Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's in there...

The Psalter is like Prego.

Back in the dark ages, Prego ran a series of commercials with the tag line of "It's in there."  The idea was that Prego had all the fresh and tasty ingredients that a chef would put into homemade spaghetti sauce.  Name an ingredient and it is in Prego.

The Psalter is like Prego.  No matter what you need or want or think or feel or fear, it is in the collection of prayers our Triune God has given us to pray.

I am no skilled at asking for things.  I mean, when I think I am being blunt and bold and straightforward, few hear my cry.  When I know I have asked directly, I mostly receive silence.  Asking for things is not really in my wheelhouse.

Here, there, and everywhere, I have made no secret of how much I crave hearing the Living Word and how much it helps me.  I have also made no secret how much the Psalter means to me and how much hearing it helps me.  I hide there.  I live there.  I am safe there.

Yesterday was hard.  Lots has been hard of late.  But yesterday was especially especially hard.  There I was, weeping and despairing, and Marie called.  She asked me how I was and I blurted out all this anguish.  Sniffing to a close, I managed to ask her how she was doing with her wretched cold and if she was calling because I offered to help if she needed anything, after watching her descend into the depths of a miserable cold before my eyes on Saturday.  Funny thing is ... Marie was calling to help me!

She offered to read and pray Psalms with me.

Marie started with a psalm she thought might be a good one for me, Psalm 38:

O LORD, rebuke me not in Thy wrath,
And chasten me not in Thy burning anger.
For Thine arrows have sunk deep into me,
And Thy hand has pressed down on me.
There is no soundness in my flesh because of Thine indignation;
There is no health in my bones because of my sin.
For my iniquities are gone over my head;

As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.
My wounds grow foul and fester
Because of my folly.
I am bent over and greatly bowed down;
I go mourning all day long.
For my loins are filled with burning,
And there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am benumbed and badly crushed;
I groan because of the agitation of my heart.

LORD, all my desire is before Thee;
And my sighing is not hidden from Thee.
My heart throbs, my strength fails me;
And the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me.
My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague;
And my kinsmen stand afar off.
Those who seek my life lay snares for me;
And those who seek to injure me have threatened destruction,
And they devise treachery all day long.
But I, like a deaf man, do not hear;
And I am like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
Yes, I am like a man who does not hear,
And in whose mouth are no arguments.
For I hope in Thee, O LORD;
Thou wilt answer, O LORD my God.
For I said, "May they not rejoice over me,
Who, when my foot slips, would magnify themselves against me."

For I am ready to fall,
And my sorrow is continually before me.
For I confess my iniquity;
I am full of anxiety because of my sin.
But my enemies are vigorous and strong,
And many are those who hate me wrongfully.
And those who repay evil for good,
They oppose me, because I follow what is good.
Do not forsake me, O LORD;
O my God, do not be far from me!
Make haste to help me,
O LORD, my salvation!

One of the reasons the Psalter is like Prego is that for all the time I have spent reading and listening to those 150 prayers they are new, are fresh, are timely, and are perfect ... for me.  Did you catch the word that is perfect for Myrtle?

The totally wonderful, totally awe-filling part was that the perfect word in the Word was not in the version that Marie was reading to me, but it was in mine.  The perfect word in the Word leapt off the page and wrapped itself around my anguished soul and held it.

I am benumbed and badly crushed;
I groan because of the agitation of my heart. 

God understands numbness.
He understands me.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A lifetime of exile...

My best friend has been attending a bible study on the Psalter. [Yes, I am a tad jealous about that.] On Wednesday the 23rd, she posted about Psalm 137, which I am including here in my beloved NASB 1977, although that is not the translation she uses and quotes on her blog:

By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down and wept,
When we remembered Zion.
Upon the willows in the midst of it
We hung our harps.
For there our captors demanded of us songs,
And our tormenters mirth, saying,
"Sing us one of the songs of Zion."

How can we sing the Lord's song
In a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
May my right hand forget her skill,
May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
If I do not remember you,
If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.

Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom
The day of Jerusalem,
Who said, "Raze it, raze it,
To its very foundation,"
O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one,
How blessed will be the one who repays you with the recompense with which you have repaid us.
How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones

Against the rock.

Before I reflect upon what my friend noted, I would like to say that I have heard, on several occasions, a pastor say that this is not an appropriate psalm to pray in church. Frankly, that very thought boggles my mind. This is Scripture. This is the prayerbook of the Bible. Jesus prays these for us. God gave these prayers for us to pray. And Scripture teaches that all of the Living Word is profitable for teaching, for training and that the Living Word will not return void and will accomplish its purpose.

Mostly, I think that folk only see the last line, or perhaps the last thought, and get no further. Dashing children against rocks. Uhm, what???

What I liked about Becky's post, for one, was a bit of the historical setting for when this psalm was penned. As she noted, really you ought to just go spend some time in Jeremiah, at least chapters 25-29. I broadened that "at least" part from her post, because her post made me go exploring a bit and I read of the contrasting prophesies—false and true—that are presented in chapter 28. The whole story, about how Judah was not much wanting to hear of the impending judgment for their lack of faith and so sought more ... positive ... prophets than Jeremiah.

In any case, during Becky's bible study, one of the most popular bible quotes from my evangelical days arose:

"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." ~Jeremiah 29: 11-13

Since becoming a Lutheran, I have heard several times that few get this passage right. I rarely had any clarity on the matter, such as how it was wrongly presented and what would be more accurate. I just heard that it is not what most people think. I believe, now, I might know what was meant by such a comment.

For one, read it in the context of having just one more verse added to it:

For thus says the Lord, "When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." (10-13)

And now read the final part to this paragraph:

For thus says the Lord, "When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you" declares the Lord, "and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you," declares the Lord, "and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile." (10-14)

At this point, I shall make state a caveat that I do not know from where—from what doctrine—comes the Googling bit I found that gave me the most pause. So, perhaps, all my thoughts on the passage and the Psalm are in error. However, I think that the onion of Psalm 137 could have been peeled a tad more than what Becky learned in her bible study.

In this study reference, a few thoughts came to mind about Jeremiah, and then about Psalm 137, as I read and re-read Becky's post:

First, I found the difference in translation in Jeremiah 29:1 between Becky's and mind a bit interesting. Her's reads "...to the surviving elders...," whereas mine reads "...to the rest of the elders..." To me, that difference, in reading through Becky's post, gave me the impression that the exile was over...that this was written to those who survived it. So, when I first read through her post, I was reading with a wrong assumption.

Second, I found the emphasis on seventy years in the reference above an important note not to miss when thinking about the isolated verses of Jeremiah 29:11-13. As the authors of the study reference point out, seventy years represents the lifespan of a person. The judgment these folk faced was exile for their entire lives. Thus, to me, when you read about plans for a future and a hope, what ought to come to mind is the future and hope of what comes after our span of life ... eternal life, where there will be no captivity, no hardship, no grief, no loss, no pain, no suffering.

In a way, this thought alone shifted my perspective on my own life. I am, in a sense, living my entire life in exile, as Judah, because I live in a fallen world, a world suffering beneath the judgment of sin. And so the plans for prosperity, for a future and for a hope, are plans that will come true even for me, no matter what further trails of body, mind, and spirit I might face.

Third, both Becky and the authors pointed out that in Jeremiah 29, the Lord instructed Judah to build lives in captivity, to marry, have children, etc. Or, more specifically, the Lord charges the exiles:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, "Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease." (4-6)

To me, however, I found what came after that more thought-provoking:

"Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare." (7)

Wow! What passed through my mind, as I thought about Psalm 137, that that prayer really was a cry of anguish, a cry of pain and of frustration. I mean, really, dashing children upon the rocks is not actually seeking the welfare of your captives and the community in which you have been placed.

And I also thought, again, how very much I appreciate how what I have learned of the Scriptures from Lutheran doctrine is so connected. For example, you could use verse 7 to accompany Luther's teaching on the Seventh Commandment from the Large Catechism, in which he shows that the is not merely about refraining from stealing, but also to prevent others from stealing from your neighbors and to help your neighbor's increase their wealth. You could then circle from the Large Catechism to Matthew 5, in which Jesus gives several examples of spinning out the spirit of the Law (or its fullness), rather than its letter. Again, the letter of the Law in the Seventh Commandment is to not steal, but the fullness of keeping that commandment is also about protecting the possessions of our neighbors and helping them to prosper. In particular, you could read what Jesus teaches in verses 43-48:

"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Love your enemies.
Pray for them.
Seek the welfare of your place of exile.
Pray for its welfare.

Of course, the confused and conflicted Myrtle could get hung up and become felled by that last bit about being perfect. However, I have come to the decision that unless someone who knows Greek tells me otherwise, I am going to take those instances where we are charged to be something as not a command, but rather a reminder of who we are in Christ. I do not have to make myself perfect. In Christ, I already am.

Am. Is. Are. Was. Were. Be. Being. Been. All those "be" verbs I learned in grammar are now all chunked in Christ.

