Friday, October 31, 2008

Changing Gears

The past few months of my life remind me of road trips Mike and I have taken. Sometimes we are cruising along in fifth gear on the straight and level highways, no obstructions, no potholes, able to mindlessly drive and enjoy the scenery. Other times we downshift to go through scenic areas full of curves, switchbacks, points of interest or areas of caution. Once in a while we have to shift into low gear to chug our way up through steep mountain passes with sharp frightening drop offs on either side. On occasion we may have to suddenly stop for a “Kodak” moment pull out, a darting animal on the road ahead, some sort of danger, or just a needed break at a rest area.

In June we were cruising in fifth gear. Mike and I went to Ohio to visit my family and help my parents get ready for their move to their new home. We celebrated Father’s Day together, went out to eat, played lots of cards, relaxed, watched TV, and laughed a lot. Life was good.
In July we downshifted a bit as Billie went into the hospital at the Cleveland Clinic to have heart surgery. What was to have been a 5-7 day stay ended up becoming a month long nightmare of medical problems. Finally, at the end of the month he was able to come home to Dayton to finish recovering. We were cautiously cruising again.

August was filled with planned fun activities. I got to attend the Women of Faith conference in Dallas with 3 special friends- Martha, Joanne and Georgia. For two days we and thousands of other women basked in God’s word, singing hymns of praise, listening to messages of encouragement and teaching from the entertaining and Godly speakers including Patsy Clairmont, Lucy Swindoll, Sheila Walsh, and Marilyn Meberg. Afterward, we stayed up late in our hotel room eating snacks, laughing and having girl talk together. An abundance of heartfelt fellowship.

In the last week of August we again shifted to a lower gear. Billie, who had been recovering quite well, had to be readmitted to the hospital due to an infection around his surgical incision. Doctors, however, felt he would be home in a couple of days. Mike and I decided to take a short trip we had planned to Angel Fire, NM. where we stayed in the beautiful mountain vacation home of our gracious neighbor Carol. Our four days were packed with adventure. We were cruising once more. I was still on my spiritual high from the conference with my friends, and Mike was itching for some activity after our 14 hour drive. We hiked and drove the area with Biskit and Cookie each day, explored the awesome beauty of the northeastern New Mexico Mountains and towns, spent an afternoon in Taos, and even spotted a black bear checking out the deck of a house in a nearby neighborhood. Fortunately we were in our car and the residents didn’t appear to be present. The quiet mountain surroundings, crisp pine scented air, comfortable home and time together was rest for our souls.

During the drive home from the trip I spoke with Debbie concerning Billie. Great news, since his healing was going so well, she and Mark were leaving him in the Cleveland hospital for a few more days while they headed back to their jobs in Dayton.
Still in high gear, the following week I got on a plane to Las Vegas to visit my best friend Terri, her mom Doris, and attend a Beth Moore/Kay Arthur bible conference. This trip had been planned for almost a year with tender loving care and great anticipation by the two of us. We rarely get to see each other and the fact we were combining my visit with a conference “starring” our two favorite Bible teachers put us both in spiritual overdrive! After I arrived, we hit the grocery store for our favorite snacks and proceeded to her gorgeous home where we sat and chattered non-stop until evening when we went to a bible study at her friend Jill’s home. What precious hours those were.

Early the next morning Mike called me from Texas saying Billie had taken a sudden serious turn for the worse and Debbie and Mark were speeding up to Cleveland. I got a hold of my sister while they were driving and through tears she shared the news of his critical condition. Life slowed down abruptly and then came to a grinding halt when later that morning Mark called me from Cleveland with the news of Billie’s death. The flood gates of my heart burst open with emotion and I felt like a car spinning out of control on ice, heading for a cliff.
The next 48 hours were like driving thru a dense fog. Somehow I managed to make it back to Texas, pick up Mike and fly home to my family in Dayton, Ohio. I can’t describe that week except to say it was the hardest most heartbreaking time in my life and 100 times more so for my sister and Mark. I have never prayed so much and shed so many tears. Coming back to Texas I felt like a car stuck permanently in a rut, spinning my wheels and getting no where. I am so thankful for my friends that lifted me and my family up to the Lord during that time. His comforting hand was always upon me.
Stuck in low gear, September dragged on. I seemed to be rooted in the land of sorrow, the valley of death. During the last week of September Mike’s sister Deb came for a visit. It is always a joy to see her. Her light hearted humor got me feeling alive and moving forward again. We spent time going to the Fort Worth Japanese gardens, eating Mexican food and watching movies with Freddie, their dad.

In October Mike and I went back up to Ohio for a visit. Life was moving forward slowly but surely. Though the week was filled with emotional moments we spent lots of quality time with my family even celebrating Chip’s and my birthday at a party my sister Sherri had for us.
While we were there however, another crisis struck. Freddie, Mike's dad, had a TIA (mini-stroke) that caused him to end up in the VA hospital in Dallas after becoming lost for 15 hours driving around Texas. Our lives slammed into low gear again not knowing how to best proceed with Anxiety fighting to be in the driver’s seat. Deb, Mike’s sister, saved the day by coming from Austin, Tx and dealing with the situation until we got home from our visit in Ohio. We have been crawling forward with caution the last several weeks. Our emotions our raw from grief, anxiety, sadness, and exhaustion. We found a nursing home about 30 minutes away for Freddie and moved him within a couple of days. His mini-strokes have left him too confused to live on his own. His “new reality” has caused him to totally shift gears as he adjusts to his new “home”, new routine, and essentially new life. Mike and I are working on a schedule for visits that we can commit to with consistency.

As we seem to have bottomed out, we are shifting again and driving out of this valley of sadness and uncertainty headed for some level ground. Cruising at this moment seems to be a thing of the past, a mere memory, but I am asking the Lord to help me focus on Him and realize He is the one controlling the transmission and my direction -even when my gears are jammed and I seem to be rolling backwards.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Intruders, "Mr. and Mrs. Rocky"

These past few months we noticed that Kitten, our beautiful long-haired cat, has significantly increased her food intake without any apparent weight gain. This is something I have been hoping would happen in my life for years! How I would love to eat the pound bag of peanut M&M's without having to purchase jeans a size larger. In addition to the new appetite we noticed she was "frolicking" in the back yard during the evening, often tipping over her food dish, water bowl and deck plants. This behavior is very unusual for a cat that likes to lay around like a couch potato most of her life. Well.. a few evenings ago, as Mike and I were snoozing in our TV room, we were abruptly awakened by noises on our deck. Flying to the window to see what was causing the commotion, we spotted two raccoons sauntering around the deck checking out Kitten's food bowl. Mike grabbed a flashlight and went outside to get a closer view of Rocky and his wife. Instead of running in fear, they give him a look like , "Hey buster, get some chow in this bowl pronto, we're hungry". Well, we love animals but Biskit, Cookie, and Kitten are more than enough for our home and budget. After getting advice from various people and web-sites, Mike headed to Home Depot to purchase a "Have-a-hart" trap. This apparatus is baited with food and after the animal enters it to feast a door closes trapping him without harm. We were disappointed after the first unsuccessful night. We woke to an empty cage still full of food. The second night, however, we hit the jack-pot and captured both Rocky and his Mrs. We relocated them a few miles away in a woodsy area near the lake. They will have to begin a new "natural" diet...bugs, fish, and vegetation since Purina will no longer be available served in a cute bowl!