The cricket in the ER

It probably would created a shocking gasp on Gray’s Anatomy if T.V. Dr. Meredith Gray saw a black cricket on the floor next to a patient’s gurney.  But there was no fanfare for me.  I just smashed it with my shoe and hopped up onto the bed, not really sure if the nurse had changed the green sheets or not from the previous patient.  Yes, I said GREEN!

St. Joe is a very old hospital, probably as old as the biggest city near where we live.  At one time they had a pediatric and OB ward however it has been farmed out to the larger campus in the Lutheran network of hospitals.  If mothers arrive in the ER in labor then they are put in a transport vehicle of some sort sent to pick her up by the staff at the other campus.  Surely lotsa babies are born en-route or in the parking lot with this crazy system!  Who ever heard of a hospital not delivering babies?  We’ll see no-mo babies any more at St. Joe, just a few black crickets to match the worn linoleum flooring.  I did notice 2 months ago however, that they finally replaced the bedside tray tables — the ones with levers that were duct-taped together!  Now that was sanitary, eh?  Er, no!

The outpatient nurse, Mary, is as sweet as can be.  Since the hospital doesn’t have their own outpatient clinic, her charge nurse assigns both outpatient and ER patients to her caseload.  She runs around the whole time I am there for my monthly appointment.  Yes, I still have my infusa port flushed every month so I use the opportunity to take in some extra fluids if I need them and have any labs ordered to be drawn at the same time.  I just bring a lunch bag, binge on HGTV, and make a day of it!  Unfortunately my appointment in the ER was a bear this past Friday.  Six and one-half hours after arriving, I felt about as much like “toast” as that crushed bug still on the floor when I left.  It shouldn’t have taken that long.  But every month, I end up hanging out with Mary for at least 4 hours for a one-hour procedure.  It’s just the way it goes.

This time, it took the first 3 of those 6 hours to determine that one of the blood work panels would require 15 vials of blood if I were to have it drawn at the ol’ St. Joe!  Maybe I forgot or maybe I never knew that there’s another lab actually closer to our home that has a special kit for this particular panel; the kit enables multiple tests completed from a few vials of blood.  St. Joe could do the panel but I would probably be billed over $400 more and not be able to walk out of there due to the resulting weakness from the drawing of so much blood.  So it was not to be; we just some other routine labs, and finally AFTER EIGHTEEN HOURS OF FASTING, I ate everything I had with me!  I should have taken Mary up on her offer of a box lunch as well.  I was sooooooo hungry!  All of this probably contributed to the convulsive episode that followed the de-access of the infusa port and an extra 3-hour nap the next day.  What a life, I tell ya!

Someday I hope to have the infusa port removed.  My Doc may be reluctant to order this procedure since it was only 3 months ago that I needed six days of IV antibiotics for pneumonia.  That was another fiasco of a story left to another day.  If only I could go to the newer hospital closer to my home this process would be less exhausting.  Can’t do that either in case things should go wrong and I end up in the chamber room of the abusive nurse in the ER who might still work there.  Better check on that one sometime:  does he still work there?   Regardless, I seem to benefit from regular infusions of fluids when Mary flushes my port at the ol’ St. Joe.  Things shall remain status quo for now.

The monthly sojourn to St. Joe will henceforth continue until an insurance denial, a swarm of locusts, or maybe even something wonderful happens first.  Something wonderful?  We can always be hopeful right?  JJ

“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming [a]locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.
26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.
27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:
am the Lord your God
And there is no other.”  Joel 2:25-27a

The Dad that never left

Perhaps it is more of a blessing than anything else that I have more time for reflection these days.  After the double-loads of laundry, medical management, treatment-and-recovery, self care, and various household duties are completed, there are generally more hours than in my past to think about the stuff of life.  On Father’s Day yesterday, I started to notice some new parallels between my past and present.  It went something like this.

I was posting a picture of my Dad and me on Facebook when I realized how his generosity when he stepped back into my life has become an important part of my current recovery from serious illness.  His gift about 6 years ago allowed me to create a garden oasis in our backyard.  Here are two of my favorite areas:

Creating the flagstone patio area required graph paper, a ruler, tape measure, and endless gazing from all angles to make the kidney-bean shaped layout meet the vision the Lord had given me.  In the next 2 years the process continued with a pair of 8-foot custom steel trellises then a “secret garden” area (basically a re-purposed dog pen!).  The planting beds came later as I decided that we needed more privacy from our neighbors behind us and that I wanted to have a garden-view beyond each room of the house.  The bed on the right in the 2nd picture is largely of native plants and a key component in earning a Sustainable Garden designation from our local cooperative extension office.  The aqua custom shade sail was an incredible find from the “sale” page of a company by the same name.  Now that the design is complete the plants have matured and my heart is home.

