Monday, June 29, 2015

Mary Booth

Reverend Thomas Dorsey was in the middle of a sermon when a man came on stage and gave him a telegram, telling him that his wife had died in childbirth. After several months of grief, he penned the words to one of my favorite hymns:

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I'm tired, I'm weak, I'm lone
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home
When my way grows drear precious Lord linger near
When my light is almost gone
Hear my cry, hear my call
Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home
When the darkness appears and the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand
Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.
This morning, my husband came out and flagged me down (I was on the riding lawn mower). A friend had called, asking us to urgently post a prayer request on Facebook for a church member. We briefly debated whether or not to head to the hospital, but knew at this point in time we'd be in the way, and it would make more sense to wait and go this afternoon. I cried, we prayed, I cried some more, and then headed back outside to cut grass.  And this hymn started running through my mind. I changed my prayer from "be with the doctors" to "stop her pain; answer her prayers", and Bobby came back out again with my cell phone. I had missed a call, telling me she never came back from the code blue.
I am heart-broken and rejoicing at the same time. She suffered SO much. She prayed that God would take her home before she reached this last and worst stage of dialysis, even contemplated stopping ,dialysis all together.  And right as she reached the brink and peacefully surrendered to what God had ahead for her, He took her home. None of us took her that chocolate milkshake she was joking about yesterday (with the port failure and no dialysis for several days she couldn't have many liquids until after the procedure, and with her diabetes she didn't need the sugar), but one of the last things she said when we left the hospital last night was "I'll get me one on the way home."
Her life was not an easy one, yet she rejoiced in what Christ had done both in and through her. I doubt anyone who casually met her would know some of the heart-wrenching and horrific things she had faced in both her teen and adult years. We didn't agree on a lot of things, but I loved to see her laugh. I'll never forget her teaching someone how to use a rotary cutter at my house, and then taking the fabric scraps and THROWING them over her shoulder and ONTO MY FLOOR!!! I asked her what on earth she thought she was doing, and she laughed and said "Haven't you ever seen that quilting show with Eleanor Burns? I've always wanted to throw the fabric scraps away like that, as if I had an assistant who would come sweep behind me." And then she laughed and laughed and laughed. And did it again. She introduced me to quilt shops, and at the age of 69 last year had her own garden for the first time and was sillier than a child about it. Even with full-blown kidney failure and dialysis three days a week, she spent one day a week "helping" at a friend's house, doing their laundry. It gave her a small job, but mostly it gave her a sense of family. She said Betty Anne was the daughter she never had, and loved her son as her own.She loved the fact I had dogs that I couldn't handle and delighted in giving advice (the book I'm reading now by her favorite "Dog Whisperer" is actually hers). She liked to give my husband a very hard time. He teased her about never being on time to church and coming in "on two wheels" or would ask her how high would she jump the curb in her car to get in the door. She called him a puppy dog for waiting outside to see if she made it to church, and would give her a hard time if he made it inside before she did. She had a habit of slamming on her brakes or getting distracted while driving. She didn't want to ride with me because she said I drove too fast. Didn't like to ride with our friend Charlotte because she didn't use turn signals all the time. She was set in her ways, and I often forgot how old she was.
This last year she became and advocate in the community for the dialysis center, helping new patients get their questions answered, sharing advice to those struggling with the diet (it always aggravated her that she tried to balance her two contradicting diets and others with only one to follow totally ignored it), and tried to be a mediator between patients and nurses. If you've ever been in long term care, you know that nurses eventually view you as part of the job and not as a person. She struggled with that, and also greatly struggled with the techs who were not always nice. I wanted her to report them. No one should have to suffer that way, but she'd refuse, saying she was at their mercy. Bobby backed her up, saying when your life is in someone's hands, you don't make them mad. It angered me, but I could also see both the wisdom and the fear in the response. She loved this new dialysis center where she was currently going. They shocked her the first week by refusing to let her leave because her blood pressure was too high. It was 175/80. We both laughed a little, but were also glad. I can't count the number of times I picked her up from the other place and it was 190 or 200 over something. One day in particular I almost turned around and headed to the hospital. She was pale and clammy and kept changing subjects mid-sentence....not Mary like at all.  But she insisted she needed to pick a med, and by the time we got to the pharmacy she was more herself. She laughed and said "That's life with dialysis."  She said that again to me last night before we left the hospital, that most people really didn't get how life-threatening and terrible dialysis could be. I didn't really tell her good-bye last night, because I was going to see her again after her procedure today. But God had other plans, and before the doctors started the part of the procedure she did not want the most, called her home. For my sake, I am sad. For hers, I'm rejoicing. No more pain, no more dialysis cramps and sleepless nights and erratic blood pressure readings and trying to remember which pills to take 30 minutes before you eat and limiting yourself to a quart of liquids a day.  She loved her coffee, and would make her 2 cups last all day. And now? She's eating heaven's food (manna and fruit, we know for sure) and does not have to worry about whether or not it fits her lists. She persevered through all the doubts and questions, through all the pain and heartaches, through the loneliness, and is now complete in every sense of the word. I miss her, but I'm glad God "led her home". 

