Sunday, December 10, 2017

Grandma's a sicky

Today, I think I may be joining the land of the living. I've been sick all week with a really nasty bug. I don't know if it was the flu or a mega cold virus. Either way I felt like a run-over squirrel squished up alongside the curb.

I hadn't been sick since becoming a grandma three years ago. I figured grandmas are old enough to have killer immunity against the thousand or more strains of viruses out there.  

But my lucky streak ended Monday when I woke up feeling like someone had taken a sledge hammer to me. I wobbled through the cleaning job I had that morning, came home, popped a couple of Advil and went to bed. The next two days I stayed home from work, alternating taking Advil and Tylenol every four to six hours.

On Thursday and Friday I went back to work. I tried the best I could not to infect my coworkers, coughing into my arm pit, liberally using hand sanitizer and wiping down my phone and keyboard with saniwipes.  To get through the day, I continued with the Ibuprofin.  

At the end of the day on Friday, I made a stop at the mall and grocery store. By the time I dragged my sorry self home, hauled in the Christmas gifts, $148 worth of groceries, and two bags of water softener salt, I was done.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling worse than I did all week. My body ached. I had a fever and was sweating and shivering simultaneously. My tonsils felt like they had been raked over with a chisel plow.  I wondered if I had strep. I dreaded the idea of waiting at Urgent Care for hours to get a strep test.

I did an online express appointment instead. You fill out a questionnaire about your symptoms and then a nurse responds within an hour. According to my symptoms, the nurse replied, I was at a low risk of having strep. The advice was to treat the symptoms, including taking Ibuprofen or acetaminophen for the fever and sore throat. I spent the rest of the day immobile on the couch watching the History Channel's marathon on the Navy Seals. Impressive what the Navy Seals do.

Today I feel better. Not 100 percent, but well enough to throw in a load of laundry and change my sheets. I wondered why it took me so long to beat whatever my body had been fighting. Every time the effects of the Ibuprofen wore off, I felt significantly worse.

I did a little research on how to get over a virus sooner. Turns out that by trying to get rid of my symptoms with Ibuprofen I was most likely sabotaging my body's defense against the virus.

The symptoms of a cold--coughing, congestion, fever, body aches and sore throat--work to stop the virus from replicating. Even fatigue is a good thing. It's the body's way of getting you to lay low so your body can fight the good fight. (Meaning that my shopping frenzy probably didn't help the cause.)  

The immune system is like the Navy Seals being sent in to battle. Better to let the special forces do their job without interference, even if it means putting up with feeling cruddy for awhile.

I'll skip the Advil next time I'm sick and see what happens. Oh, right.  I'm a grandma. Grandmas don't get sick.  Ha!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Hitting 55

Sharing birthdays with Evie
Yesterday I celebrated my birthday with our first grandchild. Evie was due on my birthday and came on my birthday. Pretty special. Evie turned three. I've hit the speed limit.

I am good with being fifty-five. For me, the sevens have always been the hard birthdays. Twenty-seven. Thirty-seven. Forty-seven. All gave me a certain kind of dread. I don't know why exactly.  Maybe because I was closer to the next decade than I was to the last.  

Forty-seven though was the worst. My plumbing was unpredictable. I was becoming increasingly forgetful.  I also weighed more than I did when I was nine-months pregnant with my last child. At my physical that year, my doctor said I had all the signs of perimenopause, the precursor to the last hurrah. Yay. Well, at least there was a reason I was going haywire mentally and physically.  

I asked her about the weight gain.  She said, oh yeah, that's part of it.  Once a woman turns 50 and hits menopause, the default is to continue to gain weight.  A woman would need to both exercise an hour more a day and decrease calories just to maintain her weight, never mind lose weight. Well, if all I could hope for after 50 was just to maintain my weight, I decided I would go into it the skinniest I possibly could.

For the next months I cut calories and worked out like a fiend. After 40 pounds lost, I recognized my face again. It felt good. I tossed out all my old clothes and bought new ones in sizes I hadn't seen since high school.

And, then, I promptly went into a full-blown midlife crisis. This was the best it was going to get before I got truly old. I grew depressed thinking of the day I'd be wearing comfortable orthopedic shoes and plucking hairs off my chin.

It took me until I turned 50 to get over the midlife crisis. Since then I've come to realize there are advantages of growing older.