Fourth, I thought it was also important, within context, to note (back in Jeremiah), the Lord moves from charging Judah to seek the welfare of its place of exile to charging them to remain vigilant to the truth.

For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, "Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them," declares the Lord. (8)

After the charge to build lives, to pray for prosperity, comes the reminder that even in life in exile—or perhaps most especially life in exile—one will encounter our foe, who ceaselessly works to draw us away from truth into the specious lies that play to our reason and our flesh.

So, having Jeremiah 29:11-13 isolated from context could lead one to think that this bit of Scripture is a promise of prosperity and well-being and futures and hopes and all sorts of what man would consider good things in this life.

"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart."

But, if you read this bit of Scripture in context, you read of a "promise" of an entire life lived in exile and for rescue to come after the period exile is completed.

Now these are the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exile, the priests, the prophets and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. (This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the court officials, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem.) The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, "Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to theLord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare." For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, "Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them," declares the Lord.

For thus says the Lord, "When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord, "and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you," declares the Lord, "and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile."

Think about it. How often do we mourn a life cut short, bemoaning all that lost promise of the life the child would have had, not realizing that the promise of that life is really what comes after? After death. The afterlife.

Fifth, what I did not find in Becky's reporting of what she learned (which very well may have been in the study) is an emphasis on the Lord. By this I mean, Babylon did not capture Judah so much as the Lord willed for the exile to happen and utilized Nebuchadnezzar to accomplish His purposes, His perfect plan for Judah for those seventy years.

Thus says the Lord.
I have. I have sent. I have not sent. I have plans.
I will. I will listen. I will be found. I will restore. I will bring.
Me. Call upon Me. Come and pray to Me. Seek Me. Find Me. Search for Me.

Judah's exile was not about the military genius of Nebuchadnezzar nor was it about the military might of the Babylonians. Judah's exile was about faith and repentance, about promise and restoration. And it was the work, plan, and promise of God.

Now return to the prayer of Psalm 137:

By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down and wept,
When we remembered Zion.
Upon the willows in the midst of it
We hung our harps.
For there our captors demanded of us songs,
And our tormenters mirth, saying,
"Sing us one of the songs of Zion."

How can we sing the Lord's song
In a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
May my right hand forget her skill,
May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
If I do not remember you,
If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.

Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom
The day of Jerusalem,
Who said, "Raze it, raze it,
To its very foundation,"
O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one,
How blessed will be the one who repays you with the recompense with which you have repaid us.
How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones
Against the rock.

Lots of pain and agony. Mourning by the river, struggling to even fathom raising a voice in praise. Feeling the burden of captivity, seeing only the present, bleak circumstance. Thinking more of vengeance and recompense rather than of repentance for what lead to the exile.

Oh, how our Creator knows His created!

To me, this psalm tells us that it is okay to struggle, to wrestle with our circumstances. This psalm acknowledges human despair and how perspective can color and skew our whole being.

What I did not find in this psalm—as in so many of the despairing psalms—was a step away from darkness to remind one's self of the truth and the majesty/work/promises of God. And, to me, that is a precious, precious gift from God. That lack in our prayers, the times of being unable to muster up the courage and the clarity to proclaim promises in the midst of confusing and even crippling circumstances, is okay.

Not being a theologian, but merely a child who oft raises anguished cries for help, I read the dashing of children against the rocks prayed by Jesus as being the deserved wrath of God upon those who deny Him, deny the Rock that is Christ Crucified. And I read the dashing of children against the rock prayed by man who is broken by his captivity and longs, ultimately, for the conquering of his enemies. He, in is limits of human reason and human flesh, is not perfect and so is not praying for and loving his enemies, but praying his frustrations and fears, his weaknesses, to the One who will take those prayers to the Father as perfect a prayer to pray as, say, Psalm 104, that utterly beautiful celebration of our majestic Creator.

Thank you, Becky, for sharing what you learned that I might, too, delve into both Jeremiah and Psalm 137. Thank you, Marie, for letting me go on and on and on about Jeremiah, Psalm 137, and the ineffable depths and riches of the Psalter, whilst you cooked yesterday.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Courageous or weak...

A part of today turned out to be round three with getting my prescription refills.  Five phone calls and much tears.  One of my refills had the wrong dosage, plus it did not come in as ordered.  The frustrating part of the latter was that I was standing in the pharmacy two weeks ago and specifically asked if this new version (cheaper) of theophylline that the insurance wanted me to take was something they had in stock or if it needed to be special ordered like the capsules.  Another frustrating factor was that this re-write of the prescription happened a month ago, when the appeal for the medication came through only if I switched from capsule to tablet.  No one noticed the wrong dosage when both the doctor's office and the pharmacy called to tell me that the prescription was ready for the next refill.

The pharmacist called to tell me that the order had not come in and I started to lose my fragile balance.  I told her that this had already been straightened out and that I was told on Thursday that the prescriptions would be ready tomorrow when I fetched the erythromycin.  Friday and Saturday's pharmacist was not the one from Thursday or all the other calls regarding the authorizations and such.  Although she knew of my Medicare issues.  The pharmacist called a second time to say that she called the on-call physician to see if she could get him to re-write the prescription, but he would not because she told him, in error, that I still had pills.  When I explained that I did not, she said she would have to call me back.  I asked her what she was going to do even if she got the re-write when she told me that she could not get the tablets until Tuesday.  She said she could give me the capsules, because they still had some on hand, but the difference in the two types of theophylline is $1,000 and the insurance would not cover the capsules.

Seeing little hope, while waiting for her to call me back, I called the on-call physician to explain to him the reason the pharmacist thought I still had pills left was that she was seeing the final date when the prescription was re-run through insurance so I could get back the cash I paid for it.  The on-call physician was terse and rude.  He lectured me about poor planning and waiting until the last minute and interrupting the weekend plans of others with my selfishness.  When I tried to explain that the error was not caught by either the office staff or the pharmacist and that today was the first time I learned of it, he told me to stop talking or he would hang up.  Several times he threatened to hang up. He did not want to look at my records nor did he take the pharmacist's word that I had been on the increased dosage for over two years.  He told me just to take the lower dosage.  A 25% reduction in the medication that helps me to faint less.

I was frenetic.
I was appalled.
I was the bad little girl again.

In the end, after a second phone call between the on-call physician, who finally agreed to look at my medical record (electronic ... easy access) to a certain that there was, indeed, not a notation about decreasing the medication and the pharmacist asking him to re-write it for four pills a day instead of two so that she could use the lower dose she had on hand so that I could have the medication, the pharmacist called me again to tell me that the prescription was now ready.  At least when she saw it ring up at $8, she finally understood why I needed to switch to the tablets.

Marie ... well ... she saw my many-calls meltdown.  Feeling utterly defeated and rather despairing, I started weeping.  Amos, my beloved caretaker, then jumped in my lap even though I was seated in a dining chair.  Marie let me weep.  And wail.  And melt-down into a pool of insensible anxiety and grief.

I did not like that she witnessed my anxiety and anguish.
I did not like finding myself back into that role of obedient, obsequious mouse with the doctor.
I did not like my own weakness of body, mind, and spirit.

Funny, when I saw Marie struggle with her anxiety last summer, my first thought was of compassion. And, as I have written before, I found her courageous and brave.  Yet, today, with my struggle, all I felt was failure and shame.

I become so defeated fighting battles such as this. I shouldn't have to fight for my prescriptions.  It shouldn't take me several months to get them right.  It shouldn't have to take me several calls just get the annual refills sent into the pharmacy after my office visit during which I was told they would be sent.  It shouldn't have to take me several calls just to get my prescriptions filled.  It shouldn't be so hard.  But it is.

I had a plan.  I had a plan for the erythromycin.  I have two alarms to remind me to call every other Thursday in case it has to be ordered, so there is an extra day in case something happens.  I then have two alarms on every other Sunday reminding me to go in and get it.  This time, the erythromycin plan failed because when I called on Thursday, I learned there was no refills of the daily medication.  The plan to tie all the monthly refills to one of the erythromycin pharmacy runs failed because the refills that I was told were taken care of August 30th, still had not been sent over.  The "much easier" electronic system means you no longer walk out the door with slips of paper, but a promise of some buttons being pushed later.    The refill plan also failed because the new prescription written a month ago had an error that no one caught.

All of these are daily medications.  All of these, save for the erythromycin, are things I have been taking for a long time.

With the erythromycin authorization, I called the doctor's office, the pharmacy called the doctor's office, the pharmacy faxed the paper work to the doctor's office, the insurance company faxed the paper work to the doctor's office, and I brought over a copy myself.  I personally handed it to the nurse myself, only to learn a week later that the other nurse working on the authorization had none of those instances of paperwork and was actually spending her time trying to use the government Part D authorization online form instead of noting that I have private Medicare insurance (which is, to me, rather ironically cheaper than the government option).  The surgeon's staff took my paperwork and got the authorization in three days.  My doctor's office spend two months, many phone calls, and several lectures to me over the fact that the staff didn't have the time to take care of my insurance authorizations ... ignoring the fact that most of that time was due to mistakes by the office staff.

