Forest Bathing

I’m several days late, but I hope everyone in the USA had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day! I hope everyone else had wonderful days as well.

EJ looks forward to deer hunting season all year long. He always goes hunting at a beautiful 100-acre woods on the other side of the state that is owned by his friend’s family. EJ has been friends with the family for many years, and when he was younger he helped plant the trees that he now hunts in, which I think is cool. There are cozy heated deer blinds set up in various locations in the forest. I am usually glad that EJ is able to go hunting, but with his health problems this year I was concerned. EJ was struggling with dizziness and high blood pressure and I didn’t want him to get in an accident driving there or have a stroke in the forest. But EJ was able to get his blood pressure down, and his friend said he’d keep an eye on him, so EJ left a week ago Monday (November 19) and returned the following Wednesday evening.

I do think being is a beautiful forest is peaceful and relaxing and reduces stress. The Japanese actually have a practice called “forest bathing” in which they just be with trees. As described in the interesting article, The Japanese Practice of ‘Forest Bathing’ is Scientifically Proven to Improve Your Health, there is no hiking, no counting steps on a Fitbit. You can sit or meander, but the point is to relax rather than accomplish anything. The Japanese practice of  forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing. Forest bathing—basically just being in the presence of trees—became part of a national public health program in Japan in 1982 when the forestry ministry coined the phrase shinrin-yoku and promoted topiary as therapy. 

EJ said he saw many deer, but he didn’t really feel like shooting any this year, partly (I think) because his hand was still healing from his surgery. Instead, he sat in the quiet forest and pondered his next steps in life.

Some of my latest creations. They will be listed at my Etsy store soon.

On Thanksgiving Day EJ volunteered to fix our holiday meal so I could continue crocheting. I have several orders to complete, and I having been work from morning until night on them, stopping only to do necessary tasks. EJ has actually been doing a lot of cooking lately so I can work. Although I am working hard, I feel a bit lazy. I mean, I’m sitting in my comfy chair with Hannah Joy sleeping on my lap, sipping cups of coffee or hot chocolate, enjoying the wild birds at the feeders outside my window, and watching Netflix or Amazon Prime as I crochet. 🙂

I grew up in a large family (six kids) and when I was younger, I loved the happy chaos of the holidays. But these days, I appreciate quiet, stress-free, non-hectic holidays. EJ fixed some of the traditional foods, like turkey and stuffing, but we didn’t go overboard and we enjoyed our quiet day.

Once the turkey was in the oven, EJ and I drove to Meijers so I could buy some yarn which was on sale. Meijers was one of the few stores open on Thanksgiving Day. There weren’t many people in the store, for which we were thankful. That all changes on Black Friday–the day after Thanksgiving–when people go crazy over the sales. I’ve heard of people getting up at 3 a.m. to stand in line at stores so they can be among the first to grab items when the stores open. It’s ridiculous how crazy people get. EJ and I have always stayed far, far away from stores on Black Friday. No item–no matter how big the sale–is worth fighting over.

My Turkey Potpie

Sunday I made several homemade potpies from leftover turkey. It’s one of my annual traditions. I baked one for us to eat and frozen the others. Yum. I think homemade potpie is my favorite food.

We had a couple of warmer days that melted our snow. The cold and snow returned, but we only have maybe an inch of snow on the ground. Southern Michigan was hit by much more snow. I always chuckle when that happens because as when we decided to move Northern Michigan, everyone was surprised that we were moving further north instead of to southern states, and they told us that Northern Michigan was beautiful but they’d hate to have to deal with all the snow in the Winter. So I kind of enjoy pointing out to friends in southern Michigan that they have more snow whenever they get more snow than we do.

It’s time to let the chickens out of the coop for the day, and then I need to get back to my crocheting…

 

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High Pressure

It felt as if it had been a long time since I’ve posted anything and I was going to reassure you that I’m really not ignoring you all, but then I saw that it has only been four days since my last post, which isn’t all that long ago. It has just felt like a long time.

EJ has been struggling with dizziness, and one of his FB friends who had been an EMT told him he needed to contact his doctor because with his medical history, it could be a sign that his blood pressure was too high. So EJ called his doctor and she said that if there are changes in his symptoms–higher blood pressure, blurred vision, and so forth–I have to take him to the hospital. Thursday morning we went to Meijers to get a blood pressure monitor so he can keep track of his blood pressure. In the evening I drove back to Meijers to pick up his BP medication that the doctor had called in.

Each year EJ goes hunting at his friends’ hundred acre woods on the other side of the state. He looks forward to it all year long with more anticipation than a child for Christmas day. But because of his health, he is not going this year. This is a bitter pill to swallow for him but I don’t think it’s good for him to drive when he gets dizzy. I’ve been doing the driving lately when we run errands.

We are trying to reduce stress, which raises EJ’s blood pressure, so we have decided to have a very quiet Thanksgiving–just EJ and me. JJ is spending the day with his girlfriend’s family so it’s no big deal for us. We weren’t going to buy a turkey or anything, but they are super cheap right now–something like 34 cents a pound–so we went ahead and bought one. In fact, we bought two and stuck one in the freezer for later. Each turkey cost less than $7. This is the cheapest they will be all year long.

Friday afternoon we drove to EJ’s (former) company to fill out the COBRA paperwork with the head of the Human Resource Department. She reassured EJ that everyone loved and respected him at the company and they hated to let him go. We now have to make decisions about what to do next. We both have the signs of  mental and emotional exhaustion.  I think we’ve been struggle with exhaustion since JJ battled cancer a few years ago. Just about the time we begin to feel stronger, we get hit with another problem that depletes us.

We have to work through what type of job EJ should pursue. When should he start looking? Which is more important: resting and recovering or pursuing a job to give him purpose? Should he consider going on disability, at least for a while? Should I look for a job? It would be nice if I could make a go of my Etsy store so I can work at home. It’s kind of difficult to decrease stress when life is so uncertain right now, but we are doing our best. We are trying to guard ourselves from people and situations that bring additional stress to us, and finding things that bring us enjoyment.

On the way to EJ’s company to sign the papers, we saw two bald eagles flying over the bay. I think there were bald eagles where we were born, raised, and lived all our lives downstate, but at most I only ever saw one. There are many more here in Northern Michigan. Seeing them is always a thrill.

In fact, watching birds of any kind is a joy. Because of the bears, we can only put our bird feeders out in the Winter when the bears hibernate. I’m not sure exactly when the bears go to sleep, but last weekend I finally put out the feeders and filled them with seed. On the second morning after I put them up, I thought, “I wonder when the birds will arrive?” because none had come yet. Suddenly, all at once, they were flocking to the feeders. The feeders are only a few feet from the window so we get a close up view of them. Having the birds come close so we can enjoy them makes Winter a special time.

I videoed the birds while listening to The Piano Guys at Youtube. The Piano Guys are awesome musicians and very creative. I strongly encourage you to watch some of their videos.

We have had some snow this last week. We’ve only got a few inches, but it has transformed the landscape. I love the beauty of Winter.

When I’m not running errands with EJ, I’ve been busy, busy, busy crocheting adorable stuffed animals. My friends have ordered thirteen animals and one cute ear warmer. So far I’ve completed six items so I only have eight more to make. All my free time is spent crocheting. I quickly do basic chores and then get back to work. EJ has been doing some of the cooking to help me out. He’s a great guy.

All’s Well That Ends Well

Yesterday morning EJ had an appointment with his doctor to discuss the results of the MRI. We were both hoping and dreading learning the results.

The good news is that EJ does NOT have anything like a Hydrocephalus or a brain tumor. Instead, he has had some mini-strokes which has caused some little dead zones in his brain. The dead zones are causing some of EJ’s memory loss. It’s like some of the “files” in his brain have been corrupted and can no longer be assessed. The doctor further explained that it’s sort of like an electrical circuit. If EJ wants to move his hand, the brain sends signals through the neurons A, B, C, to D. Only neuron C is damaged so that the signal is either not getting through or is only weakly getting through so his hand trembles instead of moving strongly. The doctor said, “I’m trying to explain this in a simple way, but I’m not an electrician.” That reminded me of Dr. McCoy’s favorite statements in Star Trek, and I couldn’t resist, the chance to use this quote might never again come my way, so I quipped, “She’s a doctor, not an electrician.” The doctor said, “Exactly.” She is obviously not a Star Trek fan or she would have gotten the reference and laughed. EJ and I are always quoting TV and movies and he immediately understood my comment. He quoted, “Dammit, Jim, she’s a doctor not an electrician.”

Although serious, the doctor said that EJ’s results are probably the least serious that he could have had. It can be managed. She told EJ to take an aspirin every day and to take a high blood pressure pill. He also has to lose weight. She said that there are tests she can do that will try to determine the cause of the mini-strokes, although sometimes the cause is never discovered. She said that she is going to wait on the additional tests until we have our insurance figured out. She doesn’t want to cause us financial hardship by ordering them now.

The doctor told her office staff not to charge us for this visit. When EJ tried to sign in when we first arrived–there are little computers in the waiting area for patients to sign in and update their medication/insurance, etc.–it showed that his health insurance had been canceled. This was distressing because we had thought we had COBRA, which is why EJ went ahead with the surgery and MRI. COBRA is an insurance that people can buy to bridge the gap between when they leave one job and before they get another.

After EJ’s appointment with his primary care physician, we had a followup appointment with the surgeon who had operated on his hand. We didn’t know if we should keep or cancel the appointment, but at the least we could talk to them about the insurance snafu. When we arrived, the receptionist told us that the insurance company had denied payment and they would need $800 for the surgery. My anxiety soared. EJ explained the situation and said that he was going to call the Human Resource Department at his (now former) company to clear things up. We asked what we should do about the appointment and the receptionist said the cost of this appointment was included in the cost of the surgery so go ahead with it.  The surgeon said that his hand is healing nicely. He took the rest of the stitches out, and told EJ to get some ointment to put on his hand.

We went back to the reception area where EJ called the HR person at his company. She said that as soon as the COBRA paperwork was filled out (we just got the paperwork in the mail) and sent in, every expense would be covered with no problem. She said that she was on her way to a meeting, but she would call the surgeon’s office later that afternoon and explain the situation to them. That seemed to reassure the receptionists, at least mostly.

