentious.  Friends that know you almost as well as they know their own family, yet stick by you, laugh with you and cry with you.  I especially like it when friends put their work frocks on, even though I never have the nerve or abandon on my own to ask them for help.

Since Don has been ill, there are lots of things that need done that he would have ordinarily done.  I try to keep things up, but I've had a health issue or two that have prevented me from being as efficient at it as I would like.  Last weekend, a dear friend from church (I've literally know him since he was born, so he's quite a lot younger than Don and me) had voiced a desire to come over this week and do some "honey do" things for us.  Over the course of Friday and Saturday, we had 20 people show up to do various odd jobs around the house - painting, cleaning, re-hanging light fixtures and closet doors, and much more.  They brought food and came wearing smiles.  What a blessing they were to us.  Projects that it would have taken me days to do were done in a matter of hours.  We all had such a good time.  There was family here, intermingled with lifelong friends and friends we've only had for a few months.  A real mixture.  A basketful of blessings.

Then, this afternoon, I was laying on the couch resting, because I've been sick this week.  There was a knock at the door.  I opened the door to find my grandson's girlfriend standing there with a little gift bag in hand.  I didn't invite her in, because I didn't want to give her my bug.  The bag was from Kristen and two other young ladies in the church (none of them married) and had baggies of goodies they had made by hand.  How truly pleasant it was to be remembered.  My heart was touched.

While my friendships sometimes bring a bit of discomfort or inconvenience with them, they're certainly worth having.  Life would be much too bleak and lonely without a few good friendships sprinkled along the way.  Are you friendly?  Try it, you might like it!

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Time to Plant, and a Time to Reap . . .

I've come to realize more and more the last few years that our lives are made up of seasons - some more pleasant (like Spring and Fall), full of vibrant color, heady scents, and pleasant days, and others more trying, with their hot, sultry temperatures, or frigid blasts of cold.  But I continue to learn more about myself in these not-so-pleasant seasons of life.

Have you noticed how wonderful the air-conditioning feels on those humid, breath-stealing days of summer?  Or how pleasant it is to dip your feet into the little stream at the edge of the woods?  Maybe your pleasure is that steaming cup of hot chocolate, snuggled up on the couch with your favorite person/people and watching an old movie while the cold winds of winter howl outside your window.  No matter the season, there are elements of pleasure, satisfaction and fulfillment waiting, if we're persistent enough to find and embrace them.

That's where I am in life.  Don's illness continues to sharpen its talons and tighten its grip.  Our 20-year-old house is having little problems of age crop up from time to time.  My 63-year-old body is showing some signs of the years of not exercising enough, or, perhaps, of excessive use of certain muscles.  But, in it all, I've found contentment in being able to spend these quality weeks and months with the love of my life.  The tenderness of friends and family touches me deeply and gives me strength to face one more day.  The ever-faithful love of my Heavenly Father encourages me and uplifts me. 

There's no escaping the heat or the frigid cold of our lives.  But I do believe we can keep it on the outside.  Not be overly influenced by it.  Some days, I find this perspective and sunny outlook more difficult to come by, but my goal is to recognize the seasons of life and glean the best from each of them.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hanging On!

The last couple of days have been a bit more difficult for me emotionally than usual.  Sometimes it's hard to live by faith when you're dealing with reality.  If you've never had to deal with terminal illness, death, or other misfortunes of life, don't be quick to judge.

I want to be "a woman of faith."  Instead, I find myself becoming tired, more tired, and most tired - physically, emotionally and (yes, I admit it) even spiritually.  I don't understand why miracles don't occur EVERY time we ask, if we're doing our best to live an upright life before God.  I don't understand why miracles happen one time and not another.  What's the formula?  Is there a secret code?  Doesn't God see or care?

I rest in knowing that He DOES see, and He DOES care.  That's why He has given me some priceless relationships with special friends along the way.  That's why He has given me such a special man to spend my life with.  That's why He gave us two wonderful children, a precious daughter-in-law and five super grandchildren.  That's why my extended family, on both sides, is so unbelievably supportive and affirming.  He cares and He sees.  Some of it is left up to me.

Even when I'm feeling my weakest, I know that I can hang onto Him.  He never weakens, gets tired of supporting me, or turns a deaf ear.  What a comfort!  So, at the moment, I'm just hanging.  Sometimes it's barely by a toenail, but "this, too, shall pass."  I've put on my armor, and I'm standing my ground.

Ephesians 6:12-16

King James Version (KJV)

12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

God Still Sees Us.

The last couple of weeks have brought more subtle backsets in Don's condition.  The most recent and concerning is the problem he's having with his neck.  It "aches" a lot and he has trouble holding his head upright.  At the ALS Clinic yesterday, they said that those muscles are probably weakening significantly and suggested he prepare himself for a neck brace that will fit in under his chin and hold his head up.  He's bucking it, but, at the same time, he knows he's going to have to change his thinking.  So, I started the ball rolling this evening for him to get the neck brace.  He said today has been his worst day with the neck problem.  It almost seems as if his body is folding into itself.

