In Like A Lion

Generally, the saying “In like a lion, out like a lamb” is reserved for March, but I think it is fitting for January 2018 as well. For us, the end of December and beginning of January have been lion-like.

The Christmas season was pleasant and quiet. We tried very hard to follow traditions, but do all things in moderation, understanding that my sweet husband needed sensitivity and flexibility. Our middle child was home for ten days, our oldest and his family are safely settled into their new duty station in Japan, and our youngest and her family are nestled into the basement. We shopped, baked, decorated, wrapped, listened to Christmas music and watched the Christmas classics.

Christmas Eve became gathering day for our family at the farm since winter weather was harsh on Christmas Day. It was strange, but stretched out the holiday into a more doable weekend. My favorite man did amazingly well at the farm, and was able to remain with us throughout the meal, gift giving, and most of clean up before needing to be brought home. 26001162_10213844378697693_8189500081275403014_nThat evening we slid in last to the Christmas Eve service and by “coincidence”, there was only room in the way back. It worked well, and we were able to scoot out first once the service was over. My favorite man was only slightly shaken by people he knew he should recognize but didn’t, and was happy to see a familiar face. Christmas day was equally as quiet. We calmly enjoyed breakfast, opened a few gifts, napped in the afternoon, and FaceTimed with our oldest and his family. Honestly, it was a heavenly weekend despite the fact that we all were battling colds.

December 26th was our youngest grandchild’s birthday and we gathered with close family for chopsuey and cupcakes. My favorite man was so sick that he missed the entire celebration. By the 27th, his temperature spiked and held at 103 degrees. He complained of a headache, bodyache, and coughed constantly. At that point, the doctor recommended taking him to the Emergency Room. When he didn’t fight us, we knew he was sick.

26001090_10213855179407704_3808837877463324154_nAt the Emergency Room, we learned that there has been an influx of illnesses and it was verified by our Primary Care Physician. The good news was that he tested negative for Influenza A, but the bad news was that he tested positive for Respiratory Syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) Virus, or RSV and Pneumonia. Infections can increase confusion and can speed up the progression of dementia, and unfortunately, we have seen that over the past 10 days. My favorite man has become quieter, much more confused, easily agitated, and is on food strike.

It is the strangest thing. He gets so excited to see me or hear from me. Yet, when I call or come home, I get a quick response. Then he puts his headphones back on and returns to his world of politics, Forensic Files, or X-Factor. I have become his security blanket, and as long as he knows I am around, he is content and he goes back into his world. When I kiss him, there is a delayed response, no matter how many times I try. He rarely touches me, but doesn’t retract when hugged, kissed, or when I hold his hand. He doesn’t initiate affection any more, although I know that he loves me.

I still leave him notes each day, and he holds the phone until I call at noontime. He looks forward to my FaceTime, even if it is short. When I can get him to eat, he continues to love sweet treats, coffee, Pepsi, pizza, or anything he can put on the grill. He continues to cook and clean, although he forgets to shower, can’t remember how to shave, and can’t tie his shoes. He does the laundry, but can’t remember how to separate the laundry into darks, colors, or whites. He just tosses them all in together.

But I am losing him. On December 29th, my mother went into the hospital with bronchitis and a mild heart attack and she was readmitted into the hospital January 1st for pneumonia. It was the same day that my husband didn’t recognize me for the first time.

I wondered how I’d handle it. I’ve been expecting it for a long time. In fact, I was so nonchalant, that I have wondered if something was wrong with me. I didn’t cry. I just told him that I was his favorite wife, and he seemed okay with it. The majority of the day, I believe that he just thought I was someone who loved him and that he was supposed to love. The good news is that he later called me by name. However, it was a glimpse into what is to come and I know that.

I don’t quiz him. I don’t want to know who or what he remembers. It shakes him up, because no matter how hard he tries, some memories just don’t surface. I don’t ask him how many siblings he has or what their names are. I don’t ask him to recall anything. I just tell him about things. When people get close to him and quiz him, it frightens him. However, when they introduce themselves, it gives him to clues to either remember or fake it.