For one, I have greater perspective. When my kids call to share their hardships, I tell them that things are going to turn out okay. And, I know they will. I've seen it in my own life. Sometimes it takes time--a long time, years even--but God can turn crummy things into blessings.

Yes, my memory is shot.  But there's an upside to losing your memory.  I can now read a book twice. I'm into the third chapter before the story line seems even vaguely familiar and I realize that I've probably read it before.  Doesn't matter. I don't remember how it ends, so I keep reading.

I've become more comfortable in saying what I mean and meaning what I say.  I certainly try to be gracious, but I don't have the energy or time to beat around the bush. I guess that's what it means to lose your filter. 

I'm okay with the way I look. I look my age, I think. It's silly to try to be some kind of hot grandma.  I'm just going for well groomed.

I think intercession is a special gifting that God gives to older people. After our last child left for college, I was sobered by the thought that the time of influence with our children was over. Had we done it right? We made so many mistakes as parents. Our sphere of influence is now in our prayers.  Dave and I have an urgency to pray for young people like never before. Daily we pray for the young people in our lives, each of them by name. Our adult children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces, and the children and grandchildren of our friends.  

The relationship with your children changes as you and they grow older. You become more of a mentor and cheerleader as they move into their adult lives and become parents themselves. You are honored when they come to you seeking wisdom. (That I have any wisdom to give is always a surprise to me.)

But the creme de la creme is getting grandbabies out of the deal. In the last three years, Dave and I have been blessed with three beautiful granddaughters, Evie, Hazel, and Ashton. My birthson also has two little guys: Moser and Daniel. Someone once told me that having grandchildren is like falling in love. It's true. When you think of your grandchildren, you get this soft, warm expansive feeling. You can't get enough of them and can't wait for the next time you see them. Pure joy.

But here's something else.  The older I get, the less of a hold I have on this life. This life is full of joys and blessings but more than enough heartache and sorrow to go around too. We live in a broken world. All you need to do is turn on the television and listen to the news. But this life is just a dot on the line of eternity. The older I get, I think of heaven more. I long to be in the Lord's presence forever. 

But until that day comes, I'm going to live my life gratefully.

Life at 55 is good.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Laughing Gas

For the last couple of days I've had a zinger of a toothache.  After a long night counting my pulse through the number of times my tooth throbbed, I called to get into the dentist right away in the morning. A few X-rays and a shot of cold air to tooth #15 and Dr. Julee confirmed I needed a root canal. Gravely, she told me the tooth was dying.

So far this year we've paid the dentist the equivalent of what we could have spent buying a small-sized sedan.  I asked how much for the root canal.  $1,500.  I asked how much to have it pulled. $200 to $300, depending.  "Pull it." 

Dr. Julee looked pained. As a dentist she said she always tries to save teeth. The tooth was still good. It already had a crown on it. I could understand this. Saving teeth is her job. Probably feels a little bit like a cat lady who can't rescue every creature and has to let one go. 

I asked if I could get along without the tooth, and she admitted that if there was any tooth you could live without it would be a back top tooth. I said I was ready to say goodbye to the problem child. I had spent enough money on this tooth over the years.

The receptionist set me up with an oral surgeon in the afternoon. She broke down the price and asked if I wanted to have nitrous oxide--laughing gas. It was an extra $86. 

I'd never had the particular pleasure of receiving laughing gas, but I heard it was a blast. I'd always just braved it out with Novocain, even when I had my wisdom teeth removed years ago. 

Our dentist in California was a man from India named Dr. Belur. I had assumed when I went to Dr. Belur to get my wisdom teeth pulled, I'd be put under or be offered laughing gas. I was wrong. When I asked when I was going to be put to sleep, Dr. Belur said in his genteel Indian accent, "Oh, no, in New Delhi I take out 300 teeth a day. Not even Novocain. I just pull." He said I should have gone to an oral surgeon if I had wanted to be put under sedation.

I felt a sense of alarm, but he said no worries. He'd use Novocain with me. He gave me my first shot, and there was no turning back. 

What came next was akin to two hours of labor and delivery with forceps. Dr. Belur was pulling so hard to get my first impacted tooth out that my butt kept lifting up off the chair. As my body dangled from the single grip of a pair of dental pliers, Dr. Belur told me I should have gone to an oral surgeon and gotten put under. 

He had managed to cut two of the teeth out by the time his office closed at five o'clock. I was sent home with two tea bags to put in my injured mouth and told to return in the morning to have the other two removed. I came back the next morning for more of the same, and finally the deed was done.

