the day after… plus a week

It was a very good thing to have a place to go that morning.  The presidential election had robbed me of sleep but I didn’t want to keep looking at the blood bath on social media.  Besides, I wanted to see if the real world was still out there.  According to news reports, life was over as we’d known it.

It was mostly sunny when I left, the farmer up the road still had that one field of pumpkins to process and the line at Dutch Bros drive-thru looked normal.  I was happy to discover my phone GPS was still able to get me to a place I’d never been before.  Indeed, cyberspace was still functioning.

For the last five years I’ve said “no thanks” to the annual invitation to the luncheon hosted by the Family Caregiver Support Program.  My free time is limited and since I’m not a small-talk-luncheon-y type anyway, it just didn’t appeal to me.  This time I meant to say no, but yes came out instead.  I don’t know why.  But I’m glad.

It turned out there was nothing “small-talk” about the day.  There were representatives from support agencies with great information.  I re-connected with people I’d met when my mother-in-law was in hospice.  And there were a lot of people just like me… people who are trying their best to take care of a family member at home.

And best of all, not a word was spoken of the Donald/Hillary show.  Well, there was one ugly word.  By a haggard looking man sitting at my table.  We paid it no mind however, as his day started hard.  He’d already had a face to face with a police officer called by a “concerned” neighbor when she saw his Alzheimer patient wife running down the street in her nightgown and assumed she was neglected… all because he dared take a few minutes to jump in the shower before help arrived so he could take a couple of hours off to get more help.

Yep, the real world is still out there.  But it doesn’t always work as well as the GPS on my phone.

This week I got to thinking about my life span in relation to our presidents.

When I was born Harry Truman was in office.  From Harry to Barack there have been twelve presidents.

From the time I was legal to vote there have been eight presidents.  My vote assisted in electing only two of those eight.  Two!

Somehow, I’ve managed to survive all these years with only two presidents that I really, really liked… and during the times of the other six, never once did I feel the need to block a major highway or destroy property.

Watching Martha Raddatz wimper on election night was a little nauseating.  So worried she was for the mothers who are scared for their children to serve in a Trump military.  (Yea, I think that reporting might have been a little biased, Martha)

I actually remember feeling that way myself when I voted for Ross Perot, but Bill Clinton was elected.  I had a son enlisting in the army.  And goodness… if the man couldn’t control his personal life or even his personal body parts, why should he lead my child?

But my son did just fine.  All of them did.  And Bill had nothing to do with it.  It was their own personal goals, values and training that guided.  It was the attitude and choice to not quit when things were hard and painful that carried them.

The president, the economics of the day, the wars… yes, they have an impact.  But it’s the million little ways a person chooses to live each day that makes or breaks a life.

Not a president.

Which brings me back to the group of caregivers I spent that day with… a granddaughter who had quit her job to take care of grandpa… an 86 year-old man whose wife died 10 years ago, but he comes to lunch every year to encourage people… and eat, of course.  They all had interesting stories.  Hard stories.  But not defeated stories.

The guest speaker sat at my table for lunch.  “What do you want to hear about next”, she asked me.

“How do I keep my father clean without the drama, and save what’s left of my sense of smell.”

Everyone at the table laughed.  She smiled and said she could help me with that.  And judging by the oohs, aahs and mad note taking in the room, most folks had the same challenge.

I’d shared time and space that day with people who are choosing a hard way of life.  On purpose.  A way that is full of unknowns, trying and failing and keeping on.  I left encouraged and uplifted.  It washed the ugly TV drama right out of my mind.

Real people.  Real life.  Real hope.  It really is out there.  I keep praying our politicians will become real one day too.

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He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos.  Isaiah 45:18

 

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Escape

Outside, I walk and breathe… fresh air… a little quiet.

Sometimes I sit in my car… it’s the one thing here with my name on it and “I can sit here if I want to”, my bratty self says.

Inside, we are prisoners… she of her mind… me of her space…

… both of her suffering.

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WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Love’s new definition

Andrew and Daniel of “olden days”

The other team had color-coordinated everything… and classy coolers full of ridiculously healthy snacks.

Our team at least had matching red jerseys (kind of), juice boxes and homemade cookies… plus a lot of spunk.

