About alivingpencil

Hi, I'm Carol. My life is full of solid joys, deep sorrows, and aggressive hope. I search for truth, beauty, goodness, amusement, and comfort in books, music, worship, photos, conversation. I'm fond of the *idea* of gardening, writing, exercising and practicing scales. Cooking is the best fun with a friend. I like to talk, but it's harder to write.

Knuckle Down

We had just finished a rehearsal last Thursday evening when my friend noticed a missed call from Collin. That’s odd, I wondered, he knows we’re practicing. Mike called Collin and handed the phone to me. Hi, Mom, my son calmly said. Hey, we’re up in ER, Dad just cut his finger off. But he’s OK. It’s not life-threatening.

My husband Curt is a task-oriented man. So if it’s raining, and the lawn needs mowing, he mows the lawn in the rain. April 11, 2019: first mowing of the season. He had the grass-catcher on and was dumping the clippings onto our garden. Sometimes the tube would clog up with wet grass. He would reach in and grab a clump to clear the passageway.

As he got to the last few rows, my wise and capable man did something very foolish. His mind became disengaged. There’s no logical explanation. The clods became a challenge. As if he were emptying the washing machine, he just kept reaching in and grabbing grass. He didn’t register that the engine was still running. Until the blades grabbed his finger.

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The first thing he felt was disappointment with himself for doing something so dumb. One moment can change everything. Pain propelled him to the hospital.

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Wedding band blues

The ER staff were fantastic. They’ve seen mangled. They’ve seen gore. Actually there wasn’t much blood, because Curt has Raynaud Syndrome, where blood doesn’t flow to his fingers when the temperature is cold. Who knew there was a benefit from Raynaud’s? He lost the top section of his ring finger. Reattachment wasn’t an option.

As soon as our older sons knew their dad was OK, they began the banter.
We’re crossing our fingers for you!
Hang loose!
Give Dad a high 4.5 for me!
Matthew 5:30!

Curt has a few quips of his own. He answers the phone with Stumpy’s Lawn Service. He told a friend that he felt a kinship with John the Baptist. How so? He must increase and I must decrease.

It’s not all beer and skittles. Spontaneous amputation involves pain. But incisive humor, a large fund of humility, and an inclination to be thankful can provide relief, analgesics with no side effects. I can still see Curt shaking hands (using his right hand) with the staff that stitched him up before we left ER.

Dear reader, bear with me. This is a cautionary tale. When I am training employees in my job I have a mantra: You can never go on autopilot. Think! Engage! Attend! Notice! Stay awake! Turn off the engine!

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P.S. In a wry intersection with my reading life, I just finished Abraham Verghese’s novel, Cutting for Stone. Chapter 2, The Missing Finger, relates the story of a surgeon amputating his own index finger when it became swollen and infected after a surgical nick.

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‘All or Nothing’ Much?

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Consider this a graphic depiction of my life. I’m either ALL IN … except when I’m ALL OUT. Let me explain.

I use a CPAP machine as therapy for sleep apnea. My machine gives me a “sleep score” for every night that I use it. (Hint: use is the operative word!)

In order to get a 100 score you must:
1) have the mask on for a minimum of seven hours (70 points)
2) have good mask seal (20 points)
3) have less than 6 “events” per hour (5 points)
4) only take your mask off once/twice per night (5 points)

In order to get a 0 score you must:
Not put the mask on. This is what a British nanny would call “bing NAWty.”

Disclaimer:
DO NOT take this as permission/suggestion to not use your own CPAP machine. Those little boxes can save lives. Since I’ve lost 40 pounds some of my apnea has gone away [based on the word of my husband, not a new sleep study] and I’ve been, well, careless. Since my weight loss has stalled, however, I decided on March 10th to give my body every possible advantage; practically, that means using my machine.

Observations:
1. I’ll be honest: I used to feel blushing shame that I needed a CPAP machine. It was something I kept secret. The best remedy was finding friends who used a CPAP and hearing them say how much it helped.

2. This much is true: I can look at any photo of me and tell you instantly if it was B.C. (Before CPAP) or A.D. (after device). My eyes tell all. Haggard or bright.

3. Do not believe that having the mask on for seven hours means I slept seven hours. The pity is my over-caring about a stupid number. I have learned how to play the game, how to ‘cheat’ the numbers. I have woken at 3:52 and waited until 4:14 to rip off the mask and go back to sleep. All for a number. (There may be other therapy I need!)

Any other all-or-nothing types out there? CPAP users?

 

Have and Behave

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I made a connection!! When my grandson misread “have” rhyming it with “gave” — the heavens opened, the light shone, the ground trembled. Could there be a bridge between have and behave?

Longtime readers of this blog know that I get terrifically close to tipsy on be- prefix words. New readers: I can’t explain it: I just love them. Betake, benumbed, befuddled, besought, beribboned. And on and on.

Have comes from Old English habban “to own, possess; be subject to, experience”

Behave comes from be- intensive prefix + have in sense of “to have or bear (oneself) in a particular way, comport”

::Happy sigh::

Isn’t life delicious?

Taking Notes

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We honored our friend’s dad’s life today…and I took notes. I believe a memorial service can be one of the best seminars on living. It is satisfying to see the end product of a life well-lived: friends and family whose lives are forever changed by the love, faithfulness,  care and kindness of an ordinary man.

