Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Price of Praise

Rendered Praise
See, I made this challenge for myself on my Rendered Praise blog. I had the idea for it in the middle of the night and figured why not. I write a bunch of stuff anyway, so make it worthwhile.

As soon as I begin, I realized it was the right thing to do. It felt right. It went so smoothly that I was able to do a post ahead. This helps if I'm having a pain filled day and I can't write. I won't miss a post. I find I like being a day ahead on something. In theory, this could be a post for that blog, but since the next ten days of Render Praise are devoted to praise, it wouldn't work. Since I constantly whine here, this works.

As with any project I've ever done for God, and that whole blog is directed to Him, there are rewards and penalties. The reward is that I like the more positive feelings it has evoked. I find I'm thinking of new ways to give praise instead of focusing on what is "wrong" and things to complain about. No, this won't save me nor make me perfect. It doesn't mean I'm more special than anyone else. I just feel better in my brain.

Of course, I mentioned penalties, too. The first penalty I've experienced is the meltdown I had today while doing the next post. I have no explanation for it. I just fell apart in the middle of writing and had to walk away. I came back once I'd regained some control and finished it, but I'm not exactly "right" at the moment. There is an edge to the afternoon that cuts each time my thoughts move in specific directions. Even writing this post is a challenge to my body and mind. I'm exhausted and feel as if I've hit bottom. I'm not sorry I made the challenge nor do I want to quit.

I've always known that praise is an empowering item. There is a book by a guy named Merlin Carouthers, who wrote Power in Praise. If you've never read him, I would encourage you to find a copy of the book and read it. He also wrote Prison to Praise, equally good. If you want a life-altering perspective of praise he provides it. I read it nearly 40 years ago and I've not forgotten his name or the name of the book. The truth is, praise is the only life saver you have. It doesn't mean you have to jump up and down or run around the block. These are impossible for me now with my hips, knees, and feet feeling broken most of the time. You don't have to scream, cry, or use a bullhorn. Praise is not just a way of talking. Praise is a way of thinking.

You may be sick and everyone who looks at you may think you're dying. You may be wracked in pain and unable to move without hurting. Praise can be uttered anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances. If someone thinks the only place you can praise is in church, in a certain manner -- they're wrong. David wrote dozens of Psalms while watching sheep, surely the loneliest job in the world.

Paul and Silas were alone in the deepest part of the jail to ensure they couldn't escape and their only companion was the jail keeper. They were not comfortable. Yet, they sang and praised God. Not because they were happy or excited. There was no church music, no praise team, no congregation to pump them up. Have you ever seen a real dungeon? Can you picture the smell of filthy bodies, rotting food, human excrement? I suspect in some part of their mind, the knew they had to do something to get their mind off their situation. We've all been there. It is why we crank up the stereo so loud the neighbors have their heads out the windows considering calling the police. Or we load up on our drug of choice. It is because want to think about something else. We're not interested in praising God in the the middle of our mess.

Jeremiah, one of my favorite prophets, was up to his armpits in mud when he came up with one of the most comforting praise passages for grief-stricken widows I've ever read, anywhere. It is marked in my Bible in red with a pink bookmark. I've read it hundreds of times in the last six and a half years. It always makes me cry uncontrollably. Why would I read it? Because someone understood what I feel in ways I never thought possible and they are able to tell me how great God is in the middle of it all. And I want to know that.

I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon. 
Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry. 
Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, 
Fear not. O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life.

So, even in isolation, it is possible to simply praise God for being. And despite the penalties, I'll do my 10 Days of Praise. I suspect other penalties may be waiting, but I won't borrow from tomorrow that which will be here soon enough. Instead, I'll just think about how I can give Him more praise today.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday, Monday

Never let it be said that all Monday's are created equal. Last Monday was an awesome day. This Monday, not so much. Sarah was up until midnight with a belly ache and I had to get her into her doctor this morning, bright and early. I came home, after dropping her off at school, because bellyaches only occur at night. I know this is true because I had the same thing last week.

