Thursday, July 24, 2014

Back to Work

Monday was my first day back at my paid-job.  Instead of a 10-hour day, my supervisors started me on 4-hour days.  By closing time, I wasn't as tired as I'd expected.  I was, however, surprised that my arachnoiditis flared up as badly as it did.

In spring I hadn't planned to take off time for the wedding this weekend.  But after my hospital trip, I can't push myself and cram loads of activities into a day, thinking, "Oh, it'll work out; this is important; I'll just take it easy the next week."  So I worked yesterday instead.  That way Friday has "only" the rehearsal dinner, and Saturday has "only" the wedding.   After two hours at work, again, the arachnoiditis began to flare up.  I took pain-killers before work and a different pain-killer two hours into my shift.  It still hurt.  This better improve.  If I have to take enough pain-killer to overcome the pain, I'm going to be too doped up to count money. 

Now to figure out:  Does "tiredness" necessarily show itself as sleepiness and a weariness with a desire to lie down?  Or might "tiredness" manifest itself as nerve pain, headaches, throbbing, and a rash?

I keep reminding myself that I have been healing and improving rapidly.  Maybe the nerve pain and the tiredness will improve right along with everything else.  I ought not expect that my body's response to my job will be the same in 3-4 weeks as it is now.

As for doing the job itself, things are fine.  I remember nearly everything.  The tricky parts are the new procedures that developed while I was gone, that everyone else took in stride a bit at a time so that they don't realize, "Hey, Susan, we do that differently now" until I do it the old way.  But those will be worked out a bit at a time until I'm up-to-speed.

It's nice to see old customers, especially when the "regulars" missed me.

Kitty Is Still Alive

On Tuesday night I was saying my goodbyes, not expecting her to make it through the night.

Tuesday afternoon, Athena had a spell.  She was too weak to stand.  Her eyeballs were flipping back and forth in their sockets.  She howled piteously.  We soothed and petted and comforted.  When she felt strong enough to try to walk, she wobbled.  She allowed herself to be held and petted some more.  When we finally permitted her to go outside, she found a secure spot under the deck and curled up there for two hours.  The noise of a small engine moved her to the other side of the house to seek refuge under the back side of a hosta.  She lay there without moving for four more hours.  She took a little walk, and then she allowed herself to be carried indoors for more cuddling.  She curled up behind the sofa and spent the night and half the next morning. 

Then she slowly began to improve.

Best guess?  When I woke up Tuesday morning, the smell of poison was wafting through the windows.  I think a neighbor's lawn service had come and treated the grass quite early.  Maybe Athena walked through their lawn and ingested the poison when she cleaned herself.  Maybe she ate a mouse whose belly-fur was covered with the poison.

Whatever it was, she's on the mend.  And I'm glad I can be happy at Andrew's wedding instead of crying about my kitty.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Natural Burial

My friend Polly posted today about an environmentalist's "green burial."  Although my perspective on natural burial comes from a VERY different place, the end result could look quite similar.  My pastor isn't exactly fond of cremation -- for theological reasons. 

I know that cremation grew out paganism.  I know that for many years the Church objected to it.  But I find it less objectionable than many of our current standard-American embalming/burial practices.  That said, I don't want to be cremated, and I don't intend to cremate anybody for whom I'm making funeral arrangements.

There is "green cemetery" space in Waukesha.   Although the cost is higher, there is also an option for "natural burial" in the regular parts of the cemetery, where a grave-marker can be placed.  For theological reasons, I think making note of the body's spot is important too, so ideally, I'm not keen on the idea of burying people "somewhere" on a prairie. 

The part of "natural burial" that troubles me most is the people that the family would be working with.  If their worldview and their theological perspective is the complete opposite of that of the grieving family, would that cause problems?  And if so, which would be easier to take: their weirdness or going along with Standard Procedure?

Current info on Wisconsin laws can be found here.
More info can be found in the 
video "A Family Undertaking."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Romans + Galatians

So that's why the sem makes guys take a course in either Romans or Galatians -- they say SO much the same thing!

