October 2009


Finally!  Chocolate Wednesday!!

Yes, it began with a breakfast sundae.  It was not quite as decadent as it sounds.  The first layer was yogurt with home made granola mixed in.  Then came the strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate drizzled over the top.

Next came the plate with herb roasted potatoes, sausage patties and a breakfast strudel, which is a pastry shell filled with an egg and veggie center.  Who would have imagined such a thing?  It was wonderful!

The highlight was the Innkeeper’s 4pm table of treats.  The wines are always well chosen, red and white each day.  There were Halloween cookies, crackers and three kinds of cheese —  then, of course, the chocolate covered strawberries.  The chocolate was unusually rich and tasty.  The Godiva Chocolate Liquor with a touch of caramel was too wonderful.  It is good that liquor glasses are tiny.

The timing was perfect, since we had enjoyed a light midday meal a couple of hours earlier from the new in-house menu.  A chicken salad sandwich on a toasted croissant for Mary Ann, and bowl of tomato basil soup and a salad of field greens with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing for me.  It was served to us in the dining room where we could look out the windows and the gardens and the lake as we had a quiet meal.  The food here has yet to disappoint.

As we looked out the window, Mary Ann called my attention to the surface of the lake.  I have heard and used the word shimmering many times.  I now understand more fully what it means.  I guess it was the angle of the sun that combined with just the right movement of the water that produced almost blindingly bright sparkles on the water — as in diamonds, real ones.

Today was a spectacularly beautiful, warm and sunny day.  We sat for a while this afternoon on the patio by the fountain.  Mary Ann began reading a book she picked up at a Walgreen’s yesterday afternoon.  I read a bit from the Spirituality journal called Weavings.  Most of the time I just sat and soaked in the setting.

I had just a moment’s realization of the significance of our having this time sitting together.  There was a flash to a time that may come when sitting next to her will no longer be an option, when I may be sitting alone.  It was not a deep and sad feeling as much as it was an appreciation of what we are now able to enjoy.

As she read, I took some time to walk through the garden on the stone path that wound through the blooming Azaleas, going across stone bridges over the stream created by the fountain and waterfalls.  Some wonderfully colorful butterflies moved from blossom to blossom, a Monarch, a black Swallowtail of some sort, a yellow Sulfur butterfly.  There were lots of bees wandering in and out of the blossoms.  When I walked along the lake, there was a turtle  hovering at the wall.  It was just a very pleasant afternoon.

We have enjoyed meeting lots of folks.  One couple mentioned that their daughter’s wedding was just two weeks earlier.  She was married in South Carolina.  I asked where in South Car0lina she had been married.  They said something about Cliffs and Glassy, and we filled in the blanks.  Their daughter was married in the same beautiful little chapel in the mountains north of Greenville, South Carolina, in which our Daughter, Lisa, was married.

It has pretty much never failed that asking other residents at the B&B where they are from has initiated a conversation that produced some connection or commonality.  There are people here from a variety of places, some still working and attending conferences here in town, some retired.

If there was no other common ground, often the mention of being a retired pastor began the path leading to the discovery of something in common, or something of mutual interest.  Two are active pastors, another is the daughter of a pastor, another has a brother who is a Franciscan priest (just switched to Diocesan for the sake of getting a pension), one plays guitar at his large Cowboy Church in South Texas.  One shared a tragic story of the death of her Son-in-Law when her daughter was pregnant with their first child.  It is a reminder of the depth and breadth of the experiences that lie behind the faces of those we encounter.   It is good to be in a setting in which we are all moving slowly enough that we can take time to make some discoveries that allow us into each other’s lives if only for a moment.

Mary Ann is down for the night (I hope).  We will eat breakfast in the morning here, load the van and head for Eureka Springs to stay the night so that we won’t have too long a trip back.  There are storms predicted for the day both here and in Eureka Springs.  We will take our time and stop whenever we need to.

Again, we are grateful for some good days.  We can put them in the bank.  Tomorrow will bring whatever it will.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

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Hooray, the we saw light from the shining ball of fire in the sky late this afternoon.  We did not see the ball, but discernible evidence of its presence.

This evening after dark, I sat on the patio again by the waterfall/fountain/pond, looking at the bright moon and nearby planet.  Am I a wildlife magnet???  Maybe five feet away from me, a small possum just wandered by from the shrubs on one side of the water feature, across the cement patio at its edge, and headed on through the shrubs on the other side of the water feature, showing himself at various times as he lumbered along.  I guess the sound of the waterfall distracted him and it was dark enough that he just didn’ t notice me.