It was all very stressful because if insurance didn’t pay then we’d be buried in medical bills–not only the surgeon’s expenses, but also the hospital and anesthesiologists. Also, I felt very embarrassed because we have never been in this situation before. I know businesses, including hospitals, encounter people who don’t (or can’t) pay their bills and they sometimes look down on them. The surgeon’s office wouldn’t know that we have always, always paid our bills, even if we had to sacrifice. To be seen as people who don’t pay their bills was distressing to us.

But everything ended well: EJ’s medical issue is not terrible, EJ’s primary care physician was kind, we will have our medical expenses covered. Whew. EJ’s doctor had also said that there’s no reason that EJ can’t get a job, but he shouldn’t get a one that requires quick decisions and reflexes. EJ just has to figure out what to do next, what sort of job he can pursue.

Stress can make EJ’s symptoms worse so we are going to do what we can to diminish the stress in our lives. This includes zero tolerance for people who cause chaos in our lives because they have caused us the most stress.

I felt as if God had taken care of us today. All day I kept thinking of Psalms 66:10-12, hanging on to them:

 For you, God, tested us;
    you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
    and laid burdens on our backs.
You let people ride over our heads;
    we went through fire and water,
    but you brought us to a place of abundance.

 

In This Liminal Space

It’s been almost a week since I’ve written a post. I’ll try to fill in the blanks.

EJ had his MRI last Wednesday. We won’t know the results until this coming Tuesday when he meets with his doctor. We are hoping/praying that he is just struggling with the side effects of his medications and/or stress and not anything more serious. Once we learn the results, we can try to figure out what to do next. I am both eager and dreading EJ’s appointment. If the results are good then the doctor appointment will end in relief, but if the results are bad then I’d like to prolong this period of ignorance  before we are plunged into trying to figure out what to do next.

This time before we find out the results of the MRI is a sort of Liminal Space. As various websites define it, the word “liminal” comes from the Latin word limens, which means “threshold.” There are certain places or states of being in which you feel different, off, uncomfortable, or anxiously floating in the inbetween. Often, these uncomfortable spaces turn out to be Liminal Spaces. They are places where a transition occurs between the threshold and the place that waits before us. Often, when we are in Liminal Spaces, we have the feeling of just being on the verge of something. That’s where EJ and I are: Between one thing and another, one thing ending but the other not quite beginning.  EJ says that losing his job opens up opportunities and possibilities. He just has to figure out what to do next, and it depends on what we learn on Tuesday.

EJ has been feeling restless. He has always had a job so it’s sort of difficult for him to be at loose ends. He has been trying to keep himself busy as he ponders what to do next.  He has been spending a lot of time working in the garage. He finally has the time and energy to work on getting it organized. He is finding a lot of items he forgot he had.

On Friday EJ and I sorted through boxes in our pantry. The pantry is actually a large indoor storage room located in the entrance hallway between the garage and the kitchen. I believe that the previous owner of our house sold jeep parts and kept them in this room. We keep our chest freezer in this room and store our canned foods on the shelves. We also store other items that need more protection than the garage, such as our roaster oven, extra dishes, extra blankets, sleeping bags, picnic baskets, cans of paint, books that we will either donate or sell, and other such stuff. We went through the boxes and threw away unwanted items and then took a load of other items to Goodwill.  We still have to sort through several boxes of books and tidy up the room a bit, but we made good progress, emptying several large totes and freeing up some space.

My friend and I enjoy buying each other gifts through the year, whenever we see something that we think the other would enjoy. She recently sent me a book of crochet patterns for adorable stuffed toys. She liked them so much that she placed an order for some of them. If I could have, I would have given made them all for her for free, but she insists on paying for them to help us out. She told her sister about them, and now her is also ordering some to give as Christmas gifts. Between them, they have ordered nine toys, which means that I am spending the majority of my day crocheting. The toys are adorable and as soon as I finish them, I will list them at my Etsy store.  So far, I have finished a unicorn and two bunnies. I have a teddy bear, reindeer, a unicorn (different than the first), cat, lochness monster, and a dragon yet to make.

Hannah Joy watching the snow falling

Friday evening it began to snow, and it has snowed ever since. The National Weather Service forecast shows it snowing through Wednesday. EJ says that areas to the north of us got six inches of snow–the UP got 18 inches. We have maybe 3-4 inches on the ground so far but it is still snowing. It looks as if Winter is now here to stay.

Crocheting

It’s very cozy sitting in my chair with a hot drink–coffee, herbal tea, or hot chocolate–on a snowy day with Hannah Joy on my lap. Hannah gets upset if I don’t let her on my lap. She goes from pacing around to pushing away my laptop to increasingly loud grumbling until I let her on my lap. I recently learned that Pitbulls crave touch and cuddles. They don’t take no for an answer. So Hannah (Hosanna Banana) Joy snuggles with me as I crochet.

Now that we have snow, I am assuming that the bears have snuggled down for their long winter’s nap. I went out yesterday and filled the birdfeeders with seed and suet. I haven’t seen any birds or other animals eating from them yet, but it will take them time to find it. I enjoy watching the wildlife up near the house.

Miss Madeline Meadows

Yesterday afternoon I spotted Miss Madeline Meadows, our sweet serial killer cat, in the front  yard. She was playing with a small rodent she had caught, pouncing on it and throwing it up into the air and catching it. It sucks to be the mouse.

The chickens don’t like the snow so they’ve been staying inside their coop. I thought they had stopped laying eggs for the Winter because I was finding only one or two eggs a day–and sometimes none. But the other evening I went out to shut the chickens in the coop for the night. I always count them to make sure they are all safely inside. I saw hens go into the bottom level of the “fancy coop.” I shone my flashlight inside to count them and found a whole pile of eggs in the corner. They don’t usually lay their eggs there so I had missed them when I gathered them. I guess the hens aren’t quite finished laying eggs yet.

Well, it’s time to get back to crocheting…

 

Two in One

Last night was a very short night. Today was a long day.

The alarms on our phones went off at 3:30 a.m., which is the middle of the dang night. We staggered out of bed and rushed around getting ready to leave for the hospital for EJ’s surgery to remove the splinter in his hand. EJ took his shower first with the special soap he was given. After I showered I rushed to feed the pets and then took Hannah out before we left. We had to be at the hospital at 5:30 a.m. and his surgery was scheduled for 7:15 a.m.

EJ drove us to the hospital. I was very glad of this when just a few miles from home, two deer ran out into the road in front of us. EJ slammed on the breaks and missed the second deer by mere inches. He has Jedi reflexes; I probably wouldn’t have been able to stop in time. I thought, “Whew! Hitting the deer could have really complicated life even more than it already is!” We made it safely to the hospital with no other excitement.

Once at the hospital, all the normal routine hospital things happened:

EJ was taken away to get prepped for surgery while I waited in the waiting room. After a while I was taken back to stay with him while the doctor and the anesthesiologists came in to talk to him. One of the anesthesiologists was a little worried that the magnesium splinter in EJ’s hand would burst into flame when it was exposed to the oxygen-rich air in the operating room because he remembered a piece of magnesium exploding during an experiment when he had been in a chemistry class when he was younger. EJ reassured him that that wouldn’t be a problem but the anesthesiologist’s concerns caused me to imagine the magnesium splinter catching fire when EJ’s hand was cut open, and the whole operating room exploding. Of course, that didn’t happen.

EJ was wheeled away and I went back into the waiting room. The surgery took about an hour, and EJ was in recovery for another hour and a half. Fortunately, coffee was available in the waiting room. I had two large cups to keep me awake. After the surgery, I met with the doctor in a consultation room where he told me that the splinter had been lodged between a bone and a tendon, but everything went fine. I joked, “So the magnesium didn’t explode in the operating room?” The doctor took me seriously and declared, “That’s a myth. That’s fake news!” EJ worked with magnesium for years so I already knew about the properties of magnesium.

When EJ woke up after the surgery, I was taken to him. He had a large bandage on his hand. A male nurse was in the room when I arrived, taking EJ’s vital signs. When he finished, he explained to me how to care for EJ at home, and then told EJ that he could get dressed. The recovery room was small and the hospital bed blocked the door so it couldn’t close, so the nurse had to move the bed to reposition it and get the door closed.  He almost backed the bed into the Code Blue button on the wall, and we all laughed at the thought of medical staff all rushing to EJ’s room thinking he was having an emergency. As the nurse commented, it would have made a funny scene in a sitcom.

I was encouraged to go ahead to get our vehicle and drive it up to the entrance while EJ waited for someone to bring a wheelchair for him and wheel him out. The nurse walked out with me to point me towards the parking garage. I have very poor sense of direction–I can get lost ANYWHERE–so I was a little anxious about being able to find the Xterra in the maze, find the exit, and locate the correct place to pick up EJ. But I was successful in all three goals. EJ was loaded into the Xterra and I drove us home.

As we drove through the city streets, I was saddened when I saw a dead squirrel in the middle of the street. I hate seeing dead animals along the streets or roads. EJ reassured me that it was just a pile of autumn leaves, and that the death of the leaves had been quick and painless. 🙂

We arrived home at about 11 a.m. I immediately fixed us lunch because EJ hadn’t eaten since last night and I had only had a couple of slices of toast for breakfast. Although EJ was the one who had had the surgery, he had a lot more energy than I did. I was exhausted but I didn’t want to take a nap because I wanted to be able sleep tonight–so I dragged all day. I thought it was about 8 p.m. but when I looked at the clock it was only 1 p.m. The whole afternoon was like that.

EJ wanted to move our chairs so that I am next to the window and can enjoy the view better. So I moved our chairs. In the process, something went wonky with our internet. We put in for a service call, but EJ figured it was the result of the cable end being frayed where it went into the doohicky. Even though his hand is bandaged, he redid the end, and we were connected to the Internet again. Yay!

It has been a very, very long day. I feel as if we have lived through two days in one. I can’t wait until it’s late enough to go to bed.

