Monday, September 30, 2013

Borrowing words...

Thrice, lately, someone has given me the words that fit the thoughts in my head.  I mentioned two of them the other day and wanted to add a third.

Thought #1:  Facebook is a community that is not a community.

I left Facebook mid-August.  Yes, I have fled that place before, but this is difference.  This was one of those (if you are from the South) Come-to-Jesus-Moments when I realized that hardly anything on there was real.  I needed it to be.  And I didn't know how to not need it to be.  So I left.

Yes, that day was a hard one.  It was, in fact, a day I posted about, blogged about, texted about, and messaged about before it happened.  I felt like I was standing naked and screaming at the world for help to get through that day.  Only the day came and no one remembered.  No one posted or texted or messaged or called any sort of encouragement or comfort of the Gospel.  Nothing.  No one. I was just alone in the battle of the day as I would have been had I not been so vulnerable and asked (in Myrtle fashion) for help.

I do believe that there are communities that exist outside of Facebook and that, therefore, also happen or are facilitated on Facebook.  But it is not a place to go for fellowship or support.  Seeing others have those things, sharing struggles and having lots of support and prayers and such was hard.  Because my life has become very hard.

Marie was so sweet yesterday.  She's been ill with a stomach bug or something and when she was struggling with her own innards, she was disconcerted and amazed to think about my struggling with it day after day after day.  Her words were comforting to me.  Truly.  Because it is hard for me.  And I struggle as much with the pain and bodily suffering as I do with seeing my failings of mind and faith during such times.

Of course, Marie and Paul and one of my pastors have all said that crying out in pain and suffering is not a lack of faith.  But that is such a foreign concept to me.  I really do see practically everywhere that the example of someone struggling with illness (or just about anything) is to give thanks and praise for said illness, to ooze serenity and trust that all things will work together for the good, to minimize or even discount suffering in light of the greater suffering Jesus face.

Yes.  Well.  I don't do that.

I get afraid when the pain is so bad I can only whimper.  I become insensible when certain pain begins and all I can do is wait it out.  I am fearful when I am shaky and weak from low blood pressure and low blood sugar and just about anything else.  I cannot see past the hour, the minute ... sometimes even the second.  I cannot ask for help because I cannot form thoughts or words.  I merely exist in the midst of the struggle.

At times, it is this way when I am lost in a maelstrom of emotion that I am still not able to process or handle or understand.

At times, it is this way when I think raw, primal, unflinching thoughts about who I am and what I actually, really and truly think ... or wonder.

On Facebook, there was a fellowship of sorts with home improvement projects or cooking, but not with struggling.  My friend Caryl really helped me to grasp that in many types of illness, others simply cannot understand if they have not experienced it.  I am grateful for her words.  But even so, even without understanding, there can be support.  I also longed to have a fellowship with a love of hearing and reading the Living Word ... and the Christian Book of Concord (BOC).  I longed for a chance to talk with others who hungered as do I and who spent time delving as do I and who had discoveries and questions and such.  I did not really find that.  I really do find it odd that I had more interaction with cooking that the psalms I posted or the bits about doctrine.

But Facebook is not a community.
And I needed it to be.
So I left.

To me, the truth of it not being real was confirmed in how hard (really impossible) it was to try and continue any sort of interaction with folk outside of Facebook if they were not already a real-life friend, someone with whom I had interactions (even if after meeting online) outside of Facebook.

I suppose the truth also is that none of those people needed me as a friend.  Needed or wanted.  I had no real relationship with them aside from, perhaps, befriending.  Being kind.  But not sharing lives and sharing struggles and sharing hopes and dreams and fears.

I had a Lutheran pastor once tell me:  I don't think you know how to be a member of a community.  And we are a community.  So I don't think _______________ Church is the place for you.  

I don't really see where that leaves the Holy Spirit in His work in creating and sustaining the church.  I don't really see where that leaves people who were not raised in healthy, nuclear families.  I don't really see where that leaves people who struggle with wounds created by sexual abuse, grief, loss, death, divorce, addiction, etc.—people who struggle with social interaction or trust or with questions and doubts and fears.  I don't see where that fits in with anything in the Bible where churches were concerned.

But, then again, what does a wall-flower hermit know?
Maybe wall-flower hermits don't belong in church ... or the Church.

In any case, I think Facebook lends itself more to a non-sexual type of voyeurism than anything else. And it is no surprise to me that research has shown Facebook can cause harm to users.

When email first came out, people bemoaned it.  People said that it led to poor communications.  Actually, people communicated poorly on it. Suddenly they had this tool to provide an instant response to someone, they way they would in person.  Email did not change anything.  Email did not change people.  It was a tool that allowed people to exhibit a behavior of thinking less before responding to something in writing.  And it was a tool that made it very, very easy to pass on what someone had written.

I heard all this talk about how emails lacked the nuances of spoken language.  But letters have been around for centuries and even phone conversations, where once can hear those missing nuances, have not been around all that long when compared to the history of communications amongst mankind. I mean, seriously, the Living Word is not limited because it is written.  Though, the Living Word is actually living ... performative and creative.  So, perhaps that's not a good example.

In my opinion, emails and all the social media forms that followed, only allowed humans to act as sinful beings more openly or more publicly or more directly.  The things I saw on Facebook oft horrified me, the way people talked to and about others.  The open condemnation.  Not just Facebook, true.  You can find such things in comments on articles and blog posts.  But, for example, I saw Lutheran men condemn and judge and label women as whores whom they did not know solely on dress.  And not even what pretty much anyone else these days would call provocative dress.  Little things and big things.  Words flung all over the place telling others what to do and think and feel and act and believe ... oft in the name of doctrine, if not actually in the name of Christ.  Yet I read the BOC nearly every day, sometimes for hours at a time.  Nearly all of that so-called doctrinal behavior correcting was not actually something I ever found in our Confession.

Basically, there is a civility lacking in how we communicate with others.  And an utter dearth of kindness and compassion.

I wonder if this is a chicken or the egg puzzle.  Did social media encourage this type of behavior, encourage what folk now call The Haters?  Or were we already on that path?

Back when I was in college, it was a common activity to pick on others in a joking format.  It would seem like everyone in the Bible study or Sunday school class was laughing, but if you looked closely you would see that they were not.  I did not grow up with that cutting criticism at school or at least until the 9th grade.  Then it began to creep in here and there.  Then from school to church.  Still, a certain level of civility remained.

I do not see that anymore.  I see more cruelty ... far, far more cruelty than .  And I see people setting out to fix others, to tell them what is wrong with them and what they should do about it.  Instead of caring for them, accepting them, and praying for them.  Instead of being a neighbor.  Instead of sharing the Gospel.

I am weak.  I have had so much law heaped upon me and seen so much heaped upon others that I cannot bear it anymore.  I cannot bear it being heaped upon myself. I cannot bear it being flung at others.  So, not only did I leave Facebook, but I stopped reading all Lutheran/Christian blogs except for Pastor Brown's and some personal blogs of my friends.  I stopped reading because, when it comes to faith, I read more of how to be than of Jesus.

A while ago, I started reading The Pioneer Woman's blog from her archives, starting at the beginning.  Not having cable and generally being a pop cultural/ current society ignoramus, I did not know who she was.  I have enjoyed her posts.  I have enjoyed the freedom of her posts.  I have enjoyed her sharing flaws and foibles and fears. I have enjoyed reading of her love for her husband and children. I have enjoyed learning about life on a ranch.  I have enjoyed her photography (especially seeing 1) large photos are fine and 2) one can never take enough photos of a puppy dog.  I have enjoyed seeing how her husband cherishes and accepts her for who she is rather than focusing on who she is not.  I have enjoyed the colloquialisms and words of my childhood.   I have enjoyed her pen.  Frankly, I have just plain enjoyed her blog.

Reading it oft encourages me.  Reading it oft inspires me.  Reading it oft makes me laugh.  Reading it does not make me feel judged or condemned or frantic about improving myself, my life, my faith.  In anything.  I do wish, though, I were as positive as she can be.  I am not her, however.  And I am still a forgiven child of Christ.

Or at least I hope I am.
Sometimes I fear I am not.
Knowing your sin is brutal.

Hers is not a Christian blog, though she is one.  Hers is not about telling people what to do or how to be.  It is just an online journal of a woman who actually started out in her pajamas (yoga pants) and ended up a mogul of sorts.  Good for her.  I am only in 2010, so I do not know if her fame and fortune changed her, but, thus far, she just loves her husband and her children and tries to embrace as best she can a life she did not expect.  [I could never handle daily manure-encrusted laundry.]

