Tag Archives: aging

Neck Up Check Up

I’ll just say it; I crack me up.

This morning began even earlier than usual for me. It’s hot, so I didn’t sleep as well as I typically do. I rolled out of bed thanking God for another day with Him. But soon I grumbled and complained about the dead bugs here and there from the summer’s quarterly spraying. Disgusted, I tied a frozen bandanna around my neck and stepped outside.

Instead of heading for the pastures first as I usually do, I walked toward the front yard and the gardens. It didn’t occur to me that the cattle and the mare would notice me in the pre-dawn light. They did. Loudly. Their calls to me actually warm my heart most days, but it was very early. Silly me, I worried the premature noise might disturb the neighbors – the nearest one being too far to hear. After I walked the other way, out of sight they quieted back down quickly.

I adore growing my own food. Over the weekend we’d placed Sevin baits to help reduce the earwig overpopulation. Still finding the live, slithering masses under everything I touched (checking for squash bugs or eggs) annoyed me. So did the screen door banging against the planter – someone left it open after using the grill the night before. As the first sun beams streaked across the tree trunks I felt taken for granted noticing the empty bird feeders. Poor, poor, pitiful me.

Clearly I desperately needed coffee.

Once the coffee began pumping I felt revived and happier with the world. I followed the cattle to the pasture to see how the new controller program I’d set the day before went. That was a long process in itself: find a manual on line, find the information I needed rather than read every jot and tittle about the device, hand write the step-by-step instructions (of course the printer cartridge emptied at that particular moment, and forget a WiFi signal in the metal barn), walk back to the cottage for a flashlight since the new lights in the barn aren’t connected yet… I already had half my daily steps in.

Then I noticed two swamp spots in the first sprinkler zone – yep, the cow’s knocked off two more sprinkler heads so the water pooled around a two-yard radius instead of the 20 yard circles they should have soaked. Stupid cow.

I shot a text off to Brother reminding him to bring more replacement heads home with him and headed back to my desk. I pulled fresh weeds to feed the chickens – killing two birds with one stone (the young hens will just have to get over that expression – or start laying soon).

Within minutes at my desk, my brand new wireless keyboard had me wanting to punch something. Does anyone actually use F keys instead of hot keys? How is learning to stretch the fingers higher better than CTL+S, CTL+A, CTL+C, CTL+V, etc? I literally walked away after the fifth or sixth time a Save As dialogue box popped up rather than the cursor back spacing over yet another key error. Grrr… And I saved to buy this device for months!

The sound of Old Dog sniffing around my open door was all it took to push me over my threshold. Time for a walk.

Before we’d walked fifty yards I noticed Senior Neighbor Lady waving her arms and calling me. Walking past our three dogs noisily engaging in their daily fence fight I finally heard her tell me, “Honey, I don’t have my hearing aids in and couldn’t hear what you were yelling to me.”  Hmmm… I only waved hello as I do every morning – usually two hours later.

I easily find patience with seniors – sowing what I hope to reap, so I hugged her and wished her a nice day.

As Dog and I rounded the first bend in the road, I heard what sounded like angry voices nearby. Dog paused, his aging ears pointed toward the source of the sound. It appeared one half of a young couple was loading a pick-up truck bed and the other half was getting her wounded, parting words out. He wordlessly pulled items out of the pile she’d created next to the garbage can before the collection truck arrived.

Been there, done that. I prayed.

I continued to pray as we continued our walk. Dog doesn’t mind – he can’t hear my lower register anyway. God does.

As we headed back up our driveway I noticed the fruits of my labors in the pretty, colorful, well-trimmed yards, and the unmistakably peaceful atmosphere of the place. Yeah, the lots between the main house and the pastures seem chaotic, but that’s what Brother’s business going in good a direction looks like.

I realized how silly I’d been earlier. Though I never expected to be unmarried, my life now is what I’ve always hoped and wished for. Despite the daily annoyances that are certain to arise as I learn about ranch life, with such a benefactor as Brother, my life has become a story I want to write. Most important, I realized how quickly I suffer for discounting my relationship with God.