Very November

A few days ago there were a few bare branches here and there, but the trees were still dressed in most of their colorful leaves. Over the last day or two, however, the leaves have been flying off the trees. Sometimes the whole sky has been filled with leaves. The wind has increased in strength throughout the day. It’s dark now outside the windows, but I can hear the wind roaring. I’m sure by tomorrow the trees will be completely bare. It’s amazing how quickly it happened. It’s supposed to rain and/or snow throughout the week. It looks very November outside now.

EJ puttered in his garage quite a bit today. I think he’s getting it more organized and working a few projects. In the afternoon he shot his guns to make sure they are accurate because deer hunting season isn’t far away.

I made a little room in the chest freezer in preparation for the three sheep that are being delivered later in the week. I’m not sure how much meat that equals, but if I have to I can move more things to the refrigerator freezer. It is good to have this problem.

Poultry feed

I wheeled the poultry feed to the coop and scooped the feed from the bags into empty kitty litter buckets to keep them safe from mice and other rodents. I’m not sure we have enough to last the winter, but it will last for a while.

The two new chickens haven’t really integrated into the older flock yet. They seem to be staying mostly in the coop during the day and at night they are sleeping on the straw bales in the front part of the coop while the others sleep on the little coop and the old doghouse in the back section. However, I have noticed that our rooster Captain AmeROOca joined the new chickens on the straw bales for the past few nights. I think he’s pretty far down in the pecking order. I went outside this evening hoping to get a photo of the Captain with the two new hens, but he wasn’t with them tonight. I think coop feels very peaceful and cozy at night with the chickens all settled down.

Some of the chickens are still a bit naked from moulting. I think they look very ugly without feathers. Shhh…don’t tell them I said that!  The new feathers begin to grow in a sort of gray-blue sheath. I think it’s kind of interesting. I didn’t know much about chickens until a couple of years ago when I started my flock. I thought I’d share a photo of a chicken’s feathers growing in for those of you who have never seen it and might be interested. You can click on the photos to get a larger view.

I’m still stressed, of course, but not as turbo stressed as I was before. Today was calmer with no difficult people so I could catch my breath. Dealing with difficult/abusive people drains me of energy and pushes me into emotional exhaustion. When I do think about our situation (EJ having health problems with no job), I tell God that I’m scared and to please help us. Then I just tell myself that if God can provide us with three sheep, He can provide us with other things as well.

Tomorrow morning we have to get up super early to drive to the hospital. EJ is having a metal splinter surgically removed from his hand so he can have an MRI on Wednesday so we can figure out what is going on with his health.

Distortions

Friday the hospital called EJ to ask him questions about his health in preparation for his surgery on Monday. These are the same questions his doctor asked him during his pre-op appointment on Thursday and no doubt EJ will be asked the same questions at the hospital before his surgery. It seems to me that one time would have been enough, and two are redundant, and anymore than that is tiresome. I can’t exactly see the sense of it, but, oh, well.

EJ later had to call the hospital to find out what time he has to arrive at the hospital on Monday. He has to be there at 5:30 a.m. Yikes! We will have to get out of bed at about 3:30 a.m. Will the surgeon even be awake enough to do his work at that time? Will the surgeon have had time for coffee? I wonder what a surgeon does if he has to pee during surgery?

When all his calls were out of the way, we left for TSC to get poultry feed. There had been a very bad accident not long before and the road was closed for several miles. We didn’t know exactly what had had happened until later when we got home and saw news reports on the internet. 😥 One person is in critical condition, but it appears that there were no deaths. Traffic was backed up, but we were just able to get into the TSC driveway. We headed to Meijers after TSC, but we had to drive miles out of our way to avoid the closed section–both on the way to Meijers and on the way home. We didn’t mind though because the scenery was beautiful.

I had a panic attack at Meijers.

There are still things people need to buy, even if they have no income. Things like toilet paper, and kitty litter, and some fresh vegetables. We were very careful with what we bought, but I shuddered every time we put something in the cart. We are actually doing quite well, but still every dollar spent is one dollar less than we have between us and nothing. The anxiety built up until I thought I was going to begin crying. I didn’t tell EJ at first. I went to get trash bags while EJ went on to get a few other things in different aisles. For several minutes I stood in front of the shelves filled with different boxes, and brands, and sizes of trash bags and couldn’t remember which we usually get even though I’m usually the one who buys them. Finally I found EJ and told him that I had no idea what trash bags to get so he went to the aisle and got what we needed.

A few minutes later, EJ and I passed one of  those little sample tables that are set up in grocery stores so you can sample a food  product and maybe love it so much that you buy the item–you know what I mean? EJ stopped–usually I do too–but I just kept going because I wanted to get everything we needed as soon as possible and get out of the store. When EJ rejoined me, I told him that I was having a panic attack so he helped me focus on colors, and textures, and touch to help me distract my mind. It’s called “mindfulness.” It is a way of becoming focused on the present moment without becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you. It creates space for ourselves—space to think, space to breathe, space between ourselves and our reactions. EJ reminded me that having a panic attack doesn’t mean that I am weak, it means that I am emotionally over-budget. He sometimes tells me that I am the bravest, strongest person he knows because I have endured a lot without breaking, without becoming unkind.

It is very scary to experience EJ both losing his job and having uncertain health issues. I’m stressed, but overall doing quite well. Whenever I get anxious, I think of the three sheep being gifted to us, and I think that if God can give us three sheep, He can take care of us. The thing that is really causing me problems is abuse.

In addition to the other stressors this week, we dealt with a person who showed no empathy, but wanted us to do something for him. He wanted it done and done NOW. When I said no, we have enough to deal with, this person nagged and nagged and nagged, and insulted, and threatened to have nothing to do with me, and told me I was crazy. He told me he had done nothing wrong. This person is the most abusive person I have ever encountered, but he doesn’t see anything wrong with his behavior. This is what drained me and made it difficult to stand up under the stresses of the week. It pushed a stressful time into super-charged stress. Dealing with him took all my emotional strength so I had none left to deal with other things.

This morning I felt I was battered and crumbling. EJ comforted me, and told me to ignore the false accusations of abusers because they aren’t at all true., which is good advice. However, prolonged emotional abuse really batters a victim, and after a while she might not know what is “real” and what is “false.” As I wrote before, an abuser will work to break a person and then condemn her for being broken. The article, You’re Not Going Crazy: 15 Signs You’re a Victim of Gaslighting, describes the effects of emotional abuse very well.

“The only way you can describe how you feel is that you feel minimized.  You feel crushed and smothered.  You’re constantly second-guessing yourself; your feelings, your perceptions, your memories, and a small, suffocated part inside of you wonders whether you are actually going crazy.”

I told EJ that if I absolutely knew that a person was speaking lies, I could stand against it. The difficulty is getting to the place where I am sure of what is true and what is false. It’s sort of like mirrors.

A House of Mirrors at a carnival is full of mirrors that give horribly distorted reflections of what a person looks like. They are false reflections, and everyone knows it, so it’s funny and not taken seriously. A real mirror gives true reflections of what a person really looks like. You can look at it and see if your hair is fixed the way you want or if there is dirt on your face that needs to be washed off. The problem is if you think the mirror is giving a true reflection when it’s not. Deceptive mirrors can be confusing and disconcerting, like in this Youtube video of a prank. Observe how the person who is participating in the prank acts ignorant of the problem and seems concerned when actually she is part of the deception. Notice how confused the victims appear about this “normal” situation that doesn’t make sense. One of the victims even wondered if she had died. That is how a victim of emotional abuse feels.

Image may contain: text that says 'Narcissists like to "provoke" negative emotions in others, in order to get a reaction. This is often accomplished by saying something rude, insensitive, or doing something cruel. They then shame those emotions by claiming you are crazy, saying you over-react, calling you a drama queen, or trying to make you feel your emotions are all wrong. That makes you doubt yourself which affects your self esteem and self worth. Don't allow a narc to control you or tell you how to feel. This is form of manipulation and emotional abuse.'If the victims in the video were confused and disconcerted about a one-time prank, imagine what a victim of long-term emotional abuse feels. She would start to believe that the problem isn’t with the “mirror”–with the abuser–but with herself. After awhile it’s very difficult to discern the true reflections from the false ones. The abuser puts in just enough “truth” to make the reflection seem true. For example, he may insult, accuse, belittle, mock, gaslight a victim until she reacts. Any reaction–telling him to stop, explaining how his behavior was wrong, raising her voice, crying, anger–and the abuser can say things like, “You always criticize me, you misunderstood, you over-reacted, you were shouting at me, you are just as bad, it’s not my fault, I didn’t do anything wrong.” And because the victim actually might have raised her voice, been angry, etc., she begins to believe it was really her fault when it was actually a deliberate tactic the abuser used. That makes it difficult to understand which mirror, which reflection, is true.

There are times when I have felt so battered that I recognized that either I must reject the abuser’s distortion or I will be destroyed by it. But it’s very difficult when I am not sure which mirror is true, and I’m second-guessing my perceptions, feelings, actions, or motivations. The longer the abuse goes on, the harder it is to battle it. It’s also difficult because the abuser is usually someone the victim loves–such as a spouse, family, a close friend, etc. These are people you want to help, to forgive, to give second (and third, fourth…a hundred) chances to.

The destruction an abuser causes is why I get so angry at them. I do not understand why a person would want to destroy others.

 

Yes, Sir, Yes, Sir, Three Bags Full

As I grew up in the church, I often heard that Christians should never question God, because questioning meant a person was doubting God, and doubting God was sin. People who were full of faith never questioned God–and never felt afraid, anxious, angry, or doubt, or any other “negative” emotion. I tried hard to be “full of faith” by pretending not to feel those things. However, at some point–when I was in high school or maybe even younger–I realized that this was crazy because God already knew if I was afraid, or anxious, or angry, or questioning and pretending I didn’t feel these things didn’t fool Him. So over the years, I have been honest with Him with both “good” and “ugly” emotions–thanking Him, praising Him, pouring out fears and anxiety, telling Him that I’m upset about this or that (Why are you NOT bringing evil people to justice?!), letting Him know when I am angry (I really think we’ve had ENOUGH problems!)  or think He’s unfair (this SO totally SUCKS!), and so on. Being honest with God doesn’t mean that I don’t love Him. It means that I trust Him enough to handle my honesty. I think honesty and trust and love go together. You can’t be honest with people you don’t trust, and I’m not sure you can really love untrustworthy people.