I hope and pray that he bounces back, but I am a realist. I know what to expect. I have accepted it. Maybe that’s why I don’t cry much any more. I cried a lot at the beginning, and I suspect that I will when it is all over. But for now, I just do my best to reset and recalculate.

In a way, I feel like I have PTSD. I have shared with friends that I feel like a piece of driftwood that keeps smashing against the rocks in the ocean. Although the trials around me haven’t necessarily been mine, I have been damaged by association. A lot has changed since 2009. It was the beginning of the change in my husband’s behavior and I will forever be scarred by some of what I have been through.

I do think that this experience has made me more mature. It has given me an opportunity to live a Christian testimony. However, I am not going to lie, I just completed a devotional on Trials that I wanted to jump up and down and stomp on, over the past 10 days. Finding joy, peace, and blessings is really tough when the heat is on full blast.

26167638_10213924703185755_7033773497360590356_nSpeaking of heat… it is colder than the Arctic here in the northeast. We have been battling -30 degree wind chills, and 30-40 mph gusts of wind. We have had snow, and ice, that is driving us all inside to huddle around our stoves, dress in layers, and wrap up in blankets. Heating our beastly castle is very challenging and as an answer to prayer this week, we were able to fill our oil and propane tanks for another round of frigid weather.

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The good news is that in the middle of the chaos my girls took me out for my birthday. We saw Pitch Perfect 3 in theaters after a wonderful lunch at Applebees. We enjoyed reclining chairs, sweet treats, and cupcakes made by my son-in-law when we returned home. It was a nice day. I even got a sweet note from my husband- which was extra special because he rarely writes any more.

After 2 trips to the airport, we finally got our oldest daughter back to Arkansas in time to start school. The first flight was cancelled, and the second flight had such tight connections that she had to run at all three airports. It did a number on my nerves, but by New Years Eve she was safely in the arms of good friends- but without her luggage. They came the next day!

Today’s prayer is to thank God for all He has done to keep me healthy so that I can be what I need to be for my family and for my favorite man. I want to thank Him especially for pricking the hearts of those in my circle, to encourage and hold me up when I feel weak, scared, or when the burden is becoming just too much to bear. I want to thank Him for family, friends, and coworkers who are committed to stepping in and praying, especially when loneliness begins to overtake me, because that is the worst. More than anything, I pray that when the time comes, my support system will rally around my family and I because we are going to need all the help we can get.

May January go out like a lamb, and may we get a little relief from the rough seas of life in the weeks to come. This piece of driftwood is feeling a little haggard these days.

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When Things Are Not “Okay”

I love the Christmas season- especially the music and the decorations. I love gathering with people I love most, while honoring my creator and celebrating the birth of His son. I blame my husband’s family for the endless baking, the insane amount of decorating, and the multitude of Christmas movies that must be watched. I thought my family enjoyed the season, until I was introduced to his side of the family. Grown adults are reduced to children as they chase one other around the house bopping one another over the head with wrapping paper tubes. Gum drops cannot be eaten until they are thrown at each other first- leaving gum drop shaped welts on the skin. Traditions must be adhered to, specific food must be baked, and at the insistance of my side of the family, services must be attended and Jesus must be sung to.  It makes my heart sing when my family is together and getting along. Their laughter fills my bucket. But what happens when things aren’t really “okay’?

Force joy. The best advice I can give is to “fake it until you make it”, and to do things that bring you joy. We have a few things that help in our home that I thought might be helpful to share.

The 24-hour rule. We have 24-hours to have a pitty party, which is sometimes necessary. At times life is unfair and we need to take time to be sad, frustrated, and disappointed so that we can move forward. We need to have processing time. In our home, it is up to the rest of the family to let you know when your 24-hours is up. At that point, it is time to come up with a practical plan. My husband has always been particularly good at helping us to come up with those next steps.