Then, this morning, Dondra, Jeff, Julie, Emily and Stephen came over and cleaned out the garage quite a bit.  It was fun to watch Don light up when they discovered some old relic he had been holding onto for years.  And it was sad to see him struggle with getting rid of things that he was hoping to be strong and healthy enough to use again.

This evening, Don said he was going outside for a while.  I watched him as he headed straight for the garage.  He was in there quite a while - just looking around, he said.

I wish all the changes in life were joyful, pleasant and easy.  Unfortunately, that's just not the case.  It's important, though, to handle ALL the days of our lives with the presence of God close beside us.  Finding those things for which we can be thankful.  Laughing as much as possible.  Enjoying the innocence of children.  Resting in the acceptance of family and friends.  Knowing that, through it all, God knows where we are.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Little Step Back

Much of my blogging has been about our dealings with Don's ALS.  I suppose that's because this illness has practically consumed our lives - eaten us alive.

Don has done amazingly well for months now.  However, the last couple of weeks have brought some changes.  He has weakened, so I'm having to use the EZ/Stand lift to transport him from powerchair to bed, bed to powerchair, etc.  Two weeks ago, he bristled every time I asked him if he wanted me to use the lift.  Now, he asks for it.

Also, a number of weeks ago, Don had the hiccups for three days running.  He was miserable.  Once they finally went away, they hadn't returned - until today.  He hasn't had them continually, but he's had them intermittently all day long.  I deal well with much of what's going on in our lives, but I hate seeing him uncomfortable or in pain.  This has been a very uncomfortable day for him.  On top of the hiccups, he has noticed that his breathing has been a bit more labored the last couple days.  What next?

I remind myself often, by reading God's Word, a song, or some author's inspired writings, that God is with us through all of this.  Sometimes, I wish He would stand a bit closer.  I feel like I'm groping for His hand when the days are dark. 

I love looking at pictures of Don when the days were better and the sun shone a bit brighter.  I have lots of pictures of him with the grandkids, playing music, or generally enjoying life.  I treasure them.  In fact, I treasure HIM!  He has made every day worth living for the last 45 years.  So, despite these little steps backward he's been taking lately, we're in it - together - for the long haul.  We're winners, no matter how you look at it!

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Lasting Heritage

My children happen to be fifth generation Christian believers (many of which are Pentecostal). I've always felt an element of pride about that. My great-grandfather was one of the first Pentecostals in his part of the country. I don't think I ever met a sweeter or more humble man in all my life than my Grandpa Robinson.

My memories of my grandparents (particularly my maternal grandparents) are of being with them in church, sharing hours and hours of music - singing and playing, and great family integrity. My parents continued that legacy with their children. I and both my siblings played music and sang in church all our lives. We've also been active in children's ministry and the governing body of the church.

Don's parents, while not having the Christian heritage to draw from that my family had, made their own history. Mom and Dad Stewart raised their seven children to know and love God at an early age. They made it clear that they loved each of their family, but their love of the Savior was all-encompassing. All seven children have continued to pass that love of God on to their children.

Don and I tried to continue that heritage with our own family. I know we made many mistakes, but as I look at our son and daughter, my heart swells with pride. Dondra has taken many reverses and backsets and has turned them into life lessons. She's one of the most gifted and caring people I know. Jeff and Julie have raised their family with the same integrity that I've seen for generations. Consequently, we have five grandchildren that are loving, caring, conscientious and (if I do say so myself) quite smart! Each time I'm with them, I marvel at the wonderful job Jeff and Julie have done. They've led by example. That's, of course, the best way.

Think my great-grandpa would be proud of where we've all come from and where we are. Life brings change, but some things are eternal. I'm thankful that we've remembered to pass along those things.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Good News and Bad News

If you've followed my blog much at all, you're aware that I've had some health concerns of late. My heart/blood pressure seem to be doing weird things. At the last visit to my general practitioner, he asked me to schedule a stress test. It was yesterday.

I'm going to be upfront with you and tell you that I was a bit nervous. My pulse rate is so rapid some of the time (122 with no exertion) that I was afraid I might pass out from what they were going to put me through. There was absolutely no need for concern. The young (seems to me that doctors, police officers and service men and women are getting younger and younger) doctor's assistant was over-the-top kind and informative. My resting pulse rate was 115, and he said they would only need to get me to about 133. No sweat. I could do that.

After they hooked me up with all the little electrodes and did an echo, they put me on the treadmill. I was chatting with them, hardly exerting myself at all, when they told me the test would be over in five seconds. What? I had only just begun!

As it turns out, my heart, as a pump, appears to be healthy and strong. However, I seem to kick into overdrive at little or no provocation. I don't know what this means as far as future tests, etc. go, but I'm confessing that I'm relieved - at least, for the moment. I was quite concerned that they might find a problem. The only problem, it seems, is that I have too much stress. I find that laughable. I think the only way I'm going to get away from some of the stress is to die - and that's not really a good option!

