Monday, May 22, 2017

Cutting Strings to Sell, Donate, or Trash

Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination. -Christina Scalise, Organize Your Life and More

Now that we have decided on having an estate sale through a broker at the Queen Mother's house, I am gathering things together from my own home to take down to Florida to be sold. Most of those things were gifts I did not really want from the Queen Mother that accumulated over the years, and I kept most of them because...well, the Queen Mother takes it personally when a gift she has given is not on permanent display and, yes, she would look.

Her gifts were gifts with strings attached with expectations. Once she gave a seven-year-old girl in the family a special edition Barbie doll and the girl, of course, immediately began taking it out. The Queen Mother was not happy because she gave it as a collectible. I though was cruel to give a doll to a young girl and expect her to enjoy just looking at it in the box, like she did hers. She did not think to try to explain that it was meant to stay in the box, after she unwrapped it.

So, I learned soon after my marriage that if I did not love any gift she gave me, she seemed to take as I was rejecting her. It really was a stretch for her to get to know what I liked and there were a precious few times that she would surprise me, but for the most part I just saw those attached strings of expectations. I always had it in the back of my mind, even when she stopped coming here to visit, that she may live with us or near us and come here again.

I knew that those strings had me all tied up. I felt like I had to keep that stuff to keep the Queen Mother happy, because her love language to everyone else is gifts. I could have packed them away and only brought them out when she was coming, which was rare, but I just did not. And, I think the thing that bothered me the most—actually, weighed me down the most and paralyzed my thoughts to rid myself of them—was that I did not keep them out of respect for her, but more like fear of her being upset with me. Every time my eyes would rest on something the Queen Mother gave me, a thought of how it came from her and how she was insensitive to what I really like would surface, but in her defense, I do have eclectic tastes that only those who really know me or are attentive would get.

In honesty, I used to appreciate some of her collectibles, like the Boyd's Bears, because before the Princess, we had a children's guest room with a teddy bear theme and my husband likes teddy bears, but over the years even those have lost their appeal to both of us. I have switched from accumulative mode to downsizing back into simplicity and practicality for our lifestyle. I am now rather selective about what I want to look at and dust off every two weeks for the rest of my life and the majority of things the Queen Mother has given me are just dust collectors for the most part, not even my taste.

I am not really like most people from previous generations: for instance, I have always thought (even as a child) that having a formal dining room and another informal dining area is a waste of living space. I like one dining area, so I love the now popular open plans where the kitchen is practically part of the living room. However, I do like a quiet library room.

The Queen Mother has a china cabinet filled with her better dishes, which are quite plain, and hordes of her figurines and glass collections, while my china cabinet is not for fancy dishes we use a few times a year—although I have to say that is perhaps not entirely true, which I will explain in the next paragraph. Instead I have my everyday dishes, which are the Pfaltzgraff Tea Rose pattern. I had loved that country fresh pattern for many years and some of their heart shaped bowls and servers, so when a friend was putting together a good-bye party at our church in Florida before we moved to Georgia, she asked me what I wanted if people were to ask her and they were it. She bought us a set and I was thrilled. Later I found some bowls marked down for clearance at a K-Mart. I thought K-mart was discontinuing them but actually Pfaltzgraff had retired them. Once while shopping at an antique store, I found a large set with about 10 settings and a few other pieces that looked brand new and bought it all for $65. So, every day I see the dishes we actually use and we have to get all our dishes from there. Now Pfaltzgraff has again gone into production with them, but not with all the pieces they used to have.

In the bottom half of my china cabinet, I have another set of dishes that was given to my husband before we met. They are ironstone Colonial White by Homer Laughlin, which is the same company that made Fiestaware that has come back into popularity, so they are producing it again. I am not that fond of the Colonial White, but we have used it for holidays. It looks nice with a red table cloth and colorful Christmas trimmings. However, it is not fine china but was probably meant for everyday use, because it is heavy, which I actually prefer, and feels more like it should be in a restaurant. I have wanted to get rid of them several times, but I decided to again keep them because their high gloss and the angular Dover mold style makes it more up scale looking and appealing—and because ridding myself of the other stuff in the bottom of the china cabinet allowed more space.

Back to my point, I am trying to go through my house gathering items for the sale and carrying items to the two bins marked to sell or donate with the trash can handy. I will be going down to Florida on my own with DragonHeart packed full to meet with the estate sales broker, so she can see everything we have to sell. It is just amazing what I have accumulated through the years. However, I cannot tell you how freeing it is to have space and to think what I really would like to place here and there. I knew that I was feeling overwhelmed by the clutter in my home for years, but since yard sales do so poorly here and some things were worth a little something, I just held on them. Now I finally have an opportunity to really let go of quite a lot, which will be sold and what is left over will be donated and done with.

I probably would have worked through this stuff faster if I was not fasting, but I did not go into a full water-only fast. I have been drinking milk and kefir in very small amounts throughout the day to stimulate losing the fat and because I knew I would need more stamina to do this, although I have to say, it still takes it out of me. I think I was about 10 pounds over the what I like to call my comfortable heavy weight when I officially started on Tuesday—frankly I did not step on a scale until I had been fasting two days because I just knew. I have to start coming off of it today or tomorrow so I am strong for the trip. I am and should hold down to around that comfortable heavy weight and will have to try to fast again later to rid myself of the rest of it.

My Lord, thank you for helping cut these strings that have had me tied to fear and keeping things I did not treasure. I am happy to let them go to people who do find pleasure in them and to have my home reflect only what I finding pleasing. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Slowing into Fast

Prayer is reaching out after the unseen; fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God. -Andrew Murray

With all the stress that began before Christmas when the Queen Mother fell on her knee, somewhere along the way I dropped my one-day-a-week fast and I did not get to my January detox fast and that is usually at least one week to three. And I gained some weight, into numbers that usually make me feel sickly and more pain, but I have been heavy on supplements and actually I felt stronger this time, which only confirms how much the stress was zapping my energy and the extra food and nutrition was keeping me going.

There is no good break for fasting within our lives right now, however my husband began his a week ago. My digestive system is a bit more sensitive than his. I usually do better if I work down to fasting over a few days, so I began to eat increasing lighter and mostly raw foods for the last week. I am feeling it. I was mindful that I have a dental cleaning scheduled tomorrow and there is no avoiding the breath issue when fasting regardless of how much mouthwash one uses, so I had it in mind to stop eating completely tomorrow after the appointment for at least a week or a little more.

Usually, my husband and I observe a rule that we made long ago that we do not fast at the same time, but we literally have only short breaks between planned activities. My husband wants to get his mother's house on the market in July. We decided that having an estate sale is the best option, so we are planning for me to go to Florida alone in a couple of weeks and meet with an estate broker. I will be taking some things from my home to be in the sale and bringing some things back that are keepers also. So, this week I am looking through our stuff to pack up and take to Florida to place in the sale—while fasting.

It does not escape me that this activity will take more energy, but there is a correlative aspect of detoxing and clearing out that I find to be appealing on both sides. Most of the dust collectors I have are ones that were given to us by the Queen Mother and we kept because she takes it personally if she did not see them when she used to visit, but we kept them because in the back of our minds, she might have lived closer to us one day. That is over in our minds now.

The Queen Mother had pneumonia and is having serious issues with water retention. We know her immune system is compromised, but now we are pretty sure that she has had damage to her kidneys and possibly her liver and heart due to the septicemia. She is now taking a diuretic, but it is having little effect. She is still border line for going into assisted living, now that the wound on her knee is nearly healed completely, but with the complications that keep showing up, it seems likely that she will remain in the nursing home for longer...perhaps for the rest of her life, which may not be for a year. It seems to us that she is in the early to mid stages of congestive heart failure or multiple organ syndrome, the labels seem interchangeable.

As sad as that makes me, it makes me sadder that she chose to live alone for six years when she could have lived near us, actually attended one of the Princess' recitals, or just went out to dinner with us now and then. Now we are trying to make decisions about whether or not to keep some of her furniture that she would need for assisted living or just sell it all, and if we do not sell it all, do we rent a storage facility? Just things like that. I have been asking my Lord and I feel like He is telling me that we will not need to keep any of the furniture, but a part of me thinks it would be better keep some pieces and not need them, than to sell them all and find out she will...and knowing how it will upset her if they are all gone.

This fast I am hoping that both my husband and I will hear God clearly and we will act on what He is telling us, not what we think is the logical course. 

