Pooh Pocket

Pooh bag

Friday, we drove to Port Orchard and unloaded Mom’s room. One of the few good things out of this entire saga is that she progressively downsized over the years. While still living in Portland, Mom downsized to a two-bedroom condo. When she moved to Shelton, she downsized yet further to a two-bedroom duplex. When she moved to the VA home in October, she downsized to one room, allowed only a wing chair, an ottoman, a few pictures, some jewelry, knickknacks and clothes. Visitors provided a few plants. Clearing out her room took less than an hour, a piece of mercy in all of the sadness.

My brother and I reminisced about the different men she got dated but never married. Some we liked, specifically Rick. He was the funniest man I’d ever met. I think I was 9 at the time. He knew Gary Larson personally. He brought us cookies and made us all laugh. We urged Mom to marry him. But he had no plans to be tied down.

curiosity

. There were other prospective spouses along the way but nobody stuck.

Thak

It’s funny how you remember yourself in the context of time. But not just time, in the context of others and seasons. Looking back, I can see that just as God’s hand helped keep us afloat, He also kept us out of bad situations. While ‘no’ at the time felt hard, it was for our good. Rick went on to have 6 heart attacks when he finally did marry. Not surprisingly, he lost his sense of humor along the way.

Another good thing out of Mom’s death is the tribe of women who have surfaced to guide me through the grief. These women have all lost their mothers, too, and know firsthand how hard it can be. I did not ask for help; they have come all on their own, and I am grateful. Alongside them are family and old friends who have listened and been there. Thank you, thank you. I have not walked this way before and it’s been a struggle. Grief washes over me like a sneaker wave as I walk the beach of loss. Your support has made all the difference.

Years ago, Aunt Susan made me a stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh. I took that bear to college with me, much to the hilarity of subsequent fellow dorm dwellers. I still have it.

Aunt Susan gave me the pouch pictured above when she came to see Mom. Inside the pouch were 2 embroidered hankies and assorted chocolate.

“You don’t have to share it with anyone”, she told me.

All of these people who have shown up and been there have put me a metaphorical ‘pocket’ for safekeeping, something you do for cherished items – and people. I know hard days lie ahead, but I feel surrounded by love and sympathy and am focusing on the sweet memories.

 

 

 

 

Homecoming

Last night, I wanted to call Mom. I wanted to talk to her about the new school quarter and work and other sundry things. She used to show up announced when I worked at the City, bearing gifts. Sometimes it was a blouse she picked up at Goodwill for me. Sometimes it was a funny mug. It was a little embarrassing. I won’t lie.

See the source image

As she hugged me, I would breathe in her scent. Peace would wash over me.

The last time we visited Mom, before she entered the hospital, I thanked her for giving me music. I wouldn’t be a musician or have pursued a degree in flute if not for her exposure from concerts, recordings, and active encouragement. I thanked her for giving me literature. She read books to me all of my childhood. I love books because of her. We had our own very small book club over the years, swapping books we enjoyed back and forth and discussing them. I thanked her for giving me comedy. My brother and I both have her sense of humor. She took us to see Wayne Brady at the Schnitz when he came to Portland. We love to laugh and often find humor in the worst situations. It’s a survival technique, I reckon.

Mom thanked me, looking me in the eye. She heard me. We connected that Saturday. Turns out that was the very last time we’d have a good connection.

But I couldn’t call her. She died the night before: Sunday, January 12.

On Sunday, she moved back to the VA home. She didn’t transfer well. Her breathing sped up. She couldn’t get enough to drink. Fortunately, some of her siblings made it into town and got to visit with her. We took turns speaking to her in the darkened room, Mom’s oxygen machine bubbling in the background.

When it was my turn, I held her birdlike hands with the long fingers. Her eyes fluttered open. I asked if I could sing to her. She loved to sing and grew up the daughter of an Episcopal minister. I started singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”. I managed the first verse and part of the third then forgot the rest of the words. No matter, I was crying anyway. The membrane between earth and heaven was so thin. She didn’t have long. Mom committed her life to Christ several decades ago at an Easter Service at our church in Coos Bay. I prayed He would take her because there was nothing any of us could do for her now but wait.

