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Nocturnal decimations

Delaware Grammy has always enjoyed the hours when she could sleep, undisturbed and quiet in her comfy bed.  Even though she is not one to claim (or even need) quantity of hours, the quality is mandatory so as to see her through the days that wrap themselves around the old farmhouse at Shady Acres. It has been a great blessing that Delaware Grandpa, though troubled by Restless Leg Syndrome and a family gene that causes insomnia, makes it his business to sneak stealthily from the room when he cannot sleep so as not to disturb his wife with his wanderings about in the still, quiet nights.

In recent weeks, things have gone awry in such a way as to make Delaware Grammy think there must be a conspiracy going on amongst the gremlins that disturb sleep.  And they are using almost every method available and opportunity afforded them.

The changeable weather caused one restless night.  Delaware Grandpa and Delaware Grammy sleep in a bedroom that tends to be on the cool side, and several weeks ago, when the weather turned cool, Grammy brought forth the electric blanket, threaded the controls under the bed to the respective sides and plugged everything in.  That very night, things warmed up and so it wasn’t needed for some time.  However, when the nights became cooler again, Grammy began to ask Grandpa if he was going to turn on his side of the blanket.  He always said that he didn’t need it “yet” but didn’t care if Grammy turned hers on.  So there were some nights when Grammy would turn hers on for a brief period, but most of the time it wasn’t necessary at all.  And then one night she came to bed feeling very tired and quite warm from a long day cooking and getting ready for company.  It was a cool night, but she kicked the covers off her feet, and didn’t think she needed the electric blanket at all, so she didn’t even look at the control.  She was restless all night, just feeling so warm, and finally kicking back the electric blanket and sleeping with just the sheet.  But then she was too cold, so she pulled it back up again.  Whew!  Then she was too warm.  Along about 4am, Grandpa took himself downstairs to his La-Z-boy and Grammy happened to fluff her pillow up over the side of his and take over part of his side of their bed.

H-m-m-m-m-m-m.  His side was cool.  Considerably cooler than hers.  Wait a minute!  She was suddenly very much awake.  She turned back over to her side of the bed, and grabbed the electric blanket control that was languishing on its side on her bedside table.

Oh, dear!  No wonder she was warm.  In the darkness, a bright green 10 shone out merrily.  TEN!  Oh, for crying out loud!  No wonder she was warm!  But how in the world???  She hadn’t touched that control for a number of days.  However, it didn’t take too much sleuthing to realize what had happened.  Last year, if Grandpa went up to bed early, and thought it was cold, he would turn on her side of the blanket so that it would be warm for her when she climbed in.  He never bothered to change the settings, but would just turn it on.  On this particular night, he was feeling chilly.  And even though he didn’t feel the need to start his side of the blanket, he was looking out for the comfort of his wife.  Somehow the setting was at TEN on this particular night, and so all night long Grammy roasted away while she tossed and turned and barely slumbered.

Around the same time, there seemed to be an upper respiratory bug going around the household of Delaware Grandpa and Delaware Grammy.  Grandpa was coughing and snorting around and Grammy was trying really hard not to catch it.  All she needed was a stopped up nose and a cough to complicate her life.  And so one night, getting awake in the middle of night, she found her mouth exceedingly dry and her throat feeling scratchy.  She padded over to the bathroom and got a drink and then climbed back into bed.  Lying there, thinking about the probability that she might be getting sick, she decided to spray her throat with some Chloraseptic spray that is always on her bedside stand.  She felt around in the dark and found the spray bottle.  Undoing the plastic top, she aimed it for the back of her throat where her tonsils once were and gave a hefty push on the spray top.

Ugh!  Oh, awful!  There was a horrible burning sensation, a terrible taste in her mouth and the smell of liniment.  Yepper!  You guessed it!  She had gotten her “pain spray” alright, but it was the one for aching muscles and creaky joints, not the Chloraseptic Sore Throat Spray that she was expecting.  It wasn’t just Grandpa who was coughing and snorting that night.  But her mouth certainly wasn’t dry for the rest of the night.  Ah, yes.  There was lots of watering going on.  But she hadn’t gotten terribly much, and she didn’t seem any the worse for it, so she waited for the light of day and then made sure that she had what she wanted and that it was where she wanted it for the next time it was needed.

And then there was the week between Christmas and New Years.  Delaware Grandpa and Grammy’s family came home for a few days, and Grammy had come upon the bright idea of giving Eldest Son and his family their side of the upstairs for the few nights they and their four children would be home.  The two bedrooms and the bathroom was a good fit, and Grandpa and Grammy could easily sleep on their recliners those nights and all would be well.

All would have been well except for a stomach virus that laid the family low during their stay, and there was much vomiting and bed changing and such going on.  On Wednesday, Eldest Son took his family back to Sugar Creek, and Delaware Grammy reclaimed her bed for a few hours until the same stomach virus laid its savage hand upon her, and she was back in her recliner for thirty hours or so.  Quickly recovered, she had pleasant sleep for all of Thursday and Friday nights, and quietly prayed that God would spare the rest of her family.  Especially Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda.

It was not to be.  Saturday morning she came down to a very miserable BL.  She had projectile vomited over her bedroom floor, clear to OGA’s bed, and then vomited profusely while in the bathroom.  All day long, there were ministrations of gingerale and peach juice and Phenergan.  By evening, she wasn’t vomiting, and she seemed to be better, but Grammy decided that it would be best for her to sleep in a recliner, where she could be helped quickly if she needed assistance.  (She also was remembering the three hours she had spent cleaning the bathroom, spraying Lysol over all the surfaces, and scrubbing the rug between the beds in the bedroom.  Linoleum floor and a Schwan’s ice cream bucket seemed a far better choice than a bed with clean sheets and a still wet carpeted floor.)  So, with Linda in her chair, and late night things to finish up, Grammy finally got settled very late, indeed, into her own recliner and drifted off to sleep.

It was a restless sleep, however, and scarcely was she asleep an hour when she was suddenly awake.  She heard voices.  People were talking somewhere, faintly.  Then she heard the driveway monitor.  This did not produce confidence.  As quietly as she could, she put the foot rest down on her recliner.  Stealthily she sneaked out to the kitchen and looked out the window.  Yikes!  The motion sensor light had been activated on the back deck towards the chicken house lane.  She stood stock still in the middle of her kitchen, straining her ears to hear, but the voices had fallen silent.  Had they detected movement through the kitchen window?  She stood contemplating what she should do.

Then it didn’t matter any more.  It was time to move to safety of her own bed and to the protection that the presence of Delaware Grandpa always affords.  She thought about the fact that it had been about eight hours since BL had vomited, and decided to take her to the bathroom and put her into her own bed.  With clandestine movements, intended to keep her out of the direct view of any windows and hushed, whispered instructions to BL, she got her from her chair, into the bathroom, and tucked into her bed.  She quietly sang her a bedtime prayer, and crept out of the room.  As she stepped out of the room, she heard voices again, and this time, she could make out words.  It felt like a cold hand had grabbed her stomach —

. . . until she realized that it was coming from the computer room..Her computer had not been shut down for the night and was picking up window after window of commercial drivel and playing it loudly to a dark, empty room.  She opened the door, shut the eight or so offending windows, and then shut the computer down.  And then she gathered her nightie tight against her and climbed the steps to the comfy bed where Delaware Grandpa lay snoring softly.  Slipping in beside him she gave a contented sigh and was almost instantly asleep.  There was a space of a mere two hours until she needed to be up again, but the quality of those two hours was unblemished by any interruption or disturbance.  Just pure blissful sleep.