My Lord, these are hard times with hard decisions to be made. Please guide us heavily.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

4 Nights and 3 Days in Florida

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.
 -C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

I was seventeen the first time I flew to Florida from Ohio with a window seat from the flat part of Ohio with patchwork crop and livestock fields to the far more interesting and unpredictable land forms of the Appalachian Mountains with its foothills and then to flat, washed out netting of roads so common in mid Florida. Do not get me wrong, when I was younger I liked it although I never really cozied up to the tropical plants, with the exception of fern trees and oaks. I admit that Florida is a lovely place if you like flat sandy, subtropical places. Been there, done that, and so very done with it! Since moving to the north part of Georgia, every time I visit Florida, I am thankful it is just for a short time. To me, its greens are bleached out and it has so many whole cities of mostly perpendicular north and south roadways crossed by streets spanning east and west that are unimaginative, probably a city planner's dream. I will say that it is senior friendly because everything is easy to find and you can hardly get lost.

We made plans to go to Florida to visit the Queen Mother and to start the process of taking keepsakes and things of worth we wish to keep from her house, in preparation of the ultimate goal to sell the house and everything else of value we would not be keeping. It is no small task to categorize the material residuals of life into piles of keep, sell, donate, or trash. I can only imagine it was harder for my husband, who had lived there from the time he was seven until he left for college at seventeen.

We took both the Dragon Heart, our mini van, and Big Red, our new diesel pick up truck that can haul our trailer completely packed. We were not planning to bring back much, mostly things from the garage and work shed, like a wheelbarrow, the generator, and a rain barrel. We planned to make decisions when we were there about what we would take back with us this time. We left Thursday morning in the rain and rain it did for the entire 550 miles with the exception of the last two hours, turning our 8 to 9 hour drive into nearly 11 hours...and it began raining as we pulled into the driveway! However, Florida has been in a drought with wildfires so it was sorely needed there.

I had purchased a light diffusing box and lights for taking pictures of the Hummel figurines, dolls, and other collectibles. That was the task for the Princess. My husband and I rummaged through taking down pictures from the walls to be boxed up, looking through the hidden places for the silverware, and the jewelry. Memorabilia was high on our list as well and we even found a picture that the Queen Mother had always wanted of her husband that had been in his mother's house but was fought over with his sister...and she had it all along in a very unique desk that we had thought was a sewing machine table.

The morning of the first day, I looked through the Queen Mother's jewelry knowing that she had a serious affection for Black Hills gold jewelry and I honestly had no idea how much of it she had, but I wanted to bring it home to be placed in our safe. Mind you that I cannot wear it. The Queen Mother is a large boned woman, although shorter than I am. I think her rings could quite possibly fit my husband's fingers and her bracelets slip on and off my wrists without bothering with the clasp, as I have rather small hands and wrists. They could be fitted by removing a link or two on some, but I like a daintier bracelet, with the exception of my colorful glass bead bracelets.

My husband and daughter went to visit the Queen Mother that first day in the afternoon. She was in good spirits and handed my husband a list of things she wanted. She could have called and told us so that we were not scrambling to shop for some of them while we were there, but...well, the Queen Mother does not make phone calls unless there is a problem and this did not qualify as a problem for her. While there my husband began to again ease into the conversation of what was of value and should be kept. When the Queen Mother told them where her Black Hills gold jewelry was, the Princess eagerly—maybe too eagerly, given the situation and knowing them both—chimed in that we had found them and how pretty they are. The Queen Mother then looked at her directly and said "You have been into my jewelry!" My daughter realized that she might have made a mistake, but her grandmother then said she was just kidding. I was not there but when they told me, I was thinking she was not kidding that much.

The next day we went to see her, the Queen Mother was upset and weeping because of all the things my husband had talked to her about the day before. We came with almost all the items she wanted including the items I had to buy at the store that morning...which, of course, were not the ones she wanted. She told me she had written down all the information with the numbers (for the style although she did not tell me and assumed I knew what those three numbers mention off to the side meant) and I told her that these were the only ones in the store that were the size she wanted in the brand she wanted, so the style she wanted was not there in her size. Immediately, I began looking online and found it on Amazon to be placed in my cart to finalize the order later.

As I doing that, she said in a very commanding way that she wanted ALL her Black Hills gold jewelry with her "HERE" making a downward motion with her arm while pointing her index finger down. I looked up and asked, "All of it?" (Please understand that she has more rings than fingers and toes AND she is retaining water so she cannot wear any of them and I am not so sure she can wear any of the several bracelets either.) She repeated the words and gesture with a redder face as if how dare I question the Queen Mother. Trying to help her realize that would be putting all her valuable jewelry at risk, I asked her if she thought that was wise because...well, there was no secure place for it there, but she told me that she sees residents with keys on bracelets, so there is way to secure them there, she believed (but did not even really know because she had not asked yet, is what I got from that).

Taking a deep breath in and out, I then began to work on setting up other contacts on her phone that she might like to have. She has had a written list of phones numbers by her wall phone in the kitchen for years so we bought that. Now her phone is not a smart phone but a flip phone so inputting contacts is a bit more work. She was still quite upset, so I was just going to put them all in but the Queen Mother wanted me to give her all the names on the list so she could say who was in and who was not. So I was still trying to figure out how to even get to the contact list to add anyone and she was trying to get me to read down the list. I asked her to have patience with me and gave her a few names, when we got to a "yes" I would put that one in...because to be quite honest, at this point I am pretty rattled with her trying to control everything and everyone to do everything exactly her way. My husband was sitting next to her trying to calm her down and I was slowly getting through the list. She was determined that I would not put any of the grown grandchildren in there. My husband and I both mentioned that just because they are listed does not mean she has to call them or even answer their calls but it was for her benefit so that she would at least know who is calling...nope!

However, she did want one neighbor, who is as controlling as the Queen Mother, on the contact list, which surprised us. This neighbor has helped her, like making sure she went to get checked when she fell on her knee and visiting her and bringing her things from the house, but she is also overkill. The Queen Mother had come to rely on her in some ways, but also complains about how she has been confusing her, telling her what to do and such. There is a strange dependency that concerns us because she complains about the woman yet.... My husband can size people up accurately, his God given gift, and he does not trust her. Since there were two women with the same first name on the list, I did not know which was the one that we would have preferred to mistakenly (on purpose) not put on the phone. However, I have a pretty good idea why the Queen Mother wanted her on it, so she has a neighborhood snitch to tell on us. The woman had come over on the first day, Friday, when my husband was visiting his mother and she began telling me what I should do with this and that in the house as well as asking me what we planned to put in the trailer. I said that depended on the weather, but it did not escape me that she once had keys to the house for a few months and knew what was in it, so she would be watching to see exactly what we were taking and probably tell the Queen Mother.

The third day I did not go with my husband and my desperate-for-Internet child, who is thankful for the free wi-fi at the nursing home. The Queen Mother apologized to my husband for being so rough on me, probably thinking that is why I did not come and that was partially true. Being empathic has its drawbacks. I try to connect with people as my way of understanding and helping them not with just physical healing but emotional, it just happens without conscience imagine, if you can, feeling how helpless and out-of-control now that her things are being prepared to be sold or whatever the Queen Mother feels along with my own feelings of being the brunt of her anger and pain, and just trying to imagine my own feelings if I were in her situation, and trying to deal with my feelings about going through her things to decide if they have worthy sentimental or monetary value. The conflict is completely insolvable and I could not sleep that night.

So, when she finally had all the Black Hills gold jewelry, she reportedly said that she did not know there was so much...but kept it anyway. If it is stolen or "lost,"—well, it is her jewelry, even though legally it is not hers now. She signed everything in and of the house over to her son, which she understood but she still does not completely get. The Queen Mother on that day also asked to see her bank account, which only has her monthly income and it goes to the nursing home. My husband simply said that he did not have it with him. Yeah, I am thinking the snitch neighbor will be happy to tell the Queen Mother everything she can glean from us and the other neighbors.

I am very sad for her though. As I have been looking into the values of all her collectibles, they have lost value. Markets change. I always thought of collectibles as something that only have value because the owner enjoys them and not as an investment. The Queen Mother thought they were both, but she missed selling at the height of the market. Only the very oldest of Hummel figurines are holding their value. (Actually, I am not into all these collectibles but I had to learn about the several different trademarks on Hummel figurines so I could look up their value, even though of the more than eight trademarks, the only ones of real value are TMK 1, 2, and maybe some with 3.) Madame Alexander dolls are now selling for less than half of their purchase price, but there was a spike in the market in the late 1980's when Madam Alexander sold her company. At that time, the Queen Mother's set of First Ladies might have sold for as much as $40,000 and my father-in-law asked her to sell then, but she would not thinking they would continue to go up. There are other collectibles: Capodimonte ceramics, Avon, Shirley Temple, Fenton Glass, pressed glass, carnival glass, and Boyd's Bears.