This brings me back to why I still read Pastor Brown blog.  Mostly, I see lots of Jesus.  Mostly, I see little, if any, telling me how to be or what to do in my life, in my faith.  The post below is one of the ones I think paints a good picture of why I like reading it:

It's interesting, because I will hear over and over people talking about different things that the "Church" needs to do. It needs become a moral force in society, it needs to feed the poor, it needs to do X, Y, and Z. And then of course, there are the Church bureaucrats who will come in and make up new rules for how the Church can make all these things happen.

The Church has one job. It is to listen. It is to listen to the voice of Christ Jesus, her Husband.

The problem is too often the folks in the Church are not content to let the Church simply listen. Instead of just living out their own vocations, they want to make their own vocation the roll or duty of "The Church". They want to use the Church as a tool - perhaps to enforce their own ideals of right or wrong, creating rules for others to live by and saying, "Ah, but the Church says." Misses the point -- what does Christ say? Some want the Church imprimatur for their own works of love and mercy -- but again, why is that needs? Why do you think the rest of the body must do the work of the hand, or the foot - be whom Christ has made you to be and walk in the works He has prepared for you.

The Church's focus is to be this - to hear the life giving Word of Christ. To receive His gifts. To delight in the fact that He has washed her.

Now, do individual Christians from within the Church have things to do? Of course, we are in the world, and thus we are given to love our neighbors. But again - that's you, that's me, that's our own thing. I am not the Church -- and it's folly when I try to act as though I am.

I love to hear the Living Word.
I love to receive His gifts.
I delight that I am clean in Him ...

... but I also doubt that He could possibly forgive me, forgive my fears, forgive my doubts, forgive my shame.

Is two out of three okay?

Last fall, my church started posting sermons online.  Lately, I turn one on as I am falling asleep, hoping, I suppose, that the Word will work in me when my thoughts and fears are least likely to blind and deafen me.

Last night, I stood in wonder looking at these tiny bits of creation.  Such fog we had!  The floodlights at the back of the house were warming the mist—or so I surmise—creating this rolling movement to and from the house.  Mesmerizing.

Every drop.  God is aware of every drop.  His creation.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Sadly, I did not take a photo of the door before I started working, but here is a cropped one of the entire garage:

I did take this close up just after I started working that shows the buckling paint:

There were so many places where the buckling exposed the raw wood underneath it.  But the buckling was so severe, so fragile, I could not just ignore it and paint over it.

So I started scraping ... and scraping and scraping and scraping.  Eventually, I learned about a heat gun, which made the scraping easier.

And scraping.  I did most of the work at night, when it was cool, wearing my headlamp and waving my arm before the light sensor of the garage flood light.  I have 10,000,000 scraping progress photos, but I thought I would jump ahead in my photo story.

Eventually—after replacing the glass I broke, learning to make miter cuts, replacing the inner frame, battling the screws of that odd pull handle, and puttying the worse of the holes—I was ready to paint.

I now have a GREEN door!

A GREEN door that looks just as lovely at night!

You could say all this started with that raw piece of wood on the front of the threshold.  That piece was missing when I bought the house.  So, when the contractor was here—before the nightmare of the kitchen started—I asked him to add that piece of wood when he was installing the automatic garage door and the deadbolt to this door.  Since the end of May, I would stare at that bare wood—whilst sitting on the back steps awaiting Amos to conquer his fear of grass anew each day—and think that I should paint it.  But the way Myrtle's mind works, I thought I should paint the entire threshold and if I were painting the threshold, I should address the deplorable state of the door.

I did.
Over weeks and weeks and weeks.
The first home improvement project where I did not half-kill myself in the process.

I will admit that, after fetching the erythromycin from the pharmacy (I'm on my second dose and counting the minutes until the pain and the swelling in my abdomen subsides), I was tickled pink when I pulled into the garage and saw the back side of my GREEN door, which is also GREEN.

I worked hard to choose an old GREEN, a GREEN that would have fit with the house when the door was built.  When I was painting, I was struck by just how old the door looked, even after all that work on my behalf.  No matter how much I scraped and sanded and puttied, I wasn't going to end up with a door that looked new.  That is okay.  That really is how it should be.  Now, it looks like an old door that was not neglected.

When I finished on Friday evening, I kept the door open to ensure that it dried, fretting about leaving it unlocked for so long.  It was still sticky on Saturday, but I locked it overnight.  Today, it is just fine and does not have any paint transfer.

I was very surprised that the hardest part of the job was painting.  My hands have hurt for two years now painting.  I oft have to duct tape the brush.  But now they go numb trying to hold onto the brush.  If you had told me the hardest part would be the finishing, I would have laughed at you, thinking of all that scraping and sanding and sanding and scraping.  But it was.  I am already dreading scraping and painting the wooden screen door to the basement entrance that Firewood Man repaired for me.  I know the scraping will be much less and far easier, but the painting would be the same.  Priming and two coats.  SIGH.

Still, I have a beautiful door, eh?

Friday night, I took a bath (to avoid getting the heart monitor wet), washed my hair in the sink, and bathed Amos.  He. Was. Filthy.  I actually had to wash him twice!  He was tuckered out. I was tuckered out.  We both collapsed into the GREEN chair.

So, Saturday, my goal was to get the laundry done by the end of the day, mostly before I went to the symphony.  I met my goal.  I thought that meant that I would be languishing the entire day today.  However, I was in such pain and so swollen last night, that I could not wait until Monday to pick up the erythromycin.  Off to Target.   And then back out to get one more item and to rehearse going to Sandra's son's new school because he needs picking up this week.  I get so confused driving to the places I know, I wanted to practice going to his school, lest he be left alone in the parking lot for hours as I struggled to figure out where it was./is.  I actually drove there three times.  Now, I just need to remember to drag myself out of the house at 3:15.

I fetch him.  I collapse in the GREEN chair. I bug him with questions about what he's learned.  He uses my wi-fi to play games I do not understand.  Occasionally,  I nod and hmmm to his comments about the games, comments that I also do not understand.  Mostly, I just rest whilst he plays.  And Sandra gets to stay at her class.   Small work on my part, but helpful to her.

Two more days of monitoring. I have tried to include all the activities that are normal to me during the two weeks.  It is my fervent hope some good data is captured.  Whether the answer is something cardiac or just more nerve wonkiness (Dysautonomia), I believe this was a good decision.

Just as biting the bullet and admitting I need to take the erythromycin is a good decision, no matter how I figure it out how to pay an additional $43 every two weeks.  It is truly a quality of life sort of decision.  I am still very thankful for the insurance appeal victory.  The insurance cost is less than half what I paid in cash when I first tried the drug.  I am even thankful for finding myself back in the depths of innards misery, for it showed me so clearly what benefits I was gaining from the medication.  Sometimes, partial help is true help, as valuable in its own way as a complete solution.

Last week I did the "other" lab work.  You see, I had to collect my urine for 24 hours.  I was sooooooooo embarrassed just picking up the large brown paper bag.  It was a lot of work for me, collecting and storing it, remembering what I was doing and to only go to the bathroom in one place.  Even so, that brown paper bag was too attractive to me to return.  You see, I use brown paper to send packages, re-using the stuffing from things I have received to make my own packages.  Postage goes by size and weight, so I do not like to use boxes too large for what I have to send.  Brown paper is also good for odd sized packages.  The paper bag was premium  brown paper.

So, I slunk back into the lab with my large orange jug, hoping to drop it off and skedaddle back out before anyone noticed what I was carrying.  There was a line.  A long line.  I had to sit in my chair for 13 minutes before I could hand over my jug.  The jug I hid beneath the chair and tried to pretend it did not exist.

I used the paper bag to wrap up a small gift for my step-mother.  Rarely do I come across something I know she will like.  And I know that this first birthday without my father, who celebrated his just two days before hers, so they always celebrated together, will be difficult.  So, I bought her a present even though I gave up present giving when I gave up most non-utilitarian spending.  [Giving away my possessions doesn't count as gift-giving.]  It is blue, which is her favorite color, and used for a favorite hosting activity of hers.  She is the very opposite of a hermit.  Anyway, it was rather odd sized, so I created a flat, long box using cardboard (I keep pieces of that from things I've had shipped to me) and duct tape and then made a brown paper wrapper.  At least the USPS still takes brown paper packages ... just don't use string.  I also wrapped the gift, even though I gave up wrapping eons ago unless I had something to re-use.  For some reason, I started getting overwhelmed with the natural resource waste of wrapping paper.  I re-use wrapping paper and shipping materials a lot.