One of the Stanley clan read her the 23rd Psalm. This person felt like maybe they’d overstepped. Folks, that was her favorite psalm. Then they prayed an Episcopal benediction prayer over her. God whispers to our heart all the time, if we only listen. I thanked this person for doing what I couldn’t. They blessed Mom when she needed it most.

We went out to dinner and got caught up on each others’ lives. Though we hated the circumstances of why we gathered, the time together was sweet.

Stanleys 2

That night (Sunday) at around 8:45 p.m., the VA home called. During the routine bed-check, they discovered Mom was gone. She held on as long as she could. I want to thank everyone who wrote or called to support me. I haven’t been super responsive, but appreciate each and every one of you. Your prayers and kindness have held me up.

However, life goes on. A gibbous moon shone down on Dakota and I in the early morning, complete with its own halo. It snowed last night. A thin frosty white coat covers everything. Yet birds continue to call to each other. They gather food and nesting materials. Mom is in a better place, safe with her holy Shepherd, singing her favorite songs, reunited with family and friends. I am glad.

psalm 23

 

 

Death Watch

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Not this.

We found out Tuesday that Mom had vomited a bit of blood. Then Wednesday, even more. The VA home dithered about whether to send her to the hospital, who wondered whether admit her or not. When the emergency room CT scan showed a digestive tract laced with tumors and an anemic blood count, they succumbed. Mom is in a very nice hospital in Gig Harbor.

This was the view from the end of the hallway as the snow fell.hospital snow

After waiting around for a few hours, the doctor arrived. He showed us the scan. The image looked down through her esophagus. Tumors, with millimeter dimensions, appeared. Some were 23 millimeters. Some were 15. One was 73 millimeters. Some were on her adrenals and some on her liver. This explains why she wouldn’t eat and lost more than 20 lbs in 2 months. But the fact that she felt no pain means nobody knew the real problem until the blood appeared.

As we viewed the scan, the doctor said the blood transfusion she received Wednesday night stopped the internal bleeding and brought her numbers up.

“However, I give her a few days to a month lifespan. Have you considered comfort care?”

Mom has a DNR and specific instructions for her medical care to take “no extreme measures” to sustain her life. She transfers back to the VA home Sunday and into hospice care there. Friends and family visit as her life ebbs away. I am off work for now as the DPOA, coordinating communication, visits and checking on her care. Mom is pain-free and her stomach bleed has stopped. She drinks water and sleeps as needed.

I ran this morning. It was the first time this week and the only dry day. The wind blows outside. A near-full moon set among the trees today, lighting up the sky. I watched the trees dance and am grateful for One who made us all and holds us in His hands.

But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and he will stand upon the earth at last.
 And after my body has decayed,
    yet in my body I will see God!
 I will see him for myself.
    Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.
    I am overwhelmed at the thought! – Job 19:25-17

 

In the Fire

Birds tweeted again this morning, chattering from tree to tree. I looked up in the darkness, trying to see them by the streetlight’s glow. They stopped. It’s supposed to reach 50 degrees today. Early spring? I don’t want to hope.

Optimistic, I thought I’d check on the next courses coming up. I logged into Capella’s website. I looked at the 3 courses that start January 13. Now the instructors are listed under the course descriptions. Two of the three were familiar to me. I have Dr. Kathy again for one. She sometimes changes assignment templates/parameters in the middle of a course, which caused me an extra 10+ hours of work on one assignment last quarter. Her teaching the class is no surprise, though the classes from last quarter were electives in the project management realm. This one is project budgeting, procurement and quality.

Then…the second class is Public Sector Policy Analysis with…wait for it…the infamous Dr. P. He’s the one who accused me of plagiarism 2 quarters ago. He’s the one that took a month to get back to me on how to handle the paper falsely flagged as plagiarized when the university’s software malfunctioned. He’s also an APA Nazi. When I read his name, my heart sank. I don’t want another class with him. Not ever. I’ve forgiven him but still. No, thanks, I’ll pass. Got anyone else?