Friday, June 26, 2015

a new find

Last week during the Quilt of Valor sew-in (where quilters meet once a month in Raleigh to make quilt tops for the organization), one of the girls set out her ruler and rotary cutter for everyone to use.

I have a rotary cutter. For those of you not familiar with them, it's like a pizza cutter, but with scissor sharp blades (older quilters seeing them for the first time call them scissors on wheels). It's and ideal way for cutting fabric. Once you've used one, you have no desire to go back to cutting fabric for patterns with scissors.

But this girl, she had one of the newer rotary cutters.  It looked like this:
See the curved handle?  That fits in your hands so much better.  The lever underneath, when pushed upwards, extends the blade. So when you're not gripping it, there's no blade sticking out. (Meaning if you bump it and it falls off the cutting table, it won't cut whatever it hits.) It still has the traditional Olfa red safety button to lock it in safety mode, but the thing that amazed me the most was how lightweight it was. I used it twice, cutting out a lot of blocks, and had no shoulder or neck muscle tightness at all when I was done.

The third time I go to use the blade, I was talking to another girl at the cutting table, and thinking "I SO want to get one of these. This, in my mind, would be like a good pair of scissors...a little pricey, but once purchased is forever yours."  And then, a feel a pain.  While running my mouth, I missed the edge of the ruler and placed the blade ON the ruler, which meant there was no guide while I was cutting and cut the only thing on top of the ruler...my finger. I was very, very fortunate. Once slight curve to either side and it would have been so much worse. As it was, I caught the back/fatty part of my finger (the pad, as some people call it), and rolled up over the edge and perfectly into the cuticle part beside my fingernail. Had it rolled a smidgen more to one side, I would have sliced my nail. Had it curved slightly more to the other side, we'd be seeing bone. I have a friend who sliced her finger almost to the bone (as in, they had to reattach the hanging skin and tissue) with a rotary cutter. That was the first thing that ran through my mind when I felt pain.

It's now been a week today, and the cut area still feels a little tender, but is 95% healed. YEAH!!!

When I was telling Bobby what happened after I got home, and how I had been thinking how I wouldn't mind having one of these, he immediately started shaking his head no.  But I'm thinking he'll eventually come around. After all, every girl needs a power tool or two.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

a hard week

My mind has drifted south to Charleston, SC a lot this last week.  And while I've prayed for the families of all the victims and the survivors, I have to confess my mind and prayers keep going back to three little girls.

