Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Wonder of Our God

I came across a handwritten card in the basement when I was trying to clean up the sewing room yesterday. The verse I had noted on the card was Zeph 3:17. IT SEEMED LIKE A TIMELY REMINDER for this the last day of July as I enter the last week, hopefully, of having a cast on my arm.

NIV Zephaniah 3:16-17 Jerusalem will be told: "Don't be afraid.Dear Zion,don't despair. Your God is present among you,a strong Warrior there to save you. Happy to have you back, he'll calm you with his love and delight you with his songs. The Lord your God is with you,the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

MSG Zephaniah 3:16 Jerusalem will be told: "Don't be afraid.Dear Zion,don't despair. Your God is present among you, a strong Warrior there to save you. Happy to have you back, he'll calm you with his love and delight you with his songs.

ESV Zephaniah 3:16-17 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:“Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

I have been text messaging 2 younger ladies in our church. Yesterday we hit upon the theme of singing, especially "And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own."

I find it truly amazing that the Lord of all creation stoops to calm me with His love and delights over me with songs. Listen carefully in your heart today. See if you can discern His song over you. May you be blessed with an increased awareness of His presence.

How Things Looks to Me

 Well, I did not have the presence of mind to get a photo of my fingers swollen together in the beginning of this adventure! You can see me in the sling on the Shed Project video. Here is this week's photos with the swelling gone down. I actually was able to wear my wedding rings for a few days, but then thought better of it when my fingers were swollen one morning and I could not budge the rings.

This lovely "comfort brace" was given to me after the cortisone injection. It helps me not to try to spread my fingers too far apart. I have given up some of my favorite drinking vessels as they prove too wide for my hand now. The brace is not too hot, but I cannot wear it when I try things in the kitchen, such as preparing strawberries. I take it off when I eat too as I tend to get food on it otherwise!

So here is the view of my hands this week! My casted arm holds the wrist at such an angle that I cannot pull my hair back in a clasp or ponytail. (Yes, it has been growing out!) I also have difficulty using both hands on the keyboard, though the standard keyboard is easier than the iPad keyboard!

The grandgirls keep forgetting to sign my cast. That's okay though. I already get strange looks in public when I go to the grocery alone.

Thank goodness Peg Hunt asked last winter if I wanted my Cutco knives sharpened when she got hers done! The serrated knife that looks like a steak knife has helped me slice up my food, though I hold the fork at an absurd angle!  One less thing for Bob to do, though I do not carry it if we go out to eat! Speaking of eating out, Steak 'n Shake is not a place we go to more than maybe once a year. Bob recently wanted to go there and I found that the beverage glass they use, (designed by Coca-Cola,) is just the right size for the arthritic right hand. I bought mine and use it at home! Thanks, Steak 'n Shake. The Arthritis foundation should endorse their product!

As the arthritis in my hands began to flare over the last 2 years I started to ask, "What do you do without your hands?" the answer is "Not much!" So I am changing my goals and projects until I get through Physical Therapy and find out what is reasonable to expect and what is not.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Wonder Who?

I am able to see that 5, 6, even 7 people read the blog. I wonder who they are?

This is the final week of wearing the cast. It comes off August 6. I am scheduled to participate in leadership at an Ignatian Spirituality Project retreat August 11-12. There is a link at the end of the blog to watch a video about this retreat. Please pray I am able to participate. So much had to be canceled this summer because of my health, including my participation in the July ISP retreat! I am hoping to not be on drugs and able to help, pray, and present a part of this program in August.

In the meantime, I am trying to store away the fabric I bought last spring to make a quilt, give away yarns I know I will never use, keep up with the laundry (folding is a challenge), meals, etc.

For the rest of the summer I am titrating up on a drug to aid with chronic pain.
This feels sort of like having Gregory House play games with medication to see what happens! The first drug the doctor tried had nasty side effects. I finally got to the target dose and had a splitting headache every evening and often an evening pulse of 120!
Now I have titrated off (gradually stepped down) that drug and another doctor is trying yet another drug. Brain chemistry is tricky and not too fun for the patient!! If you read the side effects information you about want to clamp your jaw shut and never swallow the stuff! But 2012 has taught me that I hit my limit on chronic pain coping mechanisms. I am in NEED of medicinal intervention. So bare with me if you find me slightly changed.

Hope this plays for you okay! It is a powerful project. We ask your prayers for participants and leaders!