Do something. Both my husband and I come from families with a huge work ethic. We have always worked hard and we appreciate others who make that a priority. In fact, we have little toleration for those who can, but don’t work. It is actually how my husband and I “speak” love to one another. Nothing brings us more joy than working side by side. It is amazing what physical labor will do to ward off frustration and force a new mindset. At the end of the day, when we have worked hard, we can look back at our accomplishments with pride. We’ve had lots of think time and are ready for some quality rest from honest physcial labor.

Force a good attitude. Attitudes are contagious. We force ourselves off the couch, off the phone and social media, and get ourselves on the floor to play a board game or tickle a baby. It costs nothing to play and interact with the people we love. Laughter improves the spirit. My husband particularly enjoys watching practical jokes on the internet. His laughter can bring me out of a funk quicker than most anything.

Go for a walk. Physical exercise, fresh air, fresh fallen snow, a fuzzy pet, and a friendly wave from the toddler next door is always helpful. We need to get up and get out! I often pray out loud and walk at a good clip so that when I return, I am physically exhausted. It clears my head and tires me out.

Make a pot of coffee. Coffee solves a multitude of problems, especially with a good book, and a friend or two.

Light a candle. Smell helps to bring me out of a funk. I love the smell of a candle, especially when it smells like fresh-baked cookies!

Clean up and get dressed. It is amazing what a shower and fresh clean clothes will do to lift my spirits. I do that even when I’m sick. It helps me to feel human. Sometimes I paint my nails, put on some good smelling lotion, or try a new hair style.

Write encouraging notes. It is amazing how comforting it is to encourage someone else who might need a hand up, from someone else who “gets it”, and is also trying to seek joy when times are rough.

Perform an act of kindness. Kind souls occasionally leave me gift cards in my box at school. Some day it is my goal to pay it forward and to be the keeper of the gift cards. They have been such a huge blessing to me. However, kindness doesn’t have to cost a thing. It is a priceless gift when we share a kind word, a meal, a movie, some quality adivice, and actively listen to a friend in need.

Blast uplifting music. There are some songs that I just love to sing loudly. When they come on in the car, the kids and I just automatically turn the radio up really loud and sing at the top of our lungs. Honestly, I would love to make a soundtrack of those wonderful tunes. (That reminds me, I haven’t heard The Hawaian Christmas song yet this season!)

Take care of yourself. When times are challenging, it is easy to slip into the “poor me’s”. The more I sit and wallow, the harder it is to get off the couch. I try to get 7 hours of rest, eat food that is good for me and will provide me with energy, get some exercise, accomplish something that makes me proud of myself, encourage another person, read the bible, pray out loud, talk to a friend, read a book for pleasure, light a candle and pour a cup of coffee.

So if life is getting you down, and things aren’t “okay”, what are you going to do about it today?

Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. Today I am going to have a high altitude attitude.

By the Light of the Tree

Each morning I meet with my Maker. I try to open His word and see what nuggets he has for me. The latest study encourages me to do our PART. Praise God for who he is, Admit my sins and feelings, Request from God what I need, and Thank God for what He is doing. (Jaunita Purcell) During my special time in the morning, when it is just me, the fire, the tree, the animals, and my Maker, I strive for a cheerful heart. But I have to be honest, some days I have to work at it.

By the light of the tree, my first thought is always my children. I reminisce about past Christmas’s. I smile at recent memories of finding and decorating the tree with all of my children. Then my mind wanders to the future. I wonder what it will hold? I wonder how many more family Christmas’s will be held in the house on the mountain? I wonder how many more I will have with my soul mate here on earth?

It occurs to me that nobody knows. You don’t have to be facing a terminal illness to have those thoughts and concerns. That’s why we are called to live in the moment and also reminded by our Maker, not to worry about tomorrow. However, sometimes being told not to worry is like asking water not to be wet. It is just going to happen.

So here is what is on my heart, and what I disclose to God by the light of the tree:

I pray for quality time. I pray that what time my husband has left, is time that he remembers his family. I pray that we can keep him home, and that his pain will be manageable. I acknowledge his diagnosis and have accepted it. I pray that when the time comes, that the Lord will take him quietly and gently, and that I will be with him. I want that to be my last gift to my husband.

