Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sitting on the floor with Parker the dog, because he loves me, simply and completely. I love him the same. He is licking my face, and I am happy in this moment. Abiding in Christ moment by moment means that the joy of this moment is from Him. Thank You, God. ❤

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Heart-happy, December 20, 2015

Today, at 6 am, I am heart-happy.  I want to record it, to remember it.

Sokha the cat loves me, and sometimes sits with me while I eat breakfast.  He wants me to pet him. Some people would not welcome a cat at the breakfast table, but I'm here to say that it makes me happy.

Yesterday was a nice day through-and-through.  At the dojo we gave Shihan his Christmas present, which is a new white board.  On facebook I (kind of pompously, but sincerely) wrote " it is fitting that such a great teacher should have a shiny, new whiteboard to sometimes hold or demonstrate the sparks that are struck as he teaches."  He is a great teacher, and all of us in his dojo are thankful for that.   Also at the dojo the students blessed me with a gift and with beautiful flowers (which I really don't deserve but certainly do appreciate).  

Then, in the afternoon I brought the Adorables to visit my sister, my nieces, and my mother.  My niece, Jill, had bought some large gingerbread cookies and she invited Rayne and Joi over to decorate them with her.  We had so much fun, and the little girls did, too.  My sister, Lisa, is undergoing breast cancer treatment.  Right now she's in the early stages of her chemotherapy.  We hope and pray that she will be completely cured of the cancer, after all the dreadful treatment stages are over.  However, having a cancer diagnosis right out there, and knowing that she is going through a very rough time, definitely makes all the time we can spend together extra-special.  Having fun with Rayne and Joi blesses her, and her daughters, too.  Rayne and Joi offer laughter, distraction, and sunshine (when they are not offering frustration, insanity, and misery - none of which did they offer during our visit, happily.  Yesterday was sunshine.  Yay!)  

Best of all, today is the Christmas program at our church.  For the first time in forever Steve and I were not recruited to be in the Christmas play.  (I'm going to tease Melissa, the director, and ask her if it's because I'm getting too old. Is it time for that must-get-parts facelift?  Or is it because my agent stinks, and should I get a new agent? )  But seriously, I know (well, I think) she just showed mercy to us and let us off the hook due to this chaotic season in our home.  And, no matter why it happened, I am thrilled to be able to dress up and go to church this morning to celebrate the Lord Jesus' birth as a viewer of the play, and a singer of the carols and a worshipper along with all the others.  Even more best of all, Grace and Chase (Grace's boyfriend of two years) are coming with us!  Grace thinks our church is boring (I know, I know, a pox on her, but she's young:  what can you do but love her anyway?)  so she hasn't been there with us in a long time.  Sometimes she goes to another church, but often she doesn't go.  And Chase has never visited our church, so I'm super-happy that he will be there with us today, for Christmas.  All of this is, of course, if the Lord wills.  (Dear Lord, please let it come to pass that Grace and Chase are go to church with Steve and I today, and bring you honor and glory.  Please touch their hearts and fill everyone in the church with the sense of your Presence and the awareness of the perfect Gift that You gave us in Jesus. Amen.)  

And, so, I am happy today.  And thankful.  And hopeful.  And looking forward to being in the house of the Lord with His people, all of whom share the love of Christ.  Merry Christmas, indeed!   

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Maggie

Maggie, my beautiful little white dog who loved me with all of her being, died on October 12, 2015.  It was so tough, because she'd been going downhill for over a year now, but that is often what old age is, right?  I believe that the start and end of person's life should be left in the Lord's hands.  He has plans for each of us, and great good can come out of a person's life even when there seems to be not much going on.  So, when Maggie started to become less and less active, to poop and pee in the house a lot, to no longer want to take walks, and just to obviously be shutting down, I grappled with the question of putting her to sleep.  Is it moral?  Would it be right for me to do that? She's a dog, I know, but she was alive, and I loved her. God made her.   I really wanted her to just pass away, peacefully, in her sleep.  I wanted that for her, and for me.  About six months ago she was put on medication for her kidneys, which were not working as they should be.  And she continued to sleep a lot, poop and pee in the house, bark at weird hours of the night, and just be a sweet, loving, elderly dog.  I was happy to have her in my life, and wanted to honor her life by allowing her a natural end.

