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Archive for the ‘When We Hurt’ Category

80 years old

Summer began around solstice time, with our 60th wedding anniversary celebration.  This was held at our condo clubhouse, so no one’s home got stressed out—but I promise we will not plan a big whoop de doo for our 70th, as our hard working children and grandchildren went many extra miles with planning, serving, and cleaning up after the delightful June 22nd event.

Above, is a photo of Mr. and Mrs. Joe Been—gleaned from our daughter Debbie’s FACEBOOK page and taken a week ago beside Debbie and Rick’s pool.  Although (fortunately) there are not 80 candles on the cake, that is how young I turned on August 8th, 2013.  I think I am freaking out my family and friends by telling them that now I can start being eccentric.  Predictably they are wondering, “Yikes, what’s next?”

In between these two family landmarks, I received my Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement.  The six weeks mark was reached last Tuesday, and now I am able to hang up the sling and walk around with two arms free.  It’s a treat to eat with my right hand again.  (Actually I eat with spoons and forks, but they are held in my hand).  I never did get graceful with the left, and I held my fork like it was a boat oar—very clutzy.

So now I’m watching the early morning mist form over our park, a characteristic of late summer.  How can the days whirr by so fast?  Constantly, I’m overwhelmed when I reflect on the blessings we enjoy every day and will never never take for granted!  My recovery from surgery has been a gift from God worked out through the prayers and benevolence of family members and friends.

I’m thankful for Joe’s daily concern and assistance in so many ways—including weeks of enjoyable eating out together at our favorite restaurants.  We began this two days after my surgery, along with resuming our rummaging adventures.  (There is something so essentially wonderful about doing “normal” things after the trauma of rather radical surgery, with a 6 inch incision scar to prove it!)

I’m thankful for our daughter Laura’s visit from Washington State, starting on my surgery day.  Laura helped me through those tentative first days when every move hurt and just getting washed, dressed, and groomed seemed like an insurmountable challenge.  And for Debbie’s every ready concern—checking in on us, bringing good food, and scrubbing our floors.  (Debbie knows how I love CLEAN!)  I’m thankful for the phone calls, letters, companionship, and encouragement of many over the past weeks.

I’m eternally grateful for the medical expertise which made an effective shoulder prosthesis possible for me.  The Reverse procedure is new within ten years in the USA.  Twelve years ago there would have been no way to fix the considerable pain which is no longer there, thanks to amazing technology.  The Standard replacement simply would not have addressed my issues.  I’m thankful for a surgeon who performs this new procedure, as many orthopedic surgeons have not begun.

I’m thankful for the quiet hospital just minutes from our home—with private rooms for all patients, and plenty of comfortable space for one’s spouse to stay over night.  I’m very grateful for the sweet young man, a Physical Therapist named Daniel, who encouraged me and helped me so much prior to my hospital discharge.  His soft-spoken, gentle kindness—while showing me the only movements I would be allowed for weeks to come—has stuck with me as a stellar example of professional expertise at it’s most personal best.*  There is nothing like quiet kindness to promote healing, and Daniel’s sensitivity has overcome any unpleasant or jarring memories I have had of my hospital experience.  Thanks to him, I’ve been able to “do it right” from start to finish!

I’m thankful for my precious Pembroke Welsh corgi, Dylan.  He never fails to make me smile.  I am certain that he understands most of everything I say to him, although admittedly I don’t launch into a lot of meaty philosophical discussions with Baby Dylan.

And here are photos (also gleaned from Debbie’s FACEBOOK page) of some other precious individuals (great-grandchildren) who never fail to make me smile:

too too sweet

My cup runneth over!!!

*I obtained all of my medical records of proceedings from the day of my discharge from the hospital on 7/3/13.  For a 90 pound person, I have a very strange body chemistry:  I sleep like a well-fed puppy on caffeinated beverages, while narcotic pain medications (which plow most people under) make me “bright eyed and bushy tailed”—and, I fear, loquacious.  So I was naturally curious as to my conversations and interchanges recorded by the medical personnel on discharge day, after I’d received 24 hours of morphine via IV.

Although I might have knocked Daniel over with my bright eyed and bushy tailed verbal input, he recorded me as “Doing very well”, “Able to verbalize movement precautions”, “Independent” in all listed categories, “No difficulty” in doing what needed to be done, and “Agreeable“.  Using the word “Cooperative”, my surgeon recorded the same observations in his write-up of our 7/3/13 exchange.

I was overjoyed to discover that I behaved myself like the lady I always desire to be!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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. . . waking in the morning to the sound of much-needed rain,

sharing a breakfast at our local “good old boy” restaurant,

stopping at the library and leaving with 2 heavy sacks of books,

celebrating the progression of summertime in our gardens,

sitting in “our row” in church with 10 great grandchildren—ages 6 and under,

gently stepping back in time at the antique barn up the road,

eating ice cream on the patio, 

sleeping, waking, breathing in and out!

