Saturday, July 16, 2016

Finishing the fifties!

I wrote the following exactly 363 days ago. I intended to finalize it and post it, but I never did. I just been too busy! Now that I'm entering a new decade of life tomorrow, I thought I'd go ahead and post it. So bear in mind that you need to add a year whenever I've mentioned time. And I fully intend to write another post of thoughts as I enter my 60s (that still just sounds way out there to me). 

July 2015:

I've never been a big birthday celebrator. I'll always, though, make a whatever-you-want birthday meal for my husband and children, but for myself, I don't bother. Going out to eat for my birthday was a nice treat which I always appreciated, but it is often now more effort than I want to take, especially when you live fifty miles from nicer restaurants. Nowadays, I'm just content to be home and continue life as usual. 

I've also never been one to ponder much on the past; my husband does sufficient for both of us combined. I'm a future looker and planner. So when my birthday rolls around, I'm not given to think much at all about the past year or years. But on my birthday yesterday, while I was relaxing after a refreshing cool shower following the two-hour push mow of the lawn, I realized, Hey, you are beginning the last year of your fifties. That took me back a bit. Next year, if the Lord wills, I'll be trying to swallow the sixty decade. A little pondering ensued.

When I was much younger, maybe in my teens and twenties, middle age in my mind was from the thirties and forties, and old age was the fifties and sixties. I guess ancient must have been the seventies and beyond. Ha! Now, I've reorganized that timing, but I don't know where the transitions are, though I lean toward ending middle age with the mid-sixties or so. Nevertheless, it doesn't matter. At all. I discount that adage "You're as young as you feel." Plenty of young people feel bodily old, while many older people feel bodily young. Thankfully, I don't have a lot of aches and pains at all. Some, of course, but those are often related to inactivity. 

Today, I thought I'd give myself (actually make myself) contemplate finishing the fifties in a blog post (or several). I've neglected this poor ole blog, rather, I've given myself to tasks other than blogging leaving little time to sit and write. I keep writing posts in my mind as I throw myself into other tasks, saving many topics and articles to a draft (there may well be as many drafts as posts). One of the activities after I "retired" from teaching and looking forward was to write regularly. And I fully intended to. It just hasn't happened yet. Other things needed to be done first. 

When I "retired" from teaching, adjustments needed to be made. I had a house full and bookcases packed to overflowing with all-things-school. Those things needed to be moved out and on to others. And they were. After two years, I only have bookshelves containing books to read and only one short shelf of books that have impacted me enough to not part with the volume yet. Thankfully, homeschool resale groups on Facebook and PaperBackSwap aided this transition. 

Conquering the bookshelf project helped me move on to updating our living areas. As many of you know, raising several children and homeschooling for over twenty years doesn't allow much time, effort, or resources to redecorate or renovate. Some things needed reshaping for eye-appeal and for age-appeal as we were closing in on this old-er age period. A new sofa that lacked the wear-and-tear sadness that thirty-five year old furniture takes on after a large family, some new carpeting, updated bathrooms with ADA toilets (again, for our old-er age), and a few new window valences and some decor items helps to breath some relief and life into any home. A mostly cleaned out attic, desk drawers, and filing cabinet helps alleviate less worry for those who will inherit by default that task one day. I learned a lot from my mother about all this but only when my sister and I cleared, closed, and sold her home after her death a few years ago. She was not a keeper, and neither am I. I have my share of clutter, mainly papers, because I don't always take time to put things in their place while they are in my hand. And she kept her things is such order so we wouldn't have to. I didn't appreciate that until after she died and we saw how easy it was to close the house. So, I don't intend to leave a mess for our children to deal with. Updating things like bathrooms and kitchens have a logical place when you think twenty years down the road. Why, if at all possible, leave a house in need of repairs and updates which the children will have to take care of to resell? And why leave unnecessary items - old filed papers, owner's manuals of things discarded, books, even clothing - to burden them? I'd rather make that difficult time as easy as possible. After two years, much is now done. A few areas of organization remain, and completion is targeted for the first of September. 

