Ring of Fire

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Last night I stayed out on the patio long. I was feeling what my Grandmother would have called “a bit blue.” Lately, I have felt out of step with the world around me. Like I am a few beats behind everyone else. Sometimes it helps to go outside and sit very still, to listen to the bigger rhythm. It’s like putting your finger on the earth’s pulse when you can no longer trust your own.

I lay my head back in the chair and was surprised by the moon directly overhead. I don’t know why it surprised me but I didn’t expect it to be there, it was too high in the sky, but who am I to argue with the moon?

This morning I stumbled over both the previously frozen peas and the ice pack that I use at night to beat back the flames that rise like coiled snakes that come from nowhere. I picture a cartoonish Satan in a red suit, shoveling coals, stoking the furnace within me with a gleeful smile on his face. I am up about 3 times a night exchanging the frozen peas with the ice pack and vice-versa.

My Doctor recommended a place that sells things that may help but she told me it was cash only. What does that even mean? She is into a more “holistic” approach to medicine and I agree, I don’t want to take synthetic hormones. Someone told me about Black Cohosh so now I am taking 540 mg a day. I can’t be sure it’s helping but I will keep taking it for now.

There is an upside. If sweating is healthy, I can’t have any toxins left in my system. I am my own mini-sweat lodge.

I move heavily through most days with a leaden soul. I miss the old me. I miss the self I used to be. I have fleeting moments of happiness and then it’s back to the dull gray wash. I have learned that sometimes all you can do is move through the moment obediently and grab onto the joy when it comes.

I feel like a bit player in my own life and an imposter at work going through the motions. Like on “Seinfeld” when George Costanza got that job that he didn’t really get and went in to work everyday making up things to do in the office that wasn’t really his.

I joined a gym to beat back the ravages of time as well as all these symptoms and it does make me feel better, but I haven’t lost a pound. Most of the time I want to eat whole pies and plates of cookies.  It seems, the same furnace that stokes the flashes, stokes my appetite as well. If I am at home I look for things to graze on continually. I have sunk to dipping cookies in frosting, I am worse than an alcoholic.

And attached to everything else in this new phase of life, I feel a profound sense of shame that I am becoming “less than” “diminished” “devalued.” Being shown the back seat by the universe. I know that what I am feeling is temporary, and I know that God still strives with me.

He brings me little things like doves and blooming flowers and the moon.

And people I love who are always there for me. Above all, I haven’t lost my gratitude because I still have so much.

Despite it all, He remains my well that never runs dry. I will come through this, victory is mine. It always has been, through Him.

 

On Alzheimer’s and feeling lost

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We had plans to go to dinner with our neighbors from Canada who were leaving the next morning. She called me on the way to her Moms Carehome after work and asked if I would please go over and give them her apologies, that she wouldn’t be able to make it.

She was driving her route when she got the first two calls and couldn’t return them. After work, she returned the third call. One of the aides picked up. “Your Mom is not doing well, she is crying and asking why no one has been to see her and asking where her husband is?” He has been gone for almost a year and she hasn’t asked about him in just about that many months.

Her Mom has been in the facility over a year and she has settled reasonably well. But now, this.

The panic, the caregiver’s stress, in a moment it all came flooding back. Of course it never really left. Her days continue to be divided by work, home and going to see her Mom to do those tasks that seem to fall through the cracks continually.

I needed to go there, I heard the desperation in her voice and I thought maybe seeing another familiar person would help jog her Mom back into the present. I had to try.

When I got there they were seated at the dining table. E. was relieved to see me and her Mom perked up and said, “There’s Lori, Curtis must have come with her.” I groaned inwardly, and E. scurried around helping her Mom and assisting others at the table. I sat by Bethany and Joyce as they were passing out Dixie cups of ice-cream and had one myself.

Finally we got her to go back to her room, where we found she had been squirreling away socks and two bottles of water in her purse, ready to hit the road. Then the round of questions started all over again.

Where is Curtis?……When are we going home?……How long have I been here?……..What happened to the car?….. How much does all this cost?…..What do I have to do at the house?

