Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Cataracts, Part I

This is a really bad image, but I suppose that takes down the gross factor, right?

I'm sitting in the eye clinic, watching my dad's eye surgery.  They have a monitor all set up so I can watch the live feed of everything they are doing.  It's pretty interesting... to anyone who didn't get squeamish during high school biology classes.  Fortunately, I never did.  I poked through the pig carcasses and cut apart the earthworms and dissected the crayfish while my partner gagged. Not even the field trip to the university cadaver lab got me down,  although the smell threatened to do me in as we approached the building.  Formaldehyde and I don't get along well. So a bloodless eye surgery is no problem for me - I watched it while munching on my breakfast muffins.

I've learned some good life lessons while working with my dad and his failing eyesight these last few months. After his retina surgeries in December and January,  his cataracts got worse.  He can barely see shadows out of his left eye and his depth perception is laughable.

I'm grateful for my eyesight.  I'm getting older and my eyes are bad and I should get bifocals, but I can see.  I can see!  Clouds, birds, a beautiful sunset, the adorable faces of my children,  my husband's grin - I can see them and I'm thankful for it.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mission Monday

Not long now until Alec comes home!  That seems really wild to me. Has it really been two years?  And at the same time, hasn't it been nearly forever since I last saw him? There are a dozen emotions running in and over this mother heart of mine, but mostly love. 

I love this boy and am so grateful for the chance I've had to be his mother and to learn the lessons the Lord had for me through him. I'm definitely a better person because this boy, my strong-willed firstborn, has been part of my life. I'm looking forward to getting to know him as an adult.

And while I'm thinking about boys coming home, I got the official on Ben's plans. He had been thinking about extending his mission and staying for the summer. It's been a tough decision to make, with lots of pros and cons. This boy has always had a hard time making choices. He was the one who would cry at the toy store because he knew that choosing the toy he really wanted meant he had to not choose all the other toys. But he made the decision - he's coming home on time, at the beginning of the summer.  Now I have to figure out where these two boys will be sleeping!

See what they are up to lately on the South Africa Mission blog,  and the Madagascar Mission blog.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Where Do You Put Your Feet?

I play the organ every week at church.  I'm proficient, but not splendiferous at it.  My mother, who had a 40-year tenure as the ward organist, taught me that the two most important parts of accompanying hymns were to begin the song together, and end when they end.  So I do, and anyting more than that is icing.

Now that's not to say that I am a terrible organist who is limping along.  On the contrary, I have played for many years myself and am quite comfortable with most of the hymns in the book.  Most, but not all.  So I practice.

I know what the hymns are at the beginning of the week, more or less.  The idea is that I practice them a bit every day and then I'm ready when Sunday rolls around.  Reality lives in a different world from my ideas, unfortunately.  I think about my songs at the beginning of the week, and then forget in the busyness of daily life.  About Thursday I start feeling panicky and by Friday I actually haul out the hymnbook.  I practice a lot on Friday, intend to practice more on Saturday, and brush the hymns up on Sunday morning.  And some weeks I actually do better than that!

I was practicing the other day when David came into the room.  He watched me play the songs for a few minutes, and then asked how I could practice the pedals when I was playing on a piano, not an organ.  I showed him where I put my feet as I practice, and how I pretend that the pedals are there.

I've been thinking a lot about that ever since.  How can I practice when I'm not really practicing?

First of all, I know the organ.  We had an organ at home when I was a child, and I really learned to play as a teenager.  I know that the D below middle C is directly in front of me as I sit at the organ.  I know that the F is just to the right of my right foot as I sit naturally, and that I have to stretch to the left about a foot to reach low G.

My feet feel the pedals as I play.  Officially, an organist wears special shoes while playing the organ, with a specific low heel and soft leather soles so as to feel the pedals beneath your feet.  Organ shoes are pricey, and I could never justify the expense, so I haven't ever bought any.  I remember my mother buying tap shoes and unscrewing the noisy taps for her organ shoes, but I just play barefoot. The pedals are arranged in white and clusters of black keys, just like the keyboard, and  I can feel where the pedals are, and where the black (or darker) pedals are in relation to the white pedals (which are usually light wood toned).  Low B is on the left side of the break between the the sets of black pedals, and F is on the right side of the next break.

Mostly, however, I practice the crud out of my hands before adding the pedals.  Mistakes are crud, right?  I want to practice the hand parts well enough that I don't even need to think about where they are going.  I need the brain space to pay attention to what my feet should be doing.

As I have been thinking about playing pedals, some other things have also come to mind.  I have some potentially stressful situations coming up that I've been worrying about. How can I prepare for those?  The same way.