I love, love, love, the Biblical writers because they seem to honestly pour out their emotions too, sometimes praising God, sometimes wrestling with Him, sometimes crying out that He is unfair, sometimes confronting Him. I totally connect with them.

A number of years ago, I began to teach myself Hebrew, and in learning Hebrew, I connected with people like me who were also learning the language, as well as with Jewish Bible scholars and rabbis. Many of my Jewish friends believe Yeshua (the Hebrew name of Jesus) is their Messiah, but I learn awesome things about the Bible even from those who don’t believe He is. They have an immense understanding of the Bible that humbles me. One thing I especially appreciate about the Jews is that they are not afraid to question–in fact, they encourage questioning because they feel that it is only through questioning that a person learns and grows. I really enjoy Rabbi David Fohrman‘s teachings. In a recent video I watched, he said that when he was younger, his rabbi would tell him, “No one dies from a question.”

It might seem that talking about honesty with God is totally unconnected with my description of our day, but really it underlies how I live my life and the way in which I write.

A couple of weeks ago, EJ ordered a sheep from one of his co-workers who raised sheep. After EJ lost his job, he and I discussed whether or not to cancel the order, but we decided to go ahead because we still need to eat, and $200 for a sheep that would be raised, butchered, packaged, and delivered to our home seemed like a good price–cheaper than meat at the grocery stores and we knew where it came from.

This morning the guy texted EJ to tell him that he would deliver our sheep next week, and that someone(s) had already paid for it. Not only that, but two additional sheep had also been bought for us, for a total of three. We do not know who did this–we are not sure if the man, himself, is giving us the meat or if the employees of the company had contributed, but we were overwhelmed by the generosity of the gift. That’s approximately $600 of meat. EJ texted to the  guy, “I told my wife and now her eyes are leaking.”

For the rest of the day, the old nursery rhyme kept running through my head:

Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,
Three bags full…

Only we aren’t getting three bags of wool, but the meat of three sheep. I feel like, Wow! Ok, ok, God is so totally going to take care of us.

The sheep guy told EJ this morning that everyone is sad and upset that EJ was fired because they all thought highly of him. EJ reassured him that it is ok, and that this gives him the time to figure out what his health issues are.

Today EJ had an appointment with his primary care physician for a pre-surgery checkup. Afterwards, we stopped in at his (former) company to drop off his uniforms and some paperwork they had given him to sign. We were going to stop at the store for some necessities–toilet paper, kitty litter, etc.–but EJ wasn’t feeling well so I drove us home.

After a late lunch of homemade egg rolls, EJ worked in his garage. He now has time to get it organized. I didn’t sleep well last night–I had only four hours of sleep–so I didn’t have the physical or emotional energy to do anything beyond basic chores.

Writing

EJ’s primary care physician sent him to a specialist who can remove the splinter from his hand so he can have his MRI. We met with the specialist early Wednesday afternoon. I was surprised that he is a plastic surgeon. I had expected someone like the hand surgeon I went to last year.

There was a possibility that the splinter could have been removed in the surgeon’s office. However, the x-rays showed that it was very deep in his hand so it will require surgery. It is scheduled for this coming Monday. The surgeon used a marker to draw on EJ’s hand to show how he will cut into his hand, pull back the skin, and probe for the tiny splinter. The surgeon said that there is a risk that the nerve in his hand could be damaged, but doctors always list the risks, and this surgeon has many, many awards. I tried to distract myself from listening too closely since I have a tendency to faint in medical situations. Yuck.

Thursday EJ has a pre-op appointment with his primary care physician. I’ve never had to have one, but it appears to be normal in the area where we now live. Afterwards, we plan to stop at EJ’s company…the company…where he used to work…to drop off his uniforms and do some paperwork.

I always feel shocked, overwhelmed, and anxious when I’m first hit with a difficult situation, especially since JJ’s battle with cancer. I invented the word “life-quake” a few years ago to describe these types of difficult situations because it feels like an earthquake–a major upheaval where everything is turned upsidedown and collapsing and nothing is steady.  But after a few days, we usually find our balance and start dealing with “what is.” Unless, of course, we are hit with another life-quake. More about that later.

Image result for I write because I don't know flanneryI often write in the midst of life-quakes because, well, writing is how I think things through, how I process, how I confront anxiety or pain, how I struggle to reach a new understanding. I tend to grow through struggle, and I work through the struggle in writing.

I also write to explore and remind myself of things I am learning or want to remember. For example, I write about what I hate to be told when I’m experiencing a life-quake, but mostly it’s because I want to remember that if those things were unhelpful to me, they probably aren’t helpful to others either. “So,” I tell myself, “remember and don’t say or do those things to others.” Or, conversely, if someone said or did something that was especially comforting and helpful to me, I try to remember to say or do those things for others who are suffering.

I also write because I love authenticity. I find raw, messy, flawed, honest emotions much more beautiful than perfection. Perfection shuts me out. If someone shares only their strengths, how they went through heartbreak and turmoil in unflawed faith singing songs of praise, and admonishes that I should do the same, all connection between us shuts down. How can anyone possibly empathize with another person’s suffering if they never felt any fear, turmoil, confusion, heartbreak, pain themselves? How can we help–or be helped–if everything is hidden behind a mask of perfection? On the other hand, people who honestly share their life-quake moments strengthen me because I know that they do understand, they have been through it, and they made it out alive. I love and agree with what Larry Crabb wrote:

“Everything in spiritual community is reversed from the world’s order. It is our weakness, not our competence, that moves others; our sorrows, not our blessings, that break down the barriers of fear and shame that keep us apart; our admitted failures, not our paraded successes, that bind us together in hope.”

Of course, I am aware that people can have good reasons for not sharing, and all that. I think each person has to deal with suffering in the way that best suits them. There is no “one size fits all.” And I know that sharing is a risk. Sometimes I feel that what is inside me comes bleeding out in writing, and after it has poured out, it looks messy, weak, and ugly. I tell myself I should have kept it hidden safely inside. But if I feel it strongly enough, it bleeds out my fingers anyway.

There are a lot of different reasons I write, even more than I listed. But you get the point?

So…I was beginning to find a bit of stability after the life-quake of EJ losing his job on Monday and the uncertainty of his health. I could even see blessings, such as the friends who told me that I could pour everything out to them, ugly or not, and they would support me. Or the friend who sent me a basket of her beautiful homemade soaps and things to brighten my day. Or the friend who told me she had bought me a book of crochet patterns filled with adorable mythological creatures. It hasn’t even arrived yet in the mail, but she already knows someone who wants to buy three of them.

Then today some things exploded and fell apart in another life-quake tremor.

Here’s the thing: I often write about the beauty of simple things. Natural beauty, simple tasks, soothe and restore me and remind me of goodness. So I write about them to breathe their goodness in. Other times I write about difficulties and struggle. But I never really write every detail or every difficult situation. Some are parts of others’ stories that were entrusted to me. Some are things I really think ought not to be shared. So when I write emotionally about things that might sound minor, there really might be other things beneath the surface that can’t be shared. The bloody words sometimes pours out of an unexposed wound.

This week has totally sucked, and I have felt shocked and stressed about life-quakes and uncertainties. And today something happened that I can’t really share, but it has to do with abuse and PTSD.

I have for years and years and years endured all sorts of abuse–most of it from family members. I have experienced more than I can describe. And we’ve had our share of other difficulties, such as EJ’s chronic back pain, my chronic illnesses a few years ago, JJ’s battle with cancer. There’s more than I can share.

I started out as a child wanting only to follow God and be “good” and kind. Even at a young age I was called “Wise,” “The Caring One” and “What a Christian Should Be.” When I began to experience–or, rather, recognize–abuse from my Mom and family (excessive control, insults, accusations, condemnation, and rejection), I did not defend myself nor did I attack back because I loved them and didn’t want to hurt them. I did good to them when I could. I was taught at church to give unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness to others no matter what–because that would show them the Love of Christ–so I did, I tried. But eventually–after years and years–I recognized and could no longer tolerate the damage to myself or my own family.

I learned about the dynamics of abuse through those years, and I learned that unconditionally loving and forgiving doesn’t stop abusive people from abusing. It tends to enable and empower it. I used to think that if only I could explain myself to my Mom and siblings, we could reconcile. So I explained, only they didn’t understand. So I thought, “Ok, if I explain things THIS way instead of THAT way, they will understand.” Only they didn’t. “Well, if I explained THAT way instead of THIS way, they will understand.” They didn’t. So I thought, “Oh, I should have said THIS thing!” But saying it–words such as “I Love you”–just made them mad. I kept trying harder and harder to say exactly the “right” thing, only it never worked. And I kept trying to show them that I loved them–short of allowing them total control of my life–but no matter what I did, they always accused me of not having good enough motives or something. Finally I realized that they didn’t want to understand, and that reconciliation was impossible (my Mom said that no matter how hard I tried, she’d never forgive me), so I gave up and went No Contact with them. It broke my heart and I grieved deeply but I had to save myself and my own family.

Experts say that predators target empathetic people with strong principles. Because EJ and I have been kind, and helped people, and forgiven offenses, we have experienced toxic people. Most of them called themselves Christians. I believe God is good, the Bible is true, and there are real Christians who love and follow God. I know some of them. But there are also very evil people who pretend to be Christians, who intentionally hurt people. The Bible warns of this and I have seen it. With each encounter, we’ve learned another aspect of abuse, and we’ve learned another way to set a boundary. But we also were damaged.

We’ve also suffered at the hands of EJ’s family, who came together as a group to try to pressure us into having contact with their brother, who is not a good person. They mostly bullied me because EJ was at work, but I/we stood firm. People have the right to make decisions for their own families–themselves and their children. They don’t have the right to force their decisions on other families, even if they are related. And it’s unacceptable to bully and insult people because they don’t do what you want.