It was like she was reliving the events of the past year all over again, back to square one.

E. looked over at me helplessly when Joyce asked where Curtis was for the 10th time. I shrugged helplessly back and mouthed the words…..”I don’t know.”

It was a day later that I had a kind of small personal epiphany. Sometimes, honestly, I feel just as lost as she does. I think we all do. We like to think we have an element of control, but as I sat in that room I wanted to ask the same questions Joyce was asking.

What happened to the last year? Where am I? Why do I feel so ill-equipped at handling day-to-day living sometimes? What happened to the person I was 5, 10, 15 years ago?

Sometimes life just beats the tar out of you.

By the time we left, Elaine was wiped out. She felt like she had propelled her Mom safely back to shore, but it took everything she had.

If dealing with Alzheimer’s has taught me anything, it’s taught me empathy. In watching Joyce, I see a bit of my own desperation and the desperation of the human condition in general. In the mirror of her lostness, I see my own.

It has also taught me the necessity of living one day at a time and doing the best I can with what God has given me. There are days that are hard, when you feel a little bit crazy, but then the next day is better.

And as long as God is the One rowing me safely back to shore, I will be okay.

I Woke to Beauty

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Once again, Mama dove is sitting in her place in the spiny cactus waiting for her baby. Seasons are really, renewed hope are they not? That even when life gets scary and you fill fear crawling up your back and life seems unstable that some things will go on as they should. I have been so concerned about my Mom’s health, and yet she is the one who always taught me to look for the beauty no matter what.

To look for the robin after the storm.

So today, I awoke after a fitful night to a world of beauty. The birds were singing, and the weather was glorious despite the fact that we have had almost no rain. Somehow the cactus will still manage to bloom. There is doom and gloom on the news because of the early fire season and while that is a real danger, I will choose today to look at what God wants me to see.

The wondrous cloak of clouds this morning amidst the backdrop of the doves and mockingbirds call……

The freshly tilled earth, seeds waiting to spring.

A best friend who stands behind me no matter what, ready to help, ready to pray, ready to do whatever is necessary in any situation.

Coffee, dark and rich and clouds of foam that cover my top lip as I sip luxurious cup after cup.

Last night I had a dream in which I saw Jesus approach a sick boy and take the sickness from him, I saw it. It was like a brief cameo shot in a movie but it was there just the same, just as real as if I really saw it.

He still rules and reigns and while there is no cure for sickness or aging, there is one for the death that really matters……..thanks to Him. That is why I will rejoice in the midst of sorrow and worry and pain and stress.

Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I also invite you to go here to read about a friends beautiful words of awakening to hope. You will be blessed, I promise.

I had a dream…….

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I landed here in this place through no fault of my own, but because my body no longer cooperates with what I want it to do. The only thing is, nobody has told me the rules. There are people who skim in and out briskly. They give me things but they are not my things.

It is morning now and I miss my coffee. My kitchen. I miss having the whole pot if I want it. I am given a plastic cup with coffee but it’s lukewarm. And weak. I have never drank lukewarm in my whole life, and I never drank it from a plastic cup. I can’t heat it so I leave it……but then I think maybe if I don’t drink it now I may not get it again. Grimacing, I drink it down.

I remember the days when I was mobile. I never thought about getting up and walking across the room, I just did it. I try not to be terrified. This feeling of helplessness is new and strange and I feel trapped. Things are in disarray here……plates left on tables, and no one asks me where I want to sit at breakfast they just push me to the table. What’s more, they don’t give us anything to drink with our food. It’s difficult to eat with nothing to wash it down. I ask them, and they bring it but by then my food is no longer hot. I look around and see if everyone looks as bewildered as I feel.

A dish of ice-cream at lunch sits melted. She is sitting too far from the table and she misses her mouth. He is fiddling with his napkin, tearing it into bits like shrapnel it falls to the floor.

Where am I? Where is the place I used to call home?