The other team had cute, little girl cheerleaders.

Our team had two scrappy boys who decided to cheer-lead for their brother.

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I love that my sons stick up for each other.  They’d never be mushy and say “I love you”… although I know they do.

On the flip side they are each others most harsh critic.  Yet I know they’d go to hell and back for one another.

Two of them did, actually.  Into the heart of war-torn Iraq.  They went for each other. For the brothers they served with. For us back home.  They were touched by the faces of nameless children caught in hellish violence.  They came home better, stronger men.

They didn’t physically find each other on that side of the world, but they found each other on this side… safe and sound and whole… just the way that makes a mama’s heart happy and ends the story well.

Last weekend I was in California helping my folks with legal decisions and money decisions and “where will I live” decisions.  It was hard stuff for them to talk about.  Hard to make big changes to lives already well lived, long lived.  But it was easy for me to be there.  It was a privilege to be there.  And it was all tied up in a big bow of love… feelings and all.

And then I travel back to this one I provide care for… this one I feel so estranged from… where there is no “feeling”.  And it makes me crazy there isn’t.  Isn’t there supposed to be, regardless of past hurts?  Just a little flicker of something?  Am I cold-hearted, uncaring?

I recently read a quote posted on Facebook, of all places, by author Ann Voskamp.  She said – Love isn’t a feeling but a tying.  The practical translation of “I Love You” is “I am tied to You” – no matter what breaks loose.

I like that.  It’s helping me come to terms with this one I can’t find the love feeling for.

Because we are absolutely tied in many ways, like it or not.  And I am committed to a set of responsibilities, like it or not.  And perhaps, the act of doing something she can no longer do for herself really is a way of loving… regardless if there’s a feeling attached.

My husband thinks I think too much.  He might be right.  But maybe I’m on to something.

So from now on…

Love = I am tied to you = I will honor the commitments those ties created = Love

That might be goofy, but I’m rolling with it……

i do not love her….

Nine and one-half months I have lived in this house that is not mine… well long enough to birth a baby.

But what has been birthed here?

A lot of days go quiet, but she can’t seem to hold the ugly in forever and let’s it fly.  And I want to fly… away.

I told him the other night, “I do not love her”.

Are we supposed to say such things right out loud… we good Christian people?  But I need truth.  So I say what is true to me.

My own parents struggle with health and memory.  I see photos of orphaned children, hungry children… living in filth.  The world cries for help and I wonder, what earthly good am I doing here?  With one who will not accept help?  With one who is her own worst enemy?  With one, who even when her mind was clear… did not care for my presence?

Outside for relief… he and I tend the property left to wreck and ruin for too many years.  We fight the weeds and rodents.  We pull out dead plants, clear overgrowth, try to nurse the withering back to life.

… and these six smooth stones I lay next to this little plant.  Six stones… he and I and four grown sons… sons who make this world a better place.  That was a birthing process I can’t stop thanking God for… a blessing that overflows and never stops.  A process I could see a hope and a future in.  Easy to love.

But how do you love the hard?

Inside… she starts again.

If this were my mom or dad would it be easier, different?  I mean, I would walk across burning coals for them… because they have done that for me… and more.

But she… throws burning coals in my path… on purpose.

How could she live nine decades of life and not learn how to love for real, rather than for gain?  Not learn of mercy?  Forgiveness?  Grace?  How did she escape such lessons when they meet me with great regularity?  Did no one love her enough to say so?  To say no?  To teach her to seek God’s wisdom instead of her own?  Or would she not be taught?

So many questions.  Where is the answer?  Because I really do need.  Something.

Nine and one-half months.

The weeds grow.  And I am desperate to clear them away.

“He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber…” Psalm 121:3

I’ll hang on to that for now………..

Do all roads lead home?

I’ve been gone a few days.  I’ve been “home” for a couple.

Writing has eluded me.  My mind is overloaded and my heart is sad.

Family and love call me south.  Family and obligation call me north.

It looks like Interstate 5 and my trusty car will get a work out this summer.  And that’s ok…

… but I do long for roots.  I want to say, “this is my home – this is where I recharge – from here I branch out and I go and I do – but then I come here – home”.