We have experienced more abuse–more insults, accusations, guilting, blame, gaslighting, unkind actions. Again, from relatives. Some of it is meaner than any other that I’ve written about. It is things that we would not/could not even imagine saying or doing to even our worst enemies. 

With my family, I stood silent. With EJ’s family, I spoke out. With others I have sometimes done one and sometimes the other. There are times when I tried to be silent, but the insults grew worse until I reacted–and then I was condemned for my reaction. Sometimes I have confronted, but I’ve been accused of being overly critical or reactionary. Sometimes I tried to walk away, but I was followed with insults and told that I was refusing to deal with the issues. If I cried, I was mocked. I’ve been patient, not patient. I’ve been  supportive, and I have confronted. I love, but nothing I do stops the insults. An abuser abuses because he (or she) is an abuser, not because of his victim’s actions.

The Bible says that there is a time to be silent and a time to be speak, but I am never quite sure anymore when I should do one and when the other. If I speak, I should have been silent. If I am silent, I should have spoken. Both EJ and I suffer from PTSD. Some of our symptoms are the same, some slightly different. We both have anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, and sometimes depression. I have insomnia and nightmares. I struggle with intrusive thoughts, guilt, self-blame as I go through memories, trying to figure out if it was my fault, if I should have/could have/would have done something different. I am not always sure who I am or what I should feel. Sometimes I feel nothing, sometimes I feel everything. At times I feel guilty because I feel nothing…or everything. I used to be calm, but now I feel quickly emotional. I’m not always sure if I am good or evil, right or wrong. I used to be strong, now I feel weak. Problems quickly feel overwhelming. Abusive people make me very angry. Abusers break people down and then condemn them for being broken.

EJ and I battle these things every day. Sometimes strongly, other times not. When one of us is feeling weak, the other tries to be strong.

So this week has totally sucked. I was regaining my balance, but dealt with a person who demanded that we deal with HIS problem, who didn’t listen when I said we needed space to figure out what comes next, that we were dealing with uncertainties and were busy trying to get to medical appointments and tests, and schedule EJ’s surgery to remove the splinter in his hand so he can have an MRI. I felt callously hounded, stressed, overwhelmed and I reacted. I do not know if I should have or not. I might have made a mess of things and totally screwed it up, but maybe what happen is something that really needed to happen. Maybe this is a tragedy but it might not be after the dust clears. Whatever, the person angrily ended our relationship. Our relationship has been deteriorating for a while. I don’t know if I feel sad or released. I think I feel both. The person metaphorically slammed the door, I tried to keep it unlocked. Sometimes I second-guess myself and wonder if I am nice or awful, or if I should have said things differently or not at all. EJ read everything before I sent it and he said that I only spoke the truth, and that I was much kinder than the person deserved. My close friends–the only ones who know details–say they know that I am not a terrible person, they love me, and they are here for me. And I’m just sitting here telling God that I’m really a bit tired as I read Psalms 43:

Wake up, Adonai! Why are you asleep?
Rouse yourself! Don’t thrust us off forever.
Why are you turning your face away,
forgetting our pain and misery?
For we are lying flat in the dust,
our bodies cling to the ground.
Get up, and come to help us!
For the sake of your grace, redeem us!

I love the people in the Bible. They were so honest.

I will be ok. I think I will survive and grow. I just need to catch my breath, and regain my balance, and let words bleed a little on the keyboard.

Beyond SISU

This morning EJ and I should have been off to the hospital for EJ’s MRI. However, yesterday evening his doctor emailed him that his recent x-ray revealed that there are metal slivers in his hand from his years of working as a machinist. Even small bits of metal can cause damage during an MRI so we have to postpone it. We have an initial consultation early this afternoon with a doctor who will remove the splinters. Hopefully, the actual procedure will be scheduled quickly.

Having to delay the MRI is agonizing because it’s more delays and additional medical expenses when the health coverage is draining away. We also can’t plan our next steps until we know the cause of  EJ’s health issues and how serious they are. At EJ’s appointment last week, the doctor had said that his symptoms could be caused by his medications, which means his health should improve once the drugs get out of his symptom. But she also said that his symptoms are very similar to a condition called Hydrocephalus, which is the buildup of fluid in the cavities (ventricles) deep within the brain. The excess fluid increases the size of the ventricles and puts pressure on the brain. The Mayo Clinic website says that the pressure of too much cerebrospinal fluid associated with hydrocephalus can damage brain tissues and cause a range of impairments in brain function. Before EJ’s appointment, we looked up some of his symptoms on the internet, and some of them can be caused by diseases like MS or Lupus. So we could be looking at something relatively minor or something very serious.   We don’t know.

I feel a bit like the description of the sailors in Psalms 107:25-27:

For at his word the storm-wind arose,
lifting up towering waves.
The sailors were raised up to the sky,
then plunged into the depths.
At the danger, their courage failed them,
they reeled and staggered like drunk men,
and all their skill was swallowed up.

I imagine Psalms 107 describing a storm like the one in this Youtube video. I don’t know if this storm is considered just a regular storm or one that causes sailors to lose their courage and skill, but it’s scary enough for me and illustrates what I sometimes feel:

Honestly, I feel like all my courage, strength, and skill has been swallowed up years ago. We persevered while struggling with abusive family through the years. We had faith and Sisu while battling JJ’s cancer a few years ago. It pushed us beyond our emotional, physical, and financial resources. Then we reached deep inside and used Sisu to move to Northern Michigan. I don’t think we would have made it if we had stayed downstate. Since then, I think we have struggled with Complex PTSD, struggling to regain our balance. We’ve battled anxiety, depression, insomnia, nightmares, and have had no emotional resources to handle even minor-ish problems that came our way. Now we are facing EJ’s health problems and loss of income. I think we have used up all our Sisu. We are empty with no resources left.

Right now I’m struggling with a sort of shock, much like I felt when we first learned that our son had cancer a few years ago. I feel a sort of brain freeze, where my mind is spinning but going nowhere. I don’t know what action to take next because there is so much uncertainty. We don’t know if EJ just needs time to rest and get healthy or if we are facing a debilitating illness and he needs to go on Disability. I think uncertainty is a terrible place to be because there is no concrete path or direction to go in. I feel frozen.

Sometimes I think, “God is good. We have blessings. We are going to be ok.” We have been working hard in the last month or so getting projects finished–we were almost through our list when this happened–and the things we have still on our list can wait. We have been busy getting a winter’s supply of food in. We still need a little more poultry feed, but otherwise we have enough pet food and poultry feed for several months. EJ ordered a sheep (killed, butchered, and packaged) from a co-worker to be delivered in the next few days. We thought about canceling it but decided that it would fill our freezer for cheaper than buying meat from the store so we are going ahead with it. Also, EJ already has his deer licenses so he can shoot us some venison. His company has been kind to us, so we have a bit of time to catch our breath. I’m so glad that we were able to get our geo-thermal compressor fixed this last summer, even though it was expensive. It will save us money in heating our house this winter.

I’ve thought, “Ok, so this could be a time of redirection and opportunities, it could be a time of blessing in disguise instead of disaster.” This period can give EJ time to discover what is wrong with his health, to recover, and rest. We have discussed for a couple of years other crafts that we can learn so we can make items we can sell at my Etsy store to bring in extra income. Maybe we can do that now. Maybe this is new opportunities.

But these times are interspersed with frequent periods of acute anxiety, of not knowing if EJ’s health issues are serious, of not knowing if EJ will even be able to work, of not knowing how we are going to manage without an income, of not knowing how we can address serious health issues or pay medical bills after we lose our health insurance. Downstate they let us make payments but up here they require half at the time of the procedure and the rest soon after, which will make it very difficult. I’m wondering if we will end up losing our house, and I don’t know how I will survive if EJ’s health problems end up being life-ending. And it takes energy and money for supplies to be creative, both of which are in short supply. I’m “supposed to be strong” but I feel that I have nothing left. I totally tired, numb, and empty.

We have been working very, very hard at paying off our debts and have made some encouraging progress, but now making extra payments is out of the question. I tell God, “This would be a very, very good time for You to miraculously pay off our house–and possibly our other debts–so we can survive on little income.”

I have friends whom I know are deeply caring, but I haven’t wanted to talk to any of them since EJ lost his job other than ask them for prayer in Facebook groups or chats. I know that some of them have an abundance of difficulties of their own to deal with. My emotions are close to the surface, and I don’t want to add to their burdens by breaking down if I talk to them. I also know that there is a tendency to want to give advice to a suffering person, to “fix” them, and I really don’t want that right now.  Even if it’s really good advice, my brain is frozen and I feel overwhelmed: I can’t take in advice and it just feels like an overwhelming list of “Things I Ought to Do” to “fix” the problem. I don’t want abusive family/people to consider this an opportunity to step back into our lives. Yeah, like we really need more of your kind of “love” that battered, bullied, and damaged us. I also don’t want a theological lecture about how I need more faith, that I should rejoice in suffering, that everything will work out for good, or that emotions like anxiety is a sin. Lectures don’t help when we are struggling to catch our breath and find our balance. In fact, the Bible doesn’t say that if someone is suffering, you should lecture them, even if what you say is Biblically true (which I don’t think it always is). Job’s friends messed up later when they began advising, criticizing, and lecturing him, but they responded very well to him at the beginning:

When Job’s three friends…heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (Job 2:11-13)

In other words, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15).

I will probably be ok later when we have an idea of what we are facing, but I find myself pulling in a bit right now. I don’t have the energy to deal with even the most caring responses. I think suffering is very isolating. Maybe it can’t be anything else.

Update: Update: Eric had an appointment with a doctor today about the metal sliver in his hand. It’s in very deep so the doctor will do surgery this coming Monday to remove it. After that he can schedule his MRI.

Survival Mode

There are times that the days fly by very quickly and then I have to catch up, trying to remember what I did over the last few days so I can write about them.  This is one of those times.

EJ used to work a lot with various kinds of metals and  he often got metal slivers in his hands. Metal in his body could cause problems during his MRI tomorrow so his doctor ordered an x-ray of his hands to make sure there were no metal. We never need to schedule an x-ray here in Northern Michigan, we can walk in just whenever, so I went with EJ after supper on Thursday.