I pray for my oldest and his family who are headed to Japan on Monday. They will be there for three years. I pray for the unity of their little family and that their marriage will be strengthened. I pray that the example that they portray to their children will make a lasting impression. I pray for their safety and that they find faithful support and friends who are “like them, or someone they want to be like.” I pray that when the time comes, they will be able to afford to come home to help pay tribute to their father. I am thankful for Face Time and opportunities to see our grandchildren and text to their tablets. Nothing brings us more joy than to receive silly emjois from our little people.

I pray for my middle child who lives and teaches in Arkansas. I pray for her safety and financial well-being. It isn’t easy living alone and 1600 miles away, especially when your father is ill. I pray that she continues to thrive in the school system, and that she finds a church family that can support her when she isn’t able to be home. I am so thankful for Christian co-workers who have been good influences on her, and I pray that in the Lord’s timing, he reveal her soul mate. She has a huge heart, and a kind spirit and I just know that somewhere He is preparing the heart of a very special young man. I pray that the community wrap their arms around our precious girl and make her feel supported, comforted, and cared for in the difficult days ahead. I’m so thankful that she lives in the Bible Belt.

I pray for my baby girl and her family. She is giving of her time selflessly to help care for her father, and I am so appreciative. She is gentle and tender, knowing just when to spend time with him and when to give him some independence. It is a very difficult job working with moods and abilities that are ever-changing. My prayer for her little family is to find their own independence with a home nearby, along with financial security. I pray that we can be actively involved in our grandchildren’s lives because they are such a joy to us. I pray that when the time comes, that my daughter will keep her head and do exactly what she needs to do, and that the final moments won’t leave a lasting negative impact in her mind.

Then I think about me. I wonder what life will be like “after”. I think about how hard I am working to make myself healthy and strong for the marathon that is upcoming. It is challenging to train for a race that you know nothing about: what will be expected or how long it will last. However, I am determined to be physically, spiritually, and mentally ready when the time comes, so that I can be everything my children need me to be. It’s tricky now, but it will be challenging then. I wonder where I will go? Although I love the house on the mountain, it was God’s gift to my husband. He knew that my husband would need the distraction and more projects than he knew what to do with. It will be too much for me. So my plan at the moment is to find an efficient condo or rental that is big enough for company, but small enough for me to manage easily. I want very few responsibilities, to live nearby so that I can commute easily to the farm, school, and church, and close to the ocean because that is where I will feel my husband’s sweet spirit the strongest.

By the light of the tree, my mind wanders to my aging parents, my siblings, my friends and coworkers whom I adore. I lay their needs at the foot of the cross and ask God for his loving guidance as I enter the mission field each day. I thank him for the blessings, and meeting our basic needs, as well as an active prefrontal cortex that keeps me from sticking my foot in my mouth during long meetings that aren’t on the top of my priority list. I aim to do my PART by praising God, admitting my sins and feelings, requesting from God what I need, and thanking God for what He is doing.

One day, one minute, and one second at a time, my prayer is that by God’s grace, we all get through this marathon with as few scars as absolutely necessary.

A Most Thankful Thanksgiving

This year my entire immediate family was in attendance for Thanksgiving. There were eleven from my branch, four + one from my brother’s, and four from my sister’s. My parents, who are now in their early and mid-80’s were over the moon. I could barely lead us in prayer as we blessed the meal, I was that happy. However, I fought through the lump in my throat and the tears that welled up. There was nobody happier at that moment than Mom and I. It is the best feeling to have all of your babies together, most especially when it rarely happens.

We have truly had a blessing-filled month, so much so, that I feel like I need to write it down.

Prior to the children coming home, we enjoyed sweet companionship from two couples that mean a whole lot to us. It was wonderful to gather and receive comfort and encouragement from them. I am surprised at how much they filled our bucket, providing us with strength and courage to continue on our path with one unsteady foot in front of the other.