South is the people I come from… and the sun… and orchids that grow crazy, big… and a place my presence is wanted.

North is husband and children, a blessing no doubt… but also the dark, unwelcoming house… and the gray, rainy sky… and the one who only tolerates my presence… barely.

I know where I belong because the man is here, but the rest makes no sense.  Maybe it never will.

So today I read the letter Paul wrote to the people of Philippi where he talks of joy and rejoicing no matter what, and contentment, and he says “I have all I need – more than I need!” … and he wrote that from a Roman prison cell.

I think there is much to learn in that letter.

One happy thing happened while I was gone… it bloomed.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4: 8

Five Minute Friday: Light

I lightly swat the lady bug from the blinds… they split and tear open.  Great, one more thing to replace.

Health issues out of the blue… my mother, a son.  Miles separate and all I can do is pray.  All I can do.  Or is it the most I can do?

And today of all days… the one I’m charged to take care of… the one I put myself aside for… hammers with ugly words.

Today of all days…

… the day believers try to comprehend what You did for us

… the day we wonder why You did for us.

Unworthiness overwhelms.

Yet light finds its way in – thru torn blinds, thru any opening it finds.

And I acknowledge that my set aside life for her is nothing, absolutely nothing, in comparison to the setting aside You did on that tree… for all… for me.

“As  the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love” John 15:9

Five Minute Friday: Brave

Linking today with Gypsy Mama where one word is our prompt… write for five minutes, no over-thinking, no backtracking, no editing.  Here we go….

…………….BRAVE

I don’t know what’s out there anymore… it’s fuzzy and gray.

How can I be this old and suddenly not know where I’m going.  I like to plan… to have a plan.  This is something I didn’t plan for…

Another’s refusal to make a plan for her life has consumed mine.

And all I know to do is put one foot in front of the other, cook the food, clean the bathrooms, vacumn the floor.

Are my dreams still out there?  Will there still be time?

I hang on to the only thing I know for sure………

…Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying “This is the way, walk in it”  Isaiah 30:21

Who would have ever guessed my bravest moment of the day would just be to face it… and put the coffee on.

A House or A Home

I’ve always defined the word house as a generic building people live in.

I’ve always defined home as the place you go at night, where you feel safe… where you belong.

Presently, in my mind anyway, we have both a house and a home.  And both of them gave me a great workout this weekend.

The home we own, but no longer live in, is one step closer to electrical repairs done, new floors down and paint on the walls.  When I walk in the door of “home” I still hear the cat meow, the sound of teenage boys crashing up the stairs, and the faces of grandchildren spilling in the front door.

The house we live in, but do not own, is another story.  We are there to care for one who lives inside… paint and repair her walls… tend a yard that has been untended for years.  And even though the cat transplanted with us and greets me at the door… that homey feel does not.

When I tried to explain this to the husband he said, “but we live here together – and where ever we live together that is home”…. which was an uncharacteristically sweet thing for him to say.  I don’t take it lightly.

Last Saturday we took steps that make it homier, if that’s a real word.

He started pruning the fruit trees.

He mowed the lawn… and mowed… and mowed.

I picked a corner and started working my way around… which should probably take all spring and summer.  This is a big yard, people.

I raked up dead underbrush, pulled weeds and did battle with errant, stickery vines.

You couldn’t even walk between these a week ago.

And I found some little flowers pushing up thru last summer’s overgrowth.  They must be very determined.

Then he built a fire and we burned all the debris.

And after dinner he asked me to come outside and help him with something.

He handed me a stick and a marshmallow.  We sat by the fire and toasted them.  Several, actually.

It feels a little more homey.  And I feel much gratitude….

…for a warm, clean place to lay my head at night

…for a partner to share the journey

…for hands and arms still strong enough to do the hard work

I don’t know if we’ll be living here in six months or six years or six days.  But I’m not going to worry about it.  That’s God’s department.

I’ve still got lots of weeding to do and marshmallows to eat.

Opening Up

Last weekend we tore up the floor in an upper bedroom.  Truthfully, I didn’t actually do the tearing up… I just did the odd jobs, clean-up, took pictures and kept the coffee going.

