Einstein

I’m sitting in my chair with Hannah Joy on my lap, sipping coffee while I watch the snow fall.

Our icy driveway

We had a very mild winter until mid-January, when we experienced very frigid temperatures and even colder wind chills. After the polar vortex moved on, the temperature rose into the 30s and 40s. It felt like a heat wave and I was almost too warm in my winter coat and hat. The melted snow re-froze and made our driveway icy. So did the freezing rain that poured from the sky. During similar conditions last year, I fell on our icy driveway and broke my wrist. This year I’m being very careful outside. In fact, EJ has been walking to the mailbox each day to get the mail.

A snowstorm hit late last week, with several inches of snow and high wind that caused whiteout conditions. People were warned to stay home because the roads were so hazardous. There were reports of many accidents–not just in our area, but around the state. Eric and I had no place to go so we stayed home and enjoyed watching the storm rage outside. The wind often blew the snow across the hills and swirled them into snow-nadoes. I thought that it looked like Antarctica at times. This is one video that I took last Friday of the weather outside our windows. One brave little squirrel ate from our bird feeders as the snow and wind whipped around him.

The weather today looks much like it did in the video, although as I wrote that last sentence, the wind whipped the snow even more fiercely than it during the storm in the video. I think we are expected to get even more snow during this storm than the one last week. Forecasters are saying that this is the first of three or four storms that are expected to hit the Mid-west in the next week or so.

Einstein and his Mama

The deer are coming by several times a day to eat from our bird feeders. We’ve had as many as eight visit at one time. Our most frequent visitors are a Mama deer and her little one. EJ teased that the little one was smaller than most and was probably “slow.” I protested that he wasn’t slow at all. In fact, he was probably super intelligent. “Didn’t people think Einstein was slow when he was a child?” I asked. “And he actually was a genius.” So now we call this littlest deer “Einstein.” We can’t really see if he is a male or female, but we refer to him as “he” anyway.

Bucky

EJ says that after the rut, bucks lose their antlers. We don’t see many deer during hunting season when they’d have their antlers. In fact, we’ve actually never seen an antlered buck at our feeders until recently. EJ says the deer’s antlers were so small that they probably just hadn’t gotten knocked off yet. We called this deer “Bucky.”

Hannah looking at Einstein and his Mama

Hannah Joy loves to bark at the deer when she sees them through the window. We are trying to teach her to leave them alone, but I think she enjoys it too much. I had to laugh late yesterday afternoon when I took her outside. As she bounded joyfully over to sniff tracks in the snow, I heard several soft “whoofs” as deer snorted a warning. I looked up and saw that they had been close by at the end of the house. After they snorted their warnings, they leaped off into the forest. Hannah was so busy sniffing the snow that she never even saw them. She would have been yanking her leash to run after them if she had noticed them.

It’s been really quiet at home this week…because EJ has a job. Yay!

Early last week Menards offered EJ a job. Menards is a home improvement store, similar to Lowes. It was only part-time and low pay, but they said it could work into more–and, hey, it’s a job. However, before EJ could attend the orientation last Thursday, a machine shop called him for an interview and then hired him. EJ accepted the job because the machinist position is what he has been doing all his life. It is full-time, more money and benefits, and he has a four-day work week, which means he gets three days off every week. His first day was Monday. When he got home, he got called for an interview at another company. Although he likes his current job well-enough, he is going on the interview with the other company on Friday–because, well, you never know. This last company is world-wide. The pay/benefits might be better, he might be less likely to get laid off during slow times, and it’s more technologically advanced.

White Shoals Lighthouse

Sunday we stopped at Goodwill for the first time in months so EJ could buy some clothes for work. Employees at the company he is now working at don’t wear uniforms and he wanted decent clothes to work in. I found a Michigan lighthouse to add to our collection. The replicas can be quite expensive, but we are able to buy them for a couple of dollars when we find them at Goodwill. We only buy Michigan lighthouses. I told EJ the lighthouse was a gift to celebrate him going back to work. It is a replica of the White Shoals Lighthouse, which is the lighthouse in the true story we had read recently read about. In 1929, Lewis Sweet became trapped on an ice floe in Lake Michigan when a blizzard hit while he was ice fishing. He eventually found refuge in the White Shoals Lighthouse. He spent several days recovering at the lighthouse and then made a trek to the mainland where he was found at the edge of a small town. The townspeople shoveled out a path through the snow and then took him by dogsled to the hospital at Petoskey about 30 miles away. He ended up losing all his toes to frostbite and pieces of most of his fingers. It’s an amazing story of courage and endurance that I will think about whenever I see our replica.

