Saturday, February 28, 2015
I wonder which will run out first? My Culinary Creations for my recuperating Mom's breakfast/lunches, or my need to stay in this frozen icecube of NY to help out? She is almost independent now, and stitches come out Wednesday. I am guessing I can head home Thursday of next week, but each day we play it by ear. Yesterday's breakfast was just a fun face. I like the teeth cut into the pear slice personally.
Given that angels have clearly been watching over us here, I felt it was time to honor them with an egg salad angel for lunch. That was fun, but now the serious work of the day was ready to begin. My next duty was to install a hand held shower so Mom could safely sit while showering. As you know if you are a regular reader of my blog, I am not a very good cook. For two weeks, I have been stretching my culinary skills to the utmost while helping Mom recover. News flash: I am a worse plumber than a cook. However, I was the only one around, so I put on my plumber hat.
Step one was to lay out the tools. We needed an extra long hose to accommodate our needs for Mom. The hose included with the shower head looked different at the attachment ends from the extra long hose replacement, but like any good plumber, I hoped that was just an optical illusion.
Step two was to open the packages and lay all the parts on the floor. One small moment of panic: instructions in Japanese. No problem! I flipped it over to find English! Next moment of panic: a washer fell out of something...who knows from what? We will cross that bridge when we come to it.
Step three: Remove old shower head. Small problem - wrench couldn't budge that sucker. Next problem: is it clockwise to tighten or loosen? I can never remember. Eventually, I figured it out and with all my might, wrenched the stuck nut loose. Still don't know if clockwise tightens or not, but trial and error works every time.
Step four: Attach plumber tape so it doesn't leak, and hand tighten one end with holder to wall, other end to hand held shower head. Easy Peasy! Done in no time, with only one soaking wet shirt from sweat and accidental showers. Hmmmmmm. Holder doesn't hold shower head. Stupid manufacturer. It couldn't possibly be something I did wrong.
Step five: Hmmmm. This piece looks suspiciously like the end that should be attached to the shower head and would fit nicely in the holder. Executive decision: reattach each end of tube in opposite direction to what I did originally, with holder shaped end on the holder side of the tube. You would think the instructions would've mentioned this.
Step Six: Do a happy dance as I turn on shower: no leaks, fits in holder with extra long hose, and sends out pleasingly perfect stream of water. I now can add plumbing to my list of accomplishments during my sojourn here. I suspect an egg salad angel was watching over me.
Philippians 4:12- 13
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
Friday, February 27, 2015
The food sculpture challenge continues. My recuperating Mom's breakfast yesterday was a bagel and pear fox. Or kitty. Or Carolina Dog. Great art lets you see whatever fills your heart.
Lunch was a wishful thinking butterfly. Spring must be just around the corner. Surely this streak of negative and single digit temperatures cannot go on forever...can it?
It feels like it could. Sometimes just when things seem to be getting better, they get worse. Mom is doing great. If she continues at this pace, I should be able to return to the sane and warm south in 4 or 5 days. Then....
Last night I heard my mom call me. I thought I heard her say, "I need help."
I sprang to my feet, interrupting a great dream about my favorite rescue farm, Hollow Creek Farm. I raced into Mom's room. She was peacefully asleep. I went back to bed but felt unsettled. I thought she spoke again. I got up again. Nope. She was asleep. I noticed Dad wasn't in bed. He often watches TV late at night when he can't sleep. So I went downstairs. He wasn't in the TV room. I went into his office. He was at his desk looking sweaty and worried.
"Are you ok?" I asked.
"No," he told me, "I'm sweating and weak...I've never felt this way. My blood sugar is quite low." He is diabetic.
My daughter has a diabetic friend and I had to learn a lot about her care since I took her with us often on overnight trips. I knew that getting sugar in her fast was critical when her blood sugar caused symptoms like Dad's. So I ran upstairs, got him chocolate and juice. Quick sugar! He ate and drank, and felt better almost instantly. Then as his fogginess cleared, he asked me to get his glucose tablet. He had called his diabetes hotline and was awaiting a call back, but upon retesting his sugar, all was well.
So who called me at 2 a.m., awakening me from a dream, and compelling me to hurry down to help my dad? I will let you make the obvious conclusion.
Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. ...