A friend suggested yoga. I'm getting my treadmill back from Dondra so I can begin walking at home. Mom tells me prayer works (as if I didn't already know that). Lots of suggestions, but I'm looking for solutions

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Not Grieving for the Past

Don and I had a teeny, tiny scare yesterday. We were just preparing to leave the house and go to Marko's in Madison for a fish sandwich when he said, "Oh, I have the hiccups!" After our last experience with Don and hiccups, we both feared what might be happening. As it turned out, they lasted only a few minutes and were gone. We were grateful, and it got us to thinking.

We neither one dwell on what might be or what could have been or what's possibly lurking in the shadows ahead. We don't cry over things we've missed and things we might never be able to do again. We do, however, share countless stories of good times, memories we share, "forever" times we shared with our children, grandchildren and extended family and friends. I believe that's one thing that keeps our spirits alive and helps us go on, facing every day as a new adventure.

If we were honest, we would both tell you there are things we miss. It's sort of like losing a good friend who had lived his life in preparation for what's coming after. You grieve the loss, but you don't long for a return to normal. We may never get to take a nice long trip again. But we can certainly remember with laughter and joy the many nice long trips we've already taken. I treasure each day with Don. I value the things we CAN do and enjoy together. We're excited and anxious for the future. Who knows what God may have for us, right around the corner.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Plenty to Smile About

I haven't been feeling the best for the last month and a half. I've had blood work done, and, so far, nothing is jumping out as being terribly out of line. What is elevated is only slightly higher than normal, so there's little to be concerned about. Only problem, I still don't feel "right."

So, Don and I both had doctor appointments today. As the doctor went down the list detailing my blood work, I became more and more confused - because nothing seems to be wrong. Makes me wonder; is it all in my head?

I came home from the doctor visit, however, counting my blessings. Don and I sat together in the small examining room and talked and laughed the whole time. How many couples who have been married 45 years do that? We're one that does - regularly. We chatted all the way home from the doctor's.

Since Don had a Culver's engagement tonight, he laid down for a short nap before Tom was scheduled to pick him up. Tom called saying he would be a little late, so I went ahead and loaded Don into the van and sat with him there until Tom and Jim arrived. The whole time, he was keeping me chuckling with his dry humor and sarcasm.

I love being with that man - even after all these years. He makes me feel secure. He makes me smile. And I know he loves me more than anyone else in this whole world loves me. Sure makes an over-the-hill 63-year-old feel like grinning ear to ear!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Can You Say , "Blessed!"?

My last post was about Don's having hiccups for three days running. He still had them when we went to ALS Clinic on Friday for his every-three-month evaluation. While we were there, however, they stopped. The neurologist affirmed that he was experiencing a symptom of the ALS, but could give us no more information than that.

Well, I have some information for her. After being so weak for those three days that I had to use the lift or the gator belt several times to transfer him, last evening he had me help him onto the mower so he could mow the yard! Now that the hiccups have gone away, his strength has returned. He's right back where he was before Wednesday, when the hiccuping began.

I HATE the hiccups, and I've never had them anywhere as long as Don had them. It's no wonder his body was exhausted. No matter. He was almost as high in his breathing tests at Clinic on Friday as he had been the two times before. That tells me that he's holding his own amazingly well.

Blessed? You betcha! Thankful? Over the top!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Who Knew?

Don rarely has the hiccups. I can probably count the number of times on one hand that he's hicced in the 45 years we've been married. That all changed this past Wednesday. He started hiccuping right after lunch at about 1 p.m. and continued right on through the evening until about 1 a.m. They would leave for 15 or 20 minutes, then come right back.

I knew something unusual was going on, so, of course, I Googled it. Right there, in one of my searches, it explained that persistent hiccups are a seldom-seen symptom of the respiratory involvement of ALS. Who knew?

We had ALS Clinic today, which is a several hour affair. Don had gotten the hiccups early in the morning and still had them while we were at Clinic. Some of the techs there were telling him different things to try to relieve the torment of continuous hiccups, and they were all quite surprised when I told them of my research and find. Our last visit of the day was with his neurologist, who is renown for her knowledge of ALS. She confirmed that Don's hiccups were, indeed, an uncommon symptom of the progression of the disease. She said, however, that she had NEVER seen the symptom in any other of her patients.

I think this is one time Don would have preferred to have been a part of the status quo. The hiccups drive him crazy, and it's nearly impossible to sleep soundly with someone who is hiccing. Maybe this will be short-lived. Hope so!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Making Each Day Count

My uncle died this past week. That's sad in itself. But his life was sadder than most.

Much of his life he was an alcoholic. He and my aunt had seven children. Much of the years when the kids were small, he spent in a bar somewhere. But, in his son's eulogy to his father, I was struck by one thing. While my uncle had been drunk a lot of the time, he still took his boys hunting with him. He taught them to fish. He sang little ditties and jingles, and his son sang one to us word for word. He taught them to laugh. He taught them to have fun.