Today I’m humbled recalling one of Daddy’s iconic expressions, “How soon we forget.”

Today I’m grateful for the reminder to never step out the door before prayer time – or without my latte.

Now I’m off to get the rest of my steps in before it’s too hot!

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NLT)

 

Image courtesy MemeGenerator.net.

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Housebound

Being still and quiet is not my strong suit – never has been. I’m a do-er. Unable to use my arms, this healing season has been my greatest challenge to date, often plunging me into bouts of apathy followed by arbitrary sadness.

The rain and wind have arrived. The lots muddy, pastures soggy, the cottage floors took the worst of it while using a broom or mop is so difficult. Initially I engaged all my creativity cleaning up the mess, but gradually succumbed to going outdoors only when necessary.

Soon I felt the walls beginning to close in on me and my moods swung dark.

Despite physical therapy I see my muscles beginning to shrivel; bicep, triceps, flexor and brachia rubber bands. This concerns me. I don’t spring back as fast as I used to. Still, I flex till it hurts and then stop.

Today the dark dams looming in every corner of the cottage seemed to break open. I could no longer simply sit. I sat on a piece of non-slip drawer liner, arms folded across my middle. Pressing my feet against the sofa I pushed it. Stuttering, and groaning it moved!

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

We must re-stain the concrete anyway, so I’ll live with the scrape marks until the weather is more cooperative.

Repeating this with the love seat and recliner I cleared a circular path through the three rooms.

Then I did the math:

One circle through the rooms is 40-42 steps. Times 13 trips every hour 8 times a day, I not only see little things I actually can clean but I’m also burning calories while pumping the creative juices. Since I work an average of 8 to 10 hours a day – that’s about two miles of steps. Sure, I feel like I’m growing hamster hair, but spring’s coming.

I reset the alarms on my laptop and dutifully respond every hour. Shoes laced and dressed in layers I can peel off and put back on, every hour I stayed on task, returning to work with my brain freshly revived.

This is better. Now I’m brain storming how I can buff out the scrape marks standing on buffing pads from the paint shop… I’ll dance. Mashed Potato everyone!

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.” Romans 8:18 (NLT)

 

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Note to Self: Relax

Kendra recently mentioned she makes ToDo lists. We laughed remembering a meme that declares keeping lists signifies the beginning of the end – essentially of youth. During the conversation I shared my journey from Daytimers, ToDo lists (itemized, color-coded and annotated), alarms in my phones to Post-It notes to myself.

I revisited that conversation today.

While inadvertently avoiding a particularly unpleasant section of my work this morning, I found myself rummaging through old memories. I confess, I became angry. It’s what I want to evoke in readers, but I felt like I was losing too much time over the passage.

Soon I realized I’d been dusting the bike tires. Clearly I’d derailed.

About then it occurred to me, I determine my deadlines. I can do this.

As Hope frequently reminds me, I’m remarkably human. Being human makes each of us unique and we all move at our individual paces – usually forward. Trying to be perfect for the first half of my life, this came as a shock to me. Sure, I often appear to be taking longer growing up than the next person. But now that I’ve given up trying to be like anyone else I deliberately celebrate the liberty to take life as it happens.

For instance, prioritizing tasks is not so unforgiving anymore. On the surface leaving dishes until morning may seem gross. Seriously, I can live with that being my darkest housekeeping secret. And dressing. I practically live in flannels (or jeans) and hoodies. As you gasp with shock also consider that all the amazing information constantly churning around in my head can be exhausting, so I sleep when I’m tired. And I wake when I’m rested. Another perk to being me.

So, to enjoy life more and miss less I use ’em all: I set phone alarms, mark calendars, make lists and write notes to myself; white boards, black boards, and Post-Its everywhere. What’s more, I eventually notice them.

