Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The reasons thereof...

Did you know that a boning knife will do an outstanding job of cutting a cold hard boiled egg?  I didn't.  I have primarily used mine to cut raw meat, specifically when trimming chicken since boneless, skinless chicken breasts still have bits undesirable to me on them.

Today, I made a salad: wild greens, grilled chicken, hard boiled egg, shredded white cheddar cheese, diced avocado, bacon, and white balsamic dressing.  I used the boning knife to cut the chicken, then figured that I would go ahead and try it on the egg.  I was surprised how well the boning knife worked on the cooked chicken, but was very, very surprised at how well the knife worked on the egg.

I have lost track now, how long I have had my set of Henckels knives.  I do know that it took many years to purchase my set.  I love them. My first two knives were a gift from my mother: the tomato knife and the boning knife.  I thought the tomato knife was a joke, since I do not eat tomatoes, but it is rather useful. I am not sure what came next, but I do know that my brother gifted me the eight steak knives early on in my knife collecting journey.  My deepest desire was for the Santoku knife, which I saved for a long time.  More than two decades later, my set (the Pro S) lacks but one piece: the cleaver.  I have never bought one because I am not sure how I would ever use it, but the empty slot in my butcher's block sort of bugs me.

I use the Santoku, bread, and tomato knives the most, followed by the boning knife.  Rarely do I use the paring knives or the butcher knife.  Of course, the steak knives are used daily, as are my kitchen scissors.  I do use the sharpener frequently, however sometimes it is merely to dance about the kitchen weilding it as a sword, imagining I am battling a dragon.  I am rather sure Henckels did not intend it for that use, but it sure does look like a sword.

All this is to say, though, that lately the reasons thereof for what I do oft come to mind.  By that, I mean I have started wondering why it is that I do things the way that I do.

Take marinating chicken for example.  My entire cooking life, I have placed chicken breasts on a plate, drizzled olive oil on them, sprinkled some seasoning, flipped them over, and repeated the process.  Just recently, I decided to roast baby red potatoes and grill chicken for a meal.  Out came the super large mixing cup in which I tossed the diced potatoes in olive oil and herbs.  When those were spread on a tray and placed in the oven, I got out a plate for the chicken.  Then, thinking about how much I loathe washing dishes by hand, I decided to just marinate the chicken in the measuring cup since it was already dirty but with the same olive oil and herbs I planned to use on the chicken.

Oh, my goodness!  I was truly startled to taste the difference in the chicken when it was done.  You see, drizzling does not really coat the entire chicken.  Tossed around in the mixing cup (or a bowl would do), the entire piece of chicken was covered with oil and herbs.  Grilled this way, the chicken was encrusted and savory and surprisingly delicious.  Ever since then, I have been marinated my chicken in that large mixing cup.  Just think of all the years I could have been eating better chicken but didn't because I was preparing it the way I always had, never stopping to consider if there might be a better way to go about it.

So, too, with the boning knife.  As long as I have owned that knife, I have only used it for cutting raw meat until today.  It was sitting in the dish rack, which is I why I grabbed it.  Normally, I use the tomato knife to cut cooked meat.  The boning knife is for raw meat, yet it sliced through the cooked meat like butter. The boning knife is for meat, yet it diced the eggs quite cleanly, allowing me to cut thin slices without squishing the egg. The boning knife is not for either of the choices I made, yet it did a splendid job at preparing the ingredients for my salad. [Yes, I went on to use it to slice up the avocado and bacon.]

I have had that knife the longest, yet I have primarily wasted its potential, limiting its use to what I thought it was supposed to do. I limited its use without ever really thinking about the reasons thereof for doing so.

Another example is with my spices.  Always.  Always I have kept them in alphabetical order.  Whilst I cook, I oft find myself scanning for a particular spice, trying to ferret out its location among the four magnetic racks I have used for years. [They are stuck on the side of the stove.]  A while ago, since I really do struggle with remembering the particular order of the alphabet (something that is truly distressing to me), I rearranged the spice racks by groups.  On the first rack are all of my Italian herbs.  Next come the Mexican spices.  After that are Indian ones.  Finally, on the lowest shelf are the ones I rarely use.  Now, whenever I cook, I do not have to hunt for spices. I can just grab what I need without hardly looking at them...just grab the group I need.

Making this change has lessened my angst in cooking (though it has not helped with burning my meals).  I really struggle with reminders of how much my brain has changed, how much my cognitive processes have declined.  Making changes, first with the spices and this later encounter with the knives, has made me start to wonder if I should spend more time thinking on the reasons thereof for more of what I do.

When I left the academic world to enter the business one, I was utterly taken aback at the complete dearth of common sense there.  At least in the corporate and non-profit places where I worked, people did things the way they had always been done without really thinking about why.  Much of the time, the way things were done were very inefficient, often time consuming and redundant.  I think that the problem, in a small part, of mission creep (of businesses and organizations straying from their strategic plans) stems from the fact that people will just do things the way they have been done without stopping to think of the reasons thereof.

One tiny example can be seen in office supply closets.  You will find massive amounts of waste there, especially in toner cartridges that are expired or for printers/faxes/copiers that are no longer at the organization and in typewriter ribbons and cartridges.  Things will be ordered because they have always been ordered.  The same vendor will be used because it has always been used.  Never mind that those things are not needed or that their shelf life might be limited.  Never mind that the explosion of online options has made the office supply world very competitive, with companies offering steep discounts and free shipping for businesses and organizations that become regular customers.  Never mind that toner prices can vary widely, so that while a particular vendor might give you cut rate prices on all your other office supplies that vendor will be fleecing you when it comes to toner.

At my last job, I found a place where we could be saving $7,500 a year simply by purchasing our toner at a place other than the chosen office supply vendor.  To me, that is not an insignificant savings, even on a $3 million operating budget.  However, no one cared to make the switch. In fact, the office supplies were all bought at Staples, which is not the best place for a business to be making all of its purchases. Plus, it was pointed out to me that caring about savings in office supplies was not my job.

Another example were these accounting and property management reports that were printed daily or weekly and then discarded.  Many-paged reports printed on one side.  If the organization went to printing two-sided--something easily done on both the printers and the copiers--thousands more would be saved on paper.  However, no one really thought about this.  Or cared.  The reports were printed the way they were always printed and discarded without regard to the gross expense or of the trees, manufacturing, and fuel lost in the production and transportation of that wasted paper.

Those two changes alone could have funded a position for an administrative assistant that was sorely needed.  Such a person would help improve operational organization and free up the time and talent of high level staff who were forced to do their own basic clerical tasks. Even with this dire need, reports were printed the way they were always printed and toner was ordered the way it was always ordered.

I have also started to think about the reasons thereof when it comes to the Church, the mission creep of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) that I have experienced and seen and puzzled over.  In business terms, the Christian Book of Concord is our strategic plan.  Our pure doctrine is laid out, in both simple and fully developed terms, for all to read and understand, from the young child to the oldest person in the pew, from the pastor to the elder to the teacher to the secretary.  Yet things are rather skewed, in my opinion, in the LCMS.

Ask any nominal Lutheran what is at the heart of Lutheranism and I think you will hear the answer: Word and Sacrament.  Clearly this is because our Confessions teach that the way that God comes to us, forgives us, saves us, heals us, sustains us is through the hearing of the Living Word and through the Sacraments, which are made sacraments purely by God's command to join the Living Word to an earthly element.  Yet...all over the synod...there is a departure from this core of our strategic plan, our mission.  The Living Word is no longer infused in every part of the service (in all those churches that eschew liturgy) and the Lord's Supper has become optional.  Man gets to decide if they really want God to forgive them, heal them, sustain them that week...or that month, even...or if they want to worship Him instead, highlighting their faith and commitment and adoration.

What are the reasons for this other than this particular church has always done things that way, has always had the Lord's Supper once a month?  Always, though, is a bit relative when you think that the church, to be in the LCMS, claims adherence to our Confessions that do not put man in the position of deciding when and where and how God comes to him.

Equally sad is the message pouring forth from the service presentation.  Moving away from the liturgy, really means moving away from the Living Word.  However, read through the Bible.  Too much?  Okay, how about just the Psalter.  Over and over and over again we are taught, encouraged, extolled, and admonished to have the Word in our ears, in our mouths, on our tongues, and falling from our lips.  This is because of three primary truths: a) God's Word is and can do all that He is and does, b) the Living Word never returns void, and c) it is by hearing the Word that we receive faith.