Why the change in the collectible market? It is not just because we had been in a bad recession, but because of other several factors. One is when things become popular and demand is high, companies tend make more to sell more and it saturates the market so there far too many available; most of the time this is not a big factor because of population growth, items get ruined, and greater demand that drives up the price of the pieces as they become more difficult to obtain. However, another factor is that my generation and younger are not into collectibles; more people see them as cluttering dust collectors than as something precious. Another factor is eBay: instead of throwing away or finding an antique dealer to buy these items, people can easily list them on eBay and sell an item themselves, which has driven the prices down because people are willing to sell them just to get rid of them.

So, I was thinking how sad it is to see everything that the Queen Mother valued in her life become devalued. My husband and I have watched her through the years invest into and place more value on things that do not have true lasting value rather on the things that are worthy, like God and people. Yes, people can let you down and hurt you and even die, but they are eternal. God has invested in people and values people. I think those investments are the ones that really last. I think it is sad that she has only had a couple of visits from two neighbors after being in a nursing home for well over four months and yet I cannot think of a time that she has ever visited anyone in the hospital or in a nursing home other than family.

It is sobering to see what has been sown in life is what we reap.

My Lord, peace is so hard to find right now, so I must rest in You more. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

When a Tree Falls in the Woods

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people. -G.K. Chesterton

My daughter is in love with photography and she has the eye for it. For her 16th birthday, we gave her a Cannon Powershoot G9X Mark II, which is a solid mid-range point-and-shoot digital camera. Her favorite thing to do is walk around taking pictures of anything that catches her eye. Sunday she was out in the backyard and came to show me the dead tree in the neighboring yard finally came down...on our fence.

The first time we had a dead tree come down on the fence from the same neighboring yard was within in just a few months after we had moved here nearly twenty years ago. The neighbor came over and told us. Honestly, we did not see it from the house because of the overgrowth of the wooded part of our yard. The neighbor asked us to give him a few days to take care of it. He replaced the top bar of the chain link fence and re-attached the chain link part. It looked good when he finished. Those were our first neighbors on our north side and they were nice people.

A few years ago the neighbors on the south side, the daughter of the owner, decided to hire someone to remove a few trees and one heavy branch fell on our fence. They had not warned us that they would be having trees removed like her mother would have done if she still lived there, which would have been nice as it is quite noisy, but I just looked at it as she is a young mother and probably just did not think of it. I had to tell the her about the fence being damaged and asked how to contact the company. They did not tell her about the fence and fortunately it just missed our shed. They removed the branch but the fence was still damaged after they left and apparently they were going to leave it that way, until we insisted it was fixed. The company finally repaired the fence, not professionally, but at least it was functional.

For the last several years, there has been a dead, split-nearly-completely-down-the-middle-of-the-main-trunk tree in the neighbor's yard to north side. That property has had several occupants since our first neighbors as it became a rental after the second owner moved closer to her work and she rented it to her boyfriend at first. When he moved out, the owner contracted with a property management company. The first renters were there for five years and the tree was obviously dead while they lived there. After they moved away, there were two more renters within just over a two-year period—the first one is still a good friend of mine. My friend would not let her children play in the backyard and called the property management company several times about the tree but they, or the owner, would not have it removed.

That tree finally came down on our fence. We did not know when and did not see it because it is on the very back corner which we cannot see from the house but the Princess found it just yesterday. So, my husband goes over to our newest neighbors, who are the new owners and have not said but a handful of words to us since moving in months ago—actually they ignore us and walk away when they can. Strange family.

I walked up hearing my husband being diplomatic and offering to help them with clearing the tree and repairing the fence. The wife then begins to say that she was trying to figure it out who was responsible because...well, now I have to say here that Georgia has some weird laws and one of them is about fallen trees. If the tree falls onto your property, it is your responsibility. However, I knew that there is a bit more to that statute if you look at case law.

She went on to say that it looked as if the fence damage was our responsibility. I told her by law, she is right with the exception of when the tree is obviously diseased or dead and that tree had been dead for years. The whole time her husband is sitting on the porch behind the roll-up blind that was rolled down so we cannot see his face and will not even get up to address us, but my husband again offered to help him with the tree and our fence. He said something about not having a chainsaw and his father only having a 16-inch one so that would probably not work. My husband mentioned he has one and to let him know when he wanted to work on it. That went better than I thought it would because from the conversations we cannot help but overhear from behind the rolled down blinds, the guy talks like he cusses everyone out all the time, especially at his work.

When we walked away, I apologized to my husband for stepping into the conversation with the legalities-responsibility thing, because I probably sounded a bit short with them. Reading the attitudes when I walked up, I already knew they were not going to be cooperative and my husband was already irritated but keeping it well controlled. That is when he told me that they had known about the tree for a week, which they told him before I came out, and he was already put off thinking: who does that? 

So, we are not expecting them to do anything to make this right...but I keep hoping that I will be surprised about how wrong I read into how they will handle it.

Still, if this is how God is giving us the sign that we should move to more open spaces, it is quite motivating.

My Lord, I am not sure if You are trying to motivate us to move or giving us a challenge to love our neighbors/enemies, perhaps a both. Make Your path very obvious to us and help us to be good witnesses of your forgiveness and love.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Springing Back to Early Mornings

Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.
-C.S. Lewis

I love the dark in the morning as the quiet light rolls in misting the earth before the dazzling rain of light storms in. It sets my mood better for the day to have this time to think whispering thoughts before my mind thunders with all the necessities of work for the day and my own reflections are muddied or my intended path is washed away with the flood of the bright new day.

For most of my life, I have been an early riser, which means I also go to bed earlier. However, for about the last two years, I have not been. I felt like I lost a bit of myself and I felt a bit lost with God, as I explained in That Something Broken Between God and Me.

Why the change in rising times? I think it was a culmination of many things. My husband is the one to stay up later for his alone time, but he works away from home most of the time and, at that some points, it is almost all the time for many weeks. It wears on me and I tend to sleep later and shorter periods when he is away. To get my mind off of my loneliness, I began to watch some shows through Netflix online at night, real cliffhangers that make one want to series binge into the wee hours, unfortunately I am susceptible to TV addictions like that. Recently, I made a conscious decision to stop watching shows in bed on my computer and that made a huge difference.

My daughter, particularly two years ago, was having sleeping problems so she often was not ready to start her day until mid morning, which made me feel like half the day was over by the time she was ready to do any lessons. So, part of me was trying to allow her to sleep and not be angry about it, which did not work well. Then when things fell completely apart for her in November of 2015, When the Train is on the Wrong Track, I decided that her emotional health had to take priority. We set rules about no screens an hour before bedtime and gave her supplements to help her regulate her sleeping time, which took months to stabilize completely. During that time, for me, it was why bother to get up early and be angry with her every morning, so I just went along to get along, giving in to her schedule thinking that at some point we would get back to where I liked it better.

Basically, I did or allowed everything I could to make me lose myself so I would not feel depressed or angry or think too much of how I felt out of control, which did not really work because under everything was this anger that nothing in my life was going the way I hoped or planned or wanted. I even stopped reading books because I just could not enjoy them! I was just going along to get along but I was not happy. I felt like I had to be responsible for everything and I felt overwhelmed and I was not getting any help, not from my daughter, my husband, my friends, or even my God. Yeah, we all have had poor-me times like that.

I am not one that has to be in control to feel happy or secure, but I do have to be in control when my husband is away and switch gears immediately when he comes back and those gears get a bit rusty at times. When my daughter rolls out of bed later than usual now that she is on a better schedule, I just take a deep breath as I think of all the things I was required to do at her age, like get up at a particular time to get ready for school and be at a job at a particular time and clean my aunt's entire house every week and hand wash dishes every evening. I felt the only way to be marginally happy was to surrender to their schedules and then there was God, whom I was avoiding for other reasons, and so it has felt like my life was just pouring away down a drain without any lasting purpose.

I apologize for the rant. My point is simply, I really have not been the me I want to be or see myself as. In part it was circumstances and the other part was choices, but now I feel more in control of myself again.

Recently I have been going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. It is refreshing. Maybe I am inspired by the spring mornings. I enjoy hearing the birds' sunrise songs. As soon as it is light enough, I am wanting to go outside to work in the gardens or tackle an area of clutter in my house even before that...and there are plenty of areas to tackle!