I think the hospital is very pretty with a lot of warm colors and little alcoves with cozy waiting areas. I like how the staff gives directions. When we asked how to get to Radiology, the lady at the reception desk told us to go down the hall, turn right at the piano and then make another right at the fish windsock.

Because we got there so late, the hospital was quiet and we were the only people in radiology. We had a short wait and then we were on our way home.

Raised Garden Beds

On Friday I did a few tasks around the house. EJ had brought home a large wooden box to use as another raised garden bed. I heaved it into the wheelbarrow, carted it to the garden, and put it in place to use next Spring. I set it between the old pool and the box EJ had brought home several weeks ago. We use discarded work boxes, an old broken hot tub, an old kiddie/duck pool–whatever–for raised garden boxes.

My simple latch

I also fashioned a better latch inside the coop so I can keep the doors closed so the chickens don’t get a blast of freezing air in the winter when I go into the coop to care for them. I simply hammer in two large staples, one on each of the double doors, twist a wire onto one staple and bend the wire so I can hook it into the other staple.

Friday evening Hannah’s Favorite Uncle (HFU) stopped by again to spend the night. Years ago he was riding his motorcycle when someone ran an intersection and hit him. He suffered a closed-head injury. He functions very well. There aren’t many closed-head injury conferences or support groups on his side of the state so occasionally he attends one in our area. He’s attended a conference/group in our area for the last two weeks. I forgot he was coming on Friday so I was glad he called when he was in a nearby town to ask if I needed him to pick up anything for us at the store. I didn’t, but his call gave me time to prepare the guest room.  HFU also stops to spend the night at our place if he’s on the way downstate (or back) to visit his daughter and her family. He calls our house T and E’s Bed & Breakfast. 🙂 We always welcome his visits; Hannah goes wild when she sees him.

HFU went spent Saturday morning at his conference and returned to our house afterwards for another short visit before heading to his home. After he left, EJ and I enjoyed a quiet day together studying and watching the last few episodes of The Closer on Amazon Prime. Hannah, Little Bear, and Kee-Kee slept on EJ, which was very cozy. These are the only two cats Hannah tolerates. Shortly after this photo was taken, I went out to gather the chicken eggs. I was halfway through the garage on my way to the coop when I realized that I had forgotten my basket to put the eggs in. I went back to the door to the house, opened it, and saw the movement of a wolf spider on the threshold. I screamed. EJ heard me and I heard his shout, “Go! Go! Go!” as he tried to quickly get the pets off his lap so he could come to my rescue–because obviously I was in distress if I was screaming. I would have told him that I was ok except I was busy trying to locate the spider to make sure it wasn’t in the house. When EJ came rushing through the door into the entrance hall, he exclaimed “What wrong?! You ok?!” He wasn’t particularly impressed when I told him that I had seen a wolf spider. LOL. I located my spider spray, opened the door into the garage, saw the spider on the step, and gave it a toxic blast. For all those ghoulish spider lovers out there: I tolerate spiders outside (mostly), but if they get into my house, they are on MY turf and they are dead.

EJ and I spent Sunday doing a variety of small tasks. In the afternoon, we took Hannah with us to Lowes to pick up a couple of things. It was a very beautiful drive. The trees are losing their leaves, but there are still many hanging on and the colors are breathtaking.

EJ just now came home early from work. He has been struggling so much with his health in recent months that he lost his job today. He was told that everyone loves him at the company, they all wished him well, they gave him hugs. The manager said that firing him was the hardest business decision he has ever had to make. However, the company feels he needs time to get healthy.  The company was very kind.

So now we are in “survival mode.” We will have to cut out all extras. Fortunately, we have almost all our pet food for the winter. EJ will still have his MRI tomorrow morning so we can see what’s going on with him. He will take the next few weeks resting before searching for another job. I’m not sure what we will do next.

Yikes.

Please keep us in your prayers.

Perspectives

So, I was thinking this morning that probably I could have just written about EJ’s doctor’s appointment without writing about all the INFJ stuff. But I realize that I wrote about the INFJ stuff because it helps me describe so much of what I think and feel. Like, how I believe that people have different characteristics and gifts, which should be valued instead of seen as less. I happen to believe that the world needs people of all types–both dreamers and doers, both logical and emotional, both fighters and lovers, and so forth. It’s very much as described in 1 Corinthians 12–that the many parts of a body has different functions, and one part can’t say that another part is not needed.

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

In addition to everything else, INFJs have the ability to see through many different perspectives This can be very helpful, but also difficult. I’ll make a statement that I believe is true, but then I can see the exceptions and contradictions to that statement. At times it’s like having double or triple vision. I suspect we INFJs can see through so many perspectives because we live in paradoxes–being both one thing and its opposite at the same time. People who are aware of the MBTI classifications sometimes wish they were INFJs because we are rare and have some amazing gifts, but being an INFJ is both a blessing and a curse. For example, being very empathic is a tremendous gift, but it also causes us to feel the sorrow of the world and makes us a target of abusive people who exploit our empathy. And living in the paradox of being both logical and emotional is awesome, but it also can tear us apart: I can logically conclude that a person is abusive and I must stay away from him/her, but my intense emotions cause me to deeply grieve for the necessity of doing so.

Yesterday I quoted from an article that said that “INFJs tend to pick up on other people’s emotions and in some cases absorb them…Unfortunately, by focusing on others, we end up neglecting our own problems. When left alone, those problems become a pressure cooker waiting to explode. When it’s time for us to explode, we need someone to unload to. We need to discuss our feelings and work through what’s stressing us out.”

Sometimes I feel alone with a burden that’s too heavy, and very few to help me carry it. But yesterday two friends stepped up. One said, “Ohhhh sis! Why didn’t you think of unloading to me?? Well…for next time think of me. I’ll be here if you need to vent ok?” The other said, “With me you can be yourself in crying, ranting and finding someone to be with if your emotions are getting to overwhelm you.” And already, just like that, I don’t feel so alone with a burden I can’t carry. I appreciate them so very, very much.

But I also know that not everyone can carry the world’s burdens all the time. I care deeply for the people in the world who suffer, but there are times when the cruelty, heartbreak, pain, and sorrow becomes overwhelming. I appreciate a friend who once told me that she isn’t able to carry the burdens of all the world so she limits herself to entering into the burdens of a handful of close friends whom God has put in her life. My family is one of those handfuls, and she helped us through JJ’s cancer. Without her, I don’t know if we would have made it. I try to follow her example in this: It’s too much to help all the world, but I can help a few.  Sometimes I can care for more, and sometimes for less. I’ve pulled back a bit from Facebook recently, unfollowing a few people and pages, not because I don’t care, but because I care too much, and I find myself immersed in too much pain and sadness. I usually write about the simple activities of my life in this blog as a way to counteract the sorrow and ugliness in the world by reminding myself of its joy and beauty.

Image result for i would rather be annoyingly positive and optimistic
I hate this quote. There aren’t only these two options. We can choose to be realistic.

The people I struggle most with are those who acknowledge only the happy things in life. They see only good in people, they see only positive in circumstances, God will heal every disease or problem if only you have enough faith. It might be–probably is–unfair of me, but I find them to be some of the most uncompassionate people who deny reality because they don’t allow people to express less positive emotions. Of course, pessimistic people are also not living in reality. Life isn’t all sunshine and roses or doom and gloom. I prefer a third option. I try to stay centered between optimism and pessimism: There are very good people in the world, but also very evil people. There is beauty, but also ugliness. Sometimes God miraculously heals and delivers people, but for some reason that I can’t fathom, sometimes He doesn’t. I mean, we all eventually die of something–I don’t see anyone hundreds or thousands of years old running around. Not being healed doesn’t mean our faith wasn’t strong enough. It means that right now we live in a world where there is sickness and death. I love God deeply and I think He is good and faithful, but sometimes I get mad at Him for allowing suffering. I’m very honest with Him because, well, He already knows when I am afraid or angry so why deny it?

I hate it when I am facing a very frightening situation and someone tells me “You need to have more faith.” I sort of feel like punching them in the face. I don’t do it, of course, but I mutter in my thoughts, “What makes you think I don’t have faith?” Living in realism, to me, means that I honestly acknowledge my fears, anxiety, pain, sorrows, and weaknesses. I don’t want to get stuck in doom and gloom, of course, but denying that I have these “negative” emotions doesn’t mean that I don’t have them. Telling me not to feel these things doesn’t comfort me. It makes me feel alone in the dark.

Here’s a true story illustrating what I mean by all this. Years ago I had a friend who started experiencing an erratic heartbeat. It was severe enough that she was scared that something was terribly wrong with her, and that she might die. She told me in frustration that whenever she expressed this fear to her family and friends, they all told her that nothing was wrong and she wasn’t going to die. As she was telling me this, I was thinking that sometimes really bad things happen–sometimes people get sick and die, even mothers with little children. I hate to lie so I didn’t tell her that nothing was wrong and she wouldn’t die. I’m not a doctor. I also couldn’t tell her that I would be there for her family since we lived in different states. So I said, “If something is seriously wrong with you and you die, I promise that I will pray for your children every day.” Then I felt bad because it sounded so pathetically uncomforting. But my friend immediately grew calmer. She wanted someone to allow her to express her fears. Her major fear was that her children would be left without spiritual support. Being told that her children would be prayed for strengthened her. She didn’t die, by the way.

I prefer confronting fears. I can’t face them if I can’t acknowledge that I have them. Sometimes I look very ugly and messy when I’m confronting fears because fear is so very powerful and scary. I get battered at first, and knocked off my feet. I feel like the sailors in the storm described in Psalms 107, who “were raised up to the sky, then plunged into the depths. At the danger, their courage failed them,
they reeled and staggered like drunk men, and all their skill was swallowed up…” But that didn’t mean they didn’t have faith. I don’t think faith always looks like singing in the sunshine. Sometimes it’s like being knocked down seven times, beaten and bloody, and getting back up. I deeply relate to this scene in Lord of the Rings, in which Eowyn fights the Witch King. She’s obviously terrified, her shield is broken and she drops her sword. It appears at first as if she will be completely defeated, but she gets back up:

So…Stay tuned while I confront these fears now and then.
Today I am doing quite well.