The Ignatian Spirituality Project from Jesuit Conference USA on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

June 27 into Late July

All this time we have had an outpouring of love and care from our family and from the Church. Our children have provided meal after meal, gardening service, frozen entrees to bake as needed. The church women have been here to help me dress, to cheer me up, to do alterations to Bob's new uniforms since I cannot sew. I have had cards and books and e-mails of encouragement. I have had helpers to clean the house on extra days free of charge, fold laundry and start laundry loads.

There is even one who has come faithfully to help fill my medication pill boxes (fine motor jobs are a bear right now!)

Friends have sent us free dinner cards and brought me a hot lunch to share with them.

And the prayers! I ran into a fellow at Starbucks recently who knew all about my arm and said I have been on their prayer list at his church.

How on earth can I thank all these folks?

They picked up the slack when I could not attend the sewing group at the Convent.
They carried the load when I could not be part of the leadership team at the Ignatian Spirituality Project.

The family and the Body of Christ has been evident and active in caring for Bob and I, lifting us in prayer, and encouraging us at every opportunity.

I pray for them as often as I enjoy their blessings to us and whenever they come to mind.

And Bob! Wow!! He has had to help me get every shower and wash my hair for me. He has put up with the mood swings from being hurt and those medicinally stimulated. The tears, the frustration, he has seen it all. He has also honored my efforts to stay calm and as accepting and cheerful as I am able to be on any given day.

As we approach our 42nd wedding anniversary I stand amazed at all the Lord has brought us through. God continues to strengthen our love and to deepen our commitment to one another.

Continue to unite all of us in love, Lord, that the world may know Your power upon the earth.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Buddhist Bucket in Christian Well

Paul Knitter, in his book Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian teaches many ways to adapt Buddhist practices of prayer and meditation to our Christian walk. He calls it "Using a Buddhist bucket in a Christian well."
"I'm talking about practices that will help us Christians draw on the mystical content of our faith. Buddhism can help Christians to be mystical Christians. It can help us respond to the need that ...Karl Rahner summarized when he declared that for Christianity to survive in our contemporary age it will have to reappropriate its mystical depths.
"Buddhism offers Christians a bucket that can draw up the mystical depths of the Christian well. It provides a help, for some a decisive help, to realize and enter into the non-dualistic, or unitive, heart of Christian experience - a way to be one with the Father, to live Christ's life, to be not just a container of the Spirit but an embodiment and expression of the Spirit, to live by and with and in the Spirit, to live and move and have our being in God."

When I recently saw my Psychologist who helps me cope with pain. She asked how I was able to use Radical Acceptance with my Christian walk. I had some difficulty putting that in words. The next day as I was reading Paul Knitter he put it in words for me beautifully:

     “Acceptance is only the first response ( to “when bad things happen”, etc.). Buddhists, if I understand people like Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron correctly, would first accept what is with as much mindfulness and compassion as possible, and then, let whatever actions they take flow from this mindfulness and compassion.  As a Christian I would try to do the same thing – accept the suffering contained in what happened as “what happened,” but I would also be aware of the ever-present interactive Spirit of Wisdom and Compassion. {The Holy Spirit} And this Spirit, interacting with my spirit, can provide both the strength to accept what might feel utterly unacceptable, and the creativity to do something about it, or at least to take another step forward. This “creativity” is based on the trust I have (and the trust that I think Buddhists have but don’t need to identify) that in accepting what has happened I will find the ability to carry on and to make something out of the pain and loss that I have experienced.
     “Process theologians speak about the Spirit as the source of infinite possibilities for new life and new relationships that can be drawn out of anything that happens. …I have the inner resources, which are the Spirit’s resources, to deal with such painful realities and to draw new possibilities from them. “

May you turn to the Living Lord and let His Holy Spirit live large through you today and always.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Radical Acceptance

I had read the first few chapters of the book that was recommended to me. Now I had difficult holding a book! I ordered the audio version of the book from Amazon. When it did not arrive promptly I finally had the presence of mind to called Amazon. It seems I had inadvertently ordered the cd's instead of the mp3 download. Customer Service graciously took the cds off my order and waived any increased shipping costs. I went back on-line and tried to figure out their new "Audible Auto" service. I was finally able to download the book to my iPad. I went to bed Monday night letting Tara Brach talk me through her book. Strange, sleeping with a iPad, pillows piled to keep my left hand elevated above my heart, ice packs all around, and somewhere, on the far side of the bed, my husband of 41 years!!