Sweet savor offerings of praise are going up each day!  For five weeks Joe and I have been at home.  This is a record.  Since September, 2010 when I had spinal fusion surgery right up until mid-June, 2011 when Joe had a heart emergency we have not been out of a hospital for more than a month.  The one-month break happened only once.  For the rest of that period we averaged a hospital stay every two to three weeks—with each stay lasting from 2 to 10 days.

I’m not clueless enough to believe this blessed hiatus will last forever.  We live one day at a time, and when a crisis comes we find peace and joy in the midst of whatever God allows in our lives.  But at this moment we are enjoying peace and joy at home, doing “normal” things!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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It’s one of those Greek-owned restaurants with large platters of good food at a reasonable price.  We had not been back there since October 23, 2010 when Joe stepped in front of our empty van which he thought he’d left in “Park”—and the van moved forward pinning Joe to the ground, advancing over his left leg and shoulder, and changing our lives. 

When the subject of going back to the restaurant came up a few weeks ago, Joe shook his head.  Never again.  But yesterday Joe and I shared a desire to return to the SUNSET FAMILY RESTAURANT, for the breakfast we’d never had 5 months and 3 days ago. 

This time we parked in the handicap zone, as Joe has a temporary sticker.  He walks slowly, with a cane.  We crossed the area where he’d left the car to open the restaurant door for me—as in October I was recovering from spinal fusion surgery and I was weak as a baby rabbit.  I noted the exact spot where the ambulance driver had held me in his large, comforting arms. 

Inside, the owner’s wife—who tends the cash register—gasped and broke out in tears when she saw Joe.  She gave him a huge hug and said, “I never heard anything after that day and thought it must have been bad news.”  (Someone had intended to go back to the restaurant after the accident, and report Joe’s progress.  But with all the challenges of these past months, that never happened.)

After we were seated, the owner came to our table and expressed his relief and joy to see us again.  The waitress cried when she came to take our order.  “I couldn’t focus on my job that day,” she said.  “I just kept praying and praying.”

It wasn’t long before Joe and I were crying tears of gratitude and appreciation.  I was overwhelmed, just as I was that day last October, over the amazing kindness of people!  There are plenty of tender hearts out there.

The rest of the day was special for both of us.  We’d experienced the sweetness of closure!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

“For we who are alive are always given over to death for Jesus sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.”

II Corinthians 4:6-7, 11 (NIV)

I once heard a Christian woman say that she had “Died to Self”.  This was proclaimed as a once-and-for-all-time accomplished feat.  Evidently the woman believed that God’s Holy Spirit had completed His work in conforming her to the image of Christ—way short of taking her home to glory.

My Christian experience, based on the truth of God’s Word, is one of daily dying.  The T-shirt slogan, “God isn’t finished with me yet” is true; the words of the woman quoted above are not

I know that God is not finished with me, and I’m thankful that He never simply tears up the blueprint and quits—the way I occasionally tear up a messy painting which, after much tweeking and tampering, seems utterly hopeless beyond reclamation! 

No, I have not “died to self”, and I won’t until that glorious moment when I am face to face with the Lord Jesus.  Yet, as Paul’s letter to the Corinthians affirms, we believers are constantly dying. 

Dying is a moment by moment thing.  I have not had the strength in myself, to soldier on through the events of past months.  Each day God has allowed me to see my utter weakness, and dependence on Him for every step I take. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson notwithstanding, “Self Reliance” must go and “God Reliance” must take its place.  Through His Word, God does build strong people, but the all-surpassing power is from Him and not from us.

Dying to sin is an ongoing process, from the moment of salvation until our physical bodies die.  We are forever forgiven, yet we are responsible throughout our earthly life for the decisions we make concerning our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions. 

Every moment we have a choice.  When we immerse ourselves in His Word, God continually nudges us and gets our attention.  When we are prayerfully receptive, we see the reality of our pride and its insidious flip-side—that obnoxious Uriah Heep variety of mock “humility”.  When we fail to heed His Word, God allows us to experience the barrenness of rebellion and “self reliance”!

At a recent medical appointment, my neuro-surgeon made a wise comment.  He said, “We are very fragile creatures.  But sometimes we don’t know it.'”

God has given His Word, and engineered our circumstances so we can know that we are very fragile creatures.  The life of the Lord Jesus Christ springs from our daily dying, and we are spiritually renewed in the process!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Recently I heard a woman of retirement age say that she was selling her large Victorian era home, and hoping to move into a smaller place.  Someone had told her of condos in our neighborhood—with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, kitchen, and “loft” over the garage.  The woman replied, “Oh good!  If I bought a place with a loft I could take up painting!”