She never did find out what set off the driveway monitor, (probably a cat on an nocturnal stroll) or activated the sensor light (probably a breeze in the branches that have grown into the line of perception).  But whatever it is that disturbs the slumber of Delaware Grammy, the truth is that she will always sleep better when Grandpa is there to defend and protect.  And so she continues to pursue quality hours of sleep that will refresh.  And if she can remember to check her blanket controls and keep watch over the contents of her bedside table, it stands to reason that peaceful slumber will be the norm and not the exception.

For this, her heart truly does give most grateful praise!

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Filed under Family living, home living, My Life, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW

Chapters in December

The skies are grey and heavy with rain on this Saturday a week before Christmas.  I’m supposed to be editing my yearly Family Christmas letter.  The envelopes are addressed, and stamped, the cards are ready to go into the envelopes, and the letter is mostly finished, but it’s been a difficult task this year.

Certain Man is home today, in the house, working on tomorrow’s sermon for our congregation at Laws Mennonite Church.  I’m sitting for the first time since I got up!  And I did sleep in this morning.  In fact, when I got up and saw that it was after eight o’clock, I rattled around the old nursery rhyme in my head, editing it as I went.

Mary Annie has grown so fine
She won’t get up to feed the swine
But lies in bed till eight or nine
Lazy Mary Annie!

This week has been another week in the journey I continue to make in life.  I think the last months I’ve felt more like I was walking in my Mama’s footsteps than I ever have before.  One of the things that is evident to me is that the Mama I remember best was far younger than I am now.  And often things come up that hit me squarely in the face that were things of the years when I considered her “old.”

One of the things that has been entirely too reminiscent of her has been this thing of getting accustomed to my partial plate.  Mama had a bit more vanity than I do, and she went the route of implants and caps for most of the teeth she lost, but as the years passed, she was forced to go with dentures.  They were a sore trial to her, and they hurt, and they didn’t fit right, and they wouldn’t chew the things she wanted them to chew.  Lots of times she had sores in her mouth from where they rubbed, and she was dependent on me or someone else to take her to her dentist in Dover to get things adjusted or repaired or replaced.  I feel so sorry sometimes when I am dealing with even a minor maladjustment to my partial plate and I think of how she must have felt and how miserable she must have been with the constant lack of satisfaction with her teeth.  I wish that I had paid better attention and tried harder to help her get that one issue resolved.  I felt like I did run her to Dover a lot, but if she felt the despair in proportion to what I feel, I’m certain that she often wished that either she could just do it herself, or that I would have understood better and done more.

And then there is that issue with her feet.  In the last months, the feet that I inherited from her have been giving me a fit!  Last week I had a few days when I felt like I couldn’t walk!  I have been seeing a specialist, and he had told me on my first visit to his office that my feet were not in any kind of good shape.

“The arthritis in your feet, particularly your left one, is very advanced,” Dr. Menendez said that day in September.  “You have some bones in there that are ‘lipping’ and there are calcium deposits and just bad arthritis.”  He sat at the end of the table, holding my foot so gently in his hands, like he was willing it to be better somehow.  I saw a look in his eye that I decided to read as “compassion” instead of “pity” but I knew that he had seen something on the x-ray that told him that I wasn’t lying when I said that my feet sometimes hurt.

“I don’t feel like I’m in any sort of a crisis right now,” I said to him.  “Rather, I’m here for sort of a base line consultation at the advice of Dr. Wilson, and because I have a feeling that in the not too near future, I may need some help.  I also wanted to know if what I am doing now is the best thing I can do for them, or if there is something more I could be doing.”

He affirmed all of the things that I had been doing, prescribed a different anti-inflammatory, and told me that if I ever felt like I needed some shots in those feet, I shouldn’t hesitate to call him.  He did think that “putting them up whenever I could” might be a good practice to pursue.

I went out of his office that day with a heart that wanted to turn away from this aging process.  Dr. Wilson has told me (more frequently than I care to remember) that I’m “a young woman trapped in an old woman’s body.”  Excepting that over the years since he started to tell me that, the “young woman” has mutated to being a bit more age appropriate for the body, I’m rather forced to admit.  I remember hearing Uncle Johnny talking at one of our family reunions some time before he died.  He said, “You know, I’ve always been able to count on this body of mine to pretty much do what I want it to do when I want it to do it.  But something has started to change, and this old body is letting me down!”  Yepper, I’d say that pretty much catches it.  This old body is letting me down.

In the months since that first visit to Dr. Menendez’s office, I’ve had a life so full of happenings that I’ve hardly had time to think about feet.  There’s been canning to finish, lima beans to freeze, a beloved sister in law living in our yard, a dishwasher that needed replacing, seven family birthdays and a trip to Ohio, parties for my grandsons, Grammy days with my granddaughter, an ordination for Eldest Son, a new foster baby in the family, Thanksgiving, a Christmas Open House for Certain Man’s office friends, Christmas preparations and shopping and then the usual things with Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda.  Life just hasn’t stopped, and that business about putting my feet up just hasn’t been a happening thing.  And slowly I became aware that there was something just not quite right with these crazy feet of mine. And last week, when it was rainy for a few days in a row, and I could barely motor, I called Dr. Menendez’s office and asked if I could come in for shots. The thing that really put me over the top was that the foot that hurt the most was my “good” one.  That kinda’ scared me because when my “good knee” went bad on me, it had to be replaced before my “bad” one.

They put me on the schedule for Thursday, a week out, and I hobbled about and got ready for the Christmas Open House, and prayed.  And the pain diminished and I felt a whole lot better about things.  I started toying with the idea of not going.  But then I had a regularly scheduled visit with Dr. Wilson, and decided to ask his advice about whether I should have it done.  I thought maybe he would advise against it.  However, it was my first visit to him since he had read the x-rays, and he had some strong words to say about it.  “Go get the shots,” he said forcefully.  “By all means, get them.  It’s Christmas, you are going to be on your feet a lot, and it just doesn’t make sense to not get them.  I really think you should!”

And so, on Thursday afternoon, I tromped off to Dr. Menendez’s office.  I thought I had prepared myself quite muchly for this encounter.  I had taken My Sweet Mama to her specialist often for this sort of thing, and I knew that it wasn’t pleasant, but as I sat on that table waiting for the doctor to come in, I was overwhelmed by such a feeling of Déjà vu that it almost took my breath away.  My feet stuck out the end of the table, and the veins, purple and prominent made their tracks across them in almost the same pattern that I had seen on Mama’s.  And when Dr. Menendez brought his spray for numbing, and sprayed it on my foot while putting a needle into almost the exact same spot that Mama often had hers, the pain from the needle wasn’t even a scosche compared to what was crashing through my heart.  My Mama!  My Sweet Mama!  What she must have felt those many times that she went for these shots, hoping to find relief for the pain that dogged her every step.  What had she thought?  Did she really think it was going to work this time?  Did she think she would spring out of there, able to do all the things that she so longed to do?  Did she somehow know that she was fighting a losing battle with time and aging and a body that was “letting her down?”