I am feeling that spring back into my life and far less anger and improving relationships with all my love ones, especially my Lord.

My Lord, I am so thankful that You are a forgiving and loving God.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Piano Judging, Competition, and Recital

Don't practice until you get it right.
Practice until you can't get it wrong. -Unknown

I pushed the Princess through the early teen stage of wanting to quit piano hoping that her teacher was right in how many students, who start young, want to quit at that stage in their life, but if they continue on, they do begin to love piano again. I began to see my child enjoying it more last year when she was asked to join the youth praise band at our church, however it got off to a very rough start because the leaders were...well, they were all teens, knowing everything with little evidence to prove it. They had been practicing for months and had never played even one song for the teen service until recently. Thankfully, our new praise and worship pastor decided to take on the youth praise band and they have since performed a couple of times. My daughter is a performer, even though she would deny it at this point, but without a deadline for performing, she was not really excited about what they had been doing with the band. Nice to see that is changing.

I am always amazed and ever so thankful when I realize God has this and I really do not have to worry about everything (because I tend to worry about everything as if it is a career choice). I knew that Princess needed a bit more inspiration that she was not receiving it from either one of her parents or her piano teacher and God provided it in a way that we could not have foreseen. Last year at church camp, my daughter met a boy that I will call Guitar Guy here. Although Guitar Guy goes to a different church about 30 minutes east of us, he and the Princess have become good friends ever since, inviting each other to their youth group functions at times, and they have one thing in particular in common: both are amazing musicians. Guitar Guy excels in ear training, in which the Princess is weaker, but he lacks in music theory, which the Princess knows far more than she thinks she does. He has been very encouraging to her and I think she is beginning to view her talent and music as something worthwhile, maybe even valuable. Of course, Guitar Guy has his own band and they play music that is heavy metal Christian that neither the Princess or I like, but at least this guy has a plan for his life. He wants to go to college to get that music theory and play guitar or bass in a band. Through recordings on YouTube, his band has gained more popularity in England than here and he hopes his band will tour there next summer.

First, the Judging
I am very pleased that I have been seeing this little spark that I had not been seeing for some years in the Princess as I watched her prepare her two pieces for the annual judging. She has never been as fond of Mozart as I have been, but when they were choosing music, her teacher played a piece that she liked. I have to say that she just barely makes the octave stretch on Turkish Rondo, as she is petite with small hands, but she does it. However, it is the Tarantella by Albert Pieczonka that she really loves to play. Both songs are fast and she likes to play fast.

On March 25th she was judged and received another superior rating. This makes her seventh year in a row. The judge mentioned how she holds her hands perfectly and how crisp her triplets were on the Tarentella. This is worth noting because of what comes next.

Second, the Competition
Guitar Guy goes to a church of a large denomination: Assemblies of God. They have a competition every year called Fine Arts. He has competed in it and he encouraged the Princess to compete in it this year. It was started on the following Friday evening, March 31st and continued until Saturday early evening, April 1st. She would stay overnight at a hotel with Guitar Guy's older sister who was chaperoning as well as some other girls. My husband needed to go to Florida as that Friday also was the day that the Queen Mother was being moved into the nursing home, but he did not want to miss seeing the Princess' competition, so we decided that I would stay home, he would go and stay at a hotel one night and drive the rest of the way to Florida from there, as it was about two hours south of us and on the his way. The Princess would come back with the other kids on the church bus, which is how she went down there, and I would pick her up at the church when they got back.

The Princess was actually excited about the competition because she wanted to know how good she was compared to others, as judging alone was not competitive in her mind...probably because she had always done so well. For this competition, she could only play one piece and she chose the Tarantella. There were only six pianists in this age group and three played the Beethovan's Für Elise (which Trudy, our piano teacher, hates because she always says it is so overused, but we had not run into that before this).

The Princess did well, but the judges all criticized her triplets. One wrote they were a muddled and another wrote that her pinkie finger was weak, things along those lines that made me suspicious, since I know that the one attribute that shines with her is crispness and how her fingers are well trained to keep the notes even. She was disappointed that she got two points off from each of the three judges on performance.

When the Princess came home and I read the judges remarks myself, I asked her what had happened. Apparently, they had her class in a room with a digital piano instead of in the sanctuary with the grand piano. The digital piano had horrible key action. Some of the keys even stuck. This is the downside of being a pianist when other musicians can bring their own instruments; a pianist usually has to play the piano available and the hosting church was to provide the piano for the competition. My husband noticed that all the kids had problems and after it was over asked a man from the hosting church to play it...and he said it was "awful." One girl, who was very good and might have won, had slowed her playing in one part of her piece to compensate, but timing changes that counts heavily in the scoring. The Princess has benefited from playing at least two recitals a year in different venues on different pianos and she performs well, which might have been what made the real difference for her.

Yes, my Princess won first place in Georgia and has been invited to the national competition in Anaheim, California in August.

Guitar Guy had won first in guitar last year, but there were some technical problems and he came in third, but he did get first for bass, so he is also invited to nationals. They were the only two who won from the church group, although my daughter said that the girl from their group that sang was far better than the one who won.

Feeling bad for all the kids who had to use the sticky-key piano, I have since called the person in charge of the Fine Arts competition in Georgia so that it does not happen again. The piano should have been tested by the judges before the judging so that the problem was known or that they could have judged on a different piano. The lady was surprised and nice about it and asked me to email it so that she would have it in her folder for the next year.

Third, the Recital
April 22nd was the day of the annual spring recital. Last fall I found a formal dress in a thrift store that would be good for a recital dress and was a style that the Princess likes. She looked so good in it, but she told me that I was sending her mixed signals as this lovely black lacy dress with gold highlights had spaghetti straps, which we do not allow her to wear. (Actually, the straps had to be reattached so it looked strapless at first.) However, I knew that the recital would be around her sixteenth birthday and that we talked about appropriate dressing, as in I would not allow her to walk in the neighborhood with a tank top or a bathing suit, but if we are at a beach or pool, then it would be more appropriate (and what we wear is far more modest in comparison to the others there). This would never be a dress I would allow on a date, if she were allowed to date, that is. However, she is just beginning to appreciate that she looks very good dressed like a young lady, even though she still dresses more like a tomboy most of the time, so I wanted to encourage her to see herself that way. I assured her that if her father and I say it would be appropriate for this recital, then it would be fine.

The Princess played the same pieces as she did for the judging and she looked lovely with her long hair—that is long enough to sit on—pulled back from her face on the side of the audience. She played well and the smile she gave afterward was genuine. She never really can convince me that she does not like performing.

Afterward we went out to dinner and had some interesting conversations as we had invited a friend to the recital whom my daughter called her lost twin when they met at the Home Learning Center three years ago. Although we rarely can get together with her family, we have very much in common with them—besides that the names of our teenage daughters' are the same and, oddly, our former dog and their other daughter had the same name. The mother gave birth to that daughter at the same age I was when I had my daughter. Lots and lots of parallels, but differences as well.

When we brought the girl back, we all talked for couple of hours—I really love that family!

So, the spring piano season is done and now the Princess is setting her sights on the nationals for Fine Arts in August. We all have lots to do before we can get there.

My Lord, thank you for this gifted child and for helping her to see herself as we see her through loving eyes. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

That Something Broken Between God and Me

God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are.
~Dallas Willard

Everyone has felt let down by God some time in his or her life, but the trial is not the condition that caused the feeling: the trial is what we choose to do with it. The majority of people either become embittered against God for the rest of their lives or consider it God's punishment against them. Fewer see it as we probably should: we are living in a fallen, imperfect, sin-filled world along with evil, so there are disease, destruction, decay, deterioration, degeneration, and death.

I have been struggling with an expectation I had on my Lord for several years and it was not an unreasonable expectation of the Almighty! However, it was left unfulfilled and I allowed it to cause a brokeness between us, one of my own making admittedly. Every time I have prayed for the last few years, I have this festering thought in the back of my mind. Every time I have prayed for others to be healed, I was harassed by thoughts of "why not me" or "like I should pray for someone to be healed when I am unworthy to be healed myself" and other such thoughts. Some would blame Satan for those whisperings in my mind, but these were my own doubts springing forth from their hiding places that I did not want to admit I had, not even to myself.

