The Silent Months Pt. 2

Just as Steven and Laura were coming out on the other side of their hard journey, Jan and I entered our own.

The day after Thanksgiving Jan noticed some odd tingling in his left leg.We weren’t very worried at the time, we just figured it was a herniated disk in his back.

But as the days and weeks and months went by, his pain increased and his mobility decreased. It hurt to get in and out of cars. To sit. To stand. To lay down. At times the pain was excrutiating.

We went to chiropractors, doctors, surgeons, physical therapists, and fought insurance to pay for the MRI’s everyone agreed he desperately needed.

He lost weight and started walking with a cane so his leg didn’t give out.

Covid -19 happened, making it even more difficult to get any answers.

An MRI of the back showed no reason for the pain, so we began the process to get an MRI of his hip.

It was finally approved the Friday before Memorial Day. Everybody’s best guess was a labral tear. We were expecting surgery and a year of physical therapy to learn to walk again.

But everybody was wrong. Very wrong.

The surgeon called us as we were driving home. There was a tumor on Jan’s hip. It was large and looked aggressive. He had referred us to an orthopedic oncologist in Iowa City.

I can tell you the exact spot on Mills Civic Parkway that cancer entered our lives.

The next three weeks were a blur. Waiting. The trip to Iowa City. Seeing the MRI and knowing it was bad. Tests. More tests. More waiting. Covid -19 restrictions.

Finally a diagnosis. A name for the insidious evil that was stealing my husband.

Large B Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, DLBCL, a very aggressive form.

But, very responsive to chemotherapy. Very treatable.

The oncologist is optimistic. But the journey is hard. So very hard. Six rounds of chemo, six days in the hospital each round with 4 days of 24 hour chemo, then two weeks at home to recover.

The first round he was in the hospital by himself because of Covid restrictions. Things were more relaxed for the second round and a primary caregiver (me!) could be there for a limited time every day.

The last few months have been a roller coaster of emotions that zapped my energy, my creativity, my words.

And that is why I’ve been silent.

But now we know what we are fighting. We have a battle strategy. And we have a big God.

And my words are back.

The Silent Months Pt. 1

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared with you all.

A long while.

My silence wasn’t planned, but sometimes God takes us down paths we never expected to be on.

Soon after my last post, our much loved son-in-law was shot while serving a warrant as a deputy sheriff. Thankfully, he is healing well, but the trauma and uncertainty of those months was intense.

It was so hard to watch them walk through the pain, but they did it by the grace of God and are stronger for it.

There is much about their journey that I could have shared, but it wasn’t my story to tell.

And, to be honest, it was something Jan and I needed to heal from as well. The shock and pain of that night and the days following were hard. Very hard. There are certain images that will be forever embedded in my mind. There was so much I couldn’t put into words.

And I respected their need for quiet as they processed their new reality.

A reality that meant lots of doctor’s appointments and physical therapy.

And early retirement from law enforcement and a new career. Something they never expected.

But God is good. He is faithful. He is kind. He is taking the bad and turning it into something new and beautiful.

Their next steps are still uncertain, but their faith is strong and their God is big.

And I finally found the words to share their story.

Part 2 gets harder.

I’m Me Again

Hey! It’s me, again! Finally!

I apologize for that long and unintended blog break. I had a lovely Christmas and New Year’s with the family. Then on January 2nd, just when I was ready to settle into routine, I got an email from the Iowa Department of Education with a friendly reminder that my teaching license would expire the end of February.

This caused a great deal of panic.

To renew it, I had to have 6 credits of professional development.

Which was exactly six more than I currently had. I’m not sure what I’ve been doing for the last five years, but obviously it wasn’t professional development!

Since I worked very hard for that license, I really wasn’t ready to let it go. So I frantically looked into options and discovered that I could get all six credits in – if I really pushed.

Six credits, three different classes, six weeks, all online.

I signed up immediately. One class had already begun, so I was behind before I even got started.

And I’ve been behind ever since, literally spending hours on my laptop every day, taking notes and writing and writing and writing.

By the time Jan and the kids came home, I had pretty much run out of words. That has never happened to me before.

I must have somehow managed to get meals made and the laundry done, at least everybody is reasonable clean and look like they have been fed.

But I am done now. Finished.

I turned my last assignments in yesterday. Then I sat in the recliner, watching a Hallmark movie and eating ice cream straight from the carton. True story.

And today I am back!

I have words to share again!

My family has been so patient with me! They have were understanding with my short, sometimes incoherent texts. They picked up after me in my distracted state. They even wiped down the cupboard when I put a dirty coffee cup back in upside down with coffee in it.

They truly are heroes and need a little spoiling, starting with cream puffs and French vanilla cream, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

It feels so good to be back!

 

 

Selfie School

14962689_10154197792448315_1460252343965573620_nCould somebody please make a selfie tutorial for those over 40?

Seriously.

I have been attempting selfies for sometime now with no success. Nada. Not a single shot that I would even want to look at – let alone post on social media.

My kids have tried to help –

“Hold the camera up, now lift your head or you’ll have a double chin, tilt and smile!”

