May 26, 2010 was a very good day


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This post is my first attempt at following Jilly’s lead in providing a slice of life every 26th day of the month.  I’m not as good at it as Jilly is, but I’ll keep practicing.

The morning was busy with emails, facebook, and forum posts.  Unfortunately, a lot of it was redundant as I have posting notifications sent to my email.  Whenever someone posts something on facebook, Multiply, or the discussion forums I participate in, I get an email.  I could turn off the notifications, but then I would forget to log in to some of the places and would miss important posts.  I’d rather have the redundancy.  But I am behind on reading Multiply posts and will try to catch those up during the next few days.  Well, that is, of course, if you don’t all go crazy posting a million things.  Then it will take a bit longer….

Better Half brought in the mail.  This time of month the bills begin to arrive.  But today it was just statements from my insurance company detailing bills they paid.  I’m always surprised when I don’t get catalogs.  I’m overrun with the things and appreciate days when they don’t arrive.  One per company per month would be quite welcome, but some companies send new catalogs every week.  Waste of paper and ink, if you ask me.

Early in the afternoon our “summer neighbors” arrived at our door.  They are good boys.  If I remember correctly, they are about fourteen and eleven years old.  Though we are not related, they call us “aunt” and “uncle.”  We miss them during the school year when they live in another town.  Like our grandchildren, they are polite, thoughtful, eager to help, imaginative, and full of joy.  They brighten our home with the light in their eyes and huge smiles.  And they never fail to bring me a hug.  I would have taken a picture to share, but couldn’t find my camera.

Jimmy Dean Owens escaped a few days ago and has been living in the thicket just across our property line.  The oldest boy reported that he chased his basketball into the woods and saw Jimmy Dean sleeping.  Nobody seems to mind that he escaped—even when he pals around with the neighbor’s dogs.  In fact, Jimmy Dean is a local amusement and a hot topic for the Spit-n-Whittle Club.  So long as he is foraging for himself, he’s not eating feed.  That saves us a good bit of money.  If he stays out of local gardens and doesn’t get into any serious trouble, we’ll leave him alone until closer to time for butchering.  Otherwise, we’ll gather the neighbors for a  pig hunt and have a luau. Pigs are supposed to be the smartest farm animal.  I’ll get back to you on that.

I spent some time updating my address book and organizing my medical notebook. Then focused on cleaning the kitchen.  I don’t do that often because it requires so much energy and is a bit tricky from a wheelchair.  Besides, my daughter or daughter-in-my-heart (daughter-in-law) do a better job than I can, so I generally leave that to them.  Recent logistics, however, have kept either of the girls from coming out for a cleaning day.  And it had to be done because we are having company from Friday night through Monday—three more adults and six children staying over the nights and others dropping in during the days.  I won’t be home from Thursday evening until Friday evening.  So it had to be done today.

Found my camera.

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This kitchen was designed to be more accessible for my wheelchair.  Notice that there are no upper cabinets and all the lower ones are drawers.  There are still a few things that are hard for me to reach—like the pot rack.  Better Half wanted it for his iron skillets.   I don’t use them much because they are heavy.  He does most of the cooking and uses them all the time.  But he never hangs the skillets on the pot rack.  So I put them in the oven out of sight.  The pots and pans I use are in the drawers next to the dishwasher.

It’s a small kitchen that two or three adults can work in together.  The bar provides a good place for the grands to sit and help with the cooking.  It lets them be part of the action and keeps them out of the traffic at the same time.  You can’t see them in the picture, but on the kitchen side of the bar are four huge drawers that hold my dishes, mixing bowls, drinking glasses, and food wraps and cleaning supplies.  The drawers under the coffee pot hold coffee fixin’s and small appliances that aren’t used every day

Speaking of cooking, I cooked dinner tonight!  Meatloaf and mixed vegetables.  Nothing fancy, but I did it by myself while Better Half was working on the travel trailer, getting it ready for summer camping.  Cooking by myself is a big deal because I often need someone to fetch items from the pantry (can’t get to it with my chair), help with chopping vegetables, or lift heavy pots, etc.