Anyway, on my return I had a raging headache. I had to take a pill for it and spent the rest of the day in the recliner, checking the phone now and then for emails, which I then had to answer. Sometime after two or three I think the headache was better, but my neck and upper left back feel as if I've been beaten with a bat. I used my tennis ball, but the pain in the trap was so bad, the ball hurt. Using the ball on the right side of my back told the tale. It didn't hurt and it felt good to roll the tennis ball along the muscle.

Sarah came in from school and when I asked her if she got in trouble today she danced around the question for five minutes. She thought I had seen her Class Dojo (message system between parents and teachers). Joke was on her - I had not. She finally told me why she got in trouble. She had talked during class and lost a point. I grounded her for the rest of the week and took her tablet, which she may not get back for some time. This was the second time in a week she's felt the need to chat on the job. The last time she was grounded for a day. I informed her that since she felt it was crucial to talk when she should have been working, she could do her school work this week when she'd normally be talking to her friends or playing.

So, for the next week she will be doing math worksheets, extra ones instead of games, toys, and friends. To give her credit, she didn't complain after the first 20 minutes, during which time I had to endure whining, complaining. and bemoaning the fact that she didn't know how to do math. She's in the 3rd grade. She knows.  She finally figured out that I was serious and nothing was going to change. Then she blew the subtraction. Badly. She'll have it down in a few weeks but at the moment it is her nemesis.

I wonder who actually gets punished when kids are grounded? I never believe in grounding. Never got grounded in my life. I got spanked but not a lot. The key to spankings is that you learn not to do the things that get you spanked. There were consequences. So, I followed the rules and as a result, my life was relatively simple and straightforward. Despite an alcoholic parent, I didn't starve, feel deprived, or suffer neglect. I had a large extended family and we had great times. I was clothed, housed, gifted, loved, and spanked. Amazing that well that turned out for me.  I'm eternally grateful.

I didn't have to ground the boys much. On the rare occasions they got in trouble, they got spankings. Which, incidentally didn't kill them, crush their spirit, or make them impotent. They were just as sassy afterward as before. And we had great fun during their youth. They never got arrested for criminal behavior. Never attacked old ladies on the street. Never raped, murdered, or robbed anyone. Cause Mama was waiting home with a paddle and feared neither police, judge, or CPS. And if you wanted to come home, you better keep your nose clean and keep a civil tongue in your mouth. If you can't don't let the door hit in the butt you on the way out.  The one time Mike threatened to call the police if I spanked him, he was 10 or 11, and I walked over, picked up the phone. I looked him dead in the face and said with no trace of a smile, "Would you like me to dial it for you?" He never did that again.

Sarah is a different child. She's fairly easy going. She does her things, I do mine. The trouble comes in when she is forced to remember that I'm the adult and she's the child. She's confused by that, I think. I'm Mawmaw. I'm fun. I'm silly. I'm kisses, hugs, and giggles. I'm not the stern old lady who has a paddle and isn't afraid to use it. I'm not the woman who glares at her when she gets sassy. I've rarely glared at the child more than half-dozen times in her life! That woman she doesn't get. Until she does. Then she is as good as gold. Has she fooled me? Sometimes she thinks she has, but not usually. As the sister of six, mother of two, and aunt to a few more there isn't much that fools me.

At the moment, she's got another stomachache. It is bedtime of course. And she didn't eat the supper I gave her at 6. So, of course, she's starving and that's why her belly hurts. And it probably does. I've fed her but I've given her a promise, something every child who has ever lived in this house knows I only do with the gravest of intentions, that at 6:30 a.m. she will get one wake up call. If she fails to answer that call promptly, there will be consequences. I hope she knows I mean it.

Now, it is my turn  to go to bed. I've had enough. I have a long day tomorrow.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Gift of a Day

I was going to post yesterday, but it was such an astounding, awesome, and amazing day that I simply didn't have time. 