Dontcha know that my mom was a gardener?  She would hunt down the groundskeeper at the local zoo if needed to obtain a plant start of a specimen she just needed to have in her yard.  Composting, vegetables, a mounded hill, hanging baskets around the hot tub spa . . . she had all the elements that made her heart happy out there in her suburban back

Mom in Spa

yard.  Her creation came together because of the generosity of her parents too.  Some may call it an inheritance.  I call it the chance to create something beautiful from the sorrow of a lost family member.  And I think it’s o.k. to spend some of it to make the process of going on without him or her a little nicer.  Do something that makes your heart happy!

Flash forward 4 years from when the “bones” of our own garden were installed and I am exceedingly grateful for what the Lord has allowed me to design, to create.  Lying sickly on that chaise lounge last summer when it looked like there would be little hope for recovery, brought solace of sorts.  Lying sickly on that same chair this summer after taking treatments that are slowly giving me my life back is bringing hope and the flow of some new creative juices.  My husband, Steve, just smiles a bit when I talk like this.  He knows that could mean a little more trimming around a new garden bed or hauling of something heavy to make it happen.  Oh how he loves me so!  Well I’ll let ya all know how it turns out for sure!

Steve brought me to see this home on our fourth date.  He wanted to know, “if things worked out between us could you see yourself living here?”  Talk about pressure!  I was visiting him in Indiana for the first time from the Chicago suburbs and certainly was not about to make a decision on the spot.  At least out loud, that is!  But I knew that the bush in the front-and-center of the bay window was a Miss Kim Lilac and just like the one I had lost with the townhome when my former spouse left me.  I also knew that the bush next to it was a burning bush that gets a magnificent, fiery shade of red in the Fall and just like the one I . . . well you can see where this is going.  It’s like when I viewed Steve’s profile on Yahoo Personals and saw a picture of him with a radio-controlled airplane that reminded me of the flying competitions in which my dad and brothers flew line-control planes when we were kids.  Of course I knew that the house was a great idea; I just wasn’t going to tell Steve anything just yet.  The home he purchased before we were married became a blank slate for me in remaking so many years that the locusts had eaten . . . . (Joel 2:25)

So I hope you can see how a simple thingy like some flower and vegetable gardens can be so meaningful to someone like me.  The draftsman in my Dad has become the designer in me.  His surprise generosity allowed me to create a living oasis that was an interest I shared with my mom when I became an adult.  Finding a loving place to realize these gifts would come in a way like never before when I found my intended beloved in the arms of my Stevers.  Solace, restoration, and hope were all set in motion regardless of my life’s circumstances according the plans of my Heavenly Dad, my Heavenly Husband; He knew all along the seeds He had planted in my heart long before I could ever dig in the dirt of life myself.  And just as life on this green earth began in the Garden of Eden, so do our own lives thrive in the planted spaces in which we are tilled and turned, watered, pruned, and nurtured until beauty bursts forth in scented color, in hope beyond that which we can see.

How can I be sad about the losses in my life when my Heavenly Dad has always been there with me?  From my garden bench I bid you a “Happy Father’s Day,” Gentle Reader.  I pray that you, too, will live in the fullness of life that grows more grand with each passing day:  a garden oasis in your soul where the One Who knows us so well can make everything meaningful, anything beautiful in the noon day sun or under the shade tree too.  JJ

Dad & me at his trailer

 

 

The life I once lived

I’ve taken on a few phrases from others and made them my own over the years, ones that put a bunch of thoughts into a phrase or short sentence.  Not that these would bode well as my epitaph or anything like that mind you!  They just seemed to stick with me.  Here’s a biggie from an old supervisor named Jim.  He was a social worker by training and the director of the inpatient geriatric psychiatric unit where I was contracted to work.  When asked how things were going he would often reply:

“Same story, different day.”