We’ve owned that house for 23 years.  For 23 years my husband said “I will tear up that floor and find out why it’s so spongy”.  And for 23 years there have been other priorities.

I wouldn’t dare speak for him, but from my perspective I think the delay had more to do with fear.  I mean, the house is well over 100 years old.  I don’t know who lived there before us, but during our time it was filled with lots of boys and all their toys and the occasional car part.  And after they left it was filled with everything that didn’t fit somewhere else in the house.  The house survived an earthquake and we know the electrical system is old.

We started vacating the house five months ago to prepare it to rent.  The moment of truth finally arrived.

I was fearful we would find broken beams… and strange indescribable things lurking about… and diabolical-looking wires shooting sparks.

We didn’t see a single indescribable thing lurking.

The old knob and tube wiring was neatly tucked in place.

We didn’t find any broken beams.

The wood we uncovered was solid and strong… the beams had simply been placed too far apart.

There will be expense.  It will take more time.  The floor has been opened up, problems exposed, a plan made.

The house will go on… another 100 years, maybe?

Since the new roof/attic rebuild two summers ago….

….every household project we’ve undertaken has opened me up too.  It’s been painful.

This kind of opening up is like childbirth… you can’t stop halfway thru and change your mind… you have to go all the way to the end.

And that is the place I’ve been stuck the last few months… half way thru and wanting to quit. But can’t.

So this morning I got to thinking about those strong, sturdy beams.  And it’s causing a little hope to rise in me.

I decided to name what it is I think I’m so afraid of…

….becoming irrelevant

….becoming fat(ter)

….becoming like the person I provide care for

….loosing touch with family and friends

….never getting to travel again

….not finishing the book that lives in scattered pages and word documents and my head

….not leaving a legacy of hope for my children and grandchildren

It occurs to me the only way any of those things will happen is if I quit halfway thru…

… but sturdy beams are in place…

… so I keep standing.

“God has chosen me and will not throw me away.  He will strengthen me and help me.  He will hold me up….”  Isaiah 41:9,10

On Boots ‘n’ Pooh ‘n’ Writing

I’ve had a problem getting words on paper lately.  It’s been a problem for a while actually… started last October when my life changed so dramatically.

My bossy inner critic keeps telling me I have nothing to say – to just keep quiet.  The word police have arrested me…. “you can’t say that“.  So in the effort to push on, I’ve identified a few recurring thoughts…

1.  I don’t like change.  It sucks.  I always told my sons that God has a plan and purpose and not to worry… apparently I’ve not been good at applying my own advice to me.  But I’ve been through all kinds of change.  Why do I have to go thru more?  Maybe because I just went through it and missed some of the actual change part.  This is a very real possibility.

2.  I love my husband more than I thought I did.  This has absolutely nothing to do with writing… I just happen to be thinking of it right now.  From a long married person like me, this statement might sound odd.  But truly, I have a new appreciation for the guy.  One other time I felt this way was when we moved to Alaska and all we had was each other to depend on.  You really draw close in times like that.  And this is a time like that.

3.  I love my “stuff” more than I want to admit.  My husband is a collector… of everything.  He can’t pass up a bargain or a yard sale sign.  “Let it all go, it’s only stuff” I tell him over and over.  “It’s people who matter”.   But now that my own stuff is packed, and I miss it all terribly, and I have one very needy person to matter about… I don’t like it.  I don’t like it one little bit.  And I don’t like that I don’t like it.

4.  I am learning I must love the hard… not just the easy.  I was born into a easy-to-love family.  The husband and I created our own easy-to-love family.  I’ve volunteered, given to the poor, opened my checkbook and my home.  I’ve had to forgive.  I’ve been forgiven.  I thought I knew all about love.  Yet somehow I managed to evade the one person/one thing that is hard to love.  And I’m pretty sure God doesn’t give us the evasion option when it comes to love.

Since I’m old now, I wonder when I’ll get it all straight?  Maybe never.  Maybe we keep figuring it out till we hang up our boots…

And I’ve been needing boots.  Outside work boots.  So the husband bought me some and I squished my way through the muddy yard.  The boots are comfy.  They make me feel like a real country girl.  Plus, I stepped in deer pooh, which makes it official.  And I like it.

I like it a lot.

Pressing on.