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Hello, breakfast creation connoisseurs! Yesterday morning's "Recuperation Edible Sculpture" for my mom was her portrait in breakfast food. French toast, made soggy in the middle like she likes. Her white hair was concocted with whipped cream. The ever necessary prunes made perfect eyes. And despite major surgery, her lovely smile is captured with a tangerine slice.
Having completed all needed morning care, it was time to go cross-country ski. The sun was out, and it was not as frigid as it has been. Mom and Dad were happily munching french toast, and I had an hour to dash out. While skiing, I had a brainstorm for my lunch time creation.
Avocado slices make surprisingly perfect cross country skies for egg salad sandwich halves. I had to serve it to her fast, but it held together long enough to deliver the desired chuckle.
My mushroom curry artichoke soup was a bit spicy for our dinner fare, but yummy. I had no idea curry could have a hot afterburn. Did you? I am learning more about cooking in this two weeks at my folks goading Mom to eat than I have in my entire life. Food can be fun. Like I've mentioned, I don't like to cook. But this is different. This is cooking with purpose.
My Bible study today included Psalm 27:6...I will offer in His tent, sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
I love that line! I do not live it nearly as often as I should, but it is the way I want to live. I want to sacrifice my time, my energy, my talents, my resources to God with shouts of joy, with a heart full of song. Best of all, may it not just be noise, but a melody - something pleasing and purposeful that all who hear it may see God.
The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation
1The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
5For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
6And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
9 Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Lunch was trickier. she wanted soup, which I cannot sculpt. Fortunately, she wanted one quarter of the chicken/avocado sandwich I made yesterday. I could work with that.
In case you can't tell, it's a dog wearing a warm stocking hat. (hat made of carefully crafted avocado slices.) His ears are prunes. So is his muzzle. You don't have to ask why prunes are critical on our lunch dog. Details are tomatoes. Eyes are blueberries. I give you those specifics so you'll know when you have infringed on my copyright for dog-shaped-chicken-sandwiches.
Since most of my day is spent sitting, I decided that when Mom was settled and snug in front of her tennis shows on TV, I would dash out in the wretched cold. Time to have a close encounter with frostbite and try to get some exercise. I was so bundled up for my run that I really didn't feel like I was in -17 degree weather. It felt at least -10. I think we should pass a law that no one should live anywhere colder than 32 degrees.
Then pictures from my Charlotte, NC friends started pouring in. Snow!!! And, oh gosh, it was going down to twenty degrees. Here is "snow" in Charlotte, in my backyard:
Now let's do a little bit of comparing (mocking) North vs.South.
Here's snow in the illegally frigid North where it is well below the lawful temp of 32 degrees:
The windchill temperature was around -40. We have about 3 or 4 feet of snow. Schools were in session, grocery staples were still on the shelves, and some people didn't even have a coat on. I have to chuckle at the differences between how the northerners and southerners react to snow and cold.
We are all more comfortable with the demons we know than the ones we don't. The Northerners laugh at the Southerners because they are such wimps with the slightest dusting of snow. The Southerners laugh at the Northerners for not having the brains to move south.
I think that's why it is so easy to rationalize our own sin, but be so aware of the glaring sin of others. I'm not saying we shouldn't speak truth and turn others from lives of sin whenever we can. We should always speak truth in love...but we should be very careful not to be too comfortable with the sin each one of us bears. That's as foolish as going out without a coat in -40 degree cold.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Though frigid, the day yesterday was sunny. In honor of the sun, I made my recuperating mother a sunshine bagel. Those are pear slices for the sun rays. I am doing my best to entice interest in her food and it is surprising what a varied palette food provides in this artistic endeavor.
For lunch, I dressed up her chicken sandwich in a scarf and ear muffs. The forecast for 11 below (real temperature) could not be ignored if the day's food was a weather theme. Sunny, but as cold as a polar bear's nose when he goes ice fishing. (I'm just guessing about that.)
Lucky for us, the weatherman was wrong! The low was -17. Yes. No kidding. What kind of breakfast creation can I make today to memorialize THAT???
The good news is, we still have heat and no good reason to go outside. God is gracious. Meanwhile, Mom continues to improve slowly. She is independent for the most part but it takes her about ten times longer than it used to. I told her to just think of getting dressed as her therapy, her exercise. If I want exercise I have to go run in -17 degrees. Blessings depend on one's perspective.