Instead, in mid October,  she had a couple of days of pain, of not eating, and of sickness.  I took her to the vet, let the vet do her battery of expensive tests only to tell me what I really already knew:  Maggie's kidneys were failing.  In addition, she had some severe intestinal distress that was causing a lot of pain.  Then the vet said that there was medicine Maggie could take that would help the intestinal problem.  Nothing would help the kidneys, long-term, although medicine might or might not help add a few more days, weeks, or months for Maggie.  And of course, on top of the $700 of tests we'd just paid for, the new (uncertain) treatment plan would run well over $1000 that very day, plus untold more in the future.

My choice would have been to pay the money, keep her comfortable, and allow her end to come naturally.  My husband's choice was to stop the flow of money, put an end to the messing in the house, and have the vet give her the overdose that would end her life.  I understood him, rationally.  I respect him, maritally.  And I love him enough to see that this sweet, elderly dog was adding a lot of stress in his life.  I had to choose Steve over Maggie, Steve over me, Steve over my heart.  Also, rationally, I knew that the vet might be giving us false hope.  We might go through very expensive procedures and Maggie might die within a week anyway.  That is exactly what happened to Winnie, our cat, and that might be what was going to happen with Maggie, too.

Anyway, I made the decision to have the vet euthanize Maggie that day.  I was alone with Maggie.  I was holding her, loving her, talking to her, and crying.  She was 13 years old, and had been a wonderful blessing to me and the girls. She was a large part of my heart, and I was choosing to stop her little, old, doggy heart that day.  It was awful.  The decision was made in part because she was in pain and she had no chance for a full recovery.  The pain would definitely return, and only the Lord knows how soon that would be.  It might even continue on a level that was low enough so that I'd never know:  she would just sleep away her days, hurting and not complaining (because that's the kind of dog she was).  The decision was also made, in part, because it was the only way I could honor my husband.  It was the only way I could help reduce one part of the gigantic mass of stress that my husband constantly felt.  He was stressed about work, stressed about family issues, and stressed about Maggie.  He was stressed so much that he was in a "simmer, simmer, simmer, explode" mode, and it was not a good way to live.

I held her as she relaxed into the medicine and into death.  I carried her home and buried her in the back yard, in my secret garden.  I still talk to her there, sometimes.  I still expect to go see her first, when I come home.  I miss her little, warm, furry self  and her sweet brown eyes very much.  I am also relieved not to be woken up in the night by her barking, and not to have the constant pressure of cleaning up her messes before Steve would see them.  I am very glad, for her sake, that she is not living in pain.

Maggie Rose was a wonderful dog.  I will love her always, and I will always be thankful for the total love that she gave me.


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Me to God:

"Dear Lord, I did not exercise today, BECAUSE I was in a car a lot of the day.  I went with Grace to her doctor's appointment (she drove, I sat) and then to the mall, because she wanted to go there.  Then, later, I picked up Molly and Joi, took Molly to her hairdresser's appointment, babysat Joi at my house, went back to get Molly, took both Molly and Joi back to their house, and then I drove home.  That's a lot of car time, and I did it all because I love those people, and I wanted to help them.  BUT, I could not exercise, so . . . I'm thinking and hoping that maybe you could allow me to miraculously lose three pounds overnight, even without the exercise.  Please give the matter Your consideration:  a trade-off - weight loss for kind helpfulness in lieu of exercise.  Thank You very much."