The door ... much of what I used was what I had on hand.  For example, I have been saving these tiny nails for sawtooth picture hangers even though I had no more of the hangers.  Those nails were perfect for securing the glass bead board trim.  In fact, so very much of my home improvement projects here have been done with materials I've moved with me.  Purposely kept and moved.  In my clear outs, I have gotten rid of many supplies, donating them where I could.  But useful things I kept.  Like those tiny nails.  And I am always careful—if not somewhat obsessive—about finding a way to re-seal things as tightly as possible, so things like primer and paint and putty can be used again and again and again.  I even wash out $0.99 chip brushes until they fall apart.

Since my coverage fears were slightly exaggerated (I have a wee bit of paint left for any nicks or scratches that might occur), the only real costs of the door was the paint and the pane of glass I broke.  I look at the paint and it makes me smile.  I am trying very hard not to count the cost of the paint.  To think that GREEN paint on a door is something that is okay for me to have.

Over the years, I have been a miser, because it is always been just me caring for me.  I tried to make good financial decisions.  After I was unemployed for some 18 months and ended up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, I worked many odd jobs even after finding a job to pay it all off in a year. Other than a mortgage, I have never carried debt since.

As I noted yesterday, I have only ever taken one vacation.  I have done things for myself, such as breaking down and getting a flat screen television, when my old box TV was still functioning, because I was struggling with my sight.  Even then, I saw that as more practical.  I bought clothing for work, but as I spent more and more time at home, I saw buying casual clothing as splurging.  I've had the same shoes for decades and the same bike shorts since I was 15 or so.  I have bought computers and I bought an iPod.  That might have been a first truly frivolous, non-justifiable purchase.  That or the antique typewriter that one day I thought:  How many more years are you going to wait to get one?  So, I bought one for me ... I think when I was close to 40, if not that year.  Although, the typewriter could be sold for at least what I paid for it, if not more.  All of the antique things I have kept could sell easily, such as the vintage cameras or the leather binoculars from WWII.  Maybe not a miser, but definitely penurious.

But more than penuriousness marked my fiscal choices.  A lot has to do not seeing myself as being worthy enough for things like vacations and such.  I hear such comments still ringing in my head.  Oh, you shouldn't do that.  I think of the things this man whispered to me as a child, telling me that what he was doing to me was what I was born for, what my life should be, and so he was helping me.  I believe him because his words made sense.

Amos.  Well, spending $400 on a puppy dog when you are unemployed, ill, and on your way to figuring out that you just might never work again.  Yet what he has given me already is worth $40,000, if even you could put a price tag on him.  I heard words about spending money on a puppy dog.  But I ignored them.  I chose something for me.  It is rare, though, for me to ignore those words, those voices in my head who do not much like me.

I am still, honestly, learning just how poor I am.  I am living on 1/3-ish of what my salary was, with even more medical expenses than I had then.  My housing is just 1/4, so there is a tremendous trade-off there, but the math doesn't add up each month.  The pro-bono advisor said I have such slim margins in my budget, such an austere look at what to spend money on, but I have to shave more here and there.

Thinking, though, how much I savored Rachmaninoff, how tickled I am over having a GREEN door (I feel wild and wicked for not painting it white), and how easy it has been to cook with the new pots and pans—I have yet to actually sit in the chairs since my guests for today had to rain check—I want to also try to remember to make choices for pleasure, too.  I want to show myself that I am worth it.

While at Target, I dipped into my mostly un-used micro-annual-allowance for clothing to buy pajamas. Real, actual pajamas.  I have not had those is eons either.  But I cannot sleep in the tanks and bike shorts anymore because their pressure hurts too much.  I've been sleeping in odds and ends.  Tonight, I will sleep in honest-to-goodness women's pajamas.  Yes, they are old fashioned, with long sleeves, cuffs, and a collar, but they are also soft and feminine.  And they were on sale, $4.99 off since I first saw them and thought them rather nice.

I wonder ... just how long it will take me to stop feeling guilty about having the first new pajamas in about 15 years.  I wonder ... just how long it will take me to stop thinking of all the ways I could have better, more frugally spent that $20.  I wonder ... just how long it will take me to stop viewing my life (and my body) as something to be endured, rather than enjoyed.

The thing is, I used to be able to ignore the guilt, to not be subsumed in it if I ordered Lebanese pick-up on the way home from work.  When I last got a collection of Taco Bell gift cards, I blew my way through them.  Now, I think about how Taco Bell (my $2.97 meal) is really a luxury and something I have to balance even more if I am going to try and do things such as wear real pajamas and go to the symphony.  I have not even made my way through half of the first card and have three more in reserve. It is hard, changing thoughts.

One thought I have is:  We are not to care for the morrow, because God will provide for us even as He does the ravens in the field (or something like that).  But we are also to be good stewards.  How does one do both?  Not worry and be a good steward?  What is the difference between a good steward (in my situation) and a bad?  Are pajamas good stewardship?  Should I be trying to think about quality of life stuff? Or is that all not saving each and every penny possible for the never-ending and will one day be overwhelming medical bills?

In sum, you could say that all the thoughts in my brain are a jumble of law of one type or another and Gospel of one type or another constantly at war with each other.

Or you could just say I am nuts.
Caryl called me Nutter-butter the other day.
Hi, I'm Nutter-butter Adams.

Were I British, I would definitely be a nutter.  And I do love butter.  SIGH.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Appalachian Trail, Mount Everest, and bliss...

Tonight, because of poor planning on my part, I hiked the Appalachian Trail and climbed Mount Everest  just to reach my seat at the Embassy Theatre for the first performance of the season.  For my first attempt to experience life outside the GREEN chair every once in a while.

I have spent quite a bit of time, off and on, trying to figure out what I could wear.  To me, dressing up for the symphony is not so much about being impressive as being appropriate.  I just don't think it is appropriate to wear shorts or jeans (not that I wear either) to the symphony.  However, of the work clothes that have survived all my down-sizing, I could not figure out something that would do.

For one, even though I can pick up the innards medication, it has to be ordered.  So, I am now rather swollen in the abdomen again—rather noisy, too.  SIGH.  So, what might have worked is much too tight.  After trying on eight different options, I decided that what I really wanted to wear were my black boots, which meant that what I needed to wear was a black skirt.  So, I took one of my old work silk jackets that was sort of playful (it is white with folk-art black line drawings of safari animals on it), added a white shell, and then picked the straighter, black version of the thin denim skirts I found and have been wearing.  They are closer to chambray than denim, so they do not look like a jean skirt at all.  Both the tiered ones and the yoked ones hang more like a flowy cotton skirt than any sort of denim would.  Probably, they are neither denim nor chambray, but some other completely fake fabric.  Only, how can a fabric actually be fake.  Perhaps imitation?  Of course, at this point, I do not know what type of fabric the fabrics of the skirt would be imitating.  In any case, I was dressed.

My plan—my rather ill-conceived plan—was to park in the handicapped spot at the Botanical Gardens and then hobble around the corner to the theatre.  I figured I would then pop in my seat and rest up during the two hour performance.  Only, when I drew near the Botanical Gardens, I was rather surprised to see folk everywhere!  Veritable hoards of well-dressed people—most wearing black—were all walking in the same direction.  I would have thought I was back in DC going to a football game, except football fans wouldn't be dressed to the nines.  Did I mention the word hoards?

I knew there was a parking lot nearby, so I started looking for it.  After circling around for a bit, I turned in, paid $2, and begged for handicapped parking.  I was directed to just pull straight ahead into what is, technically, an alley.  The walk from the parking space to the door of the theatre was the Appalachian Trail for me.

Online, you can read (and watch videos) all about the Embassy Theatre, and if you do you will learn that on any given event, there are a minimum of 50 ushers.  So, when I stood at the entrance, I announced that this was my first time and I needed help knowing where to go.  One usher sent me across the floor.  Another usher sent me up Mount Everest.  A third usher sent me down the all to another entrance.  A fourth usher sent me further up Mount Everest.  A fifth usher had me climbing down the back side of Mount Everest until he figured out that I was actually just below its pinnacle, so we climbed back up what we had just descended.  I barely lowered myself into my seat.  My very tiny seat.  [Perhaps folk in 1920, when the theatre was built, were smaller?]

I have a lot of difficulty hearing, primarily because of nerve dysfunction.  Things are distorted.  I have blogged about that before, about how I can no longer hear the melody line in a hymn on a piano and an organ is just noise to me.  Much is just noise.  So, I consulted wide and long on where to ask for seats.  Three different folk told me:  upper balcony, left side, nearer the front.  My seat is perfect.  