But somehow I just end up in unnatural positions with a double chin and a crazy glare from my glasses.

That is if I can actually hold the phone still long enough to snap a shot.

And if I can remember which button to push when I’ve finally gotten myself pretzel-ed into the correct position.

And if the phone hasn’t already turned itself off from inactivity because the aforesaid pretzel-ing takes time.

My kids can just whip out their phones, smile and snap. Boom – they’ve posted to social media with a catchy tagline. And it looks great. Every single time.

Meanwhile my Facebook profile picture is six years old.

This seems grossly unfair.

At least I’m not alone.

My sisters have the same problem.

When we’re together someone will get the bright idea to take a selfie of the group. Then we all burst into laughter at the absurdity that it could possibly look good.

But we pull out our phones, trying to remember which buttons to push while we jam our heads together, tilting to avoid double chins and bifocal glare, and end up with a hilarious shot that will never be seen in public.

And I do mean never.

Is their help for us?

Is their still time to learn how to do a selfie?

I can only hope.

PS True confessions – I looked at all the selfies on my phone and rejected all seven of them to share on this blog post. Thanks to my sister Sandy for taking a picture of our kiddos taking a selfie and making it look so easy.

 

 

 

 

 

And It Snowed

So winter finally came. With a vengeance.

Our spring like temperatures and open pastures turned to below zero wind chills with huge snow drifts overnight.

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I woke up pretty excited. I love a good snowstorm when everybody is in safe and sound.

But then we lost power.

Before I had my shower.

A snowstorm with power can be delightful. A snowstorm without power is not.

And a snowstorm with no power and no shower is almost unendurable.

My  mind immediately when to the infamous ice storm several years ago when we were without power for five long days. F.I.V.E.

And I might have had a meltdown. Right there in the kitchen. Sheer absolute panic at the very thought of having to do that again.

I am such a wimp. (Okay – you can stop laughing Lavern and Carolyn – my off-the grid neighbors!)

IMG_2038This snowstorm had quickly gone downhill.

But wait – there’s more.

Meanwhile – Jan was trying to get a bale of hay out to the cows.

Which was no easy feat – because he first had to find them.

They had wandered over snowdrifts, across sagging fences heavy with snow and were gone.

Jan and Buddy spent hours in the storm trudging through deep snow before finally tracking them down in the neighbor’s hay bales.

Of course. Silly cows.

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By the time they had rounded them up, herded them back over the fence through the same snow drifts, and came inside, their insulated coveralls were literally frozen on them.

But the electricity had come back on!

And I had rejoiced with exceeding great joy and even taken a hot shower. It’s amazing how one’s outlook changes after a shower.

By 4:00 everyone was safe, warm, and fed. Finally.

All thoughts of our Super Bowl party were long gone.

At kick-off I was drinking tea and immersed in an Miss Marple mystery.

When the final buzzer sounded I was eating popcorn and reading Jean Stratton Porter’s The Harvester.

I did miss our amazing Pickle Wrap Dip – but Dagmar was stranded at the hospital for the duration and I knew she would be crushed if we ate it without her.

Maybe we should have a Ground Hog Day Party tonight. After all – Mr. Groundhog saw his shadow so we get 6 more weeks of winter!

Wait – celebrate six more weeks of this weather?

Oh well. At least we get Pickle Wrap Dip.

And the electricity is on.

Crazy Garden Lady

kaleI think I have officially become the crazy garden lady.

This whole “let’s extend the garden season” has become a bit of an obsession.

Case in point –

One evening last week I realized while listening to the late news that the temperature could dip below freezing over night.

How had I missed this?

It was now after dark, Jan wasn’t home and my poor precious plants were ready to die a vicious death in the cold.

I had flashbacks of the poor tender seedlings I murdered in the spring.

No – I couldn’t let it end this way!

I grabbed Buddy and we headed out into the pitch black night to rescue my broccoli and cabbages.

We couldn’t find a flashlight – so Buddy grabbed the little solar lamp by the workshop. And with its feeble light we slowly ventured out to the garden and attempted to cover the plants using tarps and bricks.

In the wind.

And the dark.

And the cold.

I only ran into the electric fence once.

At one point I thought, “This is crazy!”

And it was.

You know those those plants have done nothing all week but stay alive? They haven’t grown or changed or produced huge heads. Nothing.

How’s that for gratitude?

I’m done.

There’s a deep freeze coming next week and I decided to let them go.

That’s it.

No more covering them.

No more worrying about them.

I’m finished.

End of the garden 2014.

Well… except for those few kale plants and lettuce that Buddy and I put in a cold frame we made out cinder blocks and old windows.

I read somewhere that you could keep kale alive all winter…

Yep. Crazy garden lady.

One Last Good-Bye, Grandpa

We said our last goodbye to my Grandpa a little over a week ago.

Grandpa had Alzheimer’s for several years now – so in many ways it’s been a long, slow goodbye.

But, as one friend put it so beautifully, “even with slow good-byes, there is fresh pain at the end.”

