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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Good Air In, Bad Air Out

Learning to deal with chronic pain is a challenge.  Learning to walk differently, learning to have pillows at particular angles in chairs to support an arm or back, proper use of analgesics, etc.  In 2002 after years of missing work due to back spasms I was approved for a 4 week, 8 hours a day, 4 days a week pain management program.  Those four weeks were life changing.

The group of about 6 women spent most of January with a staff of professionals.  Two psychologists, innumerable physical therapists, a pain management physician and speakers presented what I call a smorgasbord of options.  Physical therapists watched as each participant walked, sat, stood up, bent and did all the other movements required for living.  We even had to get off a raised mattress to illustrate how we get out of bed.  Each person was given a tailor made set of instructions for dealing with defects in our movements.

The list of modifications for my movements included retraining muscles in my knees.  That process included mild electrical stimulation on one particular muscle that should have been 'firing' first when I walked.  That lack of firing was causing a misalignment of the knee cap.  My foot action had to be changed to have the toes pointed more toward each other.  It was tricky to discipline myself to walk in such a different way.  I felt as I was walking like a pigeon for weeks.  The daily exercises to strengthen core muscles and generally improve all muscles took about 30 minutes.  On days with more time I would go through a series of Tae Chi movements.

Our medications were enumerated.  We were told how there are times to stay ahead of pain.  Do not let it get out of control before you take that ibuprofen, acetaminophen or more prescription medications.  Reminders to persons relying too heavily on drugs were made that learning to control the pain through alternative techniques are at times more successful.  Dietitians noted the effects of diet in pain control.

Dr. Ian led the group through many sessions of relaxation methods.  From simple breathing techniques to self hypnosis.  Dr. Ian had lived and studied with monks in India.  He had seen their use of mind over matter.  One example was filmed and shared with the group.  The monks were in a frigid room with nothing on from the waist up.  Other monks placed wet towels on the seated monks.  Within a minute or so the monks had willed their bodies to generate additional heat.  So much heat that the towels began releasing steam into the frigid room.  The relaxation exercises were one of my personal favorites.  I have used the deep breathing techniques prior to surgery and during dental work.

One other item on the list were personal counseling sessions.  It was during this time Dr. Ian diagnosed PTSD as one of the root causes of my anger issues.  Many sessions were spent working through the issues that led to this disorder.  A technique of visualization and rapid eye movement were used during the private sessions.  EMDR, eye movement, desensitization and reprocessing, is the name of this peculiar treatment.  It was used by some of the counselors for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.   By spring of 2002 I finally was sleeping without nightmares for the first time in my memory.

We are finally home from the third trip to Texas since June 6, two to deal with Mom's issues, the last to assist with grandsons.  Mom's hip replacement surgery was successful though she does continue to have some health challenges but nothing life threatening.  Most of Mom's possessions are divided and dispersed.  My youngest sister is still having to 'tweak' (a real understatement) Mom's bed situation and spend way too many hours dealing with all things Mom.  But there is help on a daily basis for Mom's needs.  The last trip was primarily to be a backup for our son during his two weeks with his sons.  Those 12 days were filled with good times and a few bumps.  Many of the bumps were on roads looking for potential homes for us when we move to the Austin area.

Today after many hours in a Jeep Wrangler it sure is good to be in an easy chair.  No bouncing over drought damaged pavement.  No worrying if the semi pulling into our lane was going to run us off the road.  After this hectic summer it is cleansing to sit and simply take a very deep breath and release it.  Good air in, bad air out.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Quiet Time

It is a change from our 'normal' lives as we spend a few days helping our son with shuttles and projects for his three boys.  Gene is a fantastic Grandpa with these guys.  He knows enough of their routines and habits to feel comfortable with them.  A few years back he spent several weeks in the spring and again in the fall doing this type of help.  Gene, also, has a grasp of how Son prefers things to be done.  About the only thing I add to the mix is science projects, cinnamon rolls and frowns at fighting boys in the hope of avoiding spilled blood.

I hear lots of folks say how things are so different from 'back when'.  Yes, there is lots of technology, blended families and more activities than one can shake a stick at some days.  I contend that grandparenting in a changing world is not new.  My Granny Chandler was born in the hills of Tennessee in February of 1882, seventeen years after the Civil war.  She had several brothers and sisters.  Her father died while most of the children were just that, children.  Granny worked at the local canning factory to help support the family.  One of the brothers moved to Texas with the remaining family following by train a few years later.  Best I can figure an uncle, a brother of their father, had moved to Texas before all this part of the family likewise migrated.

