Myself—On the Shelf

Sometimes circumstances force us to the sidelines.  We don’t understand why.  We hate being out of commission.  But, sometimes, the only response is compliance, as difficult as that may be.

Are there any other shelf-sitters out there?

The saga of my foot injury continues.  It was rapidly improving  after the “Snap, Crackle, Pop” incident.  No longer swollen or bruised, and no longer constantly aching.  Sure, it would get tired after a long walk and ice baths felt amazing, but there was lots of improvement over the mess it had been in July.  A nurse friend suggested I get an x-ray, just be sure, but I was pretty sure that would be money needlessly spent.

And then, it happened; a collision with 60 pounds of furry force bent my toes backwards and bathed me in white hot pain.  Barefoot, in the recliner, my foot collided with boundless puppy energy.  This time, the constant throbbing didn’t go away after a couple of weeks.  Because there was no additional bruising and no noticeable swelling, I self-diagnosed that I probably had something out of joint from the latest collision and called my chiropractor.

After hearing my litany of injuries to my foot, she wisely refused to see me without a foot x-ray and sent me to an urgent care center.  Still loudly insisting it was only a sprain, I submitted to an x-ray.

20992884_10212770999046247_36019243525522514_n brokenfoot

You don’t have to be a radiologist to see what is wrong with this picture.  I broke the knobby end of the toe bone at the joint.  The Urgent Care Dr. suggested I call a Podiatrist.

The Podiatrist looked at the x-ray and listened to the long, complicated history of the foot injury and thanked me for bringing him such an unusual and interesting case.  This is not a normal injury.  He sold me a “Magic Boot” to stabilize my foot, told me to come back in a week after he had consulted with other specialists, and told me to “cut back on my normal activity.”

I am very active.  I hit the ground running in the morning and usually do not sit down till around 8 pm for a couple hours of television before heading to bed.  But, in obedience to the Dr.’s orders I  swapped out my running shoe for the magic boot, stopped mowing the lawn with the push mower and taking the dog on 3/4 mile walks.

He was not happy with me when I returned.  I was still feeling my pulse in my foot when I went back to his office and he asked me why I hadn’t cut back on my activity.  I said I had, but apparently not enough.  Clarifying, he told me “I want you to stay OFF YOUR FOOT.  Sit when you could stand, crutches or knee scooter when you could walk, and no stairs for the next TWO MONTHS.”  This means no shopping, no driving, no walking.

If I rest my foot completely, there is a chance that I can avoid surgery.  The body may form a fibrous scar around the broken chip, which will look funky in future x-rays, but should be functional.  If I don’t rest it enough to form the scar, I will need a complicated surgery to not only remove the chip but to attach ligaments back to the parent bone with screws and pins, bringing an even longer and more difficult recovery period.

Did I mention that my bedroom and my office are on the second floor?

I am reminded of the joke about the old lady who broke her leg and couldn’t climb stairs for 3 months.  When her doctor finally removed her cast and granted her permission to climb stairs again, she said, “Hallelujah!  It has been so hard to shinny up that drainpipe every night to go to bed.”

I’m not shinnying up drainpipes, but I go up and down the stairs on my bum, lifting myself with my arms, chair dip style.  I have crutches for the upstairs of my house, and a borrowed knee scooter for the downstairs.

What can you do with no hands and only one leg? It is surprisingly tiring to get around with these aides. and very limiting.  Cooking, for example, requires many trips around the kitchen just to gather ingredients and utensils, and because I cannot get as close to the stove as I need to, there is lots of leaning.  I haven’t figured out how to maneuver loading  the dishwasher or oven because of the weird angles from the scooter, and the fact that I need one hand to steer it.

Fortunately my daughter and husband have graciously jumped in to assume my share of the house-hold tasks.  I am grateful to family and  friends who have given me rides to and from events, and have brought me meals and drinks. I think these devices should come with drink holders, or I should buy one of those hiking bladder backpacks.