My prescription life should be easier until the end of the year.  Since the plan year is changing, the five authorizations I have all have to be re-written.  I may even need all the prescriptions all called in again.  Yes, I have been already fretting about and trying to figure out the best way to get this accomplished between my prescription refill at the end of December and the first erythromycin refill mid January.

The doctor was wrong.  I do plan ahead because so much of my life has to be planned or I cannot cope.  I check, double check, and alarm myself out the wazoo trying to ensure that I at least have the medication in the house, even if I cannot always remember to take it.

I told the nurse in September, when I handed her the paperwork, that I was to the point of thinking I should just stop taking everything and let nature take its course.  I'd either fall down the stairs and break my neck or else I'd go into a coma from low blood sugar.  Or maybe I'd be so immobilized the arthritis pain that I would simply languish away trapped in the bed.  I am not sure death by missing thyroid medication is even possible, but I do know that my life would cease to be anything but an insensible sea of misery.  And that ... that ... is more preferable to me than to have to keep battling for my prescriptions ... especially the anxiety medication.

I told Marie the same thing today.  I just don't have it in me to keep fighting for the things that should be easy, much less the harder things.  Hard things like the shame that flooded me knowing Marie witnessed my utter inability to not weep and despair and melt down when facing obstacle after obstacle.

I felt like the devil heaped coals of fire upon my head once I got home and realized that despite all my careful list-making, planning, and packing for a day-long-support-Marie-in-her-marathon-cooking-event, I managed to leave the erythromycin in her refrigerator. I remember the syringe to measure it out, but not the actual bottle.  Marie's beloved drove it over to me because I was so exhausted that I was willing to pay the price for missing the two doses that would come between leaving her apartment and getting to the pharmacy for the next refill.  Missing a single dose upsets the fragile balance I have achieved in the innards writhing department.  Missing two would be days recovering. I know this because I missed a day and a half the week before.  Funny how quickly I have lost the fortitude to face immense innards writhing, how quickly I have become accustomed to a mere argument in my digestive system, instead of a full-scale war.

Paul was very sweet when he brought it to the door.  I still felt ashamed and a failure a thousand times more than I had thinking about the meltdown that Marie saw when I was supposed to be there cheering her on in her culinary marathon.

At least Amos was willing to help Marie out in her endeavors...

Why do I see her battles with anxiety courageous and something to be honored and my own shameful and a confirmation of my own weakness and failure?

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cookin' with Marie...

My do I like this kind of Friday!

Marie came over to cook again.  I asked her to tackle the recipe my best friend uses for home made flour tortillas, Texas Flour Tortillas.  Yum.  Just ... yum.  And ... oh, my ... how very culinarily brave is Marie!

Marie had found some more ears of corn, so we had Grilled Corn on the Cob with Lime and Cheese one last time!!  And then we used the tortillas to make tacos.  The tacos were cold, basically, having not kept everything warm and my house being cold.  However, many tacos were consumed, so being cold was, apparently, not so much a problem.  I used some of the last of my Archer Farms Mexican Rub (why ... why did Target discontinue that heavenly stuff?) and grilled up chicken breasts.  I also cooked (and crumbled) bacon and then "enhanced" La Costena's refried black beans with cumin, sea salt, cracked pepper, lime, and a bit of crema.  I shredded cheddar cheese and put out sour cream.  However, I made Marie, who did all the work of the tortillas except for getting out the ingredients (and not sniping at me for my back-seat kneading and cooking directions), cut up her own tomato, which I also made her buy and then take home the left overs so as not to contaminate my refrigerator with tomato ickiness.  I sent tortillas home with Marie and gave some to Sandra to try, since we made the recipe yields 16 tortillas. I am a glutton, but not so much of one that I wanted all of the left overs myself.  However, don't think I am all that altruistic or generous, because homemade tortillas will not last that long. 

Amos happily pre-cleaned both the corn dishes and the taco plates.  He is still miffed, however, because I absolutely refuse to give him bacon, to share even a crumb of bacon with him.  I rather strongly feel that once I go down that road of taste with him, I will never again be able to consume my bacon in relative peace.

Speaking of Amos, here he is curled up in my lap with Froggy Long Legs Baby last night.  The majority of the time, Amos likes to have one or more of his babies when we are lounging together.

The day did start out a bit rough for me and for Amos.  I set the alarm for 4 minutes before Marie was to arrive, thinking I could throw on some clothes and take Amos outside in that time, since she doesn't mind if my hair is sticking up or I have crusties still in the corner of my eyes.  After opening the back door to let Amos out, I went back inside for my phone so I could call the pharmacy about one of the prescriptions I forgot yesterday afternoon, but remembered in the wee hours of the morning.  When I stepped back outside, I was stunned to see the LARGE, AGGRESSIVE puppy from two doors down barking at Amos just on the other side of the fence.  MONSTER puppy had jumped the low fence.  He put his paws up on my fence and I screamed with my entire being and raced across the yard to scoop up Amos.  The puppy growled and barked at me whilst he was in that yard.

Yes, I called Animal Control.

It is a puppy.  A puppy I think is just about 6-8 months old at best, but is nowhere near finished growing, if his paws are any indication of his eventual size.  He is left outside most of the time.  And he sits at the fence and barks and growls at Amos when we go outdoors.  Often, I have to take Amos back inside and try another time, when it comes to cajoling him into conducting his major business.  Of course, I am sure I would struggle with addressing bodily needs if I had this GIANT CANINE BEAST barking and growling at me with just two fences between us.  [I am very proud to note that Amos took care of his business on the leash in my front yard.]

All I could think was not that the dog was in the wrong yard, but how long until he is in my yard.  Once a dog hops a fence, what is to stop him from doing it again?  So, I called Animal Control essentially to start a record.

It is good that Marie was running a tad late, because I was shaking and weeping and extremely agitated from the encounter.  Twice, back in Alexandria, whilst taking my other dog out for a walk, I was bitten.  Both times, the owner, who had let his/her dog off its leash assured me as I stood still but yelled for the dog to be controlled, that his/her dog was fine. Both times, I picked up my smaller dog, because I simply did not want my smaller, leashed dog, approached/jumped on/attacked by a larger unleashed dog.  Again, both times I was bit.

Then there was the pit bull attack here.

I love Amos.  And I loved Kashi. I want others to have the freedom of owning a dog.  But I very much want leash laws to be enforced and I want owners to consider whether or not they have the capacity to contain a GIGANTIC dog before bringing one home.  I understand that this was a first time. And I understand that I am very sensitive to dogs invading my space.  However, I do not believe that I should have to suffer for an owner not controlling its dog.  Just as I would never want Amos to hurt another or roam the streets or yards of others.  Any dog in the world can bite or attack.  There is no 100% guarantee of safety.

I really am worried that containing this neighbor dog is going to be a long-term issue, especially as it grows larger.

When Amos was a puppy, a wee little thing, the dog next door dug under the fence and came into my yard.  I had stepped inside to take a whistling tea kettle off the stove and came back to find Amos dangling from the other dog's mouth.  Pepper, my neighbor dog, is very maternal.  She is, in fact, the only dog Amos has ever been willing to approach.  The two of them wag tails at each other and stick noses between the fence.  So, I know, now, that Pepper was probably just mothering Amos, not trying to eat him. I did not know that then.

I will admit that I was extraordinarily upset when I went over to the neighbors' house, knocked on the front door, and in no uncertain terms made it clear that their dog was never, ever supposed to be in my yard again.  That day, the then husband went out and bought some sort of garden border that was about a foot high, and buried it all along my fence.  Pepper has gotten out of their yard many times because of their back gate, but she has never dug her way into my yard again.

I do not believe that this HUMUNGOUS puppy has any positive feelings toward Amos.  He/She growls and barks even when I am in the back yard.  And I, myself, am fearful of the dog because of its size.

Marie, merciful woman, let me natter and ramble and vent and freak out for quite a while after her arrival.  By the grace of God, I am thankful to note that I am not as frightened now as I was this morning. I am trying to be reasonable and at least open to the possibility that this first escape will be an eye-opener to my neighbors about whether or not it is a good idea to leave a dog who is already nearing the height of the fence seated and can put his front paws and head and shoulder on top of the fence when standing on his back legs along in the back yard for hours and hours on end.

I do think that I need to put a sign on my porch door reminding me to check the back yard before letting Amos out.  I simply could not take him being attacked again.  Nor, for that matter, could I take another fright any time soon.

Actually, I believe that the reason I am better tonight is because I had understanding company and distractingly tasty food following the fright so that I was able to move past that moment into another. Because of that, too, writing about it now is upsetting, but not felling.

Think Clifford, the big red puppy.  SIGH.

Amos and I will now go comfort each other in the GREEN chair for the rest of the evening, whilst I try to resist having another tortilla until tomorrow.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

At least...

