Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Best of Date Nights...Well, So Far

Once in a young lifetime one should be allowed to have as much sweetness as one can possibly want and hold. ~Judith Olney

My husband and I went out for sushi at our favorite local sushi bar to which we had not been for some time. They had renovated and it was quite lovely, a more sophisticated and simple, contemporary Japanese design with a strong presence of white and black that was quite appealing. We sat that the sushi bar as we used to do before the child and watched the artistic preparations of the colorful sushi. Maybe it was because it had been so long since I had it, but the sushi seemed to taste taste better than ever as well.

Before we ordered, I asked if we would be going for ice cream afterward, as that is also something we used to do and it would make a difference in how much sushi we should order. My husband was ready to order more at the end of our meal, but later confessed that he was glad we did not.

We went over to Cold Stone, a rather high priced ice cream place were they mix your chosen ice cream concoction on cold marble. We chose something different to share that we have not ordered before: The Pie Who Loved Me. It was wonderful! We selected the regular size chocolate dipped waffle and watched the hand mixing of cheesecake ice cream with Oreo cookies, graham cracker pie crust, and fudge. The only thing I would change next time is replace the cookies with brownies. Brownies are just always better!

We decided to sit outside as it was still warm and I had a warm sweater to offset the expected chill from the ice cream. We had just sat down to enjoy two delicious bites each and then a man approached us. I did not recognize him at first due to a partial beard, but my husband was already up to meet a good friend of ours that we have not seen much for the last couple of years, although we used to spend many weekends and meals together for a couple of years when we all went the same church. Then we saw his daughter, who is six years younger than mine, and now in "double-digits" as her mother put it, since she has turned ten years old.

The rest of their group, his wife, her sister, and her sister's husband, emerged from Starbucks and I immediately grabbed our ice cream and to sit with them. Her sister's family was looking to move here from New York, last we knew, and they had settled in since, so this was the first time we had met them. It turned out that they were considering homeschooling their youngest daughter, who is thirteen.

We had lots to chat about as we had just looked at a house that morning that was more than what we needed, it was that huge. In fact it was 4,231 square feet of the finished livable spaces, which did not include the basement or the bonus room above the two-car garage. Oh, I loved it, but it was in all honesty more house than I would want to clean, even with the central vacuuming system. The kitchen, though, was perfection once the main sink faucet was updated. The upstairs had one bedroom en suite as large as our present one and two smaller bedrooms with a Jack and Jill bathroom between them. Then there was two rooms on opposite ends of the hallway that were quite large; one was being used as an office and the other a sitting room. I could see us using one as an office and sitting room for us my husband and I, while the other would be our daughter's hangout room with her digital piano and artwork and friends. The master on the main was perfect for my mother-in-law. However, it looked like the owners planned to do some of the finishing as they lived there, yet they had been there for fifteen years....perhaps their situation changed and they were unable to complete it. Upstairs were several unfinished touches that needed done, like the wood work was not painted, the stairs dry walls had not been painted, vents were missing, and little things mostly cosmetic like that. The downstairs looked finished but the painting was not professional looking with the edges not being straight and such. The painting that was done was just enough to drive me crazy, but then not being as fond of blue as they were, I was planning to have to paint anyway. Then the basement was framed for rooms, but that was all. Nothing was completed there even the very basic full bathroom. However, it was almost the size of my entire house on each floor and the basement as well. Then there was that upcoming road widening to consider, so maybe if we had another $100,000, or even $50,000, to work with or the other five acres behind it that is cleared? I can see that property if finished and after the road construction is done and we placed some fast going evergreens lined up along the road front and fences, that property would probably be worth nearly twice it is now, but as it is, the sellers are hoping for the very limit of what we can afford and at that price we were hoping for move-in ready...not move from one room to a another to finish it, which we could do because it is big enough.