It was another chapter in my Decembered grief.  I missed her terribly in that moment, wished for the chance to talk to her again, and ask her more about what was in her heart.  Dr. Menendez put bandaids on the the drops of blood that appeared on the tops of my feet.  He smoothed some callouses off the bottom of my feet and reassured me that I would feel better.  I chatted with him cheerfully over the pain in my heart and took myself out of the office and into my mini-van and headed home.  And then, as I motored towards home, I talked to My Sweet Mama and cried some overdue tears.  The years slipped away so quickly.

But my feet are feeling so much better.  The weeks ahead hold so much promise.  The offspringin’s and the grandchildren are coming home for Christmas and I don’t feel nearly as incapacitated as I did a week ago.  I’m looking forward to the celebrations of Joy that are ahead.  The message of Christmas is that of incredible hope.  A Savior is born!  He came to us, in our sorrow, our need, our pain.  He came to bring Light and Healing and Life.  He came to bring Peace and Joy.  All the things that are wrong with this old world will someday be put right by this Precious Christmas Gift.

And that includes bodies that let us down.  My Sweet Mama’s feet don’t hurt her anymore.  She’s dancing in her brand new feet, and they are beautiful.  What a glorious expectation!  What a thing to look forward to!

My December Heart gives grateful praise.

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Filed under Aging, Dealing with Grief, Family, Grief, Heaven, My Life

Designs on the Resolve

It had been a long day.  And as it got later and later, I felt some dismay creep into my soul.  I took a quick appraisal and decided that there were still some things that needed to be done before I climbed the mountain to my sweet, sweet rest. Middle daughter was home, but working, Certain Man’s day had been physically and emotionally taxing and the two of them were out of sight for the duration of the evening it seemed. Certain Man was within shouting distance, but Middle Daughter was documenting a complicated Hospice admission that she had just visited, and that rendered her pretty much oblivious to the goings on down in the main floor.

I sighed a bit (since Certain Man was NOT within sighing distance) and looked at the kitchen that I had just straightened a few hours earlier.  Since then, I had made a coffee cake for Certain Man, fed my ladies, picked and brought in some garden tea, and the kitchen was in disarray.  Over 50 containers of strawberry jam sat on the counter, ready to be taken to the basement and the tea hadn’t been made, so there was a small, green mountain on the cupboard where there were some small beasties crawling around.  There was still laundry to be sorted for the morning washing, and I was really tired.

There is only one thing to do in these situations, and that is to get busy QUICKLY and do what needs to be done.  But I’ve found that, while the sighs don’t help, and neither does feeling sorry for myself, it does help to look for things to be happy about. So I got busy and sorted some laundry.  Certain Man had already fetched the laundry from our side of the upstairs and brought it down to the laundry room.  (He’s always done that for me, ever since our children were little, and it is a big help!)  Our Girl Audrey had also gotten hers and Blind Linda’s into a big basket and pulled it out to the laundry room, which was another gift to be counted.  And Middle Daughter would bring hers down later.  In case you’re wondering, my angst was not at any of them.  It was just that this needed to be done and there was no motivation on the part of the one who needed to do it!  Uh-huh!

So.  Since I felt like I was supposed to stop sighing and be cheerful about things, I turned on one of my favorite CD’s and sorted the laundry that was available.  That was easy enough.  I like sorting laundry.  Especially to music.  And then I looked at one of those yet unappropriated laundry baskets and decided to use it to carry the strawberry jam to the basement.  I would need to make a couple of trips, but not FIVE.  So I started some water for the tea and then loaded my first sturdy basket with thirty jars of jam and headed on down to unload it.  The freezer needed some rearranging, but it wasn’t too bad, so I smiled at it and resolved to be cheerful and did what needed doing and got my first layer of jam jars into the freezer and then went back for more.  The water was boiling and I had managed to strip the leaves off of enough tea for a gallon, so I got that steeping, and then took the second load of strawberry jam to the basement and got it arranged where it belonged.  Wow!  That was satisfying!

Upstairs again, I found that Certain Man was off his chair and winding his clocks.  He was working his way around the family room, living room and then into the sun room.  I stirred about in the kitchen, finishing the tea and getting it into the fridge.  Then Certain Man said something about thinking it was time to go to bed.  Which suited me just fine.  He came out into the kitchen to see how things were progressing, while I finished arranging things in the laundry room for the morning’s chore of laundry.  He was saying something to me, and I was replying in my cheerfullest, brightest voice while I stacked some wash baskets around the corner from him when–!

Ker-thunk!!!

Down came a heavy wash basket right on my toe!  Right on my big toe.  Right on my toe that I had done surgery on to remove an ingrown toenail two nights ago!  It hurt so much that I couldn’t see straight, much less talk in a cheerful, bright tone.  I kinda’ stopped everything in that split second and didn’t say anything out loud.  (And NO! I wasn’t saying any bad words!)  But in my swirling head where all the stars were milling about I was saying, “REALLY???  (Oh ouch!!!)  All this concerted effort to not feel sorry for myself, (Oh ouch!!!) to count the gifts and to be cheerful, and this happens to me???(Oh ouch!!!)”  And of course, I had to say to my Heavenly Father, with my face all scrunched up and water standing in my eyes, “I just don’t get it! (Oh ouch!!!)  And why is this hurting so much?  REALLY much!!!  (Oh ouch!!!)  What sort of unholy design is there upon my honorable resolve???)  Thankfully, I was around the corner from Certain Man and he was sleepy enough that he never noticed the abrupt (long) pause in my cheerful, bright conversation.

After awhile he said, “You ’bout ready to go up?”

I took a deep breath, and discovered I was not going to die of toe-itis-meyeomia and decided to go for it.  “Yup!”  I said in my cheerfullest brightest voice while my poor toe throbbed and I gave thanks he couldn’t see my face, “I’m just finished.  Let’s go get some sleep!”

And so, we did!

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Filed under home living, My Life, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW, Uncategorized

Grandchildren Gifts

The call came on Friday night.  It was our Oldest Son, Raph, calling from Sugarcreek, Ohio.  I wondered what was up.  Raph (almost) never calls.  When he does, there is a reason, usually.  (Mother’s Day, my birthday, plans for arrival, etc.)  So when I heard his voice on the other end of the line, I was puzzled.  Maybe he wanted to talk to his Dad.  No, wait!  He had called my cell phone.  That meant he wanted to talk to ME!

We exchanged our usual banal formalities, “how are you doing,” and such and then he said, “Mom, I wanted to tell you in person so you don’t find it out online or otherwise, (because you will hear it there) that Regina and I are going to be getting a  baby  girl to foster in about 45 minutes. She’s about two weeks old, and we don’t know much.  We could have her only until Monday or Tuesday, but it could be longer.  We don’t know.”

