Death Watch

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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

 

Unfettered

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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

 

 

Scoping San Antonio

So. I’ve heard a lot of good things about San Antonio. The weather is good. The people are nice. It’s a good place to raise kids, etc. I can’t speak to community or the emotional context of ‘nice’. But, the *weather* was nice while we were there. It was sunny every day. The temps ranged from mid 30s in the a.m. to 80s in the afternoon. Plus, no humidity. It’s December, y’all. I didn’t expect any. I did wear sandals. I got warm.

A full moon rose Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night. Friday night, it was orange. Outstanding. Sunsets were also amazing. My camera could not capture the gradients of pink and gold fading into midnight.

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On Friday, after graduation, we took Zac to the River Walk in San Antonio. The entire walk is below grade along the San Antonio River. Ducks push along down there, fed with diners’ dinner scraps. Cute restaurants and boutiques line the walk as well.

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It rivaled Portland for the cool factor. Okay, maybe it eclipsed Portland. Don’t tell anyone. City decorations featured Christmas wreaths and live planter boxes with live plants. That was so wrong. It is almost winter.

You can also get around other ways.

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We visited the Alamo, which is right downtown.

Alamo

The 200 men who died there did not die in vain. They paved the way for Texas to become independent from Mexico. Although, for 10 years, Texas was its own nation. Which explains a lot.

Some of the trees at the Alamo date back from the original church.

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Beautiful hungry koi, too. Not quite as old.

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We ate at Whataburger, founded in Texas in 1950. The burgers were huge and delicious. They come with mustard and you are free to add ketchup, spicy ketchup or other condiments from the caddy served to you by a hostess-type of person, adding a personal touch and possibly cutting down on waste. Funky.

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Driving around San Antonio is about as enjoyable as getting a tooth pulled. Every 5th person is seemingly rushing to the hospital to have a baby. They pull in front of you with two blinks – if that – of their turn signal. Then they ride the person in front of them. Speed limits are mere suggestions. The highways in town are spaghetti.

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What is *not* on this map is all the exits that appear and disappear with no signage. Thank God for bossy GPS lady. “Take the next left onto 410 access road”. My favorite: “In a quarter mile take the second lane from the left and keep left at the fork.” Then 2 more times “Keep left a the fork”. Okay, lady, we got it! Geez.

Churches abound in San Antonio. We saw signs for Church Unlimited. Okay. Then there was Friendship Church. I like that. Then…Rebel Church. What the what?! You can’t have it all.

This was my favorite billboard.

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It was everywhere.

We flew out yesterday morning at 6:00 a.m. We have been back home for more than 24 hours now. I miss Zac.

This morning, I threw a ball for Dakota in the early morning dark. The damp air made 32 degrees seem colder. A half moon shone down on me. The same moon looked down on us in Texas, where I ran around the resort and dodged deer. The same moon looks down on Zac, who is still in Texas after an 8-hour bus ride to Sheppard Air Force Base. Zac flies home for Christmas on Sunday. I am so glad we went to Texas, but am just as happy to be home now.

Friday Abide

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So I ran 3 miles today. Not an accident. My foot has healed, slowly but surely. And somehow, I’ve gotten faster. What in the world?? Do I run without stopping? No. I take walk breaks when needed. Because I think I’ve finally gotten the message that walking is not weakness. In fact, work and rest are synergists. One fuels the other. Resting without hard work makes a person feel listless and restless; working without resting opens the door to injuries and burnout.

Between the master’s classes, serving at church, work and family obligations, I felt tapped out. My mom’s losing the battle with Parkinson’s; she is nearly homebound now. We are working to get her into a VA home in Port Orchard soon. I haven’t felt like I could breathe or relax or think. At least not for very long. I snapped at people closest to me. Hope ran low. I found myself responding in cynicism instead of empathy and kindness. I sensed something was wrong. I couldn’t quite get out of the funk. I blamed it on the end of summer, on the difficult classes, on morale at work.

After one particularly bad day, Jonathon heard me out. He looked at me thoughtfully.

“You know, Sue, you’re burned out,” he said.

I didn’t like his analysis at first. I mulled it over. Could it be? He explained how he had reached that point not too long ago and stepped back from some responsibilities for a time to focus on receiving refreshing and vision. He came back to tasks ready to serve and engage again.

Yeah. His diagnosis of my mindset was right on. I guess after 27 years of marriage he *does* know me.

I’m learning at my advanced age that it’s okay to stop and rest. It’s okay to take breaks. You have not lost if you step back for a season. It is not a defeat. It is not a concession, merely a pause. You can take a moment to regroup and restrategize, come at it all again with renewed vigor and drive.

I am learning to lean even more on Jesus, the True Vine. Gonna spend some time abiding. He truly knows where I’ve been and where I’m going. So I’m taking 6 months off from worship team, the only place I can really ramp down. That starts October 1. I dearly wish I could take 6 months off work. However, since I’m the only one employed at the moment, probably not a good idea.

I fully expect resting to chafe. I like being busy and feeling like what I do contributes, even if in a small way. I like doing stuff. Just like it did with running, I hope to find that resting brings unique benefits that checking boxes, although sexy, does not.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing…” – John 15:5

Doggedly Running

Dakota today

This morning, the air was warmer. Instead of subzero, it was 44 degrees. No rain, but the ground was wet from yesterday’s showers. The trees dripped sporadically. I tossed the ball to Dakota and breathed in the clean air.

It felt like a great day for a run.

But I should mention I still live in a construction zone. Well, to clarify, the construction part lies dormant during the winter. Should pick back up in the spring-summer. For now, the much-vaunted pedestrian path is compacted pebbles and is supposedly closed to foot traffic. Tell that to the people from all walks of life I see out…walking it. Less than before the construction, of course, but still using it.

I didn’t want to drive to a place to run. I’m kinda over it. Though I know I will probably have to get re-over it right quick if I want to run longer. I considered walking up the path to familiar, flat neighborhoods. But it’s dark to walk that way and the path is uneven.

I got an idea.

Why couldn’t I just run along our little crescent-shaped access road? It’s not very long, and if the rain started up in earnest, I wouldn’t be far from shelter. Plus Dakota could run with me off-leash. I have always wanted to run with her.

So I cleaned up the kitchen, took out the trash and took myself out, too. I walked to the top of the driveway. I turned left and ran until it got too dark to see. Dakota followed. Then I turned around and ran the other direction. Dakota got the hint. She raced alongside me. I giggled. The end of the road on this side got brighter as we headed towards the lamp post. It gave us enough light to see a black, funnel-shaped puddle near the end. I leapt over the skinny part because I dislike wet feet. Dakota jumped straight in and rolled her ball in it. I laughed. To each her own.

We ran back and forth, back and forth on the road. I walked a bit. I guess I’m trying out intuitive running. The streetlights shone down. A young man walked by above us, hood up and burdened with a large pack. He shot us a half smile as we ran by.

I didn’t run long. Maybe put in a little over a mile. I walked back down the driveway and spotted a star twinkling in the east. It wasn’t the sign of a newborn heavenly king but it gave me hope nonetheless.