If you've been keeping up, you know that I've been sick for a while, especially the last week. I even had to go to the ER last Saturday night with stomach problems. They did a CAT scan of my abdomen and found a nodule on my lung. Lab work revealed low potassium. I went in for a stomach ache. 

Well, yesterday when I got up, I felt as if I'd stepped into someone else's shoes. I wasn't sick, didn't hurt, and had all this energy. I had no idea why but I ran with it.

Sarah and I were up at 6:30 and I got her on the bus by 7:45. I dressed and headed to the cemetery to walk. This would be my first walk since Spring. I managed to get 1.2 miles but that was all I could do. My left leg, hip, and ankle were bothering me by then. 

I came home and got to work. First I spent about an hour on reading my Bible and devotional. I haven't done that for a while because reading anything was like walking in a fog bank and I was just too sick to sit up.

I started folding the three weeks worth of towels and sheets that were piled on the spare bed. I piled the three weeks of street clothes on my bed to force me to deal with it before bedtime. I had no idea at this point how long the energy burst would last.

For the rest of the afternoon this is how it went: I folded the sheets and towels while watching television. While I was busy with that, I also washed and dried three loads of new laundry. I folded another load of sheets and towels from this week. Then, I worked on my new crochet project, which you see above. I wasn't sure about pattern and structure but finally decided on rows using the Lacy Wave Stitch from my favored book. I like these colors together. I thought about adding a mint green to it but decided not to. 

I think I'll call it Ocean Sunset. The colors in the photo are very close to the real colors. This is another gift. I love doing crochet for others. I rarely do any projects for myself. I was going to buy new yarn but realized I had this yarn in my stash. I will probably have to buy some more blue, but that's cheaper than the +$30 it was going to cost for new yarn. However, the yarn I saw in the store is really pretty.

Hobby Lobby has a HUGE selection of yarns and has now become my supplier of choice. It takes 6-8 skeins to do a useful throw/afghan. If you want a blanket size afghan, you will probably need twice that. Depending on the kind of yarn used, a skein can cost $3.00-$7.00, some even more. This means a crocheter can sink a lot of money into one project.  The yarn plus man hours involved mean a typical afghan could have a monetary value starting at $100. If could be higher, depending on the size and complication of the item. A set of 4 of my cozies would cost in yarn and man hours around $30, not including the hard coaster inserts. So, if someone gives you a gift of a crochet item, any item, it isn't a cheap gift. 

I digress, of course. I crocheted an hour or so, until Sarah got home at 3:45. By then the only laundry left was on my bed. Sarah and I worked on homework for an hour, she kicking and screaming all the way. Then we worked on preparing supper. She helped quite a lot with this project. Setting the table, putting ice in the glasses. Her doll, Abby (formerly Isabella) joined us with a meal of her own. Once that was done, I did dishes and Sarah, who was grounded from everything for the homework fiasco, played in her room before getting a bath. 

Around 7 I realized I'd used up all my spoons. For the uninformed, this means I was running on empty. I called Sarah in and we attacked the clothes on my bed. I had already put my things away before calling her. Now she put her clothes on hangers, folded her shorts and underwear, and helped me put them away. By 8 p.m. she was tucked in her bed and out like a light. I should ground her more often. Of course, she was so tired because the night before it was midnight before she went to sleep. So, after getting up at 6:30, by 8 p.m. she was obliterated. 

I slumped on the sofa watching television and giving myself time to wind down from an extremely busy day. I stopped for a few minutes to tell God how very thankful I was for the day. It was the first time I felt like ME in a very long time.

Today... I won't be walking or doing laundry. I'll be doing bank statements. Oh, joy. . . 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

I TOLD You I was sick!
So, I went to the doctor today for my 3 month follow-up. The doctor had emailed me that my white count is down. If you're unfamiliar with how your immune system works, you white counts is like an army. When an invader (infection) attacks your system, this little army comes out with guns blazing and attacks the invader and in a healthy person, destroys it. Until 20 years ago, I never got very sick.