I need to know me.  I've lived in me a long time, and I know where my boundaries are.  I know what comes easily, and what kinds of things I have to stretch the accomplish.  I need to respect myself and my strengths and not be afraid to shine.

There is strength in being sensitive.  I am able to feel out a situation, listening as I go, to play the right parts and correct it when it gets disharmonious.  I need to trust my gut feel.

Mostly, I need to make sure that the other parts of my life are in harmony.  Do the things well that I know how to do well.  Keep a schedule.  Get enough sleep.  Eat nourishing food.  Read my scriptures and do the things that fill my heart with happiness and goodness.  Then I will have the space to think and respond to new things as they come up.

Thanks, David, for asking the questions that helped me to answer my own wonderings. Love this family and the things I can learn from them!

And maybe I should even go to the church occasionally and really practice on an organ.  For real.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mission Monday

We've had some bad weather lately.  It's been murky and foggy and the air has been bad.  I'd rather not have to chew my air before I breathe it, thanks.  After about a week of this, it snowed lightly for a day, and then the sun came out!  We hadn't had sunshine for a while, so the sunshine felt so good!  Sometimes we have feel our way around in the dark before we appreciate the light again.

Ben wrote this week about how we can shine in the dark and be an example for each other.  It's a good lesson, and a good reminder.

Catch up on our missionary rambles from Madagascar and South Africa!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

We were cleaning out some storage areas, where my mom had kept all her holiday decorations.  I'm not sure what happened to the valentine wreath, but we found Christmas wreaths in this box.  Most importantly, we found this love note on the box.

My parents were married nearly 45 years before she passed away.  As I'm helping my dad with his history, he glosses over tough areas (whether intentionally or he really can't remember, I don't know) and highlights his love for my mother.  I know there were hard times - some I witnessed, and some my mom told me about later.  I remember going to my bedroom at night after there had been some negative feelings and pressing my ear to their door in an attempt to see if their murmured voices were having an argument.  I couldn't ever tell.  They never fought in front of us.  

No relationship is without its ups and downs, but I'm glad they stuck it out together.  Still in love is an inspiration.  

Happy Valentine's Day, you sweethearts.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Desire and the Dangerous Doughnuts

I ate a doughnut last week.  No, that isn't telling the whole truth.  I think I ate four or five of them.  Trent brought home a whole tray full of day-old doughnuts as a treat for the family.  There were so many that we  - I mean the kids - oh, and my dad - and Trent too - couldn't eat them all up in a day.  So he put the leftovers in the garage, where it was cooler than the kitchen and there were more places to put a big old tray full of doughnuts.  I am grateful that he didn't leave them on the kitchen counter, but in the garage wasn't much better.

You see, they were calling to me.  They know my name.  And they whisper and cajole and tempt and sing siren songs of sticky sweetness to me.  It is so hard to resist!

I am on a special diet because my body isn't functioning properly right now.  I CAN eat fruits and vegetables and whole grains and a little meat every now and then.  I can even eat a tiny bit of fat occasionally!  That's new and I'm happy about it because it means I'm ok for some nuts or avocado or coconut.  I'm nuts about nuts, I admit.  When I eat the things I know my body tolerates, I feel better.  I have energy.  I don't have mood swings.  Life is happier.

But there are some things I still need to stay far, far away from.  Like sugar, of any kind.  And yeast, white flour, and anything processed.  More than just a smidge of plant-fat will do me in.  And no dairy.  A list like this means I need to make all my food from scratch, all the time.  And I need to be really, really careful to keep my guard up.

The doughnuts did me in.  I can only resist goodies for so long, and they were so alluring!  It was bad.  I ate one, and then another.  There may have been a third.  One was a powdered sugar mound of crispiness embracing a raspberry filling.  Another was actually a moist lemon cake disguised as a muffin-top, laced with delightfully tart frosting and peppered with bits of tangy lemon peel.  I savored every morsel, then sucked on my fingers so as not to miss a single atom.

As expected, I got a bad stomachache.  But the next morning there were still doughnuts!  Calling me, taunting me...  I picked up the three holdouts, tied them tightly into a bag and buried them in the garbage.  I didn't care who thought it was wasteful.  Out you go!

But throughout the day, somehow that bag worked its way back up to the top of the garbage and fell open.  And one at a time, those delicious doughnuts fairly jumped into my mouth.  I'm not sure how it happened, but every delicate nibble was delectable.