To be honest, I was rather worried that I had recklessly spent money on trying this raising-my-quality-of-life thing because I picked the symphony.  I mean, someone who has bemoaned just how much she can no longer hear (and see) really should not have chosen an auditory event for her leaving-the-GREEN-chair outing.  But I revel in classical music.  Classic, classical music.  Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2 in E minor, op. 27 is just the music for me.

So, I was thrilled to learn that all the advice I received was good.  I basically knew it was because each usher exclaimed:  "Oh, you have a great seat!"

But hearing Rachmaninoff comes later.

First, well, everyone there knew everyone else.  I was stunned by all the greetings and hollering over chairs and hugs and shouts of joy at seeing one another again.  I felt like the Great Interloper.  There I was, huffing and puffing, trembling and sweating, and trying to disappear into my seat.  I also felt like I was back in high school watching all the popular people greet each other in the hallways and such.

So, the music began, a bit late, and it was not Rachmaninoff!  It was our national anthem!  What??  Everyone leapt (I mean that they really jumped up out of their seats) and began singing rather The Star Spangled Banner with great gusto and fervor.  In all my years of football games, I have never seen a crowd sing like this one.  Of course, I spent most of the time trying to haul myself up out of the tiny seat.  The very cushy, soft tiny seat.

Then, the first violinist came out with fanfare.  And next, with greater fanfare, came the conductor.  Finally, the real music began.  But it was not Rachmaninoff!  What????  I kept checking the program.  I guess in the intervening 20 years, I forgot how a symphony performance works.  Apparently, it is a lot like Sugarland concerts (my only real concert experience), where much of your concert time is spent on warm-up acts and then you just get a portion of the evening with the Main Act.

We were warmed up first by Respighi's Suite I from Ancient Airs and Dances.  I was not really wanting to hear Respighi and Respighi's Suite I from Ancient Airs and Dances is not Rachmaninoff.  Mostly, at times, I felt like I was listening to a musical interpretation of children chasing each other in circles on the playground.

But, apparently, we were not warm enough, because Mozart's Concerto No. 20 in D minor for Piano & Orchestra, K. 466 followed Respighi.  I would like to write that I am not familiar with this piece, but my broken rememberer means that I do not actually know if I am familiar with this piece.  I cared for it far less than the Respighi.  Some of the bits where the orchestra was playing with the pianist were not all that bad, but I simply do not care for runs up and down the piano keys ... runs and runs and runs.

Thinking that we were at intermission, I asked the man to my left, who had announced to me that he and his lovely bride had been season ticket holders for the past 42 years (I almost wanted to ask who died ... as in whose seat did I take), how long intermission was.  I wanted to see if it might be possible to decent partway down Mount Everest to the Ladies' Salon and climb back up.  He said it was usually 20 to 25 minutes.  Only whilst he was talking, the pianist walked near the front of the stage and said something I could only partially hear (he was not miked) about visiting Fort Wayne and then wanting to play a dance song from Argentina or something like that.  Then he walked back to the piano and started playing.

I was not the only one who looked confused.

The piece was a POUNDING furious flurry of notes.  I admit ... the truth is I am just not much of a piano fan.  This, this is the very epitome of orchestral music that I do not like.  Wild and chaotic, like the pops sort of stuff.  When he finished, with great gestures on his part, there was an immediate round of thunderous applause, followed by some hooting and hollering.  I guess I was the only one who wished he did not share from his favorite repertoire.  And I should note that the pianist is world renowned and has won some major competitions.

Another note I would like to make is that I never saw anyone put music on the inside of the piano before.  There was no music rack.

After he finished, I did my descending, salon visiting, and climbing.  As I was navigating my way about the theatre, I was often asked if I needed help. The real help—other than a wheelchair—would have been for someone to hold up my skirt so I could hold onto the rail and my cane and not constantly trip on the hem of my skirt.  You see, you can descend from Mount Everest in a skirt, but climbing it in one is not all that advisable, if it is an ankle-length skirt such as mine.

When I got back to the chair, and caught my breath, I saw that the piano was gone. I would very much like to have seen it moved.  Looking at the layout, I couldn't figure out how it was moved.  But mostly I wanted to see if the first piano tender came out again.  You see, that guy came out, opened the lid, propped it up, and then walked off the stage.  Then, he came scurrying back and opened the cover to the keyboard.  He looked at the audience, shrugged, and then bowed with a flourish as chuckles turned into applause.  I was wondering if he was fired between then and intermission or if his forgetfulness was overlooked.  And I wondered if he forgot any bits as he was moving the piano.

Being in the midst of all the half-time socializing going on around me, I was grateful I put my kindle in my purse.  I spent the rest of the time reading my book.  You might have thought I should have taken the time to explore the program more, but whoever authored the performance notes had a very sappy pen. I mean, who in the world would use the word "luscious" to describe music??

Then.  Finally.  Rachmaninoff!
My surgeon was right; I needed something not utilitarian and not medical in my life.

Honestly, I cannot see how the orchestra could possibly give a better performance amongst the nine remaining in the series.  It was bloody fantastic!

I want to be the cymbal man.  Seriously, can anyone tell me how I can get that job?  He had the best time and he got to sit down a lot.  He even had three different sets of cymbals.  I totally need me a set of symbols.

Mr. Big Drum man, at one point, very sedately walked over to what I think is a xylophone and played a very delicate and beautiful run of notes.  I found the dissonance between his playing those tinkling notes and pounding away at the massive drum intriguing.

I also want me a set of the four drums that are all connected.  Becky said they were timpani.  I do not know what that means, but I do know that I need them.  I even have space for them!  I also need the rather large collection of puffy-headed drumsticks he was using.  I got lost a bit trying to figure out why he kept changing them.

What turned out to be the first clarinet—who had an important solo coming up—had a bit of problem with her instrument.  She made a face playing something and stopped.  She bent over and pulled things from her bag of tricks and set about fussing with her clarinet.  She would play.  Fuss some more.  Play. I think she was timing her tinkering with when she played, because she would bend over and grab something only to leave it in her lap for a while.

She was not the only tinkerer, but I think she was the only one who had a problem.  The entire French horn section kept turning their instruments in circles to dump out something.  I do not want to know what.  Several other of the horn players were also engaged in dumbing, so I avoided looking at any of them.  But I will note that, up until this performance, I have never been much of a horn fan.  Tonight, I was so thankful for a lesson in just how beautiful and important different horns can be in an orchestral performance.

I did spend some time watching my beloved oboes.   I adore oboes and believe all people who play oboes are magical folk.  Whilst the bassoons were just there, I will also note that the first clarinet, when she got her instrument settled and played her solo, made me weep.  I believe I was errant in not having room in my oboe-loving heart for clarinet magic makers.

The instrument I have longed ever so deeply to own and play is the violin.  Tonight's performance had quite a bit of violin magic making.  What would have made this a truly perfect evening was if instead of a piano piece as a warm-up, someone had chosen a violin piece.  But beggars cannot be choosers.  And I am a beggar.

How can it possibly be that I denied myself such bliss as going to the symphony for twenty years?

I will also admit one thought I had whilst there.  It is an honest question:  Why do you need a conductor?  I mean, all of them are professional musicians.  Why do they need a leader?  The conductor is new this year.  Being so absolutely un-musical, I have no idea who he is.  What I do know is that he is very, very, very fervent in his work.  Maybe musicians feed off his energy to get them through the long performance??

My other stray thought was that each and every man in the orchestra was dapper, handsome, adorable, and downright dashing.  They were all wearing tuxedos.  Lovely things.  The women, however, were only clad in something black.  Anything black.  Some wore pants!  I was scandalized.  Some showed bosoms. I was embarrassed when they leaned forward.  Short sleeves.  Long.  Scoop, square, and plunging necklines.  Dresses, skirts, pants.  The women ... well ... the men took the prize.

And, for the record, just as I believe there should be no long hair in football, I now wholeheartedly and unreservedly believe that there should be no cleavage in orchestras.  I know, I am old fashioned that way.  In all ways, really.

Just to let you know how good the performance was, the audience clapped after the third movement.  [I only know to call it a movement because I looked it up in the program.]  The conductor was very kind, in my opinion, at that moment. Rather than show impatience or even ire at the interruption, he smiled and acknowledged the orchestra, as if he understood what the audience was feeling.  When the fourth movement was over, there was a bit of a hush and then a wild burst of applause that went on and on and on and on.  A few folk left, but as I looked around me, I saw so very many audience members—young and old alike—whose faces looked how I felt.  Utterly grateful for such bliss as we had all been gifted.