My best friend makes the most incredible peanut peanut butter cookies on the planet.  I don't even care much for peanut butter cookies, but her peanut peanut butter cookies are amazing.  She does makes them kind of small, though, in my opinion, so when I was with her and she made them I felt even more of a glutton than usual because my idea of a single cookie size is about three to four times the size of her magical peanut peanut butter cookies.  And, well, her husband finds them at least as magical as do I, so I would basically steal them from his belly because I wanted them in mine.  Like five or six at a time.  Not just one.  Or perhaps two.

When I lived in Alexandria and was relatively close to Bettina, she could make me double batches when she came for a visit and I could eat them all, without having to share.  Anyway, the other day I broke down and asked her to send me the recipe.  Even after swearing off of ever trying to make cookies again, I asked for the recipe.  What was I thinking?

After.  Last night, after everything was mixed and was cooking and I was starting to clean up, I took another look at the stuff clinging to all the measuring cups.  Delayed response.  A puzzle working its way forward.  Until.  Yep, I messed up.  None of the measuring cups had the right stuff inside of them.  I used the wrong cups for the flour, the white sugar, the brown sugar, and the peanut butter.  I got the butter (one stick) and the egg (one shell) correct.  SIGH.  It is not that I burned the cookies but that they would not actually bake.  Apparently, having at least close proportions matters in cookies.  Matter a lot.

At least I have the comfort of a fluffy white lavender cloud even if I do not have the comfort of peanut peanut butter cookies.

I spent most of the "work" day weeping with the pharmacist and weeping with the doctor's office answering machine and weeping with my doctor's nurse.  The annual refills from August turned out not to be annual refills.  I was following my plan.  I have an alarm every two weeks on Thursday to remind me to call the pharmacy to order the innards medication and an alarm every two weeks on Sunday to remind me to go pick up the innards medication that go along with the alarm that goes off four times a day every day to actually take the innards medication.  Only when I called so the pharmacy could order the innards medication, I got a call back to hear that I actually had no refills of the innards medication.  So, I called and left a message about the missing refills.  Then the pharmacy called back to ask about all my other medications because I had forgotten that it is the end of the month.  Yes, I wanted them.  We hung up.  Another call.  Most of the annual refills are not actually annual refills.  So I called the doctor's office about all the other medications.  Then the pharmacy called again to say ... rather gently ... that the refill on my anxiety medication was limited.  The anxiety medication I have been on daily for 18 months.

For 18 months, I have gotten limited refills and I have to call and call and call because somehow my records never seem to show that I cam actually on the medication.  So, I called the doctor's office again and finally received a return call from the nurse, who said that she would have to talk to the doctor again about the anxiety medication refill ... the addictive medication that helps me but would make me very, very, very ill if I miss a dose, even the small dose I take because I react so strongly to many medications and only need a little bit to have the fragile balance it gives me without side effects that would make everything worse.  The doctor and I had two appointments just to weigh the pros and cons of this decision and yet somehow its not in my records, so I am just ... a drug seeker.  SIGH.  I wept to the nurse that I need to have the anxiety medication not be a problem I have to solve every 15 or 20 or 40 days, whatever limited number is chosen.  I wept to the nurse that I have talked about this my last three appointments and that I needed to not have to beg for a medication that even the doctor does not believe she could wean me off of but told me it would still be good for me.  This ... this ... is most definitely not good for me.

But at least I can do this:

Yep, I built a fire and dragged the GREEN chair over to the fireplace and am currently roasting myself and my puppy dog as my tears dry.

Amos doesn't really mind if I get him a bit wet.

I am Yours, Lord!  Save me!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I struggle with change. I struggle with change because I exist by patterns and by routines.  And I exist by reading the signs about the house.  I updated my computer and found Pages and Numbers updated.  SIGH.  This was a problem because the Fios technician was here because I have had five outages in two weeks.  The network engineer wanted my equipment checked, even though I cannot understand how it could be my equipment if it comes back and works beautifully for days on end.

I really had no time to fret over having another strange man in my house so soon, since I learned yesterday afternoon about the appointment.  The man, however, was from the South so he found me not strange and he agreed that to have service come back didn't really sound like an equipment failure.  Nevertheless, I now have a new router, new thingy unit, new backup router, and new connectors and every single cable end from the outside of the house all the way to the router.  I am hoping that the router will work in the back yard, so I can watch movies under the stars.  But Becky reminded me that it only really needs to work in the house (especially the bathroom floor).

The new router password is way, way, way more complicated than the one on the three-year-old router.  As in insanely complicated.  So, I opened Numbers to enter it into my utilities spreadsheet and found the interface all changed and struggled to find the right spreadsheet in the workbook.  SIGH.  I had to put it into my Roku, my computer, my phone, my Kindle, and my ancient iPod touch.  Even so, I could not tell you even the first three letters.

The technician asked me about the signs in the house and so I told him about my autonomic nervous system and such.  He had LOTS of questions, as he helped me enter that insanely complicated password into all my devices with wireless capabilities.  He also was interested in the Roku.  I enjoyed teaching someone about that handy little bit of tech awesomeness that lets me watch Hulu and Amazon Prime stuff on my older television.

I suppose I should be thankful for something new to fill my time ... learning the changes in the operating system, in Numbers, and in Pages.  I was glad to notice a bit of a change in Amos.  He calmed down really quickly with the technician and was soon asking the technician to pick him up and hold him.  I laughed.  Amos really don't know how puppy dogs are supposed to act.

I struggle with change.  Early Tuesday morning (around 1:30 a.m.), I found myself battling incredible nausea.  It is such a strange thing, nausea.  Really strange.  Sometimes, it comes upon me like the proverbial frog in a pot of water.  Put a frog in boiling water and he will immediately leap out.  Put a frog in a pot of cold water and slowly bring it to a boil and he won't notice what is happening until it is too late.  Or so the proverb goes.  Anyway, the nausea crept up on me without much notice until that critical tipping point when I realized just how ill I was.

Blood pressure?
Blood sugar?

Which of these were causing the nausea?  It is oft hard for me to figure out what is happening within my body—not to mention my mind.  If the latter two were the cause, I could take my beloved Zofran.    But if the former two were the cause, Zofran wouldn't be much help.  If it is low blood sugar, then I needed to eat.

Even dealing with low blood sugar episodes have changes.  I do not always have the same symptoms.  Sometimes it is this strange headache on the top of my head, a spot of agony.  Sometimes is the the typical shakiness and hollow feeling.  Sometimes it is marked anxiety and irritability.  And, now, sometimes this slow, creeping nausea.

I did not feel well enough to go upstairs to check my blood pressure.  (I really need to get in the habit of bringing the blood pressure cuff and pulseoximeter down stairs with me each morning).  So, I opted for the kitchen to check my blood sugar level.  It was at 48.  Strange.  Sometimes I plummet with no real warning and sometimes I feel horrible at just a tad bit below "normal."  Seeing that number, I started chowing down on glucose pills and shoving protein in my mouth.

A few hours later, I took a shower.  Doing anything with my arms above my head whilst standing is near impossible for me.  When I got out of my six minute shower, my blood pressure was 178/103 and my heart rate was 167.  My whole being was shaking, mind, body, and spirit.  It is very, very, very hard not to grow overwhelmingly frustrated and discouraged over the battle of a mere shower.

Even though I was utterly exhausted after my shower, sleep did not come until somewhere around 10 in the morning, which meant the headache I had finally escaped came back.  But I was also so blooming exhausted that when I got fresh ice packs at 11:30, I left the freezer door open.  So, when I awoke around 3:00 in the afternoon, I had a freezer full of melted ice packs.  No more sleeping.  No more even lying down in the GREEN chair.  That's when I discovered the Internet had gone down for the fifth time in two weeks.

From the little I still know about technology, I cannot see how it could be the equipment here since one moment it was fine and another not and then fine again for days on end before being out again.  However, I am not opposed to having a solution for the problem being a technician changing my dohicky unit, my battery, my router, and my connectors.  And give me an insanely complicated password.

Monday was my father's birthday.  Or would have been.  Or still is.  I am not sure how to say that.  Monday was the first anniversary of the birth of my father since his death.  Monday was also the first day that I felt as if the tide was turning in whatever was making me feel so wretched.  Until the blood sugar crashed early Tuesday and then I struggled to sleep and then made sleep impossible with all that melting because of my forgetting.

My innards are better.  My head is better.  The pain is better.  But the exhaustion is still great.  And my heart hurts.  Not merely because of the highs and lows of my heart rate and blood pressure.  Not even because of the pain in my chest that is becoming more and more prevalent.  All of that is slowly becoming a new normal, a change I've swallowed.

But how do you swallow the change of death?

When I left, I knew I would never see my father again.  When I left, I also knew that he did not have a long time left in his life.  When he started such a dramatic decline in November, I knew he was dying.  When I got the text that he had pneumonia, I expected the next text.  I was prepared.

In this weird, silly way, the fact that I still find myself wailing if I mention my father is the change I find the hardest to face.  And I do not know why.