This is my 5th quarter at Capella. I mean, should there even BE a fifth quarter? A quarter is, by definition, a fourth of something. Basketball only has 4 quarters. Dollars are only 4 quarters. Maybe it should be called something else. A fifther? That makes me think of hard liquor. Sigh. Winter quarter was already stacked with three classes instead of the regular, full-time two, in order to complete the degree by summer. And now this? Come on, God! You must think I’m superhuman. I’m not even going to misquote the Bible verse that supposedly says “God never gives you more than you can handle”. It doesn’t exist. Because guess what? God often does just that, on the regular. Don’t worry; your turn is coming.

I find myself in the unenviable position of pounding squeezing lemons into lemonade. I know God can bring good out of all of this. These courses present valuable, (sometimes) interesting, applicable material for me to learn. It’s an opportunity, albeit a challenging one, to sit under these instructors again. I don’t have to be afraid because I won’t be alone. There’s another in the fire with me, always. He will guide me through the flames and out the other side.

 

 

 

Unfettered

garmin

(source)

Last night, I heard something clicking every time I moved my sleeve. The face on my Garmin slipped off, anchored only by a skinny twisted cord.  I’ve had it just over 3 years. Zac bought it for me with his own money 3 Christmases ago. I only take it off to shower. The rubber wristband is torn and almost ripped beyond fixing. It tracks my heartbeat, giving me a resting average every day (last was 47).  It tracks every step I take and how far I run. It beeps imperiously at me when I’ve been sitting too long by posting Move! at regular intervals. It has consistently registered the calendar date as tomorrow’s date, despite resetting and no matter what day it actually is, giving me a kind of faint hope that there will *be* a tomorrow. It has been a constant companion, through traveling, seasons and sameness.

I debated about whether to wear it while I ran. But to what purpose? Would it track things in a dormant state? Would I care about the run if it didn’t get calculated or counted somewhere? Would it matter in the universe? How would I know about mile splits or if I had enough time to run farther? In the end, I left it. I ran without any data. My left wrist felt strangely naked as air rushed over it. I pushed to 3 miles (yay!) and was glad I did. I considered the things I do for me whether anyone else knows about it or not. Writing falls in that category. So does running. Sometimes I need reminding.

Back home, I kept pushing the Garmin’s face back on.  It won’t stay in the square face frame. It lights up if I push the right button. However, it registers nothing, knows nothing. It’s blank and more than a little creepy. I googled how to fix it but couldn’t find anything definitive. Jonathon said he’ll take a look at it, but it’s probably time to buy a new one.

Coincidentally, Zac left home for Texas again today. He’ll be back at Sheppard AFB this afternoon. I hated to tell him it broke. It was the first thing I think he’s ever bought me that cost him in any significant way. It seems like the end of an era.

We all felt the gravity of his leaving this morning. We prayed as a family, then Jonathon and Zac walked out the door. Every time he leaves now, he returns as more of an adult. He’s released into the world and learning to fend for himself. He’ll cross yet another chasm where I can’t follow. He must go on alone. We will run our races simultaneously, connected by the shared intertwined cords of love and faith, but not on the same course.

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

2020 Vision

adventure time

The day dawned breezy but dry. I planned to run, but felt I needed the rest. Hey, I stayed up until 10:30 last night. So this a.m. I drank coffee and goofed off until the sun came up. I walked down to the library to drop books in the slot. The sky was a pale blue. Wind ruffled the trees, sounding like a distant stadium full of cheering fans. Today feels like a day borrowed from spring. Dark-eyed juncos chirruped. Then robins and sparrows. I heard the distant grok of a raven. Seagulls floated overhead, careening on the air. The clouds turned ballet pink, then orange. The old year is dead and gone, I reminded myself. New beginnings lie ahead.

So I have a few resolutions for the new year. I know, I know. Didn’t do well last year. But hoping for the best. I want to:

Finish the MPA and graduate in August. This, folks, is top of the pile for 2020. I miss the days when I only went to work and came home. I used to complain about being gone so much; now I’m on a break from school and…so much free time! What did I do with it all? Perspective is everything, truly.

Run 300 miles this year. I think I wrote ‘run 10 miles a week’ last year. Looking at the calendar where I write it all done, I think I hit that goal once time. Heck, I only picked up running again in June. Overall, I ran 146.3 miles. Yes, I count the fractions! Le Garmin tracks it for me.  I know some weeks it won’t be possible. Having an annual goal feels better and more attainable.