. . . and thus he set my crazy heart straight into another tailspin of joy, hope, worry, pessimism, optimism, and Grammy-love.

Later that night, we saw pictures of the little one, with the little men of the family swarming (there’s no other right word for it) around the big guy who was holding the baby, cradled in his big arms, all of them looking almost like they couldn’t get enough of this new bundle.  My heart ached with wanting to be there —  to see her and to touch her.  How long would she stay?  How long would we have?  What would the morrow bring?  And how would the boys deal with this new attention grabber? How would they like her if she stayed and grew and got into their things?  What would it do to their hearts if she had to leave?

Oh, Lord Jesus!  I had better pray!

And pray, I did!  And then again, and then again, and still praying!

I wonder how it would be to await the birth of a grandchild knowing that there would be no question of DNA or biological parental relinquishment or court orders or home studies or social workers.  I’m not criticizing any of these, you understand, because it is through these channels that we have been grandparents to our four (or, now five, however temporarily) grandchildren (and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon).  I’m not raining on anyone’s parade who have grandchildren the natural way.  I’m all for that, as well.  (Youngest Son, if you and The Girl With A Beautiful Heart are reading this, take heed!)  And I rejoice greatly with friends and siblings and cousins who have precious grandbabies to show pictures of, expound upon, and brag about.  I look at those pictures and  think I see the DNA of the generations in the little noses or eyes or chins.  They are so beautiful.  I am so happy for each and every one of the little ones, their parents and especially their grandparents.

But (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) there’s something that has been niggling at the back of my heart these days.  One of the things that has been exciting to watch has been the nurture and the excitement of other families over the coming arrival of the little one that is growing within the body of someone we love.  From the joy over the first positive pregnancy test, to the first doctor visit, to the first sonogram pictures, to the first movements, to the inconveniences of each trimester — all building up to the time when those contractions start and there is the long expected little one. A wonderful, albeit expected culmination of months of expectation

That.  That is what has been so different for our family.

It’s been close to a year since we knew that there had been application made for a baby girl to foster with the intent to adopt.  Over the months, it was amended to a girl, age three or younger.  The nursery was ready, the crib was set up, and the family waited.  In September, our daughter in law, Regina, whose instagram name is #Hopethriving wrote the following words, captioning a picture of the ready nursery:

Sometimes I feel like a piece of my heart is missing and I don’t know where it is. And the wait is exciting and scary and sad because I know the gift coming that will fill that piece comes at the cost of pain to a child, physically or emotionally or both. It can consume me, this wait. The questions of when and how long will that piece be here and how will a loss affect the boys is terrifying. So I put my trust in God for his timing and protection and whenever I walk past that room with that empty crib I say a little prayer for that little hurt heart that will someday fill it. #fostercare #waiting

(I shed some tears over that one, yes, I did!)

And so, yes, we had about nine months of waiting, not knowing, hoping and waiting some more.  When we were in Ohio a few weeks ago, I peeked into the room that had been made ready for the baby, and it was back to being a little boy’s room.  I knew it wouldn’t take much to make it into a nursery again, but it was symbolic to me of how hard it is to hope and hope and not have the ongoing testimony of things happening.  I watched my daughter in law care for her boys, her heart so full of love for them and hopes and dreams for their futures.  I watched my son, tussle and play and tease (How can that Raph Yutzy be so LOUD???) and sing and pray with his boys, and knew that this family gave more than lip service to a God who was going to do what was best for them. When they spoke of expectations, their voices changed, and there was a quiet resignation to what was, and a willingness to wait.

But still they hoped and prayed that God would send them a little girl.

So when the call came on Friday night that two week old “Baby K” was coming to their family (and ours, as well) my heart, as I said, went on a tailspin of emotions. As I processed the kaleidoscope, I realized that, for all the joy of this moment, and in spite of how grateful I am to God for this priceless gift, there was a deep heart envy of something that, while being a given in the arrival of most grandbabies, was not ours to savor and enjoy.   I wanted the joy of the anticipation, and I wanted the security of knowing that she was ours to keep for all the days of her life.  And, if the truth be told, memories of little ones that Daniel and I loved and lost under the same circumstances seemed to haunt my heart, cloud my vision and kicked me hard in the gut of hope.

“This will never do!”  I think in my saner moments.  (I do have them!)  “It will not help me.  It will not help Raph and Gina and their family or our extended family.  Most importantly, it will not help Baby K.”  And then there was that business about God being pretty specific about what he thinks about us wanting something that wasn’t ours.  He felt it was important enough to put it in The Ten Commandments, for pity sakes! So. What do we do with those empty places in our lives that feel like they are our right to enjoy, but (obviously) are not ours?  Where do we go with the broken dreams, injustices, unanswered prayers and the bitter taste of envy or resentment or disappointment?

I go to the foot of The CROSS.

It sounds simplistic, and it sounds like a stock answer.  But I’ve found that it is always the first step for me not only to acceptance, but to embracing what has been given, and believing that God has a plan, a “better thing” in what He has given than I ever could have dreamed or would have had on my own terms.

I go to the foot of The CROSS.

I wrap up the “might have beens” the “should have beens” and the “if onlies” and “I wishes” and specifically and intentionally leave them there.  I ask for clear vision to see the good that God is doing here and now (as well as what He wants me to do) and I need to push that foot right out of the gut of hope and replace it with a conscious recounting of God’s faithfulness in the past, the mercies He has granted, and the gifts that He has given when I thought that all was lost.

I go to the foot  of The CROSS.

I bring a sacrifice of praise when it feels like it might choke me.  I remind the LORD how hard this is for me, and I am not quiet about my fears, and then I fill this mouth with praise until my heart follows.  Then I purpose that I will not hold back my heart from love or hope or joy  when I think about a little girlie, loaned to us for now, and I will borrow from the strength of family and friends who love and care and support and pray.  I will remember the words of our brave daughter in law, #Hopethriving when she says, ” . . I feel very at peace and am trying to just enjoy every minute we have.”

For sure.  That’s the best thing to do.  And God helping me, I intend to do it.

“We have this moment to hold in our hands-
  And to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand.
 Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come,
 But we have this moment.  Today.”  (Gaither)

Here’s to our personal raft of grandchildren:

Charis, Simon, Liam, Frankie — You four are THE BEST!  And I wouldn’t trade you for the world.  I love all four of you to the moon and back.  I bless the day you became ours and I’m so glad you all have come to stay.  I’m more than glad that I am your Grammy.  I’m ecstatic!  (Let’s see what we can do next to make life interesting!)

And Baby K — welcome to the crazy, noisy Yutzy family.  We not only confuse people who watch us, but we confuse ourselves sometimes.  It’s a wild ride but the love holds fast and is big enough for you.  However short or however long, we welcome you and you will always have a piece of our hearts.  May Jesus stamp His image on your heart through this encounter and may you find in Him the Friend that will never desert you or forsake you.

We think you are exactly right for this time and this place, and we’re so glad you are here.

Love Always,
Grammy

 

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Snowy days and Doughnuts

“If it’s going to snow tomorrow,” said Certain Man to his wife last evening, “are we going to fry doughnuts?”