Funny thing is that it was largely true.  On the Generations Unit there generally was at least one person every day screaming non-stop, voiding in an inappropriate location, wandering into another patient’s room unannounced, refusing to eat, refusing to get out of bed, or making up a story to convince him and psychiatrist that he/she did not need to be there.  Yes it was a crazy place.  That’s what you get when the nursing homes send their residents whose behavior can no longer be managed in their facility.  It is also where a depressed little old lady or your suicidal Uncle Pete would go for supportive therapies, meds., daily structured activities, and a round of ECT if needed (aka shock therapy!).  The latter actually worked very well for older adults.  The short term memory loss and massive headache was a major drag for awhile, however!

I worked there as an occupational therapist.  My role was to evaluate the functional level of the patient and assist the team in forecasting discharge plans while providing therapeutic activities.  The goal was always to achieve improved mental status, mood, and functioning for discharge to the least restrictive environment.  That might translate to a person returning home instead of assisted living or remaining in a private room in a nursing home instead of a locked dementia unit.  Sometimes the patient’s goals were reached and sometimes not.  Educating the family on the patient’s needs post discharge was also my role:  an important and sometimes delicate process.  I loved all of it.  I got to apply my skills in standardized assessments, grading activities for the best outcome in lower and higher level cognitive groups, patient and family education, and knowledge of community resources that may be of assistance post discharge.  The two latter skills were collaborated with the unit social workers who also loved working with older adults.  We had a great team back then . . .

I’ll never forget the two weeks that c-diff ran rampant through the unit.  C-diff is short for Clostridium difficile:  an infection of the colon causing horrific diarrhea and inflammation.  It’s a bacterial infection I can now diagnose by smell.  O.k. perhaps that’s too much information?  When virtually all of the inpatients become sick it is only a matter of time before the staff contract the infection as well.  There are just too many common areas in a locked unit that too many people end up touching with a contaminated hand after caring for a patient.  The motto those days was, “please pass the yogurt” or something similar!

Ruth was the best during situations like that.  She was older than me and had been a Certified Nursing Assistant for years.  She could get the toughest old bird to take a shower when he was resisting for days then she would turn around and feed a tender soul in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease bringing out the patient’s long-forgotten smile producing a long-lost twinkle in her eye.  Ruth often told us stories of her pet pot-bellied pig.  Seriously!  The beast weighed a couple hundred pounds but was part of their family, inside the house, potty-trained and behaved like a favorite feline or pup.  I could not imagine it!  Ruth lived in a suburban neighborhood like the rest of us!  Actually more recently while living in a smaller town with Amish homesteads not far away I can now start to imagine it a little better.  It’s still not for me, however!

The life I once lived was in the suburbs of Chicago amongst 8 million other people.  I was married and lived in a townhouse as it was the only affordable option even for two Master-degreed professionals or DINKS:  double income no kids.  We attended a mega church then a smaller Bible church, organized a yearly block party in the court of our neighborhood, and took walks together in regional parks called Forest Preserves.  I enjoyed neighborhood walks and riding my hybrid bicycle (between that designed for road touring and trail riding).  Holidays were spent with family in various cities as everyone was out of State for our Illinois locale.  Sure there were ups and downs with health issues or financial stressors but largely each day of our lives was the “same story, different day.”  When this got to be too much for my former spouse he found a way out and took it.  Hmmmm.  Alternately I found that you don’t really need a way out, per se.  Sometimes the “difference” we are seeking finds us as part of the Lord’s plan for our lives and it comes from within us instead of in the form of persons, places, or things . . .

Flash forward a myriad of moves of my residence, a change in the car I was driving, changing my job four times, transitions to new hair and clothing styles, some weight loss, and eventually moving to Indiana to marry Steve — over 10 years later I rarely say that old phrase anymore.  Oh even if nothing much has changed lately in my health or the circumstances of battling a serious illness, there are always new discoveries meeting me each day.  Things simply cannot be boring when you marry a man with as much energy as Steve!  He keeps me going just keeping up with all of his activities even when he is not home!  First there’s his four adult children and their families, then there’s his hobbies and sports, and his participation in the worship of our Lord Jesus Christ; the latter always brings news related to our church fellowship in addition to an intriguing message from the pages of the Bible.  That’s a lot to keep track of and I love it.  My garden, online jewelry business, and this blog fill in much of the rest of the time not taken with health-related activities.  How could I ask for more when my heart is full?