But, I think, most of all, he taught them that real love is unconditional. Some of his children have made mistakes. Serious mistakes. Maybe it was because he had been there himself, but he never let his love flow be dammed by disapproval or criticism. At his death, they honored that.

My uncle found peace with God a couple years before he died. He would call my aunt and uncle, who pastor a church here in town, and have them pray with him. They sent him CDs of my uncle preaching. Quite a turnaround. But, oh, the wasted years!

There are a lot of things in my life, even right now, that I wish were different. But at the moment, I don't want anything that seems to be disappointing or upsetting to deter me from doing what's right. I don't want others to affect my relationship with God. When it's all said and done, what have I left behind? I certainly won't have material goods, but I hope I leave a good name, beautiful memories, and a testimony that I loved my God, my family, and my friends. Let it be said that I made a difference.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bulldog Tenacity


I don't use the word "awesome" thoughtlessly. To me, few things are really awe-inspiring, outside of God. But I think my husband may qualify.

Don's younger brother, Tom, is over-the-top good to us,but he's also good to a lot of other folks. His time is taken by many different people in many different directions. So, as much as we can do things on our own, we try. We still need our sense of independence (especially Don), and we may HAVE to have more help at some point

This year, getting onto his riding mower has been a near impossibility for my honey. We've learned that, if we use the transfer board, I can actually help him in getting out of his powerchair and onto the mower. But it's a job - for both of us. Mowing the lawn is something that's especially important to him, though. And he doesn't want to give it up. Sort of a line he's drawn in the sand.

So, we decided that today would be the day that we would make the extra effort and mow the yard. He has to work so hard for ANYTHING he does anymore, and I absolutely stand in awe of his perseverance. I used to get upset at what I called his stubborness. He always insisted that it was a little incongruous that I considered HIM stubborn (he lives with me, you know). No matter my previous thoughts and attitudes, his willingness to hang in there despite the huge inconveniences has proven to be such a blessing. He puts me to shame.

I'm made aware every day of the things that we take for granted: walking, getting our own snacks, fixing our own meals, turning over in bed, languishing in a hot bath. When those are gone and you have to make do with whatever new circumstances present themselves, what's your attitude then? Don's is to attack the problem and find a solution. Think outside the box - sometimes WAY outside. Works for us!

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Isn't it great to wake up with a sunny outlook? That's what happened to me today. I've been counting my blessings all day long.
1. Despite a few sprinkles, it was a beautifully warm, sunny day.
2. Don and I were able to get out and do some things together. I LOVE being with him.
3. I'm almost finished with my laundry.
4. Sat on the back deck as the afternoon came to close, eating blueberry yum yum and drinking hot coffee. Makes me smile to think about it.
5. Reminded myself over and over how blessed I am to be who I am, where I am, and HOW I am!

I can go to bed feeling that it's the close of a blessed day, with many more to follow.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Turning Over a New Leaf

I've been plagued through my life with depression. Many think depression is nothing more than a spiritual issue. I disagree, but it doesn't matter. Spiritual or not, I've wrestled with it most of my adult life and much of my younger years.

One thing my "thought life" has done to me has been to make me feel inadequate in most areas. As much as I might like to simply turn over a new leaf and wake up tomorrow with different thoughts in my brain, it's apparently much more involved than that. I do know one thing for certain, though. My thoughts very much determine my mood and self-criticism.

The one area that I've felt most feeble in is parenting (and I'm almost in tears just writing it). Maybe I was too young. I know I was too self-centered. I also know I wasn't selfless enough to give the time and effort I should have given. I was rigid and expected perfection. As an older adult, it's one of my deepest regrets.

On the bright side (I AM talking about turning over a new leaf, you know), both of our children turned out to be wonderful adults. Our daughter is generous to a fault. More thoughtful than I ever was. And working to deal with her own insecurities more successfully than I feel I did. Our son has achieved more than we could have ever dreamed. He is affluent, focused and a man of great integrity. He is a wonderful husband, father, and son. I'm amazed at the juggling act he has to do to keep all his balls in the air.

Looking at them, I'm less critical of myself. I could not have been a total failure for them to have turned out as beautifully as they have.

So, what did I do right? I spent countless hours reading to them, singing with them (teaching them harmony and helping Dondra learn her chords on the piano), taking them to the park and on picnics. We took them camping and on fun family vacations. I always tried to model integrity and uprightness. And it was very important to me that they knew God's ways and were aware of Him in their lives.

I'm intent on not beating myself up this Mother's Day. I want to appreciate the blessings I've received by having my children. The joy they've given me (and I hope I've given them), and the pride I feel when I look at them. I'm believing it isn't about perfection at the task, but the end result. In that regard, I've been a HUGE success!

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'm Sandwiched In!

I've heard of those who are in the "tween" generation, and I'm finding myself fitting that description more and more.

Life dealt us an unfortunate blow when Don was diagnosed with ALS 3 1/2 years ago. Recently, there has been some slight digression in his condition. I'm having to help him more and more when it comes to getting his pants up, and today he even asked me to use the lift to help him stand long enough to pull his jeans up and fasten them. So, I'm finding myself having to share a bit more time with him, simply to make life as satisfying and fulfilling as it can be.