So I am spending time “on the shelf.”  This is a rare opportunity for study, reading, painting, and prayer.  Prior shelf times have always been followed by headlong plunges into busy seasons of ministry and I don’t suspect this is any different.  It is a time of healing, for my foot, and a time of preparation for the what ever is waiting around the bend.

 

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Trust Walk

It was a hot, sunny summer day and family was in town, so we decided to spend the day at the beach. It sounds so simple, but a day at the beach actually includes lugging lawn chairs, umbrellas, towels, blankets, sand toys, sunscreen, snacks and drinks from the parking lot across 400 ft of blistering sand to the water.  There is a lot of stuff to carry!

We set up, enjoyed the water and sunshine and wore everyone out as we dug in the sand and played in the surf. When it was time to head back, we “broke camp” and gathered up all of our belongings, with my husband taking the lion’s share of equipment across the long, scorching beach.

Something happened to my husband on the trek back to the car.  He became so dizzy and lightheaded that he handed the keys to our son and asked him to drive us home.  On the short drive home he became drenched in a chilly sweat, despite the hot day, and began vomiting.  When his left arm began to hurt, he decided he needed to go directly to the hospital.

When you walk into an emergency room and say the words, “Heart Attack,” people respond immediately.  He was rushed back to a bay and hooked up to electrodes, amid other blood draws and tests.  Eventually it was decided that he would spend the night for observation and have more tests in the morning.

If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and walks like a duck, you would suspect it is a duck, but all tests showed no sign of a heart attack.  They released him in the afternoon with the diagnosis of “most likely acid re flux” and advised him to follow up with his primary physician.

The primary physician disagreed with the ER diagnosis and ordered MORE tests.  These failed to show anything that could have caused the “episode” but did reveal a rather significant partial blockage of the small intestine.  He was referred to a GI specialist.

This is scary stuff.  Most Googled remedies toss around the word “FATAL” way too much for our comfort.  The GI Dr. ordered even more tests and scheduled a colonoscopy  a couple weeks out. 

It is hard not to “future trip” when frightening medical reports surface.  It is a real battle to keep your focus on Jesus and daily renew your mind, making the choice to trust Him, no matter what the results.  (In reality, what other options are there?)

We received the results of the very detailed testing just before my husband was wheeled back for the colonoscopy and the findings were good.  After the colonoscopy, the GI Dr. spoke with us and said, ” I have no idea what showed up as a partial intestinal blockage, because everything looks fine.”

How often do we carry stuff we don’t need to carry when we hear bad news?  Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11: 28-30  We can trust him in the middle of bad news.  1 Peter 5:7 instructs us to cast all our anxiety on him (Jesus) because he cares for us. Despite the struggle to keep my focus on Jesus, I was incredibly relieved to hear the Dr. say that the blockage was gone and everything looks fine!

Someone asked me, “So, was it a miracle or a smudge on the film?”  I don’t know.  I DO know that I serve a great big God who is fully capable of performing miracles.  I have seen God’s hand work in miraculous ways many times in my life and in the lives of others.  And I know that with Jesus there is peace in the midst of frightening medical reports and an uncertain future.

This incident just provided another opportunity to practice my “Trust Walk;”  just another opportunity to trust Jesus.

 

 

 

Snap, Crackle…and…POP!

Accidents happen. They come out of the blue, unplanned and unexpected. They disrupt your life, cause injury, and make you painfully aware of your own destructibility.

I was at a family party, celebrating the second and fourth birthdays of granddaughters two and three. The family was gathered at my son’s table, finishing lunch and laughing as we visited. In one smooth move, I scooped up the used party plates and was in the process of pivoting around in my chair while standing up, planning to deposit them in the trash container behind me. Instead I landed head-first in my niece’s lap! Somehow I managed to get a foot tangled up with the leg of my chair and the table leg.

The culprits: chair and table leg.

I think I managed to hook my little toe on the aluminum chair leg, bending the last two toes skyward. The remaining toes smashed against the table leg, pressing them downwards. Imagine a circus strongman ripping a phone book in half down the middle. Now exchange the phone book for my foot!