God, in His Supreme Heavenly Place, laughing to Himself (or possibly sharing the joke with others; I don't know exactly how God rolls in this regard):

 "Ha ha ha!  That Judy!  I do admire her inventiveness.  But seriously, does she really think I'm going to give her a 3 pound weight loss for sitting in a car all day.  No.  Ha ha ha!  And, if she is really serious about this weight loss, she probably should stop drinking that pure NH Maple Syrup that she loves to drink, straight from the jug.  She really should know that that habit is Not Helping Her Cause."  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Letters of my past

In my bedroom closet there is a straw satchel, full of bundles of old letters.  Old . . . from 30 years ago.  Old . . . from when my friends and I used to write letters to each other because there was no such thing as texting or email.  Old . . . from when my friends and I were young.  We were so different than we are now, but at the core of each of us there is probably a lot that is the same.  There are also bundles of sweet, loving letters and cards from my mother, and from my husband, and from a few people that I have to push my brain to remember. 

They've been there all this time because I love the written word, I hoard the written word, and I treasure the written word.  Every time we've moved in those 30 years, apparently I just pack up this correspondence, unread, and bring it along for future reading.  My thinking was that some day, in my dotage, I'd be happy to have these poignant reminders of my youth, and would read them then. 

Well, now we come to the present, in which I am dancing along the edges of minimalism.  Ha ha ha - minimalists don't save satchels of unread letters!  A minimalist would either pitch them all, with clear and cold determination, figuring that if she'd gone the past 30 years without wanting to read them she will probably go another 30 years without wanting to read them OR she would get very techy and scan them all onto a minuscule thumb drive or cloud or something and then pitch the actual letters.  I've not danced that far into minimalism, though.  I can neither pitch nor scan then pitch them.  I will read them! 

I will read then now because a few of them can possibly be pitched, which will leave a smaller satchel to bring the next time I move.  I will read them now because I'm curious about what we wrote back then - what were we doing and thinking about?  I will read them now because I don't want to die soon and have my children read about what I was doing and thinking about back then uncensored by me!  ha ha ha!  Yes, I'm afraid that whatever those letters reveal about me might be embarrassing!  Although if I'm dead it will only be embarrassing to whichever daughter chooses to read the letters, if any do.  I should ask each of them:  "If I die, and you have to sort through my things, what are you likely to do with my old letters?"

And, thinking of my daughters, I wonder if they will have anything similar to save with the memories of their youth, when they are middle-aged, or old.  Now they text each other all the time, and texts aren't usually saved.  Before texting was so prevalent they did send emails, and instant messages, but those have been mainly deleted too, I think.  Grace said she does have some letters from friends, and that makes me happy. 

Also, if any of my friends become famous then these letters are historical gold!  So far that hasn't happened, but it could, it surely could.  After I read them all maybe I'll offer them back to each writer, in a nice packet, or maybe I'll just keep them in my straw satchel, to re-enjoy in my dotage. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Freaky, freaky Saturday

Friday at 1 pm I had my scheduled intravenous cortisone shot into the right groin area, to hopefully eradicate the pain of arthritis from my right hip, even temporarily.  The procedure went well, and I didn't feel any pain on leaving the hospital, just maybe a little airy-headed.  They told me that I should not do any strenuous activity that day, but could resume normal activities the next day.  They also gave me a pain log to fill out for the next 10 days, marking down my pain level on a scale of 0 to 9, 9 being the worst.  I thought mine would go from a lowly 2 to a non-existent 0 over the next 10 days. 

That evening I rested, and felt my pain level gradually increase from a 2, before the procedure, to a 4.  That surprised me, and the pain increased to a 5/9 during the night.  The next morning by 6 am it was riding at about a 4/9, but I had karate to teach, from 8 am to 11:30, so a hot shower, a couple of Naprosyn, my usual glucosamine chondroitin hit, and I was on my way.  And that's when the real freakiness began.