A couple days ago, Mom fell and injured her knee. She didn't let me know anything about it until the next day. Since I live the closest of the three kids (and Gary's on a cruise anyway, so he couldn't help), it often falls my lot to take care of minor situations that may arise with my mom. In this case, I went over on Saturday evening and decided, after looking at her knee, that we should at least have it x-rayed. She agreed (much to my surprise), and I spent the evening sitting in the E.R. with her. As it turned out, the knee was not broken. That was good news. They wrapped it and sent her home.

Yesterday, we picked up dinner for her when we were out with our two grandsons and Kristen for lunch. I called again yesterday evening to check on her. This morning, she had a couple things she asked me to do for her "if I happened to be out." So I shook her rugs, swept the house, ran the little hand sweeper on the livingroom carpet and mopped while I was there. Said my quick goodbyes as soon as I finished and came back home.

It's laundry day at my house, so I'm doing that as well as trying to keep up with the daily things that require my attention.

I would be lying if I said I never feel like I'm overwhelmed and need a bit more breathing space. On the flipside, I'm so blessed to be able to care for two of the sweetest people in the world. They're neither one complainers, and they're each one grateful for anything you do for them.

So, yes. I'm definitely sandwiched in. But it must be a BLT (one of my favorites), because it only tastes good!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It Takes a Little Perseverance

We've had an unusual amount of storms and rain so far this season. In the midst of that, my sweet brother came and did some brick-laying for me. He made a border around what was supposed to be marigolds in front of the house (I have tons of hostas coming up voluntarily), a nice border down the side of the house, and a walkway/patio in the back by the steps and ramp.

I've had little luck getting anything to grow at the front end of my bed on the side of the house. When it rains, the water pours over there, and it washes away anything that's planted. I told Gary to go ahead and brick it up; nothing grew there anyway.

You can imagine my surprise when I walked out the other morning and saw these fragile little green leaves sticking up from between the bricks. In fact, they had actually lifted the brick to get to the sun. What perseverance!

I've had at least a couple lessons in recent weeks about "hanging in there." Not only do I have tulips popping through where everything was against it, but the hostas that I dug up and destroyed over a year ago are coming through like gangbusters. What happened?

I'm convinced that the will to live is a force to be reckoned with. When Don was ill and they were giving us little hope, we could always see his determination shining through, even on the darkest days. He beat the odds - just like the tulips and hostas. Circumstances may come that we can't control. Hang in there. Illness may overrun your body and try to dim your spirit. Hang in there. Stress may come at you from every side. Hang in there. It just takes a little perseverance to win against all odds!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Reminding Myself to Be Still

I had a routine doctor appointment this week. Overall, I'm doing great, but I've experienced a bit of a problem with anxiety and resultant acid reflux. The doctor knows both me and Don and knows our situation. He advised me to take a sleep aid (generic Ambien) every night and to start back up on Lexapro. I took Lexapro a number of years ago for depression and was a little surprised that he would prescribe it for my tension. I told him I didn't want to rely on the sleeping pills, and neither did I intend to take a whole Lexapro. He, in turn, reminded me that, if I didn't take care of myself, I would be incapable of taking adequate care of Don. Good point.

So, night before last, I cut both the sleeping pill and Lexapro in half and took half a pill of each. I slept okay until about 3 a.m., then was pretty much awake the rest of the night. Last night, I tried it again. Bad idea! I didn't sleep a wink all night long, and had to be at the dentist's office at 9 a.m. this morning!

I told Don the other day that I feel like I'm doing the work of two people - me and him. I'll make my list of jobs that I need to get done on a specific day, then he'll decide that he "needs" to do something. Obviously, I end up helping him with whatever it is he decides needs doing, because he simply isn't able to do it all himself. I was supposed to scrub the kitchen floor and cut his hair day before yesterday, and he decided to pull himself onto his riding mower and mow the lawn. I, of course, had to put my plans aside and see that he got on the mower safely, then I had to weed-eat and blow off the driveway and walks. What gives? Since I'm a type A personality, it bothers me to have a plan and be unable to execute it.

I've tried the meds, and may try them again later, but that's not an ideal solution. Matthew 11:28 says: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." I believe I can apply that to my present situation. I'm thinking I need to rest in the Lord. A friend whose husband has battled ALS 14 years now told me she can't survive without her personal daily devotion time. I've become so busy (especially in the morning) that it's hard to put that time aside. But I must. So, the last couple days, even no sleep and an early dentist appointment in Alton didn't keep me from the Word. My acid reflux is definitely better, and I know I'm feeling less stressed. A hoax? Maybe. But I believe the answer to my problem is in being still in Him. Realizing that I can't do everything, and not expecting myself to do it all or be it all. I'm learning a lesson, but it involves reminding myself daily to settle down, chill out, don't sweat the small stuff!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Time (and ALS) Marches On

Don has been telling me for quite some time (and telling anyone else who will listen) that he thinks he can still walk a little bit with the rollator - the walker with a seat and four wheels. I was a bit doubtful, but didn't want to discourage him. So, yesterday, I went out and got one of the rollators out of the back garage and brought it in. He was too tired to try it last night, but wanted to attempt a few steps this morning. He tried - repeatedly - to lift himself. After numerous tries, he finally shakily stood all bent over, but hanging onto the rollator. He only stood a few seconds before realizing he had over-extended himself and would have to forego anymore attempts to stand (or walk) with the rollator.