Today, in tribute to Kendra, while I return to my work, I’m sharing some of my Notes to Self from my first months here at home. Alarms not required:

  • Computer reminders while I work:
    • Drink water. (repeats every 2 hours for 8 hours)
    • Use bathroom (also repeats every 2 hours)
    • Stand and move (repeats every 90-minutes after water is consumed)
  • Notes around the cottage:

  

“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” Psalm 90:12 (NLT)

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Benched

Today was a first. Delighted to find I had an internet signal I began exploring Hulu – in the morning.

I’ve been benched.

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But I regress. In the editing process I cut numerous details from my drafts; the whining – you’re welcome

For example:

  • hammering axes to the breaking point chopping logs – hard on muscles and tendons,
  • the arabesque leaps generated by snow-covered ice – interrupted by plummets into the same,
  • breaking less graceful falls, straining my arms,
  • learning the easy, shocking way the wire on the pasture fence was hot,
  • wood burning stove: seared, burnt and scalded hands, arms and ankle (don’t ask about the ankle),
  • innumerable bruises and scrapes – my favorite resulting from a log bucking into my shin.

Suffice it to say this body’s taken a beating this winter.

Yesterday I was rapidly approaching my limits with the ongoing cold. I developed a plan. I thought it was ingenious:

remington-limb-trimI’d carefully use my little electric chain saw to cut logs and fill one wood bin. Ambidextrous, I thought surely I could do that without further injuring my right arm. Once prepared for a few more weeks of extreme cold, the weather will certainly warm immediately. Things always seem to go that way. Right?

So, now compensating for my gimpy right arm I’ve stressed my left arm and both hurt.

Later, shaking her head at me, DoctorNeighbor simply said, “Stop. Doing. Everything.” And then brought me her sling that belts to the waist.

Note to self; texting and keying also involve the biceps.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”*

After doing only the most basic chores today, Kindle being uncooperative and books actually being too heavy, videos are my last hope for resting and allow the healing to happen.

The up sides:

  • Jogging in place during the many, many advertisements, my legs and lower torso will be in remarkable shape for spring,
  • I’m inspired with new story lines – spin-off ideas from trailers,
  • I’m now nearly an expert at processing wood and survivalist heating,
  • I saved enough money to buy a couple of cords of wood to repay Cole and the neighbor,
  • Though I feel vastly accomplished for having done it, I’m done cutting wood myself.
  • As I rest I can plan to make candle/pottery space heaters to keep me snug till spring.

Oh, and I’m refining my cell’s Speech-to-Text vocabulary.

Happy blogging, friends!

“Come to me, all you who work and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

* Psalm 62:5 (NLT)

Images courtesy Pixabay and Home Depot

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Wake Up Call

be-still-know-godLate yesterday I wasn’t still. I’d been uneasy. With my lame arm I couldn’t pull my hatchet from a log. Cole didn’t get to the shop until early afternoon – he’d been working in town, so he and everyone else pushed hard to complete the day’s task list. I certainly wasn’t going to bother anyone with firewood.

By then my feet hurt, my back ached and my bad arm felt like it was on fire. Feeling my indisposition weighing on me, I resigned to wheel the log, hatchet firmly lodged in it back to the cottage and think the problem through.

Extraordinarily early this morning my phone rang. For years calls before daylight brought awful news. I bolted up, took a deep breath and answered, “What is it?”

Cole’s voice, “Wake up, Woman.”

Instantly relieved, I replied, “I’m awake Dude, I’m cold and slow…” I hadn’t heard it in a few years, but I’m pretty sure he was giggling before I heard him disconnect.

Minutes later with my latte and the smell of smoke from the stove I realized I was feeling cheerful, prospects abounded again. Even coughs in the pasture didn’t upset me (okay, that and checking with Kendra). Refreshed and fully awake by then I recalled Cole’s last text the evening before, “What are you worried about. Seriously.”

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again — my Savior and my God!*”

Later, in the morning light, with a cup of tea my concerns from the night before seemed silly. I began to remember scenarios from years long ago; the boy’s dad fussing into the phone after Pa woke him – at four a.m. I could hear The Old Man cackle delightedly just before hanging up. Hours later Ma also giggled describing how much Pa enjoyed waking all the brothers early that morning.