Yet we ignore those monumental, profound truths and work to make services relevant, to have bits and pieces where we can express our love and adoration and praise as if it is our faith, our works that matter, rather than the faith and work of Jesus Christ.

Too, this can be seen in the pulpit.  Pastors have lamented that they are afraid of preaching the theology of the cross because it is not welcomed by their parishioners.  The sad truth is that bucking the wants of the parishioners can lead a pastor to lose his position.  However, there is no theology of glory in all of our Confessions.  It is no mistake that the second article, the one immediately following the statement of the existence of our triune God is about Original Sin.

We are born in sin.  We live in sin.  We die in sin.  We cannot, therefore, by our own strength or reason fear and trust and love God.  It is simply, utterly impossible.  Sad, but true.  Terrifying, but true.  Devastating, but true.  So, there is no theology of glory.  There is no great work we can do.  For all she is lauded, Mother Teresa's sacrifices and labors and love and acts of mercy were filthy and gross and putrid in God's eyes.  Her work.  Her labor.  Her worship.  Worth nothing eternally for her soul.  Achieved nothing eternally for her salvation.  Count the cost of them and she still is condemned to hell.

But the Augsburg Confession, our stake ground and line in the sand, does not end at the second article.  No, it immediately takes up the heart and soul and faith and work of Jesus Christ, of our salvation and forgiveness and healing.  This work is through suffering and death.  This work is through shame and loss and betrayal.  This work is through ridicule and torture.  It is His work, His labor, His worship that matters.  The faith of Christ, not us.

So, it puzzles me that the reasons thereof for that which takes places in our churches are not really thought about, or if they are people are content with the answer being: "We have always done it this way."  Mostly, because the "always" of the Church started with Jesus...not man.  How did He get so lost...so marginalized? Thousands of years later, I spend decades in churches where little real Gospel was preached and the emphasis of my works, my faith, my worship took precedence over God coming to me, for me.  I discover the pure doctrine, finally learn what God meant for me, for His church, flee to the haven which claims to believe, teach, and confess the pure doctrine, only to discover a majority who do not read it, preach it, allow it to guide their services.

God's Word is the sanctuary above all sanctuaries. ~ BOC, LC, I, 91

Whenever God's Word is taught, preached, heard, read, or mediated upon, then the person, day, and work are sanctified.  This is not because of the outward work, but because of the Word, which makes saints of us all. ~ BOC, LC, I, 92

Therefore we constantly maintain this point:  God does not want to deal with us in any other way that through the spoken Word and through the Sacraments  Whatever is praised as from the Spirit--without the Word and Sacraments--is the devil himself.  God wanted to appear even to Moses through the bush and spoken Word. No prophet, neither Elijah nor Elisha, received the Spirit without the Ten Commandments or the spoken Word.  John the Baptist was not conceived without the word of Gabriel coming first, nor did he leap in his mother's womb without Mary's voice.  Peter says, "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).  Without the outward Word, however, they were not holy.  Much less would the Holy Spirit have moved them to speak when they were still unholy.  They were holy, says he, since the Holy Spirit spoke through them. ~BOC, SA, III, IX, 10-13

When we are baptized, when we eat the Lord's body, when we are absolved, our heart must be firmly assured that God truly forgives us for Christ's sake. At the same time, by the Word and by the rite, God moves hearts to believe and conceive faith, just as Paul says, "Faith comes by hearing" (Rom. 10:17). But just as the Word enters the ear in order to strike our heart, so the rite itself strikes the eye, in order to move the heart. The effect of the Word and the rite are the same. It has been well said by Agustine that a Sacrament is a visible Word, because the rite is received by the eyes and is, as it were, a picture of the Word, illustrating the same thing as the Word. The result of both is the same. ~BOC, AP, XII (VII), 4-6

Our church teaches that the Sacraments were ordained, not only to be marks of profession among men, but even more, to be signs and testimonies of God's will toward us. They were instituted to awaken and confirm faith in those who use them. Therefore, we must use the Sacraments in such a way that faith, which believes... the promises offered and set forth through the Sacraments is increased. ~BOC, AC, XIII, 1-2

‎...use of the Sacrament, about how it brings great consolation to anxious consciences, so that they, too, may learn to believe God and to expect and ask from Him all that is good...Because the Mass is for the purpose of giving the Sacrament, we have Communion every holy Day, and if anyone desires the Sacrament, we also... offer it on other days, when it is given to all who ask for it. ~BOC, AC, XXIV, 7-8, 34

Consider this true, almighty Lord, our Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, after the Last Supper. He is just beginning His bitter suffering and death for our sins. In those sad last moments, with great consideration and solemnity, He institutes this most venerable Sacrament. It was to be used until the end of the world with great reverence and obedience. It was to be an abiding memorial of His bitter suffering and death and all His benefits. It was a sealing of the new Testament, a consolation of all distressed hearts, and a firm bond of unity for Christians with Christ, their Head, and with one another. In ordaining and instituting the Holy Supper, He spoke these words about the bread, which He blessed and gave: "Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you," and about the cup or wine: "This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." 

We, too, are simply to believe with all humility and obedience our Creator and Redeemer's plain, firm, clear, column words and command, without any doubt and dispute about how it agrees with our reason or it is possible. For these words were spoke by that Lord who is infinite Wisdom and Truth itself. He can do and accomplish everything He promises. ~BOC, FSD, VII, 44,47

For Christ Himself says, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." ...He means those who are weary and heavy-laden with their sins, with the fear of death, temptations of the flesh, and of the devil. If, therefore, you are heavy laden and feel your weakness, then go joyfully to this Sacrament [Lord's Supper] and receive refreshment, comfort, and strength. ~BOC, LC, V, 71-73

You know, a while back Concordia Publishing House had this marketing campaign of a hymnal in every home.  While I certainly think that is a good idea, it puzzles me that the campaign was not a Book of Concord in every home.

Funny that cutting an egg with a different knife would be such a surprise.  I wonder else I am missing because I do not stop to consider the reasons thereof.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!


Who grills chicken in the middle of a fierce storm at midnight?
Who boils eggs so they can be deviled then?
Who does so while battling nausea and a blinding headache?

Monday, November 28, 2011

If it were possible...

I didn't sleep until around 6:00 this morning.  I suppose that is an improvement.  Poor Amos, his internal clock is all messed up now!

I finally fell asleep and dreamed more of that frightening dream.  I suppose the truth is that I am bloody terrified of Wednesday.  I think...if it were possible...I would stop the earth from turning just to keep that day from arriving.


I did have a small spate of good news this day: my car insurance will now be just over $30 a month less, even though my deductible is now cut in half and I have towing!  When I moved here, my homeowner's insurance dropped me just weeks after arriving.  The inspector saw the door to the airing porch (the one without a railing) and deemed it an unacceptable risk.  He never asked me about it. If he had, I would have said the mortgage company required that the door be screwed shut (not just locked) for closing.  In desperation, I scrambled around trying to find a policy.  That is when I met Diedre.

She not only wrote me a policy, she wrote me a better, less expensive policy.  Then she turned around and did the same for my car insurance.  Combining the two saved more, but it is was not just the savings.  She worked hard to find me every discount possible and to tweak things here and there to balance out my needs.

Last week, when I realized I have drive just a couple thousand miles since moving here, I thought to call her and ask about my car insurance policy since I am not commuting.  Sure enough, when I finally remembered to call her, she found good savings for me, better coverage, and rated me as now qualifying for accident forgiveness.  And...she remembered me, my situation, and asked all sorts of questions about me, about how I was doing.  It seems silly to say...but I matter, as a person, to her.  It is strange being treated that way.  She offers more than good customer service.  She offers kindness and looks out for my best interest.

There was icing on this bit of cake, too.

She emailed me the forms to sign.  I printed them, signed them, and scanned them.  My older scanner just makes JPEGS, so I usually open them up in PhotoShop to convert them to PDF.  It is a bit of a process.  However, when I right-clicked on the JPEG file to open it in PhotoShop, I saw an option to convert to PDF.  One click and I was done!  Sounds easy, eh?  Well, I just discovered that I can actually have Acrobat use the scanner to create a PDF for me without the intermediate step of creating a JPEG first!