My foot immediately inflated and discolored. I could still wiggle my toes, so I assumed nothing was broken. It wouldn’t “flex” and I had a funny bump on the sole under my little toe, but I could still put weight on the heel and hobble along. Wearing a shoe was out of the question, but I managed an over-sized flip flop. Wrapping my foot in athletic tape provided some support and helped quell the throbbing pain and the swelling gradually decreased.

Tutti-fruity colors; the nail polish is hiding the bruises UNDER the nails.

I have broken a toe before and the remedy was to “buddy tape” it to the toe next door. I figured I was in for a long six weeks and was grateful that it happened in the summer so I didn’t have to try to wear real shoes. I slept with it elevated and outside of the covers to avoid the weight of blankets.

A nurse friend suggested that I probably should get x-rays and cautioned that if I broke the socket, I might need surgery. I was leaving the next day for a week-long trip and figured I would see a doctor when I got home if it wasn’t any better by the time I returned home.

Our first night of the trip was spent at a charming, rustic 1940’s style Lodge on Skyline Drive. No televisions in the room, no a/c, and no elevators! The down comforter on the double bed gave the room a European feel.

Our charming room at the Lodge.

We climbed the steep, double flight of stairs and I hobbled down the hall to our room. The narrow room could only accommodate a full sized bed, instead of a Queen or King, and the right side of the bed was only about a foot from the wall. I opted to sleep on the bathroom side, despite placing my sore foot on the center of the bed.

Sometime during the night I woke up yelling and moaning. Deep asleep, I must have gotten my foot wrapped up in the bedding and thrashed it into my husband’s leg as I tried to kick free of the covers. I remember feeling a “POP” as I hit his leg, and a white-hot flash of intense pain.

But in the morning, my foot was fine! I suspect I had dislocated my toe in the accident and the night-time impact realigned it. God’s chiropractic adjustment! God restored my foot during the night. The throbbing pain was gone, my foot could flex again and the odd lump under my little toe had vanished. I can walk again!

Isaiah 52:7 says “How blessed are the feet of those who bring good news.” One week after the “adjustment,” I am only dealing with minor bruising and muscle strain but am well on the way to full recovery.

Flipping the “Dog House.”

Why I haven’t been blogging for the past two and a half years….

The house-hunting ordeal had begun again. This was not a new game for us; we had lived at 16 different addresses in our nearly 40 years of marriage; this was not a corporate move as many of the prior ones had been, but finding a long-term home after retirement. And, after years of major renovations in the homes we had purchased, my handy-man husband had stipulated he didn’t want to buy another house that needed work!

We began looking on-line, ruling out hundreds of homes before ever driving by or stepping inside them. Wrong room lay-outs, not enough bedrooms, awful kitchens, no garden space in the back yard, lack of garage, or just out of our price range took its toll. Finally we narrowed the list to about 30 homes and contacted a real estate agent who drove us around for weeks, only to have us turn our thumbs down on all of them.

It was discouraging. This community has thousands of homes for sale, but every single one of them had some major flaw that eliminated it from our consideration. After all, this was not a house that we would need to resell in a year or two when the company needed my husband’s skills at a new location; this would be a permanent home until we were too fragile to live on our own.

One sunny Sunday afternoon, as my husband settled on the sofa for an afternoon of football, I dug back into the internet searching and discovered two “Open House” homes in an area we liked. He was involved in watching his games so I went alone.

I fell in love with the first house. From the moment I walked through the front door, I liked everything I saw. (Remember, we were looking for a house that wouldn’t need any work!) And this one was a beauty! There were no worn, dirty carpets to replace; there were no textile floors at all. All of the floors and even the stairs were finished in wood. It had real wooden cupboards in the kitchen.

Our dream list included a formal living room, formal dining room, large kitchen, family room with a fireplace, at least four bedrooms, a screened back porch, and a space in the backyard for a garden, a two car garage and a shed. And this place had it all…almost. The only thing missing was the screening on the covered porch in back, but that was an easy fix. It was at the high end of our price range but was the first house that actually fulfilled our list and it was beautiful.