Payment was extracted over the next few days.  My stomach hurt - for days.  My guts endured all kinds of gastric distress that I'm sure you'd rather me not detail.  I got grumpy.  Normally I'm pretty easy-going, but with sugar I'm downright mean.  I caught the cold that the kids were passing around even though I rarely get sick.  I was discouraged and devoid of energy.  As long as I'm already feeling lousy, I might as well eat one of the cinnamon rolls Trent brought home, right?

That one gave me a bladder infection.  I was so miserable that I ate white bread, which induced a yeast infection.  And I'm still grouchy.

Last night, I even dumped a lengthy laundry list of complaints on my sweet husband.  Poor man.  He's been trying to cope with the kids and an irrational wife, all while adjusting to the learning curve of a new job.  I'm grateful he's so patient with me.

It takes about two weeks to get the sugar out of my system, to replace the cravings with vitality.  Until then, I'm grumpy that I don't get to eat any treats.  I'm trying not to see all the goodies the kids brought home from their Valentin's parties, and failing miserably.  I will continue to attempt to convince myself that the pizza Trent is bringing home for dinner is poison to me.

And I'm begging him to never bring doughnuts into the house again.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Making Faces

I was laying on the couch this afternoon when Freddie said he wanted to snuggle with me.  Normally I welcome such offers, but at that particular moment I was just getting up for a little trip to the restroom.  No, it isn't a restroom - the room I was resting in was the rest room.  It isn't a little girl's room either, because there are so many more boys around these parts.  No powder in there either, so it's not a powder room.  There is a bathtub, so I guess it's a bathroom, but it doesn't sound as nice.  Boy, we have a lot of euphemisms for our waste system requirements, don't we?

Anyway, Freddie insisted that we snuggle.  I told him I'd be happy to - for 10 seconds.  He laughed and then we started counting.  (Together) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5...  But when I said 6, he went back to 1 to start over.  Silly boy!  Guess he wanted more snuggles!

After I got back - and after the snuggles - Georgie brought up a game to play.  I got them this game for their last birthday, and it's a favorite.  No, no affiliations, I just like the game.  It's about the same as Go Fish, but in order to ask someone if they have a particular card, you have to make the face shown on the card.  They love to play it and I love to watch them.

I asked them to pick out their favorite cards so I could take a picture.  How funny is it that they picked out cards that matched their own shirts!  I love these boys so much.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Living With Parkinson's Disease

It's been eighteen months since we moved in with my dad to help him out.  He's got Parkinson's Disease, and his neurologist said he couldn't live alone.  My mom was here, but she passed away three and a half years ago.  My brother and his family lived here, and now it's our turn.  

I've learned so much about this disease, and about my dad, and about myself, and about my sweet husband.  I haven't written much about our experience here, because I wanted to respect my dad and not have him feel bad about something I wrote.  I don't think I have much to worry about now - he doesn't get online anymore.  I do want to be careful and respectful of our challenges here.  I do feel a bit compelled to include our Parkinson's adventures on this blog, because maybe it would help someone else who has similar experiences and feelings.  Sometimes I feel so alone and misunderstood and I wish there were others who know what it is like to be a Parkinson's caregiver.  I'm sure I'm less alone than I think I am.  

Yup.  It's just me and Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali and 10 million people worldwide.  60,000 people every year are diagnosed with Parkinson's.  If I want to read different points of view, I can look at this list of 49 Parkinson's blogs, or this list of 14 blogs.  I have more information than I can shake a stick at.  Even if it is a very big stick.

What I don't have is a little afternoon chat with someone else who is living with a Parkinson's patient while trying to parent their own children.  It has been wonderful and very trying to live with my dad.  I'm sure there are others who understand.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll find some.

Save tomorrow afternoon for me.  I'd love to chat.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mission Monday

I love January.  After the hustle of the holidays, I'm ready to spend a month snowed in with a cup of warm ginger tea by the fireplace.  Or cinnamon tea - I'm not picky.  I could just sit and watch the storms blow in, comfortable as long as there is food in the pantry and I have a warm blanket around my shoulders.  At least, that's how I spent this January, and it was nice.  But now it's February and there is still snow.  It is still cold outside and I have to go out in it.  It's still winter, but I'm done.

My boys, however, are enjoying summertime.  Alec is sitting in sunshine and 83 degrees, while Ben is sweating it out in 94 degrees.  I could do without their humidity (70% and 63%, respectively), and I do have plenty of sunshine here, but it's not the warm kind of sun.  I'm ready for warm.

Look at that sunshine.  You don't know whether it is warm, and the drifting clouds provide a bit of a respite from the heat, or if the blue sky is reflecting on the icy ground below.  For the comfort of my internal thermometer, I'll choose the former.  And that's what we do.  We get to choose how we react to the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Hopefully, we'll learn to have a good attitude about things, like what I found in Ben's letter this week.