You know, I left the land of everything when I left the DC Metropolitan Area.  I do rather miss not being able to have Lebanese food.  But I believe that had I been at the Kennedy Center tonight, I could not have had a better experience with Rachmaninoff.

What a mind classic classical composers must have had.  As I looked around the rather full stage, noting all the musicians and the many repetitions of the same instrument, I was in awe that any man, any person, could envision music this way, knowing when you needed two violists vs. three or six.  To understand how the music would sound in his head, because they did not write with an orchestra around them ready to play out bits and pieces.

I know that there is beauty in mathematics. I know that others can see a symphony in the work of Einstein, for example.  But, tonight, as I sat there listening to all that music, so very many different occasions of this life came to mind.  At one point, I thought a certain segment would be perfect for a ballet whilst another bit would help send a gymnast flying across the mat.  I could hear weddings and stories (movies/TV) and ceremonies.  I could hear life accompanied.

Call me strange, but I could also hear the Psalter and, consequently, the sweet, sweet Gospel.

I do know all the instruments of an orchestra. I do not know composition theory.  I do not know all the different types of music (all those strange terms for movements and such).  But I did not have to know and understand all those things in order to receive the blessing that hearing such beautiful music, experience such a work of art, is.  I do not have to know and understand all those things in order to receive the blessing that musical accompaniment can be to life.  I just have to listen and all the work of music is being done for me.  It has been done.  It is being done.  It will be done.

Hymnody, symphonies, and the contemporary music playlist I mentioned previously alike.  Music can carry meaning and will cling to us even when we cannot quite understand or hold on to our very selves.  I have heard pastors talk about what it is like to sing hymns to the dying, how even when the person is rather ill or is non responsive, music can bring about a peace of mind and a peace of body.  I know that playing music can help children be better students.  And I know that music can help the ill and/or wounded recover.  It is something that goes into us and works in us.

I do not need to know Hebrew. I do not need to know history. I do not need to know the different styles or types of psalms.  I just need to hear them, to receive them.  I just need to read them aloud to myself and to others and to have others read them to me.  They will cling to me. They will come into me and work in me, because this is what Scripture promises, this is what the Holy Spirit does for us.

I do not know why I stopped going to the symphony.  I suspect that it has something to do with my thinking I was not worthy of such an experience.  That I should not spend money on nothing else but pure pleasure for me.  It really is surprising, to me, to realize that I have not been to the symphony since i was 26.

I am 46 years old and I have only taken one vacation in my entire adult life.  Vacations are not something I can do anymore.  Expense aside, I cannot travel by myself.  And, even with help, travel is extremely hard on me.  But when I could have, I did not. I wasn't worth it.  I spent time off from work the way others wanted me to without ever doing anything for myself, with that one exception.  And that, really, was as much for Becky as it was for me.

This is really something for another post, but I want to mention it here. I want to remember it now.  People tell me quite frequently that I am too hard on myself.  At this point, when someone does, I want to scream back:  And why do you think that is?  Negative language is my first language.  It is my family's language.  Pointing out all the flaws and failures, all the what-could-be-betters, is my normal.  From the time I could learn to talk, this was the language I heard and lived.  If not the current flaws and failures, the what-could-be-betters, I hear a re-hash of all the old flaws and failures, all the what-could-have-been-better.

In one of her songs, Pink writes:

You're so mean
when you talk
about yourself.
You were wrong.
Change the voices.
in your head;
make them like you instead.

The video, linked above, is rather raw.  The words, I suspect, many would find offensive.  But they are about healing from brokenness in a way that is real or honest.  There is a "clean" version of the song, but I happen to like the poignancy of the juxtaposition of that word and "perfect" when it comes to the topic she addresses in the song.  I find the video brave.

The thing that drives me nuts when folk tell me that I am too hard on myself is that they are actually being hard on me in telling me that.  Instead of pointing out my flaw or my failure, my what-could-have-been-better, why not simply say something nice about me, why not simply fill my ears with the language I am struggling to learn so that I can ... learn it.

I find it so difficult to talk about that moment in my surgeon's office, how she looked at me when she was asking if I would try yet another doctor, try seeing an integrative medicine specialist.  She told me that she knows there is no healing for me, that what is happening to my body will continue, ultimately, to happen, unless some really good work in nerve science happens (really could work that would need to be funded first for it to happen—autonomic nerves are not as sexy as central nerves and nerves themselves are not as sexy as breast cancer or erectile dysfunction).  She said she just wanted to see if there was some bit of improvement that could be made to my quality of life.  And she asked me to think about my whole life.

The kitchen upgrade continues to be a struggle for me.  I know and have experience the good of that decision.  I know that it will be a good investment for my future. I know that this was, probably, the only time I would ever have the money to do it.  But, setting aside the troubles and failures with the contractor, I still think about the thousands of dollars sunk in there and what those could mean in, say, prescriptions.

So, trying to take a stab at quality of life, I spent a rather large chunk of change on three things:  the season tickets to the symphony, functional chairs for the dining table, and a cookware set.  The latter turned out to be free.  So, I have less I'm-not-worth-that guilt over the cookware set for sure.  I did, since it was free, go ahead and get the 12-inch pan it was missing and two new spatulas, since mine are more than 20 years old.  The point it, I chose three things to do for myself that have no other value than for my pleasure.  I mean, it was possible to cook with my grandmother's pots and pans (I kept and still love all her aluminum baking pans).  Given that I am a hermit, it was possible for my infrequent guests to make do with the 160 year old broken down chairs (oh, how I love those antique chairs).  And it is clearly possible to live one's life without going to hear Rachmaninoff played live and played rather well and played in a beautiful, historic building specifically designed for acoustic excellence.

But I chose three things I thought would fit what the surgeon meant about quality of life.

Climbing down from Mount Everest was hard.  I knew it would be, so I waited until everyone else had descended before I made my attempt.  Just as on the ascent, each step got slower and slower.  Unbeknownst to me, I was being followed by an usher, a music teacher by vocation, who finally darted in front of me and asked if there was anything she could do. I blurted out, "Drive me to my car."  I had texted Sandra to see if she would before the performance started, and she thought she could, but the performance ran long and my descent even longer and I was loathe to see if she could still drive all the way over to simply drive me the equivalent of a block or so.

The usher made it happen.  Well, she asked me if I wanted to change my seats and actually listened as I explained about my hearing problems and how I wanted to remain where I know I could hear not just the music, but also many of the instruments.  Then, after asking me point blank if I had MS and then listening to me again when I explained that I did but that I also had Dysautonomia and the problems with hearing and vision being more about nerves and reception than failure of organs and so outside helps do not always help, the usher took me to a police officer who took me keys and fetched my car.

[Yes, I did holler across the lobby:  "I learned to drive in the 80's so the parking break is set!" when I realized how young the police officer looked.]

When I was telling Margo about how I decided that what I wanted to do for myself was to go to the symphony and then I wondered if Fort Wayne even had a symphony, she asked me how long I had lived here. I told her it would be three years in December.  Three years of getting sicker and sicker and my life getting smaller and smaller until I exist primarily in the GREEN chair.  She was surprised that someone who clearly savored the performance so deeply (I gushed quite a bit about all the things I liked about the Rachmaninoff piece) would take nearly three years to check out the symphony in town.  I was too embarrassed to tell her that it was actually twenty years with regard to that.

While we were talking, I learned that Margo had a very close friend who was just diagnosed with MS and so she said she thought it was great that I got out.  I had already chastised myself several times for my poor planning.  But Margo did not tell me to not be hard on myself.  Instead she pointed out that I did, in fact, arrive and did, in fact, get to hear Rachmaninoff.  Next time, she told me, I could plan better.

[How does one plan for hoards of classical music lovers parking all around the theatre?]

Margo ask me how she could help her friend. I told her to tell her friend on a regular basis that she is NOT crazy, that what she is experiencing in her mind and in her body is real, and that she is courageous to even get out of bed.  It is good to hear those things.  I bet you all my Dr Pepper now and until I die that no man with MS goes into a doctor and hears how he is just stressed and that men cannot handle stress as well as women.  ARGH!

Margo laughed and thanked me for coming tonight.  Thanking me for keeping her and other staff late whilst I shuffled my way down the stairs and waited for the police officer to find my car and bring it to me?  Wild, eh?

As wild as Jesus continuing to forgive me when I continue to struggle with believing He could forgive someone who continually finds herself back in dark places even when she has finally walked into the light.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pestering, priming, two thoughts, and gifts received...

Sometimes ... okay often ... I like to mess with Amos whilst he is sleeping.  You see, when I mess with him when all he wants to do is be asleep, Amos groans this very pitiful, breathy protest.  I adore it almost as much as his snores.  This is a sleepy Amos whom I just awoke to hear that lovely groan.