I then drove a couple of blocks to the second Open House listing. Pots of dead plants peeked out from under the overgrown shrubbery and long grass grew from the multiple cracks in the driveway. The door was missing from the mailbox and the screens were tattered. Paint was peeling from the front porch and door trim and the front door and garage door were painted a hideous purple. Things didn’t improve much when I walked inside.

The floors were covered in original builder grade carpeting that was nearly worn through and filthy. The walls had recently been spray painted in a flat white, complete with paint runs down the walls and on the dusty, faded window treatments. Most of the window glass had broken seals and were completely fogged. The kitchen was big with a nice floor-plan but the condition of the appliances, cabinets and flooring were a complete distraction. Two of the four bathrooms had new ceramic floors, but the other two floors were worn and torn. Even the registers were bent and rusted.

Upstairs bedrooms still sported the original builder grade paint and an accumulation of all the dirt and abuse from the day it was first purchased by the original owner. Outdated light fixtures missing globes, filthy carpet, dirty walls and cracked door frames adorned every bedroom and peeling thermafoil cabinets in the bathrooms.

No shed or screened porch in the backyard, either. The two car garage didn’t even have an automatic door opener and was filled with boxes. The man door to the side yard was rusted nearly through.

The house was a wreck. I didn’t spend much time looking at it, mentally contrasting it with the jewel a few blocks away. My husband heard a glowing review of that house when I got home but was told, “Don’t waste your time even looking at the second house; it is a DOG!”

We went through the “Jewel House” a couple of times with our agent. And my husband’s engineer eye pointed out flaws that I had overlooked. The shed was too small, the backyard wasn’t large enough, and there was a foreclosed, crumbling house right next door. The street was busy, with lots of cars parked alongside because the driveways were so short.

We continued the hunt, but our selection was rapidly dwindling. So, we finally expanded our search to include “houses that may need some work.”

We toured houses with buckled floors, mold issues, holes in the walls and ceilings, and some that needed major foundation repair. Even despite these major flaws, we never found a floor plan that we agreed on. We wanted a house with a downstairs bedroom and bath so when we are too rickety to maneuver stairs, we would have a bedroom on the main floor. Surprisingly, they are very rare in our community.

Finally, he said, “Let’s go through the ‘Dog house.’” And, as he toured the house, he said, “I like it!” I groaned. Sure, it was livable in its current condition, because a family had lived here for years, but it was a wreck of a house.

There was a bedroom and full bath on the main floor but there was no shed and no screened porch. And, there was WORK everywhere! We debated its pros and cons at length, but I reluctantly agreed to making an offer when he asked, “Would you like it if it had wood flooring throughout, a new kitchen, a privacy fence, a shed, a screened porch, and modern light fixtures?” “Well, sure. It would be like a different house then.”

Despite not wanting to take on another home remodel project, we agreed on the floor plan, the neighborhood, and the largish sunlit back yard. We are not afraid of doing hard work and have the know-how to do many things ourselves so we placed an offer, subject to the house passing a home inspection.

The inspector said the house was well constructed, better even than some of the homes in surrounding neighborhoods, but refused to turn on the microwave oven because the plastic back of the box was melted off from an interior fire, the dishwasher flooded the kitchen floor when we tested it, and the carbon monoxide alarm rang continuously. A separate heat pump inspection revealed a cracked heat exchanger and owner’s bypass attempts that were pumping toxic gas into the home whenever you turned on the heat.

We threatened to withdraw the offer if they did not replace the heat pump and surprisingly, they installed a new unit. The appliances were ancient, and we decided not to make an issue out of something we would be replacing anyway.

In our area, the seller must vacate the house of all possessions before the final closing. The purchaser makes a final walk through the property, viewing it empty, and has a final opportunity to change their mind and withdraw the offer. And the sale nearly fell apart at the closing table.