With EJ working again, the house seems very quiet. I really enjoyed having my hubby around all day. ❀ But I am continuing to crochet. Over the last few days, I have delivered items to three customers. One guy was a repeat customer who was picking up a Michigan Troll that his wife had ordered. He thought my items were adorable and said that I should sell them through local stores. He said his wife tells everyone about how cute my creations are. That made me feel good. 🙂 I’m hoping to “grow” my business to help us financially.

 

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Freezing Ordeal

It is so f-f-f-freezing cold here this week!

As I begin this post (at 7:30 am, sipping a cup of hot coffee), it is 1 (f) degrees. the windchill makes it feel much colder. When I took Hannah Joy outside this morning, the cold sliced right through me. Hannah wasted no time in finishing her business and then she ran, ran, as fast as she could to the front porch, dragging me behind her in complete agreement. After I got her harness off, I went back out into the morning darkness to fill up the feeders for the birds and deer.

Yesterday morning EJ drove to the gas station to get gas in the Xterra and also to mail a package to one of my Etsy customers.  On the way up the driveway, the Xterra slipped off into the deeper snow and got stuck. EJ had an appointment in Traverse City so while he worked at getting the Xterra unstuck, I cleared the two-feet of snow off the Suburban just in case he needed to drive it. Good thing he did because he couldn’t get the Xterra unstuck in time. He had to drive the Suburban with its broken heater. He was about frozen when he finally got home.

As soon as EJ left for TC, I took a shovel down to continue digging out the Xterra. Ideally, we would have worked on getting the Xterra unstuck when EJ returned home–before more snow and wind filled in what we had dug out. However, with the dangerous temps and wind chills, we may let it sit until it warms up a bit this weekend. When we took Hannah out yesterday, she saw the Xterra in the driveway and barked at it as if it were a stranger’s car parked there. “It’s OURS, you goofy dog,” we tell her.

Yesterday when I opened the coop door after caring for the chickens, the wind was blowing the snow around so much that I couldn’t see. It was a complete whiteout. I shouted, “Whoa!” and waited until the gust blew past and the snow settled down before I ran for the house.

While we were out working on the vehicles, Hannah Joy got into a few things. She ate something that didn’t agree with her–maybe the roll of toilet paper I found ripped to bits on the bed? Or one of the other items she grabbed off the counter and took to the bed? Whatever it was, it made her sick and she vomited several times while EJ was gone. She perked back up after she got the whatever-it-was-that-she-ate out of her tummy.

No photo description available.White Shoal Lighthouse is located near the Straits of Mackinac. For the last week or so, on the actual dates the events occurred 90 years ago, their Facebook page has been sharing the story of Lewis Sweet who was ice fishing along Lake Michigan with two friends when he got stuck on an ice floe during a blizzard. He survived about 16 hours before the ice floated close enough for him to make it to White Shoal Lighthouse. It’s an amazing story of endurance and courage, and well worth the read. (Here is the link to Day One of the story. Scroll up their page to continue reading). I think about how cold it is here this week and wonder how he could have ever survived out on Lake Michigan.

Michigan Troll

I’ve been busy, busy, busy crocheting. I have been working on a baby blanket for a customer and last night got two orders for Michigan Trolls. Yoopers (residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) call those of us who live south of the Mackinac Bridge “trolls” because we live “under the bridge.” One woman wants a troll for her 80-year-old Yooper uncle who calls her his favorite troll. I love when people share personal details about who they are giving my items to. 🙂

Well…time to get started on my day!

Winter Storm Warning

Winter took her time getting  here, but she arrived in a nasty mood.

We received about 8 additional inches of snow on Saturday. We didn’t get much more snow on our hill on Sunday, but we heard of whiteout conditions, hazardous driving, multi-car accidents, and road closures in other nearby areas. We were content to stay home. I worked on a baby blanket I am making for a woman. I’m almost halfway done; I think it’s turning out to be very pretty. Meanwhile EJ snowblowed the driveway in preparation for more snow coming our way. It’s better to clear off 8 inches than to wait until it stops snowing and have to snowblow through 12 or 15 inches.