I miss my dog and cat. I can’t think where they are now, it hurts too much. Tears course down and I wish I had a Kleenex but I use my sleeve. How I would give anything to feel their soft fur under my hand, see the love and loyalty in their eyes. How they would comfort me here.

I told someone I needed to go to the bathroom but that was hours ago. I have been reduced to wearing those adult diapers. The ones I used to see on those awful commercials. I never thought I would have to wear these. They are soaked through. It’s been hours and still they don’t come.

I dread the time I will need a shower. That’s the worst. I try not to think about it much. In my room are things I know. They spark memories, good ones. I surround myself with those now. I say a prayer of thanks for those. They are like pearls on a string and my mind caresses each one. For many here memory draws no comfort. They only have today. In a way, I envy them.

I watch the staff and see their anguished faces. I don’t imagine they make very much money here. I wonder what they go home to. They sit in corners and huddle up in groups peering into their phones. And yet, I find compassion in some of those eyes. They don’t think they will ever have to be in a place like this. And yet in their eyes I see a helplessness also. We are not so different. When it’s all said and done, we are all doing the best we can.

Night is falling and I dream and it’s long ago and my Dad comes and I can walk again. We walk far, past the grounds, through big buildings and streets and I am free again. He is my rescuer again, just like when I was very small.

I awake and I forget where I am. There are shadows in the corners and unfamiliar sounds. Bumps in the night.

I turn over to find my Bible on the nightstand which comes from home and a warmth washes over me. My life lies between the pages and it rushes out to greet me when I open it. I am home. And in my mind flows free with the songs I learned in church so long ago. I am so thankful they have never left me.

I am not alone. My eyes fill with tears at the wealth of this knowledge and my being is flooded with that realization. Joy finds me.

I am not alone. The Holy Spirit whispers and I want to shout it out!

I marvel that it’s possible that I have something to give here. Something to teach them. Something that sorrow and years and weakness can never take away. Someone to introduce them to.

I breathe a prayer. “Make me your instrument, Lord. Even in this place.”

Soon I will be going Home.

A dream I had last night sparked this post, and when I read my Sarah Young devotional today, I was amazed. Here is part of that reading:

Some of the greatest works of my Kingdom have been done from sick beds and prison cells. Instead of resenting the limitations of a weakened body, search for My way in the midst of these very circumstances.

One of the best decisions I made so far this year…..(I think)

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I’ve been involved in fitness one way or another for about 30 years now but I’ve never joined a gym. I’ve done Jazzercise, I’ve run, I’ve walked, I’ve hiked, I’ve cycled some. But I’ve never signed on that dotted line of commitment. Until this year. I had been dragging myself to the treadmill, “dreadmill” as I dubbed it at our clubhouse, but I had been doing it less and less. I hike, which is something I really love to do, but it’s not always convenient to drive to the trail.

We’ve all heard the clichés:

Gyms are meatmarkets.

Why should I pay for what I can do at home?

And what if I get suckered into a membership and I never use it?

Not to mention all those machines, just looking at them is intimidating.

E and I went to check out, Planet Fitness and right away, I got a good positive vibe there. The music was playing, they had flat screens lining the walls right above the treadmills and ellipticals with places for headphone jacks. And I loved the philosophy of the place. They are big on promoting a friendly, “Judgement-free zone” where regular people can come and work out at their own level and enjoy themselves.  So far everyone has been very friendly and helpful and it’s a relaxing, welcoming atmosphere which I really appreciate.

Of course, no gym is perfect because it’s made up of people. But so far I have to say I have been very happy with it. Being on the treadmill there is so much different because there are people to watch, music playing, and sights and sounds you don’t have in a closed room. I need that stimulation. And no one pushes you at any piece of equipment because there are plenty to go around. You can take your time and go slowly. No one is breathing down your neck.

The other day there was a lady right next to me who had to be 75. And I saw plenty of people between 30-50. And teens and twenties too.

So far, I can say I am very happy I joined. I did a one year membership because I know me, if I paid for something, I will use it. Added incentive.