We had not had the chance to tell our friends all what had been happening as to why we were looking for a new house so we all updated each other on our lives. Lots of changes to discuss and it was a highly pleasant conversation. This made our date was even better than if we had planned it. I so needed to actually have a conversation with people as my anxiety levels have been rising steadily. You know, I just think my Father loves me so much that He provides what I do not even know I need without me needing to ask.

When we finally said our good-byes as they needed to get to a store before it closed, my husband and I went home to spend the rest of the night together alone to talk and just be with each other. Then I had the best sleep I have had in weeks and woke up with a much brighter attitude than I have for about the same amount of time, but I think I dreamed of that house and I cannot get it out of my mind. So much potential....

Thank you, my Lord, for sweetening up my outlook on life and reminding me I am not taking this journey alone and without guidance. You are here with me, watching out for me with a loving heart.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

January in Georgia

Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth. ~Hugh Macmillan, "Rejuvenescence," The Ministry of Nature, 1871

Weather is always crazy everywhere. I know it is a conversation starter when meeting strangers, but I rarely use it. However, I have lived some years in three different states and by far winters in Georgia are the most surprising and wildly unpredictable.

Friday January 6th, we were preparing for a winter storm, which in my area was mostly sleet so we were iced in for the entire weekend. Although some of the ice melted on the main roads because of the sunshine on Saturday, temperatures remained mostly in the 20's and our driveway is on the north side of the house...well, whatever somewhat melted refroze and made it even slicker the next morning. Sunday we were promised the temperature would go above freezing. Did not happen, of course! So finally on Tuesday the temperatures were in the 50's and now for the last two days, it has been nearly 70° F, just a week later.

Taking our half-grown puppy out was quite challenging. Finding a safe path to the rabbits was as well. The cats both took one step onto the icy driveway decided that staying cooped up in the warmer garage was not such a bad idea after all. Midnight did not even scratch at the basement door as she usually does when she wants out or just attention.

A few things are bringing smiles to my face:

The full bright moon on a cloudless night and Venus giving her all against the black of the southwestern sky just after sunset.

I thought I had lost these sweet greens in the drought, but my little cyclamen plants announced their survival peeking out of the leaves even after being iced.

The the best one was my husband is home for the weekend and we are having a date night, because our daughter is staying over night with a friend. We are talking about Sushi for dinner and just being together alone for the first time in months.

My Lord, thank you for taking care of us every day and in every way through all kinds of hardships.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

For What Have I Been Waiting?

Existence rightly considered is a fair compromise between two instincts—the instinct of hoping one day to live, and the instinct to live here and now. ~Arnold Bennett

I read this quote looking for the one in my last post and it stuck with me. I have had a tendency all my life of hoping one day to live the life I would like rather than making the "here and now" that life...if that makes any sense to you. In part, I think it was a coping mechanism I used through my abused childhood that became so ingrained in me that at times in my life I have had to take a few moments to realize I am living my life right now.

I get swept up in workings within my mind, so much so that I have this habit of forgetting where I put something that I just had in my hands five minutes ago—or even just seconds ago if I am going to be completely honest—or I cannot remember why I began walking toward a particular room because my mind has thoughts of so many unrelated things between where I started and where I was going (but I never get lost like that when I am driving). It is not that my memory is failing; I have always been this way, but it is worse when I am under stress and have time to think too much. I quite focused and practical in a crisis, but make it just urgent or anything less with more time to think and my mind is racing in several directions at once.

The reason I am mentioning this is that I do not shut down easily. I have enough things going on in my brain that I often wish I could escape from my own self. Add outside influences, I get overwhelmed easily and end up not really doing anything spending time to complain on my blog.

When I think over where my daughter was a year ago and see where she is now, I am delighted, like I was delighted by her when she was quite younger. She is still a teenager with mood swings but we are close again. We talk to each other about everything and anything and even nothing. We laugh together. She defends me with her friends. She hugs me when I am having a bad day and even just because—I thank her hug-loving, never-say-no-to-hug, hugs-are-healing-believing youth pastor, who is really into hugs (in case you missed it), for part of that as she has been spending most Thursday afternoons with my daughter. Simple things that were completely absent a year ago. After working on rebuilding trust on both sides throughout the last year, my daughter and I presently have the relationship I really wanted for us both. But...I wonder if I changed more than she did.