After the renos and redos, I wanted to deep-clean. That task is mammoth in this house; the older four-room part from 1937 and the newer eight-room part from 1978 is all wood inside. Not paneling, real wood. As in 1" red oak rough cut planks laid out in horizontal, vertical, and diagonal patterns. It's novel. And I like novel things; that's what swayed me with this house when we bought it nineteen years ago. Little did I realize then - and doubt it would have made any difference then - that spiders love, absolutely thrive, in and on this scaffolding. Oh, yes. And they can hide so well - in corners, between the planks, in doorways. That deep-cleaning task involved vacuuming walls, and ceilings, besides the normal floors, washing clean rather than wiping ceiling fans and lights and everything else. Nothing escaped the cleaning rag. The wooden floors which deserved more attention than I liked to give got some hands-and-knees scrubbing.

After I "retired" from teaching, another one of my goals was to read more. And yes, thankfully, I have been. Much more. I think I would love to get to a point where most days all I had to do after completing my walk was to sit in my chair on our porch or in our library and read. That hasn't happened yet. Yet. 

In the years that I was teaching outside the home, my compulsive submersion into my classes derailed a lot of things, in particular, my health. My walks disappeared, my weight soared, and my sleep shortened. And I felt trapped with no escape. My task-centered behavior even after retiring was inconsistent to correct the abuses of body. Only after some frustration with a well-meaning physician assistant and his assigned doctor coupled with the inability to recover well after two back-to-back bouts of an intestinal virus did I find some redirection. Almost on a lark, I decided to change to my husband's physician thinking that it might be more convenient to have us both with the same doctor. His is a lipidologist with a family practice. Thankfully, Dr. C accepted me as a patient because of my husband. On my first visit, I was more-than-impressed with Dr. C. I really had no big reasons for the visit other than to establish myself as a new patient. Although I knew I'd not felt back to normal after the virus bout, I had only a vague "weariness" to describe. After a visit that was much longer and inquisitive than I had ever had, he told me I had come in with nothing specific yet three major things going on: the weariness (which he took seriously), family history of stroke, and weight gain. Off to the lab for bloodwork I went, with a return for a carotid artery ultrasound, coronary artery CT scan, and followup scheduled. Besides being impressed, I was appreciative of Dr. C's concern with my weariness. Many doctors brush off those vague complaints. He didn't; he zeroed in on my health with an eagle's eye and ordered, unbeknownst to me until the results were back, a blood panel for thyroid function, lyme disease, mononucleous, and iron. All negative except mono. He said I had had mono in my past, probably in my teens / twenties and never known it other than the flu or severe sore throat, and that the mono had been reactivated recently by a severe stress on my body. That stress was concluded to be those intestinal viruses. And who knew mono could be reactivated?! Although it will take time for recovery, at least the body is left to recover itself and no treatment or drugs are involved. 

Other bloodwork showed through-the-roof results for large particle cholesterol and triglycerides. As a lipidologist, he looks specifically for certain things that other physicians do not. Because of my family history of stroke on one side and familial high cholesterol on the other, he checked my carotids and coronaries for plaque formation but found none. Whew! The intervention now was to lower the cholesterol via an anti-cholesterol drug and weight loss. Learning how difficult it was for me to ever lose weight, coupled with the interfering fatigue that the reactivated mono would have on exercise activity, he said sometimes some people (like me) needed help to lose the weight because it had to come off for the cholesterol to return to normal. His helpful prescriptive intervention has been one of the most encouraging and helpful actions I've ever had. Although this still involves much personal focus and fortitude, I don't feel like I'm helpless now. It will be something I will struggle with continually, even if I get off all the extra weight and the cholesterol / triglycerides return to normal. It will be a challenge, and I'm only out of the gate in this race.