In a person who has Rheumatoid arthritis it isn't that simple. They give you drugs that are used to fight cancer to suppress your immune system.  Sometimes these drugs actually make you sick. For example, they can cause decreased white counts. You can get sick with an infection and there are not enough of those soldiers to fight the invader. You can actually get cancer and other deadly illnesses without those little white soldiers. I've never had a low white count in my life.

So, I have to go back in four weeks for more lab work to see if there have been any enlistments. If there aren't and it is the same or worse, they will stop my RA meds.They have to or I could end up in serious trouble.

Admittedly, she said it wasn't very bad but her face told me she wasn't happy with it. Stopping the meds is not a good thing. Within two days it will be very ugly at my house.

Solution? The white count goes back up and I can continue as before. The white count stays the same or worsens and I am introduced to a new med. Arava. This medicine is not something I've wanted to take. She doesn't want me to take it, hence the unhappy look on her face. If the troops are still AWOL, we have no choice.

Arava stays in your system longer than methotrexate. If I have a reaction to Arava, I will have to be given another medicine to clear my system and it possibly won't completely clear me. It can stay in my system up to two years. Side effects can be long term and fatal.

That's where we are now. Although I don't want to take the metho.... a bald head is better than dead. The next step for me, if I don't take Arava, would be biologicals and they definately don't like giving that out. Reactions to biologicals are most certainly life threatening. Humira & Enbrel are the two choices.

I don't know what to do. I've prayed for a medicine that would work. Plaquanil worked for me for over 10 years, until I got the Epstein Barr virus. That wrecked my immune system. Plaquanil hasn't worked since. I now take both Plaquanil and methotrexate. Neither has worked sufficiently. I've gone from taking the initial 4 - 1mg pills of metho. to 8 - 1mg pills. She wanted me on 10mg injections and I insisted that doses be raised incrementally until I reached a level that worked. My caution is probably a good thing if the metho has caused the white count problem. I think she was relieved today. She said she was glad I wasn't on the higher dose.

My doctor did try to encourage me. She talked about how the medicines were necessary because it wasn't just my joints that were being affected. RA is a systemic disease. You may think it only affects the joints and cripples a person. You see it as twisted hands and crippled feet. It doesn't affect just joints. It affects heart, lungs, liver, and all tissue. Some days, my skin hurts. I have knots beneath the skin on my thighs the size of what we used to call logger head marbles. Think walnuts. They don't go away and sometimes they hurt. I get rashes that itch and take a long time to heal. My eyes get dry and itch and I can hardly see. My mouth gets so dry my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I get mouth sores. I get up and my finger joints feel mushy and hurt. My feet feel as if I'm walking on railroad gravel. My knees don't want to work. My hips lock. I hurt in every conceivable place.

So, that is what I'm dealing with on a daily basis. Add the deadly medicines and it makes for a nice invasion. And now the army is in retreat.

I guess I'm asking for you to pray for me. I need a medicine that will work and not kill me. If the other medicine will work better than what I'm taking and won't make me sicker in other ways, I need to do that. Of course, I would love a complete remission. But I no longer know how to pray. I will be honest. I've prayed all the prayers anyone could possibly pray and that I know to pray. I'm now worse off than I've ever been since I was diagnosed. The patches are now potentially worse than the disease.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What's Happening In My World

You know I am always looking at the flow of my life and how it is working. If life were a clock, I'd have assembled and disassembled it many times over. Sometimes it works better. Other times, not so much.

The current week has been hectic. Sarah started 3rd grade on Monday. She came running into the house after school yelling she loved it. I hope the romance last but we all know how relationships can turn on you. Her most exciting thing was "no homework". She thinks this will be a permanent thing. I haven't had the heart to tell her that the paperwork I read wants her working on things at home. We're going to have to create a "chore" schedule just to keep her encouraged.

I've done more crochet this week than I have at any one time in years. I've made several items and started on a new one last night.I really enjoy making these coaster cozies. I have six of my own and they work better than anything I've ever used.