So with the memory of my experience with Dr. Belur in mind, I readily said yes please when the oral surgeon offered a little bit of the N20.

The laughing gas wasn't quite the hoot I expected, but it did make the whole experience of getting a tooth yanked out of your jaw an almost pleasant one. After the dental assistant strapped the mask over my nose, I had a moment of claustrophobia. I asked if I could get it removed if I started to panic.  The assistant said just to breathe through my mouth if I got uncomfortable.

They started up the mist. I waited. Nothing. Took a few deep breaths.  Still nothing.  But then my hands started to tingle and my lips felt like they were getting shot up with Botox. Not that I have ever gotten Botox. Finally, I started to feel a mildly pleasant sensation. The creative juices began to flow.  Man, this would make for a good blog. I tried to hang onto the pleasant thoughts drifting in my brain. 

I thought of my oldest daughter who had delivered our latest granddaughter at a birthing center. The midwives used laughing gas for pain relief. God bless Amber, I thought. She went through childbirth just with laughing gas. Gosh, I love that girl. Then I thought of our other two children. And our grandbabies. Well, just bless them all.

I heard the crunch of the tooth as it cracked, sort of like what you hear when you break apart the bones of the chicken.

Seemed like less than a minute and they were done. I remained in the chair as I was given instructions for after care. 

As I made my way to my car, I rehearsed the happy thoughts I had while I was under the stream of laughing gas. I was going to write the blog as soon as I got home.

First though I needed to get ice cream. Ice cream was supposed to be good for recovery. I pulled up at the drive through at Flapdoodles and ordered a pint of vanilla and a pint of white chocolate raspberry. 

At home, I replaced the gauze, took two Advil and started on the blog.  That was over four hours ago. I still haven't been able to recover the breezy thoughts I had while I was in laughing gas la-la land.

Oh, well. Getting the tooth pulled was a piece of cake. And I'm eating Flapdoodles ice cream.  All in all, a good day. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Minimizing. The 30-Day Challenge

My daughter and son-in-law are embracing minimalism.  Vaguely, I remembered hearing about the concept. It's a quest to live with less and not go down the path of major consumerism. The Minimalist web site defines minimalism as a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.

I know it can be taken to the extreme--like owning and living with 100 items or less. Good for those who do that, but that sounds like a mere survivalist existence. Not a lifestyle I wish to embrace. I don't want to choose between owning a camp stove or wearing makeup.  

For Matt and Paige, though, it's just about simplifying their lives. Having a two-bedroom home and two small children, they were feeling overwhelmed with the amount of stuff they had.  I completely understand. Until our oldest was in her teens, we raised our three children in a small one- and a half-story. Keeping a small house clean with kids is like shoveling while it's still snowing. I kept a relatively tidy house when my kids were growing up (except for the girls' room for which they were responsible and I avoided entering). It wasn't easy keeping the house from getting trashed. I was crabby much of the time as I was constantly picking up or telling my kids to put their toys away.  

A solution is to simply have less stuff. Paige and Matt are making great progress in purging their house of anything that, as Matt says, "doesn't bring them joy." Daily they send me a photo of something else they are tossing overboard.

They gave me the 30-Day Minimalism challenge to do with them. The challenge is to get rid of excess stuff for a month. The first day you get rid of one thing.  The second day, two things. Three items on the third and so on. By the end of 30 days, you'll have gotten rid of something like 930 items. You can donate, sell, or trash, but each possession has to be out of the house and your life by midnight. 

At first, I didn't think I needed to do the challenge.  Except for my buying high-end lattes (a habit I have been recently curbing), I don't feel like I'm into mass consumerism. If you walk into my house, it's usually fairly uncluttered.  I don't have many clothes, other than my work scrubs or what I get free at Gap with my reward points. I'm pretty good about making regular trips to Savers or throwing things we no longer use.

But then I realized there was a lot I could purge.  It's the junk that's been traveling with me every move I've made since college and after Dave and I were first married. Basically, stuff that is out of sight and out of mind, but feels somehow sacrilegious to get rid of. Semi-sentimental stuff I haven't wanted to tackle. Photos Dave took when he was doing weddings years ago. College textbooks. Music CDs and VHS tapes which we no longer have a way of playing. Binders of material from retreats and conferences we've attended. Duplicate photos of the kids. The pair of pants I wore in 1988 and said I'd keep until the day I could fit into them again. 