I didn't shed a tear on Monday.  I felt better than I had in days.  I did not have an anxiety meltdown over having a strange repairman in the house.  I had a slice of the Apple Praline Bread that I made after two failures.  I played with Amos for the first time since I started feeling wretched.  And Marie and I made plans to cook again on Friday, to try out my best friend Becky's recipe for flour tortillas!  So, Monday was a good day, relatively speaking.

It was also my father's birthday and one of the 1,001 changes that I have had to swallow over the past three years.  Chief amongst those is the very fact that I struggle with change now.  Seriously, Apple, did you have to go changing even the icons of Pages and Numbers?  Was it really necessary to make it that much harder for me to use those programs?

Of course, a change today I can definitely live with is my Internet speed going from 0.02 Mbps to 25.68 Mbps.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Am I silly...

Feeling so wretched is exhausting.  And I cannot really change that.  But other things I can ... even if the changing takes eons longer than I think it should.

The fall winds are playing my chimes, have been playing them all day and long into the night.  Despite my bodily misery, the chimes make me smile.  They make my heart sing.  I owned them for several years in Alexandria, but I never heard them play.  Not once.  Here, all fall and all winter, it seems as if God is playing them for me.  Am I silly for thinking such?

I have been listening to my chimes whilst languishing in the GREEN chair.  Their music, I confess, has broken through my discouragement on several occasions.  For example, having given up cable, I now have to miss Monday Night Football.  Oh, how hard that is!  So, Sunday night football is my make-do. Tonight, however, I could really only listen to the game.  My vision was too blurry to follow the plays, which made me a wee bit sadder than I already was.  Feeling so wretched is exhausting and horrid and all I really wanted was to watch the Broncos stomp all over those mean folk disrespecting a quarterback who gave his all for them.  [We won't discuss the outcome of the game.]

So, a while ago, still feeling wretched, I was lying on the GREEN grass awaiting Amos to venture off the back steps to conduct his minor business.  He was too afraid because of all the noise.  At first my mind was on the wind chimes that I could still hear as I watched the night clouds move across the sky.  So, I could not figure out what was frightening Amos.  Then, I realized the source of my puppy dog's fear:  a flock of geese were talking to each other—rather loudly—as they flew above our heads.  In a V.  Really, geese actually do fly in a V!  He must have heard them coming a lot further off than I did.

I laughed so loudly that Amos fled back up the steps to the back door.  Any unexpected noise, even that from his beloved puppy momma, startles him and the fear that washes over him propels him to seek a place a safety.  Poor little guy.

Before I dragged myself off the ground and up the steps to scoop up my very own fluffy white cloud and take him back to where he could complete his business a thought struck me.  What was I feeling in that moment, lying on my GREEN grass, listening to the chimes and watching the night clouds?  I don't know.  I do know that my thoughts were of the wonder and the blessing of creation and how God didn't have to give us such good things in this world.  He could have created a very utilitarian world.  But those are thoughts and not feelings.  I thought about how Amos scurried back up the steps and then thought about the night of the last concert.  I thought about lying on the grass watching the clouds and listening to the large pipe wind chimes.  When we went back inside, I dragged myself upstairs and changed into the fitted outfit I wore at the concert.

I changed into the fitted outfit I wore to the concert, scooped up my puppy who was no longer shaking, and went out to the front porch.  Amos just loves sitting on the bench with me.  And he doesn't really mind if I am shaking or nauseous or filled with fear.  So, I sat on the front porch, listening the wind chimes fill my ears with music, watching the clouds move across the night sky, and wondering what the geese were talking about on their journey south.  For twenty-seven minutes, I concentrated not on what I was feeling in the fitted outfit, but on how I felt about the music and creation and the puppy dog draped across my lap, relaxed and periodically emitting sighs of deep contentment.  You see, at night, there are no interlopers on our sidewalk, so Amos can enjoy his home without need of reminding everyone and every thing that it is his home.

Sitting there in my fitted outfit, I was shaking and nauseous, but I did not vomit.  I was shaking and nauseous, but my whole being was not focused on the fitted clothing ... just part of it.  I did not try to discern what I was feeling or understand it.  A bit of a maelstrom was brewing.  Instead, I tried to focus on the good thoughts and the good feelings and let the bad thoughts and the bad feelings just be without any judgment.  However, twenty-seven minutes was quite enough for me.  

Am I silly for thinking of and doing such a thing?  I don't know.  But, surrounded by the music created by the wind created by my Creator, was a good for me, even though what I was wearing also made the time difficult for me.

Even though he does not understand me, I tell Amos how proud I am of him each time he faces a fear.  Facing fears that do not go away is hard.  Facing fears when you do not actually want to face them is hard.  Facing fears you know fell you is hard.  Amos makes his circuits about the beds before stepping paw on the dreaded grass.  He might "water" the smoke bush four times before his loins are girded enough to take that step.  And taking the first step oft leads to a leap back to the brick boarder or straight over it to the mulch.  Amos might actually attempt to step paw on the dreaded grass five or six times before actually achieving his victory.  Sometimes, in his haste to be off the dreaded grass, he leaps back before he is quite finished with his business and, with much frustration, will stop and finish in another spot.  I laugh at his antics. I weep over his battle.  And I am proud of him.

I know he continues to face his battle because I refuse to let him conduct his business inside.  But I also know he continues to face his battle because I encourage him as he does so.  I give praise for those tentative steps and console him when he flees back to safety before actually taking care of business.  Yes, sometimes I am short with Amos, snapping at him about how wretched I feel and about how hard it is for me to be outside waiting on him.  I am an imperfect puppy momma.  But I do recognize that he is better when he is encouraged, when he is not alone in his battle.

Tonight .... or rather early this morning ... I suppose you could say that I thought that the music being played on the wind chimes and yet another evening of night clouds and a flock of geese flying in a V and nattering with each other as they flew overhead were all God's way of reminding me that while it seems and looks and feels as if I am alone, I am not, actually, alone.

I know that it probably sounds silly to think that God plays my wind chimes.  But He did create the wind and He did grant the knowledge of the making of music to mankind.  I know that Jesus was never ashamed of his body, but He did suffer indignities in and to it.  The Bible teaches that He was tempted in every way, although I cannot fathom Jesus battling shame.  But He did pray to be spared what He knew was coming.  A human does not want to suffer.  And Jesus was human.  A God is willing suffers to save His children.  And Jesus willingly suffered to save me.

Twenty-seven minutes to me is probably like twenty-seven months to you.  Maybe even years.  The weather has definitely turned, so I will not have to worry about wearing cool clothing to concerts until next Spring.  I find a bit of peace and rest in knowing that until then I will get to happily hide in warm outfits.  But maybe when the weather turns warm again and cool clothing is in order, I will remember those twenty-seven minutes and all the good gifts of my Creator that I was able to savor despite being clothed in fear and shame.

Now, I am taking my silly self up to bed, where I hope to get some sleep, despite my still wretched state, because, later on in this morrow that has already begun, I have to face another fear so that the burner on my new stove might have its function restored.  Lord willing, this will be a one-trip-no-part-ordering-and-having-to-return sort of repairman visit.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Still feeling wretched...

This is the third day of struggling with pain in my head, the second of having a migraine.  My innards have been writing because I forgot to take three of the four doses of that medication on Friday and did not remember on Saturday until half way through the day.  I ache and am dizzy and my blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar are all over the place.  My legs are really weak and hurt.  My vision is really blurry, and oft doubled.  I keep having that strange pain in my chest, which I am 99.99% is just another nerve pain to which I have to adapt.  And my hands are still hurting from labors of cleaning.  Mostly, I want to crawl in a cocoon, where there is no light or sound or movement.  One without the night terrors that are back, too.

Last night, wanting something good, I tried making the Apple Praline Bread.  The last time I made it, I ended up with an inedible brick.  The time before that, it was a tad undercooked.  I could accept the latter, but the former was really discouraging.  This is supposed to be that woman recipe, which could get this introverted, wallflower hermit invited to dinners or potlucks.  Marie encouraged me via text the whole way through and I found myself back to culinary victory.  While I was slicing it up for the freezer, I went ahead and ate both end pieces because they are the worst part to me.  What kind of person actually likes end pieces of bread??

However, mostly, I haven't eaten much since all that tastiness with Marie and her sister.  I have just been feeling too wretched to move, to think, to eat.  So, this afternoon, buoyed by seeing the Cowboys win via online play updates, I made a batch of Red Lintel Dahl and a batch of white chili with chicken, using the one of the mixes my sister sent me. I figured that between those two, I could have some protein heavy meals during this time of not really wanting to exist.

I will admit that I was a tad sad making the dahl because my neighbor said I ruined her first day of work at her new job by giving her such a horrible tasting meal.  Now, in checking the recipe, I noticed that I had re-typed two errors: 1) the recipe calls for a tablespoon of oil and 2) a tablespoon of ginger.  I have cooked it with a tablespoon of oil each time, so this time I added a bit more ginger.  However, I just don't see how anyone could say the dahl was horrible, especially someone who said that she really likes lentils.  I think that is the last time I will be cooking for anyone.  I would still be willing to cook with others—very much so—but not being the sole chef.  Of course, I ate 2/3rd of that batch of dahl and found it tastier than the first one since I was able to include the coriander.  Maybe I have a horrible palate???