He groans in protest, looks at me, and flops back down.  This look is also adorable to me.

Today, Amos guarded me as I primed the doorframe, threshold, and the door itself.  When I started painting the door, it struck me how old it looked.  After all that effort, after all that scraping and sanding and sanding and scraping, the door looks old, worn, and uneven.  It looks just like itself.  And old door.

I was rather surprised at just how much primer I had to use in order to paint it.  Now, of course, I am worried that in trying to save money and buying only a quart of GREEN paint, I will not have enough for two coats on both sides.  I could, of course, paint only the front.  Or I could paint two coats on the front and one on the back.  Maybe being primed, it will not soak up paint the way that it soaked up primer.

Still, despite my sudden onslaught of paint coverage worry, I was happy to see the door looking ever so much more likes a door and ever so much more less like a neighborhood eyesore.

When I was working, one of the neighborhood old biddies (the women who inform me about my yard and how it was and such, stopped by to warn me that if I do not pull down my hummingbird feeders the one hummingbird who keeps visiting me might get trapped here too late and not make the pilgrimage south that will save his life.  Horrified, I took them down as soon as the sun set.  I had to wait because the bees, rather frustrated with the heat damaged Rose of Sharon buds not opening for them, have been micro swarming around the hummingbird feeders trying rather desperately trying to squeeze past the bee guards on the red plastic flower stems.

I very much long to write about two thoughts from today, but I am exhausted.  In part, I am exhausted from priming, which took me about an hour longer than I thought it would.  In part, I am exhausted over battling some thoughts ... and fears ... in my head.

The first thought is about Facebook, which I left more than two months ago and hope never to go back. It is the words someone spoke for me when I was struggling to talk about it:  Facebook is a community that is actually not a community.

The second thought is how Psalms 18 and 143 mirror the doctrine of Article VIII of the Formula Solid Declaration, if you consider that Christ prays them both.

The latter thought struck me as my pastor was reading aloud Psalm 143.  In that moment, I almost laughed in awe and wonder and delight merely because I only had the thought I had because I was hearing the Psalm, rather than reading it.  My pastor read in such a way that a pattern leapt into my mind and called to mind the words and Word of Psalm 18.  I have read those many a time myself, but hearing is how another facet of the Psalter was illumined.  The Holy Spirit at work in the speaking of the Living Word.  

In the world of my making, someone would read that, go read both psalms and the article, and then email/text/call me to talk about it.  In the real world, I hope to try and write it out for my online memory tomorrow, having taken a few notes to help my broken rememberer hold on to today's thought.

In the meanwhile, I am savoring that I was forgiven, healed, and sustained today through the service of the Word and the service of the Sacrament.  Despite my fears and worries, despite my spiritual angst over certain questions, my Good Shepherd sent an undershepherd to bring me His body and blood for my good.  He did so because faith is not about me; it is about Christ crucified for me.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Patience actually can be rewarded...

I am in a bit of shock at the moment.  I just got a call from the insurance company saying that the erythromycin solution status has changed from denied to approved, upon second appeal.  He told me that he had already informed my pharmacy and I was free to pick up the medication.  Of the 5 medications that were not approved, this one and Zofran are the ones I most wanted to take, because they both directly affect my quality of life and therefore my outlook on life ... try that I might—but always fail—at being the suffering saint.

Two weeks ago, was my last dose of Erythromycin.  I have been greatly missing it in the past few days, as daily innards writhing crept back into my existence.  I am very much looking forward to a visit to Target, though I am curious about the cost since it is a "special approval."  My plan is to pick it up and then skip a week and then get another two week bottle and so on, to save money.  I believe this might work because each time I have been off of it, I have had about 5 days of lingering benefits.

I am also in a bit of a smaller shock because I was able to get the screws sunk properly today!  Firewood Man remembered to bring his hammer drill and sunk them all and added a couple where he thought they were still needed.  I actually do not know what a hammer drill is or dose.  What I do know is that they are expensive and that they are what you need to sink screws and to drill holes in the concrete walls in the basement.

As you can see, I cleaned the window and applied the tape so that I have little (if any) scraping to do once the painting is finished.  This was my final step of today's tasks:

  • Study the two wood braces to see if they are necessary
  • Remove the top one and insert angled screws to ensure the joins are tight.
  • Remove all extra nails in the back of the door
  • Lightly sand the back of the door
  • Fill all holes on the back of the door
  • Fill sunken screw holes
  • Scrape and sand the ancient threshold
  • Putty bits of ancient threshold to minimize deep worn spots
  • Sand all putty places
  • Wipe down the entire door
  • Clean both sides of the window
  • Tape the window to ready it for paint

That means ...hopefully... by Sunday this door project will be completed.  That means ...hopefully... by Sunday I will have primed everything, painted two coats of the white to the frame and threshold and two coats of the GREEN to both sides of the door.

This will be the very first time that I have ever worked at a slow pace, taking breaks whilst working and breaks in between days that I worked.  So, basically, today it has been proven TWICE that patience actually can be rewarded.

Amos, all stressed with my getting up and going outside three different times today, is currently napping with his beloved Froggy Baby Long Legs, who is kin to Froggy Baby Mini and Froggy Baby.   [If you look closely, you will see that one paw is holding on the one of Froggy Baby Long Legs leg so he doesn't fall off whilst Amos is napping.  Amos often clutches his babies.]  I think I shall scoop them both up and have me an evening nap in the GREEN chair, cuddling with my baby and his baby.  Perhaps I will dream of GREEN doors and the wonder of patience.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Remembering and not...

Three decades ago, I could work magic with my beloved Minolta X-700.  I cherished that camera, investing all my money into lenses and such.  My niece once broke a $500 zoom lens and I about near killed her.  It is not as if I ever let children play with my baby.  That sneaky little squirt snuck into my room, picked up the lens as I was working on the camera and promptly dropped it.  Up until that moment, I did not know lens barrels could break and leave the glass ends intact.

Today, I played around with my camera whilst sitting on the couch ... trying to ignore the pain in my chest.  The I-am-certain-is-only-a-new-nerve-pain pain in my chest that just happens to be isolated exactly where my heart is.

It frustrates me that whilst I did go from this:

to this:

I have no idea how to replicate it.

I have 38 shots, changing aperture and shutter speed and film speed, and sort of thought I was getting the hang of how to take a photo without flash in the dark, but honestly, I cannot really say that I learned (or rather re-learned) a single thing.

And—darn it—I realized that I have no clue where my tripod is.  How could that possibly be?  How could I have moved so very far away from something that I used to love?

There is (or was??) a permanent exhibit of mine in Columbus, Ohio.  There are (or were??) several textbooks with my photos.  There are (or were) several offices with my photos hanging on the wall.  I don't really count all the brochures and flyers and annual reports and newsletters and special events collateral that have my photos in them because the non-profits for which I worked couldn't afford to hire photographers.  But I used to have a small skill in which I took great pleasure.

For your enjoyment, here is the photo I tried to take of the still-hanging-around hummingbird:

He is that smudge on the thinner wire just after it crosses before the tree.  You see, I forgot that one of the reasons that I loved this little camera was that it had a manual zoom (I am a zoomaholic and loathe automatic zoom buttons) AND manual focus.  Of course, to be fair to myself, I am not all that certain I could have used the manual focus—not because I have yet to get to that section of the instruction manual I have finally gotten around to reading years later—since my eyesight is poor at best and rather dysfunctional when the blurred or double vision has taken over my eyeballs.  Still, this would have been my best shot (pun intended) to date at capture him.

I thought he had left, but he buzzed about me for a bit tonight.  I am worried, to be honest.  His two companions are long gone.  Could he be a yearling who doesn't know about heading South?

By late last night, I had worked out a rationing plan for the Gatorade, so that I did not have to go out today.  I was so afraid of the work it takes to get me out the door and then to remain upright whilst tending to the things needing done that I decided it was just too much.  I have bills to pay and a visit on Thursday that is putting a strain in my mind and my feelings.  I have insurance battles to fight.  I have a door to prime and paint.  I have a puppy to bathe (his hair and nails are cut and his ears detangled).  I have laundry to do.  I have a quaking being just now.  So, with three weeks until my next appointment, I thought surely another few days wouldn't matter.

But upon waking today, I forced myself to dress and haul myself out the door.  I went to the lab. I went to Lowe's. [I remembered to use my $10 coupon at Lowe's.]  I went to Wal-Mart.  [I bought two cans of Gatorade mix so that when the first one empties, I will not be forced to go out if I am not yet ready.]  And I actually remembered that Amos' food bag was nearly empty and so turned back to Petsmart before leaving the shopping center parking lot.