CMW, remembering the last time when the only help she had was his, and it was a bigger job than she wanted, said, ‘”Not if it it’s just you and me! I need more help!”

He looked a little hurt and CMW hastened to add that he had helped well, but it’s such a big job!  And between mixing and rolling and cutting and frying and dipping and such, it was really a big expenditure of energy. He said no more and she said no more and that was that.

Today, local family came and over the Shanghai game, the subject of frying doughnuts came up again. “Mom, are you going to make doughnuts on this snowy day?”  Said one of the offspringin’s.

Before CMW could say a single word, Certain Man uttered a very terse statement.  “I asked the same thing and was told that my help wasn’t good enough.  So I figured, ‘Oh, well!'”

Great was the general indignant outcry concerning the availability of help and the insistence that we should make doughnuts and how we NEEDED to make doughnuts.  I mean, it’s snowing, for pity sakes, doesn’t EVERYONE make doughnuts when it snows?  (Sue Kauffman, do you see what you started?!?!?!?  Honestly!!!)

So now there is doughnut dough rising, and CMW needs to go and get it rolled out and ready to fry.  Doughnuts sound really good to her, but how she wishes there were a way to get them without everything getting into disarray in her clean kitchen, and especially, she wishes there was a way to eat as many as she wanted without getting a pain in her gall bladder, and the lubs (lbs.) on her “Lubber!”

Wish us fair sailing, fine friends.  CMW is off to make doughnuts!

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The Lows, The Highs.

This week has been a roller coaster for me.  Monday morning I was talking it over with Jesus, and telling Him how sad I felt.  And telling Him that I just wanted to undo the last fourteen months.  “I want Frieda back, whole and healthy and alive and HERE!  I want our church to not be burned.  I want Mama to not fall full on her face on a cold tile floor at our “borrowed” meeting place on a Sunday morning in February (a pivotal incident for embarrassment and infirmity in her life).  I don’t want to think about the health issues and infertility issues in my family that were exacerbated this year.   I don’t want Mama to fall in May and break her femur.  I don’t want her to have suffered those four weeks.  I don’t want her to have died.  I want her here, healthy and alive.  I don’t want Youngest Daughter, Rachel, to struggle to find a job for six months, with all sorts of reversals and setbacks and disappointments.  I don’t want Middle Daughter, Deborah, to be diagnosed with a genetic liver condition (http://www.alpha1.org/) that has given great cause for alarm.  I’m just so tired of everything! And I’m just so sad . . .”

And (Believe me!) there were a few other things in there that I “didn’t want” that can’t be said here.


Where do we go when life is too much for us?  How do we choose life and hope and peace when it seems like an exercise in futility?  What do we do when the people we love are hurting and struggling and doubting and failing? And what makes us think that it will ever be okay again?
Listen, dear friends!  Here is where I’ve chosen to focus:


Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19a

 

If there is anything that I’ve learned on this sojourn, it is that praise makes the darkest night navigable.  And while there may be all sorts of things that make me sad, I still need to choose that He does all things well, and that He is to be trusted.  It probably won’t ever all be “okay” again.  That’s what Heaven is for.

And if I can’t sink my “trembling soul” onto that immovable rock, then I’m pretty sure there’s no hope for this season of my life, this time, this place and my future mindsets.

The last few days have been better than that terrible Monday.  For every one of the “I wants” there have been blessings that I can choose to look at, be grateful for, and acknowledge God’s hand, working for our good.

I’m as convinced as ever that faith is the key to having a life focus that gives courage and hope.

It didn’t end at the Cross, and our Sunday’s coming!

My heart chooses grateful praise.

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Filed under Dealing with Grief, Grief, My Life, Uncategorized

Party Mix Recipe

I’ve been asked rather often whether I give out my Party Mix recipe.  I’ve never been one to keep my recipes a secret.  However, over and over again, I give someone a recipe and the recipient reads over it and decides that it’s too much work or too big or too fattening or too expensive or whatever.

So let me just tell you before you even begin —

THIS RECIPE IS TOO MUCH WORK, TOO BIG, TOO FATTENING, AND TOO EXPENSIVE!

There, now you know.

So you can adjust the size or skip the steps or substitute the ingredients to your heart’s content.  And you might be just as happy with the results as I am with my results.  I can only tell you that it has taken me years to fine tune this recipe and have it where I like it and feel good about giving it away.  Maybe some of you would like to get together with friends or family members and share the ingredients.  And that’s fine, too.  This specific recipe with this amount of ingredients will make almost 8 gallons of party mix.

2 (12.5 oz.) boxes of Honey Nut Chex

1 large bag Bugle snacks  (14.5 oz.) or 2 regular size (7.5 oz.)

4 bags (6 oz.) Caramel Sweet and Salty Bugle snacks

1 box (1 lb.) Stauffer’s Whales baked cheese crackers (or the equivalent of your preference.)

1 bag (1 pound) pretzels sticks (I like them skinny)

2 boxes Ritz Bits (7.5 or 8 oz.) sandwich crackers.  I prefer to get plain Ritz Bits, but haven’t been able to find them in bulk anywhere.  So, I use the crackers, (my preference is the peanut butter kind, but you can use any that you prefer.  However, when I’m finished with roasting my batch of party mix, I put on gloves and literally take all the little sandwiches apart.  I know!  It’s hard work, but it is worth it, and it doesn’t take very long and they come apart easily while they are hot.  Then the flavor of the peanut butter mixes in with the rest of the ingredients and that makes it good, too.  Our daughter, Rachel, insists that I used the cheese filled ones – once upon a time and that they were “much better!”  I don’t remember this and I don’t think I did.  But I might just have a mental block!

3 lbs. pecans, large pieces

6 cups regular Cheerios

(I have a kitchen scales, so I do the following by weight.  You can measure the amount of cups in a box and do it that way.  The reason I do it this way is that I have exactly enough to do another batch when I run low from giving away so much of the first batch!)

½ box (14 oz.) Wheat Chex

½ box (12 oz.) Corn Chex

½ box (12 oz.) Rice Chex

½ large (46 oz.) can cashews

½ large (52 oz.) can large Spanish peanuts

I put all of these ingredients together in my big round storage container and toss them until they are thoroughly mixed. (I have searched for another set of these containers – originally from Sam’s Club as a set of four different sizes – and the biggest one is measured to 7 gallons, but holds a good 8+ gallons,- but I cannot find them anywhere!  Not retail, not Amazon, not Ebay.  If anyone know where they are available, please let me know!) After the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, I mix the following thoroughly in a separate bowl:

7 Tablespoons Lawry’s Season Salt

4 Tablespoons Garlic Powder

I sprinkle this over the container of mix, a little at a time, tossing often to distribute evenly.  Then I mix the following using a whisk:

5½ cups vegetable oil

6 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

When that is thoroughly mixed, I pour it over the mix, tossing again after each cup or so until it is gone.  Then I toss and toss and toss until the oil mixture is evenly distributed.