They're designed to fit over the round stone coaster you buy at Walmart on aisle end caps. They come with a wooden holder but once the cozy is on it, they won't fit in the holder. I don't care. They're pretty and you can stack them. They look really nice on the table and are functional. Pretty furniture you worked hard to create or buy should be protected. I think I'm going to make a doily to match them.

 When dirty, you pull them off, wash and put them back on. If you have extras, you don't have to wait for the laundry to get done. The ones at right are a gift for someone. The yarn is Hobby Lobby's I Love This Yarn. It is a new cotton they've created to replace the Sugar n' Cream brand. I actually like it much better. It is a bit softer and easier to work with on small items. They have a ton of colors, too.

The other items I finished last night is the "rug" I was working on from yarn in my stash.Photos do not do this yarn justice. It is so beautiful. I do wish it was softer but it just looks gorgeous. As you can see, the item is not really big enough for much but a throw rug. I just used all the yarn I had left from a previous project. It is really warm and I almost considered it as a lap throw but it barely covers my lap and falls just below my knees. Not really enough to bother with when I have larger throws to hand.

This is a Red Heart Yarn, as I've mentioned before. I loved making this but by the last round, I was getting bored. I used no pattern, just started crocheting in the round and when I finished a row, I figured out what I wanted to do on the next one.I tried to vary the rows. I have some that are single crochet, some double crochet, and some treble crochet. There are a couple of chain rows, and V stitches as well as a couple of mixed rows: double crochet and chains.

It wasn't hard but I made mistakes here and there. Once it gets this big, counting stitches is so tedious but for fans and shells, you have to have the right number of stitches to make it work. A couple of times I had to pull out several inches and work two stitches together to correct for miscounting. For the most part, only an expert might find my errors but this isn't to sell or give away. I'll use it. I am considering buying a  backing to put on it and make it slip resistant. Originally, I was going to put it in Sarah's room because these are the colors we have in there. However, if you saw her floor on an average day, you'd know it would be wasted on her.

I started on another coaster cozy using a small ball of yarn, left over from a sweater I made for Sarah. I think it will be really pretty. It is an extra so I can wash some one of my others. I am also making it in a brighter color.

I've written a little. I have to get the short story done now. So, I'm going to try and spend the rest of the week doing that. I'm behind in reading but I've been also been busy straightening out the chaos resulting from getting rid of the large computer desk and clearing out Sarah's room to repair the ceiling. Her room is more or less in order. There are a couple of items still to move but nothing major.

It is the stuff I took out of the desk that presents problems. I had no idea that desk held so much! And so much that I hadn't even looked at in ages. I found Jerry's driver's license, our military IDs from years ago, his USI student ID, and his VA ID. All had his photos on them. I found old letters he'd written to me when he went to Germany. They'd been stored in a scrap book I had in the book case that was in Sarah's room but is not in the den. They were very personal and I had to smile at how foolishly romantic we were. They were just sappy and drama ridden. Very "soap opera" to me. Did other young couples write such letters? I don't know.

For a brief moment, I remembered that girl and I longed to be her again. She was filled with so much life and she knew how to have fun. Jerry and I had so much fun. We had a lot of the same problems most couples have but more than anything, we had an amazingly good time. And I think it is that which makes life so very hard now. I'm not having fun. Sarah brings me so much joy and the days with her are almost as much fun as what Jerry and I had but it isn't the same. There is this huge void that I no longer believe can ever be filled or bridged or repaired. I want it to be, more than anything. But the reality is it is impossible to ever be in that place and time and to be that person again. Two people died on January 29, 2009. They just didn't bury me.

I won't burden you with more sadness. I'll leave you with a Sarah story.