 It wasn't until the next morning that I called them for advice on how to download it to my smaller Sony Walkman. Turns out they support Sansa, but not Sony. Bob helped me load the book on my old Sansa I had given to him. I now had two devices that would read the book to me.

I was using Tara's instruction as Paul Knitter said "using a Buddhist bucket in my Christian Well," to me, the well of living water that Jesus promises will rise up within His followers. The techniques helped me to get calm and the medication did it's work. I took the pain pills. I used the ice packs on both hands. I returned to rest and stillness and quietness and trust that the Lord is in control of my healing. It was not easy, but it worked.

By Tuesday evening I was able to begin backing off the medication AGAIN. Learning to use my right hand only with a brace on it was difficult at first. Over time I have gotten the hang of it. Now, two weeks later, yes, I still have arthritis in my right hand, but when it shoots twinges of pain, I know to be careful not to overuse it or I might reap lightning crashes of pain.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Final Diagnosis

Monday, July 2nd arrived and Bob drove me to the Hand Surgeon. The Ct scan showed no "step-down" or misalignment in the wrist bones. Here is a drawing of the left hand. The two red lines are where the breaks are located. "A longitudinal split-type fracture of the distal radius that is multi-part fracture."
We were greatly relieved that the surgeon felt there was no need for surgery. He stated again that he considers this a serious break and I was to be very careful with it. He admonished me to lift nothing heavier than one piece of paper with my left hand. He said eventually I would be allowed to lift a coffee cup or one small book. I put into a short arm cast and to return in one week.

 I continued to use the sling to support my arm, hold two ice packs on it, and remind myself not to try to use it. My right hand was doing all of the work. By Sunday it began to ache constantly. By Monday morning I could barely use my right hand at all without pain.

I had been able to get myself down from lots of pain medication to 1/2 tablets every 6 hours. I returned to the surgeon the following Monday, July 9. He said the healing in the left was progressing nicely. He felt the best treatment for my right hand was an injection of cortisone to remove some of the inflammation and a support brace (to help me keep from overstretching it from thumb to pinky.) I hesitated knowing I would see the Rheumotologist soon regarding the overall arthritis situation. I also knew that cortisone works in the long term but can stir up pain in the short term. The doctor and Bob encouraged me to go ahead with the injection. Bob was off Monday and Tuesday and reassured me that he would be there to help take are of me.

So I did my LaMaze breathing while the doctor administered the injection in my thumb joint. I do not know how I would have endured all the cortisone injections I have had in my life without the pain removing effects of LaMaze breathing! I was able to hold perfectly still while he did his thing. They put my hand in the brace. As I looked down it, I had the feeling I was also looking at my future with both hands in braces.

Twenty minutes later my thumb started to throb. By the time we got home I was in tears from the pain. I realized I would have to up the drugs again. Very disheartening!  Baby had fallen asleep and awoke, wet and hungry, when we got home. Bob went to change him while I heated his bottle and got ice packs out. Now I need ice for both hands.

Bob and Rowan both fell alseep in the recliner. I took ice packs to bed. I tried everything I knew to stay calm while I writhed in pain. This was worse than any injection I ever had. I finally decided it was from all the nerve endings in my hand. I got up after about 1-1/2 hours to refresh the ice packs.
It was going to be a very long summer.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting and Watching my Fingers Swell

As we waited through the weekend of June 30 to the Monday appointment July 2, I watched my fingers swell to the point of being swollen together. Yikes!! ugly, useless  sausages on the end of a twice broken arm. It was all rather surreal. I regularly see a Psychologist who helps me in dealing with pain issues. I was using every tool she has taught me and all I have learned about centering prayer and meditation and ways to quiet one's own spirit; in short, tools for waiting on the Lord and for events to unfold. She had recently told me about the book Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. I ordered it from the library and looked forward to maybe finding a few new tools in her work.

The shed project that had been 6 months in the planning went forward. On Saturday around lunch time Kate came over to drive me up to the shed project to observe how things were going and to cheer on the troops. Bob was surprised to see me and I promised him I was only staying for 30 minutes. I lasted more like 20 minutes! The video is 5 minutes long, but I am really proud of the hard work they accomplished in one sweltering day!!