Last night Mom and I had a discussion about the basic depravity of the human heart. She was not eager to believe me till I asked her to think of anyone who she knew very well who didn't have a very ugly side. (I call that sin, btw.) She couldn't come up with anyone...except for one person. I actually had thought of the same person. I don't know if there is an ugly side we don't see, but we haven't seen it. Anyway, in general she came to the same conclusion I had. Every one (with that one possible exception) is sinful. This was a big concession for Mom. She said, "How depressing."
"Yes, it is," I said, "But not for me. Jesus died for that very reason. My sins are washed away."
So, like the -17 below, it's all a matter of perspective where you find the blessing.
Monday, February 23, 2015
The quest to entice my recuperating mom to eat continues. This is an egg salad sandwich, made extra perky by happy avocado slices. Again, Mom of the bird-appetite cleaned her plate. I think she likes happy food. To celebrate, Father Winter turned off the ice-machine and it was a scorching 37 degrees outside yesterday. I was ready to break out the bikini.
Instead, I went cross country skiing in the park down the street from my folks. I left Mom for an hour in the care of my Dad, since she is almost safely independent now. I only needed two layers, and with no danger of frostbite for the first time in a week, was able to let the sun shine on my face. Notice how much I look like Moms's egg salad sandwich.
But this morning, we are back to same old, same old. The temps will not leave single digits. There was a brief respite from toil and trouble... too brief. This is the pattern of life. It is often two steps forward, one step backwards. I've noticed that is true in Mom's recovery. Some days, some nights are harder than others and it seems she'll feel weak, just when we think we've turned a corner.
You know how that goes. Just when you think you have the world by the tail, it turns and bites you. So God reminds us, He has a plan for us. We will have troubles in this world, but when we turn to Him and put our lives and trust in His plan, He gives us a hope and a future.
And then Mom reached a new milestone this morning! She put on her shoes and socks herself! A hope and a future!
Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Sunday, February 22, 2015
One of the biggest hurdles for my mom is eating. She doesn't have much of an appetite, and her taste buds are losing their tasting capacity. So part of my job here for the first two weeks she is recuperating from her major surgery is to nag her to eat. I am not an expert cook, but I am an expert nagger.
I have urged her to think of food as fuel and energy. She will not be so weak if she eats. And then, I try to spice up the visual enjoyment of the food. That's fun for an artist. I am not a cook, but I am an artist. For example, this picture above is her cream cheese bagel I fed her yesterday morn. I also want to get healthy fruits and veggies in her, so used them as the happy face for her happy meal. It made her smile, and she ate most of it.
Dinner is tougher. You have to really cook to make dinner. I made an old standby that I know she loves two nights ago. That's salmon, baked potatoes, and fresh broccoli. Even non-cooks can manage those easy dishes. And it was pretty. Presentation is half the appeal. She loved it and I made enough to last two meals.
Then last night, I had to come up with something new. I knew she once loved eggplant, and zucchini, so told Dad to get some. He came home with one eggplant and 3 zucchinis. I had also picked up an onion and garlic, figuring they would be useful somehow. Like I said... I am not much of a cook. So I googled "Eggplant/zucchini." Get this. A recipe came up immediately for roasted eggplant and zucchini. It called for one eggplant, 3 zucchinis, one onion, and garlic.
Now some of you may think this is just a coincidence. I don't believe in coincidences. To my eyes, this was God quietly providing all my needs, even before I had expressed them. God is everywhere, even in eggplant and zucchini. You just have to know where to look and expect Him to show up.
Next, I found a recipe for the chicken quarters Dad had brought home. Remember, I don't love to cook and don't feel very skilled at it. But somehow, cooking for my mom's recovery is very satisfying. Look at the result!
IN a few moments, look at what was left:
I consider this a victory. She got up out of bed during the night all by herself, the first night since the surgery she has been able to do so. She can do almost everything she could do before at this point, though a little more slowly. It was a hard week, but throughout this struggle, God has been present.
Last night, I asked how she was feeling.
"Good! Strength is flooding back into me."
"Do you know why?" I asked.
"Yes. I am eating."
Yes, she is eating and that is a critical source of strength. The biggest source of strength however is The One who is looking down with love. How tenderly He has cared for her and sent little miracles for so many years.
When I was on a run yesterday, I found my mind settling the entire time on God. That is not always true, but it seems to be most true during times of struggle. I realized that I feel His pleasure in the ecstasies of life, but I feel His presence in the struggles. When I least expect to see Him, He often shows up.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
I was able to run comfortably in -15 wind chill. It is supposed to go up to ten degrees later in the week. I am looking forward to this incredible bonanza of warmth. I laugh when I read of my fellow Charlotteans complaining about 9 degrees. I would pluck out my eyelashes for 9 degrees here in NY where I am caring for my recuperating Mom.