The nice thing is, you can also join for just $10 a month, no commitment. The best thing is, I am looking forward to my workout time again, and I had missed that.

There has been much study done about the importance of the mind, body, spirit connection and the importance of all three working together. I really believe this is true. God made our bodies to move, to do physical work. If we don’t keep our bodies healthy we won’t be much good to those who are counting on us. Who love us and want us around for a long time. Another way I can honor God is by honoring the body He gave me.

In a way, taking care of the body He gave me is another way to worship and serve Him, not me.

Everything in moderation.

Once, I was a slave to my exercise routine. If I missed a session it was the end of the world, no more. I have found there is a beauty in balance. It’s okay to take time out for you. Sometimes, in fact, taking that time out for you is one of the best things you can do for the people you love!

If you have ever thought about joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer, I would encourage you to check it out.

Why it’s good to take a break from the computer

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Trying to keep up with all the activities associated with blogging and social media sometimes makes me feel as worn out as this woman on the bench.  Sometimes I pull away voluntarily, but sometimes, like recently it’s a forced break due to circumstances beyond my control.

After disconnecting the land-line, we decided to have another more improved line installed for internet access only. It won’t be installed until Monday. So…….I have been sitting it out from the sidelines. I have posted a few times from work but at home I have only been dipping in and out, via my phone.

It all gets so exhausting. And sometimes I look at the Facebook ticker tape and it looks so darn loud and busy, almost as if it’s screaming at me.  That’s when I know I need to take a break.

So I have been doing some other things instead. I have been taking bike rides, and I even wrote out some note cards for people just because.

I have been observing, a lot. 

I talked to my Aunt last light instead of getting on the computer and we laughed over the phone about things going on in her life and mine. I could hear that she really appreciated the call, and I was blessed too. She amazes me. At 80 she sounds as young as she did at 60. She goes to the rest home three times a day to see her husband who will never come out. She calls it her part-time job and it makes her happy to be there for him.

She has a lot of courage. My Mom says when she was a girl she refused to ride the bus to school so my Grandpa bought her a Victory bike and she braved mean country dogs that chased her. She rode for miles to and from school. She had her tonsils out with no anesthesia, and she is a breast cancer survivor.

We talked of Heaven and how we will all be together once again, and whole……..and how He will wipe our tears away forever. No more cancer, no more dementia, or Alzheimer’s, or death.

Or computers, I guess.

Somehow I don’t think I will miss it then.

photo courtesy of creative commons, some rights reserved.

God and the Brandenburg Concerto

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This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope…….It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:21-26

Ever feel like the ground has suddenly shifted beneath your feet?

Like a great seismic shift happened somewhere and everyone got the memo but you and you feel like you’re free-falling through your own life?

Trying to walk backwards on a moving sidewalk?

You feel attacked by the “never wills…..” All of a sudden you know that some things in this life “never will” happen again……the train left and took your youth with it.

One minute you had your feet firmly planted on those sands of time and while you weren’t looking the tide came and took it out from under your feet and swept most of it out to sea.

Don’t be alarmed. This is a normal part of being human. Of living in an ever-changing culture, a time-stamped world.

When I feel that out of control falling feeling……..the one thing that helps me the most is to be reminded that God will never, ever change. When God is your anchor, you don’t have to be devastated by things that change in this life. And when He says, “I got this.” You know He really really really does.

This morning the Brandenburg Concerto came on the classical station I listen to on the way to work. I remembered a time when my Mom and I were much younger and I used to listen to this in my old room when the leaves rained yellow in the fall. She used to tell me it made her nervous, and she called it the “nervous music.” It was a sweet memory and I was smiling yet I wanted to cry too.

It comforted me to know that God and the Brandenburg concerto will never change, even if everything else does. And wouldn’t you know that God worked it out that the last note played as I coasted to a stop in the parking lot.

The best way we can honor today is by being fully present in the moment God gives us and by cherishing the people in our lives right now, we shape our memories tomorrow. We can tell time who’s boss because we don’t have to regret it when it’s gone.