The whole endeavor made him sad. A bit deflated. He had so thought (and hoped) that he could still walks a few steps. We're past that now, and the use of a lift is becoming more and more clear in our future.

After a bit of contemplation and introspection, he snapped out of his "down" mood and was my sweet, up-beat Don again.

We have to anticipate the future in our situation and plan ahead for it. We don't want to be surprised by anything this nasty disease has to offer; we want to face it prepared, mentally, spiritually and physically. I will admit to faltering often, but I rally. Don has his occasional lapses into "remember when"s, but they don't last long.

Both of us continue to believe that there are a lot of lessons for us to learn through this trial. We continue to believe that we are blessed indeed.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Surprising Harvest

A number of years ago, I planted hostas in my front yard. I was very particular in placing them exactly where I wanted, according to size and species (do hostas even have species?). Anyway, for the first couple of years, they flourished and grew beautifully. Then, for some reason, Don needed to get into that area and do some digging. The next year, when the hostas came up, they were all out of order. Big ones in front. Too many striped ones together. Totally unnerving to me. We also had burning bushes in the same area that didn't "burn" and were ugly. So, within the last couple of years, I had dug out all my hostas, Gary pulled up the burning bushes, and we cut down the Chinese dogwood that had been planted too close to the front porch. The front of my house was clear.

That was good for one season, but I wanted a bit of color. So, last summer, my mom gave me some marigolds. It wasn't enough to give me the fill I wanted, so I went out and bought more to finish out my design. Again, they're spaced just the way I want. Colors and "species" separated according to my quirks. They bloomed beautifully last summer.

This year, my sweet brother tore down their old chimney and asked if we needed any landscaping done. Of course, we did. So, a few weeks back, Gary and I unloaded LOTS of bricks and landscaped a bit in the front and on the side of the house and started on a little walkway/patio area in the back before running out of bricks.

A couple days ago, I was delighted, after the snow and cold weather we've been having, to see new plants poking their green little heads above the soil. However, now that they've grown up just a bit,I'm thinking there's something weird going on. Everything that's coming up looks like hostas. I was CERTAIN I had dug up every plant and pitched it. Where in the world did these come from. Then, I have one more very prominent plant coming up among what I think is hostas - could it be a burning bush??? I'm perplexed. Maybe marigolds just look different than I expected when they're babies and just coming out of the ground. If not, I'm not happy about my harvest!

Isn't that just like life? We allow things to grow and take root in our lives. Then, tiring of them or hoping for something better and prettier, we do our best to uproot all those less-than-we-had-hoped-for plants, replacing them with colorful snippets. Our garden, once again, has promise of being just what we want it to be. But, often at the most unexpected moments, those old plants come popping their heads through. We thought we had eliminated them for good, but there must have been a root left somewhere. At the moment, I'm not seeing one sign of a marigold in my garden. Maybe they'll pop through later. Or, maybe, what I'm seeing isn't hostas and burning bushes at all. Just the sight of them, though, makes me remember how hard it is to break old habits, throw off prejudices and predispositions, love people for what they are down deep and not just what they appear to be.

I may be reaping a surprising harvest this summer. I hope life is coming up marigolds. But, if it's coming up hostas and burning bushes, I'm hoping I grow to love them and value them for their beauty. Isn't that what life's all about? Throw off the old; embrace the new. But, at the same time, don't be embarrassed by the old. Learn to value where you came from and who you got here with.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

It's a "God Thing"

On January 17th I experienced what they diagnosed as a TIA. I disagree with the diagnosis (think it was a complex migraine), but that didn't matter at the time. What mattered was that they wanted to keep me in the hospital and run tons of tests, and that costs money - LOTS of money.

On the day I was discharged, a young woman from the accounting department there at the hospital came to my room to offer me a deal. She had called Blue Cross/Blue Shield and had received an estimate from them of the costs of my hospital stay. She said, if I would pay a certain amount right then and there, I would get a 20% discount. Don and I discussed it. Even though we were going to have to put it on a "card", we thought it was worth it to get the discount. This week, I received a bill from the hospital. It showed the overall cost for my stay at $36,000+ and said I still owed almost $1,000. I nearly broke out in a cold sweat when I looked at the invoice. What? I thought this had been taken care of. I don't know about where you live, but, in our house, $1,000 is a LOT of money. It was too late to call the hospital that afternoon, and our next day was already filled.