Before I was stressing to her and stressing out about her education. I was steering our homeschool exactly where I never meant for it to go—stressful. She was not fitting my expectations and worse she could see through me to that. I was not even fitting my own expectations as to guiding her home education. I was as unhappy as she was, but I believed we were on a track going the right way so we would arrive at the right destination eventually. When it all fell apart for the Princess a year ago, I had jump off that track and take a good look at the reality of our surroundings, which way off from where I had hoped to be, and remember my purpose for homeschooling so I could get on the right track with my daughter.

Then I relaxed, probably for the first time since the Princess was a tween.

Homeschooling became far less important than my daughter's emotional and spiritual health. Devotions, some days, took up a couple of hours and often spurred long talks. I did not push her away, stressing she had to get her lessons done as I had done in the past. I stopped looking at those talks as a time to lecture her or that she was using them as a stall tactic. I began working at helping her to realize that she was shaping her life: not my rules or my expectations. It took months but we are where I wanted for us to be and a funny thing happened: The more I eased up on controlling her education, the more the Princess became determined to take serious initiative and personal responsibility for her education...with a good attitude.

The past year's events seem like a bad dream and this was always our reality, but in truth I know it was not. I know we both learned to change and to trust each other. My home life is peaceful and stable because my daughter became my highest priority, but unfortunately that had an one adverse effect: I pushed everything I wanted for  just myself aside...again.

So, I was highly excited about this coming year. I bought the Princess lots of art supplies and had this plan that we both be motivated to create a creative space and do art together. She would still get the attention she needed and I would get the time to be creative that I needed. I was looking forward to it so much and mother-in-law fell.

The point is that all my life I have been waiting to really live my life. A series of things happened during my life, so I did not get back into doing artwork. In fact, every time I started back into art something happened that took priority, including homeschooling. I feel like here I am again....

I really have no idea what going to be happening in the next week: Are we going to Florida or not? What will we be doing there when we do go? Will my mother-in-law still be in rehab or will she be going home? How will we do her move? Will she really need assisted living or will it be good living with us with home care assistance two to three times a week?

Too many questions with no answers yet.

I do not make New Year's resolutions. My philosophy is if it is something I am resolved to do, I should just do it. Why wait until the New Year? However, it seems I am always waiting for some other thing in my life that is taking priority...maybe I really do not know what it is that I really want, but then why do I feel like I am giving up a part of myself again?

My Lord, help me to want what You want. I know You can make it all work out. I know you hear the unspoken words in my heart and count the tears that I will not allow myself to cry. I will be waiting on You.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

I Wish I Could Say...

I think I've discovered the secret of life — you just hang around until you get used to it. ~Charles Schulz

I wish I could say that I am not missing my husband so much that I am not sleeping in his comfy top, but in the last four weeks I have only seen him for three days.

I wish I could say that today's ice storm missed us, but we are still in it. I can hear the sleet hitting the window of my bedroom. I am hoping we will not lose power and I will not be driving for at least a day. I was hoping for fluffy snow rather than a wintry mix of most sleet, but the night is not over yet. Trying to get a 50-pound puppy to take it slow and careful on the steps so we do not break our necks is like trying to stop a race car with an oil slick. However, I salted the steps so they were more slushy than icy. My husband suggested the only flat entrance, the garage door onto the driveway, but the driveway was actually even more slippery and we have to walk on it farther to get to the grass.

I wish I could say that my 20-something frost-free refrigerator did not need the freezer to be defrosted again, but it did this week. This time I went for an overnight thawing out in hopes that whatever ice in the door or walls that I cannot see completely melted as I could feel the cold when I touched them. Even with the new gasket, I felt the seal when shutting the door was soft lacking good negative pressure to keep it completely sealed. This time it feels as if it is sealing better. We shall see.

