Friday, August 31, 2018

It's Time

   Here it is the last day of August. Where has the summer gone?

   If you’ve been following this blog, or know me personally, you have a pretty good idea where my summer has gone. No need for me to once again go down that path.
   The last few weeks, things have settled down a bit, and I felt like the day-job had even gotten under control. Until this week. I don’t know what happened, but I once again could not get out of work on time, coming home exhausted and unable to barely function. Yesterday, my computer at work even went on the fritz and the IT department had to bring me a new one. Which, by the way, began acting up right after the IT person finished getting it all set up and walked out of the building.
   Here’s the good news. Beginning today, I am off of work not only for the long Labor Day weekend, but also for all but one day next week. And my plans? Yikes! Painting our living room.
   We remodeled our house in 1999, turning the garage into our living room. Somewhere, I have pictures of that whole process. That was before digital photography, so there’s not quite as much documentation as there would be now.

   All you need to know today, however, is that these walls haven’t been painted since then. And even then, the paint color seemed more like primer to me. I think it’s time.

   Hopefully by next week this time – no, that ain’t gonna happen, but let’s just dream – I’ll have the full before and afters for you.

My living room in 2003. Almost everything has changed except for that paint on the walls. It's time. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

And the Rains Came Down

  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7:25 (New International Version)

If you are living pretty much anywhere on Planet Earth this summer, you have been talking about the weather. Where ever you are, you have had either drought or fires or hurricanes or flooding, perhaps a tornado or an earthquake. Maybe a volcano. I hear the national forecast every day and think, “what else is going to go wrong with our weather?”

Here in Wisconsin, it’s the same thing. For the most part it has been hot and dry where I live, but then when it does rain, it is torrential. None of those steady, all-day showers. Nope, just a downpour here and a downpour there.

When we were at Lifest in July, it was the same thing. A storm would blow through and open the flood gates, then it would clear up for a little while. Then the rain would start up all over again.
 I don’t know and I’m not going to speculate. Is it the effect of global warming? Just a cyclic trend (the old-timers would say, ‘oh, we have crazy weather like this every five years like clock-work, nothing to worry about, just ol’ mother nature’)?

Or is it signs of the End of Times? I surely do not know that. All I do know is that God has His plan and we need to turn to Him and trust in Him no matter what comes down from the sky.

Thank You, Heavenly Father, for taking care of us in times of plenty and in times of hardship. Send Your Holy Spirit to give us the strength to continue to follow You through it all. Amen

Friday, August 24, 2018

Back to Randomness

   Just three months ago, I posted random pictures from my last trip to Kenya. That post revolved around the sites out in Maasailand, in and around the village where our nonprofit, Tumaini Volunteers, hopes to fund a community center for the local Maasai women. Today, I am winding down on that trip, sharing randomness from other aspects of the trip.

   This is the second picture I took after we arrived in Kenya. Here’s the problem with having been there five times – I don’t jump off the plane snapping pictures like I used to. I was actually in Africa probably 16 or 18 hours before I got out the camera. I mostly took this picture because I knew I wouldn’t be going on safari so this was the only rhino I might see.
   One of the only monkeys I saw.
   Since the next project we want to work on is to help build a community center, we visited a gift shop and café run by a woman’s group in Nairobi. I didn’t even take any pictures of the inside of the store – my son did but I can’t put my fingers on them right now. The lunch we had at the café, truthfully, was to die for. Can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of it. (Oh, boy, but I did get lots of pictures of other food. I may have to blog about that next.)
   The front yard/driveway of the volunteer house where we stay. Two of the American volunteers who were there are out washing their clothes.
   The backyard of the house has some chickens.
   And rabbits.
   Skyscape from just down the road from the house. Downtown Nairobi in the far back left. Someone just asked me again yesterday what it was like where we stay in Kenya. So many people imagine it is all about being in the Bush and wilderness, with no running water or electricity. Nairobi, however, is a major city just like anywhere else in the world, with a business district filled with skyscrapers, busy city streets, ATMs.
   The volunteer house where we stay is in the neighborhood of Kidfarmaco. Here Nick is outside the gate of the house, waiting to be let in. One of the major differences between there and here is that most homes or apartment buildings are enclosed by a fence and secured behind a locked gate. Those who live inside might each have a key to the gate, but more often, someone inside lets you in when you knock on the door or honk your car horn. 
   When I was there in 2015, staying at a different volunteer house, someone drove up to the gate, asking for me. The doorman would not let them in. The visitor had to call me on my cellphone so I could come down to the gate to okay them.