We had a good day.  It started out with the Lookout Blend of a really nice, medium roast coffee (clearly a certain percent of dark roast beans in the blend).  Next came the juice, again a blend — equal parts cranberry and orange juice.

That was followed by roasted plums with creme fraiche.  What a wonderfully sweet treat it was.  There were ribbons of caramel that cradled the plums before the creme fraiche was poured over them.  Both of us left those dishes ready for the next use — no washing needed since there was nothing left in them.  We refrained from putting the dishes to our mouths and licking them clean.  We didn’t want to give Kansas a bad name.

Following that came the plate with a large slice of warm veggie frittata with a very tasty salsa with which to add still more flavor.  There were sections of polish sausage sitting on the plate next to the frittata.  They were complemented by freshly baked hot biscuits with butter and three kinds of locally made jam to be slathered on.

It is just plain cruel to describe in such detail the lavish breakfast we had today, but then I never claimed to be perfect.  This is actually just an attempt at helping each of you understand the commandment about coveting so that you can do a better job of avoiding it.  Aren’t you grateful?

After relaxing for a time here, checking out together the library and reading room and sitting area in the large sun room, spending some time on the patio in spite of the chill of the cloudy day, we headed into Hot Springs.

As we neared the main part of town, it had been long enough since breakfast that we thought we might eat a little something.  Mary Ann remembered from our last trip a little European style deli that we had visited.  I had a vague memory of where it was, but she remembered the exact name of it, Cafe 1217 (its street address is 1217).  With a little help from our GPS unit (Helga) we found it.

There are glass cases there with the various food items in view.  There is a dessert case, a veggie section, salad section and entree section.  The ordering is done at the counter.  Names are called and patrons come to the counter to get a heavy ceramic plate with the food items on it.

We ordered one piece of Honey BBQ Salmon which we split.  We each picked a side to accompany it.  Mary Ann picked the Caramelized Apricot Sweet Potatoes, and I picked the Grilled Ratatouille Vegetable Salad.  The cases were filled with foods that were out of the ordinary.  Apparently, the menu changes each month.  There were autographed pictures of a number of famous folks who had eaten there.

Then we spent almost an hour in one of the better art galleries in the area.  Hot Springs is one of the top five communities in the nation known for the fine arts.  In describing all the various events, the owner talked about the film festival, drawing thousands.  Then he described the music festival, that brought people from all over the world.  A woodwind ensemble practiced in the gallery.  The acoustics are alive in that old building with a ceiling two stories high, hard surfaces everywhere throwing the sound back on itself.  Hearing him describe the experience stirred memories of singing in old cathedrals in Europe over forty years ago on a choir tour.

The art work was moderately priced for good art.  The prices for the same pieces would have been much higher in other places in the country, but they were still in the thousands of dollars.

One artist, Randall Good, has a close connection with the Blue Moon Gallery in Hot Springs.  His work is powerful.  He was commissioned about eight years ago to do fourteen large paintings of the Stations of the Cross.  The result of the years of work was impressive.  The folks at the gallery explained the process by which he made the medium on which the paintings would be done, with the medium becoming a part of the final piece.

After hearing descriptions of the process that has brought each piece to completion and his creative journey as it is unfolding, it is apparent just how complex a painting can be.  In years past, when I looked at art pieces, I saw them as pictures to be observed.  Hearing so much about the living dynamics of each piece gives me new eyes with which to see.

It has helped my ability to experience more when I view an art piece to have had a gifted friend named Milt Heinrich, who has served for many years as the head of the Art Department at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska.  He also served for many years as part of the Arts Council [may not be the correct designation] for the state of Nebraska.  He was commissioned to do the huge wall sculpture at one end of the Omaha Airport.

Access to Randall Good’s web site can be found by Googling the Blue Moon Art Gallery in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  There can be found is a link to his site.

It is so odd that I have come to enjoy the visual arts.  I know virtually nothing about great art.  I am one of five children.  Three of us are gifted in the ability to draw beautifully.  Two of us are Pastors.  Oh well — same gene pool.  I guess Dick and I just stayed in the shallow end.

After the art galleries (we visited a second one for a time), we headed back to the B&B.  There we were, of course, greeted by freshly baked coffee cake and cookies, red wine, white wine, cheese and crackers — the Innkeepers daily 4pm offering.

Mary Ann is settled in bed, hopefully sleeping soundly.  While we don’t have specific plans for tomorrow, it is Chocolate Wednesday!  Wait till I tell you about the breakfast sundaes!