Perhaps the woman was kidding.  But I shuddered at her comment—sincerely hoping that she hadn’t spent her lifetime denying herself of a dream simply because she didn’t have a loft in which to paint!  Certainly a huge Victorian era home could have supplied a spare corner where she could have pursued her dream. 

The compact four room condo in which Joe and I live is not too small for me to have a corner in which to paint and create collages.  I have appropriated one end of our bedroom by an expansive window.  If we didn’t have a large bedroom, I’d find a corner somewhere else—in the living room, kitchen, or our seldom used front hall.  The old adage, “Where there’s a will there’s a way” applies!

I made the foolish mistake of putting off painting until I turned 73.  I used the excuse of “no talent”.  Finally I realized that talent is not (and never has been) necessary in order to have fun.

Actually, I’ve always disliked excuses made for anything.  As a mother of six children and partner in our family construction company, I had many decades that some would have deemed “busy”.  But I hated the word “busy”.  The “busier” I was, the more creative activities I pursued—my music, writing, knitting, spinning, weaving, gardening, soap making, raising critters, etc. 

Frequently young mothers (or women with outside careers) say they would like to knit, take piano lessons, learn to quilt, or whatever—but they are “too busy”.  I can hardly resist getting on my soapbox when I hear the dreaded “too busy” words.  “Too busy” is hogwash!  These young women might be too busy to leap into five or six restorative hobbies, but a few minutes a week can always be spared for at least one desired activity! 

A hobby is far more than fun and games.  Creative pastimes are God’s tangible, material manifestations of His innovative life.  Perhaps they seem like just fun, or even “fluff” to begin with.  But when life really sinks in, when the storm clouds fall like lead bricks, when adversity strikes big time (and it probably will!) our hobbies help us to get up in the morning, and motivate us to keep on despite the most discouraging of circumstances. 

We need to cultivate the hobby habit before life gets terribly difficult, so we are ready for the disasters that lie ahead!

Some individuals say that people are “their hobby”.  These energetic types seem to need to be constantly talking, and all their spare time is spent with people—either in social activities or good works.  But for one’s own personal deep-level soul survival, much more than people contact is needed.  We cannot even begin to benefit others, if we’ve neglected our own soul need for solitude, silence, and creative expression.

We desperately need our intrinsically quiet private time, in prayer and Scripture, to keep our hearts and minds balanced and refreshed at all times.  Then we need that outward manifestation of God’s imprint on our lives.  We can live serenely in all circumstances when we do some little thing for ourselves—not because it needs doing, but simply because we love to do it.

We need to make music, poetry, and/or art.  We need to plant gardens, and/or nurture house plants.  We need to apply our hands to something, not necessarily useful but hopefully beautiful—or at least whimsical and entertaining.  Making music, writing poems, gardening, and crafting are living proof that we are made in the image of a creative God.  Hobbies may be simply fun at first, but ultimately they are soul sustaining in the larger scene as our life challenges increase with every passing year.

Don’t wait for the loft, before pursuing your heart’s desire.  Just a few feet in a corner of most any room will do.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

 

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For several weeks I have wondered if I would ever blog again! 

Swamped with medical issues and the realization that Joe and I will be managing some of these concerns “forever”—plus the fallout of Joe’s accident and my two major surgeries, all in less than three month’s time—have decimated my energy level.

Throughout these past weeks there have been times when having to communicate with people (other than family members) has threatened to plow me under. 

Although I have consistently delighted in (and been rejuvenated by) telling callers and visitors about how God’s grace has carried me triumphantly through each day of our crisis, some people don’t want to hear that.  Instead they want a report of medical details—most of which I’m sick to the gills of having to explain over and over ad nauseum

Or folks want to tell me that I am “wonderful”,  because I don’t just collapse in a heap.  What Hogwash!  Those of us who were raised in the bygone era of “true grit” simply do what we have to do, and if we were to collapse in a heap it would certainly be no one but God’s business. 

There is nothing “wonderful” about me, except for the grace of the indwelling Lord Jesus who sustains me!

Any leftover stamina after praying, caregiving, and trying to rest my own healing body has gone into reading, knitting, painting, collaging, spinning wool on my spinning wheels, real (snail) letter writing, and piano practice.  These are the things that feed my soul in all kinds of weather and circumstances.   These are God’s tangible gifts for survival!

Creative activities balance out the detritus of communication and the devastating fatigue resulting from conversation!

Meanwhile, despite all predictions of never blogging again, here I am!  Why?  What cut through the fog of that hackneyed but real syndrome called “writer’s block”?  What motivated me to boot up my computer and share in words?   Answer:  My kitchen sink!