Recently Mom and Warren moved to an apartment in Lake City. I and my siblings helped her box up the things for the move. We had three piles. Toss, give away, or keep. When Mom was distracted, we stealthily put things in the toss pile. Much of it, she and Warren spied and pulled out and put in the keep pile. Their new apartment and small storage area are crammed full. 

I thought of what it will be like for our kids one day when they move us to assisted living. I joined the challenge.

June 1, I tossed the entire contents of the top left drawer of my dresser. I considered the drawer as one thing. It was full of mostly slips, negligees, and camis given to me at my bridal shower 31 years ago. Somehow, it seemed wrong to throw them. Why, I don't know. I haven't fit into them since our second year of marriage. And, good grief, does any one even wear slips anymore? 

Yesterday, I got rid of an old TV that doesn't get sound and a coffee thermos cup that leaks.

It might take me towards the end of the challenge before I hit the Rubbermaid tub holding the pants I haven't worn since 1988. Pretty sure I won't be able to get them up beyond my knees.

Join us if you like.  Let me know how it goes. The 30-Day Minimalist Challenge 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Cup of Joe

Sigh.  I'm only on Day One of titrating down on caffeine and my head is feeling soggy.

I love coffee. I really, truly love coffee. The problem is it's become all or nothing for me.  I've gone beyond drinking coffee in moderation to becoming all out dependent.  At home I drink three to four seizure-inducing cups every day.  With how thick I make my brew, this probably translates to seven cups to the average coffee-drinking Joe.

I could live with just being addicted to coffee.  It's not the worst vice, and it makes me happy.  But it's how much money I'm spending on finely crafted lattes outside of home that's the problem.

Dave and I do the Everydollar budget (it's simple, it's free, and it's gotten us out of debt--yay, Dave Ramsey!).  Every month I blow my coffee budget, usually within the first week.  I'm not going to tell you how much I spend.  It's embarrassing. Suffice it to say, if I quit buying Starbucks, I could get a new outfit every month.  Pretty sad, because my monthly budget for clothing is zero.  I could use a new pair of jeans.

At work, I get Starbucks.  Every morning I tell myself I'm not going to spend money on a cup of coffee that costs more than a gallon of milk. But then I always find a reason that I need a coffee treat.  (I'm feeling blue. I didn't sleep well last night. It's only Tuesday. It's Friday and time to celebrate. And on and on and on.)

I've tried finding cheaper alternatives.  But lesser substitutes won't do. Our work's break room has a Keurig.  To me K-Cup coffee tastes like not very good instant coffee. I've also tried bringing in freshly ground coffee and filling the reusable kind of cups.  The result is a not so awesome cup of slightly gritty swill.

I've brought coffee in a thermos. Tastes metallic. I've made iced coffee, which at home is pretty good, but halfway through the day is an anemic watery drink.

So, if I can't be satisfied unless I'm spending my future retirement on foo-foo drinks, it might be I just need to quit.  Or, at least stop until coffee once again becomes the occasional treat and not the life-or-death-gotta-have-it addiction that it is now.

I'm bracing myself for ice-pick headaches. My strategy is to regularly dose with Ibuprofin.  So far, my head just feels soggy.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Church Visitor

Last Sunday I visited a church on my way home from Madison.  I had spent the weekend with my daughter's family. Paige had just had her baby--our second granddaughter, Hazel Rose (who of course is beautiful in every way).  I was delighted to spend time with the new baby and Evie, our other adorable granddaughter.

I really wanted to go to church before I headed back home. Paige and Matt were staying home from church that Sunday. It was just a little bit too soon to go out with their newborn. After doing some research on the internet, I found one that I thought would be good. It was right on my way back home.

Visiting the church that morning was an uncomfortable experience. I don't mean to malign this church. The people seemed sincere. The worship was uplifting and the message Bible-based and challenging. However, I felt unwelcome being there.

It was partly my mistake. I should have waited for the church service. Instead I came in during the coffee fellowship, the half hour between Sunday school and the church service. When I got to the door, a man who I assumed was the assigned greeter that morning handed me a bulletin. No one else seemed to notice me. After standing around awkwardly for a few minutes, I made a beeline for the single-person restroom. It was just to the right of the coffee table. Someone was ahead of me. A person came out and the man went in. I waited for him to finish. (What do you do outside a bathroom door other than just stand there and feel weird.)