For the past couple of days, we’ve heard reports of a Winter Storm heading our way. It was difficult to figure out exactly how much snow we were expected to get. Different weather sources seemed to give different forecasted snow amounts. I’m not sure if we are expecting 3-6 inches of snow, 4-6 inches, 6-8 inches, 7-9 inches, 8-10 inches, or even more.

The Winter Storm was supposed to begin about 1 am on Monday morning–that’s today–but when I got out of bed and looked out the window, I didn’t see any additional snow at all. However, when we took Hannah out it was snowing. It was still dark. I pointed my flashlight toward the sky and admired the glittery flakes dancing like fairy dust in the beam of light.

In addition to snow, we’ve had brutal cold–and we are expecting gusty wind, whiteout conditions, and wind chills of -30 (F) or more with this storm.  I’m glad the actual temperature is not so low, but low wind chills are still dangerous. When I went out to refill the bird feeders for the wild birds and sprinkle corn for the deer in the bird bath and on the big rocks. It didn’t take long for my fingers to start to hurt from the cold.

Later in the morning, I could see the snow falling. The snowflakes are small, but it is snowing heavily.

EJ laughed at me last night when he saw me read the list of school closings at a news page at Facebook. We reminisced over memories of school closings when we were children. EJ said that he and his siblings breathlessly listened to the local radio station, which played excruciatingly boring music,  hoping to hear that their schools were closed. My siblings and I would dial a phone number to hear a list of school closings. Every other child in the area was also calling the same number so we kept getting “busy signals.” We’d hang up and dial again and again and again until finally we got through. We’d dance for joy when we heard that our schools were closed. We’d groan in anguish if they weren’t.  Even though school closings don’t affect us at all any more, we never have gotten over the feeling of excited anticipation we had at the approach of a snow storm when we were children.

We have errands to run today: I need to get to the post office to mail an Etsy Store order to an out-of-state customer, and we need to meet a local customer at the Sheriff’s Department in the next town over to deliver her two Goblins. We also need to buy Hannah Joy’s dog license in the same town. If the roads are hazardous, however, we might postpone those trips for another day. I’d rather be safe than sorry. EJ says that we can make it with no problem….

Michigan Winter

We’ve had a very mild winter this year with relatively warm temperatures and not much snow. Winter finally arrived this week with about a foot of snow. EJ snowblowed the driveway on Thursday but by the next morning the driveway was snowed in again.  Snowblowing our long steep driveway is exhausting and I’ve offered to take a turn, but EJ insists on doing it so I can keep crocheting.

The deer have been coming up to eat the bird seed from the feeders. I enjoy watching them, but if Hannah Joy sees them, she barks at them with her tail wagging and scares them away. I leave corn for the deer in the bird bath near the big rocks. Last summer I accidentally bought whole kernel corn instead of crushed corn for the chickens so I saved the whole kernel corn for the deer. I think it’s funny when the deer look through the window at us to make sure we aren’t a threat.

Related imageWe also have much colder temperatures dipping down to the single digits and below. I think the wind chill in the next day or two is forecasted to be -30 (F) degrees. The propane truck arrived on Thursday to refilled our tank so we will not run out during these cold days and nights.

When we take Hannah Joy outside, she quickly finishes “her business” and then plows through the snow up to the front door wanting to be let into the warm house where she cuddles in our laps. Hannah has a beautiful Nordic coat but we are outside so briefly that I don’t put it on her. She did wear it when we took her to the vet for her vaccinations earlier this week. Everyone who saw her thought she looked beautiful in her coat. The vet also trimmed her nails–because a girl’s got to look her best!

Goblin

I’ve just finished making two cute goblins for a local customer. I’ve arranged to deliver it to her on Monday at the Sheriff’s Department parking lot. Today I will begin making the baby blanket and cocoon she ordered. EJ and I drove to Michael’s on Thursday to buy the yarn for the baby items. I think we found some very pretty yarn in the colors she had asked for. Michael’s was having “Buy 2 and Get One Free” sales on yarn so I was able to get several skeins free.