   Once again, I’m reminded of lots more stories from my many trips, but I will close for now, as all those stories start bouncing around in my mind for next time.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Coming to the Clinic - Part 7 - The Weight is Over

  The last few posts in this series have been rather weighty. It’s time to lighten things up.

   Back in March when I started this series on how to be the perfect patient, my plan was to take you step by step through your entire visit. Last time I wrote about that, I believe I still I had you sitting in the waiting room. Well, come on back!

   The first thing I am going to do is stop you at the dreaded scale. I feel bad that the scale always gets such a bad rap. Just like me, the teen-ager in the McDonald’s drive-through and the IRS, that scale is just doing its job. And that job is not to tell you that you are fat; its job is to help your health care provider keep you healthy. You can not blame that scale if it tells you something you don’t want to know. And if you really don’t want to know, don’t look. I’m not going to announce your weight to you or anyone else.  

   But before you even get on that scale, I bet you want to take off your shoes, empty your pockets, empty your bladder, take off your glasses and your baseball cap. And that’s ok, but first I want to ask if you have ever flown on a commercial airplane?
   Us seasoned travelers know how to dress when we will be going through airport security. For starters, we wear our airport shoes. Footwear that is comfortable for walking but quick and easy to slip on and off. Few things annoy me more than standing behind someone in line who has to untie and unlace their eight-inch high hiking boots. 
   Feeling secure about their footwear, the seasoned traveler already has empty pockets. All they need to carry on their person is their boarding pass and ID; everything else will already be tucked into their carry-on.  
   So, when you come to the clinic and you know you will get weighed and you hate to see what the scale will say, plan ahead as if you were on your way to meet with TSA. Set your carry-on on the counter, slip off your airport shoes and step right up. It just makes everyone’s life easier. You don’t waste your time and mine emptying your pockets and shedding extra clothing. You don’t have to worry about putting it all back on your person or leaving it behind. It’s just so much easier.
   Which may lead you to ask, “but why do you have to weigh me every time anyway if it is such a hassle for everyone?”

   To be honest, we probably don’t have to weigh every person every time. But sometimes, we won’t know that til after the provider sees you.

   You may have some vague complaints and when we add to the mix that you have lost 10 pounds in the last three weeks without even trying, your doctor may go, “ah-ha!” Or you really hadn’t noticed how swollen your feet and ankles have been, and now that your doctor sees your weight is up significantly since your last visit, he or she will once again go, “ah-ha!”

   The list of medical diagnoses about which your weight is important include hypertension, congestive heart failure, diabetes, thyroid disease, sleep apnea, arthritis, cancer and many more. And it’s not always an increase in weight that we are concerned with; unexplained weight loss is something to look at also.

   One other thing, no matter how few clothes you wear when you stop on our scale, the first thing you are going to think to yourself, or say to me, is “but my scale is five pound lighter”. And I totally believe you, because mine is too, but the scales in your medical clinic are supposed to be calibrated by professionals at least once a year. They are as accurate as they can be; sometimes your weight is just going to fluctuate by a few ounces from the time you walk from the scale in Hall A at your clinic to the one in Hall C.   
   I seem to be running a bit long here, so will end by saying, don’t let your weight weigh you down, let your health care professionals do their job and let them tell you what to do or not do about those stray pounds.  

Sunday, August 19, 2018

There Will Be Trouble in this Life

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 (New International Version)

I am pretty sure that at every Lifest that Tiffany Thompson has been at, I have heard her speak. This year, the title of her talk was “Where’s the Gift in It?” When things are going badly, when life is handing you too many lemons, when you are sure nothing else can go wrong, and then it does, where are you supposed to turn? How can you see your way through to Jesus?