That is for tomorrow.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

I am at the computer in the upper lobby of Lookout Point – Lakeside Inn in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  We made it!  As always the last hour or two includes lots of winding two lane roads, but we are here and settled in.  Mary Ann is sleeping soundly.  At least she was when I left the room.  The television show “The Closer,” which is pretty much her favorite at the moment, is on the television, so if she does wake, she should be content.

While we ended up here past the time of the afternoon wine, cheese and freshly baked sweets, it was still out.  We both enjoyed a glass of wine, some cheese and a homemade Macadamia nut cookie.

After bringing in all our clothes and paraphernalia, getting Mary Ann changed for bed and settled in bed, I headed out to forage for some snacks.  There are endless goodies available in an area off the downstairs lobby.  I wandered through the library and glanced at some of the books.  There is a great section on Spiritual Formation.  Mary Ann and I will check out the videos together some time tomorrow.

After a trip through the small reading room which is an area with comfortable chairs and a fireplace, I looked around the large sitting area that includes lots of games as well as space to just sit and look out of the windows at the bird feeders, the garden and the lake.

Then I headed out to the patio to sit under the overhang to avoid the rain, while listening to the fountain/waterfall and look at the lake framed by the lights on the other side.  Numbers of Canada geese squawked loudly periodically as I sat soaking it all in.

The trip from the motel in Shawnee, Oklahoma went reasonably well.  The first two and a half hours was on Interstate 40.  In spite of construction at various times, the traffic was light and we made great time.  The weather was overcast but dry for most of that first half of the trip.

From Fort Smith to Hot Springs is a little more challenging and at the same time more interesting.  It was raining lightly throughout the rest of the trip.  There was never enough rain coming down to create any problems in driving.  What the weather did provide were some spectacular views of clouds covering the tops of some of the taller Ozark hills and spilling down the sides among the trees.

There were times when we looked at thick white clouds just about even with us in elevation.  Some were close to the road as we passed.  The cloudy weather muted the fall colors, but sometimes the colors were visible, contrasting with the white of the brightest clouds.

The trees close to the road as we traveled were very colorful.  What was most striking to me what the contrast between the colors of the deciduous trees and the deep green of the conifers.  The green was darker and more vibrant because of the contrast with the palette of colors interspersed between them by the changing leaves of so many different species of deciduous trees.

One treat that will be appreciated by those of you who are Caregivers.  At one point, we stopped for a break after a long time driving.  I can’t really remember the last time we stopped at a Pilot Truck stop, but that is what seemed most promising when we needed to stop.  The treat was that as we were checking the restroom situation, a staff person happened to be nearby.  He asked if he could help us find anything.  I explained what we were doing.  He responded by offering to get a key to one of the showers for us to use.

What a Godsend!  The little shower room had a toilet stool in it and just enough room to maneuver the transfer chair and get Mary Ann’s needs met.  I will now keep the Pilot Truck stops at the top of the list of places to take a break.  There was also a Wendy’s attached to the building, so we were able to get a snack to keep us going for the rest of the trip.

All in all, we seem to be off to a good start.  As always, anything can happen, good or bad.  We will hope for the good and deal with the bad!

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

I am at a computer in the business center at a LaQuinta motel in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  We put on CD’s of short stories.  They were a little strange, but kept our attention as we traveled.  It is a clear shot to Oklahoma City on an excellent Interstate with minimal traffic.  The Flint Hills remain a spectacular sight.  

The rest area at which we stopped had family bathrooms available.  What a Godsend!  My stress level plummets to nothing when I see that we have a family bathroom available rather than trying to find someone to guard the door to a busy women’s restroom while I help Mary Ann. 

It was wonderful to surprise good friend John by appearing at this door for the birthday open house on the occasion of his sixtieth.  I had sent the return comment card ahead in the mail since I wasn’t sure that this would all work out, and I wanted to mislead them into assuming that we would not be there for the open house.  Packing the car the night before actually worked.  We got off at a reasonable hour and made to his home within minutes of the start time of the open house. 

By the way, we were able to include a stop at the Braum’s Dairy Store in Blackwell, OK.   Mary Ann got two scoops of Butter Pecan — there is none better.   I had a two scoop Hot Fudge Sundae covered with salted pecans!  Just to make clear that we know the ice cream decorum — it was after twelve noon (by minutes).   All is well with the world!

It was a treat to see Peggy and reconnect after thirteen years.   I had the joy of being one of three pastors who officiated in their wedding.  After having such a clergy presence, they are assured of being stuck with one another for many years to come.  Somehow, I think they are okay with that!

