Global Pain

Dying sea stars, August 2014, Cannon Beach, Oregon

I remember seeing starfish on the Oregon coast, splayed in amoeba-like positions, looking like they were attempting to climb out of their tidepools. Docents on that beach explained to scattered groups of people that large numbers of starfish were dying and no one seemed to know why. Climate change and the warming ocean was one theory.

Wildfire smoke is in the air, its acrid scent assaulting nostrils and at-risk lungs. It’s our fifth season now, following autumn, winter, spring, and summer. Being outside means breathing dangerous particulates into our lungs, yet being outside is a safer way of spending time with people during a pandemic.

It’s too hot to sleep at night. Summers were not this hot, not for this long, twenty years ago. We use machines to cool the air, but the noise of the fans competes with the noise of the thoughts in my head. All of those noises – the literal and the metaphorical – keep me from sleeping.  

Covid-19 rages on. People already divided by politics are divided even more by personal feelings about disease management, risk tolerance, and public health measures during a pandemic. Families are being torn apart by death and lack of civility.

Several times each week this summer, I read the words “water rescue” combined with the name of a landmark in my city. There are increasing numbers of people climbing onto the thick cement walls of the bridge, desperate to escape the pain in their lives.

Nearly twenty years ago, two airplanes crashed into twin towers in New York City, and desperate people jumped to escape the Dante-esque inferno. My brain cannot erase the horrific images of individual people falling to their death.

A plane takes off from an airfield in Afghanistan, desperate people running alongside — some clinging to the outside edges of the giant machine. My brain cannot erase the horrific images of individual people falling to their death.

Living Life Ruled by a FULF

Today marks 19 months since I underwent ankle fusion surgery, a procedure that is supposed to bring 8-20 years of relief for most people.

I am not most people.

My FULF* is an overachiever, proven by the 6-month post-surgery X-ray where additional traumatic arthritis was already visible. The surgeon was very surprised to see it. That was 13 months ago.

I wasn’t expecting a miracle. I had decided that if I had a 50% reduction in pain I would be happy, and I did get that 50%. Score! Unfortunately, the pain level has been creeping back up. The doctor told me to not wait as long to come in for help because it had been so bad last time. But at what point to I go in again? When I can no longer sleep at night because of pain? That’s what I did two years ago, because there is the rest of the family to think about, especially my husband (a.k.a., my live-in nurse) and any travel plans. The surgery itself takes significant recovery time — last time was around 11 weeks non-weightbearing, after which I used crutches and slowly added percentages of weight on that foot. There was a lot of time spent lying in bed with my foot in the air, trying to keep swelling down to allow the incision to heal. The scarring isn’t pretty and more surgery means even more scarring.

*FULF is a term coined by a blog friend who also has struggled with a “flubbed up left foot.”
It’s more than just my left ankle and the traumatic arthritis brought on by the trimalleolar fracture of November 2015, although the ankle and resulting surgeries is the worst of it all. FULF encompasses everything that has been dealt with over the past 10+ years and I’m grateful to Barb for the easy moniker.

Welcome 2021

I admit there is relief in sending 2020 off in smoke last night.

It’s not that our family has had a terrible year; we’ve all remained healthy, those who have work have been able to work. At the same time, the isolation grows both too comfortable and irritating. Living with introverts during this time is fairly peaceful. They are content. I’m learning to be content in this new world and, I suppose, learning how to be an introvert. But I hope that the light at the end of the tunnel is real, that a year from now we will be spending time with friends and extended family, attending worship services in person, planning vacations, fully immunized.

It’s 2020 in America, but maybe it’s really 1961.

As I was reading the news over the weekend and into the beginning of this week, I couldn’t help but recall our visit to Alabama last year. We spent several days in Montgomery and one day in Birmingham visiting civil rights museums, monuments, and memorials. When I read about and saw the video clips of the Biden-Harris campaign bus being surrounded on the highway in Texas, forced to slow down to 20 mph, my mind went to the Freedom Riders bus that was attacked by similar means.

The Greyhound bus on exhibit
photo of burned-out Greyhound bus

Of course, the Biden-Harris campaign bus did not meet this kind of ending. They were able to call 911 for help. However, the lack of law enforcement on Highway 35 is telling. This wasn’t West Texas (miles of nothingness); this happened on a busy stretch of highway. The parade of Trump supporters, with their vitriol and hatred of anyone not just like themselves, reminds me of other parades.