The woman at the lab, who usually serves as the paperwork coordinator, did one of the best sticks I have ever have.  Just going is an exercise in advocating for myself.  You see, I am a horrible arm stick. Three or four attempts is the norm, plus rather large, rather ugly bruises for days and days and days.  But a few years ago, while having an all-day-multi-blood-draw session at a lab, half way through the shift changed and the new girl took only look at my arms and asked if she could do my hand.  She showed me how with the band placed around my right forearm, all these lovely veins pop right up!

I nearly kissed her.
I did weep.

Even armed with the GREAT SECRET, it took me a long while to start asking for hand draws.  And then it took me a lot longer to insist on them for those who didn't want to do them.  Even a poor hand draw is much, much less painful than many arm sticks AND I have never had more than a single stick at one go.  On the days when I have had multiple draws again, I didn't even have to switch hands because there are so very many lovely veins popping up in my hand.

Today, when I asked for a hand draw, there was no arguing (this is rare at that lab).  I felt so comfortable and not a bother at all.  Of course, the other testing I have to do (which involves home kits) embarrassed me so much that I had trouble putting two words together when trying to prove that I understood what to do so I could flee (hobble out the door).  Maybe I will tackle those next week.  SIGH.

I read this article last night.  It is about a new approach in research regarding helping people face fear.  It has to do with having scents associated with specific fears around whilst the participants slept.  I found this odd and intriguing.

You see, I do not believe in aromatherapy.  I just don't.  Not at all.  Only, well, I now use a specific type of rose beeswax candle to help soothe me when I am distressed. I use lavender and peppermint essential oils to help with headaches and migraines.  And I use to different lotions before I go to bed if I am having a particularly difficult evening.  One is a lavender one from my best friend Becky that makes me feel as if she is here, and the other is this ridiculously expensive lotion that I got as samples from someone who regularly flies first class, that is a combination of honey, bergamot, and lavender.  Having such strong scents on my hands when I am going to sleep helps me have few nightmares and night terrors.  Reading the article, I wondered if I should ask my next visitor to slip in an open bottle/can of beer after I fall asleep to see if that would help me with that particular trigger.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Brokenness and fragility...

I did not go out today.  No blood work.  Really, no blood work for a whole week now.  I have three to go before my next appointment, so I was waiting until my friend left and then I was waiting until I girded my loins.  I am now thinking that, perhaps, girded loins might be too much to ask to leave the house.

Writing on the new blog has been hard. Hard, but I think good.  I hope.  But, in a way, it is making leaving the house, even to go to the lab where I have not particularly felt uncomfortable, difficult.  Things shake me, rattle me, tip the balance the slightest bit, and I worry that even a car suddenly changing lanes would tip me over into wanting to merely hide, rather than slowly try to face down this and that, one small choice at a time.  One small choice ... one large battle ... in a very long, very exhausting war.

This is what is left over after making and consuming the Baked Mustard Lime Chicken for my lunch. Oh, how tasty I find this dish to be!  So, rather than let Amos eat all this—which he wanted most fervently to do—I made rice and flavored it with the sauce for my dinner.  I made enough rice for the left over sauce from the other Baked Mustard Lime Chicken waiting for me in the refrigerator.  Both the chicken, which tasted just as good as the first time, and the mustard lime rice obscured the reality that I have more failures in the kitchen than successes.  Struggling with conflicting emotions and emotions themselves, I thought I would just top off my culinary day by making the Apple Praline Bread.  You know, my now go-to dish if ever I do somehow become other than a wallflower hermit and get invited to things such as dinner parties or pot lucks.  It was an utter, completely, colossal failure.  This was not like when my friend was here and it was a bit off.  It was a brick with a huge divot on top.  I went ahead and made the praline topping, hoping it would be edible in some fashion, but I somehow managed to burn the topping.  It wouldn't have mattered because the break was a soggy mess inside.

I wept.
I despaired of ever gaining ground anywhere in my life.
And I deliberately ate two pieces of generously topped cinnamon toast.

I drank two glasses of milk, but I am certain a blood sugar crash is in my future.  I have avoided toast with jelly or cinnamon toast, along with other things I know trigger those frightening dips in my well-being.  But I am highly skilled at making cinnamon toast and I wanted success and something sweet.

One of my favorite bloggers is Pastor Eric Brown, whom I have linked to before.  To me, he doesn't write near often enough.  But when he does he always gives me food for thought and always centers on the Gospel if faith or doctrine is involved.  Recently he wrote about brokenness ... after a fashion.  He was writing about popular music.  In the post he noted: Too many Christians can't stand the idea of things being broken and messy and wrong.  But that's part and parcel of the Christian faith.

I agree with him about the broken and messy and wrong observation.  I mean, so much of mainline evangelical popular Christian Bible Studies/ Devotionals are about how to make your life better, make your faith better, make your relationship to God better, closer, deeper, holier.  This is odd, if you think about it, since those closest to Jesus when He walked the earth were not all that good at improving their faith.  They were concerned with their own health and well-being, their own wealth, their own standing.  They abandoned Him and denied Him and doubted Him.  It is good that faith is received, and our relationship to God is one created by Him, as the One who created us, the One who Redeemed us, and the One who sanctifies us.

It is not that I do not want to be a better Christian. In fact, I would rather be a better human being.  And it is not that I do not despair of my sin and seek forgiveness.  I spent time in God's Word and in the pure doctrine. I  pray ... a lot.  But my focus is not ... well ... I yearn for my focus not to be on myself or what I am doing.  That just leads to such spiritual anxiousness and despair I can hardly breathe or move.  When I look at what I am not yet doing, what I fall back into doing, what I think and feel, what I trust and fail to trust ... there is no hope and certainly no life.

I like to hear about broken and messy and wrong things.  Not that I wish for others to struggle, but I wish to not be alone in my own struggles.  I wish to hear about those things and then have them followed by Jesus.  By Christ crucified.  By Christ crucified for the broken, messy, and wrong folk who would rather not be so but are broken, are messy, and are wrong.

I really do not want to hear about the things I need to do in order to have a better relationship.  It just discourages me.  Frightens me.

I went looking for a Bible study sample and happened upon this:  God is in the Laundry Room.  The description reads:

There's more to life than daily task lists and repetitive chores. There has to be...right?
Begin to see purpose and significance wherever you are in your day. Inspired by the words of Jeremiah 29:13, God Is in the Laundry Room is a reminder that when we seek the Lord with our whole heart, we find Him everywhere...even in the laundry room. This Bible study takes you beyond merely filling in the right answers. Instead, it challenges you to dig a little deeper, explore a little further, and make personal application of the passages to your life. As you do, you’ll be drawn closer to the Savior, who washes away our sins.

UGH.  We do NOT make personal application of the Living Word ... this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Period.  The Bible teaches this.  The pure doctrine teaches us this.  So why all the chasing after life application lessons?

Here is a link to a glimpse inside.  I searched high and low and couldn't find the Holy Spirit.  Instead, I found a wardrobe choices as metaphorical representation to a life of faith.  SIGH.  I found studying the character, leadership, choices, and behaviors of men, then a bit about Jesus dying for us, and then about what we are to do.  Make better wardrobe choices.  Whitewashed tombs came to mind.  But that is harsh, I know.  Still, I was searching in the sample lesson for something of the Christian Book of Concord, something of the pure doctrine, and I couldn't really find it ... other than Jesus died for you.

Of course, God is also, apparently, in make-up tips.  You can read how here.  Or you can:  "As a way to visualize God's cleansing power of forgiveness, put on some lipstick and then watch yourself in the mirror as you wife off its color.  Thank God that He can remove the stain of messy speech from your lips.  Here or in your journal, record your feelings about God's forgiveness." (p. 23)  SIGH.

A friend pointed out that this stuff sells. That even synodical publishing companies are all about marketing trends and following the money. But, to me, this is the stuff that the Church at large markets, the stuff it sells. It is as if I go clean up my act by this, that or the other, I will be better. But I can become Mother Theresa 2.0 and be no better. I want to hear about Jesus. I want to hear about doctrine. I want to hear about what our triune God does throughout the Bible. I don't want to focus on character and leadership or lack thereof and model my behavior on better choices.

It would be easier, though, to what want sells. If I just wanted those things, I could follow my steps and check off my lists and be better.  Whole.  Clean.  Right.

I am not.  I am not whole. I am not clean. I am not right. I am those things by and with and through and beneath the cross—Christ be praised!—but I am also a sinner who is deeply struggling with facing her past and facing her failing body and facing the fragility of her current existence.