Romans 7 -- I can't do the good I want to do. 
Galatians 5:17 "The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish."

Romans 8:14 Those led by the Spirit of God are "sons of God."
Galatians 5:18  Those led by the Spirit of God "are not under the law."
Earlier in Galatians, Paul is on about how being-a-son means you're not-under-law.

Galatians 3:29 and 4:7 We are heirs according to the promise, no longer slaves but sons, an heir of God through Christ.
Romans 8:16-17 We are children of God, joint heirs with Christ.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


1. The book I'm reading about introverts and extroverts is full of stories.  More stories than research.  Anecdotal evidence doesn't bother me.  I usually enjoy stories.

2.  But one of the stories is about Al Gore and his passionate work to save the world from global warming.  Or climate change.  Or whatever we're calling it these days.  The author makes the point that Mr Gore worked doggedly on this issue for decades.  Few people listened to him because he is an introvert and doesn't make his case in a splashy way that draws the attention of extroverts.  She pointed out that Gore's movie finally woke up people to the danger we're in, so we're finally taking seriously the necessity to save the planet.

Normally, I will read such things and shake my head in disbelief.  I may crab about it a bit.  (Or more.)  And then I'll go on, taking the good parts of the book and ignoring the bad.  But this kind of book?  If the author believes the global warming and climate change are real, can I believe other things she says? 

3.  To add to my skepticism, she characterized the "Western God" as an extrovert, as seen in Jesus Christ Superstar where God's "son Jesus is kind and tender, but also a charismatic, crowd-pleasing man of influence."

Okay, maybe the Lord is an extrovert.  (What He's all about is giving Himself to others, pouring Himself out for us.)    But the author's source for this insight?

For real?  Jesus Christ Superstar?

4.  I did like the section on sensitivity, conscience, and guilt.  Apparently, introverts tend to feel guilty even when they've done nothing wrong.  They tend to feel embarrassed themselves when friends are teased.  They may fail lie-detector tests even when they're telling the truth. 

Story:  One day my brother and I came home from grade school on our lunch-hour. David and I watched one kid walking on the other side of the street take off his jacket.  Then he swung it at another kid, whipping him again and again.  That day Dad was working nearby so he happened to be home for lunch too.  As we told the story of the mean boy, Dad got mad.  He was angry at the kid for hurting the other child.  He went on and on about how the jacket-zipper could have cut the other child or injured an eye.  As an adult, I realize that everything Dad said that day was reasonable.  But in the midst of the situation, I felt accused.  I remember spouting, "Why are you mad at us?  We didn't do anything wrong!  We didn't hit anybody!"  Poor Dad.  He probably wondered where I came up with such a statement. 

And thus, the section about introverts feeling excess guilt resonated with me.

Queen of Heaven

Jeremiah calls the people to repentance for their offerings and their prayers to the "queen of heaven," Asherah.

It seems very odd that the Roman Catholic church would choose that phrase as a title for Mary, given the scriptural use of the term to refer to a false goddess.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Back to Work

A full year to recuperate.  That's what the doctors and therapists kept telling me as I progressed speedily in my abilities. "Slow down; don't overdo," they kept reminding.  Although I can do almost everything I could do before, I now realize I can't do very much of any of those things.  I wear out easily.  I slept 10.5 hours last night.  When Katie dropped by today, she was surprised by how clean the house was and that the laundry was caught up.  [light bulb click]  No wonder I was too tired to accomplish anything the last couple of days; I was worn out from the first half of the week.

When I found out that another part-time position would be opening at work, I adjusted my mind to taking that position while my boss filled my position.  That would've meant I had until late September before I had to be ready to work.  Recently that goal seemed perfectly doable; probably in mid-September it would've seemed intimidating.  After talking with bosses this week, it looks like I'll be returning to my job much sooner.  As in, a week or so.  For now, it will be only half-days.  And my boss made it very plain that he doesn't want me to get worn out so that the job interferes with my healing ... or even that it makes me consider quitting.  They are bending over backwards to help me keep my job.