I have such wonderful stories of healings in my family. My aunt was developing so many floaters in her eyesight that it was predicted she would be blind by the time she was 30 and God healed her. God not only broke my uncle's addiction to smoking a pipe, but also the lingering smell on himself and their home! Things like that were just kind of accepted but without expectation in their home. However, not everything in their lives was wonderful and they never expected everything to be. My aunt eventually needed glasses and my uncle developed a small spot of cancer on his tongue decades later. That is the way of it; healing does not mean healed forever. Even in with healing victories, we still live in a sin-damaged world.

God did a very big miracle for me when I was just about the age my daughter is right now. I was camping with my aunt, uncle and cousins, as they always tried to take a camping trip for a week before school started. I had a dream that was so real that I wished so much that it was real: my teeth were straight. I woke up moving my tongue along my teeth and they felt straight...but only for that moment. Then the reality that they were not plunged my hopes into the ground and I just wept and prayed this: "God please straighten my teeth." I heard without any hesitation, "I will." Now I had experienced encounters with God before that night, but not one that struck me as a promise that He made specifically to me for something I wanted.

Even though I was just 16 years old and not long on patience, I never doubted it for even a moment that He would do it, but I reminded him of His promise for nearly a year before I found out how He was going to do it. Unknown to me, my aunt had approached our dentist, who had known me from the first time I had a baby tooth that would not come out on its own, probably because my teeth were so crooked and crowded. He knew my mouth was a mess, but I came from a very poor family, and my aunt and uncle had not much to spare after taking me in with their own four children. So, my dentist asked his orthodontic friends to look at my case, knowing we could not afford braces.

One look and I was told I had the worse case they had ever seen and they were not even sure that they could help me. They said that I had nearly everything wrong with my mouth but the opposite of it, as in you cannot have an over bite and an under bite at the same time. They took my case pro bono and my dentist did all my dental work for free as well during the time I had braces, which was a long time...I think it was nearly five years in braces and then a year in a retainer and then another year in my retainer at night. I would have kept wearing my retainer at night but my dog had gotten a hold of it and I could not get the orthodontist to replace it. How I wish I had pursued that more!

Teeth will move...I was warned....and they did, but they looked straight until sometime after I had my daughter. Slowly I again developed an overbite and then one tooth in the front dropped and then one in the back also on the top got a gum infection once. The tooth dropped due to bone loss and the back tooth, which has been loose, had far more bone loss even though my gums looked healthy. My dentist even told me that it is nothing I am doing wrong because my dental hygiene is very good, but even so I have accepted that God is not miraculously healing me and probably both of these teeth will need to be removed and have implants replace them.

So, this week I had a consultation with the same oral surgeon I had picked to remove the Princess' impacted wisdom teeth, when they are further along as he recommended and possibly four other teeth if her orthodontist decides that needs to be done, as he said she is borderline on the crowding. The oral surgeon took a look at my x-rays and asked if I had had braces, probably easily deduced because I am missing four teeth. Then he asked if they had used a palette I am impressed! How could he know that?

Well, it comes down to this. The palette speader is braced on four teeth and you are given a key to insert in the middle to give it a half turn every day so that it spreads out the palette, because my palette was too narrow. The preferred method, at least now, is to surgically do this (although many orthodontists still are using that method). Why? Because afterward the teeth tilt back in towards the mouth and that is how he could tell I had that done. So the teeth look straight on the outside, but they actually tilt inward.

Now I knew my upper teeth in particular had moved in ways that I did not like, but after seeing the my excellent hygiene care and the condition of my gums although with some periodontal pockets, he could only attribute the bone loss to problems he was seeing to my bite. So, I also need to see a periodontist but the oral surgeon said to talk to the orthodontist first and he will coordinate what needs to be done and in what order, so that everything is prepared for starting orthodontics.

Fortunately the orthodontist had an opening the very next day so I went. He asked me what my goal was and I said to save my teeth, because if my bite was the problem as I had been told by his friend the oral surgeon, then I had more problems to come with my teeth in the future if I did not correct the bite. The orthodontist said I have an open bite and that ideally upper jaw surgery would be the best corrective procedure. I was asked if the oral surgeon suggested it, which I do not think he did and we discussed the next best option. The second best option would be to work with the jaw as it is to give me the best bite possible and take the extra stress off the back teeth, which are the only teeth really making contact for chewing presently. That would put me in braces for about a year and a half. I was going with that option until I talked to my husband, who was considering the first option to be the better one.

So, I am taking a look into the the jaw surgery and may need to talk to the oral surgeon again to see if my case is borderline or would be necessary. It would solve a number of problems for me including some TMJ, but it is a pretty intense surgery and can leave numbness in the upper lip, cheeks, and nose for months. It also adds time to being in braces, because the braces have to be in place before the surgery, but thankfully there is no wiring the mouth shut, just rubber bands to hold everything in place.

Also the orthodontist was thinking that he might try to work with the tooth that had dropped down in the front. It was just slightly loose and even though teeth do not really move back up much, he thought that the two middle front teeth could move down some and it up some, and maybe it would not be completely even but still good. He was the first one to not say pull it and do an implant automatically, although the oral surgeon did not give an option saying to talk to the orthodontist first.

The orthodontist is kind of like the conductor of this whole thing. When teeth are removed, when implants can be placed, when jaw surgery should be done (if I go that route), and so forth. However, the first thing is to see a periodontist, because while my gums look healthy pink, I have a few pockets and gum loss to deal with first before anything else...well, accept for the one tooth that cannot be saved. It seems that my the oral surgeon and the periodontist both can pull the tooth and place a bone graph, so the question is who to do that which is probably next.

Considering everything I am going to have to do, the funny thing is I actually feel very relieved. I have been feeling that I had been given this wonderful gift 40 years ago and I messed it up. I did not always take care of my teeth as well as I should have, but there was this overwhelming guilt so bad that I did not want anyone to know. I felt terribly ashamed to say that I ever had braces, because my teeth sure did not look like it now. Their present condition was not a good testament of the gift God had given me. However, now I know that my former orthodontists had done the best with their knowledge at the time and open bite jaw problem as it was.

And, here is the thing that really warms my heart. A few weeks ago, I was trying to pray with that wedge of guilt about my teeth and letting God down...and feeling unloved between us because he had not healed me still. I do not remember now what I was praying about exactly but I think it was along the lines of my husband and his mother and that whole situation—whatever it was I do know it was not directly related to me or my teeth—and I heard my Lord say "I am going to bless you," as plainly and as clearly as when He said "I will" 40 years ago.

I did not really know what He meant at the time, but considering how much all this dental work is going to cost us...well, the timing is pretty good for that part. (Although who ever wants to spend money on things like this?) I feel a bit guilty about the cost, but also wildly relieved, which I find rather odd. Ever since the Princess has gotten her braces, I have been so excited for her and even a bit envious thinking I how would love to go into braces again (strange as that may seem), but I knew that it would be far more complicated and costly for me (and I did not even know the half of it). I have been weighing that with my age and its worth. However, now that it seems the bone loss will continue because of my bite, that I could lose more bone and more teeth, and all of that is not really associated with how well I am taking care of my teeth, I feel so much better. I actually teared up when I was talking to the oral surgeon, not because of the work I dreaded to have done as I thought I would when I went there, but because I was doing everything I could and he could see that and found the likely cause and this could save my other teeth.

Yeah, I am feeling rather blessed—and loved—right now. My Lord and I will be going through this together...again.

My Lord, just days ago I was weeping in my heart, feeling unloved by You. I knew that was wrong, which only made me feel worse. Today, I am weeping with joy because I now see the special gift you had been holding for me in secret until now. You are a such a good Father. Thank you.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Phone Conversations Going Bad

Duty is what one expects from others. ~Oscar Wilde

My husband keeps reminding me that he is making small moves in regards to his mother because when we look at everything, it is just overwhelming. First things first and that was to find more permanent place for her to be. March 31st was her last day allowed on Medicare. My husband, under the attorney's advice, has been changing things over so that she would qualify for Medicaid and we would be managing her property, as we began to realize that it was unlikely that she would be ready for assisted living and still in need of nursing care. In part, that is because her knee, where she fell and had become infected, still is still an open wound, although smaller than it was it is still a large wound. The other part is her difficulty with caring for herself and dressing herself below the waistline, although she has made improvements there as well and might still.

The place she was in is mostly a rehab type of nursing home, so although the facility is a licensed nursing home, they make more money with rehab and only keep a few beds for nursing home care. In other words, they wanted her out and they made that very clear to her. They legally cannot kick her out, but they can pressure her and this facility is notorious for doing just that...apparently. Now my husband and his mother both have told the case worker there that he has power of attorney and the case worker was to talked to him, but instead, because she is clear minded, the policy is that the case worker would pester her until she was having anxiety and inability to sleep at night—not really the policy, per se, but certainly what they do. Our attorney warned us about this because of their experience with that place.