Some special soul keeps putting gift cards in my mailbox at school and surprisingly (but not really), they are always at just the right time- just when I am at a point when the pocketbook is most light. It always puts a lump in my throat, and shockingly, that small supply is just what I need to get me to the next paycheck. The person who is silently lifting me up would be interested to know that on more than one occasion, I used it on the way home, only to come within pennies of the total order, with just what I needed. When and if I ever get past this lean time, I want to be “that person”. I want to be the silent blessing that pays it forward at just the right time and just the right moment.

My middle child had quite the experience on her trip home, which resulted in four cancelled flights, and a rescheduled flight that only got her as far as Atlanta. This resulted in many tears and frustration as she left the airport in search of a hotel that was booked by a friend in the wrong state, that left her stranded in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain, taking public transportation, to a shuttle that had a flat tire, with 5% phone battery, which resulted in a trip to the fleabag hotel in the middle of Atlanta, and a $5 cup of noodles from a vending machine at one o’clock in the morning. I don’t think I have ever prayed so hard in all my life. But God is good, and all those trips to NYC trained her well, and she survived, although there were a whole lot of frustrated tears throughout. Twelve hours later, she was in our arms.

It was a whirlwind visit and we tried to cram everything we possibly could into the days we had. I still needed to teach for two more days, so she took her father on little road trips, and they browsed through the Christmas section of their favorite stores. Once school was over, we followed traditions, and made bread at the farm with Mom and prepared the farm-house for the twenty-two guests. And that was the day my son and his family surprised their father…

My husband had been so bummed- mad actually. He was ticked to think that our son would return from Bahrain, only to head to Japan with his family without seeing us first. Little did my husband know that there was a plan to surprise him the day before Thanksgiving, and that the family would be with us for a week.

On bread making day, we purposefully vacated the house so that our son could have his moment. He snuck into the house and peeked around the corner. My husband thought it was our son-in-law who had just left. He wondered if he had forgotten something. Then our son pushed our two grandchildren out ahead of him, and my husband was reduced to a puddle. Fifteen months is a long time to wait for a bear hug from your favorite son. And so began the marathon: fitting everything possible into a one week time period.

An additional praise was a phone call from our local stove shop. An anonymous donor purchased 2 pallets of pellets for us, to be delivered that afternoon. This was a huge answer to prayer, since funds continue to be tight and heating our home during the winter months is costly- which causes me to fret. Through tears and sniffles, I shared my good news with close family.  What an act of kindness and generosity.

Thanksgiving was busy, but surprisingly my favorite man did pretty well. Although, initially unhappy about pictures being taken, he got into it and insisted on a complete family photo that included my parents. I am so glad that we got it.

That afternoon, we went to a friend’s tree orchard and picked out the perfect tree for the house and the entire family took part in changing the living room around and decorating the tree. This will be the only tree that both our oldest daughter and our son’s family will have for the season because of travel. This made it even more special.

Traditional Black Friday shopping for Mimi is something the girls and I look forward to each year. There is just something about the experience of getting up early, buying coffee at 3 am, and looking around stores with happy shoppers who also want to welcome in the Christmas season. We traditionally return home to wrap the items that we have stowed away in the back closet throughout the year, while listening to Christmas music on the radio, and watching our favorite Christmas movies.

We made our traditional lasagna and Rice Krispie squares with the grandchildren as well as sugar cookies, because that “is what we always do” when we gather. At that time, we were so thankful for the Thanksgiving basket delivered to us from the church, that helped to feed our crowd. Our record trash making was 5 bags in one day!

More than anything, we enjoyed just hanging out together. It warmed our hearts to listen to the children laugh and the grandchildren giggle. We couldn’t get enough of it. We thoroughly enjoyed listening to our children goof around with one another. Remaining days were spent spoiling the two grandchildren we rarely see with donuts, ice cream, walks by the ocean, and snuggles in front of the fireplace while watching football on the brand new TV that our son and his family purchased for my husband for Christmas.

And just like that…our babies went back into the world and things are returning to normal. My focus is to create a quiet, stress-free environment so that my husband can get back to baseline from before the first round of craziness, and to prepare for the second round.