And I'm terribly grateful.
Especially because I much prefer my current schedule to the other option.

But right now I'm also a bit hesitant about going back to work already.

It'll be fine.
It'll be fine.
It'll be fine.

I just have to readjust my mind away from all those books Maggie and I were going to read, and movies I was going to watch, and piddly projects I was going to tick off the list, over the next 2-3 months.  Sleep, however, will stay near the top of the Priorities List.

(PS to kids: I'm going to need some chauffeuring for a few weeks.  Andrew can take the first week.  But I'll need at least two more weeks of rides before I'm eligible to drive.)

My Old Backyard

Disturbing to see our former backyard splashed all over this week's news.

Two boys were playing in the tree-line on Wednesday.  One was shot.  The most recent news reports have the uncle saying that the boys were target-shooting, and the victim ran across the line-of-fire.   The WISN story is here, and the WTMJ story is here

I did almost nothing on Thursday except for checking the news and trying to understand how this could happen in "my space" and feeling vulnerable.  But that's nothing compared to the grief both families are enduring.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tree Trimming

I'm too old and weak for the lumberjack-drill.

A few years ago, I trimmed branches overhanging the roof and the power lines.  Gary held the ladder; I climbed too high; I wielded the lonnng-handled saw.  Other than some achy muscles on both our parts, there were no mishaps.  And I tell ya, I am still pleased and proud of the results.  Oh yes!!

But I didn't finish the job.  I had no intention of coming into contact with electrical lines.  I didn't even want to go too near the cable lines ... because then I would've been disconnected from the internet ... which would make me pout.

Recently, the landlord next door had trucks in the backyard.  A cherry-picker!  And carts to haul brush and logs!  And lots of chainsaws!  At the end of Day 1, Gary talked to the tree-trimmers about doing some extra work while they were out here with their equipment.  They quoted us a price 1/3 what we'd been quoted a few years ago! (Hey, the benefits of grabbing Mr Muscle while his tools and machines are already in the backyard!)

This tree was my biggest worry.  It grew as a weed, way out in back, bordering the unused meadow, and nobody took it down.  Its branches wove back and forth between the three lines (cable, phone, and electricity).  Without a cherry-picker, there was no way to cut without knocking down lines.

These branches looked like they might be within the realm of possibility.  Maybe.  If I was feeling strong.  And being very very careful.  Tree branches had crawled in odd weavy directions.  If I'd tackled it when we first moved in, the branch may have been small enough to use my pruning saw.  Maybe.  But by now the branch-diameter was too overwhelming for something so high above my head.  And the weight had grown enough that it was no longer merely touching the electrical lines, but was pulling down on them.  Yeah, not my forte when I'm at my best and strongest.  (And I'm not exactly at my best and strongest right now.)

I can't post a picture of the improvement of the first problem.  Because the tree is GONE.  Yes, it's gone.  It's a pile o' logs and nothing more.  No more weaving and dancing and tangling in the electrical lines.  Oh, happy day!

The tree below is what's left of the second problem.  From this direction, it looks like the tree is still too close to the cables.  Well, not really.  There's a nice amount of space.  But what's more important -- what's left are branches that we can trim without destroying power lines, assuming we don't delay too many years.

And this mess is the wild grape vines that have grown up on the scrub-trees.  The grapes took root, grew, climbed, then crawled along the power lines to take over the pole for the power lines and begin spreading out.  These are not on our property, and they've grown unmolested for many years.  The neighbors did give us permission to hack back whatever we choose to cut.

I can see in this picture that the tree-trimmers did pull down a lot of grape vines that were within their reach, or which were engulfing branches that were chopped away. So it's better. But there's a long way to go. 

Job #1: Take down all the 6' weeds/trees that are anywhere near the power lines.  And keep taking them down.  If we murder them when they're small, we won't face huge tree-trimming problems when we're 80.