On our side, we had been waiting for the final evaluation from that same facility to know whether Mom needed nursing care or could go into assisted living. Neither we or our attorney got a call or any paperwork, which is supposed to be done three weeks before the Medicare cut off. So we finally get the evaluation just nine days before they want her moved out and they were suggesting assisted living because they found her to be borderline, but being that she is clear-minded, they leaned on the lesser care. We disagreed with the suggestion based on the fact that she was at the time unable to care for herself below the waistline, she is so susceptible to serious infection, and...well, Mom rather have people waiting on her, perhaps because she tires out so easily or she just enjoys attention if she is more helpless.

We had been calling Mom nearly every day for two weeks before the deadline week but not talking to her because she did not answer her phone. It has been very frustrating but Mom has her reasons. Reason one, she cannot screen calls as she has done at home since the invention of answering machines and she likes to know who is calling before she answers because she hates telemarketing calls and, reason two, she always tells us the phone is too far for her to reach, as if she cannot ask a nurse to place it near her after she has finished a meal.

So one day around her lunch time, when I knew a nurse should be there to give her the phone since she would have just come back from therapy, I called Mom and she did answer. I began to talk about the Princess' judging for piano and how she had another competition coming up, but Mom was not at all interested and asking me about where we had her set up to be in Georgia and began to tell me how the rehab center was preparing the transportation to bring her up here.

What? Now I am upset, because my husband and I both did not want me to be the one to tell her that she would not be coming up here, not now and most likely not at all. All I did say was that she needed to talk to her son and that he had been working on finding a good place for her, which was not enough for her.

Now she gets very upset saying she had not talked to him for two weeks. At this point, my frustration vented...just a little: "Mom, your son has been calling you nearly every day since he was there two weeks ago and you have not answered your phone." To this she replied with her typical excuses about the phone being too far away, or she was in therapy (which was in the morning so we did not call her in the morning), or she was napping. "Uh-huh. Well, if you really want to talk to him, you might need to keep the phone close by at all times. He does work for a living so it would be helpful if you considered his working schedule and kept the phone near you particularly in the evening when he is not working and better able to call."

So I ended up being accused of upsetting her, which certainly added to my frustration as I was just calling to have a pleasant conversation about how well the Princess was doing with piano and generally what improvements she had made, even though I had been concerned that we had not been able to get through to her for two weeks. I reminded her that she asked me about things that she needs to discuss with her son. She began on the same topic again and I ended up apologizing and abruptly ending the call. However, that evening when my husband called, she actually answered and was calm (after having vented on me) and he explained to her that transporting her to Georgia was not in her best interest at this time as she was still needing daily nursing care for the open wound on her knee, but he and the attorney were working on placing her in another nursing home near where she was.

We did have her moved to a Christian based nursing home that is known for its great staff and gourmet food on the very day we needed to do so, March 31st. That was the same day of the Princess' competition (I will get to that later on) a couple hours south of here, so my husband was with the Princess on that day and the next to see the awards. Then he left from there to go to Florida and see that his mother was settling in well.

The morning of March 31st, before he had to leave for the competition, we have enough time to get Mom a flip phone and add it to our cellular plan, which was the cheapest option we had. This phone was senior friendly with three buttons for pre-programmed numbers and I set them up with "1" to my husband, "2" to me, and "3" to a high school friend she used to call once a week. Plus, we had it set up with her home phone number so she did not even need to contact all her friends to give them a new number. She seemed happy about it and my husband asked her to keep it with her at all times that she could in her pocket.

So, all is well, right? A few days ago, Mom called my husband. Well, sort of. It was from Mom's phone, but my husband was talking with a male nurse with Mom telling him what to say in the background, which was mostly about that they had moved her to another room, because her roommate did not like the company...and neither did Mom, but they both are not in private rooms so eventually there will be a roommate most likely.

However, I am still trying to wrap my head around why Mom could not just call and talk to her own son her own self!

My husband thinks that she just wants people to do everything for her even though it is not necessary. I mean, really! How simple could we have possibly made it for her: flip open phone, press the top left button labeled "1," and placed phone near ear. I honestly do not know if it is that or something else and she will probably have another excuse, but I find it to be incredibly rude on many levels. For 30 years that I have known my husband, I cannot think of any time that she called just to talk or ask us what we are doing...okay, there may have been a time or two, but in 30 years? She only calls when she has a problem and wants to vent or she wants us to solve it for her, usually both, like the computer not working right or something like that, even though we live 500 miles away. So, she just wanted to inform us of the room change without calling us herself, which is just pressing one button on her phone! Really?

Basically, it comes this: She will only call us if there is a problem. If we call, she will talk to us if she is in the mood to answer the phone. Then she likes to complain about how we don't talk to her for days or weeks.

This is how it has been when she lived at home and is going to be still. I just have no patience with that kind of choose-to-be helplessness and blaming others for not catering to her needs. I think I am going to start calling her the Queen Mother here on my blog. It is fitting.

My Lord, I ask that You mold my heart to be soft to people's feelings but firm against their blame on me...and my own blame against myself. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cool Down...Period

When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce. -Sun Tzu

After calling for a cooling down period—literally—the refrigerator war finally is over and, although our new relationship started tenuously and is still fragile, I am ignoring its chilling looks and focusing on the exchange of cold foods that was the point of the war. I appreciate its beauty, how it blends in with the other appliances, and how seems to be fitting in well now, as I am sighing in relief and thanking God it is over.

I had to cancel my daughter's piano lesson and not go grocery shopping yesterday because yesterday afternoon was the soonest we could get the new non-working refrigerator swapped out for one that looked exactly like it. Once everything was hooked up, I heard the very quiet hum just like the last one. I pace in front of it hoping it will cool like it is supposed to do...and, yes, I did place my refrigerator/freezer thermometer inside, despite the warning I was given to not do that. I am still rolling my eyes over that one!

Within a few minutes the gauge read about a degree or two lower. Yay! About an hour later it was in the low 50's and still going down. At around 8:30 p.m. I began moving all the things in the coolers into the refrigerator. I found that one item had not been as sealed as it should have been and had gotten knocked over one of the times we got in it, so broth had leaked on a few things and sat on the bottom.

I do not have everything arranged the way I want it yet, but at least everything is staying cool now!

Midnight, our outside cat who seems to want to be an inside cat whenever she wants to be, was particularly interested in the refrigerator swap as the front door was open, I picked her up and held her to keep her out of the way. Unfortunately, Midnight did not let me know that she had urushiol from poison ivy on the her fur on her right side. How do I know where it was on her, you may ask? Well, she likes to perch herself to look over my shoulder and she usually prefers my left shoulder, but I also had her on my right side and I have three spots between my shoulder neck on that side and only there. It is even more ironic that I was telling one of the delivery men, who is a cat lover, that she tends to give me poison ivy.

I had been looking for my poison ivy homeopathic for the last two weeks thinking I needed to start taking it to avoid the problem starting in February every year, but I just was not looking in the right places. This morning it had a higher priority and I found it.  I will be taking it daily until fall when poison ivy dies back.

I am not in the mood to get into another war, especially not with poison ivy. I would like to have some peace for a little while at least.

My Lord, thank you for reminding me how blessed I am, how the things I take for granted every day are things about which people for centuries did not even know was possible and would have seemed miraculous...and some people in the world still do not have. Help me to be grateful for each moment an appliance works as it is suppose to do so that my life is easier.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Heating Up the Cold War

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.
-Vance Havner

It is with a heavy heart that I find myself dragged into yet another Refrigerator War. You may remember The Refrigerator War that started in November 2016 and we ordered a new one in the same month, Fire and Ice and Colds and Rain. Once I got it completely defrosted, it seemed to be working. After we waffled back and forth on getting a new one, we decided to cancel the order because the old refrigerator seemed to be working. Actually, the old one really was working at keeping things cool, but it was no longer defrosting automatically as it should, which meant ice would build up on the coils and eventually there would be no air flow. I soon learned that every two weeks I would have to pull out the few items we had in the freezer to be placed in the freezers downstairs and turn off the refrigerator with the freezer door open to allow for the ice to melt overnight. It was not difficult to do, just one more thing I had to remember to do and it would not be too convenient when we have so much we have to do in Florida with preparing my mother-in-law's house to be sold.