Michigan Troll

I had been working on a collection of Michigan Monsters and Legends. So far I have made a Torch Lake Monster and a Dogman. I began work on a Michigan Troll but I set it aside when I got the order for the goblins. After I finished the goblins, I quickly finished up the troll. The design is by Sharon Ojala and I think it is very cute. For those who may not know much about Michigan, our state has two peninsulas which are connected by the beautiful Mackinac Bridge. People who live in the Upper Peninsula are called “Yoopers” (UPers). They call those of us who live in the Lower Peninsula “Trolls” because we live south of the Mackinac Bridge–i.e. “under the bridge.” Unlike internet trolls, Michigan Trolls are generally friendly. The Trolls will join the others at my Etsy store soon.

Small Joys

I have had a few very difficult days lately when I have felt a great deal of anxiety and depression about our uncertain future. Some days I feel as if I can’t breathe as I worry about our dwindling savings, about what we will do if EJ is unable to work, and about how I can make money to help. I feel exhausted by the constant struggles of life and battered by cruel people. I had hoped that by this time in our lives, we would be able to rest a little more. People tell me that everything will work out but this is not a mere story in a book and we can’t jump to the back to see what’s going to happen. This is our story, our lives, and I don’t know if there is going to be a happy ending.

But there are still things to be thankful for and to enjoy. For example, I am thankful that my friend bought me a book of crocheted monsters in early November and then asked me to make some for her to buy as gifts. That was the beginning: I have worked steadily since mid-November. I made 19 items before Christmas and so far this year I’ve made 9 items. Yesterday I delivered a Torch Lake Monster, a dragon, and a goblin to a local woman. By the time I got home, she had ordered two more goblins as well as a baby blanket and a baby “cocoon,” which is a snuggly blanket to wrap a newborn baby in. I don’t usually make blankets but I’m willing to make custom orders for people who are willing to buy them. Although I don’t make clothes because I hate worrying about sizing.

Michigan Dogman

In addition to my other projects, I have been working at finding and adapting patterns that I can use to make legendary Michigan monsters–such as the Torch Lake Monster, the Dogman, a Michigan troll, and a Sasquatch. I’ve made the first two and I’m working on the next two.

One person sent me a photo of her dog and asked if I’d make a crocheted dog that resembled him. I did and she really liked it. After that, my dear friend bought me a book of crocheted dog patterns. She has the gift of giving me practical gifts that are a real help and encouragement. I’m really looking forward to making the dogs, but so far I’ve been busy with fulfilling the other orders. I’m going to make a Hannah Joy dog and offer to make crocheted dogs for people to resemble their own dogs.

I started my on-line medical transcription class last Wednesday. We had to introduce ourselves at the on-line class forum and most of the other students seem to already have experience in the medical field so they are familiar with the medical terms. That’s a bit intimidating. But I did get 100% on my first quiz. So I am persevering.

Last night there was a lunar eclipse. The night was clear so EJ and I went out to watch it. Actually, we took many brief trips outside to view it because it was a cold -5 degrees. (The temps dipped down to -9 overnight.) But the eclipse was awesome and we were glad we stayed up for it.

Hannah Joy lives up to her name. She is a sweetheart and an absolute joy to us. She is very hyper-aware of everything that happens in or around the house. She acts as if she is responsible for everything. She checks out every strange noise, she alerts us when wildlife is in the yard or a vehicle pulls into the driveway, and she referees any fights the cats have with each other.

Hannah loves to sleep on our laps. Whenever EJ and I hug or kiss each other, she runs to join us with a bark to get a hug too. Hannah even turns down the blankets on the bed if I don’t do it first. If she thinks I’m staying up too late, she grumbles until I go to bed and then she curls up next to me. Hannah is so observant that she noticed that I pulled our cat, Timmy, from under the bed every night and put him outside of the bedroom so he wouldn’t wake me in the night. One night, all on her own, she crawled under the bed to chase Timmy out for me.  She’s amazing.

Hannah loves to celebrate Shabbat. She joins us when the candles are lit. I now give her water in her own decorative glass to drink when EJ and I drink the wine, and I give her a special dog treat when we eat the bread. During the Havdalah ceremony at the end of Shabbat, there is a time when we admire our hands that can do work in the light of a special woven candle. Hannah always stands up at the counter so we can tell her how wonderful her paws are too.

