Tuesday, April 29, 2008

at wit's end

During Bobby's first hospital visit, Linus's collar was discovered in three pieces in the yard. I haven't had time to replace it, so they've both been in the pen. Tonight I go to feed them, and Lucy's collar is chewed in pieces with the plastic clasp totally missing. It was partially buried.

We have put in an electric fence. It quit working. We bailed them out of the pound. And again. We then called a professional company and had a new electric fence installed, and then had it repaired. Now the dogs refuse to wear their collars. I'm at my wit's end. Any suggestions for my vagabond wanderers?

Monday, April 28, 2008

YES!!!

After more than a few years, I have finally figured out how to make my scanner scan slides and negatives! So last night I scanned in a box of slides my parents had given me. About half of them were pics of my uncle when he was in Vietnam, and the rest were a hodgepodge of people and places my parents took. So now I just need to burn all the pics to a CD and get them in the mail, and that's one more thing I can check off my

"Not Urgent Nor Important but I Want to Get This Done Before I Die To Do List."
  1. Organize the pink room!
  2. Finish my China scrapbook.
  3. Compile all of Bobby's mementos in a scrapbook.
  4. Update our scrapbook.
  5. Finish that frog drawing I started about 5 years ago.
  6. Start and finish the gazillion quilt ideas I have.
  7. Write a novel.
  8. Finish at least two of my picture books.
  9. Actually, just organize all my writing papers.
  10. Create a cool family tree.
  11. Travel.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

so sad

We received a phone call tonight, telling us that the youngest son of Sam Ellis was killed in an accident this morning at 3:30am. Sam Ellis was in the NC House of Reps for a few years, and his boys attended WCA for parts of elementary school. Please keep this family in your prayers.

the nobody from nowhere who did something

Tonight the ladies at CBC started a very intriguing Bible study on the prophet Elijah. In all the studies I've sat through on the big E, this is the first one where we've ever started with his background. (I Kings 17:1 - you can dissect it yourself.) And the thing that impressed me more than anything, was that this nobody from nowhere dared to do something.

So many times I watch the homeless men at the intersection of 10-10 and 401, and I'm burdened by their plight, disturbed at their circumstances, aggravated by their litter, and ticked off by their signs and unwillingness to work. Yet when was the last time I personally volunteered at the Raleigh Rescue Mission?

I drive by Planned Parenthood in downtown Raleigh, and I think of all the girls who faced an unwanted pregnancy and considered or had an abortion (including sisters in Christ). When was the last time I donated either time or resources to the Christian Life Home in Raleigh (a home with counseling sessions for unwed Moms)? When was the last time I did anything for the House of Hope in Clayton, which helps troubled teenage girls struggling with rebellion, crime, drugs, and alcohol?

Too many times I wrap my little security blankets around my head so I don't see the world's problems surrounding us. Oh, I have a job, a home, a husband, a yard, a garden, a church, and hobbies....and so on. That keeps me busy and God doesn't expect me to do it all. And while he doesn't expect us to do it all, I do believe he expects us to take his word at face value and "redeem the time because our days our evil." Our local news at 5 o'clock aren't things that happen somewhere else; it's here in our own backyard.

So I don' t know the when, or the how, but I do know this little somebody better do something soon.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

chemicals

In the old days, people used chemicals in their gardens without much thought. Even though many of the chemicals used in the past are now banned, there are still countless others that abound. When I hear people talk about organic foods, I can't help but wonder how they can truly be organic. I mean, look at them, there's not a spot, blemish, fungus, nor worm-hole anywhere on the product. To me, that means a chemical was used somewhere in the process. Maybe I'm just totally clueless as to the "proper" ways of farming, but every time I've ever had to shell peas from a farmer who doesn't use chemicals, we ended up throwing half of them out due to worms and other such pestilences.

Our pear tree, which has always done well, has 13 branches on it where all the blossoms have died. From what little I've been able to find, that means a disease/fungus is on the tree that can only be eliminated with -you guessed it: chemicals.

So while I don't want to fill my body full of poisons, I also don't want to spend an hour every day weeding my garden, or planting trees only to have them die or bear rotten fruit, nor have worm-infested peas or half-moldy apples. I guess that's why I think all this organic mess is a more than a little on the devious side. There's no way you can get truly healthy products without the use of some chemicals. At least not that I've ever observed.