Then I take five large foil pans (mine are like 11x19x3) and divide the mix between four pans (keeping one in reserve).  I have two ovens, so this is where it goes much faster for me.  The ovens should be preheated to 250 degrees, with the racks spaced just far enough apart to get two pans in at once.  I use two timers, and set one to two hours.  The other, I set for 15 minutes.  Every fifteen minutes, I take the empty pan, empty the bottom pan into the empty pan, and put it on the top shelf, and empty the top shelf pan into the now empty pan from the bottom shelf and put that pan on the bottom.  I keep doing that for every 15 minutes until the two hours are up.  Then I dump everything together on the table which I’ve covered with brown paper and let it cool.  When it is cool, I put it back into my big old container.  If I didn’t have that big container, I would put it into heavy-weight plastic bags and store it that way.  You can make it a long time ahead and freeze it.  (I’ve never done this, but I have an Auntie who has done this often and it doesn’t seem to lessen the quality at all.)

And that, my friends, is my Party Mix Recipe!

 

 

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The siblings break bread

It is a Tuesday afternoon.  I stir the white sauce that is slowly thickening on my front burner.  On the back burner, a large kettle is beginning to simmer with carrots, onions, celery, potatoes and seasonings.  The shrimp is thawed in the over the sink mesh colander, waiting for its turn to be added to the chowder that I’m putting together for our evening meal.

I hear the door into the laundry room entry way open and feel a surge of anticipation.  He walks into the kitchen with that familiar tread.  My brother is here!  I put down the  scissors I am using to cut the shrimp and dry my hands.  He is not a hugger, but he doesn’t mind a hug sometimes and this is one time when I get away with it.  His smile is steady, but there is a quiet in his bearing that stabs my heart.  He has traveled many miles alone over the last thirteen months, and today was no different.  There are 600 long miles from his home in South Carolina to Shady Acres, and he has driven them repeatedly in the last year.

It isn’t long until the door opens again and in come Uncle Jesse and Aunt Gladys.  We had invited them to join us this evening. These two. Our Daddy’s brother and our Mama’s sister.  Their presence and persons comfort me like no one else can.  Their support and understanding and love have been inestimable, and in them are the tangible remembrances of the two who were our parents.  It feels so right to have them here.

The doors keep opening and shutting behind my beloved siblings and their spouses.  Bert and Sarah come, bringing tender and delicious homemade biscuits.  Alma comes with luscious looking pumpkin pies, lamenting the fact that Jerrel has a DFA meeting, and then Mark and Polly complete our circle, with Polly bringing a marvelous tossed salad to round our the simple meal.  There are beloved faces missing.  Nel and Rose are in Pennsylvania.  Frieda is in Heaven.  Daddy and Mama — I fight back a catch in my throat, and purposefully put it away. We will be glad for who we have in this place, at this time.  We gather around the long dining room table, ten of us at this gathering, and Uncle Jesse prays the blessing.

How many times did I hear Daddy’s voice, raised in prayer at a meal time?  It’s been a long time, but the words of my uncle’s prayer wrap themselves around me with familiarity and quiet comfort.  He thanks God for the food, for the opportunity to be together and prays for blessing on this time shared and for the ones who made the food. Around the table, the hands are joined and we listen to his quiet voice.

And then the “Amen” is said and the food is passed and the conversation weaves a pattern of memories and laughter and tears.  We share so much common ground with each other and with these two whose genetic heritage is the same as ours.  There are stories of Grandpa Dave, and the laughter is vibrant and genuine.  We ask questions and talk about our childhood.  We wonder how our daddy would have handled getting old and infirm and dependent and agreed that God was incredibly merciful to him and to us when He took him HOME.

We don’t speak much about our Sweet Mama.  The missing has settled into a deep and dark chasm for me and there are days when I feel like my heart will burst with all the things I need/want to tell her. I know she is safe.  I know she is happy.  I know that it really was God’s timing.  And I also know that it won’t always hurt this bad.  But it’s hard for me to talk about her without the tears.  At least for now.  And so we remember the good times, several “safe” things, and draw strength and comfort and courage from the time we spend in sweet, sweet fellowship.

All too soon, the night is over.  Uncle Jesse and Aunt Gladys have a somewhat long trek back to their home in Dover and it’s dark.  I worry about them heading off into the November cold, but they are cheerful, dispensing hugs and thank yous and beaming good will to us all.  My brothers and sisters and their spouses gather their leftover food and also depart.  Certain Man takes down the table, puts away chairs and helps to straighten the dining room while I load the dishwasher and put away leftover soup.. The neight has been exactly what I’ve needed.  When I kissed my auntie good by, I smelled the sweet smell of cologne and her cheek was so soft against mine.  It wasn’t my Mama’s signature Chantilly, but it was reminiscent of how important it always was to our Mama that she smelled good.  Oh, Mama!  How I miss you!

The years did pass so swiftly.  Sometimes it seems like Daddy and Mama have been gone forever.  This isn’t something new or unusual or peculiar to the children of Mark and Alene Yoder.  It’s just life.  We had excellent parents.  Truly the best!  Human, flawed, and with their own foibles and peculiarities and sometimes follies.  But so right for us.  So full of faith that they lived before us, and they loved us.  This night reminded us so much of our Daddy and Mama.  But for me, the one thing that shone the brightest though the presence of our precious Uncle and Auntie was the faith mixed with that unconditional love.  We were so blessed.  We are so blessed.  The gifts that we’ve been given through no effort of our own, are gifts that many, many people all over this world have not been privileged to have.

For the gifts of Heritage, warm memories, siblings that are good friends and an extended family who cares — for these good gifts, —

My heart gives humble, grateful praise.

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Filed under Dealing with Grief, Family, home living, My Life

CMW Looks for a Way

“I’m so proud of myself,” I announced to the general public of my kitchen, as I came out of the laundry room.  “General public” in this case was all of Certain Man and Youngest Daughter.

Youngest Daughter was mixing up a cold glass of Ovaltine and milk.  Certain Man was dishing himself a bowl of ice cream with some toppings.  I heard the p-f-f-f-f-f-f-t-t-t-t sound of the Redi-Whip can as he swirled a couple of rounds on top of his cold vanilla sweetness.  “Wonderful!” He said.  “What did you do?

“I did surgery on myself!” I announced triumphantly.  That stopped everything.

“What did you do???”

“I took that troublesome lump off the inside of my lip that I kept biting.”  I had the offensive tiny white piece in my between my thumb and forefinger.

This produced sounds of retching from Youngest Daughter, with great holdings of the stomach and strong statements as to the state of her health and why she would never be a surgeon and other strong verbalization of disapprobation.

“Hon!”  Said Certain Man.  “What in the world do you think you are doing?”

“I was tired of biting it all the time, so I took it off!”

“But how? You have a fit every time I try to do something even little, and then you go and do something like that!”

“I was careful,” I said, pulling my lip out.  “See!”

“But how did you do it?”  He looked askance at where the rather large skin tag had been.