Sure my life has changed in the last decade or so and I’ll bet it’s the same for you too, Gentle Reader.  Is that o.k. with us?  As for me I would never have asked for the difficulties that have come in recent years that have added more “excitement” and stress than I could ever have imagined.  The crazy thing is that I would also have never known how to ask for the blessings that have come from this particular path either.  I would not want to be without the blessings just to have had an easier life.  I believe that I am exactly within the will of my Heavenly Father, that He has His hand on my life and my heart warmed in the shelter of His mighty wings.  He goes with me, goes before me this moment and the next; there are signs of His wonders sprinkled everywhere in my days.  I am so glad that I am not bored with my life.  Well yes of course there are times I’d like a little less “excitement!”  Yet that’s when I need to rest my cares at His throne of grace, allow Him to carry me like the famous Footprints in the Sand poem so graphically portrays, or wait on the Lord in the quietness of a moment of prayer . . .

I’m going to keep my head up and do like my brother, Mike, always used to say:  “keep moving forward.”  The life I once lived is gone but not forgotten.  Those memories bring gratitude for all that the Lord has placed in my life today:  a story that is never really the same.  In time my Lord will make all things beautiful.  In the meantime though I think it is finally time for me to go to bed!  There is a calmness in my spirit at last.  The sun is coming up and the birds are singing their morning hello just outside my window.  For me it will serve as a happy goodnight lullaby as I snuggle up to my intended beloved who brings me more joy than I could ever imagine.  Real love and more is here now.

Yes, Lord, it will be a good day I think.  :J

footprints-man-beach-morning

 

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Therefore, send not to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.  (John Donne, 1624.  Meditation 17.  Devotions upon urgent occasions.)

man riging bell

Such is the reflection of these famous words scripted by John Donne and later repeated by Ernest Hemmingway in one of his most famous works of literature.  The intent of each author is to emphasize the interdependence of humanity; no man can truly live or function as an island.  Whether we live or die, honor God or blaspheme His name, our actions at some point will touch the lives of others around us given time and opportunity.

Case in point:  I’ll never forget that day in Dominicks, a grocery store in the west suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.  It was my day off from work and I was picking up a few groceries before heading home.  I’m not sure why I was dressed up while running a few errands . . . I do recall wearing my nice and warm, long wool coat to fend off the early Spring chill still lingering outside.  Suddenly at the end of the aisle was my good friend’s dad!  He said a cherry “hello” and explained that he was in town visiting for some family occasion.  Mr. Y. always had a gracious way about him:  asking permission to tell you another story or joke before parting ways.  He laughed about me humoring an older person by talking with him or something like that then shared a quick note to give his regards to my husband.  I looked him straight in the eye.  He had no idea.

Immediately Mr. Y knew something was wrong.  I walked closer to him, recognizing that I was about to open my heart in the middle of a grocery store aisle!  My former spouse was discovered in an affair less than 3 weeks before.  Intervention from our church had begun and my life was in turmoil as my heart was still reeling in crisis mode.  It didn’t help that my grandmother had also died and I was in the middle of facilitating the refinancing of our home (not knowing if I would be living there in the future or not).  All of that stuff was about me and my drama.  What I did not expect was the look on Mr. Y’s face when I told him my story.  Do you know that look in the movies when someone has just been punched in the stomach so hard the person could not breathe?  The smile on his face turned to anguish.  He could not speak.

Mr. Y’s reaction showed me the reality of love between the body of believers or those who call Jesus Christ Lord and Savior.  We bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).  We know what it means from a human level, a heart level, and a violation of God’s plan for us when a brother in Christ falls.  Craig probably never realized that his actions affected so many people and perhaps did not care.  This was astounding to me.  He was a leader in our Bible church and a gifted Sunday school teacher.  Craig excelled in his work in the mental health field, loved working out, and was quite good at photography.  He loved a good philosophical discussion and we had many.  It is a matter of history that my coming to faith in Christ was facilitated by these very sessions:  Craig helped answer many of my questions and led us to both a seeker-friendly church then a smaller, more intimate body of believers.  I got saved because I dated Craig.  In that Bible church is where I had met Mr. Y and became good friends with his daughter, Deb.  Friends like this are closer than my own family at times.