Aproned, dress-wearing June Cleever type that I am, I love my kitchen. I especially love my kitchen sink.  We have a dishwasher in our home, which I have never used as a dishwasher.  Rather, it is an extended museum nook in our home full of antiques and collectibles.  The dishwasher contains vintage kitchen tools and sparkling clean glass jars to be used for diminutive flower arrangements.  Sometimes I leave the dishwasher lid down and open so visitors can glance into my mini museum.

I savor washing dishes by hand so much that it is a cherished ritual.  This morning, as I lingered in the suds over breakfast dishes, I recalled my growing up years at the kitchen sink.  I remembered the precious mother/daughter chats while my mom washed and I dried.  We were always leisurely after the evening meal.  In fact, I can’t recall that anyone ever hurried much over anything back then.  Homemaking was a gracious art and dishwashing symbolized the ambience of a home well cared for. 

I inherited my mother’s passion for beautiful dishes.  Rather than dry the dishes now, I do the sanitary thing of letting them air dry in the drainer by the sink.  The plates, etc., that Joe and I use at meals stay in the drainer non-stop, broadcasting beauty to anyone who happens to see them.  I vary my dishes with the time of year—so that most of my patterns are periodically on display.

In a sense, you might say that my kitchen sink has brought me back to life after a time of going quiet and deep, purely for the sake of soul maintenance

Thanks to the gentle chore of washing dishes, and the memories evoked in the process, I once again desire to share in words—not the results of my latest x-ray, not the vicissitudes of managing chronic illness or the challenges of caregiving, but rather the ambience of everyday life!

The mellow things of life are always worth sharing!

©Margaret L. Been

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Three weeks ago today, Joe and I drove to a nearby city anticipating a hearty breakfast at a favorite Greek owned restaurant.  After letting me off at the restaurant door Joe suffered a serious accident, which has impacted our lives in making each moment we have on earth more infinitely precious even than before! 

Life was always precious to us, but the treasure of our time together has reached a new, heretofore undreamed of level!

Joe suffered no broken bones or internal organ damage from the accident, and no other persons were involved.  The remaining challenges consist of a 3rd degree burn on his left leg (which will eventually require surgery) and a considerably damaged shoulder which may respond to physical therapy.  The burn is painless, because nerves were destroyed, and the shoulder grows less painful every day.  Also, Joe had a coronary artery incident last week and that has been treated as well. 

Joe and I have received grace upon grace, and blessing upon blessing in a short span of 3 weeks’ time.  We have been moved to tears by the kindness and generosity of our family members who have dropped everything to cart us to appointments and help with our daily household needs.  Since I am only a few weeks out of lumbar fusion surgery, help at home has been a lifeline.  Our daughter, Debbie, who lives a mile or so from us has been a constant cheerful worker!

We are amazed at the caring, personal quality of the doctors and nurses who are tending Joe during his crisis.  He is receiving the best of care, just as I have received for my surgery and recovery.

Meanwhile, the quiet, “darkling days” are upon us.   The demise of daylight savings has descended with a thud, reminding me of a curtain falling on a stage—signifying the end of a drama, in this case the drama of 2010. 

Summer born, I’m a creature of light.  The onset of darkness makes me cling to that small bit of remaining light—as well as to the fact that in just 6 weeks the winter sun will be moving back to the north and our beloved daylight will slowly, inexorably return.

Joe and I are resting.  Our little patio garden is resting as well.  In a low alcove, protected from all but the east wind, the herbs continue to flourish—several frosts notwithstanding.  The garden will provide fresh sage for a turkey dinner.  Garden mint for my tea will sustain me, bringing me closer to that moment when the sun resumes its northern climb.  

I gaze out at the patio, where I lounged most every afternoon during our long hot summer.  The poignant sweetness of summer lingers in my heart, with an undercurrent of sadness.  But the promise of spring in my garden brings a spirit of joy, and a prayer of gratitude. 

Joe’s accident reminds us that, in our personal lives, we never know what lies around the next bend.  Our envisioned breakfast out can turn into a day of sorrow at the nearest Emergency Room.  Dreams can become nightmares in just a few seconds.  Humanly speaking, this very moment is all we can be certain of on earth!

But eternal truth prevails as expressed in a favorite hymn based on Lamentations 3:22-23:  “Great is Thy faithfulness, Oh God my father . . . Summer and winter, springtime and harvest, sun moon and stars in their courses above . . . .”* 

Healing requires time and patience.  Winter requires time and patience, at least here in Wisconsin.  But our Lord is faithful!

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

*From Great is Thy Faithfulness, by T. O. Chisholm and William M. Runyan

(For a recently penned ode to the darkling days, please see the “Paintings and Poems” page on this site.)

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