As I finish the fifties this year, my goal is to gain control of this health issue by continual attention to diet and exercise. I really do want to live until I die, not just exist. There are travels to pursue and books to read which might not be able to be pursued in a state of existence resulting from a stroke or diabetes. So, here's to finishing the fifties!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The first day of summer

In my current station in life, I've rare need to know the date of the year, so today's "first day of summer" announcement was a surprise. And what better place to live the first day of summer but on a beautiful beach with full sun and calm tides. 

After my morning walk, I cooled down in my beach chair with an icy water and my current daily provender book, Wonder O' the Wind by W. Phillip Keller. I will have to take a picture of the front of the book because I can find it no where else, and since the book is Keller's autobiography, his picture - a man of kindly face, thoughtful mind, and gracious heart - is on the cover. Other editions have a picture of what looks like sea oats against the ocean. Nice picture, but that not what the book is about. I've read other Keller books and love his prose. This one is no different, and it's nice to read about the circumstances into which he was born and lived. His focus on and about the natural world and his walk in this natural world seemed to prompt my thinking in a direction my beach days often provide.

Always when I'm at the beach for a week or ten days, I find an unexplainable clarity of focus. Maybe that is because most of the daily duties of life are left behind for a period of time. Whatever it is, I am able to think through the upcoming months. I think through books I want to read, tasks I need and want to complete, goals I want to reach. This time gives me an opportunity to renew my vigor.

I love the beach. I love everything it brings to my senses. I love the sight of the rolling waves that have never ceased from the beginning of time. I love the sound of those waves crashing on the sand. I love the smell of salt water in the air. I love the feel of damp, cool sand on my feet and the warm sun on my skin. I've said before that I think I could be quite content to live right here on the shore with this as my landscape every minute. And I would hope that one day I will have the opportunity to live here. Not as a forever home, but for a month or so. For a long enough time to feel I belonged here and wasn't just visiting. 

For now, though, I'm just visiting. And on this first day of summer, I hope every day brings as much joy and appreciation of life as this one does.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Around and busy, but obviously not here!

Looks like I'm guilty of neglect. Of this blog, at least. My time consumers for the past few months are pictured. 

I write little posts in my head all the time but have nor take time to put them down. Four drafts are yet to complete since May 1 and only twenty-seven since the first of the year! :)

I do have intentions though. When the grass stops growing, when I read a few more pages, and. . . .

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day: Dominion and Care

 I've never gotten into the whole Earth Day observance or celebration, but I believe that we are to be good stewards of the place we have been positioned as sojourners during our earthly lives. We need to recognize this place isn't ours, yet we are to have dominion - not destruction - over it.

And I really like Wendell Minor's artwork for this day, which to me represents the fifth day of creation
"And God said, 
'Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, 
and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.' 
So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, 
with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, 
and every winged bird according to its kind. 
And God 
saw that it was 


Saturday, April 09, 2016

My Reading Life: The Name of the Rose (Eco)

The Name of the Rose started out slowly.  I'm not a swift reader, and this one would take some time -- long sentences, some over 2/3s of a page long with more than 100 words -- and more erudite than I usually read. His descriptions are well-crafted and thoughtful. 

I lost momentum about halfway through. I was more interested in the threads of solving the murders than the long erudite detours which seemed to become more frequent and caused my eyes to glaze. 

However, I did mark several lines that I favor and emphasized them below.

"When our eyes had finally grown accustomed to the gloom, the silent speech of the carved stone, accessible as it immediately was to the gaze and the imagination of anyone (for images are the literature of the layman), dazzled my eyes and plunged me into a vision that even today my tongue can hardly describe."  Here, the carvings of the church facade was described. My mind's eye recalled my overwhelming smallness when I first saw in person the intricate detailed portal of the cathedral of Notre Dame.

 ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~ 

"The list could surely go on, and there is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis." Two things in this line:  First, a list. Yes, lists. I love lists. I keep lists. And lists of lists. They are my daily map that keeps me going. So when I read this line, I nearly shouted with joyful surprise.  And second, the word hypotyposis. I have no particular fondness with or association at all with the word (although it snaps around in your mouth as its pronounced); it was completely new to me. But it was the first word from the book I actually wrote down and tried to look up in my bedside electronic dictionary (which did not contain it). It was the first word of many that I had never, ever heard of and began to wonder "Is it a real word?" After so many reading interruptions to write down words, I stopped; there were just too many I did not know. But here are a few starters and their meanings.

hypotyposis - lifelike description of a thing or scene

palimpsest - a document, such as a page from a manuscript written on parchment, that had been rubbed smooth so it could be used again, with traces of the original writing showing through

spoor - the trail left by a person or an animal 

 cicatrize - to form a scar after an injury

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

"I woke when it was almost tolling the hour for the evening meal. I felt dull and somnolent, for daytime sleep is like the sin of the flesh: the more you have the more you want, and yet you feel unhappy, sated and unsated at the same time."  Though I love an occasional Sunday afternoon nap, I wake feeling exactly like that description. 

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

And this last quote about the protagonist from the early pages perfectly sums up my take-away from entire the book: ". . . William . . . was too much of a philosopher for my adolescent mind."

Friday, March 25, 2016

My Reading Life: Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Schmidt)

Because I'm a Gary Schmidt fan, I read Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, another of his juvenile fictions. Each of my previous Schmidt books -- The Wednesday Wars, Okay for Now, Trouble, and Orbiting Jupiter -- have hooked me up for the next one.

Schmidt is a wordsmith for young people. His sentence-crafting is much like the thought train of kids -- and maybe of many of us -- how your mind constructs a multitude of thoughts in silence at the snap of your fingers. To appreciate these thought-trains requires a bit closer reading; in other words, scanning often misses those jewels in which thinking is lightning fast but reading is combing slow. Many of them are laugh-out-loud funny simply because of the nature of children. And ourselves.

Schimidt's simple but visual descriptions have always fascinated me with appreciation for his craft. 
"In late September,
the sea breeze stole the gold from the maples,
the silver from the aspens.
The oaks browned; the beeches paled.
And in a general disheartening,
the leaves let go,
twirled and somersaulted,
and finally settled down to sleep."
Books can ignite fires in your mind,
because they carry ideas for kindling,
and art for matches."
I love that quote. In the story, it refers to a statement by the protagonist's father regarding his impression of The Origin of Species by Darwin. The protagonist Turner is schooled at home by his father who introduces him to Darwin's writings. Origin was written about half century prior to the setting of Lizzie Bright, and I haven't quite figured out Schmidt's positive positioning of Darwin's book in this story for young people. Schmidt has been on the faculty of Calvin College, a Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids (MI), for twenty-five years which adds another little element of confusion to the mix.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, a historical fiction first published in 2004, is one of Schmidt's earlier books. Schmidt, who has an academic interest in New England cultural history, brings together historical fact, youthful innocence, and human sinfulness to create powerful human emotions in both his characters and his readers. This story would be a good tool to begin a conversation with juvenile readers about human worth.

When I decided to sandwich Lizzie Bright as a quick little jaunt between two heavy tomes, I never expected to become so emotional because of it. I can tolerate (but not condone) a lot of injustice, but the injustice in this book plain infuriates me. I was angry, and still am when I allow myself to go there. I wanted to hit and harm the mean, hateful, and haughty people in this story and at the same time hug and protect those to whom the hate was directed.

I never expected it to haunt me like it has. And this haunting has derailed much of several days for me as I did my typical follow-up. As usual when I get interested in the subject, I pursue an aggressive online search for more information, historical documentation, and pictures, particularly if it is based on some fact. Rather than divulge any possible spoilers, I will only list these links (which are in no particular order) that you may pursue, but be warned that some will reveal certain aspects of the story.