Warrior Mode

i do this wish i didntI want to talk a little bit about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which classifies people according to their personality traits. I know that some people take the MBTI very seriously and some not at all. I think the MBTI can be a useful tool to understanding ourselves and others. Sometimes we assume that everyone thinks or feels the same as we do, or we think those who are different are “less”–for example, that someone who is more emotional is weaker–without understanding that people are different, and  being different doesn’t mean being less. Learning that people think differently helps us understand and appreciate them.

We are complex.

I am an INFJ, which is one of the rarest, deepest, and most complicated of the personality types. INFJs tend to value the MBTI because it helps us understand and value our gifts. Since we are the most misunderstood Type, the MBTI helps us feel understood.

INFJs are very deep, complicated thinkers who think in metaphors and patterns. We are imaginative with a rich inner life. We are very paradoxical, living in the midst of opposites. For example, we are very introverted but need connection with others, we are logical and very emotional at the same time, we are very protective of those we love but struggle to protect ourselves, we can be very quiet if we don’t feel comfortable but talk a lot when we are comfortable, and so on. We care about others and are observant and intuitive about people. We tend to be very empathetic, gentle, and understanding–to the point of being empaths who feel what others feel and hurt when they do. This makes us good listeners and we tend to be the counselors in relationships. However, because we feel so deeply, the chaos, cruelty, and suffering in the world can drain us, exhaust us, and even make us sick. We despise cruelty, manipulation, and deceit. We have strong principles that we live by and we value integrity and justice. We try to help people reach their potential with no hidden agenda of our own. We tend to be writers. Here are a few memes describing INFJs. It’s easier for me to share them then to try to describe us in words. You can see how my INFJness has resulted in me caring and writing about things like abuse.

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As an INFJ, I observe the people I love–especially EJ. I try to figure out when he needs support and encouragement, when he needs a bit of fun or more rest, when he needs my strength. I do things like snowblow the driveway even though it tires me because I know he is more tired after a long day of work and the snowblower hurts his injured back. I am fiercely protective of EJ and even though I hate conflict, I will defend him against toxic, abusive people, including standing against all of my family or all of his.

Many times I am strong, but sometimes my strength gives out and I feel like I can’t be strong anymore. As one INFJ article said, “As much as we cherish the depth of our relationships, these interactions can really drain us. If we don’t find a way to relieve the burdens placed on our heart, soon enough, our legs will start shaking under the weight of them.”  I try to be careful who I confide in at these times. I know there are some people who cannot physically handle the stress of others’ problems. I, also, can feel stressed and sick by suffering in the world so I totally understand. When the suffering in the world becomes too heavy I limit my exposure to the news, etc., for a bit. But there are many people who are uncomfortable with “negative” emotions such as sadness, fear, questioning, struggle. They want everyone to be always HaPpY and ♪♫singing♫♪, and never struggle with anything. They say things like “You need more faith,” or “[Non-happy emotion] is sin.”  I personally believe God gave us a range of emotions, and appropriate emotions–such as deeply grieving when a loved one dies or feeling anxious when facing a serious illness–is normal and healthy and isn’t necessarily indicative of a lack of faith.

I love Psalms 107: 23-31 because it describes sailors who experienced a terrible storm at sea:

For at his [God’s] word the storm-wind arose,
lifting up towering waves.
The sailors were raised up to the sky,
then plunged into the depths.
At the danger, their courage failed them,
they reeled and staggered like drunk men,
and all their skill was swallowed up…”

Despite all this stormy terror, the Bible says that the sailors “saw the works of Adonaihis wonders in the deep.” In other words, they didn’t lack faith. They experienced His wonders. I often learn and grow tremendously through difficulty, and I value the freedom to honestly struggle, even though things can get very scary and emotionally messy at times.

People who expect everyone to always be STRONG and HaPpY are extremely unhelpful to me. I rarely confide in them because rather than make me feel connected, they make me feel isolated in the dark. Rather than make me feel strong, they make me feel weak. I prefer to confront my fears (sometimes with shaky sword) than pretend they don’t exist. I prefer raw, honest emotions to a happy mask and advice that says: “Hey, you need more faith! Just praise God! Don’t ever let them see you cry!” I like this Brene Brown video about empathy:

As an INFJ, I can be strong, but sometimes my strength gives out. Anxiety, fear, sadness, exhaustion, can build up and up and up and I need to have a release. Sometimes I do it in writing. Sometimes I spend a day crying. Or ranting. Often I feel emotional and weak when I feel overwhelmed, but “ranting” in order to release inner pressure is one of the INFJ characteristics. One article said this:

INFJs tend to pick up on other people’s emotions and in some cases absorb them…Unfortunately, by focusing on others, we end up neglecting our own problems. When left alone, those problems become a pressure cooker waiting to explode. When it’s time for us to explode, we need someone to unload to. We need to discuss our feelings and work through what’s stressing us out. Otherwise we feel like we are being edged out by others’ problems and that we don’t matter. Take the time to hear us out when we need to rant—even if it’s about a problem that you told us to fix about one hundred times already and we ignored your advice. If you listen to us, we will be forever grateful. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been emotionally distressed over a simple problem because I let that warning light above my head become critical.

One of the many things that I love about EJ is that he understands my need to “rant” in order to release emotion so he listens to me. And listens and listens. And cares. This is invaluable.

I’m writing about all this to lead up to sharing that life is becoming a bit scary and messy right now.

EJ has been really struggling with some health issues that we felt could be side effects of the medications he is on or could be the result of a more serious problem. These issues are affecting EJ’s performance at work, which is very difficult for him because he’s always been a hard-working, skilled, and valued employee and now he feels as if he is not.

The symptoms having been becoming more problematic so yesterday I went with EJ to his doctor’s appointment. I told EJ that I was in “Protective INFJ Warrior Mode” and that I was going to insist that the doctor doesn’t just give him yet another medication to try. It’s time to get to the bottom of this. EJ knows that usually I am quite quiet and nonconfrontational, but my “Protective INFJ Warrior Mode” can be quite fierce at times. He joked to a co-worker when he left work that he was going to his doctor appointment to referee. But I was like, “I’m going to do this.” And my “fierce “Protective INFJ Warrior Mode” isn’t confrontational–unless there’s no other option. Usually it’s just firm and determined. The difference is that in the past I found it difficult to speak up, but now I do.

I was prepared to be forceful if the doctor didn’t listen to me. In fact, I didn’t sleep the night before because I was practicing my beliefs, arguments, and counter-arguments in my head. During the appointment, I just calmly and firmly stated that I know some of EJ’s medications are quite dangerous and could cause serious side effects and I was concerned they were causing his problems so I wanted him off them. I told the doctor that I was also aware that his symptoms could be indicative of a serious illness so we needed to get to the bottom of this. I told her that I know that many doctors are opposed to alternative medicine, but I think that it might be helpful to consider them in order to treat his pain without drugs.

Surprisingly, the doctor listened to me and agreed with me. She said EJ’s meds could cause the systems he is struggling with, so she took him off all his meds because she wants to sort of do a system flush to see if his issues diminish/disappear when he is off them. She said his symptoms could also indicate a more serious health issue so she is ordering an MRI. And she said that rather than calling different treatments “alternative medicine,” she’d prefer to call them “complementary treatments.” She encouraged EJ to try some of them. While the ones I suggested might/might not help him, they certainly wouldn’t hurt him, she said.  So EJ and I will be discussing what steps to take and changes to make.

Of course, these health issues dredge up all sorts of anxiety, including intense concern for EJ’s health, worries about how we will survive financially if EJ can’t work,  and–worse case scenarios about how I will make it if EJ dies. My body is thrumming with stress, and EJ is struggling too. We used to feel stronger and more resilient, but we both feel battered by years of dealing with abusive people, JJ’s cancer, and other difficulties. We never feel as if we can catch our breath or balance before being hit with another difficulty. So I am having a few meltdowns–crying, ranting, writing, etc.–to release the build-up of emotional stress. I’m trying to do it without being a burden to anyone else.

Sigh.

 

Start, Stop, and Continue

After breakfast this morning, EJ and I got out our whiteboard and we sat down for a “staff meeting.” He called it a “Start, Stop, and Continue Meeting,” meaning we discussed which new goals and projects we wanted to start, which we were stopping because they had been completed, and which we were continuing to work on. We discussed what we wanted to accomplish today.

We decided to postpone going to TSC today for more poultry, canned cat food, and suet for the wild birds because EJ ordered a sheep–dead, butchered, and packaged–from a guy at work and that will be delivered within the next week or so and we need to make sure we have enough money to pay for it. I’m not really sure how to cook sheep, but I guess I will learn. It will be an adventure. And it will fill our freezer.

Changing of the seasons…

We went outside to get a few tasks done. It was “snaining,”–my newest invented word combining the words “snow” and “rain” to describe a snowy rain or rainy snow. With the seasons changing, EJ moved the lawn mower to the back of the garage and moved the snowblower to the front of the garage.

I forgot to mention yesterday that before we headed off to the feed store, EJ loaded the old living room carpet into the Suburban. It had been lying next to the garage ever since we tore it out last summer in preparation to getting new flooring. We’ve wanted to get rid of it since we tore it out, but we’ve been busy the last few months and other tasks had higher priority. We drove the carpet to EJ’s company and threw it in the dumpster. His company lets employees discard personal stuff in the dumpsters for free.  Today EJ put a small dingy in the Sub and we took that to the company dumpster as well.

Snow Measuring Stick

Before EJ started his tasks, we consulted each other about the best location for  my new snow measuring stick that I had made last week. We put it at the edge of the forest where we can see it from the windows of our house. I used the post hole digger to dig a hole and put up a post. After EJ finished his other tasks, he fastened my snow measuring stick to the post. We now have one in the back yard and one in the front yard.  It will be interesting to see how much snow we get this year. My snow sticks measure up to seven feet.