After dinner, I got a couple of loads of laundry pre-treated and ready for the washer (can’t get to that with my chair, either) and Better Half got them washed and dried.  Now, I just have to put them up.  But that will wait until tomorrow.   

Yep, it’s been a very good day….

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A Mother’s Day Rescue


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Things weren’t going well.  Haven’t been for a long time.  Spring chores have fallen far behind.  Among other issues, we have had a great deal of rain which grew weeds profusely while keeping me out of the garden.  I was beginning to despair of having a garden this year. 

Then came Mother’s Day and a convergence of generations–just ahead of the next round of storms.

One family arrived the night before and the other came that afternoon—eight in all.  The gardens didn’t stand a chance. They were quickly weeded and planted.

The men hung new shelves and fixed an amazing dinner.  Better Half replaced the small wooden ramp with concrete.  Youngest son gave me a Blackberry Curve.  Youngest Son #2 surprised all the women with flowers.  The Grands colored pictures for my “art gallery.”

While Youngest Son’s wife was loading the dishwasher, I thanked her for all the help and reminded her that it was, after all, Mother’s Day and she should take some time off to enjoy it.  Whereupon she replied, “That’s okay.  I don’t want you to work today because you’re the Supreme Mother.”  Well, the room went silent as everyone tried to figure out if she was praising me or cussing me.  Either way, I didn’t care because it was followed by the kind of hug a daughter gives when she means “I love you.”  And a lot of laughter.

Just a bit more proof of how very spoiled I am.  And how grateful I am for it.

Embers and Starlight


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A few days ago we woke to rain.  The temperature had dropped and it looked like another dreary day. 

Then the sun came out and changed everything into a perfect afternoon—warm with a cool breeze. 

That evening Better Half built a fire—the first of the season.  We spent some time watching the fire, some watching the stars, and some watching the animal nightlife.  It was a pleasant evening, sitting and talking without electronic interruption. 

We had some “remember when”s and planned some more.  Quiet conversation in a soft circle of embers and starlight.

Kind of puts things into perspective and balance.

Makes me long to go camping…

So Busy


 

100_3263The past week few weeks have been…well, challenging. Thankfully, we’ve had a refreshing bit of a reprieve the last couple of days and expect a less stressful week ahead. I am looking forward to going in fewer circles in the weeks to come.

Youngest Son and Better Half seemed to have gotten the truck fixed. Apparently, a new part bought to replace a broken part was defective—working intermittently, giving the illusion that the replaced part was not the original problem and making the defect difficult to locate.

Auto mechanics was so much simpler before computerization. A person could dismantle an engine and transmission, examine each individual piece, visually determine what was broken, worn, misshapen, unaligned. Then correct the problem with adjustment or replacement, reassemble everything and drive off merrily on your way. Now the problems are usually hidden in a sealed black box, a computerized module, that can’t be visually examined and often can’t be externally tested without specialized and expensive equipment that only professional shops can afford. The number of shade tree mechanics diminishes with each new drive train innovation.

Still, when a vehicle is paid off and loved as much as our old truck, it’s hard to give up on it–even when it’s too expensive to take it to a professional shop. So Better Half and Youngest Son have tinkered with it for the past three years. They refuse to be outsmarted by a fourteen-year-old technology. Time will tell if they’ve solved the riddle. I hope so, I’ve missed the old truck. It will be nice to be able to take the travel trailer on trips and down to the lake. And it will save the minivan thousands of miles of wear and tear.

While the men worked on the truck, Grands #5, 6, and 10 helped me with a few chores around the gardens and in the house. They filled the bird feeders, weeded the window boxes, cleaned the flowerbeds in front of the house, and started weeding the raised bed vegetable garden. I hope to get everything planted in the coming week.

