Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Oasis Cafe Thanksgiving

These are my hands, gently cradling a warm coffee cup as I sit across the booth from my husband at the Oasis Cafe. A wonderful little spot tucked in the side of a hill of limestone on the outskirts of downtown Stillwater, Minnesota. Stepping into the Oasis is like stepping back in time...or stepping into your grandmother's kitchen. Old booths, old kitchen, glass pie cupboards, swivel stools occupied by old farmers and spinning two year old's - it's comforting, like a warm blanket or a friend's hug. It always smells like Sunday dinner or Sunday breakfast or just Sunday anything.

I don't bring much into the Oasis Cafe. No laptops, no books, no emotional baggage or heady to-do lists. And I never go there if I don't have time. For some reason, when I settle myself into that green Naugahyde booth the world gets softer. Breath comes easier.

I could go on and on about the food, but I think you get the picture. Everything's home made. Daily specials scratched onto an old black board bring lottery ticket anticipation - $3.95 plus pie! Everyone's a winner.

But my favorite thing about the Oasis is not the coffee or the booths or the meatloaf. My favorite part of being at the Oasis is being there with my husband. Just being there. He always looks so handsome. I think maybe, he too, lets go of the world while he's there. Leaving project management and home repair behind, his brow un-furrows as he holds my hand across the speckled Formica table top. Talk is slow, quiet and sometimes not at all.

As I sit here writing this to you, today is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. By this time I am usually in panic mode, but that was PS (Post Sick) and things are different now. They have to be. Panic is an energy sucking emotion I just cannot afford to have. Some of my ability to avoid this negative mental state is due to changes I have made in my perception of this life. Some comes from learning how to let go. And some comes from just being prepared. Originally, I had decided that we would not be entertaining this Thanksgiving at all. A decision that came difficult, but was necessary due to the aforementioned (previous post) health issues. But thanks to a most dear friend, Thanksgiving will be served in our home, although I will not be the one preparing it - she will. Yes, my lovely readers, there are angels among us.

So, what do the Oasis Cafe and Thanksgiving have to do with each other?  A lot...I hope.
When I think of what I most want this Thanksgiving, when I peel back the layers of hostess pomp and circumstance, when I think of all that matters most to me - it is this... I want an Oasis Cafe Thanksgiving. I want to leave the lap tops, books, emotional baggage and worries of this world outside my front door. I want to really smell the aroma of home cooked food, being mindful of all the hands that planted it, raised it, harvested it and prepared it. I want to feel my connection to this earth - taste the sun and soil from which it came in each and every bite.

I want to look across the table at my family and friends - really look - and breathe in the beauty of their spirit. Being mindful of all that they are, of the miles they have traversed, the sacrifices they have made to sit with me in my kitchen. I want them to know how very thankful I am that they are with me. I want them to know how handsome they are, how precious their lives are and how their very being fills me with joy. I want to sit with them, talking slow, laughing hard and loving much. I have missed far too many moments in my life exhausted, stressed, preoccupied with matters such as clean floors, quickly washed dishes and perfect desserts.

This time around...I'm going to have an Oasis Cafe Thanksgiving.         I hope you'll join me. 

"For each of us food is the source of sustenance, 
the basis of life; 
and when we offer this gift to one another, 
we are not only nourishing each other’s bodies, 
we are feeding one another’s spirits. 
So receive – and give – the food of your life as the powerful gift that it is.”

                                                                                                                          ~ Daphne Rose Kingma


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Perfectly Sick

Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.

-St. Francis de Sales

How are you perfectly sick? Honestly, I ask myself that question on days like today, weeks like this week, months like this month. I believe St. Francis with all of my heart, but it's not quite the perspective I like. I don't believe that if you read further on in his prayer you would come to something like..."unless what you are is not pleasing, then pray with all your might for something else." Not really sure that was what he was going for. 
The truth is, these are difficult days. Tapering off the prednisone has been challenging. I feel as though I am to a point now where I have to continually and very carefully weigh out the benefits and risks to both getting off this medication as well as staying on. There is a point at which suffering is indication of something worse going on, not just adapting to a higher level of tolerance.Which, for a past marathon runner, can be a dangerous level to judge by. I have appointments next week that hopefully will help me with these decisions. 