The good news is that our oldest daughter will be home from Arkansas in three weeks and will be with the six of us for ten days and through my birthday. By then, our son will be settled in Japan with his family and I can relax.

Ultimately, in this world full of despair and frustration, it would be so much easier to concentrate on what is not working. There is no shortage of that. It takes determination to push through and search for those precious blessings that refill our buckets. This vacation was just that for me. So on this first weekend of December, I wish to publicly share that I am a blessed woman. My friends, family, and children fill my bucket in so many ways and I am so grateful to call them my friends. What did I ever do to deserve them?

 

Spit In The Mop Bucket

I have been faithfully feeding the soul. As an educator, I am constantly pushing myself to use the skills that I want my students to use. As a result, I am reading the most challenging book I know. I’m questioning, pondering, reflecting, and putting into practice some challenging concepts. I study in the quiet of the morning, with the dark surrounding my single lamplight. I put away all thoughts of the upcoming day, and study. It reminds me of my college years, when I reviewed for my exams long before dawn. Regardless, five o’clock in the morning has been the time that I wake and get excited to see what new nugget I can learn each day…even on the weekend.

Despite the early morning soul building read-a-thons with my favorite text, I have had a ROUGH week and I must admit that I didn’t always respond in the way I should. Why does it sound so easy on paper, yet putting it to practice is like rock climbing in your Birkenstocks? For every one slippery rock, three other limbs are hanging and clawing, and slipping away. Spiderman would be embarrassed. I banged and crashed through the week, and somehow I made it to the end. It wasn’t pretty, but I got there. Somehow, in some way, tomorrow always came, and now it is finally the weekend where I can sleep in. (Haha that’s funny.)

For once, the challenges weren’t trips to the ER. My better half is in a good space right now. Our basic needs are being met, and we are warm, fed, and dry. It wasn’t the children or my family, friends, or coworkers. It was craziness and shear mayhem in my classroom that was absolutely not in my control. My trial was trying to teach ten small humans while three refused to work, sat with arms crossed under the table, destroyed my classroom, and completely disrupted good learning opportunities. It was rough, and although I tried to remain calm on the outside, my insides were screaming: “What in the world is going on here?” It was like playing the game: Whack a Mole. I’d get one quieted down and another would pop up. At one point during an observation, I had one building with chairs and rearranging tables, one perched on the top of an upside down desk, rocking back and forth in his chair, and other under the table with his arms crossed, facing the bookcase, refusing to join us for reading group.

When I could catch my breath during brief trips to the restroom, I’d do some self talk: “count it all joy, your trials are making you more mature and stretching you to become a stronger teacher, do what you know is right, slap a smile on your face and keep going, you can do this…” and I’d walk back into the hall to the world of crazy all over again: children hiding in the bathroom stall, spitting in the mop bucket, running back and forth down the halls, refusing to come out of the hall bathroom, trying to pull the fire alarm or trying to run into the parking lot. The list goes on…

My coworkers could see my frustration and I feel badly about that. At one point I needed a TIME OUT for me and took 7 minutes to lay my head down and regroup. I am frustrated with myself. I passed the written exam and barely made it through the Clinicals alive.

So, according to Fitbit I have had a quality 4 hours and 31 minutes of good REM sleep and I am back to the books. What to do? The IEP didn’t provide me with quality suggestions to move forward, so I’m on a hunt. How can I strengthen myself so that I can go back to the battle front? Here are some nuggets that I found:

  1. I am not alone. My Maker will go through the rivers with me and He won’t let them overtake me. He will go through the fire with me, and He will not let them consume me.
  2. When I search for my Maker with my whole heart, I will find Him.
  3. The Lord wants peace for me, He wants me to talk to Him, and seek Him with my whole heart, and the way He speaks to me to me is by reading His word.

This brings me peace, to know that no matter what, I am not going through anything alone. He will even be with me through my final breath and into eternity. What a wonderful promise, that life’s trials will not separate me from my Maker. We will all face trials. No one is exempt. “We all have stuff.” However, it is my sincere wish that the “stuff” of this life isn’t a waste- that I and others learn from it.