Now that I've posted this, there may not be quite as many people willing to eat at my house, but provided everything continues to do well, I should save substantial time and money on our fruit and veggies. And for me, that's worth it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

home, sweet, home

We are home!!!!
Bobby is already better, I crashed with him this afternoon instead of doing laundry and cleaning house, and I'm starting to think the light at the end of this tunnel might not be a train after all!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

early bird lessons

It's not quite 7am.
The geese go crazy.
I finish fixing breakfast.
The dogs are going crazy.
Bobby looks outside and frowns.
"The geese are paired off," he says.
It's nesting season, not mating season.
Perhaps the flux in weather has them mixed up.
The dogs go berserk.
A fox is staring them down, right outside their pen.
I run out on the back ramp, and yell at him like before.
He ignores me, and the goose chase begins.
I run inside, grab the gun, pull out the bullet box, sending wheelchair replacement parts everywhere.
I start trying to figure out how to load the thing, calling for Bobby.
He's outside watching the chase!
I am not a happy camper.
He comes in, giving instructions and a play-by-play account of what's happening.
Directional communications has never been our strong point.
It took 5 minutes to load one stupid bullet.
I can't see through the scope.
I point in the direction of the fox and shoot.
It scares him off and everything gets quiet.
We eat breakfast.
Bobby finishes getting ready for work.
I get a lecture on gun safety.
Our geese are safe.
I've shot a real gun for the first time ever - a .22 rifle, to be more specific.
My heart is still racing.
Sitting at a computer typing and drawing boxes seems a little lame at the moment.
Go GEESE!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

jr church

One of the things Mrs. Mincy does with the Jr Church kids that I really like is personalized questions. It gives the kids a chance to talk (which they all love), and it also gives you a small glimpse into their personalities. Sometimes she'll ask their favorite color, or their favorite food, or animal, and so on. But today, she asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. The kids actually had a wide variety of answers (sometimes they all say similar things), but here's my favorites:
  • a caterpillar
  • a power ranger
  • a gymnastics teacher

I guess I think the last one is cool because I was totally fascinated with Mary Lou Retton as a child. I wanted to be a gymnast (never mind the fact that I was terrified of heights, had to hold my glasses in place just to turn a flip, and was petrified of wearing either shorts or a swimsuit in front of other people). After Mary Lou won her gold medal, gymnastic classes started popping up everywhere, and the Sears catalogue started carrying a whole line of gymnastic outfits for little girls (for which I could never convince my mother I needed). Yet all the times I dreamed of being famous like Mary Lou just for running and jumping and prancing around, it never once crossed my mind that people could have jobs teaching stuff like that. Maybe all their ingenuity will rub off on me a little bit.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

the "new" good ol' days

I enjoy using Target pharmacy. I can browse with a purpose. It might be 15 minutes; it might be thirty; but I'm not wasting time. I am waiting on medicine. (a good and noble cause!)

But yesterday I saw something that took me aback, and I'm still not sure what I think of it.

Target has recycled its plastic bags into a somewhat heavy duty reusable shopping bag. Bring the bag with you when you come to the store, and you leave with your stuff in one bag. All for the price of $5.99. BUT, if you buy a $4.95 magazine, the cover comes off and is designed to make an envelope to recycle Target bags. Mail the envelope full of old Target plastic bags, and they'll mail you a $5.99 bag for FREE!

I'm all for recycling. I enjoyed the aspect of China where you took your own basket to the market, eliminating the need for plastic bags. But there's the catch - in China you shop either every day, or every other day. Any necessity you need to buy is within a 5 minute walk of your apartment. But America is not China. I drive to the store, and stock up on enough supplies to last a week, or two, or a month. So one little, bitty bag won't cut it for me.

I also like Target's plastic shopping bags. I reuse them as trash bags for all my small garbage cans. They're a whole lot sturdier than Wal-mart's or Food Lion's bags, and I don't have to worry about how heavy an item is before I place it into the little trash cans.

I'm also puzzled why Target is SELLING recycled bags if they are truly so concerned about the environment. All those huge "purses" they're selling at the front of the store (you know, with Wonder Woman, the big spoons, etc)- well, turns out they're actually reusable shopping bags. At least that's how they're promoting them on-line.

Talk about supply and demand. Oh, you've got too much stuff for this bag? No problem, we have a huge selection of bags right here. Go grab one really quick. They're all under 14.99! Oh, forgot your bag again? No problem! Here, buy a recycled Target bag for $5.99. Well, yes, there is a slight hole where the bags didn't quite melt together, but it should last you until you get home and the dogs jump on it, or you bump into the door frame going in.