Most of this clan named Mantooth then decided Oklahoma held more promise.  Uncles Ralph and Charley along with sisters Aunts Ailey and Laura took their mother and settled in the area around McAllister, OK.  My mother fondly remembers Grandma Mantooth coming to visit with her and her siblings.  The trip would be by train with a return trip including my Granny Chandler and the four children.  Special treats of fresh oranges and chewing gum were real extravagances for the children.

My Granny Chandler lived through the final years of reconstruction from the Civil War in the south to the Wright brothers first flight.  Radio transmission began when Granny was only five years old.  She witnessed via television several men speaking to earth while orbiting this blue planet.  She was alive as unmanned rockets and equipment landed on the moon.  Granny died just months before the 'giant leap for mankind.'

During the years Granny was, well, 'grandmothering' she hugged and kissed all us girls and boy.  There was only one surviving grandson for Granny.  Granny cooked and cleaned Uncle Clay's place and visited my mom's home most weekends.  She cook lunch for my younger sister and I on Monday's when she stayed an extra day during the school year.  Aunt Opal's and Uncle Bud's families were visited for a couple of weeks each summer.  When she was at our home, she would come to my room on Saturday morning around 7:30 and asked if I was going to sleep my life away.  The best part of Granny's visits no matter what our age were her home made hot rolls.  Never any better, no where, no how, 'cause these has my Granny's love in them.

Granny had a stroke right after Christmas in 1968.  While being treated for this at Dr. Charley and his brothers' Wysong hospital she crawled out of bed.  Not just out of bed but over the rail and fell breaking her hip.  Surgery was done by the good doctors but Granny never walked again.  The first night my two older sisters and I stayed by her bed.  She would not respond when we called her Granny. 

As we held her hands that night she was making movements on our fingers.  Finally we realized Granny was back in another time shelling beans.  Taking a cue from the 'bean shelling' we called out the name her family had used for her, Maggie.  She was responsive.  Using a similar technique, when we needed her to spit out the phlegm from her lungs, we told her to spit out her snuff.  Maggie puckered up those same sweet lips that once kissed us and expelled the phlegm into the waiting receptacle.

Granny had to live out her remaining days in hospitals and nursing homes.  Those days were short as we buried her on her 87th birthday in February, 1969.  Granny lives in my heart and head every day.  Especially when I am on grandparent duty.  WWGD, what would Granny do keeps me from trying to be a parent.  I will admit that I did purposely let Oldest sleep as late as he wished today.  Maybe tomorrow while he and Grandpa work on a desk project there may need to be a batch of cinnamon rolls made in just the right size to hold just the right amount of icing.  Let the world change being grandparents remains the same, giving time and love.  Quiet time is for when there is nothing better to do.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

An Audience?

This week a daughter by another mother realized I do this blog thing.  This sweet person asked in all sincerity who was the audience I was trying to reach with my blog.  Deer in headlights was surely the look she saw in my eyes.  Crap, am I actually supposed to be writing for some group specifically?   A short reflection time, like three seconds, and the only answer was 'me'.   That is a pretty specific group with unusually low standards for writing.  Well, no wonder no one wants to read the silly stuff!  I write for myself.  Good thing I am not trying to have sponsors and stuff.

Most of the blogs I visit are women young enough to be my children and even younger.  There they are writing about trying to keep themselves sane while 'raisin' their children.  Or writing to enhance their writing skills in the dream of publishing a book.  Some have published books.  Others have received recognition and awards for their blogs.  These are some really amazing younger women that I enjoy cheering along in their life quest.  By that  cheering it means I occasionally leave a comment.

Comments from an women older than I made the difference in my life more than once.  Whether is was wise counsel from Kay Golding, Audrey Kelley, Millie Womack, my Granny Chandler, Amy Heiston or one of the hundreds of other influences in my life, it made a difference.  There were persons from the faith communities, women from work, members of my family that had just the right words at just the time needed.

As I sit in the room with two grandsons and a friend, listening to the giggles I wonder who else is encouraging young women.  Few of us live in total isolation.  All of us need encouragement at times.  Be she a sister with a gravely ill son, a sister working to care for an elderly relative, a friend facing uncontrollable life changes or the blogger trying to make it through another day.

I challenge anyone that comes across this blog to encourage female and male, young and old, friend or stranger.  And I thank Andi for asking me the question, "Who's your audience?"