The mission I have been volunteering for upgraded my design software for me since I needed to do so with the new computer.  I didn't imagine how much easier some of the things I do would be with that gift.  Truly, Lutherans in Africa has been such a wonder to me, a place where even though I am the volunteer supposed to be helping them, I am the one showered with blessings.  Plus, it is so rewarding to be of some use, of some help to such a great ministry, especially at a time when I feel utterly useless and a terrible burden on the planet.

It is staggering, at times, to realize just how much God cares for us and how He goes about meeting our needs, feeding us, and bestowing mercy utilizing all His creation.

Creature.  I am a creature of God.  Creator, if you think about it, implies a certain responsibility, a certain oversight.  Only I am more than a creation of God. I am beloved. I  am a beloved creation, a beloved creature.  He holds not merely an obligatory view toward my well-being as His creation, but He longs for all the best for me as His beloved.  God's best.  My mind cannot even comprehend such a thought.

Is is strange...or wrong somehow...to think that the timing of that insurance phone call was perfect for me?  The thought crossed my mind a while ago--that I should check on my policy--yet I could not manage to follow through until today.  Until a day where a bit of  good news was so very much needed and would go a long, long way toward helping my weary, worried, wondering soul remember that I am the sheep of the Good Shepherd.  Dare I believe that God caused me to remember at such a time when such a kindness was needed most, when such a kindness would be magnified ten-fold in my eyes and mind and heart?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Still awake at 7:30 this morning, I decided to switch the mattresses between my room and the guest suite.  My mattress is 17 years old.  I recently came to the conclusion that I need to get a new one.  I finally found a mattress store here (that was harder than I would think it should be), but I really do not need to be spending money on large expenses right now.  The MRI and MRI reading bills from the pit bull attack are still in dispute and things are not going my way (a total of $2,106).

Switching the mattresses was very, very, very hard.  Lots of huffing and puffing and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Much puppy confusion.  I was so weak and tremulous when I finished, I barely made it back to my bed.  [Yes, I did remake the other bed before I sought my own so I wouldn't awake to a mess today.]  I did sleep finally, but I cannot be sure being on a newer mattress helped.  After all, I had been up all night.

Today, I have been rather bleary-eyed. I have found it difficult to even concentrate on my beloved football fest.  I did remember to pay the COBRA bill due to be mailed tomorrow.  And I put away the last of the laundry I did yesterday.  Having started, I decided to do all the bedding again, including the duvet and slip covers for eight of down pillows, as well as the sheets, pillowcases, and blanket.  I HATE changing the bedding more than any other household chore, but I did very much savor slipping beneath and laying my head upon such soft and sweet-smelling fabrics. That meant a total of six loads of laundry that I washed, dried, folded, and put away.

That small amount of housework yesterday left me so very exhausted. I should have slept.  Perhaps tonight will be better...

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In my opinion...

...a sci-fi show doing an musical episode is the silliest and, dare I say, stupidest idea in all of Hollywood.  I am certain, although I fast-forwarded through most of the singing just to get an overview of the plot in case I miss anything of the larger story line, I am certain that copious amounts of brain cells that I can ill afford to lose were permanently destroyed during the watching.

Sometimes less is not more...

I vacuumed yesterday for the second time, I believe, since moving here.  Possibly the third.  I am not sure if I vacuumed for Bettina's visit in February.  After all, I had just been living here a few months.  I did vacuum for my visitors in July.  SIGH.  It was past time to vacuum again.

By this I mean vacuum the upstairs.  I try to vacuum the rug in front of the couch every week.  Amos, the darned Beast, inevitably brings in a piece of bark to chew up immediately following any vacuuming effort of mine.  So, I never get to savor it like I do freshly mown grass.

Lugging the vacuum upstairs is not my idea of something I should be doing.  Plus, doing so means also lugging it back down stairs.  Were I working, I would most definitely consider the luxury of a second vacuum cleaner.  I suppose...I should not discuss how many times I had to empty the container on the vacuum??

Sadly, my beloved Dyson is ill right now.  The part that you pull up and use for all the attachments is not providing suction.  Actually, it sucks so hard the tube closes shut.  I can find nothing blocking it, so I need to call Dyson.  But even the thought of calling for service technicians, though, makes me exhausted.

Yesterday, I also cleaned the bird cage.  After getting the bottom on correctly, I promised myself that I would not let it go so long again, and yet that is what I did.  Sometimes, less is not more.  If I clean the cage every couple of weeks instead of every couple of months, the job is significantly less work.

So, between vacuuming, sweeping, and cleaning the bird cage, I was so exhausted that I struggled to sleep last night.  Very frustrating...both the not sleeping and that a little housework tuckers me out so.  I very much HATE how weak I am.

Today, I steam mopped the floors.  My goodness!  I had completely forgotten how much I love doing that.  With very little effort, I have spectacularly clean floors.  Since the vacuum is ill, I swept the floors last night.  The amount of dirt and dust was shameful.  Gross.  I shall not describe just how black the pads were on the steam cleaner.  I used both sides on both pads.  Afterward, I went ahead and ordered two more pads. I have been wanting to do that for a while and they were $2 less than they have been.

In addition to the steam mopping, I also did three loads of laundry and cleaned the bathroom floor.  Is it silly of me to say...again...how much more so I enjoy doing laundry in my brightly decorated space??  The new "counter" is so very convenient and makes sorting the laundry very easy.  Nearly 10 months later, I have not yet ceased in savoring my new washing machine that does not have that center post agitator.  Just dump clothes in and pluck them right back out.  Piece of cake!  And, of course, the ancient, super duper dryer is a very good friend of mine.  The golden yellow is so cheery, and standing on the rug makes it seem less like being in the basement and more like being in a nice room in the house. Truly, doing laundry is a brighter experience (pun intended).

Not vacuuming upstairs for months on end does not make that job harder, but certainly leaving off cleaning the bird cage does.  Truly, less is not always more.

I need to make a list of all the cleaning tasks that need to be done and look at how I can space them out enough to not get so tired from the work.  Of course, the Myrtle method is to just push through until everything is done and then collapse from exhaustion and be couch bound for several days.  However, I need to stop doing that.  You know, the way I limit how many armloads of wood I will bring up from the garage at a given time. I would rather just finish it all at once.  In that case though, for now at least, less walking means less pain in my foot and a better chance of it healing...eventually.

Anyway, I need a cleaning list.  Of course, that means remembering all the cleaning tasks there are to do...(hint, hint Bettina).  For now, what I do need to remember is to clean the bird cage next week so as to not let the job become too overwhelming for me.

That...and allowing my clean, clean floors to distract me from how discouraging it is to be so blooming tired from a bit of housework.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Plan Progress...

The Four Fs...

My Thanksgiving Day Plan: Frozen Food, Floats, Fire, and Football.  The four Fs.

I purchased some tasty tidbits and have been resisting eating them: Red Baron's deep dish pizza, TGI Friday's Spinach and Artichoke Dip, and Sirloin Tips wrapped with Bacon (an appetizer I have never tried but sounded good).  I have already burned the pizza, so I am not off to a good start.  But Amos certainly appreciated eating the outsides of the pizza.

I also purchased Bryer's Vanilla Bean Ice Cream for Dr Pepper Floats.  I may even have one with every meal! I very much like having Dr Pepper floats, but I do not have much will power, so the ice cream does not last but a mere fraction of how long it should, given but one person in the home.

As soon as I awoke, I started a fire.  'Twas a bit hard to do so, however I got a bit angry with it and the logs became more compliant.  I am not sure why it was not wanting to light. I suppose it is a good thing I am tenacious (a nicer way to say "stubborn.").

Finally, I plan to watch all three football games, not just the Dallas Cowboys.  I really, really, really enjoy football. However, most folks have this strange preference for a great meal over watching a game.  To me, it does not seem a hard thing to schedule the meal around at least the Cowboys game, but that has always been a difficulty.  So, I am ensconced before the television happily watching grown men run up and down the field trying to get a little ball to the other side and tackling each other in the process.

Plus, since moving North of the Mason Dixon line, I rarely get to see my beloved Cowboys on telvision.  In Alexandria, I was at least guaranteed the two games against the Redskins.  Sadly, the Cowboys are not playing the Colts in the regular season. Therefore, each televised Cowboy game in my locale is even more special.