Write – something! – every day. I need to keep my hand in. I want to blog at least once a week as well. So there.

Do something fun every day. Going back to school kind of gave me tunnel vision, focused on reading, papers, etc. I struggled to downshift and switch off. I need to find a better balance once class is back in session. Suggestions welcome.

Improve my handwriting. Some of you have seen the chicken scratch that passes for my handwriting. It’s…sad. In the second grade, I had amazing penmanship. Let’s just say that was a long time ago and things have changed since then.

Some resolutions are more personal and harder to quantify. I need to climb out of the perfectionistic self-talk soup I swim in. It’s so engrained. I feel like if I don’t do things perfectly, it isn’t worth celebrating. That’s ridiculous and wrong. I would never hold others to the standards I demand of myself. This will take conscious effort to stop and notice what I’m thinking about and what triggers trip me up.

And for once, I don’t want to lose any weight. I’d like to tone up and get back to exercising for the fun of it. I do love endorphins. Weight is just a number and only tells a tiny part of the health story. I feel really good and expect body recomposition to continue while intermittent fasting. Translation: more muscle mass and less fat over time. Woot!

What are your goals and plans for 2020? I do love a clean slate. Let’s do this!

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” – Matthew 19:6

 

 

 

Year 2019 in Review

apocalypse 2019

How I feel about this year. Buh-bye! Too much?

Folks, this was not the best year. At all. Not only did I fail at every single resolution, but some major things went wrong. If you’ve been following along you might remember…

Jonathon’s mom, Barb, passed away in July. Her brain tumors were inoperable and eventually shut down her movement and then speaking ability. It was a great loss for all of us.

Jonathon lost his job. He was out of work for 6 months, receiving halftime pay for 3 months prior to that. His old employer graciously allowed him to vest. He interviewed for several positions and has landed with Northwest Educational Partners, for now.

My mom entered a veterans’ home on October 31. Her Parkinson’s has curtailed her ability to walk, stand, talk and eat. She eschews meat these days and prefers to drink most of her meals through a straw. She continues to lose weight. Speaking is difficult. We visit as much as we can and bring her to our place for festivities.

Some fabulous changes came about this year. One of the good things was me starting a master’s program in public administration. Still going strong on that. I have 2 quarters left, if I can stay the course. It’s been going well and I’ve learned a lot about ethics, leadership and actual project management. January quarter starts on the 13th and I’ll be taking 3 classes. Pray for me!

Zac joined the Air Force. On October 15, he began basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He graduated December 13 and is now enrolled in tech school at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, TX. It was an 8-hour bus ride. Fun! He is doing well and finding his way.

Despite not meeting my mileage goal, I did get more consistent about running this year. In fact, last week I ran more than 9 miles over 4 separate sessions. Not a lot of mileage, granted, but I’m not as into the distance as much anymore. I’m doing it for attitude adjustment and fun, not weight loss.

I have been consistent on another thing, too. I read a great book called Delay, Don’t Deny by Gin Stephens. At the risk of sounding trite, it changed my life. The health benefits are cumulative and amazing! If you’re curious, look up ‘autophagy’. I’ve been intermittent fasting since August 2017, and I plan to continue for the rest of my life, God willing. I’ve lost about 10 lbs and numerous inches. It should really be called intermittent eating, because I fast 19-20 hours most days and usually eat for less than 5. I eat whatever I want in my “window”, though I am a food snob now; not all foods are “window-worthy”, and some make me feel crummy afterwards.  On this program, I feel really good. God has revealed deep things that needed healing, areas I would not have been aware of otherwise. Additionally, it contributed to healing a stress fracture in my right foot, keeping my immune system primed, and clear-headedness for an entire workday, and fitting into ALL of my clothes. I listen to my body now and don’t push too hard. I don’t have to prove anything. Exercise is fun and not a punishment. Huzzah! I need to stay healthy and be the best that I can every day.

I know God is still in control, even though this year was a slog. Looking forward to a new start in 2020. As believers, our hope is continually renewed. The best is yet to come.

How about you? How was your 2019? I’d love to hear about it.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! – 2 Corinthians 5:17