I may have mentioned before how my family tree is more like a tangled bramble bush. Love between us is wrapped in stained, stiff leather gloves. Those calls became a holiday tradition. I missed them after our marriage went south and the family distanced themselves from me for a season. Until this morning.

Today I’m glad I didn’t reply to Cole’s text the night before. Translated, it said, “Remember I have your back, Sister,” sub-text, “Being the only one here for days can feel lonely.” The call this morning confirmed what I already felt. Cole knowing I’m no slacker, my body is aging, but I’m far from lazy isn’t so important this morning. I must rest my arm and let it heal. He’ll get it eventually. Meanwhile God indeed knows.

Now I wonder; perhaps the way we’re all twisted together isn’t all that scary. No matter what, God’s got this.

It’s good to be home.

“But He knows where I am going. And when He tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.” Job 23:10 (NLT)

*Psalm 43:5

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The Stihl of the Night

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**

Sunday night Cole was plowing after dark. Although I typically avoid working on Sunday, I pulled on my boots to help shovel the pile-up from the walkways. Sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

As soon as I stepped outside Cole passed between my cottage and the shop. As he went, he called to Roommate and me, “Let’s build a bonfire!” – long after dusk on a work night. Crazy. Right?

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We often enjoy bonfires at parties or on a relaxing evening after a hard day’s work. But not in 9 degrees and wind with a foot or so of snow. And it was late.

Cole also knows I typically retire early in the evening. I’m not literally an insomniac. Still, turning my brain off takes hours, so I typically “rise and go to roost with the chickens.”

As we shoveled Roommate shared that Cole had mentioned cutting wood earlier. I’m ashamed to admit my next thoughts were how I’d told him the day before I’d cut all the wood I could with my little chain saw – that he gave me for Christmas. He’d responded saying he’d go to the grove the following day, bring in more wood, split some logs and start up the big Stihl saw.

Another job came to the shop, so that didn’t happen. And then it snowed – yet again.

As I worked I realized some other important facts:

  • The main house where they live has forced heat and air. Their wood burning stove is essentially aesthetic, more for ambiance. They don’t need wood for heat. I do.
  • For several consecutive days Cole spent hours on the tractor moving snow from the lots and the driveways. We all appreciate a path to the pastures.
  • Cole ensures I have all I need: heat, transportation, food, companionship and even hugs.

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Fortunately, before shooting off my mouth without engaging my brain, I realized Cole was looking out for me. Sure, he teases me saying, “You’ve been sheltered too long. You’re spoiled.” Cole actually doesn’t know better. He sees me today with all my “quirks” – not the scarred and torn Former Me. Translated that actually means, I have your back, Sister.”

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.*”

Daily I thank God for my whole family. While Cole’s manners and personality can sometimes be annoying, we have shared some rough times together.

Four years ago, with my sister, brother and niece, we were all a family here together on the ranch. Cole and his household at the time occupied what’s now my cottage and the loft. And then all our lives changed forever; Roan and I were barely settled into our apartment in McKinney, Texas when Cole called late one night. Without warning Cole’s best friend, my precious kid brother suddenly, unexpected died here.

Jan 26, 2014 5 a.m. Opal, Roo, Seagh, Roan, Cole, Kendra

Jan 26, 2014 5 a.m. Opal, Roo, Seagh, Roan, Cole, Kendra

Yes, life goes on. Still, Seagh is such a huge part of our lives we all miss him – daily. We all occasionally see him in our peripheries. We need never explain those moments.

Initially Cole was my brother vicariously through Seagh. Though he knows comparatively little of my history, today Cole’s close as a brother. In his life Seagh called three men his brother; one is by blood, one a friend from his youth and then Cole.

Sunday night was a reflective occasion, only it didn’t hurt as much. Because of Cole I was only mildly concerned taking the last of the cut wood early that same morning. At the time I had no idea exactly how much the full wood box would actually comfort me that night.