So, my goal today is to at least have one non-burned meal, lots of floats, lots of football, lots of fire comfort, and lots of peaceful moments not marred by worries or fears or weakness. Oh, yes, do not forget lots of snuggly puppy therapy.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Countdown to the impossible...

Aside from the door knob, I did find that there was another benefit to organizing the utility space in the basement.  You see, I found a great "tool" for me there.  Among the things I organized was a collection of work gloves.  I put them in one of the green boxes along the top shelf.

When I move the rank of wood from garage to porch, I always get splinters in my hands. Amos, unfortunately, has been little help in getting those pesky, painful slivers of wood out of my fingers.  I tried wearing my gardening gloves, but those are not really effective in helping me grip the logs.  Too, they provide little protection when I smash my fingers between two logs since dropping logs is always a part of my moving logs.

Today, needing more wood on my back porch, I thought about that box of work gloves and went to fetch it.  Sure enough, at the bottom of it was this pair of leather work gloves.  Someone left them in my house in Alexandria (I think), when I was renovating the basement.  I am not sure why I did not just donate them then or at some other point along the way.  In any case, they are perfect for moving logs!  So, all of that organizing netted me a solution to the door to the ash dump swinging open during fires, a door knob for the basement room, and protection when I am ferrying wood for my beloved fires.

While I was moving the wood, my neighbor's son told me that there was an impending leaf pick up.  I did not want to rake.  The more I stand on my foot, the more it hurts.  The more I walk on it, the more whatever is moving moves.  However, the front yard was covered and a portion of the back yard as well.  Knowing that all I had to do is rake the leaves to the park strip, I trudged out front to work.

I absolutely cannot dig holes anymore.  Well, raking is apparently like digging.  I would make a few passes and was exhausted.  My arm muscles were burning, especially the torn one in my upper right arm.  So, I raked a bit and rested.  Raked a bit and rested.  Raked a bit and rested.  I HATED all leaves.

I suppose I also hated the raking because I had too much time to think.

I talked some more today about my dream, given that I have not really slept much since awaking in great fear on Monday.  It was pointed out to me that three of my greatest fears were combined in one dream.  And, in a sense, the dream mirrored a small part of something I have to do next Wednesday that I do not want to do.  In truth, I honestly do not believe in the slightest bit that I will have any chance of actually doing it.  I am afraid of the procedures and I am afraid of my response to the procedures.  No matter that they are needful and were needful a long time ago if only a surgeon had not lied to me about the surgery she performed or even if any of the other specialists had actually read my records.

Despite how weak and silly I am right now, with only seven more months of insurance, I must do this. I cannot wait until I am stronger...until it would be safer for me.  So, the days are passing swiftly, dragging me along toward those procedures.  Apparently, my mind is even more worried than I knew. And one deep fear illumines others buried with it.

Amos, left to his own devices whilst I raked, spent his time turning his white paws black.  And his belly.  So, tonight was a bath night.  Tonight was a night of snuggling with a silky soft, sweet smelling, swaddled, snoring puppy dog.  Tonight was a time of not thinking, not worrying, not trembling in fear.  Tonight was a night of talking with Bettina as she worked, savoring a fire, and copious amounts of puppy therapy.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Because you need to see more weirdo photos...

I did not sleep much last night, and yet my beloved Bettina had arranged for us to spend the morning together watching our most favorite movie: Independence Day.  In the sixteen years we have been friends, we have watched it many, many, many times.  We know all the good lines and all the good scenes.  Offering to watch it with me while Skyping, too, is her way of saying, "I love you, Myrtle!"

While I did snooze a bit during some of the movie, I failed to nap all day.  Amos, however, is quite serious about his napping.  This afternoon, he crawled in my lap and fell asleep for two hours.  Is he not most adorable????


I simply cannot believe, at times, what a gift I was given in this puppy dog.  EVEN with the still lingering potty training issues, Amos brings me such joy and such companionship.  While I would very, very, very much like him to finish this potty training stuff, I am happy to announce that he has learned: upstairs, downstairs, basement, and attic.  And he has learned to go up and down all of those stairs.  In the attic, he LOVES racing around in circles about the chimney and will sometimes get in a few more laps before actually heading back down the stairs.  But because I no longer have to carry him down, I do not mind.  Plus, he is hilarious when he does his laps.

Anyway, to the boring/weird/dorky photos.

I have been fighting to stay awake all day because I am hoping that if I am extra tired, I might sleep better tonight, my first night back on the Loestrin.  And, well, since organization gets me all giddy, I decided to go ahead and tackle the utility closet (the old coal bin room) in the basement.  I think most people would have found it perfectly passable, given its contents, but there was certainly room for improvement.

Here is the view standing out in the main area of the basement looking in.  You will notice that the top of the shelves and the old cabinet is now empty and cleaned.  What you cannot see is in the corner by the door on the top shelf is the circular saw. I screwed two hooks in the wall above it to hang up my two extension cords.  I also organized my tape into two baskets: 1) shipping/art and 2) mechanical/utility (yes, I even have a roll of aluminum tape for duct wor and sheet metal).  The shelf above the tape is the last of the packing paper that I use in mailing things.  I have my wrapping paper container and the hose and attachments for the shop vac.  In the background, you can see the long shelves that line the back wall.

A lot of my work was reducing things once more.  I ended up with two bags of trash--I hate that I paid to move that stuff--and a bag of recycling for items that were left behind by the previous owner in the antique cabinet that I had been ignoring.  I also grouped items and utilized a set of plastic baskets from my elementary school teaching days to keep things in a certain place on the shelf.  For example, the white basket has the pump from my fountain because I decided that it would be best not to leave it in a block of frozen water all winter.  Did you note my boxes of nails, screws, and hardware whatnots stacked between my drill and my small tool box?  I once spent two entire days picking through everything I had and sorting it all out into those craft boxes.  That was some really fine organizing time!

Here, you can see my errant basket math.  The wire shelf pieces are from my old home.  I would like to utilize some of them in my closets, but the clothing bars are in the wrong direction in my closets.  They are on the short part instead of the wide part.  I want them redone and a shelf put on top the length of each closet.  At that point, I will add some of these wire shelf pieces and then give the rest away.  As you can see, I have more painting supplies than anything else I think.

One little victory was that I found a glass door knob set that someone gave me, which I kept of course, but forgot that I had.  The door to the living space in the basement did not have a door knob.  Now, it does!

Anyhow, I can now say that not a single area of my home remains unorganized, un-cleaned, un-reduced, etc.  Of course, there is always room for improvement.  Remember?  I still could reduce down the research articles and books from my graduate degrees, my luggage, those hats, and the clothing from Africa.

So, with the day drawing to a close and fatigue pulling on ever cell of my body, perhaps I will sleep tonight. Perhaps I will be exhausted enough to set aside the fear lingering still from that dream that I may find a bit of much needed peace and rest.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, November 21, 2011

I cannot speak the words; I cannot write them...

My hopes about the break from the Loestrin meaning that I might sleep more like I used to has not really come to fruition.  I am finding greater blocks of time passing, but then I also awake after 90 minutes still.  My greatest victory was five hours.  Last night, I had three blocks of three hours.

I awoke, however, from the third block of time truly terrified.  Deep terror that I have not managed to shed this entire day, though I have tried mightily to do so.

I dreamed a dream.  I dreamed the most terrifying dream that had not a moment of violence in it. I dreamed a dream that involved my beloved friend Bettina even though it was about me.  I dreamed a dream of which I cannot write.

While getting ready for my appointment, I was shaking and trembling from the dream.  I knew it was over, and I tried to re-write the ending, but I had no words.  Off I went, thinking to talk to Bettina on the way, but I forgot my phone.

I did try to tell the dream to the person who has been helping me, but I started having a panic attack just trying. Truly, PTSD is a most horrid evil in this world for what it wreaks upon a person.  It is a terrible companion with whom to live.  We talked some, but also had to leave the subject.  Not because I wanted to so...but because my body could not bear my trying to speak about it.  My weakness--seeing it, experiencing it--was nearly as overwhelming as the dream.

I wanted to talk with Bettina about the dream, but I was surprised to realize I was actually glad that her cherubs were needing her attention when I finally got back to my phone.  I want so much to talk with her about it, but I found that I could not speak the words.  Even as I cannot write them.  It is one thing, though, to hear that I must wait until such a time as I can talk about this, but it is another to live it.  To have a dream be so...big....