I have taught Hannah Joy to sit whenever we enter the house so I can remove her harness. Then I give her a command in Hebrew to release her and she comes running. I’ve started listing a bunch of random words to see if I can trick her–sort of like the children’s game “Simon Says.” If Hannah comes at the wrong word, I correct  her and make her sit until the right command is called. In this way, she learns to ignore all words except the proper command. Hannah is so smart that she seldom makes the same mistake twice. She is amazing. This is a short video of us playing the game:

Hannah also has a game she plays with us. She brings her ball to us and drops it in our lap, then she sits down and waits for us to throw it to her. If we ignore her, she starts to grumble. I think she likes to trick us. Sometimes Hannah begins to grumble and we ask, “What’s wrong, Hannah? What do you want?” She stares at us in expectation and then we discover that she had dropped her ball in our laps without us realizing it. Hannah has three balls that look exactly alike. Sometimes one will roll out of reach under the coffee table. We point to another identical one nearby, but she only wants the one that she wants and will complain until we get THAT one for her.

Hannah really is our Joy.

Homework

I can’t believe it is already the middle of January! Usually I enjoy a snowy winter, but I’m thankful that thus far our winter has been very mild–not too cold and not much snow. We’ve only had to snowblow the driveway once and the warmer temps mean lower heating bills.

I’ve been very busy. I’ve sold nine crocheted critters since the beginning of the year and even more before Christmas. I saw a photo of my creatures sitting on a couch in a home in Mexico, and other photos of one of my dragons being hugged by a small child. It is kind of strange to think of my creations going on to their own lives. I made them, yet they travel to countries I will never go to, and into homes I will never enter, and are hugged by children I will never meet. Weird.

Related imageI’ve posted my critters for sale at local buy/sale groups and that is where I’m getting most of my orders this year. I’m always somewhat appalled whenever someone asks if the price of my items can be reduced. I never ask people to reduce their prices for me when I’m shopping for an item. I know handmade items can seem expensive, but there are a lot of hours and effort that goes into making each item. My dragons take about three days to make so I’m making less than $10 a day on a $30 item. And part of that money includes the cost for supplies to make the item, part of the money is reinvested to buy more supplies for future items, and there is very little actual profit left over. The only real advantage is that I am at home doing something I enjoy to earn a few extra dollars.

However, thankfully most people don’t ask for reduced prices. To save on shipping costs, I meet my local customers at public places to deliver them when they are finished. It’s kind of interesting to meet the people buying my items.

EJ has been cooking most of the meals so I can continue crocheting. I pause only to eat, care for the animals, do dishes, and run the occasional errand with EJ. When I go on errands, I take my crocheting with me.

EJ has signed up for Unemployment so we will have some income coming in. Not much, but some. He’s not really sure what type of job he can do or should pursue. I worry about his health, and what we will do if he can’t work. We signed up for Medicaid insurance. Once that is settled, EJ can get back to the doctor and we can discuss concerns.

I signed up for an on-line Medical Transcription job through the local college. My first session was today. The material was interesting. I felt nervous and overwhelmed, but I remember feeling overwhelmed at the start of every college class I took when I was younger. Despite my fears, I always did well in college and graduated summa cum laude. So, I reassure myself, I am not stupid and I CAN do this. But it was a bit intimidating because we were told to introduce ourselves in the discussion forum of the class, and so far the others are already in the medical field, or have master’s degrees, and I am just a woman who used to be a word processor years ago before I stayed home to raise my son.

I keep asking God to help us through this difficult time. I reminded him of verses such as these:

For you, God, have tested us,
refined us as silver is refined.
You brought us into the net
and bound our bodies fast.
You made men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water.
But you brought us out
to a place of plenty. (Ps 66:10-12)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us… (Eph 3:20)

I tell God that a can imagine an awful lot, such as Him paying off our house. If our house was paid off, we could survive on very little income. EJ could get Disability and/or a part-time job, and he wouldn’t have to push himself so much when he doesn’t feel well. I would still do my part in earning some money, but it wouldn’t be so desperately necessary.

The Year of Sea Change

I’m a little late wishing everyone a Happy New Year, but I hope everyone’s new year is off to a good start.

Our New Year arrived in a snowstorm, dumping almost a foot of snow on us. It’s the most snow we’ve gotten this winter season. The next day the snow fell off the trees in avalanches. The temperatures rose again, melting some of the snow  and turning the surface of the fallen snow into slippery hard crust that broke when we walked on it. A week ago there was a heavy fog during the night, and the trees were all frosted in the morning. We are expecting another snow storm today. It’s cold again and the wind is picking up the snow on the ground and swirling it into snow-nadoes.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions. I tend to make changes in my life whenever I recognize that I need to make them, no matter what time of year it is. However, it just so happens that this year is arriving with decisions to make, goals to plan, and actions to take. I feel as if this year is one of sea change, which means a profound or notable transformation. The unknown is a bit scary, and yet our futures are wide open. Anything can happen. We both feel a mixture of uncertainty and hope.