The other thing I did was bring in the giant spotted begonia and the succulents that I winter in the solarium. I meant to ask Marie if she would do that for me, since it meant four trips up and down the stairs, but I forgot.  When I was carrying the jade plant, I thought I should look for an older photo of it.  The thing languished for years on my back deck in Alexandria and then another year inside here, until my mother suggested I put it on the front porch last summer.  In less than two years, whilst still basically two branches, the stalks (stems??) have at least quadruples in diameter and doubled in length.  The transfer took much huffing and puffing and many breaks, but two of the begonia leaves had grown transparent, which is the tell-tale sign it is too cold for them.

Anyway, I froze half the chili and half the dahl, put the other half of each in the refrigerator, ate the chicken breast that I baked whilst the other dishes were cooking, and crawled back into the GREEN chair.  Yes, even knowing there are thick slabs of Apple Praline Bread in the freezer, I forwent dessert. Me.  Myrtle.  No sweets.

No fires either.

I feel wretched.  Really, really wretched.  I am thankful, though, that this valley came at a time when the house is clean and the laundry is done and the dishes all clean.  So, basically, it is just fine that I am a huddled mess of human misery.  Nothing needs doing.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Greater love has no man than pulling an ear of corn out of a bag...

I do not know if all that cleaning (work) is why I feel so wretched of if really there is no rhyme or reason. I have many bad days.  Today, honestly, my body wanted to call Marie and tell her that I just couldn't cook with her.  But my mind still did.  I went with my mind.

If ever you want to make me giddy and warm the cockles of my heart, visit me and pull an ear of corn out of your bag.  Yep, that's just want Marie did!  She didn't even know I've been mourning the lack of ears of corn in the store and thinking about how long it will be before I get to have the sumptuous Grilled Corn on the Cob with Cheese and Lime.  A deep sadness stealing over me at the thought of not tasting that deliciousness for months and months and months.  Then, Marie show up with the proverbial twinkle in her eye and a rather mischievous grin and slides an ear of corn of her bag ... asking if I wanted to eat it.


So, although I was (and still am) feeling rather wretched, not only did I get to eat slightly overcooked (sorry Marie and Michelle) Three Cheese and Balsamic Glaze Flat Bread and some chicken baked in Thai peanut sauce and served over basmati rice, but I got to have me some grilled corn again!  Thankfully, I had just enough lime left (one whole and one slightly squeezed half), since you want to serve it with two lime wedges to properly lime up your grilled deliciousness.

We made each one separate and ate them with wine ... cooking and talking for hours.  SIGH.

Michelle and Marie did the bulk of the work.  For the flatbread, I cut up the brie cheese and put together the flatbread when everything else was ready (and I over cooked it).  Marie and Michelle did all the hard work (Marie is already an expert at béchamel sauce).  I mixed the crema and cayenne pepper for the corn and cut the lime into wedges.  That was it.  Marie soaked the corn, de-silked it (with Michelle's help), grilled it, put it in the corn dishes, spread the crema, topped it with feta, and put the wedges of lime on the side of the ears.  My chief labor was preparing the chicken:  dip it in cream, lightly dredge it in flour (that Michelle measured, salted, and peppered), topped with a bit of butter, and poured the Thai peanut sauce in the French Ovals.  I also readied the water and rice, but Marie cooked it.  So, the bottom line is that I had all this tasty food and had to do very little work other than to stuff my face and sigh with deep contentment.

Those two gracious women even helped me hang the load of laundry I did out on the line.
More mercy.

After they left, I spend the day trying to rest, but my headache kept me from napping.  I am all discombobulated in body, with lots of pain, heart flip-flops, dizziness, and shakiness.  I am also short of breath when I do pretty much anything.  However, the house is clean, the kitchen is clean, the laundry is clean, and all I have to do is be a lump until this passes.  I don't think it helped that I awoke this morning around 5:00 with extremely low blood sugar.  I am always a tad grumpy after those crashes.  Grumpiness and malaise do not go well together.  I even snapped at my fluffy white lavender aromatherapy for not being careful as he crossed my abdomen to reach his most favorite spot on the GREEN chair before apologizing to him.  Amos forgave me ... after I fed him dinner with the Thai peanut sauced rice plate scrapings I saved for him.  Amos will eat anything except for bananas.

After all of that eating, Marie and Michelle took a walk before heading out.  Amos and I waited for them on the front porch, so I could savor the large pipe chimes blowing in the fall winds.  I took the time to dare read further in my Gospel harmony.  You see, the next section had healing as a title and so I was worried I would see Law and not Gospel and fall back into punishing myself for not being a godly suffering saint.  I want to write another Gospel Harmony Joy Note ... when my head is not aching so much.  Mostly, I did not understand what I read, but I was not ... worried ... about it.

I did have one thought:  One of the readings was about the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' robe because she believe touching doing so would heal her.  Not even hear the Word, but merely touching the Living Word.  So, uhm, well ... many I am not so crazy for sleeping with my NASB 1977 bibles when I am deeply troubled, frightened, or both???????

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cleaning exhaustion, puppy dog curls, and weirdness...

My house is, at the very moment, cleaner than it has been since I bought it.  Seriously, no matter what I have written about cleaning for guest before, I did not make the effort I did this week.  I suppose ... this sort of effort will be another nearly three years in the making, too.

I scoured my bathroom, changed the hand towels in all three bathrooms, cleaned the fireplace, steam mopped the entire first floor twice, wiped as far as I could beneath the couch (I briefly considered moving it), cleaned the inside and outside of all my kitchen appliances, cleaned the bodies of all the lamps, and gave Amos his bath. I also emptied all the trashcans and took out the trash and the recycling. Finally, I took my own bath and started a load of laundry, one full of towels and cleaning rags.  I have more laundry to do, but it can wait.

Once he is all dry, one of my favorite pastimes is to choose a favorite curl.  They are all so fluffy and soft and smell so wonderful.  When one is utterly exhausted from cleaning all three floors of a house that is not really cleaned all that often (very straight and neat, but not cleaned), choosing favorite curls and twisting them about your finger is about all you can do.

The weirdness is from the photos I tried to take last night.  The thing is, on the LCD screen of the camera I could see the photos.  I was actually a little bit excited that I seemed to be getting the hang of taking photos of night clouds.  However, when I stuck the memory card in the computer, this is what I found, for the most part:

Beautiful, eh?  So, I did what I never do.  I tried to fiddle with them in PhotoShop.  SIGH.  Here is eons of work that was basically comprised of clueless fiddling with settings.

So, the thing is ... the clouds are there.  You just cannot see them.  Why, then, can I see them on the camera screen??

How about this one?

At least you can sort of get what the sky looked like.  I really marvel at night clouds because they are so white and bright against the evening darkness.

How about this fiddling?

I tried to take a photo of the clouds passing behind the moon.

So, I fiddled with this one, too.

However, no matter how much I fiddled with all those confusing settings, I could not make the clouds appear.

Before heading inside, I thought I would take a photo of Amos, who was waiting for me on the back steps as I moved my tripod around trying to capture the beauty I see in night clouds.  He is, after all, beautiful himself.

So, uhm, I forgot that puppy dogs do not usually just sit still for long periods of time when you are taking night shots without flash.  Kind of creepy, eh?  He was sitting, but he had just gotten up to circle and then settle back down again.  So, I ended up with ghost Amos instead of adorable Amos.

What a gift he is, ghost or otherwise!
Especially, so, when he is serving as my lavender aroma therapy.
And lap warmer on a cold fall night.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cleaning, cooking, and a crowded bed...

I mentioned this weed a while ago, and Caryl asked for a photo.  We've had a bit of a dry spell, and I noticed one popped up in a bare spot right by the garage door.  They seemingly appear overnight, grow out of hard-packed dirt, and look more like a succulent than a weed.  I already plucked and disposed of this one, but I should have taken progress photos.  In mere days that feel like just a blink of an eye, the weed will become this rather substantial plant, growing ever thicker in stem diameter and broader in leaf as it grows longer in length and numerous in branches.  In some ways, I would almost welcome one in a pot or an isolated bed ... except that when I first transitioned the front curved bed to a rectangular shape and had raw dirt for a while, these suckers would spring up and start taking over the adjacent grass when my back was turned.  Were I skilled in time-lapse photography, I believe you would agree I am not exaggerating in just how quickly these grow.  Were the weed edible, we would no longer have a hunger problem in America or across the world.