Bob started work at the shelter before the others and stayed behind after the others to make certain everything was put in order after the event. I had spoken with him late in the day and told him I was going to try to sleep a little while. At the end of the day, he got everything loaded in his car. Went to start his car and guess what? It would not start. Mind you, he would not call me for fear of waking me, and he had no church members phone numbers in his cell phone yet. So in that heat and with great exhaustion he began walking home the 1-3/4 miles to our house. On the way he passed our local auto repair garage and the door was open. Late Saturday afternoon the owner was in there! Bob told him the dilemma and that sweet man told him to get in the truck. He went with Bob back to the shelter, put a chain on the car in shelter's back lawn and pulled him to the garage. Then he brought Bob home to get my car so he could return to the repair garage and empty the car of the day's contents. Those two men deserve great praise and thanks!

Bob worked the next day, Sunday, so he could be off Monday to take me back to the Hand Surgeon. I stayed home from church as I did not have a ride, and really did not belong away from home what with the swelling and pain meds.

I was able to use my prayer tools. The reminder from the book mark "The Only Constant in Life is Change" resonated with my experiences. I went from a Grammy keeping 3 Grandkids by herself one day a week to someone who needed help getting dressed. I went from Coordinator at large for the Shed project to someone who when the day came could not even help! From active Christian Do-ing to broken Christian Be-ing. And God was not surprised, nor absent. The comfort I gained from practicing my life verse was inestimable. ISA 30:15 "In returning and rest you are saved; in quietness and trust is your strength." I could choose to get worked up over the "wish I could haves" and "if onlys" thereby increasing my suffering and fulfilling the admonishment at the end of that verse "BUT YOU WOULD NOT." Or I could choose to wait under the wing of the Almighty and see how things would unfold.

Staying quiet was my duty. Imparting peace was His. We both performed marvelously! By His power I was able to call upon the Holy Spirit remembering a chorus He gave me many years ago, "Spirit of God within me, rise up. Spirit of God within me, rise up. Take ascendency over my body. Take ascendency over my mind." He did and I was able to refrain from panic and wait quietly.

Broken Arm Awaiting Diagnosis

Bob got his car repaired the June 28th  and was happy to have that issue resolved rather simply. Our repairman towed the car from the hospital parking lot. He had difficulty finding a new starter for Bob's Mazda, but installed a rebuilt starter. Something was actually resolved!

Some of you might have read my blog June 16 about our "Shed Project." Here we were just days away from that project and my arm is encased in sugar tongs splint, 5 ace bandages and I am back on lots of pain pills! The clock was ticking louder and louder as the Homeless Shelter Shed Project drew near.

Thank goodness I had gotten most of the supplies in on Tuesday June 26th after I saw my dentist! We had soda and water bottles for 60,  about 25 plastic tubs, bread and chips, etc. There were still plenty of things for Bob to do and for me to delegate though!

The hand surgeon saw us on Friday morning, June 29. He told us that if the wrist plates were "buckled" or "indented" I would need surgery to insert a steel plate and screws in my wrist.  He told us this was a very serious break and I would have to be careful with it throughout my recovery.  He ordered a CT Scan to see if the wrist bones were in tact. I asked him to draw on this picture where the breaks are. See the two red lines below.

They were able to take me fairly rapidly at Clermont Mercy the next morning for the scan. THEN I had to lift my arm like the photo from yesterday, over my head and flat and on the bed! By then my fingers were turning purple and green.

We went home to await the results on my return appointment to the surgeon on Monday. I had been praying that the Lord would help me find people to help Bob with everything I would have been doing at the shelter. I was so light headed on pain pills and unsteady on my feet that I knew I would be useless at the project! We had almost everything assigned except my job as "Sorter organizer."

June 30 we had a kitchen team to lay out all the fixings for lunch. We had a construction team to empty and build the shelves inside the shed. We had a signs team to write out signs to go inside the plastic tubs. I found a friend from church who was willing to come over and do last minute typing for me! We created signs to go on the tables so the sorters would know where to pile the different categories.  And my prayers were answered one evening when I remembered a conversation on the phone with one volunteer. She had even used some of my favorite phrases. She said she liked to "bring order out of chaos." Her basement was organized in plastic tubs. She understood the concept I was going for. I emailed and maybe even called (I do not remember) asking if she would consider taking my place as sorting coordinator? Praise God she said YES! That was the final piece to find.