We enjoy observing weather and look forward to measuring the amount of snow we get. We’ve heard reports that we could have a warmer-than-normal winter this year. We expect that means that we will get a lot of Lake Effect Snow dumped on us. It is my understanding that regular snow is caused by a storm system. Lake Effect Snow is not a result of a storm system but of moisture being scooped up from Lake Michigan and dumped on us as a lot of snow. Once Lake Michigan freezes over, moisture is no longer scooped up and Lake Effect Snow stops. If we get a warmer-than-normal winter, Lake Michigan won’t freeze over, and we are likely to get snow and snow and snow all winter long. And if we get warmer weather, I expect there will be melting and freezing of snow into treacherous ice, which is not good. If our long steep driveway becomes impossible to drive up, we might have to park our vehicles at the bottom and walk up and down the hill. It would be better for us to have a cold winter than a warm one.

After I got the post up, I pushed the wheelbarrow over to the Suburban and unloaded the five straw bales we bought yesterday at the feed store. I could take two at a time in my wheelbarrow. I wheeled the bales over into the coop. I spread half of the last bale on the raised beds and then put the other half in the coop with the other bales we bought a couple weeks ago. Some of the straw fell out of the wheelbarrow while I was spreading it out in the garden beds and the chickens had to come check it out. The chickens all come running when they see me and they follow me around, curious about what I’m doing. I really like chickens.

Cool Michigan coasters

Last night I came across a posting in a local Buy/Sell/Trade group on Facebook in which a woman was selling coasters. They had images of Michigan and the Great Lakes on them. Did I mention that I’m totally Michi-centric? I love my state. I’ve been looking for coasters, and these weren’t very expensive, so I messaged the seller that I would like to buy a set. We were already planning to go to town to discard the dingy in the dumpster at EJ’s company so we arranged to meet at a township hall parking lot.

This is where our day took a humorous misadventureous turn.

We usually pay for items with our debit card but we needed cash to pay the woman for her coasters. We decided to stop at the local grocery store, buy an inexpensive item, and get “cash back.” For the benefit of those in other countries where this might not happen, “cash back” is when, for example, a customer buys a $10 item but pays the cashier $20 with a check, debit card, or credit card. Ten dollars goes for the purchase of the item and ten dollars is given back to the customer in cash as change. In just about every store we go to, a cashier asks us if we want “cash back.” We almost always say no, but this time we needed actual cash to pay for the coasters. Only today the computers were down at our grocery store so we couldn’t get cash back. Bummer.

Since the Suburban needed gas, we decided to go to a gas station. EJ stopped at a station along the way. He pumped the gas and went into the station to pay for it. He came out with no cash. He said that this particular gas station doesn’t do “cash back.” Bummer.

So we decided to stop at Culvers, a favorite fast food restaurant, for some coffee. It was cold and “snainy” all morning and besides being delicious, the hot coffee in the cup would warm my cold hands. I stayed in Suburban because the front passenger door doesn’t open–it’s on our list of things to get fixed–and whenever we take the Suburban, I have to enter through the driver’s door and climb over into my seat, and exit the same way in reverse. Many times I knock the GPS off its holder trying to climb out, or I knock over our water/tea cups (so EJ now removes them first), or I get “stuck” in an uncomfortable position because some days I’m less flexible than others. It’s rather funny. Since we were making quick stops, I just stayed in the Sub. EJ came out of the restaurant with coffee but no cash. The restaurant didn’t do “cash back.” Seriously? Every cashier in every store we go to always asks us if we want “cash back.” But today we couldn’t find any store that would give it to us.

So we decided to try a grocery store further down the street. EJ went into the store and bought a container of almonds and–success!–he was able to get cash back!!! Only when he got back to the Suburban, he realized that it was a $20 bill and if the woman selling the coasters didn’t have change, we’d be in a bind. So he went back into the store and bought another can of almonds and got the $20 bill changed into four $5 bills. We now had cash to pay the woman.

Fortunately, we had left our house early, but with all these stops, it was getting closer and closer to the time we were supposed to meet the woman with the coasters. We were several miles from the meeting place but we still had plenty of time to get there. Only EJ seemed to hit every red traffic light on the route. There was also road construction along the way, and heavy traffic, and we had to wait through several red lights at an intersection before we could finally continue on our way.  We finally reached our destination only a few minutes late. We were able to meet the woman and buy her coasters. Whew.

It’s a good thing we both have a sense of humor. It was actually very funny and we laughed about it.

Dumping the Dingy

After we bought the coasters, that’s when we drove to EJ’s company and dumped the dingy in the dumpster. It felt like such a HUGE thing to have gotten rid of both the old carpet and the old dingy this weekend.

One of the knee supports EJ bought yesterday wasn’t the right kind. The boxes looked very similar but they weren’t. So our next stop was at Meijers to exchange the wrong knee support for the right one. This time I climbed out of the Suburban and went into the store with him. That transaction went amazingly well with no snafus of any kind.

One of the flocks of geese we saw.

On the way home, we saw several flocks of geese flying overhead. One of the flocks flew rather low, but I didn’t get my camera out in time. I did get a photo of one of the high-flying flocks. EJ and I love watching geese and we always pause to watch them flying overhead. Unless we are driving somewhere. Then EJ glances out the window and I try to take photos. The geese are gathering together to make the long journey south. They know winter is quickly approaching.

EJ at the burning barrel

At home again, EJ went out to burn some stuff in the burning barrel (we can still do that in the rural areas) while I gathered eggs. I found only two eggs today. Soon the hens will probably stop laying until Spring. That’s ok. They need a vacation too.

I fixed us a quick late lunch. We relaxed for a bit, and then we drove to an auto parts store in a different town where EJ bought a thermostat thingy for the Suburban. This time we took Hannah Joy with us. She loves going on drives with us, but we couldn’t take her on our other errands this weekend because with the carpet and then the dingy, there wasn’t room for her. But on this latest errand there was room. Even though it was cold outside, EJ rolled down the back window for her so she could enjoy the scents.

We got a lot accomplished this weekend. We checked a lot of tasks off our list. We feel very good about that.

Wild, Wacky Weather of Michigan

Wintumn–a word I invented to describe a mix of autumn and winter–continues with crazy weather. In the last week, we’ve had a day or two of sunshine and blue skies, but also days of rain and Lake Effect snow, and a slushy combination of the two. Most days it’s been windy and the leaves are flying off the trees. It won’t be long until the trees are bare. This was our snow on Wednesday:

Crazy, huh? Snow hasn’t yet stuck to the ground in our area, but that’s a’coming…I’ve heard that north of us in the Upper Peninsula they are an inch or so of snow today while downstate is getting thunderstorms.

Thursday I drove to TSC to buy poultry feed, dog food, and canned cat food. I put as many on the flat shopping cart as I could manage, which amounted to four 50 pound bags of poultry feed, two 55 pound bags of dog food, and three 32-can boxes of cat food. It was quite a workout loading it all onto the cart, then into the Xterra, and then unloading everything at home. I carried the dog food and cat food into the house and then I pulled all the bags of poultry feed into the wheelbarrow and pushed it over to the coop where I lugged it inside. Friday I scooped the poultry feed from the bags into the kitty litter buckets to keep the feed safe from hungry mice.

We are now all set on the dog food, but we need about two more boxes of canned cat food, a few more bags of poultry feed, and some bags of cracked corn for the chickens. If we stock up now, we won’t have to worry about running out in terrible winter weather. I’ve read that the corn raises the chickens’ body temperature and helps them keep warm. Plus, they really enjoy their cracked corn treat. EJ and I will run to TSC for these additional items tomorrow.

EJ’s friend had a meeting at our area of the state Thursday evening. After his meeting, he came over here and spent the night. It saved him from making the long-ish trip home. Hannah Joy was very excited about seeing her “favorite uncle.” When he visits, she sits as closely to him as she can get on the couch with a proud grin on her face, and she brings him her favorite balls so he can play with her.

Last night EJ, Hannah, and I all had a quiet evening watching The Closer on Amazon. I love this photo of Hannah fast asleep on EJ’s lap:

Hannah Joy

The sunrise was very beautiful this morning. I grabbed my camera and went outside to capture it. I love how the sun makes the trees blaze with color.

After EJ and I had slowly emptied a pot of coffee this morning, we got busy. We would prefer to have quiet, relaxing Saturdays, but we needed to buy another 40 pound bag of dry cat food and some more bales of straw from a feed store that is closed on Sundays. Usually we just buy four bales of straw, but I wanted to get as many as we could fit in the Suburban as we could so we don’t have to make any return trips. We weren’t sure if we could fit five or six in the Sub so I waited in the store while an EJ and an employee loaded in as many as they could. Then the employee came in and told the clerk how many we were buying–five–and I paid for our purchases. EJ said that they probably could have fit six in the Sub, but it was raining so they just threw the bales in as quickly as they could. The weather was so crazy today with downpours of rain that periodically became slushy snow.

On the way home, we stopped at Meijers to buy EJ knee braces to support his knees. They are giving him a bit of trouble.  We also wanted to buy a variety of nuts because they make healthy treats. That’s it. I had a coupon. I also had a coupon for a bag of rawhide bones for Hannah Joy. Going from one side of the store to the other, we came across a large jug of peanut oil for 50% off. I need peanut oil. A few more things found their way into our cart. I hate going to Meijers because we always seem to buy more than we intended. It’s all things I was intending to buy, but I wasn’t going to buy it NOW. This is why I prefer to shop at our little local grocery store.

It was still slushy rain-snowing when we arrived home so we grabbed the bags of groceries and left the cat food and straw bales in the Suburban to be unloaded tomorrow. I don’t want to risk getting the straw wet.

The new chickens

Last night I opened the door between the two halves of the chicken coop to let the old and new chickens mingle. I felt as if I was putting the new chickens into the general population of a prison where they would be bullied. I keep telling myself that it is normal for there to be bit of bullying when new chickens are added to a flock as their place in the pecking order is established. It is part of chicken society.  But still. I saw the new chickens outside this morning. Later in the afternoon when I went out to gather eggs, I saw the new chickens in “their” side of the coop while all the others were outside, but they didn’t look beat up so I think they will be ok.

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