Alas, when stymied once more by my struggles and weakness, I sought to be productive about something.  My goal for the day was that since I had to go out, I would also get the things I need to manage my blood sugar in another late night episode.  So, here is my basket for my bedroom: Gatorade, trail mix (peanuts, chocolate, and raisins), and honey oat granola bars. This way, if my blood sugar plummets again, I can be safer about addressing the problem.  Immediately and without the use of stairs!

I also took care of a small matter with the fire place.

This weekend, I watched A&E Hoarders for the first time.  My goodness, has sin wrought such havoc on God's creation!  My heart aches for those people, who are so clearly battling the work of our foe in this world.  It was interesting to watch others who simply had lost all perspective of their lives.  Actually, it was also disturbing, since I have struggled so much this past year.  But I am at least not that lost and I am taking steps forward, even if a whole lot of backwards steps are also taking place.

Clearly, with all my reducing, recycling, and donating, I am not a hoarder.  My grandmother was.  My mother had to step in just as others do on the show: removing her for a time, calling in a rat catcher, ordering roll-off dumpsters for literally tons of trash, hiring help, and then having the home professionally cleaned and then repaired.  I think I could be.  I do think I can understand how easy it is to shy away from overwhelming loss and hurt and confusion and the ugly things of life by focusing on things or by simply stop managing the few things you can do so as to avoid seeing all that you cannot.  And, clearly, were I a hoarder, I would most certainly fill my home with office supplies!

[The ladies at Family and Children's Services laughed when I brought in more office supplies for them.  I did not begrudge them their outburst.  I deserve it!  One lady, a mini-hoarder of fine pens, was near giddy with the selection I had forced myself to add this morning, since I have more pens than I could use even if I live to be 100.]

However, as good as I have been on clearing out things. I do have a tendency to see potential use in things others might discard.  For example, when clearing out all the trash that was left in the basement by the previous owner (GRRR), I kept this small strip of metal (sheet metal I think).  I just felt it might be useful.  Well, while working, I had the most brilliant of brilliant ideas: that metal strip would be a rather effective solution for a pesky problem with my beloved fireplace.

You can see the strip in the first photo.  I came across it again when I was working on the "stuff" wooden shelving in the basement.  In the second photo, you can see the open door of the ash dump in my fireplace. The pesky problem is that when the back leg of the andiron on the left hits the far side of the door, it can swing open during a fire. This is most problematic since having hot coals fall in the dump is not exactly safe and it breaks the proper air flow needed to keep the fires going.  The third photo shows the execution of my idea.  I laid the strip at the back of the fireplace so that no matter where the andiron is, the door would not swing open unless I wanted it to do so.  Brilliant, eh?

Finally, I thought I would show you the next load of wood that Firewood Man brought yesterday.  He and his partner spent the entire afternoon splitting it by hand for me because he knew that I much prefer the oak and did not have access to the splitter.  This pile is from a tree that was felled two years ago, so Firewood Man was most enthusiastic about the great fires I will be having with it, so perfectly seasoned it is.  If it appears to you that he brought extra wood, you would be correct.

What a kind and respectful and encouraging pair of young men are they.  Both admired my stepping stones again and both were excited for me how much my yard has recovered since my fertilizer debacle.  [They had put some good stuff on it for me a couple of months ago.] Coming inside to fetch an item I found in the basement beneath the gargantuan table I thought they might want (a palette with wheels), they were greatly admiring of my new laundry area and were properly impressed with my table.  Both thought the idea of making a counter out of vinyl floor tiles was rather brilliant and a stellar outcome.  Both also mentioned again how blessed I am that my Good Shepherd brought me to this beautiful home that is such a haven.  One in which I could putter around tending to it while enduring the difficult process of having someone putter around tending to me.  And, of course, they both were quite vocal about how adorable The Beast continues to be.

If you are counting on your fingers, stop. I shall make it easy for you.  It has been a mere three weeks since I last ordered wood.  Yep, I burned an entire rank of wood in less than a month.  SIGH.  At least, I am benefiting from copious amounts of fire therapy...especially fire therapy combined with snuggling puppy therapy and deviled eggs therapy and rose candle therapy and chocolate therapy and football therapy and bacon therapy.

Note: Amos gets all excited when a new load of wood comes because he thinks all those ends sticking out are there for him to have a good chew whenever in the garage or on the back porch or next to the fireplace. Basically, Amos believes all things in the world are there for either his enjoyment or his consumption.  He seems to have a proper understanding of God's provision for His creation.  Would that it were I shared his clarity.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

For the record...

In all that organizing and filing, I also gathered up another box of office supplies to donate to the Family and Children Services Center, a garbage bag of paper recycling, a garbage bag of trash (somehow I moved all this Windows 98 software stuff), and two garbage bags of things to donate to Good Will or the Salvation Army or somewhere.

Yet, sadly, as you saw from the pictures...I sure do still have a lot of stuff!

I am just plain weird...

I am giddy.  Bouncing off the walls giddy.  Giddy because I finished some organizing that I have wanted to do since before I moved.  I still have some reducing to do, but my stuff is really, really, really organized now!

The basket with the purple folder is my filing basket.  I had 12 inches of stuff that had piled up since January.  So, part of this organizing effort was to file it all!  The basket next to that is funky computer paper for letters.  I also have here my mobile office basket on the lower right.  The lower left are the books from my dissertation that I still think about, noodle over from time to time.

This is the shelving on the other side of the doorway to the living space in the basement.  Here, I have my paper supplies and my two in-boxes.  There is a basket of half-sized notebooks and all my hole punches.  I also have a basket of art supplies for when children visit and want something to do.  Here, too, are all my CD burning supplies.  On the bottom shelf are my gazillion pens, pencils, sharpies, and highlighters.

Here are all my binders of research and my research books from my three college degrees that I still sort of want.  This area is the most challenging to me.  I still want to reduce down the research on the top shelf and the books on the bottom two shelves.  The middle shelves are examples of my communications work, my own writing, reference materials, medical records, my Highlander binder, family history binders, and warranty information for things I have purchased or are were already in the house.

This is my "stuff" shelving, where I have done the most reducing.  Three of the banker's boxes are empty!  I have two boxes of mailing supplies, a box of light bulbs, a box of extension cords/power strips, a box of computer supplies, my old Mac laptop (don't ask), two boxes of binders, and some other things.  I LOVE that this shelving was here. I think it makes for a very, very organized set of stuff, don't you?

I took the opportunity to organize my old china cabinet a bit.  Since the china is in the built-in cabinets, this antique cabinet was empty.  I decided to use it to store my DVD series, my candles, and my stationary supplies.  I brought up three baskets from the basement to organize the cabinet better.  I have to say, though, that I still have many a basket in the basement.  This is a puzzle to me because in my last house, I had nary an empty basket.  The basket math just doesn't add up!

Here is part of the servant's closet. There is another shelf of linen things above the towels you see. [I am too tired to go back and take a proper picture.]  The bottom shelf I call my staging area.  I love the space!  If you look hard to right, you will see my computer backpack hanging up.  I also have my briefcase/bag hanging next to it.  This really is an amazing walk-in closet upstairs.

Here we are in the attic.  This is the area to the right as you come up the stairs.  The green containers are Christmas decorations.  There is a container of Christmas lights.  The luggage is at the end. The luggage I am not sure which pieces I should keep and which I should donate.

This is to the left as you look forward from the top of the stairs.  The printer box is empty, but the rest are not.  You can see the hats and Africa clothing.  The office supplies are the next four boxes and the two baskets.  Next to those are the boxes of young adult paperback books. The other end has the ceiling fan and demi-tasse cups.

I have taken a couple more photos of the attic to give a better perspective.  All those old rugs/carpets are something I wish to address.  I think I would like to toss all but the flower and the oriental one.  However, I also think they are covering up some cracked or broken boards.  Frankly, I am too chicken to peek. I need someone to bolster me up as I do so.  Mostly, I think the bare wood would be better. At the far end of the photo, you can see the two shelves I have no place to hang up.  I miss them.