At my last cleaning, I had asked my dentist about removing it, and he said it was a common thing and he didn’t seem to think I would want to spend the money to have it removed.  I have been troubled by it for years and would often peer in there to see if it was going away by itself (it wasn’t!) or getting larger (sometimes it seemed like it maybe was!).  I had tried various things over the last few months when it seemed that I was catching it over and over again and giving it a hearty bite when I was eating.  I’m not saying that I didn’t unknowingly “worry” it at night, but I truly seldom “bit my lip” in my waking hours (unless it was this accidental, excruciating move that caught me so unaware and sometimes made me want to cry!).  Over the last month, I’ve taken to giving it a good brushing with my toothbrush, followed by some good listerine mouthwash, and I thought it was actually doing better, but then, last week one day, I crunched down on it and we were pretty much back to square one.

Tonight, after putting the ladies to bed, I noticed that it was more tender than usual.  I explored it with my tongue and wondered again what I could do to get rid of it on my own.  I perched in front of the bathroom mirror where there was plenty of light and looked the situation over.  And had a sudden inspiration!

“I wonder what would happen if I took a length of dental floss and tied it around the base of that skin tag and pulled it really tight.”  There was a time, years back, when I had a large, blood filled skin tag on my leg and I tied a string around the base of that very tightly and it dropped off in a few days and I’ve never had a bit of trouble with it since.  I honestly didn’t think this thing through very carefully, but I got a piece of waxed dental floss and tried to loop it over the skin tag.  It slipped right off.

“Lord Jesus, maybe this isn’t going to work.  But if this is something I can do for myself, would you please help me?”

On the very next try, it looped over nicely and I pulled it tight.

Ouch!  That hurt.  Maybe I should just take it off.  But it wouldn’t come off.  It wasn’t as tight, but that dental floss was securely around it and wasn’t budging.  I looked at my poor skin tag and at the dental floss hanging out of my mouth and wondered if I could trim it off short and just leave it there for the night.  That didn’t seem like a good idea.  I thought of calling Middle Daughter, the nurse, but remembered that she isn’t fond of this sort of ministrations to family members.  Besides.  She would probably scold me.  I decided to pull it tight again.  I only got so far, and then it really hurt again.  I thought maybe I should just knot it, trim it off till morning and see what happened.  But I couldn’t get it to knot since the original crossover was behind the skin tag.  So I thought some more.  Looked at it some more.  Pulled it tight again until it hurt and then stopped.

I decided to bring it around to the front of the skin tag and see about knotting it there.  So I brought it around, crossed it over and pulled it tight again.  It still hurt but not quite as bad.  H-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m.  Maybe if I would pull it tighter by degrees, I could manage to actually squeeze it off.  I kept working at pulling it tighter and tighter until I finally could pull it no tighter.  The skin tag was pearly white against the pink skin, but no matter how hard I pulled on the ends of the dental floss, it wouldn’t cut through the connecting tissue.

I went and got a razor blade.  Everyone was absent from the kitchen and didn’t notice my goings and coming.  I went back to the bathroom mirror and assessed the situation.  A razor blade did not look like a good idea.  If I only had a sharp scissors!  No, wait.  Maybe I should put an ice cube in there to deaden anything that I might feel before I snipped.  Back to the kitchen to get an ice cube.  When I put that on the lip, I realized that things were not quite as “dead” as I thought.  I discarded the ice cube in the bathroom sink and thought about it.  I again pulled on the dental floss ends and didn’t feel any discomfort at all in the skin tag.  Then I remembered that OGA had a very sharp, little scissors in her top dresser drawer.  I fetched it out, sterilized it under the Instant Hot in the kitchen and went back to the bathroom mirror.

The two ends of the dental floss worked very well to pull the skin tag up and out from the rest of the lip.  I positioned the blades of the scissors as carefully as I could and “snip!” the skin tag was off.  No pain.  However, the dental floss was still firmly attached to the connecting material.  I hadn’t cut close enough!  So once again, I took my scissors and tried to actually get into the dental floss that was holding flast.

Success!  The dental floss came off, leaving a tight little “stitch” still in place.  There was no bleeding, just a smooth, clear place where the bothersome skin tag had been.  It was about then that I did my little victory dance, and went to the kitchen to make my proclamation.

Certain Man was looking at me dubiously.  “That still doesn’t sound good,” he said disapprovingly.

“Doesn’t it look okay?” I asked him.  “I mean, it isn’t bleeding at all, is it?”

“No,” he admitted, “It’s not bleeding, and it doesn’t look bad, but it could have been bad.”  He took his bowl of ice cream and went back to his chair.  I finished up a few things in the kitchen, and felt for changes on the inside of my lip.  Eventually the little “stitch” came out, but apparently it had stayed long enough to keep serious bleeding at bay.  If there was one thing that worried me, it was the way mouth injuries will bleed and bleed and bleed.  I seem to be spared that.

And now Certain Man went to bed.  He had an eventful night apart from his wife’s shenanigans.  The house is relatively quiet — and I will also head to bed. It’s been a good day for me, too, and I am very tired.

Tonight, I am thankful for a great many things.  I had lunch today with a woman whose heartache over her family was beyond my comprehension.  I give thanks for my good, good husband, our five terrific offspringin’s and their spouses and our grandchildren.  I’m grateful for my two sisters and three brothers and their families.  We really don’t realize how good we have it.  May I just say that the decision to follow Jesus is still the one thing that makes a difference in the lives of people?

I’m thankful for tomatoes.  And for canning jars and cookstoves and recipes and food for the winter.

I’m thankful for my kitchen that sees so much living and is so serviceable and handy and pleasant.

And I’m thankful that God sometimes chooses to honor the harebrained ideas of this Delaware Grammy with crazy exciting results and gives me so much joy on the journey.  And I’m especially thankful for a place inside my lip that is unfamiliarly smooth tonight and that, as of now, it really does not hurt.

My heart gives grateful praise.

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Filed under Family living, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW

Learning Lessons from OGA

“Mare-Ann,  I ‘on’t like ‘at soup.  I ain’ gonna eat it.”

She sat at the table, looking at the homemade beef stew that I had put in front of her like she expected something to crawl out of it.  I walked over to see what was wrong.

“Why not, Audrey?”  I couldn’t see anything amiss.

She shrugged.  “I ‘on’t like it.”

“Why don’t you like it?  What’s wrong with it?”

“It ‘on’t taste good.  I ‘on’t like it.  I ain’ gonna eat it.”

“It hurts my feelings, Audrey, when I make good food for you and you say it isn’t good.”

She was unmoved.  Her lips were in that familiar, straight. intractable line.

“You need to eat it.  It’s good, Audrey!.”  I looked at the soup to see if there were any mushrooms in it, but I hadn’t put any in it, knowing that she wouldn’t eat it if there were mushrooms.  “Look, Audrey!  It has our own beef, our own potatoes, our own carrots.  It is good.  You have to eat it.”

She set her jaw, stubborn, but didn’t say anything.  I finished chopping Blind Linda’s identical supper into small pieces, and got her started eating, and continued working in the kitchen, keeping an eye on Audrey’s progress.  She would occasionally pick up her spoon and stir it around, but not a single bite went to her mouth.  She nursed a can of caffeine-free pepsi a little at a time, and when she thought I wasn’t looking she ate her banana.  She burped loudly a time or two and watched with her owlish eyes while Linda polished her plate off in her usual record time.  Then, when she thought enough time had elapsed, and I wasn’t watching, she ate her Schwan’s chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, and then continued to sit in her chair with that stubborn, determined air.