Yesterday we went to Michigan Works so EJ could sign up for unemployment benefits. He hates going there and he’s not exactly sure what sort of job to pursue. However, we need income and I told him that–who knows–maybe a wonderful job will fall into his lap. At this point, he could seek any sort of job, and maybe find one that is less stressful physically and mentally than machining. That’s what I’m praying for, anyway.

This morning we drove to the local Department of Human Services to ask questions about getting government insurance. COBRA is much, much too expensive with such a high deductible that it’s almost like having no insurance at all. Once we get insurance, EJ can resume looking into the causes of his health issues.

Meanwhile, I have been spending most of my time crocheting items in the hopes of increasing my Etsy store sales. I am making cute monsters, some of which are based on local myths, and posting them on several local buy/sell/trade groups at Facebook as well. I have had a lot of interested reactions and have made a few sales. People are commenting that they love my work. That is very uplifting.

Here are some of my recent critters. If you can, please buy one of my products and/or share my Esty link with others. It would help us bring in some extra money. I’ve never asked before, but you can also help us through this difficult time by financially supporting my blog. There is a “Paypal.Me” link at the right. We also appreciate prayers as we go through this sea change in our lives.

I’m also going to take an on-line class through the local college to become a transcriber. Years ago, before JJ was born, I was a word processor. It was a “hot” career when I started out, but by the time I left the work force it was dying out because personal computers enabled people to type their own documents.  It seems to me that transcribing is about as close to word processing as I can get and a transcriber can make a decent amount of money. I like that it’s work I can do from home because I hate driving in winter weather. Also, working at home would allow me to keep up with my household chores.

My friend also suggested that we might teach an on-line beginning Hebrew class together. We could charge a small fee to bring in a little money for us both. That would be cool. I don’t know how I will find the time to do all those things, but those are my plans and goals. I need more hours in a day. If you don’t hear from me as frequently as before, this is why.

One of my/our goals for this year is to eliminate toxicity from our lives. I was surprised to hear that several of my other friends have stated similar goals for themselves. EJ and I have been working on this goal for a number of years, of course, but this year we hope will be sort of the final offensive. Both EJ and I care very much about people, we do all we can not to hurt anyone, and we have always been willing to compromise, negotiate, and sacrifice to work towards win/win situations. However, it appears that increasingly in our modern society people are unable to handle differences, disappointment, or difficulties. People think you hate them if you disagree with them, they demand others make sacrifices that they aren’t willing to make themselves, they take and take without giving anything back, they disregard others’ boundaries while demanding others respect theirs, and they verbally attack whenever you think, say, or do something they disapprove of. It’s all “Me! Me! Me!” Dr. George Simon, who has worked with what he calls “character disturbed people” (i.e., Narcissists, Sociopaths, Psychopaths) for years says that “character disturbance” is on the increase in our society.

EJ and I don’t want to lose our compassion, and we don’t want to be hurtful or controlling of other people. We just want to be treated with a basic level of politeness, consideration, and compassion. Dealing with toxic people is affecting our health and we have reached the point where we will not tolerate abusive behavior and drama. The only people we will allow in  our lives are those who are willing to be decent. We plan to work on our recovery and learn how to truly enjoy life again.

JJ is upset with us for re-homing Luke. We loved Luke and It wasn’t easy to make the decision but he was increasingly peeing outside his litter box, which means he had health issues that needed to be taken care of. We can’t have Luke ruining our house and we can’t afford expensive veterinary care when
EJ has health issues and no job.  I had asked JJ several times if he wanted Luke and he said he couldn’t afford to take him. Well, neither could we. Actually, although we knew we would have to decide very soon what to do about Luke, we hadn’t sought to re-home him at this time. But Luke found his own home–he got outside and we couldn’t find him, and then we learned indirectly that he had wandered away and was found and adopted by someone who fell in love with him. We felt that Luke’s new owners could/would provide him with a loving home and get him the veterinary care he needed which is the best option for him so we didn’t try to get him back. The best we could have done for Luke was make him an outside cat. Our outside cats have a warm shelter in the garage, but Luke isn’t used to being outside and wouldn’t have gotten veterinary care. In our opinion, he landed on his feet, as cats have a tendency to do. We are relieved that he found a good home.