The foyer began to fill as people spilled out of the sanctuary. It wasn't a big church. A lot of people were older with gray hair like me, which told me they probably had been attending the church for a number of years.  I would have thought it easy to pick me out as a visitor. No one looked my way though or said hello. People stood in huddles chatting among themselves.

The guy wasn't coming out of the bathroom. It had been a few minutes. It felt like forever. I got a cup of coffee. He still didn't come out. Good grief. I decided my best bet was to wait in the sanctuary and try later.

I sat in an empty pew. I hoped someone would come and sit by me. Feeling conspicuous, I moved to the end of the pew next to the wall. I figured the pew would eventually fill up from the aisle.

Finally, a white-haired lady came over and shook my hand. I told her I was visiting after seeing my new granddaughter.  She smiled vaguely and nodded her head. As is my nature when I'm nervous, I started to blab. I shared that visiting a church was kind of scary.  She looked surprised. "Oh, really?" She then went up to join the worship team that was assembling up front.

I killed a few minutes by reading the bulletin. I got out my phone and texted my daughters about the situation.  They sympathized with me.  Both have had the same agonizing experience of trying out new churches. It's the worst, one texted back.

Finally--mercifully--the service started. Pretty routine. Announcements, then singing.  The songs were familiar, and I settled into worship.  Only thing I was a little emotional by this time--probably from being tired after sleeping on a couch for the last couple of nights and having a two-year-old wake me up to play at 4:30 in the morning. The main factor though was I was feeling bereft and lonely.

My eyes started to water as tears began to form.  Pretty soon the tears steadily riveted down my cheeks. Great. I was without a Kleenex.  I had unfortunately just tossed the one that had been wadded up in my coat pocket. Worse, I was trapped along the wall and couldn't get out unless I crawled over a row of people. I felt the eyes of the ladies next to me. The music ended, and the pastor instructed us to turn and greet our neighbor. I mumbled a greeting and then hastily scrambled out of the pew in search of Kleenex.

There was none to be found in the foyer. Toilet paper would suffice. The restroom was still being occupied. Yeesh, what was that guy doing in there?  Finally, I spied a stack of cocktail-sized napkins underneath the coffee table.  I grabbed a handful and tried to pull myself together. I was tempted to leave right then and there, but I had left my coat and purse on the pew. The preaching had already started when I climbed back over the row of people to get to my spot along the wall.

The rest of the service went by without incident. The sermon was good--on the subject of hell, never an easy topic to tackle. But the preacher spoke truth, and it gave me something to think about on the way home. Embarrassingly, I still couldn't stopping crying. At the end of the sermon, the pastor said there would be people up front who would pray for those in need. I was in need. It had been an exhausting hour.

Church was dismissed.  Going against the stream of traffic in the aisle, I elbowed a few people as I made my way to the two ladies who were standing at the front of the stage. So they wouldn't get the idea I was there to say the sinner's prayer, I quickly told them I was a believer. They asked how they could pray for me. I sobbed as I unloaded my heart. They pulled me into their ample bosoms and enveloped me with heart-felt prayers.

They were very kind and sincere. But I began to feel really hot. I was wearing my winter coat, and with being held in a tight embrace by two rather large ladies, I felt like I was going to pass out. If I did pass out, maybe people would just think I had been slain in the spirit.

The kind women finished praying for me. I gave them each a hug and thanked them. I then elbowed my way back up the aisle. I fell out of the church into fresh air. Other than still not using the restroom, I felt tremendous relief.

As I got on the highway to head home, I reflected on what it's like to be a church visitor. With a few exceptions, I have found it not easy to visit churches for the first time.

I have been a Christian for years and have been attending church since I was born. If I am uncomfortable being a church visitor, I realize how vulnerable it is for the unbeliever to cross the threshold of a church building. It's unfamiliar territory. If people aren't made to feel welcome, they may just never enter a church again.

There is one church visit that stands out as incredibly positive. When my daughter was in college she had to visit a Spanish-speaking church as an assignment for her language class. I visited one with her in Rochester. Even though I couldn't understand people's words, I have never felt so loved and welcome. People came up to us with big smiles, giving us warm greetings and hugs. They seemed sincerely happy we were there. During the service, a gentleman moved next to me and translated the sermon word for word. After the service, people thanked us for coming and told us to come again. These dear people who spoke broken English exuded the love of Christ. It was a powerful experience.

I pray that people who try our church for the first time might feel that same love.