A special treat was getting to see and talk with John’s Daughter, Hope.  Since I lived in their home for the first few months of my ministry in Bethany, Oklahoma (an inner suburb of OKC), I got to know Hope and Joel during their early years.  Hope was fiesty!  That, my friends, is an understatement.  She was always intriguing and someone to be reckoned with even as a child.  The energy and intelligence and drive were apparent from the outset.  She has turned into an engaging adult who is realizing all that potential — of which the pinnacle is about as cute and pleasant little twenty-one month old little boy as could be imagined.

There was one surprise for me.  After a time, Peggy came out with what was obviously a Christmas present, wrapped nicely, topped with a flat bow that was covered with dust, as in a well-aged bottle of vintage wine.  It turned out to be a Christmas present that they had gotten for me, wrapped and marked with my name in 1996!  By the time it was ready to be given, we had already moved away.  It just never found its way to me — until now.  It was a nicely framed wedding picture of John and Peggy, looking young and excited as they began a new life together.  The picture, of course included the three clergy who joined forces to set them on the right path.

While the folks who attended were from John and Peggy’s life after we moved away, one blast from the past was visiting with Barry, a fellow pastor — who is the consummate smart aleck.  What great fun to see him again and pick up with the bantering as if no time at all had passed.  Barry lost his wife only months ago after a long and very hard battle with diabetes.  This particular experession of the disease did its worst for almost as long as Mary Ann has been dealing with the Parkinson’s.  Pat lost her sight (for the most part) pretty early on.   Barry also has spent many years doing full time ministry and full time caregiving.  There is an instant connection among those who fully understand the dynamics of caregiving from the Caregiver’s perspective. 

After a stop at a Denny’s, eating too much food packed with unhealthy carbs, we have settled in at the motel.  Shawnee is about an hour closer to Hot Springs than John and Peggy’s home in Edmond.  We will not have to drive in any of the OKC city traffic tomorrow.  The balance of the trip should be pretty manageable — although I would not presume to predict how well tomorrow will go.  I am just grateful that we have made the first day without serious problems. 

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

This time I have made sure that we have all the back up bottles of medicine. The last trip brought more than one medicine crisis — trips to the local 24 hour pharmacy in Louisville.  This time we are heading to Hot Springs, Arkansas.  I have just done something almost unheard of in my travel pattern.  Everything is packed and most of it is already in the car.

I am not sure I can remember when last I actually packed before the morning of the trip.  As I have mentioned in former posts, packing is no small task when packing for two, one of whom is not able to participate in the process.  Portions of the day were spent bringing Mary Ann’s clothes out of the closet for her to go through.  Last trip, she was not pleased that I had managed to forget the nylons that went with her fancy pants outfit.  By the way, on the last trip, those pants caught on her wheel chair when she was sitting down and obtained a very large vent where the seat of tht pants should be.  So much for those fancy pants.  I think we have covered the bases with clothes for warm and for cool.

The black case is a must.  That is the large catalog case with first aid supplies, straws, wipes, plastic silverware, Clorox wipes, Miralax, Tums and anything else I can think of that we might need along the way.

We have been to the library to pick out a few books on CD to choose from as we travel. One is already loaded into the CD player in the car.

There is a bag of snacks, granola bars, bananas, licorice, and breakfast fruit bars.  Sometimes when we stay in a motel, we don’t make it up in time for the breakfast hours and need items to eat so that the morning pills aren’t taken on an empty stomach.

We have lots of the disposables along.  The intestinal issue is not completely resolved.  I am expecting there to be a major production some time soon  That is as delicately put as I can manage while revealing one of the significant challenges Caregivers often face.

I took the role of the bath aide this morning so that we would start the trip at our best — squeaky clean.

We have far more along that would seem necessary for a three night stay at a Bed and Breakfast.  Since the trip is eleven hours one way, we need to break it up into two days for the trip there and two days for the return trip.  We have on occasion had to lengthen a trip for one reason or another.  The one to Tucson, Arizona a few years ago was lengthened by a few days in the hospital.  Those experiences remain in the back of our minds each time we set out on a trip.

And so we are heading off for another adventure.  We cannot know how it will go.  We know far too much about the possibilities for how it might go.  We have tried to prepare to the degree possible.  I just added the booklet we have made with all the pertinent information, doctors’ names and numbers, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, Medicine list, family contact information.

With all the preparations made, we actually will relax and enjoy the trip to the extent that circumstances allow.  If there are problems, we will deal with them.

We will be gone for about a week, so the posts will be few to none.  There is a computer to which we will have some access at the Bed and Breakfast.  I hope to provide an occasional update, whether anyone is interested or not!