So, that’s an update on our live so far in 2019. As I said, we expect this year to be one of change and transformation. There are difficult things in our lives right now, but we have hope for the future. Now…I need to get back to my crocheting.

Goodbye 2018

It has been a long time since I have posted. As 2018 draws to a close, I thought it would be a good time to update you all on the ending of our year. I’m not sorry that 2018 is ending because it has been a difficult year for us. At the same time, I’m not sure I’m eager for a new year to begin because there are still challenges and uncertainties ahead of us.

I spent most of November and much of December crocheting cute toys that people had ordered. I made seven dragons, two unicorns, two rabbits, five crown ear warmers, and a cat, a goblin, a Loch Ness monster,  a reindeer, a teddy bear, and a mermaid.  I also made two cute animal toilet paper roll holders and a pair of dragon gloves. So, you see, I kept very busy. Once the orders were completed, I began working on another dragon, a Torch Lake Monster, and a Winter Dragon. All these items are listed at my Etsy store–or will be soon.

In addition to crocheting, we have been running to medical appointments to try to figure out why EJ has been having mini-strokes. EJ had a medical test to check out his heart and then an appointment with a heart doctor on Wed. The doctor told him that his heart is good (I KNEW he has a good heart! 😍) and he thinks that EJ needs to see a neurologist instead because of the problems he is having with his memory. However, I’m not sure we will be able to afford more testing at this point. One good thing about me falling and breaking my wrist last January is that our insurance deductible was met so the insurance covered most of the cost of EJ’s procedures. But with the new year, the deductible resets and we will have to find cheaper insurance than COBRA.

After the holidays are over, EJ will start looking for a job. He is struggling with what sort of job he can do. I will look for a job too to help out. I haven’t worked outside the home since I was pregnant with JJ, so I’m rather apprehensive about it. I would love if my Etsy store business provided enough so I could work from home, but that is not likely.

A couple of weeks ago our cat Kee-Kee died. It was not unexpected because he was old and had been slowing down in the last year, but it was still difficult to lose him because he was a very sweet, loving cat. In his final days, I made him a bed in our large bath tub and he just slept his life away.

We also lost our cat, Luke, but in a different way. Through a series of unforeseen events, we found a new home for him. It is kind of sad to lose him, but Luke had a few health issues and I think his new owner will be able to deal with them better than we can right now. We had asked JJ if he wanted him because JJ had always been Luke’s favorite human, but he had said no–and he had not paid much attention to him in the last few  years anyway–so I think this was the best option and we feel relieved that it worked out this way. EJ kept exclaiming, “It’s a Christmas miracle!” that Luke found a new home. Now we only have two indoor cats (Little Bear and Timmy) and two outdoor cats (Madeline and Annie), which will help with costs.

In addition to all this, we had a real struggle with an abusive relative. I don’t want to go into detail but I will say that abusers tend to target very empathetic people because these people tend to be very conscientious, generous, compassionate, loving, and forgiving, and work very hard to heal wounded people and broken relationships. By the time they recognize that they are in a toxic relationship, the abuser has sucked away all their emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual resources and strength and they have nothing left to give. At that point, the abuser dumps them and moves on to a new victim.

Not only that, but abusers do not abuse in a vacuum. Through deceit and manipulation, they deceive and pull in other family members, friends, acquaintances, and bystanders, smearing the reputation of their victims in an attempt to punish and isolate them, forcing people into taking sides, ripping apart relationships. In the process, the victim experiences condemnation from many people who believe and side with the abuser. Both EJ and I come from large families so there are a lot of people to ally with the abusers. I think abusers are like black holes that suck in everything around them, ripping everything apart, and leaving wreckage behind.