Although I’ll pass on Bob’s favorite sandwich: peanut butter, lettuce, and mayonnaise.

During the eulogy, all fourteen great-grandchildren were named. You could see each one sit up straighter when named. Individual names are so much more personal and potent than a collective number.

I had shared with the family a nice touch from the last memorial service we attended in February, and they incorporated it into today’s service.  The moderator asked groups of people to stand (and then sit). Grandchildren, great-grandchildren, in-laws, fellow church members; the greatest rising was in response to “if you have ever hunted or fished with Bob.”

A well-worn and scuffy truth was on display today: the highest way to love your children is to love your spouse. Eleven years ago, my husband and I wrote about Averil, Bob’s wife:

This Repeated Wedding Procession

And Grace Will Lead Me Home

Alive Inside

One theme of my life is exploring the power of music. A thread of music can squeeze into the tendrils of my soul and touch me in a profound way. It upholds the spirit in prison camps; it can spark a bloodless revolution, as it did in Estonia.

Alive Inside is a magnificent documentary that shows Alzheimer’s patients waking up, as it were, and responding in glorious ways to music they remember. There are sections that I want to transcribe into my journal.

It’s available on Amazon Prime. I enthusiastically recommend it.

Listening In on Grownup Conversations

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When I was a child, my bedroom was an upstairs windowless closet with a slanted roof. There was barely room for a bed to the left and a dresser to the right. A lonely light bulb hung from the ceiling. My dresses floated from a pole across the ceiling. Don’t think Dickensian: I loved my own cozy cocoon.

The room was at the top of a stairway that had two ninety-degree turns. As the youngest in a home where parents sent their littles to bed at 8:00 p.m., I often sensed that I was missing out on the important stuff of life. I’d hear the murmur of conversations that I wanted to be part of. I would tiptoe out of my bedroom and down the five steps to the landing where the stairs turned. As close as could be and still remain out of sight. Hugging my benightgowned knees, I would strain to hear the grownups talk.

Even when I didn’t understand the talk, I enjoyed the aura, the camaraderie. When laughter erupted, I sat in the darkness and smiled.

That, my friend, is how I feel reading C.S. Lewis’ academic work The Allegory of Love. I’m sitting in the dark, listening to the adults, not quite understanding all the fine points, but basking in the atmosphere. Smiling when I grasp a point, soaking up the delicious banter.

Happy to be in the company of such witty erudition.

Like that little girl long ago, I need patience. Lewis quotes Latin, Greek, French, Old French, Old English without translation. He writes about writers whose names I’ve never before heard. He uses words that have never come close to my radar.

Sometimes the words are clear. It was the misfortune of Jean de Meun to have read and remembered everything: and nothing that he remembered could be kept out of his poem.  Yeah, I think, I’ve heard sermons like that.

So I will continue sitting in the dark, craning my ear, hoping to hear something wonderful. Why? Because I’m stubborn; but mainly to be in the delightful company of CSL.

 

A Winter Travelogue

We wanted to honor our friend (my next door neighbor from Lombard, IL) and his family at his memorial service six hours away. The Pacific Northwest has been pounded with winter storms this weekend. As we studied the radar it looked like there was a break in the weather, when we could thread the needle and get through. We decided to give it a try. Except for a few dicey spots, the trip was a blessing.

Chapter 1  Setting Off

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This, my friends, is Eastern Oregon.

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Dry pavement. Yes!

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Deer crossing

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Welcome, Holly! This sign has been a source of delight for decades.

Chapter 2  Investment Opportunities

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This stark landscape reminds me of the Midwest. Or Scandinavia.

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A fine barn

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I imagine homesteaders lived here once upon a time. Or, perhaps a school?

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The detail on this fine old barn thrills me.

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Roof needs repaired. Air conditioning free.

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It was Tiny before Tiny Houses were cool

 

Chapter 3     Birds and Such 

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We’ve never seen so many hawks on posts. Here, there, here again. Sidenote: I over-helped my son write a paper on the red-tail hawk in 1993. I’ve never forgotten the scientific name: buteo jamaicensis.  Isn’t it weird what sticks to the inside of your brain?

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This horse has been studying and applying the Marie Kondo method.

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 Hawk perched in a tree.

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Waterfowl feeding

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I am drawn to lonely trees

 

Chapter 4  Coming Home on the Rattlesnake

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Driving south towards Lewiston

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I wonder how this highway was named The Rattlesnake?

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Looking down from above

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It descends, slithers along the floor of the canyon (see center of picture),
and slinks upward to the next plateau.

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S-curves superabound

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Sidling up to the mountain

 

Chapter 5  Watch for the Light

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Coming into the Wallowas, spots of blue sky

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A shroud of clouds cannot cover it. The light still shines.

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Light and shadow. And a lonely tree.

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Luminous

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Winter glory

 

Bonus Chapter: Deer and Elk

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Outside of Enterprise, deer feeding

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Outside of Imbler, elk herding

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I don’t have the skill to convey this magnificent sight: about 300 elk

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Walking, loping, bunching together

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Move ’em out!

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Bull supervising the exodus