As I ponder this very difficult book (The Bible) and the study guide (Trials- Don’t Resist Them As Intruders, by Juanita Purcell), I have had a few “Ah Ha’s”:

  1. Sometimes trials are for others who benefit from watching me. Are others seeing a mature, wise response to the current trial?
  2. Sometimes trials were someone else’s lesson, and ended up as my strength building trial by association, which will produce strength of character, making me more mature, stable, strong, and settled.
  3. Trials prove the quality of my faith. Do I mean what I say? Am I prepared to stand by what I believe amidst the chaos?
  4. A synonym for patience is endurance, and trials through endurance, produce hope.
  5. DIS-APPOINTMENT can be God’s or HIS-APPOINTMENT. Is my first response to go to Him? He wants that for me. He richly desires a close relationship with me and that is often how He gets my full attention.
  6. “My attitude determines my altitude” and it starts with giving thanks even during the tough times.
  7. There is nothing that God can’t do. He made it all, He raised Christ from the dead. If He can do that, He can do anything.

“Some people complain because God put thorns on roses. Some people (and I want that to be me) praise Him for putting roses among the thorns.” I want to hear, “Job well done, good and faithful servant”, and I want to finish the race strong, with honor and faithfulness.

My prayer is that in the hard times (and during the peaceful breaks), the Lord will carry me through with His strength and that I will represent Him in an honorable way. I just can’t imagine going though this scary life without HIm.

May my life be more than spit in the mop bucket and that I get a higher score on my Clinicals next week.

 

 

Thankful November

The Higgins Household is ready for winter. Buildings have been winterized, gardens prepared, and windows have 6-ply plastic over them. Thanks to the storm last weekend, the generator is up and ready with reserve fuel, and oil. All we need is to pick up a spare spark plug and put up the driveway markers. Aside from pellets, oil, and propane refills, our home is ready for cold weather.

Winterization on the mountain is a project that generally takes the better part of October. Bulbs need to be dug up, gardens need to be weeded one more time and select plants need to be cut down. The rock wall that lines the property needs to trimmed back and rocks returned to their places. The well needs to be covered, strategically placed 6-foot stakes need to line one side of the driveway, the garden and yard items need to be put away, space needs to be created in the garage, windows need to be covered and window inserts need to be put in. It is a huge project that my husband works tirelessly on.

I am so thankful for all he does to keep our home warm and comfortable. He maintains the property and continues to do a large portion of the house chores. He cooks, cleans, and carries the majority of the weight while I teach school. It is huge help and I try not to take it for granted.

November tends to be the month that people verbalize what they are thankful for on social media. So on this chilly November morning, I’d like to publicly thank my sweet husband of 30 years for pushing so hard to make sure that his family is warm and ready for the blistering cold season that is most assuredly on our back doorstep.

My husband takes great pride in our little homestead. This is our 7th winter on the mountain and we’ve learned the hard way that if you are not prepared, you are going to freeze like a popsicle. We moved in November of 2010 as the first flurries of the season presented itself. There was no time for preparation and we thought we knew what to expect. However, we moved 4 miles from the Ridge, higher in elevation, with no wind protection from the north. We should have known better.

Snow, snow, and more snow. When others get a dusting, the mountain is buried. A large portion of the town’s snow lands in our driveway. It is impassable. You can’t find it. The driveway ceases to exist. 16708545_10211146553173741_754449196215219283_n

As a result, my roommate from college, a town planner, designed 5 berms to help protect our driveway from snow. These berms would help to create a natural snow barrier, becoming more efficient, the taller the plants grew. It has been a huge project that has taken a whole lot of time and money to create. However, it has also been a nice project for my husband who has been forced into retirement at an early age. 12592463_10207787770246267_8926260366777293873_n

The berms help…for awhile. Once the snow reaches the top of the berms, they are no longer detected, and the front yard looks like North Dakota just big and flat. We have underground wires, so there is no way to know where the driveway is. We have even tried lining the driveway with snow fence, making the property look like a compound. Nothing works for long.