God blessed me with many brothers and sisters and good friends. Though I miss many of them often, especially Seagh, Cole has my back – daily.

I’m glad to see I “Stihl” have room to grow into a better person.

Have your circumstances forced you to grow where you didn’t realize you could?

It’s -3 degrees this morning. With this crazy weather the crib’s almost empty again. No problem, we got this.

“And my God will supply every need of ours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (ESV)

*James 1:27

**Image courtesy Pixabay

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Something Good

The morning came painfully early. Literally. As the weather report predicted, four inches of snow fell overnight. Literally. Covering. Everything.

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On a ruler four inches doesn’t look like much. But four inches covering the snow that fell days before, and on ice where some melted, it equaled a lot of hard labor here at the ranch.

These are chores that can’t wait, even when other time-sensitive work calls. The plowing, shoveling, removing ice – yet again – seemed like the aftermath of a blizzard requiring all hands on deck.

After a hard day’s labor Eleven-Year-Old and I made snow angels – a fun debriefing for him, and icing my neck and back was therapeutic for me. And I had my full day-job agenda to meet.

The next morning my sixty-something body regretted having abused Younger Me’s body – sorely. I felt every old injury. I’m not old, but this morning I sure know what old feels like. Compound that with more snow, ice, the additional physical activity I haven’t done in well over three years; I’d earned a good whine.

Instead, I groaned quietly and reminded myself this too will pass soon as I pulled on my big girl boots.

20161215_074333As the livestock thanked me for their morning meal, I continued moving through more new deep powder to the lot. Passing the truck I remembered I must help unload the rest of the wood as well as meeting a deadline – Yikes! Today.

Rather than telling myself everything is as it should be, with the backlog of work awaiting me, the voices in my head recalled negatives people spoke into my life over the years; You at a ranch? In business for yourself? Really?

Here we’re all still getting our heads around my first autumn and winter back home, with all-new circumstances and a different household. I desperately want to help more, but I’m still learning how to. I already learned how not knowing enough can cost everyone more time and generate additional work.

I normally ignore Cole mumbling, not realizing anyone’s nearby. But this morning, without realizing it, I took his murmuring personally. I quickly began feeling like a burdensome slacker. However, instead of rushing to help him with his chores, I kept my head down, stayed my course and returned to my cottage – for tea and prayer.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and who carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.*”

20170110_100153I don’t know about most people, but learning to do only what’s needed for the day, maybe the next takes time. Safe at home now I can learn to enjoy life more, rather than constantly brain-storming, considering every possibility for the coming months – or years. For the first time in years I don’t feel like I’m in this alone. This is strange to me and requires considerable adjusting – daily.

As I prayed, God’s Still, Small Voice reminded me I’m in better shape than anyone (but Him) could expect. I began recalling some of the feats the Holy Spirit and I did together since I arrived, the times we met challenges alone and mastered them, let alone my amazing history. My guys and I not only survived, but against all odds, God and I exceeded expectations of anyone that matters.

Getting lost in all the negatives, the what-ifs and the should’ve-would’ve-could’ves in life is too easy.

Isn’t life better when we look at positives instead? I’m positive I’m not broken. I’m mended. We’re all patch worked together into a beautiful, marvelous story.

But for right now you’ll have to excuse me; Cole just came in asking, “Do I even have to come get my own coffee. Sheesh.” Translated that means he’s glad I’m here too! 😉

“… For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)

*Matthew 11:28

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Walk #5

It was a great day to visit the local post office.

Outside the building a small flag moving along, barely visible above the cars parked along the curb stole my attention. I found it attached to Marjorie Lewis’ scooter. Ms Lewis shared with me a good part of her last few decades and some American History. Half an hour with her seemed like seconds but I doubt I’ll ever forget this unsung hero:

marjory-lewis

Birthday cards to mail, I proceeded inside to find the regular gang waiting to help me:

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Not just a Postal Employee but my workout cheer leader, Linda checks my dumbbells.

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The seal of approval.