Inside, the Grands helped with odds and ends. Grand #5 vacuumed. Then we made a late lunch and celebrated with the first picnic of the Spring. Afterward, they all helped clean up and then played the rest of the day. Well, not quite. Ten-year-old Grand #10 wanted to make dinner by herself. We started with canned chicken and noodle soup, then she scoured the pantry for additional foods and spices for added substance and flavor. She needed just a bit of supervision choosing the right spices and getting the right “dosages.” It was wonderful and nourishing. I look forward to watching her integrate her loves of cooking and science.

Last week I found a few got-to-have books. Among them was a single volume collection of Dick and Jane readers. Four-year-old Grand #10 learned to read “Look” and “Oh” in various combinations. He read them, first with help, then without, after they arrived on Friday and on Saturday he needed no help. Sight reading, for sure, but still reading. I bought a spiral bound pack of fifty index cards, glued an unbound card to the front cover and wrote “My Word Book” on it. Then I tied a small sharpie to the spiral with a red string. (Did you know some sharpies now come with rings on their caps so you can put them on a necklace or tie them to a notebook?)

I used a pencil and lightly wrote each word he could read on its own page to show him how to “collect” his words. He traced them with the sharpie. He’ll be writing without tracing in no time—just needs to get the hang of using lines. Every time an adult hears him read a new word without help two days in a row, the adult can give him permission to write the new word in his word book (which will double as flash cards later). Writing one word on the front and one on the back of each page in his book, he can collect 100 words. By then, he’ll be well on his way to reading. Grands #5 and 6 said they wanted word books too. I’ll have to buy them larger books. Both are accomplished readers already.

Grand #6 went home with both the Dick and Jane book and a book of science experiments tucked under her arms. They are on loan. I put one of my sticky address labels inside the front of the book to remind them that these books are mine. That means they will be extra careful with them, being sure to only handle them with clean, dry hands. But more importantly, it will keep one from claiming ownership and remind all that the books have to be shared with everyone in the house. I don’t expect to ever get the books back. (But don’t tell the Grands that. They might forget to take good care of “Grandma’s” books if they don’t think I expect them back.) These books will be well read and loved, then passed on to other Grands.

While I was loading the dishwasher, Grand #10 came twirling into the kitchen behind me. “Gwanma,” he said, “I am busy, busy, busy….  Do you know why I am busy? Fwom spinning awound!” 

Perfect summary of not just our day together, but of my last few weeks.

Time to Breathe


I’ve turned in my last assignment for now.  Class is over.  I await my grade in the mail.  Graduation is only two more classes down the road.  My online school has a virtual graduation, but no stage for that coveted walk.  It’s my only disappointment with this university.  It is well respected and accredited.   For good reason.  Its courses are challenging and empowering.  But it has no in-person graduation.  Bit of a let down, that.

I’ll still get my cap and gown.  My son and daughter are each attending different online schools and will have their master degrees soon.  Their universities do have real graduations, but the kids may not attend because of other obligations.  No matter.  We’ll have a picture made together in our regalia.  Honors all ‘round.  Then we’ll have a party to tell stories about.  And finally, we’ll go fishing to catch our breath.  To prove to ourselves that it is over.  For now, anyway.  There may be doctorates in our future.

In the meantime, I’ve push my final two classes back a bit to catch my breath and attend to other important things.  When those are finished, I’ll return to school and finish up, rested and focused.

For the moment, my whole job is simply to breathe.  Guess I’d better get to it…

Elevator Shuffle


We went to Grand #10’s birthday party today. Eleven of our thirteen Grands were there. It was a boisterous time full of giggles and nonsense, snuggles and stories.

When we were ready to leave, Donnie went out to the van first. He always does. He lowers the lift for my wheelchair and gets the van warmed or cooled, depending on the weather. When I went to the van, I noticed the lift wasn’t down. I opened the door to get in. It wasn’t warm. Odd, I thought. The van had not been started. It has to be started for the lift to work.

“I thought you were going to lower the lift,” I said. Donnie, our son, and our “adopted” son started laughing.

“You didn’t use your chair,” Donnie said.