Thank God for neighbors who help with snow removal, or we would seriously not get out of our driveway until Spring.

Generally, we have snow on our property until the beginning of May, and we can plan on snow any time after Halloween. That is a long time to be holed up in the house. However, the good news is that my husband’s outside projects will be coming to an end and he can get back to his nap schedule. He needs to relax a bit.

Despite his diagnosis and being in chronic pain, he pushes hard to take care for his family and most especially, me. He wishes he could drive, and he misses having a job, but his sheer determination to keep our homestead running like a finely tuned clock so that I can go to work each day, does not go unnoticed. I am a blessed woman.

So on this 4th day of Thankful November, I want to publicly lift up the love of my life. Your efforts do not go unnoticed and I love you so very much: forever and into eternity.

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For The First Time

My husband experienced the opportunity to eat his soup bowl yesterday.  It truly was his first time. It made me think about dementia, and how his firsts are going to increase, not decrease.

He doesn’t have many firsts at this stage, but sometimes he tells me that he has never been somewhere before, and he has. Sometimes he tells me he has never met people that he has known for years. Church has been particularly difficult for him. He says that there are a lot of new people attending, and wonders where everyone he once knew have gone. He thinks they have all transferred to another church.

It makes me think about the fact that I love getting up before everyone else in the morning. I cherish the newness of each new day. I delight in the sunrise and the way that the sunlight lays across the valley. I enjoy looking at the mountain range and the colors of the trees across my brother’s maple orchard. I look forward to seeing the farm and the church in the distance, that reminds me of both my church and biological family who pray for us and support us from afar. Each morning brings similarity, yet fresh subtle differences, especially in autumn.

Perhaps the increased newness is a gift from God. Imagine, each day as a new day. It’s like a lifetime of second chances. The failures, shortcomings, and just plain horsepucky that crosses our path each day is forgotten, and a new fresh page has been supplied. How scary in one respect, yet exciting in another.

As I write this, my 10-month old granddaughter is reaching for the keys and running her hands across the keyboard. She removed the key protector and is placing it on her head. She has recently learned to wave “hi” and “bye” and is taking steps on her own when held by her hands. She seemingly learns something new every day.

What if we thought about dementia as an opportunity to learn new things every day, much the same as our youngest grandchild? Is it always going to be bad? What if we didn’t think of each decline as a negative action? Instead, we thought of it as an opportunity to look at life experiences with a new lens, for the first time again? We often think, “If only I had a redo button, I would have done ______ so much differently.” Perhaps dementia gives the gift to hit the redo button.

I find it interesting that some will say, “If only I could go back to High School, college, early 20″s…” In Dementialand, you kind of do. When we first realized that something was not right, my husband was going through a mid-life crisis that brought him back to his rebellious teenage years. What we didn’t know then, was that he was sick. His brain was damaged, and that it wasn’t his fault. Whatever the cause, doctors guess too many blows to the head and he was regressing. Having experienced my husband’s rebellious teenage years twice, I do not wish to go back to that time.

However, I do enjoy seeing my husband’s face light up when I bring home a “new to him” movie, or introduce him to a “new to him” friend, or take him to a “new to him” place. I enjoy taking him to the ocean to see what is new each day. I love how his face lights up when I bring him his favorite coffee or a sweet treat from the store. I love how he has developed a sweet tooth, and he delights in candy, ice cream, donuts, and cake. It makes my heart happy when he is happy.

Perhaps looking at each day and each experience with new eyes, with a new lens, we would appreciate life, and our daily gifts and blessings rather than blow through each day missing them. So today, I thank God for the all things new and old. I thank him for my husband, my children and grand children, parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews. I thank him for my beautiful home, church, job, community, and friends. I thank him for the horsepucky, because it has made me the person I am today. I am even grateful for dementia and complicated medical issues, because it has brought me to the place where I notice and I appreciate, and feel closer to my Maker.

May each new day be like eating a soup bowl- perfectly new and fantastically delicious.

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