Speaking of my mom, she is recovering well, but not fully independent yet. However, compared to what she was able to do for herself following her major surgery even two days ago to what she could do this morning is a miracle. Today, putting on her sock by herself was met with cheers. Before the surgery, no one gave the ability to put on a sock a moment's notice.
This is why God brings sadness, evil, pain, and struggle, in my opinion. Without something to compare it to, joy doesn't have quite the same punch. Good would not be recognized without bad. If all is good, do we really recognize good? And if there is no choice for anything but good, is it really a choice? Without death, does one appreciate life? If one had not lost the ability to put on a sock, would one ever recognize the utter delight of putting on a sock?
Just some things to ponder when huddling inside during 22 degrees below zero days.
Friday, February 20, 2015
But God had one more blessing for me.
In the morning, the Honda dealer called me to tell me that my car with the frozen windshield washer lines was ready for pickup. They had warned me that it would be at least $70, and even more if the motor was the culprit. My dad drove me there before we went to get Mom from the hospital.
First, the service woman handed me a ticket for a free car wash, courtesy of Honda. Oh-oh. I was being buttered up before the bad news of what this little adventure was gonna cost me. She pulled out the bill.
"I'm not going to charge you for thawing out your car in our garage over night."
"But what about replacing the washer fluid so it won't freeze?"
"We did that."
"Honey, you have enough on your plate right now. That's what the world is all about, helping each other."
I could not believe it.
"May I hug you?" I asked.
She asked how Mom was doing, and then mentioned that having me and my Dad able to split duties was a "blessing." Ah. Blessing is a word people who love God tend to use. I gazed into her kind eyes, and saw Jesus. I am not sure what my Dad saw, but he was shaking his head incredulously.
"God bless you," I said as I waved goodbye. A whole dealership filled with people who seem to love God. Or else they are angels....literally. I am not even kidding.
PS- Thanks to all of you praying for my mom. She is doing really well.
PSS- 15 below zero windchill is not really as awful as you would think when you dress properly.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
But, God knows best. Dad and I left Mom a little early last night at the hospital, and dashed out to the Honda dealer. They arranged for a shuttle to take us home, and when advised of our struggles to coordinate Mom's discharge and the need for her to always have someone with her, promised to have the car done before we had to pick up Mom from the hospital. They were slammed with business, but they made a special effort to work us in, and told us they hoped my mom would be better soon.
Dad and I climbed wearily into the shuttle. Anyone who has cared for a critically ill patient and sat bedside for a week at the hospital knows how draining and emotionally exhausting it is. The driver was gentle and friendly, and we struck up a conversation. One thing led to another, and we discovered he was a retired pastor with Salvation Army. He and I exchanged stories of helping the disadvantaged because that is what Christ would have us do. He told us of his work planting churches in Russia and surrounding areas. He spoke of ministering to the homeless. He did not mind the cold, and when he retired, he was happy to do so in upstate NY. I wondered why he drove a shuttle bus in his retirement from the ministry, but felt perhaps, this was his new ministry. As we got out of the car, he said, "What is your mother's name? I will pray for her."
Dad and I left that hallowed Honda shuttle with a mutual sense of peace.
"What a treasure that was," said Dad.
The Bible tells us that we are never alone in our struggles. He is always there, but He also knows the comfort of each other.
You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. Ephesians 2:19
Thank you, Jesus for momentarily thawing a frozen corner of our world.
Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. ...
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Within minutes, I was sweating. My heart was pounding. My legs were jelly. My cross-country ski muscles were not in very good shape. I intended to ski an hour, and could not believe it when I checked my watch, expecting ten hours must have elapsed. What??? Only fifteen minutes had gone by! I rested. I never use to have to rest after just fifteen minutes of skiing. Ah well. I was going to have to recondition my muscles. Every journey starts with one step. Don't be dismayed, I told myself.
My Mama had major abdominal surgery. She was still in the ICU, day two of surgery, when she was told she needed to get up and walk.
"I would rather lie here," she said.
"I'm sure you would," said the nurse, "But if you want to go home you have to be able to walk."
So we let mom know what was needed to get out of the hospital: walk, eat a minimum of 1100 calories a day to regain her strength, and drink prodigious amounts of water to keep her hydrated.