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

The toast was just out of the toaster with a little Mayo on it.  The Provolone and smoked turkey had come from the fridge.  The bacon was warm from having just been cooked to just the right crispness in the microwave.  The sandwich was still sitting in front of her, untouched, after I had made some more bacon and toasted a slice of bread, topped it with butter, peanut butter and jelly for my own supper.

I asked what was wrong — why she had not touched the sandwich sitting in front of her.  She said it was frozen.  There was another time not too long ago when she said the same thing about a sandwich I had made for her.  Of course I did the opposite of what should be done when hallucinations mix into reality.  I complained in frustration as I took it to the microwave to heat it up for her.  I complained that I have no power to fix what isn’t there — it was impossible for it to be frozen.  When I asked what led her to believe it was frozen, she said there was ice on it — again, impossible.

While I should be past letting these things cause frustration, it is true that it is impossible to fix what doesn’t exist.  It is already using up all my coping skills dealing with what is real.  Dealing with the challenges all day and all night (sometimes) creates a very thin veneer of equilibrium.  My frustration came and went in moments, and Mary Ann ate about a quarter of the sandwich — followed by a cookie (no wonder she stays so thin even with trips out for ice cream).

Today also included lots of trips caused by some intestinal activity — not always making it in time.  Gratefully, the disposable underwear makes that occasional incontinence easier to handle.  This was a day the role of waste management was exercised.

One of the complications was that the esophageal spasms flaired up today.  When they come, there is much discomfort that lasts for hours.  This attack lasted most of the day.  I have been to the Gastroenterologist and been tested in every way known to humankind.  There is pretty much no real explanation and no treatment.

One of the routine challenges of any Caregiver is the need to continue to deal with the needs of another, no matter how small those needs may be, even when the Caregiver is sick and in pain.  It just comes with the territory.

Since last night was not a particularly good one in terms of uninterrupted sleep, we were both tired.  As a result, Mary Ann napped for a long time, and I vegetated, trying to ride out the spasms.

Mary Ann is in bed now and seems to be sleeping.  I will, hopefully, not be far behind.  I am sure she will need one or two snacks during the night since there was little consumption of food today.

Two updates:  No raccoon visitation last night either.  We will see what tonight brings. The other update is that I have managed to avoid any exercise walking the last two days.  Tomorrow is another day.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

Robin and Margaret are such a joy to be around.  They are cousins to Mary, a good friend, as well as the one who gives so generously of her time scheduling Volunteers to be with Mary Ann.

While it seems impossible that it has been so long, it was seven years ago that they were here last.  We joined them for dinner at Mary’s home the last time they visited.  It is so refreshing to talk with people who see the world as the place where we all live together.  They have tried to make a major trip each year to places like India, China, and places whose names I don’t remember.  Of course they often visit Europe.  Robin described a breathtakingly beautiful spot in Austria where they visit extended family.

Talking with them sparks an awareness that we are citizens of the world, not just our city or state or country.  To talk about a sunset brings to Robin’s mind images of strkingly contrasting colors in the sky ten thousand miles from here.

I shared coffee cupping experiences.  I ground beans from the Gombe Project in Tanzania — of course, grinding them in the burr grinder and making the coffee in the Technivorm coffee maker from Holland — brewing at 200 degrees, waiting for the coffee flavors to bloom in the hot water before breaking the crust of the brewing grounds and only then allowing the coffee to drip through at a slow pace into the thermal decanter.

Robin talked about their monthly wine tasting parties at which they try to guess from where the wine they are tasting has come.  He loves surprising them with wines from places that would never be imagined to produce good wine.

We shared some of the freshly pressed apple cider from the Louisburg Cider Mill we had visited earlier in the week.  A couple of days ago I went to a local coffee shop, whose baker is especially gifted, and bought a dozen cinnamon raisin scones.  We had the scones with the freshly brewed Gombe Project coffee.  While the scones were quite different from the English scones, Robin and Margaret seemed to enjoy them.

Margaret was excited to see the red squirrel feeding on the back deck.  She was thrilled with the Blue Jay that came by in his fresh winter look after the late summer molting.  It was fascinating to talk about the birds and discover just how different the birds are that frequent our respective feeders.

Mary Ann was doing very well, and clearly enjoyed the conversation even though she was not able to participate fully.  It was a good day that we both enjoyed.

An update on the raccoon relocation project:  The trap was out, set and baited the last two nights, but there was no sign that the raccoons visited the deck either night.  There were rain and some storms both nights.  Maybe that discouraged them.  There is fresh bait tonight and no rain at the moment.  We will see what tomorrow morning brings!

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

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