“Oh.” I hadn’t unloaded it because he parked close to the door and Jeremy helped me up the three steps into Doc’s house. There was no way to get my chair in. I had shuffled back to the van. No chair. I had even seen the chair in the van before I sat down.

The boys came to the van door to say their good-byes and tease me about not paying attention. They were having a good laugh at my expense. But it was good natured and loving, so I told them about another dumb thing I’d done this week. They laughed even harder. Donnie and I were laughing as we pulled out of the drive and headed for home.

On Wednesday, when I had to go to the pulmonologist, I couldn’t remember whether I was supposed to go to the 6th floor or the 8th floor. We split the difference and parked on the 7th level of the parking garage. As we got to the elevator lobby, Donnie said he need to make a detour and would meet me back at the car.

I got on the elevator, push number 6, then noticed the directory on the wall that informed me I should be headed for the 8th floor. I pushed 8. By the time the elevator door opened for the 6th floor, I decided to get off and try to catch an elevator that was already going up instead of riding that one down and then back up. I was already fifteen minutes late and didn’t want to be any later.

As soon as I pushed the “up” button an elevator door opened on the other side of the elevator lobby. I got on with another lady. She pushed the 7 button for her and the 8 for me. We talked a bit as the elevator started up. The door opened on 7. I didn’t notice it wasn’t my floor and got off—just in time to catch Donnie coming back through on his way to the van.

He asked why I had gotten off the elevator on the other side of the lobby and I explained what had happened. A younger couple had entered the lobby at the same time as Donnie and heard my story.

“We’re going to 8,” the gentleman said with a suppressed giggle, “I’ll see she gets there.” His wife nodded agreement. Donnie hates sitting in doctor’s waiting rooms, and his book was calling. So He smiled and thanked them, then headed for the van as the original elevator door opened for passengers going up. I entered the elevator ahead of the younger couple and turned my wheelchair around to face forward.

“Look at that!” the gentleman said, smiling at me. “Eight is already lit up.”

“Yeah, I know. I pushed it last time around.” We all laughed. The couple looked at each other. They probably thought I had Alzheimer’s and wondered why my husband had left me on my own. When the elevator stopped on the 8th floor, the gentleman escorted me all the way to the receptionist’s window.

Well, the boys thought that was a grand story and stood there laughing as we drove off. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they repeated the story to their wives when they went back into the house. But knowing those two, they likely embellished it at bit to make it even funnier. Darn, I wish I could have heard their version.

In the Beginning


Nancy January

This is my first post of my first blog.

These last few months have been filled with firsts. Some were not so pleasant and landed me in the hospital. One was frightening and landed Donnie in the hospital. The most recent was amazing. I participated in National Novel Writing Month and wrote my first draft of my first novel—start to finish—in twenty-nine days.

Okay, the first draft is far from perfect, but it is finished. All my life I have wanted to write a novel. I have. Maybe I will rewrite and edit it to see if it is marketable. Maybe not. I wrote it only for the joy of writing.

I won in 29 days!

Not everything was a first. I have missed the companionship of intelligent women. Some have moved away, some have died, some have just been busy with their own struggles. During these past months, lost friends have been remembered, old friendships have been renewed and celebrated, new friends (both online and local) have been embraced. This feels much like coming home.

If I had to describe myself in one word, it would be “spoiled.” That is not a bad thing. It is an admission that my life is good. I know that it could be otherwise. And I appreciate that it is filled with love, joy, and blessings. My husband of twenty-nine years did not die from his heart attack. Our children are all happily married and have well-behaved, intelligent children. I have few complaints and fewer regrets (everyone should have a few of those).

I am, with the encouragement and support of my family, accomplishing my life goals. I have just written a novel and within a few months will complete my M.Ed. If all goes well, I will go on to get a doctorate. Why? Because it has been something I have wanted for many decades, and because I can. I will be the first of my bloodline to do so and will blaze a trail for my grandchildren. If they see that I can do it, they will not be afraid to try. That alone is reason enough.

I am eager to see what the future holds.