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

 

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

 

 

Saturday Status

Rex has been very busy lately. He killed this

straight pipe.jpg

and this

T-pipe.jpg

We live surrounded by very tall Douglas firs, cedars, etc., so pine needles everywhere, all the time.

I wonder if the pipe pieces put up much of a struggle? I should also mention he killed 5 moles and a rat. Guess he got tired of mammals.

In other news, it’s been a long week. Jonathon lost his job at Concordia. It had been coming for awhile. The reorg of his department was announced in February, with a few meetings and deadlines from his team in between. Other than that, it was lots of questions and rumors for answers.  Jonathon drove down Monday morning for a meeting with the provost, his supervisor and HR. Never a good combination. The upside is that he’ll get severance until October, allowing him to vest.

Jonathon’s mom entered a nursing home on Monday as well. She’s in the last stages of inoperable brain cancer. Ever the servant, she has continued to make christening dresses and bake communion bread up until the very end. She doesn’t have much in the way of pain, she says, and looks forward to going home to be with Jesus. She still makes me laugh. Her courageous spirit inspires as she embarks on her last great adventure.

My heart is heavy. I am so tired. I haven’t slept much in  weeks, between all of these personal things and master’s classes and the reorg at my job. I should get to keep my job. All of us in Central Services will, according to the County Manager. But where we will end up is still a mystery, at least for certain admin positions. It’s not helping morale but it is bringing things into focus.

Continuing my reign as Queen of Delayed Reactions,  this combo plate of circumstances hit me yesterday. I went home early and took a 2-hour nap. I never do that. After I woke up, I sat on the porch swing and looked at Mt. Rainier, ate peanut M&Ms (current addiction) and chatted with Zac. He told me about his friend from college. We’ll call him Allen. Allen has by turns pursued teaching, modeling, soccer, philosophy and now firefighting. Allen just broke up with his apathetic girlfriend. Zac left me to play video games with him and cheer him up.

Because what really matters, at the end of the day? Not all the stuff. Not the achievements. Not the status or money or our appearance. What have we done with our time here? Have we loved people? Have we encouraged? Have we let God’s beautiful gift of life permeate our souls and been grateful?

Thanks to all of you who have given hugs, prayers and general encouragement. It’s not over yet. Through resting and trusting, I know restoration, inspiration and healing will come. Jesus is the ultimate upcycler.

Isaiah 61:3 – To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.

Who Am I?

So I’ve been dissatisfied with my job for, oh, pretty much the entire 16 months I’ve had it. I’ve tried to make it more interesting (read: busy), but no such luck. I’m doing project work with regular backups on mail and phones. That’s it. Oh, and a suggested to-do of  single-handedly purging the shared drive. Um…no. Not without a task force and complete supervisor and managerial approval. I already went through that at the City. “Who moved my cheese?” No thanks.

I spent time on the treadmill today because the weather demanded a snorkel and a wetsuit. Plus it was dark. Already cold from my sopping ball romp with Dakota, I didn’t want to get any colder. I set the treadmill and put some steps in.

I started singing. Not much, because it’s early morning and nobody wants to be awakened that way. But because I realized something. I’ve been getting a lot of compliments lately on something I do regularly. It’s nice, don’t get me wrong. Keep ’em coming; I’m a words of affirmation gal, after all. But that’s not who I am. I have opportunities to do lots of cool things based on gifts God’s given me, things I’ve practiced and nurtured and things I’ve just put out there.

But those things aren’t ME.

It’s taken me awhile to come to this realization. I’ve had to be stripped down to a semblance of bare bones to find it. I don’t write like I used to – or should. I’m not baking as much. Not running, really. Don’t have much free time to meet with friends and hear their hearts.

But those things were never me, anyway.

We have been singing a song at church called “Who You Say I Am”.

I included it my list this past Sunday. No, I don’t sound like the recording. But that’s okay. Mercifully, there’s a measure of grace in worship that’s not present while performing in a secular realm. But the words. “I am who you say I am…You are for me, not against me…”

So who am I? I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter. I’m a worshiper. I’m a writer and a recovering runner. I’m an employee of Thurston County and part of a union. I’m an American. I’m a full-grown woman, despite evidence to the contrary.

More than that, I’m His. My identity is hidden in Christ. I belong to Jesus and have for more than 3 decades. Having a different job won’t improve that. Running 3 times a week, though magical, won’t make me a better Christian, only improve my cardiovascular capacity. Writing makes me feel connected to God and others…but if I never write another word, He still loves me. He always will.

And that’s who I am. Loved. Forgiven. Freed. Blessed.

Saved.

 

The Sundae

Most of you know I’ve struggled with a lot of “whys” in my life of late. I still don’t have answers. But I’m coming around.

A smiling harvest moon sliver glowed overhead early Sunday morning. Stars winked at me above the trees. I was talking to God about everything. Still don’t know what’s up, Lord, I remember saying. And then it hit me.

What if all that happened for me to leave the City was in God’s plan? He works all things together for good, after all (Romans 8:28). What if what I thought was how things were supposed to go, how things should be, was not a permanent situation? What if all of that favor, learning and time was to prepare me for this next chapter?