Tiffany shared a wonderful story, which I won’t retell here, but the gist of it was that as she was going through a trying time, and one thing after another kept going wrong, each thing was followed by a God-moment. An instance or incident where God was clearly fixing things. Where nothing so bad happened that she couldn’t find God in it.

One example. When she was in a distant city dealing with this crisis, she didn’t have a vehicle to drive. Someone she barely knew loaned her their son’s vehicle. And it wasn’t just a 1990’s Buick, it was a fully-loaded, off-road-capable monster Jeep. She showed a picture of it, it was a beast. To me, it was really an example of God’s great sense of humor.  

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
James 1:2-3 (New International Version)

Yes, in this life you will have trials, but it will come out right in the end, to the glory of God.

Thank You, Lord, for being there for us, for picking up the broken pieces of our lives, for showing us the Light on the cloudiest of days. Amen.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Flashback Friday to this Past Spring

 This almost feels like a Flashback Friday post. It was less than four months ago that I left for my fifth trip to Kenya. Seems like a lifetime ago. With each subsequent trip, I fear I am going to forgot the finer details. I need to find the time to write them all down.

 The morning after my son Nick and I arrived in Kenya, our hosts whisked us away to Maasailand; I've already blogged about that. The drive out there always seems quicker and more painful than the one coming back to civilization.

 On the drive back to Nairobi, after a few hours, we stopped at a café and giftshop for a potty break, where some of the girls befriended this little fella.
 He was really quite the ham. I’m sure he’d learned how best to get some handouts.
 If only we could take him home with us.
 Our next stop was George’s Resort, for lunch, just outside of Mai Mahiu.
 There, we befriended a momma and her kittens.
 You’ll find cats and dogs all over Kenya, but when people barely have enough to feed themselves, they don’t consider them pets. They live on what scraps they can find or what well-meaning mzungus give them.
 It still surprises me to find these kinds of park-like settings in Kenya. I’ve been to many parks in my many travels there, but somehow I can’t get used to it.
  I guess Nick finds it surprising too.
 The whole group we got to know while we were there. More new friends from around the world.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Coming to the Clinic - part 2 of part 6 - get high on life

 Three weeks ago, I shared the objective saga of the prescription drug crisis in America and what is believed to be one of the causes of it. Today, it’s my turn to tell my side of it, the personal side, what I’ve seen in the past and what I see every day at my clinic.

 Thirty years ago, right about this time of year, I was hit in the face with the reality of addiction. Thanks to my first husband, I learned all about twelve step programs, spent an hour every week in an Al-Anon meeting, came to understand what enabling was all about, and fought to accept the fact that this was a disease just like diabetes or cancer. And just like diabetes or cancer, I could get mad at the person with this disease who wasn’t taking care of themselves and getting treatment.

 Everyone’s body and mind react differently to any substance put into it. Most people can give or take alcohol and it’s no big deal, while others can’t put it down. Some of those people could control their alcohol use and some are truly wired to be addicted.

 The same thing goes for street drugs and prescribed drugs. There are factors such as family history and past medical history which can indicate what you are going to do with such drugs, but no system is fail-safe.  

 So, here is the reality I see in the clinic where I work.

 We have patients safely and appropriately taking pain pills like Vicodin and Tramadol, sleeping pills like Ambien, and ADHD meds like Adderall and Vyvanse. These patients are going to sign a contract saying that they will behave and follow our rules; they will give a urine sample when we ask for it; they won’t get early refills and they won’t go to another clinic asking for any other controlled substances.

 Then we have those patients who do not play by any of these rules. They lie to their provider, they lie to their pharmacist, they lie to their families, they manipulate everyone. The medical field has (hopefully) done its best to help these people, but if they aren’t going to help themselves, there is nothing left for us to do except to cut them off.