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

40 Years And Counting

Forty years ago tonight at 7:15 PM our son made his grand entrance into the world.  Gene could not be in the delivery room as that was the way it was done then.  The Son had gorgeous blue eyes, blonde fuzz and the skin of a very overdue baby.  Three weeks overdue cause that was how it was done then.  His nails are curled around the end of his perfect little fingers.  I announced to Gene over the speaker he had a son.  He was thrilled and still is.

What a wonderful experience to have a child.  I am sure there were many times it was not great for him due to my poor parenting skills.  But today let's focus on positive things.  Highlights include but are not limited to rocking him to sleep then holding him for a while.  Watching his eyes on Christmas morning.  And to this day we know that look when the gift hits the mark.  Sharing long conversations during his high school years.  Surprising him with the red pickup..  We saw the look on his eyes that day!   And two recent good times were Disney with he and the grandsons and the long conversation on the way back to Missouri.

Drippy sweet, mushy, gushy.  Yes, that is how I feel about our son.  So here are a few pictures of our son through the years.














Saturday, August 10, 2013

Date Night 70's Style

We are having a date night today.  After a high gear summer working to get and keep the home show ready and moving my mom, we are just plainly tired.  Both mentally and physically.  As a treat for ourselves we have had two different groups of friends over this past week.  In addition, I joined four girlfriends to celebrate a birthday.  The visits were refreshing. 

Family is important in my life.  Having moved away from 'my side' of the family made friendships an equally important part of my life.  I had left my childhood and teen friends when we moved to Missouri.  Gene moved back to his roots, both family and friends.  The expression, you can never go home again was proven out in his return.  Folks knew him, friends said how pleased they were he was back, 'let's get together' was frequently heard.  By the time we moved back to Gene's home town, everyone had their 'married folks friends' established. 

We were never in their homes nor they on ours.  We did chaperone with Gene's BFF for our kids as they went to preschool through high school graduation.   We attended Orville's funeral when he passed due to a brain tumor.  Orville was only 55 when he died leaving Kathy with a second daughter still in grade school.  Way too young to be passing away.  We went to the home to offer condolences.  Gene was obviously shaken by the loss of his BFF from high school.  No longer would he stop by Orville's business to pick up supplies and shoot the breeze.

Our date night this Saturday is simple.  After beginning to load the Star Wars toys for the next adventure, going to Sonic for cheap drinks, we came home and ate leftovers.  We watched Wheel of Fortune, recordings of favorite shows and sat quietly.  That is how this couple with an average of almost 70 has a date night.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Water Features

Many decades ago I became a fan of water features in a garden.  The home at 102 in Aurora had literally a cement pond.  The previous owner had made a small water garden in the back yard.  He had imbedded rocks, arrowheads and a drain that never worked.  Each spring we bailed out the leaves and trash, scrubbed the blue paint and filled with clean water.  To keep the algae in check, bleach would be poured into the water.  Just as one would with a swimming pool, chlorination.  

Once we moved to 3871 I/we began working on the backyard landscaping.  Click here to see and read about the transformations.  Eventually multiple water features were added.  This year two were removed.  A third is to be removed whenever I get ready to haul rocks around the yard.  The fourth feature is the pond which we rebuilt and repaired this summer.  There is a fifth item that may yet become a water feature.  Our chimney. 

Or maybe it will become a window to look out on a real water feature.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Life Unfinished

My mom is 15 going on 95 in some ways.  She was the apple of her father's eye due to the loss of his first wife and infant daughter during the birthing process.  Granddaddy Chandler had four sons with the first Mrs. Chandler.  Fred, the youngest was only 6 when his mom passed away.  Ross, Arl and Jim were the other children in the first family.

Granddaddy Chandler's first family were mostly grown and at least Ross was already married when he met Mary Margaret Mantooth.  He married my Granny Chandler and Mom was their first offspring.  So Granddaddy finally had his daughter.  I have no idea if he spent as much time teaching Mom's two younger brothers, Bud and Clay, or baby sister, Opal.  He spent so much time working with Mom she was double promoted twice. 

According to Mom's recollections she loved school and loved to study.  That was her mantra to us four daughters as we plowed our way through school.  I cannot speak for my sisters but I did not love homework and studying.  I did the work grudgingly simply to make the grades expected of us girls, straight A's.  Anything less meant only Daddy would sign our report cards.  We all survived and have been responsible citizens. 

With always being encouraged to complete tasks as perfectly as possible is was ironic to clean out Mom's home.  We found perfectly started projects.  There were sweater fronts, cap sides, a couple squares of different designs of afagans, patterns pinned to uncut material, pattern pieces pinned to cut material for about 3 outfits and two unfinished garments.  There were crochet items partially completed, book marks in the middle of books and unfinished crafts.