I wish I could say that my mother-in-law recovering quickly, but she is not really. She still has not had the strength to get out of the bed and walk. Today is supposed to be her last on the strong antibiotics, but we have not heard what her blood count is yet to know if the infection is truly over. She is doing therapy every morning for a week, but we have not heard much about her progress. In fact, we do not hear much from her at all as she does not answer her phone. Right after my husband left there, we were not able to talk with her for three days.

Oh, yes. I can say that after the second day of settling his mother in the rehabilitation center, my husband did come and spend the weekend with us. We opened our Christmas presents on New Year's Eve...kind of a rip and bang day. I was so excited because I had bought the Princess a lot of art supplies for really great prices. Beginners quality most of it, but it was an impressive haul. I am hoping she will share with me...but then I doubt if I will have much time for doing artwork in the next months.

I wish I could say that my online search for a home that will work for us has given us so many good choices that I can hardly pick one, but no. I have learned that "designer home" actually translates to meaning "quirky layout" or "funky, clunky features." I found beautiful home that is in an ideal location because it is closer to our church, but being further east it about the same distance to the health food store and piano lessons. Of the few houses that fit our criteria, I really like the layout and it has a master suite on the main floor, which is a must for my mother-in-law. It has about five acres cleared in the middle but thickly surrounded by trees for privacy. It probably is at the top of what we can afford with the sale of our houses combined, but it is also priced a bit lower than it should be because of one is on a two lane highway that will be in the process of being made into a four lane divided highway. Phase Four of this project, which is the one that will affect the property the most is scheduled to take two years and I think they are nearing the finish of Phase One. The house has been on the market for six months and we are in a hot market for homes now. If it is still available when we are ready to buy and we can put up with the road construction, the property will be worth more on the backside of all that.

I wish I could say that I have a clue about the future, but I do not. There is some question now as to how much mobility my mother-in-law will regain so she may need more care, but we have looked into home care services and it seems far more afford than assisted living.

My Lord, thank you for letting me lean on You.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Christmas I Tried Not to Have

Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you. -Walt Whitman

You may be wondering where I have been, since it has been nearly a month since I posted. I am kind of wondering about that myself. First of all, my last post suggested we were going to get a new refrigerator...that did not happen. The freezer section did ice up again because, apparently, there was ice inside the door that did not completely melt the first time, but this last time we got it all. So, our old one actually started working as it should without icing up thereafter and we cancelled the order. I still want all stainless steel appliances—one day—but this may not have been the best time.

Since my life has been a series of flashes, this way and that, I thought I would just go with it in this post.

I like simplicity, partially because I think everyone overdoes Christmas with decorations and fuss, but then I myself tend to overdo it...probably to make up for a childhood that did not have enough. This year was the picture of simplicity...a bit too much simplicity. Is that an oxymoron? We did get out our half-sized nativity set, because I think the entire neighborhood would miss too much if we did not have that at least, judging by the number of vehicles that still slow or stop in front of our house when it is lit up. Other than that we had no outside lights and no wreaths on the windows or even the front door.

We had gotten a Noble Christmas tree and my husband and I trimmed it. A few days later the Princess and I got the lights on it, which is something my husband and I usually do, but we knew that he was going to be working even through the weekend before Christmas. Now we like about a week with just the lights on the tree and last year I had bought all new programmable lights after Christmas on clearance, as our old one would not twinkle anymore, just so I could have my highly desirable random twinkle lights with no muss and fuss of dealing with old wires and lights. As it turned out, these were to be the only decorations on the tree.

Christmas Day
This is the very first Christmas my husband and I have been apart and it was going to be anything but typical or traditional or what we wanted it to be. There have been Christmases my husband had to work, but he was at least at home for most of it. Knowing that we would be apart, we decided to postpone the opening of presents. Instead, my daughter and I planned to take friend of hers for his first 3D IMAX experience to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which took up our day from 11:00 a.m. when we left our house to 4:30 p.m. when we returned—so worth it and got our minds off what could have been rather a rather depressing day. Then we fed all the furry ones and ourselves before we skyped through my husband's computer to Grandma at the hospital so she could see the Princess open the presents she sent her. She also opened the one thing she asked for, arm warmers, and a planner with stickers and such from me as that was time sensitive, so to speak.