 The first thing a person learns when they are in AA or any twelve-step program is that they have to admit that they have lost control, that they are powerless over their addiction, that their addiction has taken control of them. The sad part is that if they get to this point, there are fewer and fewer drug addiction centers out there and fewer insurance providers which will cover a 28-day stay in one. If addiction is truly a disease, why aren’t there enough specialists willing to see these people? I think that’s where we are losing this war on the opioid crisis.   

 Of course, the other reality is the world we live in. A society seeking instant gratification, filled with sensory overload, where support systems may be sketchy and tempers are often near the tipping point. I think that people just need to learn to relax, do some meditation, take some deep breaths, turn their lives over to God or whatever healthy higher power they believe in.

 Thirty-four years ago, before I knew any of this, a friend and I were talking about people who smoke marijuana, and he said, “Why get high on drugs? Get high on life instead.”

 Rather corny words, but, oh, how wise. Try it, my friends, look at the good things around you, stop focusing on your pain or your problems, and get high on life.     

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Will I Ever Walk in His Ways?

  Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 New International Version)

 Wow, it’s only been two weeks since I wrote a Sunday inspirational blog post? Seems like so much longer. Here we are in the last official month of summer and it feels like my brain has gone on vacation without me. Or something like that.

 One month ago, when I was still at Lifest Christian Music Festival in Oshkosh, Bill Yonker was the speaker at Saturday morning worship. (He is the senior pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in East Dundee, Illinois, by the way.)  

He used the verse above as the topic of his message. And though I wrote that down in my little notebook that morning, I don’t remember what he all had to say about it.

It’s not too hard, though, to get the message out of this passage. And I feel that this past week I failed miserably in living in.

 “Walk in love, just as Christ loved us.” Did I do that last week? Only some of the time. Will I do that in the coming week? I may try but I will fail miserably, once again. Why? Because I am a sinner. I can try as hard as I can to live a Christ-like life, but I am never going to get it. At the end of the day, or the end of the week, all I can ask is for God’s forgiveness and for the people I have wronged to forgive me as well.

 Lord, God, Heavenly Father, forgive me of the long list of sins I continue to commit day in and day out. Thank You, Dear Lord, for sending Your Son to suffer and die for me so that I need not be a slave to my sin. Send Your Holy Spirit to strengthen me so I can begin to walk in Your ways. Amen   

Friday, August 10, 2018

Just Let Me Sleep

I really thought that by now I would have caught up on life and gotten back to blogging on schedule. Hmm? Hasn’t happened yet. Can’t understand why. . . .

Here is what I remember doing in the last three and a half months.

Left for my fifth trip to Kenya (and first trip with the son) and had a 23 hour layover in Zurich.
Had the usual good time in Kenya, with the usual bag of mixed feelings.
Only a six hour layover in Germany, just enough time to eat lots in the airport.
A good friend’s wedding in June. Oh, and Hubby's retirement party, which I didn't get any pictures of. 
My thirty-plus year dorm reunion.
An overnight to East Troy, where the son lives.
Lifest! How many years has it been again? Eleven, I think I decided.
Camping in the UP.
Wedding at my house.
And coming up in the next three and a half months? So far, a four-day writer’s retreat, four weddings, a few other parties and get-to-gethers, and the family Thanksgiving at my house. Uff-da. No wonder I am tired. 

Hope you have a good last month of Summer. Keep checking in, I will get back on schedule next week. I promise. Just let me sleep first. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Just a Quick Hello

Wow, the first of August already.

So, today I really wanted to write a continuation of last week’s post on my series about visiting the clinic. After the day I had yesterday, I didn’t think I could write on that subject objectively. Plus, well, I have other things to do this week.

Saturday is the big day. My brother-in-law and his long-time girlfriend are getting married in my backyard. Do you think we can get this yard in shape by then?
Watch for the pictures of how the day develops, on Sunday, though, of course, after it is all over and I get some sleep. I’m sure it will go off without a hitch. Currently, the weather forecast is looking perfect for an outdoor wedding. Check my other blog, writing what I can when I can, for my complete to-do list.