I'm all for recycling, but I'm also for common sense. Does that make me environmentally unfriendly?

Friday, April 18, 2008

synonyms and antonyms

Today at the dr.s office I had to look away while they cleaned Bobby's hand. The doctor happened to look up at one point, chuckled, and asked me if I needed to step outside. And I could list numerous occasions when I almost grossed out (okay, I did gross out) at things.

I am Bobby's caregiver, as well as his wife, and I am asked about that every time we go to the hospital. Yet even though caregivers do some of the same things a nurse's aid would do, I AM NOT A NURSE!

I often get told by other nurses that I should consider it. In my opinion, that's about like people who can sing telling Bobby that he can sing, too. (And for the record, he's not quite as bad as he thinks he is.)

Caregiving and nursing, while the actions may be synonymous, are almost antonyms in my mind. I am a caregiver because I care about Bobby. Nurses are nurses because...? they enjoy what they do?!? I cannot fathom taking care of a sick person I don't know. There have been times it's been a struggle to take care of Bobby.

I am SO thankful for Dr.s and Nurses - mainly because they seem to handle with ease jobs that I can't. I think I'm going to have to find another stress reliever besides chocolate and Dr. Pepper, 'cause his hand has about pushed my weight and nerves to its limits!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

kids

A father and his young son came fishing at the house the other day. And there's nothing to widen your eyes to the wonders of our world like watching a child.

Our duck house was radically transformed. Who knew that big, plunky, plastic chair would fit in there? But fit it did, providing a perfect, little house with windows for such a small body.

And his excitement over catching a fish was something. When Bobby got home from work, he went down there to visit, and came back smiling. "Let me show you how to catch a fish," he he told Bobby. And when he did catch one, he turned back and grinned this huge smile.

Where is it along life's way do we lose such wonder? When did I become leery of bugs, so that I cringe at the thought of crawling into a small space like a duck house? And what is it about childhood (and puppies) that make them want to chase things? We haven't had a child yet that didn't chase the ducks or geese (nor a dog, for that matter!). There's nothing malicious in the act; the children are always laughing and having a good time. Where along the path to adulthood did we lose the thrill of the chase and become concerned with the poor ducks?

I think the father and the son had a great time. And I think I regained a small sense of that wonder you lose when you live in an all adult world.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

vacation list

Here's a list of places I would like to visit before I die (though not in any particular order):
  1. Washington, DC
  2. the Grand Canyon
  3. Yellowstone National Park
  4. Niagara Falls
  5. northern CA - to see those huge redwood trees
  6. the Amish country of PA
  7. Israel
  8. the castles of Germany
  9. Australia
  10. a safari tour in Africa

Sunday, April 13, 2008

idiosyncrasies

When my parents were here, my mother complimented me on my organizing skills. At first I thought she was joking. Then I realized she was being serious (which makes Bobby either laugh or groan). And this made me feel good for two reasons: one, constructive criticism is a refined art in my family; two, I needed some edification at that point.
Of course, part of the organization is a carry-over from inviting families over for an Easter egg hunt. But even that in itself points to my craziness. Instead of cleaning the hallway which everyone would see, I cleaned and organized the pantry (except for that dreadful top shelf which I can't reach anyway). My kitchen table always stays a mess. My husband likes to joke that he forgets the top of the dresser and his desk are actually wood. And the laundry room is an overflowing, monstrosity that seems to take a life of its own. HOWEVER, my pots and pans are stacked according to size. The small spoons stay in their own slot, as do the small forks, etc. My glasses are arranged in the cabinet according to style and size. And I keep my clothes closet somewhat organized (we won't talk about the fact that I own clothes I haven't been able to fit into in three years!). So I am organized, just not in places or ways that are apparent to most people. And I tell myself as long as I stay organized in some areas, then the rest of the mess is okay.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