I pondered my options. I knew that if this came down to a confrontation, it wouldn’t end well.  I was ashamed of how angry this whole thing made me.  It wasn’t just this incident.  It felt like a whole catalog of miniscule rebellions had been adding up over the last week.  In addition to being angry, I was soul weary.  A deep self-pity was washing over my heart as I realized that, once again, these two individuals that I care for are mostly incapable of understanding or even caring about what I was feeling or thinking or dealing with on any given day.  Not that they couldn’t have learned, somewhere along the line, but temperaments as well as life experiences have left them feeling like they have to watch out for #1 at all costs.

And so, I rattled around my kitchen for a while and fought an inner war with myself.  “It’s only a bowl of soup, Mary Ann.  For pity sakes!”  “But it’s the principle of the thing!”  “Do you really want a fight on your hands?  Is it worth it?  You know she’ll be angry and psychotic for the rest of the night.”  “I know, but –”  And on and on and on.  I finally decided that I was just going to go out of the house for a minute and find out what Daniel was doing.  That way, she could leave the table, dump the soup in the trash, or do whatever, and I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

So I cheerfully said to her, “Audrey, I’m going to go out and see what Daniel’s doing.  I’ll only be a minute.”  And I forced myself to smile at her.

“Alright,” she said, without any enthusiasm.

I toyed with the idea of traipsing around on the deck to look in the kitchen window to see what she did when I left, but I decided that was a little overdone.  I went on out, saw Daniel working himself silly in the hot evening sun, and then went back in.  Audrey was gone.  Her supper cleared away except for the white corelle bowl, still filled with a thick beef stew, swimming with chunks of succulent beef.  It sat, lonely and defiant at her place at the table.  I sighed and scraped it into the compost bucket and cleared the rest of supper away.

We didn’t speak much the rest of the evening.  Whenever I did talk to her, I acted as if nothing had happened, and she, though not overly friendly, did not mention the uneaten beef stew.  The evening finished as usual, with bedtime juice and the usual routines.  I nursed my hurt feelings, and wondered if this was one of those things that I was just overreacting about.

Morning dawned, and with it, no lessening of my angst.  I try to keep mornings as happy as possible, with cheery greetings, silly songs and extra help for Audrey with dressing, breakfast and such.  But this morning, there was not much cheeriness.  Rather, there was a war going on in this carnal heart of mine.

“Maybe I should just turn the tables on her,” I reasoned in some of my lesser glorious moments.  “I’ll put out her meds, but she can just get the rest of her breakfast by herself!  She can get her own banana, fix her own tea, get her own ice water, and make her own oatmeal. And do without her strawberry yogurt.   If she doesn’t like the food I fix for her, she’ll just have to find out how far she gets by herself!”

It’s not that she can’t fix her own breakfast, but over the years that she has been here with us, I have found that fixing her breakfast for her sets her into a better frame of mind, makes her feel loved and, as a result, makes it an easier start to the day.  So I thought and pondered and practiced how I could say this in a way that would make her know exactly how wrong she had been, how she needed to suffer for what she had done, and learn her lesson from the (obvious) natural consequences of her behavior.  I almost had it down pat when that little voice came into my thoughts that always discomfits my best laid words.

I started thinking about our Audrey girl.  She isn’t a child.  She’s 67 years old.  Most of her life, all of her decisions have been made for her unless she provided enough disturbance to make things uncomfortable enough that someone would do things her way.  And by the time she got anything accomplished that she wanted, it was so long getting it done that she felt like it was only done because people were aggravated (not because they loved her).  Which, unfortunately, was probably true.  She has endured hurtful words, physical abuse, social ostracism, and dealt with paranoia, pain and misunderstanding over and over again.  In the years that she has lived with us, we’ve tried hard to make these years the best years of her life, and constantly reassure her that she is loved, that she is wanted, that she is NEEDED, that she is safe, and that she is a grown woman and that, as such, she has choices.  There will always be things that she wants that she cannot have.  She would like to live independently.  She would like to not take her psych medicine.  She would like to have massive amounts of money at her disposal to spend as she wants.  She would like to live on pepsi and chocolate and chips.

And while I do try to make sure that she eats properly, it really isn’t my right to tell her what she likes and what she doesn’t like.  And if she really doesn’t like beef stew for some reason on a given night, how is that offense-worthy?  And if a person with a history of diminished value on almost every aspect of her life can’t even decide that they don’t want supper on a given night, is that cause to treat her with decided coolness?  Or to think of ways to “punish” her?  Well, I wouldn’t go straight to “punish” but make the “natural consequences” more difficult for her?

I decided that I would fix part of her breakfast for her.  She could get her own oatmeal, but I would do the rest.  I still wasn’t feeling all that gracious, but I knew I had my own heart work to do, and I also knew that God has been so gracious to me when it comes to things like this that I was pretty sure it would right itself without any help on Audrey’s part.  And she was more grudging that she had to fix her own oatmeal than she was grateful for what I had done.  But I decided that was okay.

The next day, at Byler’s Store, I found some breakfast sandwiches that looked wonderful.  She loves Jimmy Dean Sausage, egg and cheese croissants, and I thought these looked like they would be even better.  I brought them home.  I thought they were a little more work than Jimmy Dean, and they were on biscuits instead of croissants, but they really looked yummy.  When she came out to eat breakfast the following morning, there was a napkin with a note on it, her tea and yogurt and banana and ice water — and the new breakfast sandwich standing ready.

She didn’t like it.  It was “too dry” and the flavor wasn’t good.  She coughed and snorted and carried on and sighed.

She was probably halfway through the sandwich when I started to cry.  I stood at the counter putting out her meds with my face averted from her and cried hot, bitter, disappointed, sad, misunderstood tears.  I really didn’t know why this all mattered so much to me.  I knew that the tears weren’t just for that silly sandwich or even Audrey’s stubbornness and independent quirks, but I felt such a deep, deep sadness and a good dose of frustration and a (teeny bit!) mad.  But Audrey never noticed, and it was time to get Linda finished up and out the door.  I got the tears dried, packed the lunch, got Linda into her wheelchair and pretended that everything was fine with Audrey.

When everyone was out the door, I may have cried some more.

But then God  (it’s always better for me when God interrupts my pity parties with a lesson from what’s troubling me) reminded me again of something that has nothing to do with how Audrey responds, but everything to do with how I respond to her.  To her, yes, but also to a Heavenly Father who provides me with everything I need, gives me more than I need, and loves me with an everlasting love.  And sometimes I sit at His table and refuse to eat.  Or protest that what He has given isn’t good enough.  That it doesn’t taste good.  That it goes down dry.  That it doesn’t satisfy me.  And it doesn’t cross my mind to think about what He thinks of my evaluation of His provision.

“Oh, Lord Jesus.  This hasn’t been about Our Girl Audrey at all, has it?
Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me . . .

And this humbled heart shall bring you grateful praise.”

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