Now, usually, my arthritis causes referred pain that presents as a soreness in the hip/groin area, and sometimes pain in thigh and through the knee.  Usually I can move okay when it's painful, I just kind of ignore the pain.  On this day, by 8:15 am, my groin felt like I had a pulled muscle.  I couldn't move my leg quickly or easily without it hurting.  I really couldn't ignore this pain, and my leg really wouldn't cooperate.  So, I just used my words and told the students what to do, instead of also demonstrating things.  And the pain kept growing, all morning.  It spread from the groin right into my thigh so that I was limping, hobbling, and just standing in one place leaning on a kicking bag a lot.  For the first two classes I avoided getting down into our seiza (kneeling) position, because it would have hurt too much.  At the end of the 2nd class I did have to seiza, in order to put a newly earned orange belt on a student, and then I had to ask him to help me stand up.  For the next two classes I relied heavily on my voice and my sempais (helpers), which was fine.  But when it was time to leave I couldn't use my leg muscles to step my right leg into my car.  On a scale of 0 to 9 the pain was up to at least a 7 by now.  I had to sit on the car's seat and use my hands and arms to hoist my own right leg into the car, and it was a dead weight.  Thankfully, once seated, I could move my foot pretty easily back and forth from the gas to the brake pedal, but I drove very gingerly after that, I'll tell you. 

Because the MD had told me to resume normal activities today, I had promised to babysit 3-year-old Rayne this night, so her mom could go away on a mom get-together.  I didn't want to disappoint my daughter, but here I was rapidly losing my ability to walk.  I texted Grace, and she said she would help take care of Rayne.  I drove to Molly's apartment and asked her to bring Rayne down to the car, because I was not going to be able to climb her stairs.  Usually I dash up those stairs, and today I knew my right leg wouldn't bend or lift enough to get onto stair #1.  It was definitely a freaky, and somewhat scary awareness.  Why was my leg not working?  It even occurred to me that I might have to get home and then go to the ER, because this could surely not be a normal reaction to a cortisone injection.  So, Rayne and I headed home, and Grace brought me a cane and helped get us into the house.  I collapsed in a reclining chair, Grace brought ice and Naprosyn, my leg was elevated, and I really hoped that all those would work together to bring the leg back into more nearly normal behavior. 

They didn't!  It got worse, instead of better.  It quickly got so that I couldn't move my leg at all without it killing me.  When I had to get to the bathroom, it seemed impossible.  Sophie had come over to help by then, and she went and got a wheeled office chair.  They slid me onto the chair while I did Lamaze breathing to get through the intense pain that caused.  Getting to, and through, and from the bathroom took forever, and when I finally was done and landed on the couch, I decided to have very little to drink for the rest of the day. 

Yes, I called the doctor, very afraid of what I would hear.  (I HATE GOING TO EMERGENCY ROOMS.  THE WAITING IS INTERMINABLE,  THEY ARE USUALLY FREEZING, AND I AM USUALLY STARVING AND NEGLECTED AND BORED WHEN IN THEM.)  The answering service had the MD on call call me back, a doctor whom I'd never met.  When I told him I couldn't move my leg at all, and it was killing me, he asked, "Didn't they warn you about this?"  I said, warily, "No . . . ?"  And he said he was not at all concerned, because this is not an abnormal reaction at all.  He said that the cortisone, when it floods the hip area, can cause a greater than usual flare up of the arthritic pain.  My normal pain and inflammation has been magnified and multiplied by the large dose of cortisone.  What???  I asked if there is anything I could take besides Naprosyn, (yes, trolling for some kind of powerful pain medicine, I admit it), and he said that Benadryl sometimes helped counteract the effect of the cortisone.  (Fine.  I'll take Benadryl, since you won't give me anything else.  At least you gave me hope that I would not lose the use of my right leg forever.)  He also said that by the end of next week my leg should be back to normal or even better than normal.  HA!!!  I think I should have had all of this information BEFORE I scheduled this life-altering event, don't you?  Yes.  For sure. 