Most people do not understand the dynamics of abuse and abusers are typically so skilled at deception and manipulation that they can easily make people believe that the victim is at fault. For example, I once heard my Mom deliberately plan to write a letter to one of my sisters making her broken foot appear to be possible cancer to “see if she cares.” The scary thing is that my Mom told no outright lies but by what she said and didn’t say, she deceived. Later, another sister occasionally called me to inform me that our Mom was having unnamed medical tests for an unnamed condition that might possibly be serious. I was placed in a dilemma of either responding, knowing it was likely all manipulative lies, and being pulled back into the abuse cycle (called “hoovering”) or ignoring it and being accused of not caring about our Mom.  Either way, I would lose. Another relative would do mean, nasty things in secret, and then express a desire to work things out. If we said, “No more!” the abusive person could announce, “I tried to work things out and they refused.” Many nice people reach out during holidays, of course, but abusers also contact their victims during the holidays, sending cards, etc., because they know this is a vulnerable time for them, a time when they are longing for family connections. (See the article,
I Don’t Want Your Christmas Cards – A Victim’s Response to an Abuser Ally.) These tactics are truly crazy-making and damaging. No matter what you do, it’s used against you. How many times must a person go through the abusive cycle before they have had enough, before the damage has become so intolerable that they can endure no more? Here is a true story that Jeff Crippen, a pastor and abuse advocate, told at his blog about a similar tactic:

Irene had been in couples counseling for about 6 months with her husband, Quentin, when one day the therapist decided it was time to get the ball rolling. He said, ‘These sessions have gradually stopped going anywhere, and I think I know why. Irene, you’re not opening up very much, and I think you need to take more emotional risks,’ Irene felt that the therapist was right; she had in fact been exposing very little week to week. So she decided to take the plunge. She told the therapist about Quentin’s abuse of her, which included considerable physical violence and the downward emotional spiral she had been in as a result. Quentin appeared moved and shaken, his eyes reddening as if he might cry at any moment. ‘I have really been in denial about my violence.’ he told the therapist, ‘and I haven’t been facing how badly it has been affecting Irene.’ The therapist felt that a crucial barrier to progress had been overcome. ‘Now,’ he declared, ‘I think your couples work can begin to yield results for you.’ On the drive home from the session, Quentin kept one hand on the steering wheel. In the other hand, he clutched a large handful of Irene’s hair as he repeatedly slammed her head into the dashboard, screaming, ‘I told you to never (obscenity) talk to anyone about that, you 
.! You promised me! You are a liar!’ And similar insults in a nonstop rant. 

Do you think Irene would share again in the counseling session? And undoubtedly the counselor would reprimand her for not opening up…like Quentin did. Trust me, Quentin will be viewed as the person who is trying to work on the issues and save the marriage, while Irene is seen as uncooperative and difficult. Most abusers cultivate a charming, caring, good persona to hide the abuse they are doing in secret.

Anyway, I’ve only shared some of the struggles we have had with a few very close friends over the years because it’s humiliating and tiring to try to explain abuse, to have to justify walking away from abusers, and to hear the abusers defended. But after EJ lost his job, we had some unpleasant interactions with our abusive relative who became enraged when we tried to set a couple of small boundaries (i.e., asking for no visits because EJ needed to reduce stress to get his blood pressure down, and asking for postage–because we currently have no income–to forward important items). This person becomes enraged whenever we have a request or set a boundary, no matter how small, or if we don’t immediately jump to fulfill their demands. So the relative got extremely angry with us and threatened us. We have struggled to unconditionally love, be patient with, forgive, explain, set boundaries/consequences, and confront the abusive behavior but it has only grown worse and worse. This person is very self-centered with little empathy and no remorse.

I finally shared what was happening to a private prayer group at FB, made up mostly of friends. I had not shared any details with them before. I was astounded by their outpouring of love and support. At their recommendation, EJ and I went and talked to a domestic abuse advocate who told us that she believed our story and would support us. There is nothing “official” we can do to protect ourselves but she advised that we no longer help this person in any way, and that we block their social media, mail, and calls–which we did. It helped to have her support because abusers and their allies have taught me to second-guess and blame myself. I told the advocate that we would not have tolerated such behavior from strangers, but it is very difficult to deal with when it involves family. She understood.

All of this–the abusive relative, EJ’s health issues, the uncertainties about our future, the loss of our cats–have made the last couple of months very difficult. We have had days when we did ok, but we have also had dark days when we felt extremely depressed and paralyzed about what to do next. However, EJ was able to get several medical tests done, Kee-Kee died peacefully, Luke has a good home, our abusive relatives are gradually exiting our lives, our printer died but we were able to get another with the Amazon gift card a friend sent us, so far the winter has been mild so we haven’t had to snowblow (in fact, today it is raining and the snow has disappeared), and who knows what the future will bring?

 

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…

 

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. đŸ˜„ 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.

 

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