“How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” Psalm 133:1 (NLT)

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Likeminded

I’ve settled in enough to miss old friends. Some slipped into my past, but others remain close no matter where in the world I pause.

Therese etcI met one of my favorite people the first week in the new apartment building in my new village of Fox Lake. She stood there in the hallway as though she’d been waiting for me. Moments after basic introductions, Therese blurted, “We should start a Bible Study in the building!”

 

We hadn’t mentioned church or matters of faith, yet she reaffirmed the old saying like attracts like. From that happy meeting we got together several times a week. Each time we excitedly share something new. We talked to God alone about the Bible Study.

sean and thereseTerry is a master quilter, something I’d always wanted to try. We’d get together a few times a week to enjoy one another’s company and explore new patchwork designs. Each visit Sean, Terry’s lively, WWII veteran and professional vocalist husband annoyed her entertained us with jokes (usually bad) or song (always wonderful). We quickly learned to have the computer or the TV on in the other room.

Every week we excitedly shared stories about what God was doing in the building and our community. We understood the Bible Study would happen in God’s time. We stayed busy.

Two years later I took my latest quilt project to Terry’s apartment. My mind was in a patchwork maze and my caffeine levels were dangerously low. But when she opened the door we both blurted together, out of nowhere, “Do you have any ideas about the Bible Study?” Her eyes widened, and she said, “I found this book that would be great to start with.”

BGB LCHOver the next couple of days she put together a syllabus, printed flyers and I passed them around the building. We started with eight women, each from different faith backgrounds and experiences; a genuine melting pot. Within weeks the group grew so we had to move to a larger room.

Sean and Therese BrooklynI moved out of the building a year later. Just before I left Terry finished chemo therapy for breast cancer – after fifteen years of remission God and she beat it again.

It’s a safe bet we keep in touch. As busy as she stays, when my brother passed away, Terry was my go-to girl, my touchstone. We hadn’t talked in three months, but you’d never know I ever left the building. Good friends are like that.

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Three years later, Terry reports the Bad Girls of the Bible* Group is still as diverse as ever and going strong.

 

 

“…If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:19,20 (NLT)

 

*Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs image courtesy Google.Books.Com

Images courtesy of Therese and Sean are not to be duplicated or otherwise shared without prior written permission. Thank you!

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Walk #2

Inspired by the amazing Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha’s Echoes of my Neighborhood. If you haven’t already met her, you must visit A Cooking Pot and Twistedtales for a taste of this, a sampling of that and you never know what else. You won’t be sorry. Thanks for all your masterful advice, Jacqueline! My phone will do for now. ❤

 

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Every hour my fitness device reminds me to get up and move. Typically I stretch and then power walk around a different block each lap, each hour. Depending upon the time of day these strolls are usually uneventful. My third tour this morning was an exception.

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*

Returning home, I found Steve, our charming next-door neighbor. He confirmed my suspicion that he’d actually popped by to chat as I barbecued the other day  – annnd to identify the dog that’s permeated our once quiet neighborhood with constant, loud barking. I’m glad to know he pays attention. I’m also comforted knowing I’m not the only one the dog annoys. I informed him the property owners the other side of our house are in the long process of moving back in to their rental property. Misery loves company.

Steve also identified the cars belonging to their property. I can now tell at a glance who’s around and who’s away – mostly. We laughed at how he learned the names of 100 young campers the week before, yet he forgets Erin and my names. He artfully worded how even from a distance he knows me on sight as he does construction work around the neighborhood. It’s nice to know he’s watching out for the two old broads neighbors.

underpass 1Most notable, he too leaves provisions for the people living under the bridge. And he directed me to other neighbors who work at local food pantries where they need volunteers. I’m in.

What a marvelously invigorating, inspiring 15 minutes!

 

“Pay attention to this, Job. Stop and consider the wonderful miracles of God!” Job 37:14 (NLT)

*Image courtesy Pixabay

All other images, property of Rapture Practice! Publications (c)2016 are not to be shared or otherwise distributed without prior written permission. Thank you!

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