Flash Back to About Two Weeks Ago
My mother-in-law fell onto her left knee from tripping on the low step from her Florida room into her bedroom on that weekend. It became swollen but she assured us that she was able to walk on it without much pain. She did have x-rays taken right away this time. (I write "this time" because, if you remember, she fell just six months ago: Stepped on a Crack.) However, since nothing was broken this time, she made an appointment to be seen by her primary doctor on Thursday. He was rather upset with her because by that time it was so swollen he placed her in the hospital.

While there she was seen by a knee surgeon, who felt that there would be a higher risk of infection if he tried to surgically drain the knee, which by that time was draining on its own through open sores. So she was released after a two-day stay with a home care nurse scheduled to redress her bandage three times a week.

My husband was still working Connecticut on an installation and I told him that he needed to go see his mother, because I just knew (being empathic) that it was worse than they thought and it seemed I was wrong for the first day, but then came the next day....

Mom did not answer the door for the home care nurse nor did she answer her phone. The neighbor, who had taken her to the hospital and had a key, saw the nurse leaving and stopped by to open the door. Mom was sitting in her chair and seemed a bit off. The knee was infected, so she was taken back to the hospital.

At this point she was going into septic shock. They planned to do surgery to drain the infection immediately, but then they were faced with the same problem she had a year before I started blogging when she contacted C. Diff. from visiting her husband in the hospital: low blood pressure. Low blood pressure is not just a problem that makes surgery risky, it also makes it difficult to get antibiotics and medicines to circulate through the body that would help her fight the infection. (Last time, her arm was chemically burned from the inside out, but they saved her life after she was given only 20% chance of living. She had to have skin grafting on that arm, which complicates for future IVs.)

My husband was at a standstill with the install due to damage from the freezing cold during the transport (not of his doing) and there was a problem with the replacement parts, so he flew down to Florida when she was supposed to be in the first surgery that was postponed a day. Apparently, it is common that two surgeries are needed for this kind of drainage. After the first surgery, her knee was about half the size it had been. It had partially swollen more because she was dehydrated from the antibiotics, so they were pushing fluids that her kidneys, due to beginning to shut down from the septic shock, were not able to work well at getting the fluid out.

Flashing A Bit Forward, But Still Behind
Mom had her second surgery. She had two different infections and still has one or developed another one...still fuzzy on the facts of that. However, it was said that she had a deep blood infection, which I think is another way of saying she was septic...? They would have released her from the hospital three days ago, but for this infection. Then the plan is two weeks in a rehab nursing home to work on her mobility. Maybe my husband will be able to come home during that time so we can have the rest of our Christmas together...? However, his work wants him to go back to Connecticut to finish the install. I honestly do not plan to see him for another two to three weeks, but it would be nice if he could make it home.

Flashing Into the Future
After trying the soft approach with increasing pressure to get Mom to move so we could avoid these events where we have to rush to Florida because Mom has no one who really watches over her, we finally have taken the no-more-choice approach. Mom has been told that she is NOT going to be living alone anymore. She has always given the argument that when she moved her own mother down to Florida from New York, she lived alone until her last two years. I then asked Mom how old her mother was when she moved. 63? Mom, we are talking about a 20 year difference in age! And your mother did not fall even once. She is not really arguing the point now. I think this past year she has come to realize that she is not doing so well on her own.