Yesterday, I finally took time to call the accounting department at the hospital, asking to speak to the young lady I had spoken to while there. I fully intended to ask if they would approve a monthly payment plan for me, because coming up with that nearly $1,000 was going to be a chore. I told Ellen who I was and why I was calling. She put me on hold for a lengthy time, finally coming back on the line and asking if she could call me back because they were having to "check into it." That sounded ominous to me, but I consented to the call-back.

In a short time, the phone rang. Ellen explained to me that the bill was, indeed, accurate, and I still owed nearly $1,000. However, she went on, because I had paid the bill in good faith, they were going to write the amount off, and I owed NOTHING. I was almost doing the happy dance, let me tell you!

Then, today, I went to pick up a prescription that I knew was going to cost me $27 for 30 pills. I had received a little card in my most recent Angel Food order that said it would save me money on scripts. I took it in with me when I went to pick up my prescription, asking the young lady to please add it to my account records and to see if it might possibly save me a bit of money. She came back to the window and said, "I'd say it DID save you some money - almost $20! You now owe $8.51!"

Now all that may sound like small potatoes to you, but in our house, having $1,000 expunged in the matter of a few days is equivalent to a miracle! I think it qualifies as a "God thing!"

Monday, February 28, 2011

Spiritual or Stupid?

We had a terrible storm blow through town last evening. Driving around town this morning to survey the damage, we noticed that the strongest winds took a definite path; we were directly in that path. Outside of some limbs down and having to have a large split limb cut off by a tree service, we escaped major damage. Many of our neighbors weren't so fortunate.

After the winds had died down and we were waiting for help to arrive for the young woman who lives across the street, I got on Facebook. I've come to some definite conclusions.

1. I must surely not be as spiritual as some of my friends who say, "Where's your faith? God can take care of you! Don't be afraid." My response: God gave us common sense, and He expects us to use it. If you can at all, get to a safe place.

2. Storms scare me. We've always gone to the basement at the screech of the sirens. Don can't do that anymore, and I'm not going to leave him upstairs. Conclusion: when you are unable to get to a safe place, pray, PRAY, PRAY!!

3. I think some people use their "super spirituality" as an excuse for extreme stupidity. Conclusion: any person who would jeopardize the well-being of others is extremely self-centered.

Ok. Ok. Maybe I'm just not spiritual enough. When the wind starts howling and the walls of the house start heaving, it scares me. Sure, I know God can take care of me. But, if I'm expecting Him to do everything for me, I just might as well go out and sit in the middle of the interstate during rush hour!

I'm just sayin'. . .

Monday, February 21, 2011

I miss . . .

. . . full-body hugs (tight ones) with my honey.
. . . walking side-by-side, hand-in-hand.
. . . going to our favorite restaurants without making plans ahead of time to insure there's room.
. . . having someone with me to pump the gas.
. . . sending Don to the basement to get something for me or out to run errands.
. . . having help (even if it was messy help) in preparing the meals or cleaning up afterward.
. . . sight-seeing and relaxing as Don drove us to our destinations.

I'm holding tightly to . . .
. . . the sound of my beloved's voice as he speaks to me or prays with me at night.
. . . the even murmur of his breathing.
. . . the many "I love you"s that I get every day.
. . . the sight of that precious brown-eyed smile.
. . . watching Don enjoy his favorite foods as he eats with delight and gusto.
. . . the interchanges (verbal, physical, or otherwise) between Don and the many people - family and friends - who love him and are making an extra effort to stay close.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Boring Is Good

Through the month of January, our lives were one upheaval after another. A wild roller coaster ride of things breaking, spewing, leaking or otherwise causing some kind of havoc.

Today is Valentine's day. Don asked if I wanted to go to Denny's for breakfast, which I did. We came home, I broke up some of the ice on the back driveway, did laundry, cleaned house, and helped my mom at her house for a while. All of which are nice, normal, unstressful things.

I've decided boring is good. I'm enjoying not having a crisis to deal with. As far as I know, everything is fixed and working around my house. It's a good feeling, and I'm praying it lasts!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cabin Fever

We've been snowed/iced in at our house for several days. I think (the days are all a snowy blur) our last time out was either last Sunday or Monday. Fortunately, I had stockpiled lots of food, we have oodles of books and videos, Dish Network and a functioning computer - so I was good to go. So was Don, for the first couple days. After that, he began to get restless. He would go to the front door and open it, looking out. Then he would go to the back door and open it, looking out again. He's, by nature, a hands' on, do-it-yourself kind of man, and being inside without the opportunity to break the monotony was killing him.

I had tried to break the ice and clear the walks and driveway a couple times, but it was much too thick for my limited strength. Thursday evening, Don's youngest brother came by, and he didn't have much more luck than I did.

On Friday morning, a friend and his son came by and completely cleared the driveway for us. They had barely finished when Don was ready to go out and get something for lunch. I wasn't thrilled at the prospect, but took him to Qdoba (quickly becoming his favorite place) anyway. That evening, we went to the church for game night. Don took his banjo, and he and Tom spent some time pickin' and grinnin'.