And there was.

We shed many tears as we shared memories.

Good memories. Sweet memories.

Memories that brought back the Grandpa before Alzheimer’s, the strong, gentle man with the big smile and even bigger heart.

I have snapshots of Grandpa in my mind.

Slide 439

He was a farmer.

His wardrobe consisted of overalls or blue jeans with a blue cotton work  shirt.

And a smile. He always had a smile.

I can see him coming in the farmhouse for dinner (at noon), going into the washroom off the porch and changing from his dirty outside overalls into a clean pair and “washing up”. He’d come to the table with damp hair, his overall buttons open showing his BVD’s and a big grin.

I can see him sitting there at the head of the table, in one hand a big slice of bread (which was on the table at every meal) slathered in butter, in the other hand his fork.

Slide 419

I can see him standing him in the doorway greeting us as we drove in the yard to visit.  Then, since I was terrified of Smoke the dog (who was the biggest, gentlest, oldest dog ever) he would go and tie up him up so I would get out of the car.  He did it every time and never once told me it was silly to be afraid of dogs.

We were important to Grandpa.

Later in the afternoon, I can see him sitting beside us at the table for “lunch”  (this is the meal served mid-afternoon after dinner but before supper). He would distract us and then take our bowl of Schwan’s ice cream and hide it under the table.
I can still see his twinkling eyes as he told us not to drink that root beer because it would put hair on our chests.
He loved to tease.

Slide 418

That’s the picture I see most often in my mind – Grandpa’s great big grin and his twinkling eyes.

Grandpa loved us. I don’t ever remember hearing him say it. But we knew it. He showed us in so many ways.
He loved Grandma, too.

Most of my memories of Grandpa, like my memories of Grandma, are intertwined. They were such a team.  He was a bit of a character and Grandma balanced him perfectly. He would start something and Grandma would watch with a smile.

Even after 71 years of marriage as they were sitting in their wheel chairs at the nursing home…

Even after Grandma’s heart was weak and her breath shallow and Grandpa’s mind was gone…

Even then they held hands.

Even then they would look at each other with love in their eyes.

Even then.

And that is my favorite snapshot of all.

So this is one last goodbye, Grandpa.

Thank you for bringing us laughter and love.

For showing us what a strong and committed marriage looks like.

For being strong and gentle, tough and tender,  and fun.

I love you.

We were so blessed to have you in our lives.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Earlier this spring I realized that our resident cat – Tiger – was getting up in years.

She was a kitten the year that Angel Girl was born – making her 14 years old. (Which is like 107 in cat years – right?).

Since we haven’t seen any baby kitties around here for awhile – and Tiger might need some help keeping the mice down – I started asking around for some.

You know where this is going don’t you.

The first kitty arrived on graduation day – was named Loki and quickly claimed by Buddy.

The second kitty arrived 2 weeks later – was named Katniss and quickly claimed by Buddy.

The third kitty showed up the next day – was named Prim and quickly claimed by Buddy.

Does anyone see a pattern here?

Then this morning a friend dropped off a momma cat and 4 kitties while I was at the grocery store.

They were all quickly claimed by Buddy who is in his element trying out different names for them all.

Now I’m wondering just who else I might have mentioned this to?

Just be careful what you wish for.

(PS – I am no longer wishing for kitties – but I am still wishing for zucchini, cucumbers, summer squash and fresh tomatoes. Just saying.) 🙂

Mowzilla

You know the outrageous price of gas can cause people to do strange things.

Take my brother-in-law…

Tractor 1
He modified his IH 240 tractor with two Swisher off-set mowers. When you factor in the 60 inch belly mower already mounted on the tractor – he can now cut a swath 15 feet across – with one pass.
Tractor 2He named this invention “The Mozilla” and can now cut the lawn in two rounds – although if the garden was up – he would have mowed down half of it.

Tractor 3He’s not sure how many acres an hour it will cut, or how much gas it takes – but it sure causes the neighbors to slow down and gawk when he’s out mowing!

Buzz Top Buddy

It was time for Buddy’s summer haircut and like every other year since he could talk – he begged for a buzz cut.

I don’t know why it’s been hard to buzz this kid. His older brothers routinely got a buzz the end of May every year until they were old to just say no.

But Buddy – we’d cut short – but never buzz.

This year though – he asked me once again after a week of extreme heat and humidity. The ticks were terrible and I had spent several minutes every night checking his head for the tiny varmints.

before
I caved.

We got him all set up outside with the clippers before  I realized that I had never given a buzz cut before. Jan’s dad, a retired Air Force colonel, is our usual barber and not only does a wonderful job , but saves us lots of money.

But Buddy had complete trust in me – or else he was desperate.

after
A few anxious minutes later – Buddy was buzzed.

He grinned from ear to ear.

Mom cried.

His sisters told him it was cute and every time he walked past them they would rub his head – which annoyed the kid so much that in desperation he resorted to…

hats…2 hats and a hoodie.

Hmmm… now tell me son, how does a buzz cut keep you cool in the heat when you keep it so well covered?!