vanity and church meals

Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
When I was in high school, I worried too much about what people thought of me. Now I've grown up, and I still worry too much about what people think of me. Only the things I worry about have changed.
For example, after I got married, for the first time I had to prepare a meal for church potlucks. Gone were the days of just helping Mom. Suddenly I was responsible. What if no one liked what I took? What if no one even took a bite? Or worse, what if they took a bite but everyone thought it was bad? I could just envision walking up to the table, there being one dish on the table totally full and untouched, and it being mine. And of course, all the women would turn and look pityingly on the poor, wretched housewife who can't fix anything desirable or nutritious. So being the common sense, unvain person that I was, I focused on desserts - something everyone loves. Until you have the day when the cake falls flat and looks horrendous. Now if I were the creative, domestic engineer that a friend of mine is, I would creatively flip my cake container upside down, chop the cake into pieces and crumbles, then melt the icing and pour over it, making a unique blend of punchbowl cake and dump cake, which everyone raves and loves and there's never a crumb left in her bowl. That's actually how she came up with the recipe - her cake went flat. But me? No, I go to tears and grumble and have a grand 'ol pity party and wallow in my failures as a cook and housewife.
How stupid is that? I mean, in all my years of church life, I can't think of one potluck where there was a dish left untouched. And no one will know whether or not a dish is mine. (I mean, come on, that's why your name sticker always goes on the bottom, right?)
And then after a time or two of being tormented by witnessing all of this, my dear husband dryly commented, "I didn't know potlucks were this complicated." And his majestic solution was that rather than stress out over everything, we could always go to Bojangles and pick up a bucket of chicken and I could focus on veggies and dessert, which are much easier for me to prepare. And our first meal at CBC, I took him up on that offer. After all, at family reunions and church potlucks growing up, I always went for the KFC bucket. So I'm slowly coming around. I think I've come up with a meat dish or two that's okay-tasting and I can easily make for a Sunday, but my husband has a point - potlucks were not designed to be complicated.
Now if I can find non-Grandma looking dress shoes that feel comfortable!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

a favorite thing


When I was about 8 years old, my "great aunt" Mat (she was actually two greats and her name was Mattie) stopped living with us and went to live with her youngest sister, who was named Fannie. We would go visit them about once a month. Aunt Fannie had some of the best snack foods in her house, and one of my favorite was the peanut shaped cookies. While Bobby was in the hospital, I rediscovered them in the cafeteria! So I looked for them in the grocery store, and lo and behold, there they were! So unlike my good friend Sara who is publicly willing to account for every morsel that goes in her mouth, I'll just be satisfied to say that peanut butter, which is this cookie's filling, is healthy and full of protein, and that I might start my diet next week. Maybe.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

polygamy

With all they hype in the news over the polygamy raid in TX, it's brought back to my mind conversations from summer '93. I spent six weeks in Ivory Coast, West Africa, studying how to learn the inner-workings of a different society, as well as the many conflicts Christianity creates when introduced to a non-believing people group. One of the many controversial subjects was polygamy.

Polygamy is common among tribal societies. But what happens once a polygamist accepts Christ? To many of the African believers, they saw themselves as Abraham, David, and others: they took multiple wives to satisfy themselves, and not out of God's perfect plan. Yet God never commanded the multiple wives to be put away. My African brothers and sisters were absolutely mortified by America's concept of divorce. In their mindset, even if they never slept with wife 2, or 3, they provided for her and her children until her dying day, both emotionally and materially. How can someone make a commitment and not keep it?

And that leads me to ponder the "abhorrence" our media has toward polygamy. Why is it socially acceptable for a man to have a mistress/fiancee or sleep around, yet so terrible to have more than one wife? He's providing for all of them, and not abandoning them or lying to them. Granted, the issue of abuse and choice make a world of difference in this argument, but if the women choose polygamy and there's no abuse, I can't see how that is so much worse than how so many people choose to live in our society.

Now, should Bobby decide to take a second wife...our little joke of us being turtle food for that monstrous snapping turtle in the pond might cease being a joke.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

starving artists

Somewhere in my teen years, I came up with this foolish notion that the ideal job was one you enjoyed but got paid for. There is some truth to that, but I've come to realize that it's simply a foolish, childish dream. I mean, the term "starving artist" wasn't created for its onomatopoeia.

With the publishing market, specifically in children's literature, being what it is today, it is extremely difficult to get published. Even the fortunate few who get published don't earn enough to cover their expenses. So when do you determine an activity is an expensive hobby and either scale back or just accept it?

You hear of actor and actress wanna-bes who wait tables to support themselves while acting, and musicians who work normal jobs while writing/singing/recording on the side, and the same goes with art. So does that make writers even more foolish to think they could actually support themselves writing? Does that amount to arrogance, or just the childish ideal that our job should be what totally enthralls us?

Monday, April 7, 2008

my father-in-law

Nine years ago this June, my "father-in-law to be" had a job that in retrospect was extremely difficult. After 20 years of being Bobby's care-giver, he trained me for the job and let go. He was always there to help and offer advice when needed, but only now do I truly appreciate how difficult that was.