So, the rest of the day was spent cuddling Rayne, chugging Benadryl with tiny sips of water, and doing my Lamaze breathing.  My leg hurt so much, no matter what position it was in.  And I really couldn't move it all using my leg muscles, even to slide it a few centimeters across an ottoman.  It just would not respond to my brain.  My pain was up to an 8/9, with sudden bursts beyond that of spasms, tightening, or moments when I tried to turn it or move it and the pain flashed higher. 

Thankfully, Sophie, Grace, and Steve were all great about taking care of me, and Rayne.  And Rayne was a sweet little blessing, cuddling me and inching along with me when I did have to go to the bathroom again, this time using two canes to lean on and shuffle with, barely an inch at a time, sideways.  Sophie even slept over, to help take care of our nocturnal Maggie-dog and also me and Rayne.  It was quite a day, but at least I had hope that it would eventually pass.  And I had a burning anger at both of the doctors who treated me for not telling me this might happen.  "Resume normal activities" indeed!"  Ridiculous.  I was completely incapacitated Saturday, from about 1:00 pm until sometime in the night, when the Benadryl and the expired Tylenol with codeine that I took at 9 pm finally kicked in.  During the night the pain did gradually lessen, so it took me only half as long to shuffle to the bathroom as before.  Eventually I could move around with only one cane, and after a while resting my leg on the ottoman didn't hurt at all.  It still hurt when I tried to put weight on it, or to move it sideways, but at least there was a brightening in the outlook.  [Note about expired Tylenol with codeine:  yes, I keep it forever.  I had some from 15 years ago, and some from six years ago.  From this we know that a) I don't believe in medicine expiration dates, b) I like to be prepared for calamities, which is exactly what this day was, and c) I am in no danger of abusing prescription medication - it just sits on my shelf gathering dust.]

By the next morning my leg felt so much better!! I was so thankful, and so relieved, and yet still so ready to give my doctor a piercingly painful joint lock of the wrist while delivering a scathing piece of my mind.  How could he not have told me about this kind of possible reaction?  This was some of the worst pain I've ever felt, and it went on and on for hours.  I literally could not walk.  What if it had hit that badly while I was in charge of the dojo during the morning?  What if it had not eased up during the night, but had continued on like that for the next few days?  What about plans I'd made and people who depend on me?  What about honesty and trust between a physician and his patient?  Hmm, what about those things, Dr. I-Am-So-Mad-At-You Hip Specialist? 

So, there will be more to this story, for sure, after my four-week follow-up appointment/showdown.  (Did I tell you that when I met him the first time, and he learned that I teach karate, he laughingly asked if I could beat him up?  And I laughingly did not answer.  And he laughingly said, "No, you're too nice!"  Well, we all know there is a new answer to that question now, don't we?)  However, I rationally know he might tell me something that will dilute my rage, like that my reaction was extreme and unexpected, and if I ever go through this again he will load me up, pre-procedure, with giant amounts of pain killers.  Because yes, even though yesterday was freaky and painful and scary, I might do it again if I get 3 or more months of a right leg with no pain out of it.  And this time I'll be better prepared, and won't try to teach karate or host a granddaughter sleep-over the very next day. 

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Installment 3 - a new challenge

Last summer my right leg hurt off-and-on.  Because I use my right leg a LOT  (for walking, for kicking, for chasing grandchildren, for hopping around just for fun, for my job, for cleaning the house, etc, etc, etc - a LOT), it was both understandable and bothersome when it started hurting and kept on hurting, all summer.  In September when I amped up my training in preparation for the tournament (which I won, by the way, for the first time ever, which you already probably know) I noticed a constant ache in my right hip, along with constant pain in my right thigh.  I wanted to just take a drill, and drill into my right hip, straight in, to make the ache go away.  (Because that is a good, scientific, and medically-sound way to treat an achey hip, I think).  However, I surmised that probably I would see a doctor AFTER the tournament.  If I saw a doctor before the tournament, I guessed that he/she might tell me to take a training sabbatical, which of course I was not ready to do at that time.  (Probably I should remind you that I always make medical guesses about my own problems and probable treatment, and they are nearly always wrong.  But I still do do it.)