Today, I dusted all of the second floor, save for the baseboards.  Dusting makes me sometimes faint.  Dusting baseboards makes me always faint.  I dusted the front and back of all 11 doors, all 17 window sills, and the entire frames of all 22 pieces of artwork and five mirrors.  Of course, I also dusted the surfaces of all of the furniture and the doodads atop the furniture.   So, tomorrow I will clean my bathroom, put out fresh hand towels in all three bathrooms, steam mop the kitchen floor, and give the fluffy white beast a bath.  Then, I shall hope no new visitors (only old ones I can welcome into a less-than-clean home) arrive for months and months and months.  Other than pulling out the couch and tending to the horrible dirty floor beneath it, my house will be cleaner than it has been in ... well, let's just say it will be clean.

I don't like cleaning because it leaves me sweaty, shaking, and short of breath.  I also sometimes faint.  Amos doesn't like me cleaning because it means less snuggling-with-Myrtle time.  I agree with him on that point.

The Red Lentil Dahl was definitely tastier when made with the inclusion of the missing coriander and with the reduction in salt.  The saint in me was happy to put an overly generous serving of the dahl in a container and bring it to my neighbor for her first day of work at her new job on the morrow.  The sinner in me was saddened to see her actually accept the gift out of my slightly-too-clenched hands, because that means I have just one serving left for me since I had a bowl and a half of the new batch for my own lunch today.   The new cookware set has a 5 quart sauteuse pan that I would like very much.  I believe that I could more easily make a double recipe of the dahl in it and use it to make Marie's most magnificent Sante Fe Soup.  I would feel silly making a double recipe of the dahl in the 7 quart stock pot that came with the set.

While I was making the dahl, I did finally figure out that I had the stock pot lid on the sauteuse pan, and when I switched the lids, steam no longer escaped from the sauteuse pan.  They are extremely close in size, so I am not all that upset with myself for not making the mistake, but I do think that four times of using the pot and wondering about the escaping steam is a little overly long to work out that perhaps you should check to see if the lids were mix-ed up when you unpacked the box.

Both last night and today, I also worked on the effects of sexual abuse blog.  I had not been writing because of what writing about emotions was bringing up within me, but I want to write.  I want to help in whatever small way my blog can, help others learn to recognize and understand the effects of sexual abuse ... in others, in themselves.  Then, I wondered if I should explain why I had not been writing or just move on, because I do not want the blog to be so much about me as about sharing the effects of sexual abuse.  I ended up posting about the why of the lack of posts last night.  Then, today, I girded my loins and wrote another entry on an overview of  stages of healing from sexual abuse.

Someone who read the latter emailed me to tell me that I had already written about the Living Word ... basically telling me that part of today's blog entry was my repeating myself.  A part of me felt stupid and ashamed that I cannot even remember what I wrote on a brand new blog with just a few entries.  A part of me thought it fitting and proper to repeat many, many times the efficacy and sufficiency of the Living Word for all persons in all circumstances and that one need not worry about what to say to the wounded soul because our Triune God has said it all for us.

I will admit that I was upset writing about why I had not written, so much so that I slept with all my copies of my beloved NASB 1977 and all my copies of the Christian Book of Concord (BOC).  Amos had to pick his way through the circle of scripture and doctrine I made about my person.  At first, he thought to just sleep atop me, but my slow-suffocation punctuated by ever-increasing gasps and whimpered begging for him to "lay down" caused him to re-think his decision.  Amos ended up stretched out at my side with his head on my pillow.  A pillow with Myrtle, Amos, ice packs, a bible, a BOC, Flower Baby, and Froggy Long Legs Baby.  I am not the only one in need of comfort.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Amos Ferdinand Adams...

Just call him Amos Ferdinand Adams.  

Yes, that is my puppy dog stopping to smell the flowers.  He does this over and over and over again even on the same trip outside to do his business.  You see, all those circuits about the yard, are not merely Amos girding his loins to venture out onto the GREEN glass, but rather my puppy dog looking for blooms to sniff.  Amos doesn't seem to mind if the blooms actually have a strong fragrance.  He just likes to check them out.  

I am not sure if it is Amos or I who is more disappointed the late summer mini-heat wave zapped the rest of the Rose of Sharon blooms.  In any case, even though the remaining buds are still tightly closed, Amos stops to see if any have opened on his circuits of all the beds.  It cracks me up to see how hard he works to reach higher blooms.  He is also very careful to avoid thorns whilst checking out the roses bushes.  He tries to get to the honeysuckle, standing on his back legs, but usually the blooms are still too high for  him.  As for the day lilies, well, he just wades right into the bed.  Along the garage wall, Amos has beaten down a path so that he can more easily reach the blooms in the back of the bed.  Sadly, he still checks on the day lilies, even though those blooms are long gone.  At least the pink bush by the back door is still pushing out blooms, as is the new butterfly bush.

Anyway, if you have not yet read Munro Leaf's The Story of Ferdinand, please go check out a copy from the library right now.  Better yet, buy a copy!

Marie's sister is coming in town this weekend, so the two of them are coming over for a cooking fest Friday lunch.  Since I have never met her, I do not feel the freedom to simply ask her to not look all that closely at the floors.  Marie?  Well, the eggplant peal still on the kitchen floor was put there by her, so I don't mind that it is still stuck to a tile near the trash can.  But a new visitor?  Well, I have started the Southern Hospitality Clean.

The entire first floor has been dusted, vacuumed, and swiffered.  The powder bath has been cleaned, as well as the bath in the basement living space.  I also dusted the living space down there, since it was still had a bit of the sawdust generated from my fixing the closet door that was sticking.  The artwork and mirrors have been cleaned and the steam mop is waiting in the kitchen.  [I figured I should do that late Thursday night.]  The main staircase has also been cleaned and all the floors upstairs vacuumed.  I still need to clean the bathroom and dust all of the rooms, in case Michelle heads up there, as well as tackle all the demi-tasse cups on the three-tired table in the dining room.  Also on my list is a freshly lavendered Amos.  I will probably take care of that tomorrow.

I waffled a bit, but decided the silver does not quite need polishing yet, but I did set about working on the family album from the early 1800s. I don't know why I never noticed how dirty it was.  I am ignoring the panes of the French doors.  I cleaned them in July, so they should not be all that bad.  The one task I wonder if I should tackle is cleaning all the shelves in the refrigerator since we will be cooking together.  It is a mystery to me how a refrigerator can get so dirty.

I am, of course, exhausted.
And excited.
I get to cook with Marie! 

Marie asked if we could have the Three Cheese and Balsamic Glaze Flatbread again, along with chicken baked with Thai peanut sauce and then served over basmati rice.  The question is:  Do I try to make the béchamel sauce all on my own or conveniently hand that task over to Marie again?  After all, someone has to grate the gruyere, slice up the Brie, and cut the basil paste into the feta.

Tomorrow, to gird my loins for more cleaning, I plan to make Red Lentil Dahl again, since I now have coriander. I am rather curious if I will notice a difference in the taste.  Or if Amos does, since he pre-cleans all the dishes for me.  Too bad he cannot clean the house ... say lick all the dirt off the floors that I cannot see so rarely notice their level of uncleanliness until just before someone is coming over for a visit.  That would surely earn his keep.

I did post to the Snippets from the Christian Book of Concord blog archive today.  Even though I feel as if the archive has a good cross section in it, I still want to add good bits here and there.  Today's made me think of Mary.  I could almost hear her voice as I read this bit of sweet, sweet Gospel:

When such majesty is denied to Christ according to His humanity, we regard it as a deadly error. For by this the very great consolation mentioned above is taken from Christians, which they have in the promise about the presence and dwelling with them of their Head, King, and High Priest. He has promised them that not only His mere divinity would be with them (which to us poor sinners is like a consuming fire on dry stubble). But Christ promised that He—He, the man who has spoken with them, who has experienced all tribulations in His received human nature, and who can therefore have sympathy with us, as with men and His brethren—He will be with us in all our troubles also according to the nature by which He is our brother and we are flesh of His flesh.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Monday, October 14, 2013

One thing...

My neighbor got a new job, which has benefits.  She has not had benefits since her husband died about six years ago.  And, when she did, he took care of all the decision-making and paperwork.  She asked me to help her go through her options and fill out her paperwork.  As a communications professional,  I used to help fellow employees understand benefits all the time, and, frankly, I have had to take care of this for myself since I was 21.  Thus, I used to speak this language with great ease, able to scan a plan and see the big picture of those costs and benefits with very little effort.

Last spring, I struggled mightily trying to wade through the Medicare options.  I worked with a Medicare counselor and made what I thought was the right choice.  However, many medications ended up being either not covered or restricted.  I was rather discouraged at the first non-covered drug letter.  By the sixth (and last) one, I was merely nauseous.  And numb.  Both the pharmacy and my doctor's office spent months working through some of the approvals (not all).  They are only valid through the end of this year, so those approvals will need to be obtained all over again in January.  Neither the Pharmacy nor my doctor's office are looking forward to this process.  Both have made numerous comments as to the arduous nature of obtaining the approvals I did get.