I don’t like this answer. Still don’t, really. At all. I have dug my heels in, emotionally and spiritually, every step of the way. This doesn’t feel like abundance or blessing. But what if it is and I’ve missed it? I equate it to a kid who really wants an ice cream cone but there aren’t any cones. So they whine about it, even though there are all the fixin’s for a smashing ice cream sundae on hand. Sundaes have less carbs, anyway.

sundae.jpg

Sure, there are downers. Commuting 30 minutes each way. Less variety of work and less work overall. Let’s not forget lower pay. But…parking is free and paved. No dust bowl in the summer and mud pit the remainder of the year. Great boss and fun coworkers. Pretty campus and neighborhoods to walk around. Onsite coffee stand. Huzzah!

I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m learning – in the baby stages, frankly – of embracing the season, of being grateful for what is instead of lamenting what isn’t. I don’t want to miss God’s blessings right under my nose while my gaze is fixed elsewhere. My dream is to find work back in Shelton. But if it doesn’t happen, I’ll celebrate the now.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.  – Philippians 4:11-13

Project: Job

Job-Hunting

I have a confession to make.

No. Not that kind of confession.

I’ve actually been looking for a job since May 2017. Yes, I got a job with Thurston County in August 2017. I still work there. Great people, great opportunity. Yet very little actual work attached to the job somehow. Even when I’m “busy”, it isn’t enough. I’m with Capital Projects. We administer what are called public works projects for the County. This means we renovate existing or build new buildings. We reroof. We form expansions. We install new HVAC systems. We create parking lots. Etc.

I like this type of work. A lot. But the County version compared to what I came from is what I’d call “projects lite”. Not much to it. Lots of scrambling to get the scope of work, specifications and invitation to bid out the door to potential bidders. Upload the PDFed specs and drawings to the website. Open bids and award to lowest responsive responsible bidder (that’s a thing!). Then the project manager presents the project award briefing to the Board for approval. Then, get the contract signed and the contractor’s vetting documents loaded up. Then…meetings. More meetings where I take notes. Snore. Then months later, closeout, which is another set of documents from the contractor to us. Then, if the total cost of the project is $35,000 or more, we send a Notice of Completion form to L&I, ESD and DOR, the unholy trinity of  Washington state. Upon receiving approval from those agencies, the project manager goes back to the Board for Final Acceptance and the contractor receives their retainage. The in-between period from contract award to closeout is what my coworker Lisa calls “the rocking chair phase”.

And boy, have I done a lot of rocking. In fact, the only active projects I have right now are in the study or design phase. Which is to say: meetings. I take notes, then I email them out. Bam!

I’ve backed up the mail room and covered phones for the department. I’ve tidied up the supply area. I’ve taken notes in larger committee meetings with commissioners and other managers. I’ve started to learn surplusing and recruitment. These all help. But…

I need more. I’ve applied to more than a dozen jobs since January. Some of those were within the County system. I’ve had 2 interviews for jobs in Shelton. Didn’t get either one. I even signed on with an agency. Nothing came from that, either.

I’m a little discouraged. I want to be busy. I want to make a difference. Oh, and a raise wouldn’t be a stick in the eye, either.

All of this to say I haven’t felt much like writing. In fact, I’ve felt like a huge failure. Other good things are happening, but this is right in front of my face. Every. Day.

I’ve cried out to God many times about this. Pretty much every day, in fact. But He is silent. I don’t know which direction to pursue. So I drive to work every weekday and do what’s in front of me. Because that’s all I know, for now.

I remind myself that the life of a believer is constant surrender. I need to learn all I can and keep doing my best. I’ll let Jesus take care of the rest. Rhyme intentional, folks.

 

One Year

 

calendar pages ripping

(source)

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my job with Thurston County. It’s been a good ride so far. I started out in the prairie office, working on the jail expansion project. Didn’t have much work there, but the lovely break walks and quiet time were a balm to my soul. Now I’m in Central Services proper, in the bowels of Building 1. I’ve got a few projects to my name and loving it.

I’ve learned a few things in my 365 days…

  • Parking in the spleen lot, aka designated employee parking, is a 5-minute walk. Maybe longer with pouring rain, snow or ice thrown in. Plan accordingly. Bonus: Parking is free *and* paved. Holla!
  • I am a backup for the main phone line and the on-campus mail route to 3 buildings. Bonus: I know where to go to resolve parking tickets, obtain concealed carry permits and marriage licenses.
  • Early on, I took notes in meetings with the County Commissioners, department directors and elected officials. I know who most of the major players are. Bonus: I’ve gotten a good overview of upcoming issues and how things run here.
  • You can call in late, not just sick. Like one, two, or three hours late. No penalty or recriminations. Bonus: The phone messages get distributed to all of Central Services, so everyone is in the attendance line loop.
  • Food brings people together, well, to eat and generally hobnob. And if you bring in something delicious to share, it starts a chain reaction. You inspire others to bring in their homemade goodies, like beef jerky, pies, salsa, etc. It’s a win-win. Bonus: I won’t go hungry. Ever.
  • Bummer: I need to monitor my intake, or I could end up big as a house.

I am so grateful for my supervisor, project managers and co-workers. God has blessed me. Sometimes, blessings aren’t obvious right away. But they show themselves eventually, if we’re willing to wait in faith.

So the Lord must wait for you to come to him
    so he can show you his love and compassion.
For the Lord is a faithful God.
    Blessed are those who wait for his help. – Isaiah 30:18