I love the windows.  LOVE them.  I don't love the left over shag carpet that was put in upstairs. I am not sure what to do with that.  You can see the chimney that sort of divides the room by a third.  The doors are ones that have been removed from the house, like the door at the top of the servant stairs.  Also there is the swinging door between the kitchen and the dining room. It is that door, I think, I will use when I have the wall put up in the parlor to close off the bathroom.  I plan to make it a pocket door to save space in the parlor.  But for the attic, somehow, I believe this space could be really special.

Anyway, here is evidence of just how weird I am.  I LOVE to organize and I LOVE organized stuff.  It calms me, soothes me, stills me.  I don't think about my life or my health or my fears. I do not really think about anything but the task.  And when I am done there is instant gratification that also goes on and on and on!

Giddy.  Yep, I am just plain giddy over getting through the reducing and organizing I have wanted to do in the basement and attic!

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The best laid plans...

Yesterday was to be the first of four days in which I would feel better.  This is because I would not be taking the new medication, Loestrin, which is essentially estrogen for me.  I can clearly see the benefits of taking it.  However, each evening I have headaches and am nauseous.  Some nights are worse than others.  And I am weary of sleeping in 90-minute segments all night long.  So, I really was looking forward to yesterday.  It was to be a good day and a good evening and a very good night of sleep.  I planned for it to be good.

It was not.

The nighttime headache never ended.  When I awoke at 6:00 a.m., the headache was even worse and the nausea began again.  I was very, very frustrated when I finally crawled out of bed around 11:00 and took care of Amos.  We both huddled on the couch, until I got a chance to talk with a long-time friend, with whom I have been trying to re-connect.  'Tis a hard thing to do when my mind is in such turmoil and I struggle so.  But she is kind and patient, and we have been talking on Fridays, her day off.  Talking with her really helped me to step outside the nausea and headache a bit.

Afterward, I got that sort of desperate feeling to do something, anything, so I worked for a short time in the attic, clearing out three more boxes. I am, I think, about done there.  By that I mean, I do not know what else to do.

For one, I have two sets of luggage.  Since travel is so hard for me, I really do not need the luggage.  So, I am not sure what to do.  Because each set is different. Both are nice.  Both I have had for years, one decades. Which pieces do I choose to keep?  Which do I donate?

For another, I have Christmas decorations up there.  I have not really decorated in nine years.  Eight of them were because of living in my last home where I could not easily get to the decorations.  And last Christmas I was  packing up, moving, and then unpacking.  I did reduce them down by two thirds, keeping only what I truly liked.  However, for me, I frankly do not understand the real need for Christmas decorations.  Christmas is about the birth of Christ, not all the decorations and parties and (though I am a secret glutton) the food.  So, I could keep just the one "decoration" I truly love: a stained glass nativity set for the hearth. But would that make me a bah humbug of a person?

The other things left are: a box of clothing from Africa that I brought home when I was a missionary there, a box of hats, four boxes of books (I have less room for books since I had built-ins in my last home), four boxes of things from my office, a box of teaching supplies, a ceiling fan, the cover to my antique typewriter, and two boxes of demi-tasse cups and the antique shelves for them because I have not found a place to hang them in my home due to the plate railing in the dining room.

Not much, really, I just do not want to turn the lovely walk-up attic into a place to squirrel away things.  Some day, I would like for it to be a reading area or something like that.  If I had ready funds, I would have storage cabinets built along three of the walls, improve the lighting, and address the floor.  So, I have worked over the past 11 months to tackle the things I stuck up there, not knowing what else to do.  Truly, I probably could just give away the hats and the African clothing.  I also will probably never need the teaching materials again.  So, perhaps, I should reduce more.

Something that I have savored about this home is that I have worked hard, even before I moved, to let go of all the things I truly did not need, some of which I have had since I was a teenager.  I really like that I know where everything is and can get to it.  Everything has a place and everything is in its place.  However, I still have stuff that I do not really need and someone else could use.  Of course (and you can now stick your tongue out at me), most of what is left is quite usable and I could find reasons to keep it for future projects or volunteering or if I were working again.

Still, the second area I worked on a bit was the basement, removing three large bags of stuff: 1 of recycling (old plastic containers I simply do not use), 1 of trash, and 1 of donations.  The latter was primarily camping and picnic supplies.  Truly, though I kept a few things should I get to do the cabin camping thing again, I let go of things I did not really need, like a napkin holder and an utensil holder. I also donated three ponchos and the last of my biking gear (I thought I had donated all of that). Actually, in writing this, I think, I shall not camp again and if I do, whomever takes me will have equipment.  I shall package up the rest of it when I am done here save for the sleeping bag and mat!

Anyway, my goal for the basement is to reduce down the office supplies. [Yes, you can laugh again.] I have donated, over the past year or so before I moved here, six boxes of office supplies.  Were I ever to become a hoarder, I think that would be my downfall.  The scary part is that I have not actually purchased office supplies in years.  Years!  Probably, I could not ever have to purchase them again, except for computer paper and toner.  SIGH.  Last week, I took two boxes to Family and Children's Services and am working on a third box for them.  One of the things I did was donate all the crayons, markers, and colored pencils that I had for the group work I used to do in my classrooms.  I have two boxes left.  I thought, just one.  See, one more thing to give away!

Anyway, with some progress made, I rested, almost giddily looking forward to an evening of no nausea, no headache, and a proper night's sleep.  So excited was I, that I ended up staying up far too late reading.

I started feeling ill.
I could not figure out why.
Finally, I realized it was my blood sugar.

It has been so long since this was a problem that I was no longer prepared for this.  I stumbled out of bed, fell down the stairs, and got my tester.  My hands were shaking so much and I was so confused that I kept ruining the test strips by jamming the wrong end into the machine.  I was sweating and weak and trying very hard not to faint.  When my blood sugar is so low, the world starts to recede and then thinking becomes like slogging through thick mud.  I really should have just gone straight to the refrigerator. When I did, I felt like a crazed person digging through a dumpster for something edible.

I no longer have a basket of drink and food in my bedroom. I no longer have easy good sugars to consume.  I am no longer used to dealing with this.  The medication I have for insulin resistance has done such a fine job for me!

I finally grabbed a ginger ale, even though soda is a poor choice for me since having a large dose of carbohydrates means crashing again a couple of hours later.  I was really, really frightened because even after drinking several large gulps, I did not start to feel any better.  So, I chugged the entire ginger ale and then started shoving cheese and peanuts and popcorn in my mouth hand over fist to try and compensate for the rush of sugar from the soda.

When it seemed that I was not going to fade away permanently, I curled up on the floor and waited for the sweating and shaking and anxiety to subside.  It was a long while before I made it back upstairs to bed. And hours still more before I could fall asleep.

A great blessing, though, was a new friend now turned neighbor one block over.  [Yes, something good came out of Facebook.]  A fellow night owl, she was awake when I texted her and Becky about what happened to have someone check on me today.  She texted me back, and we chatted as I struggled to ride out the fear that arose from how ill I was and how frustrated that I had dropped the ball and did not have what I needed upstairs.  She is so kind and so laid back. I wonder if anything would ever really phase her.  In any case, she just texted away while I calmed down and my blood sugar rose.

I remembered reading the Loestrin could affect the control of blood sugar.  I am sure that the lack of the pill last night was the trigger after 24 days of take it.  While I am not sure it would be the same tonight, I plan to eat a small feast of protein around midnight.  I think the hardest part is that I did notice that warning when I was reviewing the medication.  I worked on a schedule for my medications since I had to take it equal distance between two doses of one medication and opposite a second medication.  I was so focused on schedule, that I forgot about the blood sugar warning.  I did notice the warning so I should not have been caught off guard.

And if I were asleep when it started, if I had not been reading so foolishly late?  What then?

Mostly, I just don't want to have to think about something else.  I don't want to have to cope with something else.  I don't want to have to plan for something else.  I wanted this problem to have stayed solved.  I feel like a child stamping her foot in a fit of petulance and screaming:  No more!  No more!  No more!


While I was up all night, when I did finally sleep, I slept 5 hours and then 3 hours.  Note the time. I slept longer than 90 minutes at a spell!  So, even with the debacle that was yesterday, that was last night, I have high hopes for this evening.  Today, I have had no headache.  Today, I have had no nausea. Tonight, I hope to sleep and sleep and sleep some more.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Small things that are not...