So where am I going with all of this?  When I am home alone every day, not even leaving the house for days on end, of course it is easy to forget the love of dear friends and family in my life.  Sure the pup looks up at me with soft brown eyes when I walk into the kitchen but it’s just not the same!  My intended beloved, Steve, is away from home a lot and often into the early evening.  Since I don’t feel well most of the time I just stay home if I don’t have an appointment or urgent need for food!  This week was particularly dry in this regard.  As it turns out, most of the week was devoted to adjusting to a new treatment we’re hoping will eliminate the daily seizure-like episodes.  I slept or moped about most of the week anyways; I didn’t notice that I was by myself as the quiet was itself healing medicine.  When I come out of this fog of late and I’m still isolated at home, I must remember that I am totally never alone.

Do you have this confidence Gentle Reader?  We are connected by this blog.  For that I am humbled and honored, that you have taken the time to step closer to me.  We probably resonate some on the issues of life or you would not have chosen to stop by when so many other bloggers have their own yada yada yada to share.  Our connection will be even more meaningful to me if I know that it goes beyond my stories and our simple humanity to the very essence of what gives meaning to life:  a shared faith in God through His son, Jesus Christ.  If you do not yet have the peace, love, and joy that comes from knowing the Lord intimately then I invite you to step before the throne of grace today.  Ask Him to reveal Himself to you and seek Him with a sincere heart through the Bible, His words.  When we repent and invite Jesus into our hearts we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; we are never alone again.  Please tell me what you find, k?

For those of you who share the love of Christ already:  I look forward to meeting with you one day!  Whether in this life or the next, we’re going to have a great time celebrating the glorious riches of a life surrendered to our King.  Standing in the presence of the Lord will wash away our tears and troubles bringing joy beyond what we could ever see today.  May the glimpses of His holiness and glory in the goodness that surrounds each of us sustain you, encourage you, and lift you up until we arrive in our eternal home.  Therein the bell will toll with tales of triumph for all of us.  Such a sweet sweet sound that will be!

I was talking to God the other day . . .

I was talking to God the other day, the night before the big snowstorm hit the Midwest and the night before this head cold took me out for a few days.  It was after 2:00 a.m. The house was quiet, the Christmas tree still stood tall and magical in the living room, the pup was warming herself on the rug in front of the floor vent in the kitchen.  My beloved was fast asleep in bed down the hall.  Here I was prowling about the house as usual in the wee hours of the morning.

Usually I head to the kitchen for a snack before my 3:00 a.m. bedtime and read the Bible verses for the previous day from the Android Bible App.  After that I’ll finish perusing any garden catalogs that have come in the mail, clean up the kitchen and head to bed.  But something gave me pause.  I believe it was the leading of the Holy Spirit beckoning me to come dwell before the throne of grace before retiring for the night.   And so I did.

I sat in my favorite little chair in the living room and looked out over our home.  Gratitude overwhelmed me as I realized all of the blessings laid out before me.  The Lord had restored the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25) and provided nice furnishings, my husband’s shiny kayaking trophies, beautiful hardwood flooring and more for our lovely home.  Laughter and activity filled these spaces just 6 days before as all of my husband’s children visited with their loved ones in person or via Skype.  I was blessed to be able to serve them with treats and home cooked meals before turning in early to rest and recover for the night (sight unseen).  All they saw was the good stuff and that is o.k.  Sitting before me were opened gifts still gathered under the tree:  sweet and thoughtful too.  My Lord has been so good to me!

Then I heard a whisper, a presence as if my Counselor, Friend were sitting there right with me in the twilight.  He reassured me that everything would be o.k.  He allowed me to fill my heart with memories and reminders of His goodness that would be needed in the difficult days ahead.  He made it clear that He would always be with me and have my best interests at heart.  My Jesus filled me with His love that night.  It was a sweet treat indeed.

Taking time to be alone with our Heavenly Father, our Heavenly Husband, our Immanuel makes the days, the nights more meaningful.  I know that when I stop for a moment of reflection, I can see His hand leading me, holding me, carrying me, protecting me.  I trust that you will see Him too as this Christmas season draws to a close.  His omnipresence reassures me that He will be there with you in your time of need just as He is here with me now and the other day.  If you don’t know God personally, I pray that you will spend some time with Him and His Word alone somewhere meaningful to you.  I tell ya, it’s a really cool thing to do!

*******************

13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.   Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)