Sarah is growing up. Recently, she found she had hair under her arms. Obviously, all girls go through this phase but she is a bit young. She'll be 9 in a few weeks. However, we had to deal with the issue. Although the problem wasn't great, it was noticeable, particularly to her. So, I informed her I'd shave the hair off for her and show her how to do it so when she was capable of managing she wouldn't be nervous. We discussed how this would mean it would have to be done all regularly after this. Anyone knows the sooner you start shaving legs and armpits the worse it gets. But you can't just leave it.

Anyway, we took care of it. In seconds it was done and Sarah said, "That fast?"

I just grinned and said, "That fast."

I left her and went to the kitchen. She must have gone to the mirror because the next thing I heard was Sarah shouting, "I'M YOUNG AGAIN!"

I laughed and asked her what she meant.

"I'm young again. Only old people have hair under their arms."

Y'all have a great day.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Current Projects

Have I posted since I got back from Arkansas? I can't remember. I've been sick most of the last week. Today is the best I've felt since the 1st of August.

I started this beautiful project about three weeks ago and did about a dozen rows and put it down. I started working on it again today and I am so thrilled with how it looks. There is no pattern. I make up each row as I go. The plan is to make a small throw rug out of it. 

The yarn is Red Heart and I think this is called Fiesta. It makes a beautiful piece. I've used it before to make a throw for a friend. I had plenty left over to do something else and this is from that stash of leftover yarn every crocheter possesses. 

Red Heart is not known for its cuddly soft yarn. It tends to be a bit scratchy but is very warm in the winter and you can use a fabric softener bath to soften it up a bit. I've made a couple of throws out of it. As a rug it won't matter if it is soft. 

I took this photos early this afternoon. Currently, the piece has grown by at least three or four more rows. I may put rubber backing on it if I use it on the wood floor, but I'm thinking Sarah's room next to her bed. There is a 5' by 7' carpet in there but it is neutral and this would be a beautiful color accent on the rug for that sunny room and it wouldn't slip. It should be nearly three feet in diameter by the time it is done. 

I just love looking at it. It is like sunshine.

For the last three weeks I've also been making washcloths as a gift. They are really pretty and I'm making a few extra for myself. This stitch is called the up and down stitch and makes a nice texture for the cloth, much tighter than previous ones I've made. The tighter texture will be nice for the bath. This is Sugar & Cream cotton thread. Generally, this is used for handbags and other crafts, such as these cloths.

I love making things to give away. I must put yarn gift cards on my Christmas and birthday lists. Only a couple of people buy me gifts these days but if I ask for specific places I usually get them. 

Now, off to the shower and then back to the projects.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


I have returned. Arkansas was lovely and it was a relatively peaceful week. Hardly any pain at all. I slept well. I got to see my son and his family and spend time with the Grands. It was a great week. My aunt and uncle and sister went with me to help drive the 12-hour trip. Everyone had a good time and it was evident. Sarah has a birthday party while she was there and that was fun.

I'm tired this morning because I didn't get enough sleep.

Before I left we worked on finishing Sarah's room and it looked beautiful. We walked her in with her eyes covered and she seemed thrilled. She wants to move things around a bit because she's decided she doesn't like where her bed is. She was very sweet. "I don't want to hurt your feelings, Mawmaw..." Of course, it didn't. It is her room. So, we'll be changing that and getting her things unpacked and put away.

I have piles of clothes in my and Sarah's room to put away.

My uncle helped with painting and even painted the trim and doors in a couple of other rooms. He also painted my front door. I bought some blue paint. I think I'm the only one who likes it. Besides, if I get tired of it, I can paint it a different color. I love paint. Bright, beautiful colors just bring so much cheer. Sarah's room is like sunshine now. It was so dark before but I never noticed it because I loved the red paint.

I have to put the light up in Sarah's room.

This week we must prepare for school, which begins on the 10th. She needs skirts and shoes and a book bag and a few more supplies. I bought some but not enough. She needs leggings for when it gets cold. I need to check her winter coat, too.

I have to finish the first draft of my Anthology story.

Now, I'm off. As you can see, there is a lot on my plate and this doesn't tell it all.

I'm tired just reading it all.