This summer, my new friend and writing partner came here with her family because her beloved, a pastor, was attending a conference.  At the time, one of the gifts they gave me was a propane tank for my grill.  Since mine could not go on the moving truck and my car was comically overfull, I needed to get one once I moved here.  The problem with that is I am no longer strong enough to actually carry a propane tank from car to grill, even if I have a Lowe's staff person put it in the back of my Highlander for me.  When my friend and her husband asked me if they could do something for me, I asked if he would ferry a tank for me if I purchased it.  Of course, being generous of spirit, they purchased, ferried, and installed the tank.

Tonight, I am reveling in the blessing of grilled chicken.  For all the things I have burned of late, my grilled chicken is practically perfect every blooming time!  I turn on the propane and then the grill and set the timer for ten minutes.  While waiting for it to heat up, I marinate the chicken in olive oil and herbs.  Once the timer goes off, I put the chicken on the grill and turn it down from high to medium-high.  I set the timer for five minutes.  When that timer goes off, I turn the chicken over and set the timer for another five minutes.  Once the chicken is done, I turn off the grill, turn off the tank, and set the timer for five more minutes so the chicken can rest a bit.

A couple of weeks ago--or maybe just a few days for time has become so strange to me--I set off the smoke alarm for the thousandth time while trying to cook, of all things, boxed macaroni and cheese.  Macaroni and cheese!  No smoke alarm should EVER go off for macaroni and cheese!  But, alas, I burn so much stuff that this has become a common occurrence. 

Well, something in me snapped--it was just macaroni and cheese after all--and I took a hammer to the smoke alarm.  I did not stop smashing until I was certain that the tiny pieces would no longer shriek at me as I try to cook.

This was, perhaps, not the best decision on my part.  However, this alarm really objected to most every mistake I made whilst cooking.  I frankly do not need any more criticism in my life.  I will not discuss the first alarm I demolished, but I still have one left in a central location on the first floor and one in the basement.

[I did find it rather strange, last night, when I came in from letting Amos tend his business, to find the first floor filled with smoke.  You see, I had been roasting myself before the fire when he asked to go out and forgot to put the screen back in place while I was gone.  A log rolled out, caught my pillow on fire, and was well on the way toward catching other things when I returned.  Not a peep out of the smoke alarm that I did test right after I demolished the overly sensitive one.  Proper application of my fire extinguisher solved my problem and I resolved to not leave the screen off again when I am away from the fire.]

Perhaps you are not following me, but I have often blogged about how much I believe the fires are a gift of our Creator, an example of how God does pour out blessings upon us.  There has not been a single fire during which some part of it I become overwhelmed by the continued blessings God has given me through the warmth and soothing peace of fire. Like with the grill.  With all the failures I have in the kitchen, I still have one certain success. And I have it because of the blessings my friend and her husband poured out upon me while they were here.  A propane tank might be a small thing to you, but to me it is not. It is a great blessing--a true encouragement that I am not a complete failure in the kitchen and a reminder to expect good things from the One who cares for us all.  There has not been a single time that I have used it when I have not, at one point or another, been overwhelmed by the continued blessings God has given me through it.

So, I suppose, I should not have been surprised to receive another small thing that is not.  Not small by any stretch of the imagination: the True Handheld Communications Device pictured above.  Yes, I am now the very grateful and still overwhelmed owner of the new pocket edition of the Christian Book of Concord!

Fred had expressed a wish for an index of the hymns that are in the Pastoral Care Companion (PCC).  My first thought was: Well, I can do that!  He and Ethel have been so kind to me, and his longing to be able to sing hymns more easily while out on visits with just his PCC was so very sweet.  I am all for folk having hymns sung to them when weary or ill or hurting or lonely or just when an undershepherd has stopped by to visit.

Pictured here is the first page of the index I created.  It is three pages and printed on sticky label sheets, so that it fits on the last page and the two insides of the back cover.

I started the project while at court, trying to distract myself from how I felt and what was happening.  It should have taken me but a day or two.  I am ashamed to add up the length of time that passed before I was able to mail this out to Fred and the other two Lutheran pastors who expressed a desire for a copy.  I was glad, however, to be of use, to be able to help another.  And, to Fred, this is a perfect example of something that appears small but is not.  To him, this is a great blessing that God will multiply beyond measure, beyond what my mind could imagine while putting it together.  An easy thing for me to do, the index really will help him be a better pastor.  It was a small thing that really is not.

Last week, while in court, I wished I had something else to occupy my mind.  Of course, being paralyzed by the snarling pit bull staring at me from the back of that woman's sister's shirt, I am not sure I would have been all that productive.

This week, I did have another project.  One for me!  You see, Fred and Ethel decided to surprise me by sending the new, beautiful, small, handy, easy to carry version of the Book of Concord.  To them, it is a small thing to do, to send me the gift.  To me, it is a great, great blessing.  I did, until I heard the ten-second exchange of my case, spend my time beginning to highlight my favorite bits in the Large Catechism.  So, there I was, in a place that bothers me and frustrates me, wrapped up for a time, in the wonder of the pure doctrine.  Ironically, I was reading about how being occupied with the Living Word is our single greatest repellent against the onslaught of our foe. His attacks in court are particularly strong.

I have found such solace in the pure doctrine.  For all the struggles I face--and no few of them have been bits of what I have read (misread most likely) in the Book of Concord--the teaching, the certitude, of our Confessions has been a bastion of peace for me.  A place where I am still, even if but for a short time.  This is why I often lugged that heavy, cumbersome copy of the readers' edition of the Book of Concord around with me.  But its weight is why I did not bring it as many places as I desired--most particularly not to court, since the long walk from the parking lot on my still injured foot would not have benefited by the extra burden.

Sitting in court, especially after the question and answer session that was so awful a couple of weeks ago, I find myself being defined by this utter disregard for who I am, for my well-being, for the needs that arose out of that unbelievably violent attack.  I should not, but it is difficult to keep my eyes on what is true, especially there, especially how utterly alone I feel sitting in those benches, waiting for justice that is most likely never going to come.

I am not who that woman testified I was.  I did not cause the attack.  I did not lie about my puppy really being the animal who wounded me.  I am not faking the terror that cripples me still.

Yet I am also not my failure, not my weakness. I am the beloved child of a God who pours out His love and blessings upon me like a never ending fountain.  And He does so, quite often, in small things that are really not.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

At least the darned fly is dead...

I knew today would be hard.  Going to court always is.  Be a weak and weary soul, I tried to mitigate how I would feel by setting up a few things for after.

Sunday, I gave Amos his hair cut, but I waited on his bath.  I wanted to save the hours of post-bath snuggling with a sweet-smelling, soft, swaddled, snoring Amos for after.  I also laid a fire so that it was all ready to go as soon as I arrived home.  I saved the last of my boiled eggs, so that I could have a plate full of deviled eggs.  A fire, deviled eggs, and copious amounts of doggy draping about me.  All those things helped for after...but I still struggle mightily with how I feel.

Helpless. Frustrated.  Frightened.

Again, I sat through all the other cases before the woman's was called.  The judge noted nothing has been paid, she agreed that was so, he continued her case until December 7th.  Truly, the entire exchange must have taken ten seconds, if that.  My heart sank and I sat there wondering why I keep showing up.  Only.  Only I know why.  My presence there is the only reason the judge has not simply dismissed the case.

After, I talked with the city attorney.  Again, I got the advice that I needed to hire an attorney.  With what money?  And why would I do something that would cost more than the compensation?

I had this fleeting, rather unkind thought, as I sit here savoring the warm lump of puppy on me. What if I did find a lawyer to take my case, but instead of just suing the woman for the restitution I sue the City of Fort Wayne.  Silly, right?  Only this entire experience does not make sense to me.  There is a law against allowing dogs to run loose. There is a law against failing to control a dangerous animal.  Breaking those laws means a fine and restitution for someone who is harmed.  Only there is absolutely no enforcement of those laws beyond assessing a fine and restitution.  The fine is not enforced.  The restitution is not enforced.  There is no way to enforce collection.  So, really, the law is useless.  Or rather the law enforcement is useless.

It it not the City's job to keep its citizens safe?  Is it not the City's job to enforce it's laws in order to do so?  Am I not a citizen?  Do I not pay tax dollars for the City's care and protection?

No lawyer wants to take a pro-bono case or contingency case for a woman with little assets who owes another woman with little assets a small amount of money.  Would a lawyer take a case for a City with many assets that failed to enforce its laws, causing further frustration, hurt, and agony to one of its citizens?