Bob worked HARD all day Friday, getting the lunch meat, ice bags, and coolers arranged. It was a sweltering hot day and the volunteers even thought to bring themselves frozen iced bandanas. These folks KNOW how to stay cool! They worked and worked all morning and into the afternoon. The results were stunning and the staff found the shed amazing and the workers unbelievable!   I hope to post a video to the blog soon so you can see the volunteers at work! Our Pastor photographed the event as well as helping out in many ways that day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Broken Arm in the ER

Obviously in pain and beat up, Bob checked me into the ER. He stayed with me as long as he could. After the doctor confirmed the break,  I began texting friends to pray and asked one friend posted my request on Facebook for me. The doctor reviewed the x-rays and said he was referring me to a hand surgeon. Hr gave me more pain medication in the ER and a prescription for more at home. The radius was broken two times, possibly three, very close to the wrist. He said the surgeon would decide the next step. I was to get an appointment with him asap.

The splinted my arm from fingers to elbow with a "sugar tongs" splint and put me in a sling. This photo is not me! My arm was much too painful to lift like this!
I called Bob when they were finished with me. He left the laboratory and went out to the parking lot to get his car and take me home. The car would not start!

He came back in and told me the problem. He went over to the lab to borrow someone's car to take me home. As he was loading me into the front seat we were amazed as Cathy Vaughn from our church came walking up the driveway asking, "Is there any way I can help?" Oh joy!! Her timing was perfect. Bob drove me to her car in another part of the lot. He went back to work.

Cathy took me home, got me in the house with papers and phones and ice packs, a cold beverage and into bed. Finally, I got my nap!

Bob called our adult children cancelling our childcare plans with the 3 Grandchildren that week.

From the Inside Out

So if you have to sit and quiet yourself, this is a great song to begin with. I especially resonate with
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart
Is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord my soul cries out

In my heart and my soul
Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out"


Monday, July 23, 2012

Broken Arm In the Driveway

So there I was in the driveway in agony. The dog was terrified. I slowly managed to roll over and my left arm was screaming. I glanced at it and saw instantly that it was NOT RIGHT. Knowing there was no one around to see the fall, somehow I got to my feet. My left knee was also bleeding. I got the bagels and hobbled into the house.

I went straight to the kitchen. I had the presence of mind to yank my rings off and my watch. The crystal on the watch I was wearing on my left arm was broken from the impact of the fall. I took 2 pain pills.  And there was that bookmark on the counter: "The Only Constant in Life is Change."  We keep a flexible ice pack in the kitchen freezer. I managed to wrap it in a thin towel and cover my arm, supporting it on my belly. By the time I got to the bathroom, blood had run down my leg to my ankle. I poured peroxide on it and cleaned up the blood somewhat. Smacked on a Band-aid hoping that would stop the blood flow.

Hoping to get a ride to the hospital, I tried to call a neighbor whose car was in the driveway. Then I remembered I had been told she NEVER answers her phone. I went to the front porch to see if one of the teenagers was home. No luck.

I knew Bob was having a terrible day at work, but I saw no alternative but to call him at work to come get me and drop me off at the ER where he works.   I stopped crying enough call Bob. I said "You have to come get me."  Sounding exasperated, he said, "Why?"  I replied, "I broke my arm." All I heard was a sharp intake of breath and "I'll be right there."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Once Again, Where have I been?

Well, I have had quite an adventure this summer, if you like medical dramas. 
I had the two molars pulled June 20. Five days later when I blew my nose and got bubbles in my mouth on the left side. I called the oral surgeon. They said the root of that molar had penetrated my sinus and I was supposed to be following the instructions they gave me for care of the situation. Problem #1: they never gave me those instructions. Went to their office for the missing "special instructions", another Rx for pain medication and one for antibiotics. I had gotten down to a low dose of pain reliever, but was having trouble coping with the pain at that dose. 
I saw my regular dentist the next day. He assured me that only a small percentage of people have this occur. He said an even smaller percentage of those people have lingering sinus problems like infection from the event. Went back to see oral surgeon Wednesday morning. He took an x-ray, packed the socket with gauze soaked in clove oil. Not a single word of apology about his failure to inform me of the complication. I was furious. Well, one of the side effects of the pain medication is I cry very easily. I also cry when I get really mad! So I left his office vowing he would never touch me again. And I cried part of the way home. 
Ran some errands on the way home. At the grocery store I chose a cart that was sitting outside. To my surprise, in the child's seat was a plastic bookmark with a pink tassel. It said, "The only constant in life is change." Oh! so true. I went home to unload the car, let the dog out, and take a nap.
When I tied the dog out I fell in the driveway with a bag of bagels in each hand and broke my left arm!