Friday night, we had four more inches of snow. So, Saturday morning, I got out (much to my husband's consternation) and shoveled the driveway again. The snow wasn't wet, so it wasn't a terribly straining job. I easily (well, that may be a slight exaggeration) shoveled all the way down to the concrete - from the house to the street.

Later, Don and I were watching some old pictures scroll on the screen saver of the computer. Pictures of the two of us playing with the grands while camping in Southern Illinois. Pictures of Don working on bicycles with our younger grandson. Pictures of Don flying kites, playing ball, working, enjoying life. Suddenly, I understood better why he was experiencing cabin fever so terribly. It wasn't just the past few days that had taken away his freedom, it was the last three years. He does amazingly well, I think, with the limitations he's been handed. But there's still a longing for the former days. Cabin fever was just an excuse to be "normal" again. To not be held in by four walls. Freedom to move about. Freedom to interact with others.

As long as I'm able, I vow to allow Don to live as normal a life as possible, despite his restrictions. Lord willing, there will be few prolonged periods of cabin fever. He deserves to be out among his friends and family. And I deserve to be there right beside him!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Can Do It Myself! Or Can I?

I've been around babies and young children all my life, including my own children and grandchildren. Not all young ones enjoy being independent, and they'll let you do things for them until they're 35 years old, if you're willing. But there are others who like to try their wings at an early age. I have no idea how many times I've heard a little person say, "I do it MYSELF!" While they're often successful in their endeavors, just as often, I have had to hold the cup, tie the shoe, form the penciled letter, and clean up the mess after they had reached the point of utter frustration.

Countless times this past week, people have said to me, "Call when you need help with something. Don't feel like you have to do it yourself." To be honest, I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment I have when I've tackled a new job and conquered it. I like the feeling of independence when I can fix things myself without having to call for help. I like watching things form and take shape under my hands. So, I try not to call for help often. And it embarrasses me when I DO have to make that call.

However, I'm supposing there are limits. At least, that's what my body is telling me. I doubt I'm going to turn over a new leaf right away, but it's something I'm having to consider. Call for help? Yikes! Even typing it makes me nervous. My motto for years has been, "If you want a job done right, do it yourself!" Yes. I'm willing to admit that I'm just a bit rigid. A perfectionist? I've been told so, but I think there are far too many areas of imperfection in my life for that label to ever fit. Whatever my excuses, I'm going to have to consider making some life changes. Lots of people tell me they're willing to help out. Maybe I should give it a trial run.

I know, if Don's condition deteriorates (which has been long in coming, Thank God), I will be forced to step outside my comfort zone and let people into my little circle. I don't want to wear them out before that time comes, if it EVER comes. So I continue to put up light fixtures, replace brake bulbs in the car, repair leaky pipes, and install new faucets. Why? Because I CAN.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Help! I'm Out of Control!

I'm discovering all over again that I don't like to be in situations where I don't feel in charge. Of course, those times come to all of us - having to rely on someone else to supply the solution. But I don't like it. I would much rather take care of a situation myself. Don't enjoy having to call on others for things I feel like I should be able to do.

I was the victim on Monday of just such a circumstance. I had a TIA. Not major (to anyone but me), but very disconcerting, nonetheless. For a short period of time, I lost the use of my left arm and my speech was barely understandable. The use of the arm came back totally, but I'm still struggling with my speech. I've found that it's worse if I'm nervous, anxious or agitated. (Me? Agitated?) On top of that, today my emotions are barely bridled. I can cry at the drop of a hat and drop the hat myself!

It's alarming and humbling to try to be expressing a thought, and, right in the middle of speaking it out, the words stop coming. They're still in my head, but I can't get my mouth to formulate them. If I simply stop for a second or two, I can either pick up where I was or start over. Although I've never been as articulate as many, I've taken a certain pride in being able to speak publicly without too much trepidation - especially when having to do so on the spur of the moment. Right now, that would almost scare me to death.

I've learned the last few days that it's hard to lose things when you've taken them for granted for years. Maybe I'll have to do what my sister-in-law did after her TIA. She found it hard to speak a thought, but she could SING it. My singing voice has been grossly compromised by years of abuse and, in recent years, by lack of use. But it's a thought.

So, once again, life goes on, despite the bumps and curves and detours. Just don't like it when anyone but God takes the wheel. I sit on His lap, and he controls the steering wheel - at least most of the time!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Some Laugh. Some Cry.

Don and I did some running this morning, stopped by Hardee's for some of their Mexican menu for lunch, then came home. As we were pulling into the driveway, we both noticed that the mailman had come. I pulled up and let down the ramp for Don to get out. He said, "Hey, you want me to get the mail?" On a side note - Don can't walk, and there's no way he can get up the front steps and lift himself to the mailbox to get the mail. Without missing a beat I said, "Sure. Just don't get the elbows of that white jacket dirty!" We both got a good laugh out of it. Morbid? Maybe. Coping? Definitely!