While she was in the the hospital for the first time I went with the tough love talk, I told her that either my husband quits his job and we move in with her or she moves up here. She said she had been thinking about moving and she wants to go into an assisted living place. We all have told her that she does not really need that level of care yet and she will not have enough money left to get good quality care when and if she does really need it. Even her doctor, to whom, she listens to more than us obviously, has told her that she will have greater control of her life and better care if she lives with family. However, she just does not want to do any yard work, cooking, or laundry anymore. It is not that she is incapable, just that she does not want to do those things and that might be mostly due to her living alone in a house too big for her to keep up by herself for the last six years since her husband passed on.

So, our future kind of looks like this: Mom moves here. If she can take a few steps to get into our house then she will live in our home with us while we work on getting her home sold or she will rent a place for a few months. Then we try to find a three-to-four bedroom home with three full bathrooms (we still have a teenager) and buy it together if we can get financing before we sell our home. Mom will have the master bedroom on the main floor of the new house. Then we will work on selling our house.

So, we have a plan....?

My Lord, I hardly know where to start, for what to pray, and certainly I am not looking forward to any of what must be done, but I trust You. Help me to keep my face always toward You and let what is not from You fall away.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fire and Ice and Colds and Rain

Sanity is madness put to good uses. ~George Santayana, Little Essays

When my husband and daughter returned from the Guatemala mission trip, both were run down, as I expected that they would be with the grueling schedule. I had been having more sinus trouble, which can be typical for this time of year, but the Princess went into a full blown cold with sore throat and coughing, and I followed with less coughing, thankfully. My husband got achy and rested for one day but he did not really get sick. So, I was in bed all day yesterday and I was not well enough to drive around for errands this morning although I am on the mend and feeling better now. I would have been been in bed the day before, Sunday, as the Princess and I both were in no shape to go to church, but...

Well, we had another battle with the freezer frosting up and the frig not being cold enough that started on Saturday. We decided that the refrigerator is just being too unpredictable to feel comfortable with it, so we went refrigerator shopping. I have to say it was not very fun. First of all, we have about a 36" width space, but one side is against a wall, so we really need a 33" refrigerator to be able to open the door to 45 degrees and those are few these days. However, we found one with a bottom freezer (like we have already) and ice maker in freezer, something of a new luxury for us. The thing I like the most is being able to actually set the temperatures in both the freezer and refrigerator—no more number dials that I have to balance the air flow between the freezer and refrigerator. No other fancy stuff, like a water dispenser or anything like that, other than French refrigerator doors. I just see it as less to go bad on it. Oh, and it is stainless steel, which means for the first time in since my husband and I have been married and bought the refrigerator we now have, all my kitchen appliances will match! I am taking a moment to just breathe that one in.

Later on that same Sunday, we went to pick our Christmas tree with Mishka. Being that he is a puppy, he was not used to all the people who wanted to pet him and his enthusiasm was barely leash-able. (Not a word but works.) After we got home from that on Sunday, I went to bed and stayed there until today, Tuesday morning.

We have been in a drought all summer. Although there has been spots of rain here and there, it is way too dry in all of north Georgia. On our property, the last time it rained for a couple of hours was on September 27th. I remember the day because I was so happy it was raining I had taken a video of my front garden with the fountain running with my new wind chimes ringing softly. Before that it had not rained here for weeks upon weeks. Spring started out well, but summer was dry.

Remember how disappointed I was that we did not get to go to north Georgia because Mishka had Parvo? Well, that was the first week in November and we had not considered the wildfire that started on October 16th in that area. People living there and depending on tourism this time of year say their businesses and their health are suffering because of the smoke. It is said that more 40,000 acres have succumbed to wildfires in Georgia and now 14,000 people have been evacuated in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge areas in Tennessee. However, it is being reported that the fires in north Georgia are under control. More rain would definitely be helpful and rain is expected here tomorrow and possibly the weekend.

Thank you, my Lord, for us all getting better from the colds every day, for the nearly 30 years our refrigerator worked problem-free, for being able to afford a new one, for the blessings that You will give to the people in the Gatinburg area and in all the wildfire areas in answer to their prayers when so many have lost so much, and for the rain that is now coming to us and the areas where the wildfires are.