Job #2: Cutting back the tall grasses so that we can reach the bottom of the grape vines ... without inadvertently stepping on snakes, woodchucks, or whatever else may be living back there.

Job #3:  Whacking off the grape vines and taking a hefty chunk out of the branch.  If the smaller viney guys are disconnected from the strong roots and branches, eventually they'll wither, dry, crumble, and then storms will blow their remains off the cables.  At least, that's my hope.

Job #4: Some day in the future ... begin removing some of those bigger branches that are not a problem now.  They will grow twigs which will eventually becomes branches which will cause new problems.  Maybe one branch per year would be an achievable project?  Starting next year?

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Weird Tasks

WHY am I compelled to tackle these things right now?!  (Or requesting the kids do it?)

~Scrubbing the ceiling-fan blades with a toothbrush to get them all-the-way clean instead of just dusted.

~Vacuuming the backs and underneath-sides of the dressers.

~Scrubbing the floor behind the computer desk and the back side of the desk.

~Washing the handrail on the basement stairs.

~Cleaning out drains in the bathrooms.

~Vacuuming the tops of the encyclopedias, as well as all the bookshelves in the living room.

~Vacuuming the living-room upholstery.

~Vacuuming cobwebs from the basement ceiling.

~Cleaning behind and under the stove and refrigerator.

~Washing the kitchen windows and screens.

Maybe it's because I haven't done spring cleaning since we moved into this house.
Maybe it's because I lay in bed for several weeks and did no cleaning, and now I'm trying to catch up.
Maybe it's because I know that, once I go back to work, I'm not going to be able to do any of this because the job will take all the energy I have.
Maybe it's because some of these jobs are so overdue that they're interfering with the simple everyday cleaning, and they Must Be Done.
Maybe it's because some of these jobs are small enough that I've got the strength to do them (in between the times I sit on the phone, on hold, for long periods, "resting up" while I deal with hospital bills and insurance).

Right now, the house is clean, the lawn is mowed, the laundry is caught up.  I cannot drive, so shopping, visiting, and other errands are not possible.  I may have to do something fun ... and do it without guilt over all the other things I "should" be doing.  Wow.

Not to worry, though.  Things will get dirty.  Soon enough I'll have more house-cleaning and laundry to do.

Lettuce, Orthaheels, and Hair

Planted lettuce yesterday.  It's the wrong time of year to plant lettuce.  I don't think the weather has noticed, though.

My apple trees, which haven't been bearing, grew some baby apples this year.  The tree with only two apples lost them.  But the other tree has a small crop we're hoping for.

My hair is long enough now that I occasionally have to brush it.  That's not really saying much, though, as my dad-who-always-had-a-crewcut brushed his hair every day.  But it's a step in the right direction!

My shoes -- my awesome shoes that are the only thing which make my feet not hurt -- my beloved shoes which are better than prescription insoles -- my shoes have been discontinued.  The technology for them was bought by another company, but customer reviews report that the support is just not the same.  So I bought all the rest of the old version that Amazon still had in my size.  Also, the new company doesn't make any versions without the toe strap -- in other words, none that I can wear to work when my current work-pair finally is no more.  I'm trying not to let this sink into my brain; it would be far too discouraging to realize what this means.  I can only hope that these shoes will be manufactured again before my new stash wears out.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Personality Trumps Character

James Davison Hunter, in The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil
We say we want a renewal of character in our day but don't really know what we ask for.  To have a renewal of character is to have a renewal of a creedal order that constrains, limits, binds, obligates, and compels.  This price is too high for us to pay.  We want character but without conviction; we want strong morality but without the emotional burden of guilt or shame; we want virtue but without particular moral justifications that invariably offend; we want good without having to name evil; we want decency without the authority to insist upon it; we want moral community without any limitations to personal freedom.  In short, we want what we cannot possibly have on the terms that we want it.  (Found in "A Continual Feast" by Jan Karon)

Funny how I ran across this quote shortly after reading the first chapter of Quiet.