During their pack out, someone had backed a truck into the garage door, and smashed it to the point of being unusable. We said we wanted a new garage door; they said it was like that when we placed our offer. I produced photos and our agents began to negotiate. I was ready to walk away from the table; the sellers were not happy that they were forced to replace the heat pump and did not want to replace the door. Finally they said that one of their helpers had backed up too far and smashed in the door and would give us the money for an equivalent door. Tense emotions calmed and we closed the sale.

We were moving into the “Dog House” but the overwhelming amount of work prevented us from making that move right away. We began stripping carpeting from all the floors, tearing up the worn hardwood in the entry, and taking down the dust-caked, paint smeared window treatments. The first week of home ownership was a flurry of appliance shopping, meeting with window repairmen, and multiple trips to the landfill. We hired a company to repaint interior rooms, and it was one of the best decisions we could have made.

The upgrades were not all cosmetic; there was rotted subflooring that needed repaired, and holes in the walls, as well as places where the plaster had fallen off from moisture damage. The house looked much worse once it was emptied, and we found surprises that were hidden by the worn carpeting.

We had purchased new stainless steel appliances and had no sooner arranged for delivery when the refrigerator died. The grease caked stove was the only appliance that was still functional when the new units were installed.

Instead of selecting solid hardwood flooring, we decided to install a laminate throughout the house, based on scratch and dent resistance reviews. We have installed and lived with solid oak hardwood floors in a previous home, and found them to scratch and dent easily. We had installed premium laminate flooring in the condo we were currently flipping and were impressed with the durability, feel, and luxurious appearance, as well as the ease of installation.

We figured it took roughly three 8 man-hour days per room to install the flooring and my husband, my daughter, and I tackled the project. We lay flooring in the critical rooms, like a bedroom and storage room so we could vacate and sell the condo, slowly moving our belongings out of storage units as flooring was finished in each room. Basically, we camped in the construction zone.

When the flooring was finished, the furniture brought out of storage, boxes unpacked and life began to settle in, we received a letter about a class action lawsuit concerning our flooring selection. We needed to test it for formaldehyde gassing as it might be a health hazard. After thorough testing, the flooring was deemed acceptable.

A five ft long tick list hangs on the side of the refrigerator. It details all of the things for each room, from replacing the rusted air vent covers, replacing window treatments, replacing the outdated light fixtures, replacing the paint crusted, mismatched door hinges and knobs, to replacing the torn screens and broken window panes. As we finish and item we scratch it off the list.

We purchased a shed from a company that delivered it to our lot, hired a contractor to build the screened porch on the back of the house, and hired a carpenter to install a privacy fence. I tackled the peeling thermafoil on the bathroom vanities, peeled them off with a heat gun and painted them. The guest bath on the main floor has been stripped out and upgraded.

Instead of putting bandages on the awful kitchen cabinets and worn out kitchen floor, we decided to gut and replace everything with new flooring, custom wood cupboards, and the prettiest granite countertop I have ever seen.

Two and a half years later, most of the rooms are done, but we still have some big projects to tackle. One bathroom is still untouched, sporting its 1980 wallpaper and broken acrylic shower stall. We are in the process of insulating and dry-walling one of the two large unfinished rooms, and still have one exterior door to replace.

The “Dog House” has essentially been flipped. It is beautiful, welcoming, and prettier than it was when it was new. We host weekly Bible Studies and it is a place of ministry. My daughter said, “You have flipped the “Dog “house. What do you get when you flip the word Dog? It is now the ‘God House!’” You can’t get any better than that!

Forget Me Not!

I hate forgetting passwords! Having multiple email accounts, ever changing passwords, and a hectic life makes for a cocktail of confusion whenever the rare quiet moment hits and I can write…only to find myself locked out again…and again…and again! I usually walk away in frustration but today I persevered and conquered the beast!

Now that I have recovered the proper formula, I am determined to do better.

For the handful who still “follow” me, I am not dead! I have finally surfaced from under the mountain of moving boxes and sawdust and all of the complexities of moving cross country.

Stay tuned. There is more to come, I promise!

And The Lord says, “Trust Me.”