Fragility in body.
Fragility in mind.
Fragility in spirit.

Tomorrow, a dearth of Gatorade means I must go out.  Not the blood work or the other test waiting.  Not even the paint for the door.  Milk.  Gatorade.  I can exist on just about anything else in the house, but not without Milk and not without Gatorade.  Perhaps Dr Pepper.  Though ... [you might want to sit down] ... I have been so caught up in trying to write on the other blog and trying not to hope too much about whatever telemetry the heart monitor is capturing (or not capturing) and trying to work down a list of practical things, such as choosing which if the 4 drugs that are not covered by Medicare that I am going to keep taking since I do not see how I can keep taking them all that I have actually had two days in the past five where I forgot to drink the one Dr Pepper I allow myself to savor each day.

I struggle with trusting God to care for the morrow and yet being a good steward of the little I have. I struggle with the charge to look more at my quality of life, to treat myself better, to say that I am worth better, and the cost of doing so.

Saturday.  Saturday I will be going to the symphony for the first time in 20 years.  Back then, I bought myself season tickets with the oodles of extra scholarship money I had when working on my master's degree.  I drove myself from one city to another for a season. I sat in a symphony hall all by myself and lost myself in the beauty of live classical music.  I wore the same black dress each month.  Here, well, I don't think the men's lounge pants and hoodies in which I live will be appropriate, nor my flowy skirts and leather boots (with a hoodie).  I am trying not to think about going (all those people) and what I could possibly wear in the going.

Saturday was my first choice about quality of life.  Saturday.  The first cookware set in my entire life (I've used my grandmother's stuff since college), though I ended up getting it free.  Chairs so that folk can sit at my table (so that I can sit at my table)  [My chairs, circa 1850's, have broken down completely in the 26 years I have had them after generations of my family used them--original fabric and seats that I cannot afford to replace and repair.  I thought about contacting the local historical society to see if it might want to preserve them.]  And a polarizing filter.

But another choice is the nauseating cost of making a concerted attempt to chase down the problems I am having with my heart, to see if they really are Dysautonomia related or something else.  And to see the Integrative Medicine specialist (whenever that appointment comes).  And to write about the effects of sexual abuse so that others might better understand the whys and wherefores of the 25% of women in America who are in many ways like me.

I took this over five years ago, not knowing how important pinecones would become to me, to my well-being.  I just loved the texture, not knowing that that texture would both help me remain present in the moment when needful and to escape the moment when helpful.

Somewhere.  There just has to be somewhere nearby where I can go and soak up the good gifts of this created world.  I miss Huntley Meadows, 1500 acres of wetland preserve set in the heart of the metropolitan DC area and a mere 5 minutes from my old home.  Unless a plane flew overhead, once inside, you could forget the concrete jungle and marvel at the beauty and complexity of this world.

I can get lost in moss.

I miss it.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Screw triumph...

The handle is gone!  I really am not sure why it was there, but I managed to finally get enough of the paint off the four flat head screws to start working on them.  Back in the dark ages, when I was a freshman at college, I had a guy from church admonish me about the necessity for a tool kit in my car.  He bought me this black, flat case with all sorts of tools I still do not really understand.  However, in it are two screwdrivers that have very short, thick GREEN handles.  I have found that when you have a stubborn screw, those short handles make the job easier.

I worked and worked. I cursed and wept.  I yelled and asked forgiveness.  Seriously, I apologized to a door.  I even said that I would not throw away the handle but look for a better use for it some place else.  That latter bit of concession worked.  The first screw moved the tiniest bit.  Pressure. Wiggle.  Switch.  Pressure. Wiggle.  Switch.  A gazillion times of switching between the four screws later, the handle came off!

To me, the door really looks like a door now.

I started filling the bazillion holes in it and I filled the cracks where I could not snug the new wood against the existing frame.  I am conflicted about the rest.  By this I mean, the original work on the door did not include good coping at the horizontal panels.  I want to not fill in those gaps.  I want it to look as close to its original state as possible.  If I paint down in those gaps, the wood will be protected.  And there is a significant overhang of the roof, so the door rarely gets wet.

As far as the miter cuts go, apparently my putty skills are no where near the level of my drywall patching skills.  I can float and tape with the best of them.  I am also a fairly skilled caulker.  Putty, well, it looks like a kindergarteners was working on the door.  I am, at this point, hoping paint will cover a multitude of sins.

The back of the door has a strip of extra wood at the top and at the bottom.  I suspect it was to brace a door that was falling apart, even though I cannot see any cracks or gaps there.  I would like to take off the wood, but I am genuinely fearful the door will fall apart.  I would like to take off the rather large pieces of wood and replace them with thinner ones.  But I should probably just leave the door alone.  It is only that I see those errant pieces of wood each and every time I pull into the garage that this thought came to mind.  I suspect this is a let-sleeping-dogs-lie issue, but to me it is a Pandora's Box.  Of course, you know how the latter turned out.

But this!  This is what irks me.  I can live with the horrible miter cuts.  I can live with the slightly crooked framing board from where I trimmed it freehand with a circular saw.  I can live with the older wood on the outside of the frame that had to stay (because I need my laundry lines).  I can live with the fact that I had to buy a new pane of glass because I broke the first one.  I can even live with the chunk the blasted contractor cut out of the threshold.  However, it is KILLING me that I will be painting over screws that are sticking so far out of the wood.  What TERRIBLE work.  SIGH.

If you look up in the left hand corner, you will see a screw I was able to properly sink.  However, there are far too many screws that no matter how hard I pressed, no matter how hard I backed them out and started again, no matter how much I moved them, I could not sink them flush.  I know, though, that reality is that I will not be able to find me a man and a hammer drill. I know that I will be forced to live with my failure, with having it taunt me each and every time I go through the door.

[I am fairly sure no real craftsman would use wood filler that goes on purple and dries white, but I thought it was a genius move on the manufacturer's part.]

I am not sure I am up to painting.  Actually, I am not sure if I have a paint brush left because I sacrificed one when I helped Sandra paint her deck and it might have been my last brush.  But I believe I should go ahead and prime tomorrow, if I can.  Or at least as soon as possible.  We still are having warm days, but the nights are cooling off.  I do not know how cool it can be before painting is not a good course of action.  I have to do some lab work tomorrow, so I thought I would fetch the paint while I am out ... and a brush if I am right about using up my last one.  [I can be pretty miserly with them, but there comes a point in time when you have to admit that you have squeezed that last penny of use from a paint brush.]

Because I am mostly bemoaning my door, I thought I would post two more photos.  This first one is my trying to see just how much polarizing my polarizing filter could do.  I was blinded when I aimed the camera into the sun, but the filter actually made the shot possible.

I wonder if I had spun the filter bit by bit, taking shots, if I could have eliminated the halo, and had just the rays show.

This next photo is totally boring, unless you are Myrtle.  Then it is chock full of bliss.  You see, we have had weeks and weeks of no rain.  Last summer, I spend hundreds of dollars trying to keep my yard GREEN during the drought.  All my neighbors had brown yards.  I did not.  I did not at a price I could not afford.  I will admit opening the water bill was nauseating and embarrassing and guilt inducing.  However, when the rain started in September, everyone else also had GREEN yards.  I felt so stupid and so very foolish.  I thought I was saving my grass.  I was only wasting water and money.  SIGH.

So, this summer, over the past month or so, when the sky dried up, I did not water my yard.  Over something like 5 weeks, I watched all my GREEN lusciousness, my comfort, my bliss, shrivel up and turn into a great expanse of depressing BROWN.  I did water one evening because my two-year-old weeping cherry tree, smoke bush, and crabapple tree all started looking really peaked. I also lost an entire branch of the rhododendron.  It took every bit of my will power to not recklessly run the sprinklers every few days.

Well, this past week, we had three full days of a beautiful, steady, ground soaking rain.  This is how my yard looks now!

I do not know what kind of grass this is.  While a few spots in the yard are something else, most is this skinny stuff.  This beautiful skinny stuff that looks like a prairie when it is tall and the wind blows across it.  Sometimes, I just sit on the back steps, holding my puppy dog, and watch the waves rolling across my yard.  

In a single summer, Firewood Man got rid of the weeds and all of the bare spots filled in using his super magical formulas for fertilizer and weed killer.  I will be forever grateful he advertised wood (did I mention that I bought up all his wood and now need a new source) and then mentioned that he works as a landscaper.  Twenty bucks.  Twenty bucks every three months and I have lusciousness!

Oh, my dear lawn, I am so very happy you are back!!

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!