For now...it's a rough road. It's interesting to me, I posted the picture on the right to Facebook this past week and got all sorts of really wonderful comments. (thank you!!) I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend my oldest daughter's first baby shower (where the picture was taken). The very first grandchild! I wanted nothing more than to just be there with her, and as the day would have it, I managed through the entire event. It was the only time I left our home all week. Getting outside is becoming progressively more difficult. And let me tell you, I was beyond exhausted and on the verge of "giving up" all day. I see that in my face, but I'm not so sure anyone else does. That's what I hope for at least. 
You can't tell, yet, that I am losing my hair. I spent my entire life wishing for less hair, especially when I was a teenager. The few times I dared to get a perm, it ended up costing me hundreds of dollars, literally! That's how it goes when they have to open five boxes to get the job done. Two hair dressers still could not cut down on the time...or the tip! Today I am thankful for that overabundance. It's giving me a few more days. I've resorted to washing it only every other day, and have to do so in a laundry tub with a garbage can next to me. I pull handfuls out at a time. I'm no longer able to wear it down as it ends up everywhere. This loss is especially tough. I guess they all are.

Since becoming sick, my world has become pretty narrow. I'm okay with that. I actually have adapted to it well and have found a certain comfort in it. It's a balance I've gotten fairly good at. Some of the ways in which I find that balance are in my ability to read, meditate and write. Things I really struggled to find time to do when I was healthy are now the cherished moments that make up my days. When I get sick like I am right now, cognitive difficulties have a significant impact on my ability to do all three of these things. Combine that with extreme fatigue, pain, nausea, diarrhea and headaches and quite often these things are not possible at all. Even writing this post today I find it difficult to spell, put sentences together and comprehend things I have already written. 

So where does that leave me? How, dear Francis, am I to be perfectly sick? First of all, just admitting it to you, the reader,  is a start. Sitting in front of this computer screen for hours on end, trying to make the best of things, trying to come up with some really great message, trying to be something other than what I currently am, is not going to do either of us any good. Step one, be honest. 

Step two, be kind. I'm making a promise to you to be kind to myself. Which means letting go of some of my unrealistic expectations. The ones that might have been possible two months ago, but now are just making me more sick. Part of that will mean letting go of the idea I have in my head of meeting Theresa's blog post quota for the week. Another part will mean giving more responsibility to my family and friends. I've decided that instead of comparing myself to the past me or attempting to meet some expectation of the future me, I will give today what  is today's. If that means rest, then it's time to rest. Period. 

And lastly, just be. I told a friend the other day that I actually do better (I was speaking in regards to my emotional and spiritual health) the more sick I am. That's actually one of the gifts of having lupus for me. Illness has a way of reminding us that we are not the ones in control and in doing so, has a way of honing life down to the most important. When I am on the upward swing - well, that's when the old me kicks in and I start taking things for granted, moving too fast, missing out on the present. So for now, it's time to just be. And if that is sick, then may I do it perfectly. 

Some good news! The Maple Floor Project is complete!! I have my living room back and the bedroom, closet and hallway are all put back in order. What a labor of love, thank you dear husband of mine! We are already breathing easier and sleeping better. Here are a few pictures of the finished product...

(After Thanksgiving this Pergo laminate ("fake wood") will be moved down to Emma's bedroom and Dave will be putting maple in the living room as well!!)

I am thank-FULL!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Weekend Update...gosh, is it really Wednesday?!?

As promised, an update from the weekend! With Jake warming my toes, we bring to you snapshots of the

   Maple Floor Project !

 My husband calls this "project food". Bought at Menards, they are the diabetic handy-man's staple. Since working hard often means low blood sugar...these are a must have!

 Below is the current "belivingroom". I actually like having the bedroom in the center of the house. It's kind of growing on me. Fireplace, big windows, easy access to the kitchen...

 ...all of our creature comforts in one nice little area!

 This is me...not feeling so well, but very, very happy. Still suffering from a prednisone taper flare, along with nasty post-infusion yuck, I am enjoying my comfortable space. And so are the pets!

 This is the official "before" shot of our bedroom.

This is the official "before" shot of the hallway. 

This is my husband Dave, pulling out billions...okay, maybe not billions...but LOTS of staples.

Dave calls these "devil strips". I'm learning the lingo!

Sawing off door frames in order to make way for the new wood!

See how slick a piece of the new wood slides under. What a genius!

This is the bad boy of hard wood floor nailers! It does a wonderful job, but let me tell you...is it LOUD OR WHAT!?!?! Holy Moly Rocky!

Below is Jake...staying as far away from the power tools as possible. The pets are NOT impressed!

The garage/wood working shop! Old carpet pads covering areas to prevent saw dust on everything. Nice recycling Dave! 
Watch out for those fingers!!