As is always the case, whenever Bobby goes into a hospital, the ones in charge almost never read the charts, and instead ask questions. "Why can't you feel pain? Why can't you move?" Once they discover it was an automobile accident, their expressions immediately turn to pity. Until Bobby finishes his sentence with the phrase "...almost 29 years ago." Then the mouths drop and the shock sets in. And once again, we hear the nurses talking in the hall. "He's had a SCI for 28 years and there's not one break in his skin!" Normally their incredulousness makes us laugh, or go hug his Dad, but this year I just wanted to cry. When Bob was alive I always made a point to tell him what the doctors and nurses said and how amazed they were at Bobby's great condition. He would grin his sheepish grin and turn a little pink and say, "I didn't do that much" in his deep voice. Yet he did more than he ever realized.

His innovations at making equipment work in they way we needed still makes me smile. After all, any equipment, even if it's medical, was designed to meet a need. If your need is slightly different, adapt the equipment. But one of my dearest memories of him is his laughter. During one of my training sessions, we had a typical situation that was a little embarrassing for all three of us. Bob and Bobby both started giggling, and for a minute I had an image of two men who laugh and shrug in the exact same way imprinted on my mind. I think that set the bar for how we would handle many situations in the future: laugh.

So while the nurses are in awe at how a quadriplegic can survive almost three decades without pressure sores, I stand more in awe of my memory of the stooped man with giggles who made it happen.

Bob and Bobby, late 1950's

Saturday, April 5, 2008

reflection

Over the last week plus, the subject of pain has repeatedly come up. Every time someone finds out Bobby has kidney stones, they immediately mention how painful they are. Every time he has a new doctor or nurse come check on him, one of the first five questions is, "Are you having any pain?" Even his urologist of 8 years will start to check him and begin to ask, "Does this..." before stopping himself and saying, "I forgot. What symptoms are you having?"

Almost ten years ago I read a book titled Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, published in 1988 by Zondervan. Dr. Brand grew up a missionary kid in India, then did his medical training in wartime England, then returned to India to work in Leprosy colonies. Much of the book is his medical biography of observations and studies, but it all centers around the fact that pain is a gift from God.

After this last week, I'm convinced more than ever how right Dr. Brand is. If Bobby had the sensation of pain, we probably would have been at the hospital weeks ago, and not after the infection was so severe it moved to the bloodstream. And yet, it fascinates me how complex God made our bodies, so that even when the pain sensation doesn't work, other areas kick in to say "Hey, there's a problem somewhere!" As much as I hate the suffering Bobby's been through, I shudder to think what might have happened had his body not reacted to the infection and the stone causing it.

As a general rule, quadriplegics don't sweat. That makes hot days extremely dangerous, as sweat is our body's mechanism for cooling itself. Yet, if something goes wrong, a quad's body will begin to sweat at the temples and neck - a sign of slightly elevated blood pressure saying, "Hey! There's a problem somewhere!" That problem could be something as simple as a shoe being tied too tight, or the need to shift in a seat. Eliminate the problem; eliminate the sweating. I just think it's so cool that our body is designed with backups for when things go wrong. Now if we can just find some secondary natural way of getting rid of kidney stones, we'll be in business.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

so thankful to be American

It is SO nice to be an American.

  • My parents can come see me without having to get signed permission from the political party secretary.
  • We can call the doctor and request to be worked into the schedule without having to pay a bribe.
  • We can go to a hospital that provides the food, laundry, and nursing care for its patients.
  • Hospitals do not demand payment up front.
  • Our medical system is top notch, with specialists on call.
  • There is not only wheelchair accessible vehicles, but many places have curb cuts in sidewalks, as well as places to park.
  • I can rent a modified vehicle to get Bobby from place to place, just by picking up a phone, filling out an application, having a credit card, and picking one up. I don't have to throw him on my back and haul him onto public transportation.
  • Banks have credit cards for their patrons, and do not charge exorbitant fees just to have a checking account.
  • We have an affordable education system, allowing anyone to better themself if they really want to.
  • Our mail is delivered to our home.
  • We have freedom of the press.
  • We have a role in choosing our leaders.
  • We have the freedom to worship as we see fit.
  • We have the right to own a home.

I am so glad to be home, to have Bobby better, and to live in a place where not only our needs are met, but so many of our desires and wishes. It saddens me to think of people who think of the above list as things that are unattainable, or only for rich people. We have so much that we take for granted.