We decided, again, to just buy a new one and we were waiting for the Presidents Day sales hoping our favored model would go on sale. It did not. Thinking that we may be moving ourselves in a year or two, we decided to upgrade our choice to one of those fancy-schamcy types with the water and ice dispenser on the outside of the door and a cool touch pad to adjust settings on the door also. The one we wanted previous was $190 less than list price with the setting panel inside and the upgrade was $700 less than list price and just $290 more.

So this time we were determined to go through with it!

You know, I always hope for the very best, but I expect the worse...and I really hate it when I am not surprised!

We decided to have the delivery on Saturday when my husband would be home. Saturday deliveries always worry me a bit because if something goes wrong, there is no service on Sunday, but I still hoped for the best.

The delivery was to be between 8 and 12 in the morning. At 11:15, I was calling to find out when the delivery might be, because my husband traded working in the afternoon that day for Friday off so he could go to Florida and settle some of his mother's accounts. I finally get an answer that the delivery guys had trouble with directions and were running 45 minutes late, but were at the stop before us at that time. Now I am thinking, if I were running that late, the last person on list is probably going to be outside of the delivery time and I should call.

The guy did call to see if we would still accept the delivery, which we did. We quickly moved everything in the refrigerator into two coolers and were done before they arrived. The fellows were very nice. We allowed their battery-dead phone to charge, which is why they had problems with directions and calling us.

Okay, I get it. I am lost without my phone also.

They did a great job of getting the old refrigerator out. I cleaned the floor while they prepared to bring the new one in.

So, the refrigerator is in, hooked up to water and electricity. Lights are on and the very quiet hum of the compressor. All looks good, shiny and pretty. I signed for the delivery and they left. My husband left for work. My daughter and I watched a show while we ate a late lunch.

We were told it would take about 24 hours for the refrigerator to level out the temperature and I checked it after about two hours. There was no difference in the temperature since it was brought in, so reads my refrigerator/freezer temperature gauge. That did not particularly concern me as I understand it takes time to cool down, but what did concern me is that there was no air flow. Now I had been dealing with a refrigerator that would ice up and not allow air to flow so I know that the new frig is not going to cool without air flow! I call the manufacturer's customer service to ask when I should expect the fan to blow the cool air into the refrigerator and freezer compartments or if the fans automatically turn off when the door is open. She simply tells me that I just had it delivered and it takes 24 hours for it to level out the temperature. I ask again saying that it will not cool of there is no air flow and I am told the same thing again.

So, now I feel like I am over-reacting, but still it just does not feel right to me, and wait a couple more hours. Same-same.

Then I call the place where we bought it. We tried a few things to be sure it was not in demo mode, which means all the lights work but not the refrigeration. Still the same.

Knowing we are not going to get this resolved at least until Monday and even then it will be at least another day or two to swap it out, now I am rather upset. We eat mostly raw, fresh foods (our pets too) and coolers are not regulated well enough for them to keep well, plus it is really inconvenient to try to find food in them, especially when we packed them quickly thinking they would only be in them a few hours.

My husband calls and asks how things are going....way wrong thing to ask the woman who is now becoming unglued!

The soonest they can possibly swap it out is Tuesday, my errand day. I say that I need to be the first delivery and I am told they cannot promise that, probably because they contract the delivery, but I am thinking they can request it considering the circumstances.

Last night, being that my husband and I were both spent, we ordered pizza and had the last of the greens for a salad. We are living out of coolers until the refrigerator is replaced.

I wake up quite early this beautiful Sunday morning to check on the new refrigerator, hoping it just magically started working. I find my husband reading through the manual. Apparently, there has been no change and I go back to bed. I wake up a little later to find my husband sleeping soundly.

I call the manufacturer again because I am not pleased with the fact that I was not listened to about it not working. I get a man, who during the conversation, says that they tell customers not to place refrigerator/freezer thermometers in their refrigerators because the temperatures fluctuate and they think it is not...

Oh, no you don't go there with me!

I cut him off right there. "Sir, please understand that I am not upset about the refrigerator being set at 37°F and it is up to 44°F after I open the door, which is normal. I am saying that the inside temperature was 60°F when it was delivered 20 hours ago and now it is 68°F."

I am not calling for them to fix it, I am calling to complain that I was not taken seriously when I called the first time. Had the lady told me that it did not sound like it was working right at that time, I might have been able to have something done—most likely not but I did not even have the possibility because I was not taken seriously. I asked about when the fans come on. I asked if they shut off when the doors are open. I asked questions that she did not answer and that he could not answer either, which I found to be highly frustrating as it was not in the manual.

So, as I am writing this, my husband took off the back panels and gave it a look over. He thinks the compressor is not working correctly, because the one tube going to the compressor should be hot and it is barely warm and the other should be cold but is barely cool. Since he fixes machines for a living, I am trusting he is right.

Anyway, we will be living out of coolers for the next few days. We are promised to be reimbursed somehow although that is vague.

This is why we are always hesitant to buy new things. If anyone is going to get that one that does not work quite right, even brand new out-of-the-box, it will be us. We tend to buy refurbished computers for this reason. Each one has specifically been tested to be sure it works as it should.

My Lord, I suppose there is good in this somewhere, somehow. Help me to see it.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

In the Whirlwind

Build me straight. O worthy Master!
Staunch and strong, a goodly vessel
That shall laugh at all disaster,
And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This week was kind of the concentrated epitome of the last few months of life as it had been going here, but it always requires some background to explain it fully.

Last Weekend
We all have been feeling more ill these past few weeks than we usually do, especially my husband, who never gets sick unless he is under stress and there is a lot of stress between his work and his mother. He has been to Florida three times in the last two months to sort out protecting her estate and get her on Medicaid for long term care in a nursing home.

The fact that his boss was fired just the week before and the man, who had seem to be threatened by my husband and kind of made it difficult for him since he started there has been promoted to manager over my husband and all the other field service engineers, who are not happy about it. So, after getting over a cold that had him down for most of two weeks previously, my husband began to come down with another.

He asked what we needed to do during the weekend as is his custom and I demanded that everyone just rest...and he really did. He slept the better part of both days and we ended up missing church again. I think we have been to Sunday morning services only once since the New Year. 

This was the day I started to have a headache, which obviously suggests that it was the first day of many. Trying to maintain some sense of normalcy, my daughter and I have devotions in the morning as often as we can, but we rarely miss Monday mornings because we flow from devotions with Hearing God Through the Year: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone by Dallas Willard into assessing our homeschool of what was done and left undone from the week before and all our plans for the week. All this usually takes half the morning because devotions can also spur conversations, the kind of mother and daughter conversations that I love and feel is beneficial for both of us.

When I look back to compare my daughter a year ago to now, I thank God and I am overwhelmed with pride. She is a normal teenage girl with mood swings, some quite wide, but she no longer sees us, her parents, as the enemy. We are close. She is generally happier than she likes to admit. She has friends, mostly guys. She loves playing the piano again, although she again will not admit it, but now at least she has friends into music, especially one boy, Guitar Guy, who is phenomenal with guitar and his ear training, and he is planning for that to be his career. The Princess has been learning to play my 12-string of late.

Our errand day is always a day of much to do and I did not feel like doing any of it, but this one was more because I have been a board member at the co-op health food store for the last year and the meeting which is usually held on the second Tuesday of the month was moved to this one as last week it would have fallen on Valentine's Day. So after all the errands are done, instead of heading home before traffic, my headache and I had to go back to the grocery store that I shopped at earlier with all the food in my cooler for a meeting that begins at 4:00 and lasts until it is over, which varies wildly from just 30 minutes to around 2+ hours. This one was was one of the long ones.

Traffic in and out of the Atlanta area is fickled. My husband would tell me that if he left the house an hour later to get to a customer site that is about two hours away during the morning rush, he would get there at the same time and without the aggravation. It is like that in the evening too. So, the only real benefit of the meeting being longer, because nothing was resolved, was that it was a breeze to get home. I took sips of my pink lemonade 5-hour energy drink, which is the only thing I have found to ease my headaches with its caffeine and B vitamins, to get through the day.

My husband was working locally on Monday and Tuesday, but he had to leave in the morning for North Carolina, which meant that I and my headache, my new come-and-go-but-never-really-gone-gone headache, would have to take my daughter and her piano to church for the youth band practice. Digital pianos are bulky and heavy, but the new case with wheels we gave the Princess for Christmas is helpful. And the youth pastor had called a meeting with the parents and youth after the Wednesday night service. So after the drop off, I went home, fed all the furry ones, rested for about an hour, and then went back for the meeting, which I thought was about the youth pastor's recent engagement, but...well, leave it to Busy Bee, my name for her here, to surprise us all.