Despite that heavy weight of failure hanging about my neck, I met with my neighbor and went through her benefits and paperwork. I taught her about Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts.  I made a spreadsheet of her costs between the two health plan options, itemizing out expenses based on her past few years of healthcare.  I taught her about the value of the 100% match on retirement encouraged her to max out that benefit because she would make substantially more in the match than she would saving the money on her own.  I showed her, also, how pre-tax dollars are actually less than post-tax dollars and thus a savings in itself for the time being.  And I helped her research her Affordable Healthcare Act obligation since she still cares for her autistic son who will be 20 soon, but who does not work or is independent in any fashion.

We filled out all of her paperwork and wrote up a list of questions for the agent who currently sells her major medical to see if keeping her son on that plan by himself, adding him to her new work plan, or going through the exchange would be most economical.  I created a comparison chart for her to fill out as her questions were answered. I also wrote up a list of questions for her tax preparer to see difference between claiming him as a dependent and paying for his medical, but not receiving a subsidy since she has a work plan now or having him file his own return and receive the subsidy.  In short, I helped her make her 2013 and 2014 decisions for herself and outlined a course of action to arrive at the decisions for the 2013 and 2014 decisions for her son.

Her world, though, is still easy for me to see.  She and her son are both healthy and are on no medications.  We reviewed all the ER trips, doctor visits, and annual check-ups and testing for the two of them for the past several years.  We looked at the increase in her salary and her current budget.  Her world is simple, really, though low-income.  The greatest gift her husband did was to insist they save for and pay for their house in cash.  Not having rent or mortgage drastically affects a budget!

My world? Well, the Medicare exchange opens up today and at 12:01 AM I was on the website.  I received a letter last week informing me that my current plan is adding a monthly drug premium and increasing all co-pays and deductibles.  That got me to thinking about the Part B premium itself and a Google search seems to indicate that is going up as well.  From the letter and the indicated increase, my monthly medical expenses of just premiums and prescriptions, will be rising just over $100.  The letter made me nauseous and numb.

From the past four hours of searching, I discovered that my options are limited to 13 plans from which to choose, down from the 39 of last year.  I suppose that is good news ... less to weigh and consider.  I am fairly sure that, cost wise, there really are just 2-3 plans that I could choose, primarily because some of them have monthly drug premiums of up to $98.  By comparison, the new $17 premium is more palatable.  However, breaking down the expenses between my current plan and the only other real option I see as plausible, is confusing to me.  Drug and premiums would be annually close to $1,100 less.  That is a significant amount to me.  However, the other coverages are harder to compare.  For example, the new plan is $85 more per day in hospital stay, but that drops to $0 after 5 days, whereas my current plan keeps the co-pay in place through seven days.  Of course, given how quickly folk kick you out of the hospital these days, I am not sure I would be in on day six and seven for that savings to reverse between plans.

The interesting thing I noted was, with the current covered drugs, my annual prescription cost at current market prices, without the drug plan, would be $49,992.  GULP.  If that isn't inspiration enough to figure out which plan to choose, I don't know what is.

But back to math ... the new plan is less for outpatient care, but more for an ER visit.  The new plan is more for an ambulance.    The new plan has a greater out-of-pocket maximum, but gets me through the donut hole of prescriptions faster.  Those prescriptions will be less, as I noted.

I could go on, but needless-to-say, I am struggling to create a spread sheet that fits my world and considers my future.  It seems that, at first pass, remaining with my current insurance plan, even with the rather difficult to swallow increased monthly costs, will be the best course of action.  But then I start to wonder.  What about those other 11 plans.  Some double and others triple my estimated annual expenses.  Why in the world would someone pick those plans?  I looked at the Blue Cross options, since the news reports say those are the most popular health exchange plans thus far, and they are all more expensive and I see no difference in coverage than the one I am currently on, save for the aforementioned extra cost in outpatient services.  That line item is ten times greater in my plan than any other.  So, really, I would avoid any and all outpatient services if at all in my control.  Other than that, I can see no benefit of spending three times more in prescriptions.  In fact, it looks as the flat coverage of 70% kicks in during longer care options rather than a daily cap.  Now, if you were in the hospital for something serious, a daily maximum cost of $245 would surely, surely be the better option, given all the medications and specialists and labs and such that add up exponentially.  Plus, oddly, the mail order option in both of those is far more than my beloved Target pharmacy.  The researcher in me wonders.  What am I missing?  Why pay ever so much more for no discernible gain in benefits?  I simply have to be missing something.  I have to be missing something.

One of the burners on my new stove is broken. Given that I never used it before trying to cook an egg on it the other day, I am certain it has been broken since the stove arrived here.  This concerns me, but it also means a warranty repair man ... a strange man ... coming to my home.  Monday.  Afternoon.  Another battle I will be facing.

I will confess, since I struggled with the strain of helping with childcare for two weeks and facing that letter, that I called the cardiologist office last week and asked to reschedule my appointment that was tomorrow.  And, truthfully, I was concerned about the $50 co-pay.  I wanted to reschedule until after my credit card cycles, until the last week of this month.  Unfortunately, the next available opening is January 8th.  In my mind, if the heart monitoring showed anything dire, I would have been called back immediately.  Given that that did not happen (and I have a copy of my Theophylline level check), I accepted the delayed appointment.  I couldn't face working up the courage and the strength to face going back to a male doctor after the past two weeks.  And, now facing the aftermath of my rather substantial panic attack Saturday night and my confusion and worry over making the healthcare choice, I am even more relieved about the lack of an appointment this week.

Although not always possible, I really do best with facing one task at a time.  This week, gathering Medicare data on all 13 plan options, checking prescription formularies and in-network doctors, comparing and contrasting and calculating costs.  Next week, facing the strange man in my house.  The week after, perhaps calling the county recorders office to see if the contractor followed through on his threat of a lien.  I know if he did, all I would have to do is ask for a hearing and present the contract.  All those ridiculous extra expenses would be disregarded and a lien removed.  Still, just making the call terrifies me because of the mere possibility of having to, first, go to court and, second, being in the same room with the contractor again.

And, of course, laced with all of these things is trying not to punish myself for being weak, for being afraid, for no longer being able to do what I can do or handle (with any sort of grace) what I used to be able to face.  Trying to balance the loss of the old me and accepting the new me is exhausting.

I have written before about the solace of Psalm 27:

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,

To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.
And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When Thou didst say, "Seek My face," my heart said to Thee,
"Your face, O LORD, I shall seek."
Do not hide Thy face from me,
Do not turn Thy servant away in anger;
Thou hast been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the LORD will take me up.

Teach me Your way, O LORD,
And lead me in a level path
Because of my foes.
Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries,
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD.

Oh, how I savor that one thing.

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, 

For me, I really do see that dwelling, here and now, as hiding in the Living Word, especially the Psalter, as hiding in the certitude of the Christian Book of Concord.  I hide there.  But I also long for safety.  Oh, how I long for the forgiveness that I can grasp when I hear the Living Word read to me, for me.

Thinking of all the thoughts and feelings, of how my body, mind, and spirit were so thoroughly felled Saturday night, I still long to hear the Word.  It quiets me, washes me clean, if only for a while, of the shame that clings to me.  It sustains me. It restores me.

How in the world can I think about and wade through medical math when what lingers in my mind is how I felt then and now?  Truth be told, I long to wad up that outfit and toss it in the fire place so that I have no cool option for the performances next Spring.  Truth be told, I've had six showers since I returned ... along with a few stays in the small, dark end of my closet.  Truth be told, that panic attack is still not quite over for me.

One thing.

Is is possible that one of the new instruments I saw at the symphony was a contrabass clarinet?  This was the one that was used in Johannes Brahms' Symphony No. 4.  I am still trying to discover what those instruments might be.  The celesta was used in the first warm-up, Phillip Glass' The Secret Agent.  The other warm-up, from another American contemporary composer, was Christopher Rouse's Oboe Concerto.  Strangely, for one who loves the oboe, I found this piece to be utterly unsatisfying.  No long, glorious haunting oboe notes.  They were all high and filled with runs and jumps and skips and hops and nothing I ever thought would come forth from an oboe.

Did I mention that there were 24 violins during the Brahms' piece?  Next up is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings.  The two warm-ups for that evening are Jean Sibelius' The Swan of Tuonela (which makes me think of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series since Matt marries Tuon) and César Franck's Symphony in D minor.  If there were 24 violins during the Brahms' piece, with a whole selection of violas, cellos, and basses on the other side of the stage, just how many stringed instruments might there be for Tchaikovsky???

One thing.

Did I mention that I have started watching Albrecht Meyer's Carnegie Hall Oboe Master Classes on You Tube?  I love them, even though I do not understand a single thing the master teacher is saying, not being musical in the least.  You should watch this one.  And this one, for sure.  And maybe this one, too.  And, here, can also get a mini-lesson on how air changes your life.  Or you could just revel in Albrecht Meyer playing himself ... 11 minutes and 47 seconds of Bach bliss.  And here is 15 minutes and three seconds of Schumann bliss, with lots of lingering haunting oboe notes and someone playing something called a clavier.  But Albrecht Meyer really is a phenomenal, intriguing, entertaining teacher.  So, maybe just watch them all.

One thing.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!