So, the training and the hurting continued, right through November 1 and the tournament.  Then I did go see an orthopedic NP, and she diagnosed hip bursitis and IT band tightness.  She gave me a cortisone shot in my bursa, which completely cleared up the hip aching within two days.  (Much better than my plan, really).  For the IT band tightness she prescribed physical therapy.  I thought that if the PT worked, and I went from having constant pain to having no pain, that I might become a PT junkie.  Sadly, that never happened.  I did go to PT, and it was interesting.  I learned some nice new exercises and my pain did abate, from constant and at levels of up to 6/10 to every couple of days and levels of 4/10 max.  However, as of the end of January, when the PT ended, the pain was still there sometimes and it began increasing again.  I was babying my leg all this time, not doing extreme workouts or extreme house cleaning or extreme hopping sessions, either.  I had an appointment to return to the orthopod after PT ended, for a recheck, but it fell during one of our weekly blizzards, so I cancelled.  My pain kept increasing, until it was once again present all the time. 

When I finally went back to see her, the NP brought in the doctor, who told me that I have arthritis in both hips.  THAT WAS UNEXPECTED.  (Because I'm not a doctor.)  He said that all the pain I have in my right leg is referred pain, from the arthritic hip joint.  He said I do not have to quit karate but should stop doing anything that causes sharp, immediate pain.  He also said that needing to have a hip replacement (whenever that day comes) is not the end of the world.  (But still, it doesn't seem like a good thing, either).  He also said he'd set me up with a specialist who will inject cortisone right into the center of the joint, to see if that will help. 

Still pretty shocked from being told, at age 52, that I have arthritis in my hips and it's been causing my whole blasted right leg to hurt for so long, I hied myself immediately to the town library.   That afternoon I started reading the book that promised pain-free arthritis.  (Lose 10 lbs, use heat and ice, moderate exercise, lots of stretching, keep a journal to see what hurts and what helps, take any pain relievers and NSAIDS I want to, learn to divert my mind from the pain).  So far it still hurts, but I think I'm managing to keep the pain at a liveable level.  I haven't had the hip injection yet - that is a week away, and I'm hoping it will help even more. 

And now I can tell you the good things about this problem:  1)  At least now I know what is causing this pain, so I can deal with it as best as I can, correctly  2)  Now I can understand what people go through when they have chronic pain.  Up until now, I have had empathy towards the several people I know who do have a problem that causes chronic pain, but I could not know what they go through.  Now, I have pain all the time, all the time, all the time, and I know what the others have been going through.  I have personally felt how it drains your energy, dampens your mood, zaps your will to do things.  I understand fully why it can cause depression, lethargy, and weight gain.  (Especially when it hits at the same time as a string of blizzards and a winter of epic snowfall.  It's tough to feel perky in the midst of all of that).  3) I have a new challenge!!!  The challenge of NOT letting this problem rule my life.  The challenge of leaning on the Lord, because His grace is sufficient for me; His strength is made perfect in weakness.  The challenge of learning to keep doing karate and teaching karate in a way that will not exacerbate arthritis of the hips (and possibly knees - those were not x-rayed but they do hurt, also).  The challenge of not being a gloomy Gus and focusing only on hurting.  (I read Pollyanna last weekend, as a personal pep talk.  It really helped.)  Having a new challenge is invigorating, and the Lord knows I need invigoration!  (And Spring.  I really need Spring, but that's okay, because it is here!) 
 
So, for now, the saga is ongoing.  I don't know where the challenge of having arthritis will take me. I do know that if I don't give up, if I keep plugging away at learning how best to live with this difficulty, it might be that someday I will be able to offer comfort and encouragement to someone else who is going through a similar difficulty.  God is good, like that.