I don't feel like God expects us to be super pumped about hard things, I don't think God was disappointed with his two prophets for being a little bit bummed about being imprisoned and starved and about to be killed. But He helped them. And He always helps us if we're willing to let him do that. I love that. I know he loves us and He's always got our backs.

Read the rest of what he said here, and keep up with Alec here.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Going on a Field Trip

I'm going on a junior high field trip. I'm not sure what got intro me, or what happened to my sanity. When Eddie came home with the permission slip for me to sign, there was a check box for "I would like to go as a chaperone."  What the heck. I've gone on field trip with my other boys, but never with Eddie, so I marked it.  And then I forgot all about it. 

Two days ago, I got a phone call from a desperate junior high teacher, acknowledging that it was short notice, but was there any way I could come and help out?  Sure!   I can hang out with a few kids for a few hours. Surely I'm capable of at least that much.

I made arrangements for my kindergartners, and planned to go. I packed my sack lunch (an apple and a handful of raisins and almonds), put on my best walking shoes (which isn't saying much), and got myself to the room at the junior high where the parents were meeting.   To my surprise, the room was packed. I didn't realize that there were six hundred and fifty seventh graders, all going on the same field trip...  with several other schools...  with THOUSANDS and thousands of kids.   I have fifteen to twenty in my group and we'll ALL be in a huge convention center and I have to keep track of them... for hours. I had no idea.

What have I gotten myself into?

We walked through the crowded hallways to the auditorium where the teachers tried to holler instructions over the din. In the crush to get out and load the buses, I was grateful for my height that allowed me to look over the heads of most of the kids.  I had to stop and look hard at the mob when I remembered that I have not grown a millimeter since eighth grade.  Today's view of head tops is the same scene I saw when I was in junior high.  No wonder I always felt awkward!

After inching forward in the bedlam, we finally got to the cheerfully yellow school buses, rumbling in long yellow lines. We jostled aboard like a herd of cattle.  What a fun and energetic adventure!
It turned out that there weren't assigned groups.  I just took a random bunch of kids and forged ahead.  My group of twenty got smaller and smaller until it was just Eddie and two girls.  Then I turned around and even they were gone.  I can't tell you how tempting it was to just grab a chair and put my feet up.  But I didn't.

I found my boy again, totally unconcerned that I had been hunting for him.  We found the other kids and made it back on the bus with the same amount we started with.  Amazing.

And we all had a good time.  I'll put my feet up for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Look for the Good

I love my family.  I am appreciative that we have a roof over our heads and sturdy walls to keep out the cold.  I have so many blessings!  That said, our living arrangements have been challenging.  Living with my dad has been two or three castes below renting, and I'm so fiercely independent that it is pathetically hard for me to have such boundaries.  I get it - this is my dad's house, and I can't make changes and improvements to it.  And he still lives here, so there is a lot of even the decor that I don't feel like I can change.  It made him crazy that I moved the silverware to a different drawer.

So I can keep sniveling about the things I can't change, or I can look somewhere else.  I get a kick out of the design blogs that show us a gorgeous homescape, and then turn around and photograph the other side of the room - where they have kicked the old papers and the dirty socks and last night's dessert dishes and the two blankets that don't match.  Thanks for keeping it real.

We can do that in real life, too.  I get to choose where I want to look.  I can look at the shelves overflowing with my mother's movie collection, or I can look at the somewhat-calmer fireplace.  "Organize yourselves" was our theme for January, so I thought I ought to tidy up the space around it.  Looking here makes me happy.  I just have to be careful to look down every now and then because this room also houses our spreading Lego collection.  Don't step on Legos.

I got myself a bag of cinnamon pine cones this year, after admiring them at the stores - but not buying them - every dang year.  I love cinnamon, and they still smell lovely.  This is what I want to be smelling, not burnt toast or eau de teenaged garcon.  Look for the good.

The best part of having a family is that I get to be Mama.  Love these kids!  Even when they rip my heart out and have growing pains and act unlovable.  Maybe I love them even more then, because I have to search and find the wonderful parts of them.  It takes practice.  But the more I work on loving someone who is difficult to love, the better I get at it.  My angel mother and my sweet husband have taught me this.

My mom loved me when I was prickly and not very loving.  I still want to curl up in her arms and have her just hold me.  And my man loves me now when I am having a less than lovely day.  Thanks for holding me together, Trent.

Thanks, Mom, for loving me, and for showing me how to be a mom.  Hope you don't mind that I moved the silverware.  If you do mind, just look somewhere else, ok?