"I want to go for a walk," she told me, now understanding discharge prerequisites.
So she did a lap around the ICU that day. I timed her: 1 minute 5 seconds. The next day, she wanted to do a lap again. This time, she asked me to time her. It was clear my mama was on a mission to get discharged. She was power-walking, with the IV stand having a hard time keeping up. As we passed the doctors and nurses, my mom told them, "I ran a marathon when I was fifty." She mentioned that a few times when doctors glanced up as she sauntered along.
"We should make you a shirt that says that," said my sister.
"I would wear a shirt like that," she said.
She did the lap fifteen seconds faster than her previous lap.
"She is determined to get out of here," whispered my sister.
In the ICU, she was running a more important marathon than the one she ran when she was fifty.
She drank water constantly, despite not being fond of drinking water. She drank the high calorie nutritional aid she didn't really like, and ate food she couldn't taste, and really didn't want. She was running a race, and her goal was discharge from the hospital.
Meanwhile, I had a secret plan. My dad helped me work out the details.
Mom asked to walk laps again. She did two laps in a row this time. She was moved out of ICU to a regular room. Progress! The nurses told her that if her home environment involved stairs (it does), she would have to go to a rehab center till she was safe to do stairs. That meant an unexpected two more weeks incarcerated, away from home!
Mom put on makeup the morning of her rehab evaluation. She looked very perky. (Just as an FYI, my first attempt at helping her with the eyeliner would indicate I should forget becoming a make-up artist as any career goal.) She applied the eyeliner perfectly, however, on her own. When the therapists arrived, Mom looked like she was ready for a photo shoot.
She passed the Occupational Therapy (OT) eval with flying colors. The Physical Therapy (PT) was next, and would assess her on stairs. I followed, taking note of what the therapists were doing with her. I am an occupational therapist, though haven't practiced in several years. Still, it's like riding a bike. It all comes back with a little refreshing. Maybe I could help with her rehab so she could go home sooner....
When the PT led my mom to the stairs, Mom shot up the entire flight.
"Slow down!" said the PT.
After all the evaluations, they asked if I would be there to oversee her rehab, and monitor her. There were two options now for her. We both leaned in closer, listening intently. She needed rehab to be safe. Either she could do two weeks remaining in a rehab hospital, or she could go home if I agreed to oversee her therapy, and be sure she was always monitored the first few days, someone with her 24/7. The therapist asked if that were possible.
"Of course!" I put my family on notice that I would not be home for at least two weeks. I was going to be an OT again. (And live in the frozen tundra north of the Mason-Dixon line again.)
The therapists left, and the nurses were all murmuring yesterday about Mom's possible discharge today. We were all hopeful.
I dashed out, picked up my mom's secret surprise, and returned.
Here it is:
|Rush order long sleeve t-shirt by Instant Face Place, Binghamton, NY|
Before my dad and I return today to the hospital, with high hopes of bringing Mom home, I am going to cross-country ski again. I intend to go a little further and a little faster. I didn't run a marathon at age fifty, but I am very inspired by someone who did.
For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
I raced home and threw suitcases in the car. I called hubby and told him I had to go. I had to get to my mom. He told me (bless him) it was the right thing to do. I was on the road in half an hour. I drove all day, listening to Christian radio stations, and singing along. A few songs filled my heart with so much emotion that I would begin sobbing. NOT GOOD at 70 mph.
As the sun was setting, I noticed that the Blue Ridge Mountains were not blue. They were purple. I have never really seen purple mountains. And the fields of the Shenandoah valley were amber. I thought of America's song,
America the Beautiful
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
When darkness fell, and it was two hours past my dinner time, I stopped at a hotel. I was exhausted, and starving. I called a local pizza place to deliver a salad, and checked my email, and facebook posts. There was an outpouring of LOVE by people praying for me and for my mom, and my dad. Many were people I have never met face to face. Just friends who know me from my blogs, or books. Even one of the "saves" from the abortion mill was praying, and thanked me for helping her make the "right decision about her baby." She wanted me to call the moment I got home.
My mom is doing well. She is still in ICU, but she is smiling, and joking, and chipper according to my brother. I can't wait to see her today, and kiss her dear face. And comfort my Dad who I know has been so worried.
I fell asleep last night, deeply asleep, dreaming of those purple mountains, God's grace, and the crowning good of brotherhood.