This is the bedroom as of yesterday...

...and last night progressed into the closet! Yes!

So, here is the project as of this morning! I would guess that by tonight Dave will be working his way out into the hall. I can already feel and SMELL the difference. Getting that almost 12 year old carpeting out was one of the best decisions ever!  

One of the downsides to having the house in disarray is that the office/computer "stuff" is not where it should be and I am currently suffering from "intermittent connectivity issues". Which means a sufficient amount of frustration. That being said...this update will be brief. Hopefully I'll have FINISHED project pictures posted soon...and maybe even some good news on the health front! Now wouldn't that be grand!!
Until then...
I hope your day is filled with Joy
and you are filled

Friday, November 4, 2011

Facts of Life Friday

Here we are again. I think the combination of not working and the good old "lupus fog" has a tendency to melt all my weekdays together. As I look at my empty pill organizer, I am dumbfounded at how quickly a week passes. As I see my family out the door on Monday mornings, it seems like the week will never end. For those of you in the Monday through Friday work-a-day world.... Happy Friday

This week has been a little rough on me. Still moving down on the prednisone dosage - thank goodness - but it sure does cause a bit of a ruckus with my immune system. Hair falling out, painful joints, relentless fatigue, infections, nose sores, mouth sores and plain old feeling like I have the flu are my complaints du jour. 

At first glance, it looked like I was taking a shower with a small squirrel this morning. I marveled at how quickly the shower filled up with water and contemplated the combined strength of hair. Kind of like spider silk, both are made primarily of protein. "Silks tensile strength is comparable to that of high-grade steel and about half as strong as aramid filaments, such as Twaron or Kevlar (3000 MPa)" according to Wikipedia. Maybe I should be saving the stuff. Nope, that's just gross.

To cut down on the accumulation of dust, pet dander and the like, we have decided to pull up all the carpeting upstairs and lay down wood flooring. Right now most of our upstairs is already wood, but this will finish the job off. My husband is wonderful at these sorts of jobs and I can hardly wait to slide across his finished work. But ohhhh....I am so not ready for the mess. I'm sure you'll here about it this next week... 

SO, on with the show!

Fact #1: Dave and I met in the year 2006. We both had been married previously for 22 years. I met him on eHarmony. A fact I always kind of kept to myself. But as time went on, the product proved itself so significantly in our lives that I would actually consider doing one of those sappy commercials. There are no words to describe my love for this man. THIS is the very first picture ever taken of the two of us together. Nice, huh? I could have picked a better one, but it would not have been the "first".

THIS is a more recent picture of Dave and I. It was taken in a studio in northeast Minneapolis during Art-A-Whirl. It's the one and only time that we have been in a show together, Dave with his photography and me with my paintings. It was a spur of the moment thing, neither of us had planned for it. In fact, most of my paintings were years old. But it was a dream come true and I look forward to the day when we can do it again.

Fact #2: I love quirky eclectic coffee shops. We have two that are our favorites. The one to the left is Nina's, in St. Paul, MN. It's hands down THE BEST we have ever been to. An added contributing factor...it's where we hung out together most of the first year we knew each other.

One of the great perks to having a photographer as a husband is that you have your own paparazzi. Dave loves catching me unaware. In this shot (taken the week we met), he had gone outside to take photos and snapped this one of me through the window. I remember the night like it was yesterday. A quiet weeknight, Sneaky Pete playing guitar and Nina's very own blend. These are the memories that fill my heart. 

Our second favorite is Amazing Grace in Duluth, MN. Known for it's AMAZING bread and AMAZING all organic menu, this place sits in the basement level of the historic Dewitt-Seits Marketplace in Canal Park. It's a excellent place to literally hang out all day in. Wonderful local art and a wide variety of musical talent can always be found within. Right outside is where Dave and I would finish Grandma's Marathon. SO many good memories!

Fact#3: This is a photo of my grandmother and I. She taught me everything a girl needs to know in order to manage a loving home and cook a good meal. I have never once heard her raise her voice or talk badly about anyone.
This picture was taken two summers ago during my parent's 50th wedding anniversary celebration. It was a wonderful week of family and fun. Yesterday my grandmother went into the hospital for congestive heart failure and complications from COPD. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. Her name is Ilene.