During Mom's last school year she and my Dad dated as much as young folks dated back in the early 1930 Great Depression years.  If you have visited my blog you may know my Aunt Amelia, Daddy's sister, was my Mom's BFF.  They were in the same grade and graduated from the 10th grade in the spring of 1934.  To get the full 11 grade diploma Mom would have to go live "in town" with a relative.  Granddaddy said no and Mom said yes to Daddy's proposal.  So the prodigy that was double promoted twice, salutatorian of the 10 grade school never 'finished' school.

As I visited with Mom on the phone today she changed subjects frequently and had difficulty remembering simple words for objects or people.  But by golly she was telling me that Congress is not doing their job and telling me about other recent news.  She did not remember the word for going into a country with the military, "invasion, Mom?".  "Yes, that is what they (some in Congress) are wanting us to do in Syria.  Another war, when are we ever going to learn?" 

Mom has outlived her classmates, her husband, two younger brothers and most of her other relatives.  She has finished a couple of squares for the AIDS quilt back in the late 90's.  While she may not have finished some crafts, sewing, knitting and other needlework she has had the opportunities to start them.  Wonder how many millions of women have died in childbirth leaving an unfinished life?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rain, Rain Go ......

We have been fortunate enough to be getting lots of rain the last several days.  Last year the story was different, drought.  Wide spread drought across so many areas of the US.  We lost probably half of the grass on our front lawn.  That is nothing in comparison to the loss of livelihoods for farmers and ranchers.  There is a map available here that shows the condition and locations of the drought areas.  You can even look at the US map from 1999 through 2012 and see areas of drought in monthly loops.

Maybe having grown up in farming country in north central Texas during the late 40's and 50's I feel the scarcity of water and rains more than 'city folks'.  I mean for me as current city dweller the loss of a lawn is irritating.  For farmers in the 50's it was money or no money.  It was putting cardboard in my shoe to be able to go to school.  It was not that my folks were poor money managers, crop failures due to lack of rain is just that ... crop failure.  No insurance for crop failure I guess.  I was just a kid playing in the dry dirt.  Some days Reba Jane and I would drop stuff  and an occasional rock into the bottomless cracks.

The cracks were wide and deep in the North Central Texas sandy loam.  And decades later during another drought period I received an email with a picture attached.  The salesman for Litton working out of his Plano home had placed his size 10.5 Nike next to a crack.  The crack was wider than the shoe and about 3 feet longer.  It was one of his first summers in Texas and he was in shock.  I just responded with, "At least you have air conditioning!".  And running water not having to be hauled in by the water truck and dumped in a brick underground cistern. 

There is the other side of the rains which is too much rain.  I remember peering out the window as Daddy drove the car down the flooded road near Honey Creek.  Men, courageous men, lined the road guiding us to stay on the road.  I am sure it is a memory from child's mind but the flooding was real.  Road beds have since been raised along with higher bridges.  Lots of small and large flood control dams.  We call them tanks in Texas.  But no matter, there are still floods. 

So the same magical compound, H2O, can bring life to crops or death both in its absence or over abundance.  I was very blessed to have a community of farmer and ranchers in my background.  It gave me an appreciation for the simple things in life.  Like rain.  Even when I am so tired of it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

I'll Trade You All My Picks For .......

As many of you know the weeks between July 13 - July 26 were spent in and around my Mom's last independent living apartment.  The 2 bedroom apartment was around 900 sq. ft.  Why, then, did it take almost 2 weeks to clean out the place?  If you do not know the answer, you have probably never had to "clean out" the home of a beloved person.

First of all, Momma is a child of The Depression.  Her father lost his investments in the 1929 stock market crash.  He was counting on those funds to pay off his second farm.  The farm with the beautiful two story house.  The farm near the church his family patriarch was instrumental in growing.  Once I asked Momma what was the best time of her life.  Her answer somewhat surprised.  "Playing along the white rock creek and fields by 'The Big House' in Chambersville."  My response was, "So marrying Daddy, having us girls, retirement and time with Daddy, vacations, visits to and from Aunt Sissy, etc., none of those were top of the list?"  I was somewhere between shocked and crestfallen.

The Big House before being torn down.