Civil Rights for everyone offend some people

It’s 2020 in America. I’m trying to hold onto the hope that we can be better and do better, but this past week has me hanging by the tips of my fingers. I cannot understand why so many of my fellow Americans voted for hatred, disrespect, and cruelty.

Saying Goodbye with Grace

On Sunday afternoon, we gathered in a circle outside his house — not arm in arm, but masked and standing apart — to pray and sing one of his favorite hymns. Tonight, our friend and Pastor Emeritus is in a hospice house.

He was still downhill skiing at 85 when he retired for the second time. This summer, at 87, he was still riding his bicycle, and three weeks ago he was driving his car around town. Just 10 days ago he was diagnosed with untreatable cancer.

I’m grateful he is not suffering a long illness, and I’m grateful his family could gather and surround him and one another with love over the past week. It won’t be long now until he meets his best friend, Jesus, face to face. He is ready.

A different kind of anniversary

Three years ago on this date, we had a rather eventful day — one that included photographs and a chauffeured ride to an airport, followed by a ride in a special plane. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

leaf-filtered images of the solar eclipse, seen as “shadows” on the ground

It wasn’t fun. SuperDad suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage that morning, tearing open a vein in his brain while doing CrossFit maneuvers. That earned him a trip to the ER, an ambulance ride to the airfield and a Life Flight ride in a small plane to a Seattle hospital. I recognize my privilege in being able to go with him. This photo was taken from my seat in the back of the plane; two medical personnel attended him during the flight. I prayed and prepared messages to send out when I could reconnect with data.

aboard the Life Flight airplane

He’s never quite reached the level of fitness and endurance that he had prior to this event — a difficult comeback after spending 10 days in the hospital, especially when 8 of them were in the ICU, although age may have something to do with that. We are so lucky that he was able to completely recover, that the bleeding he had was from a vein instead of a blood clot in an artery, and that he didn’t suffer a stroke. We are also lucky to have excellent insurance because this was an event that could have ruined our finances.

21

It hardly seems possible… yet at the same time, it feels like he’s been an adult for a long time already. The Scout is 21 years old today.

his senior picture, taken by mom, October 2017

He was born in the pre-dawn hours of July 23rd, weighing in at a whopping nine-and-a-half pounds. The staff in the delivery room passed him around and guessed before weighing him, and they all guessed too low. *I* wasn’t surprised since I’d just spent 15 minutes pushing that baby OUT of my body!

The Scout and his mama on his first birthday
My four boys, summer 2000. Note the very dark tan hand around the baby’s middle.
The Scout when he was not quite 3 years old
Spring in Texas, 2003
The Scout with his Arrow of Light award
The Scout hikes: Summer 2019
Age three, he wanted a dinosaur cake. His parents made one with Cheetos… His first (but not last!) Cheesy-Puffasaurus birthday cake

HAPPY 21st BIRTHDAY to my baby boy, the SnakeMaster, the Adventurer, the Eagle Scout!

With his ScoutMaster Dad, July 2016 — just a few weeks after falling out of that darn tree

What do you want?

Amos 5:21-24 The Message (MSG)

21-24 “I can’t stand your religious meetings.
    I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
    your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
    your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
    When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
    I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
    That’s what I want. That’s all I want.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

Civil Rights Memorial, Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery AL

Strange Spring

Monday afternoon in this strange spring of 2020

The cat is curled up in my lap right now. She’s 17 years old and we recently discovered she is deaf. This might explain why, after years of being petrified of the vacuum, she now enjoys being vacuumed. The Barefooter is mowing the lawn — second mowing of the year — and the buzz of the electric machine is distinguishable to my ears but not by much. Like most people my age who blasted music through her earbuds at a younger juncture of life, I’ve got a bit of hearing loss, but the thrumming tinnitus has been non-stop for 3 weeks and counting. I’d developed a bad headache on Easter Sunday and while the pain abated after a week or so, I’m still “hearing underwater.” After my almost sleepless night of listening to the imaginary hum of airplanes and slow-moving locomotives, I’m envious of the cat’s ability to sleep when she is tired. (The inability to sleep was last night; now I can barely hold my eyes open!)

The annual Lilac Festival would normally be happening over these next few weeks; yesterday should have been the 12-km Bloomsday run. But nothing is normal during a pandemic. Bloomsday has been rescheduled from May 3rd to September 20th, but I don’t believe it will be possible for nearly 50,000 people to gather and run or walk, or even half that many. No one is willing to acknowledge how very much life has changed and will remain different for the foreseeable time.