My trust muscle is getting stretched some more today. It has been a grueling summer of selling our home (twice!), moving cross country, and a blur of packing and unpacking. I have purged, and packed, and wept as I have let go of items of sentimental value, and said good-bye to dear friends and a house and property that I loved.

On the flip side of all that stress, is the awesome revival of a dead dream. I lived here before and hated leaving my church, my friends, my home, and my life. And now, years later after all hope was gone, The Lord opened the door and made a way for me to return. But, my joy today is tempered with a dose of frustration.

And, this frustration is over a house! I want to be settled into a “forever house” with a yard for a garden. For months I have been long-distance stalking home sales via the internet, but was never in a position to seriously look, until now. I have watched most of the homes that I have liked and could afford to buy progress from “for sale” to “pending” to ultimately “sold.” Apparently my tastes must be similar to most other home buyers; the houses I like seem to be snapped up in a hurry.

Today’s pending home sale was the last home on my original “watch list.” It has an accepted offer and is no longer officially on the market. Sales contracts sometimes fall through; I personally experienced it this summer on the FIRST sale of our home. The Lord is faithful, and ten days later we received an even better offer and were able to close the sale.

This is another opportunity to trust Jesus; another opportunity to reflect on His faithfulness, restoration, and love for me and not get tangled up in the weeds of circumstances. But, silly human that I am, I tend to be short-sighted and lose focus on the big picture. My gerbil-brain forgets all of the times The Lord has provided for me time and time again. I get caught in the thistles of here and now and am easily distracted. But He is faithful, and The Lord says, “Trust me.”

“Beachy-Keen”

Since my husband retired we spend our winters near the ocean in what we affectionately call our “beach house,” despite the fact that we are about ten minutes from the water. We are close enough to enjoy sea gulls and mild winter temperatures, but far enough inland to avoid the storm surge from hurricanes and Nor’easters. The interior decorating of the place has a decidedly coastal flavor and feels like a vacation home.

Tooling around Pinterest the other day, I stumbled across “Beach Wreaths” and fell in love! This place “NEEDED” one! I made note of the styles I liked, and then started searching the internet to see where I could buy one similar to the ones I liked on Pinterest.

My dream beach wreath is made from burlap, with kisses of blue and sea shells. I found several that I liked ready-made but they came with an exorbitant price tag. Not wanting to shell out $100 plus dollars for a decoration to hang on my front door, I decided to build one myself.

My supplies for step one: wreath frame, burlap, wire and wire cutters.

My supplies for step one: wreath frame, burlap, wire and wire cutters.

The process is easy. Attach one end of the burlap to the frame with florist wire, make whatever size loops you want and run the wire around each loop, securing it to the frame. Some instructions on the web tell you to just tuck the burlap into the frame, but I wanted my wreath to be more permanent.

Working the burlap around the frame.

Working the burlap around the frame.

Work your way around the frame, looping and wiring as you go. My frame is 18″ and I used two 10 yard rolls of burlap.

The back of the frame showing my wiring.  I ran the wire around the inner rings of the frame.

The back of the frame showing my wiring. I ran the wire around the inner rings of the frame.

I used a thin florist wire that is nearly invisible. Some directions suggest tan colored pipe cleaners, but I wanted to keep the costs as low as possible.

The burlap is complete.  Now to decorate!

The burlap is complete. Now to decorate!

I purchased blue Christmas ornaments from a discount store and a bag of sea shells. With the aid of a hot glue gun, I attached wire and fastened them into place on the wreath. I paid $3 for 12 ornaments, and another $4 for the shells. The burlap cost $7 a roll (I used 2), wire was $1, and the frame was $3. Total investment was @ $25 and 90 minutes labor while watching television.

I topped it off with a string of pearls salvaged from old Christmas tree decorations that haven’t been used in several years.

The finished product!

The finished product!

Most of the ready-to-purchase wreaths I found have the decorations hot-glued into place. Because I want to reserve the option to change things up with the seasons, my decorations are fastened on with wire. All in all, I am very pleased with the results and think my new wreath is “Beachy-Keen!”