Mom loves the past so much she sometimes fails to enjoy today.  Or that is how it seems at times.  But if she preferred her Chambersville childhood, cleaning out her apartment did not necessarily reflect that.  Now mind you we had cleaned out her attic at 302 Young for her 80th birthday.  Then in 2006 after Daddy and Uncle Clay passed and Mom had to have stints placed in two closed arteries we moved her kicking and screaming to 1716 #72.  There had been a lot of cleaning, tossing and bringing back to our own homes during those clean outs.  It was during the clean out time for the 1716 #72 move the clothing for my doll was unearthed.  You can read about that here.

As usual I digress.  We spent two weeks plus going piece by piece, card by card, newspaper article by newspaper article making sure no valuable or important document was tossed by oversight.  We found among other things at least 4 or 5 50 gallon trash bags full of greeting cards Mom had received over the last 7 years.  We found cards from her grandchildren written by us girls for the too young to write grandchild.  The oldest grandchild turned 57 this summer, the youngest is 21.  Those cards were taken home by the now senior citizen and middle aged moms, us four 'girls'.

Now that last statement may be the most telling as to why it took so long to clean out 900 sq. ft.  We are not youngsters, 77, 73, 67 and 58.  But that is not all.  You see there were items such as the 100 yr old cranberry dish; the kerosene lamp our Rogers' grandparents started housekeeping with in the early 1900's; the iron skillet and melted watch that were in the 1942/3 fire;  Daddy's wool knickers;  the dipper we drank from that hung on a nail above a pail of hand drawn water;  12 place setting of Fostoria crystal.  We weren't cleaning out, we were dividing treasures of the heart.  We were sorting the things our Mom had saved from before she was born up to a card from the youngest great-great grandchild.

Oldest grandson with younger brother and sister decked out for Easter.

Ground rules were established early on with a list in hand.  If more than one person wanted an item, a drawing would be held.  No person could 'win' multiple drawings in a row on the 'main' items.  One other criteria of the dividing was simple, if you or your kids gave the item, it's yours first.  Then if you do not want it, open for trading.  Most folks would laugh at the main items as listed in the previous paragraph.  Several of the items we chose were glued together.  But we are a family rich in love, short on funds.  And as the children of survivors of The Great Depression we never had a single drawing.  We simply shared.

Yes, my sisters allowed me the privilege of giving the iron skillet to my only child.  The requirement?  He must learn to cook chicken fried steak and serve to any of the family coming to Austin.   Also, from that point on when asked about a specific object, my response was, "I have the iron skillet, I get no more picks."  Surely, I did receive other objects that carried memories of love as well as just practical stuff.  I have Mom's serger and the table on which she served so many meals to her family.  One of Daddy's gloves so my grandsons can see if their hands are as big as Granddaddy Arleigh's.  One of his last clipboards from his appliance business.  I attempted to not be greedy but still managed a trailer load of stuff.  Besides, I am trying to move to TX so, "I am downsizing already!"

The table that was always under 'wraps'.

We four sisters negotiated for the physical, tangible artifacts of our lives.  And we did it without fighting or hard feelings.  Mom still has the dipper, the lid for the iron skillet and The Clock.  The dipper is Suzie's when Mom is ' done with it.'  The Clock is TBD between the other three sisters.  I have the iron skillet.  We walked away with our heads high, arms linked and still very much in love with each other.  This was one of the best times of my life.

Our Son sitting on the table feeding Grandaddy ice cream

Mom mixing up some good something in the kitchen at 302.  Dipper in foreground.  Properly hanging from a nail over the sink.  Would you like a drink?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Not Much But Playing In The Yard

This is the most boring blog on the internet.  That's cause I am not a very interesting person.  I do not attend plays, concerts or much else.  Occasionally Donna Rea will call and take us out for a ball game at Hammond's field.  Mostly I mess around in the yard.

Today was no exception.  Only no major rebuilds, just weeding, mowing and some walk maintenance.  Some stepping stones are breaking up after being in place for 15+ years.  Oh, I did remove a portion of a bed by the tree that was cut down last year.  That bed was next to the stepping stones that were deteriorating.  But the edgers I made using the hyperturf concoction were still good enough to reline the smaller bed.

It feels good to be boring.  To just sit quietly while Gene watches the Cardinals attempt to not be swept by Pittsburgh.  We have been in Texas Ranger country for two weeks so not so much coverage of the hot well liked Cardinals.

Guess I better go do one or two more boring things.  Put the edger away as my butt was dragging after all the weed pulling.  Lots of weeds grow a lot during a two week absence with lots or watering.)  Dump the piggy in the compost pile and close the out building door.  That pretty exciting, three things to do, not two.