Fact#4: I love to laugh. I especially love to hear my husband laugh. No matter how tough things get, we can always find something to laugh about. We both have a rather unusual and dry sense of humor. The last time we stayed in Duluth to spend our days at Amazing Grace, we got a really good deal at a fancy hotel. The kind where there's so much complimentary stuff that you can basically leave everything at home. The kind where they have fancy folded toilet paper. Well, I always hate to use that first piece. I've been known to use the tissues provided just to savor the fanciness of it all for a while. So, on this visit, I decided to create my own toilet paper art. Of course, just getting the idea while sitting there doing my job was enough to send me into a fit of suppressed giggles..."Honey, you okay in there?" "YES....fine dear...teeheheheheheh!" So, the next time my husband went in to "do his job, these are what he found. Don't ask...some of them simply fall under the category of "impressionistic modern toilet paper art".

Well, there you have it! Four things you probably did not know about me ten minutes ago! I sure hope you have a good weekend. Be thankful for all you have, smile at someone who really needs it and find the beauty in all that surrounds you. We have only one moment...one life... THIS is most surely a fact!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Things I Find In Space

This is where I am sitting as I type these words. 

I just put my wool socks on, along with my green fleece jacket - right over the top of my pajamas, which I plan on wearing all day. It's gray and cold and still around here. The lamps in my room cast a yellow hue that warms me. A kind of "at home" warmth. The kind I used to feel when sitting in front of the fireplace in my parents' home or next to my grandfather under the lamp in their living room. Morning coffee fills the air.

If I stand up and peek out my window, this is what I see. There is heaviness in the sky. A settling. The last bits of fall refusing to depart. Still bright with color, they dare winter come. I am always amazed at the ones that survive, only letting go for buds and blossom. Proclaiming to Spring their acceptance of all things. A final letting go.

Jake snores at my feet. It's a funny noise. A sort of nasal sound with a sweet little squeak at the end. He never leaves my side, no matter what. His position unusual in this picture as he most always lies across my feet. This shot was prior to putting on the wool socks...I'm thinking my toes were just a little too cold for his liking. Snort..squeak.........Snort..squeak........Snort..squeak... The rhythm of contentment.

Behind me, Maggie has taken the high ground. Early on I acquiesced to the whole "being on the bed thing". There are too many days when bed is as far as I get and Maggie's presence brings quiet consolation on even the worst of days. Our "real" bedspread lies under the two quilts you see in this picture. Dog hair, without a doubt, is the bane of my existence. Right now I scarcely can hear her, she sleeps so soundly.

Past Maggie, through the door of our bedroom, lays Jenni the cat. Her bed its in the hallway under the light switch. From the moment we brought Jenni into this house, she has chosen to lie in this spot. We eventually placed her bed here. I believe it is because from this vantage point she can literally see into every room on the main level of our home. As you can see if you click on the picture to enlarge it, she keeps one eye open...just in case. This morning is no different. We watch each other.

Even in my moving about, even in the clicking of camera and key stroke, these peaceful creatures remain still.

The furnace kicks on and off, warming me and reminding me of the filter that needs to be changed. The smell of last year's dust always brings me back to childhood. Do you remember? Smelling the furnace for the first time in the fall. It lies somewhere in my brain between the smell of new tennis shoes, crayons and old school buses.

The computer processor hums in the background - ramping up and down with purposes unknown.

Another confused chickadee mistakes my window for the sky. I look out, and down, to see if a warm hand is needed...

not this time.

Most people's lives are cluttered up with things. Things to do, things to think about, things of "stuff". Minds filled with clutter, lives out of balance. Words easily spoken from experience.

Releasing ourselves from this clutter - if only momentarily - opens in us a holy space. A tender letting go of thoughts and emotions. Allowing us to settle into the depth of Awareness. Unattached to the clutter in my mind and in my day, I roam about in this limitless space, where dogs snore and computers hum. Free from ego, free from dependency on things of this world - transcending "what ifs" and "should haves".

When I am no longer identified with these things, who I Am is no longer imprisoned, and I am free. Freedom arising from a place of space. And from this space emerges a peace that is not of this world.

This is the peace of God.

I picked up these pine cones from our back yard about a week ago. I wish technology was advanced enough to provide "smell-o-vision", because the aroma of these sticky cones is nothing short of heavenly and I would really like to share it with you. Who knows...Apple, in all of their astounding "touch" capabilities, may bring "scratch-n-sniff" to a whole new level! Until then, you just have to take my word for it. Heavenly.

We've lived here five years. This is the first time I have even really noticed the pine cones, let alone made an effort to go out and pick them up. Simple things. Beautiful things.

Things I find in Space.