SIGH.  There is no help.  There will be no money forthcoming to address the remaining bills. I do not matter to the woman. I do not matter to the court. I do not matter to the city.

I am still, rather stupidly terrified of a picture of a snarling pit bull on a t-shirt that is no longer before my face.  Only it still is.

There is this fly.  This extremely annoying fly has been bugging me (pun intended) for over three weeks.  It has defied every attempt I have made to kill it.  In an uncanny fashion, the fly has spent most of its time trying to hang out with me.  On me. On my computer. On the arm of the couch.  On Amos when he's on me.  Today, I finally smashed it into oblivion.

One thing.  One thing is better.  No more fly.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Off with your head...

Would that it were someone would do this for me.  Alas, the only "offing" that took place was a foot of hair.  Yes, I lopped off my locks.

There are many, many reasons I could give you as to why I would never cut my hair.  But I did.  I whacked off a foot with an ease that surprised even me.

While my innards have been ever so much better since having the antibiotics, I am yet again battling nausea.  That spot on the back of my head has gotten worse.  And I am taking a medication that is helping me, but it is also making me ill every night.  That's two kinds of nausea.  Then there is the most awful of nausea when my blood pressure plummets from a veso vegal response.  At those time, I am trembling and dizzy and weak and nauseous.

Then, of course, Amos gets tangled in my hair.  And my hair gets caught in the pieces of wood I carry inside for my fires.  And the wind whips it about since I get nauseous so very quickly these days while wearing a barrette or even my braids. And the weight of it bothers that spot if up in a bun.

I wanted to stop fighting something. I wanted something to get better.  Anything.  So, I whacked it off.  Now, I can at least wear it down with out so much a mess and without so much of a tangle.  Doing so was, as I said, so much easier than I thought it would be.

The irony is that the new medication--I am fairly certain--has ceased it falling out.  In other words, since starting the medication, my hair stopped falling out.  Coincidence?  After two years, I think not.  Showers no longer distressed me.  Now, they will also be shorter.  So much less to wash and and so much less comb out with conditioner!

Saturday night/early Sunday morning, I was violently ill from about 3:00 AM until around 8:00 AM.  I dozed until around 12:30 or so and then dragged myself out of bed.  Last night, thinking that I would try and get some sleep,  I tried taking melatonin.  So many people swear by it. I forgot to look it up.  Yes, melatonin interacts with not one nor two, but three of my prescriptions.  From 11:00 PM until around 9:00 AM I was terribly nauseous and terribly groggy.  I dozed from 9:00 to 11:00, let Amos out, fed him, and crawled back in bed with him.  We dozed until 1:40, when I got up for my appointment.  Well, I dragged myself to and from my appointment, spending all my time there on the floor, still writhing about.

Now, thankfully, I am more clear-headed and the nausea has abated.  The interaction is wearing off.  Though, I will be tired still because since starting the new medication, I sleep just about 90 minutes at a time.  I sleep deeply, dream, then awake.  Over and over the cycle goes.  Since the medication does have other gains, I am sticking with it. I am sticking with the nightly nausea (yet another trigger for nausea). I am sticking with the interrupted sleep.  I am sticking with the process.

So, I lopped off my locks.  The way I saw it, if I had to take on yet another battle, I needed to stop fighting one. It was the only one I could really control, the only one that came to mind.

SIGH.  I do wish I could have kept my hair.  I am not sorry it is gone.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


So, my grammar is slipping, but at least I have taught Amos a new skill!

Yep, here is my beloved puppy dog lying down for me.  In fact, he's so good at it, he will lie down if I hesitate to throw his ball.  He's a bloody mind reader!

No, I know he's not.  I'm not yet that far gone.  But I am a better puppy momma today than I have been in a while.  I should be teaching him more.  I should be walking him about, but even if my foot were not all messed up, I would not.  I would not. Step. Foot.  Outside.  Alas, Myrtle, focus on the success.

Okay, rejoice with me, then.  This is my beloved puppy dog being obedient!

He's such a brilliant little pup.  I taught the same as his Aunt Sandra did, using just his baby, telling him to "lay down."  In just a few moments, he figured it out.  After a while, he figured out I meant what I said.  And after that he decided he would cooperate.  Of course, I snapped a picture because he is, also, rather adorable.

Honestly, I do not know where I would be without his company.  My little constant companion.

Today, we did laundry, cleaned the bathroom floor, and dusted.  I am exhausted.  In fact, after cleaning the bathroom floor, I laid back (I cleaned it while sitting) and napped for a bit.  He merely curled up at my back like he does in bed and napped with me.  No frolicking about making mischief while momma slept.  That's my boy.

[No, we will not discuss how much he likes to get in trouble when I am awake.  We are focusing on the positive.]

Being such a bright little fellow, Amos pointed out that I screwed up grammar with my command.  I should have taught him "lie down," since "lay" requires a direct object.  I told him I was too tired to be proper with my grammar.  He told me being tired is never a proper excuse for poor grammar.  I asked him if he ever wanted a bath again.  He promptly ceased his discussion of my grammar.

He needs a bath.  Of course, his bath towels are drying in the final load of laundry.  Perhaps on the morrow. Or Monday.  Or...maybe...I should wait until Wednesday.  With another day at court, I will need the snuggling of a sweet-smelling, swaddle, snoring puppy as much as he longs to be a snuggly, swaddled, sweet-smelling puppy.

[In case you are wondering about the title, Amos typed it.  Since I was planning to write about my puppy, I thought I would just leave it.]

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Because I cannot do what I want to do...

This is the laundry room as I purchased the home.  I do not have a better photo, or one showing the whole area.  If you look closely, you will see the washing machine separated from the dryer by a cabinet topped with a sink.  What you cannot see is this gargantuan table, 8 feet by 4 feet, that takes up much of the rest of the space.  What you also cannot see is an open gas line curled up above the table that is not capped.  The shower is broken.  The faucet on the sink is broken.  The drain for the washing machine is broken. The dryer works, though.  I LOVE how it dries in just one cycle after having been constantly disappointed by the new Maytag I had at my old home that took 2 or even 3 cycles to dry clothing.  

Here, you can see that a plumber has been hard at work.  Unfortunately, shortly after purchasing the home, the washing machine broke.  So, in this photo, you see a new one.  The plumber moved the washing machine over adjacent to the dryer.  He also plumbed a drain line and repaired the broken portion that is behind the shower. Since it was too expensive to try and rebuild the sink's faucet (it was on a beveled front), the plumber removed the sink and cabinet and then hung a new laundry sink for me. He also repaired the shower.  Since there was already two water line hook-ups, all the plumber had to do was switch which went to the washing machine and which went to the sink.  I used a cabinet left behind in another part of the basement to serve as another cabinet, happy that it had a Formica top.   You can see the gargantuan table and a box of icky rags the previous owner left behind that I was afraid to touch.

Here is what I did because I cannot do what I want to do.  I could not stop the pit bull. I could not speak up for myself in court. I could not even move once that woman's sister sat down in front of me and taunted me with her t-shirt.  I painted, with left over paint from the solarium.  I got out my saw and reconfigured the gargantuan table into a counter, adding back the siding, relocating the log, and then making another leg.  I also added vinyl floor tiles to make a table top.  I found the rug and the windowpane mirror on Craig's List.  All in all, the transformation cost $43.  Well, $43 and a lot of energy and muscle pain on my part.  Actually, it did not take all that long to paint, nor saw the table apart, nor screw the leg back on, nor add the new leg, nor hang the mirror, nor hang the printers drawers that have been sitting on the table since I moved. It did not take all that long, but it was still very hard for me because I am weaker.

I probably shouldn't have done the work.  Or, maybe, done it over a much longer period.  I suppose I busied myself and wearied myself because it was something I could do instead of being trapped once more by what I cannot do.

I will say that I like the space much, much more now.  I never really used the table because the top seemed dirty no matter how much I tried to clean it.  Plus, I could not reach across it.  You can see, however, that all this beautification has not inspired me to do the ironing that is in the corner basket...that has been in the corner basket since the end of July. 

I wish...I wish so much that I were not who I am, that I were stronger, that I could think more clearly, that I really could be free of the night of July 12th.  Of that night and all the other bad times that fell me so very easily.  I wish I were, but I am not.  I wish I could, but I cannot.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me.