Church -  the building holds so many memories for me, specifically Dad's office. That's where I hung out while sermon notes were typed, helped with printing and folding the church bulletin, rested during services while I was sick (Preachers and their wives don't always have the luxury of staying home with sick kids), made phone calls during extra-long choir practices or meetings, read books, was bored to tears, as a teenager sat and pondered what it would be like to make an appointment and chat with Dad, but never, ever, ever did it cross my mind that it would be a place where I would hover and hide with Mom while hearing my Dad and fellow church family members die. And that room will be an even harder room for that child and parent to face in months to come when it must be cleaned out to make room for the next pastor.

I think about the young girl who was in the Bible study with her Grandma and Dad, whose Grandma had the presence of mind to cover her and play dead - the horror and nightmare of such a scenario.

I cannot comprehend how anyone could shoot innocent people, especially an 87 year old woman.

I know how much a church hurts when a faithful member dies. Imagine losing 9 at one time - of your diehard faithfuls, as my Dad used to call the Wednesday night crowd.

There's a church family who is hurting beyond belief right now, and they will for a very long time.
There are devastated families whose lives will NEVER be the same.
There are three little girls who had fathers who loved them, men who were faithful to God, men who will no longer be there to guide them through the turbulent teen years and conflicting college days. Three little girls whose lives are forever altered, and not in a good way.

And as social media and national media has moved on to politics, my heart grieves even more.

May the balm of Gilead be so ever real to those families as they say their formal goodbyes this week.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

butter bellybuttons

First, there's an update on  the Quilt page.

But my main post for today resulted in my husband giving me one of those very strange looks.
I opened a new container of butter this week. That always brings back a ton of memories.

You know how kids fight over everything?

This always resulted in a small spat in our house.


I always scooped around the belly button. At least one of my sisters scooped it out first thing.  But there was one time, without anything being said, everyone seemed to join me in scooping around it. And then came the fateful day when that one sister opened the lid to butter the toast and said "Who left the bubble in the middle?" and immediately scooped it out. I was aghast. Dad declared our argument petty and silly. I laugh about it now and sometimes wonder if God sees the things I get so bent out of shape about as an adult as trivial as the belly button in a bowl of butter.

And now? I scraped around the sides about a spoon deep before attacking the belly button. :) Some things just never change.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

a slight variation from my norm

Growing up, I almost always read fiction. When I read fiction, if it's interesting, I read cover to cover, only stopping for what life demands (food, sleep, people, laundry, etc.) Non-fiction was something I read because school or work required it.   But the last five-six years I've found myself reading more and more non-fiction. I don't read it cover-to-cover like fiction. Some books I pick up and put down and start again later. As a result, I have more than one book going right now. I don't think I could have ever said that in my earlier years. Reading more than one book at a time was the most absurd thing I had ever heard. And yet, the last several years, that seems to be how most of my reading has been done.

Why am I talking about this? I've been encouraging one of my young nieces to read 5 minutes a day while on summer vacation. (HELLO Aunt Monica! This is SUMMER! NO SCHOOL!!!) I've not been successful yet. The last time I brought this subject up (last week), she turned the tables and asked "So what are you reading right now?" And I listed the three books I was working on. She said nothing for a few minutes before finally replying "You can't do that. You're only supposed to read one book at a time."  It sounded like something I would have said as a child/teen/young adult. (I told a kid to get down of the railing beside me in a restaurant recently, and realized I am now officially a bossy old woman. Not a very flattering conclusion to face.)

And to add to the insanity, I realized today that I have more than three books that I've started. I found The Love Dare and How to Change Your Church Without Killing It in the study today, both with bookmarks 1/3 of the way through. One of them has been sitting there for about 10 years. I forced myself to read another chapter, and for once in my life, I'm seriously contemplating throwing it away without finishing, something I have NEVER done...not ever. Meanwhile, First Ladies of the Presidency is still sitting in the living room, and I don't even recall how far I read in that book. And in the bedroom...still working on a book on Islam (2/3 of the way through), a historical book (about 1/2 way), and a book on dog-training (Ceaser's Way) that a dear friend just knew was going to help me, and I'm still only 1/3 of the way into it after a year. But at least it's picking up the pace.