Busy Bee had met a brand spanking new Christian on the first week of December—yes, just weeks ago really—and saw him baptized. They started "officially dating" by mid December. At the end of January she was wearing a ring, but had not made an announcement of the engagement until about two weeks ago. I thought that was what the meeting was going to be about, as she told me that several parents had expressed their concerns over the speed of the relationship.

This meeting was in three parts, but they did not tell us that there was a third part until we had got through the first two:

Part 1 was only the parents with Busy Bee and the pastor up in front and Busy Bee's intended on the side. The announcement was not about the engagement but her wedding date: next week on Friday. I think it delighted her to see the reaction on everyone's face. It would be a private service with just their families and the church would hold a reception for them later on.

Woosh! My headache is now adding its two cents to the conversation to which I am trying to listen. Of course it had to be that way! Busy Bee is a both feet in first kind of person, who believes she can make it work more matter how difficult that may seem to everyone else and most of the time she is right.

We were encouraged to discuss our concerns openly. Of course, everyone was concerned about the timing and with her being a role model for our children. However, the one thing that everyone wanted to say was not being said, probably because it was impolite with Busy Bee's intended right there, so I asked him why so fast especially being that he is a new Christian not having much time to mature in that new spiritually. He became defensive and said that I could not make that judgement because I did not know him...and there is was! He had said it himself and now it could be discussed. None of us, not even the pastor, had been given the chance or time to know him, and yet he was going to be the youth pastor's husband and around our kids because of it.

A marriage can have a rough start and work out well, but right after we found out about the engagement, I talked to her as I have my own daughter, that marriage is not a marriage of two people but two families and it is much better if the two families are invested in the marriage, if that is possible. She had told me that he asked if she had any family and she replied that she had 28 kids. So, she is marrying him to a large church family and we all need time to get to know him so that we are invested. I have been in a marriage where the family was invested in their son's happiness but not the marriage, so when he stepped out of the marriage, they did not help to support keeping it together. I was not family to them. In my family, once you marry into the family, you are family and we all work to help keep the marriage together.

Part 2 was to bring in the youth and go through this process all over again. The kids were all over the map in their responses. One girl just thought it was great. One boy, the son of the associate pastor came up to sit with Busy Bee and her intended to talk with them in a more personal way, so much like his father. My daughter was not enthusiastic and had concerns but did not discuss them because she had talked to Busy Bee about the engagement on last Thursday afternoon and she really had nothing else to say.

Everyone seemed ready to go and then....

Part 3 was completely unexpected. It was to discuss if Busy Bee would continue to be the youth pastor. Whoa! She was willing to quit if her marriage was going to be a problem. It was suggested that while she is not going on a honeymoon, that she still take at least a month off from her duties at the church.

Now I love Busy Bee. She is also our housesitter and we were counting on that as we have to go to back to Florida quite a few times to get things done there. So, at that point I am beginning to realize that she is just not going to be able to do all the things she has been doing including being involved other ministries in the area with youth. Also, knowing how she likes to jump in with her being 26 years old and him being 32, I would be surprised if they wait very long before starting their family.

So, after all that my head pounded and I could not sleep well.

The last time I woke up from the small bits of sleeping I did have to feeling weepy, head pain, sensitive to light, generally sick to my stomach, and food tasted awful! All of which came and went in crashing waves all the day. I just could not function.

My daughter was invited by Guitar Guy (he likes being called that) to an annual conference event for teens through his church denomination, but we were short on facts and being that I was barely functional, my husband took point and got everything arranged last minute with the youth pastor. The Princess would be leaving Friday evening and return Saturday night.

She made an extra effort all week to get her lessons completed just so she could go and now that her father had worked it out, she is very, very, VERY happy. I am, at that point, still not fully functional and looking forward to going to bed early, but....

Leave it to a teenager to add a crisis!

In the evening, my daughter comes in completely unglued screaming through tears that her friend is committing suicide RIGHT NOW. I take that very seriously, but I stay calm and try to get information from my hysterical child so that I can try to get a hold of the boy's parents. After asking another mother whose son goes to the same school to give me the contact information for his parents, I made calls that were not answered and while waiting I began reading through the thread of their Instagram conversation and realize that my daughter was misunderstanding. Actually, my daughter had led the poor boy into this, creating the crisis that was not really a crisis.

So, when I tried to explain to the Princess that she created the belief that he was suicidal and that I was not pleased with the language she used in conversation even though it was obvious that she was very upset and frightened for him, she ran out the front door into the night...and all my pride in her that I wrote about on under Monday went with her!!!

I did say my head was really pounding that day, right? Well, now I am too ill to even try to be upset. I call my husband, who is helpless to help, to tell him of the events of the last 20-30 minutes while I go out in the van looking for my daughter who is in dark clothes and barefooted. Oh, and we have new headlights ordered for the van because they are rather weak and it is hard to see at night. You got to love it when the perfect storm comes together!

I did not find her but she came home as I gave up and was pulling into the driveway. She talked to her father, then I talked to her for a few minutes but I could not focus, and then her father took over again on speaker while I lied on her bed....moaning as quietly as I could wishing I could just go to sleep.

I rarely drink anything with alcohol and hardly ever when my husband is away, but I found a bottle of Mike's Hard Lemonade left over from a case we bought a year ago. And just when I was about three swallows into it, the boy's mother called.

I have to go into my closet to talk so that my daughter will not hear the conversation. Apparently, she and her husband were having a date night out seeing a play and they left during intermission to get home to be sure all was okay with their son. The only message I left them was that I wanted them to call me back...not the message my daughter would have left them obviously.

We talked for about an hour about it and she was very nice and gracious as I was apologizing over and over for my dramatic daughter and ruining their night out. I explained that the Princess seems to attract and be attracted to a number of more troubled and depressed friends, which is true, so in the back of her mind everyone is on the brink of harming themselves. When I took the time to read the conversation I realized that she was the one who brought that up in the conversation, that she was worried about her son doing something like that. When he did not respond as she thought he should if everything was okay, she went ballistic.

Nice woman but still not the best way to meet a parent....and when the conversation ended it was quite late and the drink I had been sipping on did not really help make me sleepy, so I was awake until 1:30 a.m.

I wake up early, but even with little sleep feel far better than the night before. The headache was...well, you know when it is not really hurting, but it also feels like it is not really gone either? That was where I was, but throughout the day it would come and go in waves again.

My daughter and I have devotions in the morning and I talk about her triggers. One is that the boy—hmm, let me call him Templar as it goes with his real name in a way—mentioned that he has had a crush on the Princess for probably two years and he finds her "distracting good looking." (I so love that term as it makes her blush so lovely.) He went to the Home Learning Center when she did but he is a grade lower than the Princess. He explained to her that one day when he was supposed to be taking a test, he did not finish it because she was playing with some other kids outside on the basketball court and he just could not stop watching her.

First trigger: Two years with an unspoken crush is very close to things J-Void, the Stalker, used to tell her, so it makes her uncomfortable and she tries to tell Templar that there are other girls who will like him.

Second trigger: He says he will die when he cannot talk to her while she is away, meaning it as a flirty, joking thing, but the Princess sees the word "die" and her being responsible for his happiness, which feeds the first trigger.

So I was not too surprised as I read a few more back and forth's that she had turned the conversation to him being suicidal, which he assured her he was not. He just did not know how it got to that or how to handle it once she went hysterical and he had to go put his brother to bed. Poor kid.

I assured her that how Templar is expressing himself about his attraction for her is completely normal, balanced, and expected, which surprised her. I think she thought we were against all boys with a crush on her, which is not the case. We probably are aware of far more boys who have crushes on her than she is.

So, although she is grounded from social media conversations for a week, we decided to allow her to still go to the youth conference, which is where she is presently.

My husband planned for us to eat at a new upscale fish restaurant called Bonefish and have a relaxing evening together. Of course, my headache was still coming and going, but the meal was delicious and spending time with my husband was wonderful. As we walked out, my head was really pounding again and I was just a tad unsteady so I grabbed him and to people waiting outside he remarked that I had too much to drink—we both only had sweet iced tea!

And so, here it is the weekend again and my headache is still with me. Oh, and the refrigerator won its war, we are ordering a new one today. More no more defrosting it every two weeks.

My Lord, keep me strong as these storms keep coming at us because we see them on the horizon.