Happy Picutres

These pictures from the fund-raising auction in February were finally downloaded off the camera.  Rachel, Matt, and Maggie with his mom in the top photo, and then with me in the bottom photo.

It was a fun day with superb company!

Psalm 103:7

He made know His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.

One perspective of God's ways:
God's way is to smash people who don't listen.
God's way is to give rules.

Another perspective of God's ways:
God says, "My people be protected from the calamities coming."
God says, "My people shall have light in the darkness."
God says, "My people shall be rescued when they are trapped."
God says, "My people shall eat the bread of heaven."
God says, "I forgive them and call them My own even though they are ... umm ... well, look at them.  I love them even though they are the rebellious mess they are."

Monday, July 07, 2014

Pretty Bridesmaid

Simple pattern.
Decent and proper.
White trim, white shoes, and pearls.

I was prepping the pattern, adjusting it to fit Maggie properly.  Then I crashed and Kristine took over the sewing so I didn't have to worry about the dress.  Oh, what a sweetie she is!

Personally, I think it looks classy.  Kristine did a great job.  And it's a dress that can be worn for regular Sundays instead of hanging in the closet with a "Bridesmaid Only" label. 

Screen Kleen

The little green roller beckoned to me while I was standing in line last year at the local hardware store.  It promised to make cleaning the window-screens a simple, easy task. 

Now, I don't know about you.  But I don't often clean my screens.  Maybe once a decade.  And they get nasty when you have a fan sitting in the window, running, all summer.  But cleaning the screens?  What a pain!  So they stay dirty too too often. 

So I splurged.  I bought the ScreenKleen kit. 

It sat in the closet.

For some reason, right now I am feeling in need of cleaning in the corners, behind furniture, underneath things.  I even got a toothbrush and Murphy's Oil Soap and scrubbed the nasty edge of a ceiling fan.  I never did that before in my life!  (Maybe these little jobs are my way of procrastinating on the big everyday jobs that I'm too weak to tackle?)  The other day, I couldn't see out the kitchen window.  There was tree-trimming going on next door.  And I couldn't tell if there were damaged trees from the recent storm, or if these were preventive measures to get branches away from power lines before the next storm. 

You know what?  If you cannot see out the window, it's probably time to clean the window. 

One window?  That should only take a few minutes.  I have energy enough for that.  But the clean glass made the screen look awful.  I tried the ScreenKleen.  It worked.  Oh man, it worked great!  Easy to do!  Effective!  Easy to clean up and put away the supplies (as opposed to stowing the hose and scrub-brushes and screwdrivers and putting screens back into the windows). 

The ScreenKleen kit worked so wondrously that I cleaned other screens later in the day.  I may even do some more.

The only thing I don't know is about its longevity.  The kit comes with two rollers.  They can be washed and re-used.  But for how long?  (I'm hoping a good long time, because this tool may make it possible for me to have non-disgusting screens for the first time in my life.)

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Quiet -- chapter 1

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking,
by Susan Cain

My friend, Lora, recommended the book Quiet.  The first chapter intrigued me: history, sociology, psychology, and more.

Industrial revolution leads to

more consumer goods and less farming, which leads to 

people moving to cities (where they're relatively anonymous) and away from farms (where everybody knows their family for generations back and their work ethic and the looks of the place), which leads to 

an increased need for salesmen,
"a social operator, someone with a ready smile, a masterful handshake, and the ability to get along with colleagues while simultaneously outshining them" (p. 20).

Yes.  That's it.  Salesmen must have the charisma to draw others to themselves, to instill trust, and yet to make sure they get what they want from the customer and outshine the colleagues.  It's seldom about cooperation, and usually about competition.

The increased need for salesmen leads to 

a change from the "culture of character" to the "culture of personality" which leads to

advertisements everywhere

and earlier schooling (so that children can be "socialized")

and "inferiority complexes" for introverts

and psychiatric medications to change personalities

and the idolization of celebrities

as we learn to be dissatisfied with quiet thoughtfulness,
and be influenced by those who are outgoing (regardless of depth)
and those who talk and chatter and even scam.