We have SO many books here in the house, not read, that I'm forcing myself after a read to seriously evaluate whether I would ever a) read it again, b)loan it to a friend, c)use it as a reference.  If it doesn't meet one of those criteria, then it's gone. I've hauled a few bags of books out of the house this year as a result. And we've stayed away from book sales the last few months, so not quite as many are coming into the house as before. Oh.  I did order two church history books last week and started one at the kitchen table when I opened the mail. I've already finished the first chapter. :)  I don't think I'll revise my statement to my niece, though. If the sun hasn't rattled her brain yet, how many books I'm actually reading would.

Monday, June 22, 2015

onions

I can thank my husband for our garden this year. I seriously was contemplating NOT having one, when he hired a young man from church to come over this winter, rake up all the leaves in the yard....and heap them in the garden. I kid you not, my 36" wire around the perimeter's was 2/3 full...of leaves. And then this February, he had it tilled, not once, but twice. So I have the best soil I have ever had in the garden AND it was already tilled for me. How could I not plant a garden?  So I branched out. I've never had success with onions, but I had two in the house that started rooting, so I decided to give it a shot. Here's what I harvested from those two onion ends that rooted:

Not as big as the bulbs in the grocer store, but I'm pleased.
I bought some extra onion seeds, and the package said to wait until the tops of the onions flowered. Here's the ones from the onion ends that rooted. I thought they were actually kind of pretty. And the seed bulbs I bought? I harvested them today, with no flowers, because the the green stalks were wilting and dying...which is a sign of "get me out of the ground NOW"...I think.

and a close up of the bulbs. I wasn't expecting them to be bunched together!
Were it not for Peter Cottontail, hornworms (known around here as tobacco worms), and two chickens whose necks I could gladly ring, I would have some tomatoes and peas by now. But I don't. 

Meanwhile, if all goes well and the rabbit and chickens stay away from the pallet, squash should be ripe before the week is out. :)  Fried squash and onions anyone?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

whirlwind

Bobby's youngest niece and nephew stayed over after their family left for four extra days, so we enjoyed the busyness that comes with having middle school/high school visitors in the area. And now that they're gone, we're playing catch up and moving on with our busy summer calendar - after a mandatory day out with a migraine yesterday, that is.

So, what's on our schedule these next few days?  Yard work. Housework. Kids party from our class at church. Quilting Class for me on Saturday morning. Manual reviews for upcoming election training. Clarinet practice (a group of us are finally going to play at church in a few weeks). And if time allows, start cleaning the porch railings for painting later this summer.

I hope you summer is as blissfully busy as ours! :)

Monday, June 8, 2015

and life moves on

Last week was my niece's first week out of school. She's a social kid (very unlike her aunt), and does not live in a subdivision. Her school is in the town where her mother teaches, so she doesn't live near any of her classmates. Her only cousins are college-age. It only took a few days, and she became very bored.  So bored that she was calling me twice a day (and I didn't count all her texts). Being the loving aunt that I am, I started sending her lists of things to do each day. By day three she quit calling and texting. Arrogant me could pat myself on the back and say "she's busy", but realistic me knows that she has simply found things to do and doesn't want to "read all that stuff" I keep sending her. She does want me to send her some sewing projects (as well as drive 13 hours one way to come get her). I think she had a good day with my parents yesterday (she learned to make small apple pies...flapjacks, some people call them) and saved the recipe in her phone "for later".

It's times like this that I hate living far away. I know that if I lived closer she'd drive me crazy with the chickens, would not want to help in the garden, and would not be the least bit interested in a summer book club or trips to the library no matter how much I enticed her, but it would still be fun to be a little bit more part of her life.

Meanwhile we're enjoying the last few days of having relatives here from Tennessee and enjoying what little time we have. And then it will be catch-up time with yardwork and housework...those things that never end but at some point must be done. And life moves on.