In search of a hearing aid

Last night as I was getting ready for bed I noticed my right hearing aid was missing. I have not lost a hearing aid for a very long time. I have developed hearing-aid awareness, that is, I can usually sense when one has become dislodged and might be about to drop. So how did this happen?

I went through the clothes I had just taken off and tossed in the laundry basket. I went through the whole laundry basket, twice, scrutinizing and shaking everything. I checked the chair and its surroundings in the living room, where I’d been watching TV with headphones and had just removed them. I checked the kitchen, where I’d prepared dinner. Vic had cleaned up nicely so I decided to go through the garbage and trash he’d discarded as well. That was messy, but I felt my way through all the coffee grounds and kale stems. Continue reading

Inspiration, please

IMG_3650The four months of not writing this blog were an accidental experiment. It started when I didn’t feel like writing because of all the body stuff going on. My suffering was never acute and it is not as bad as it seems to sound when I write about it. What I was doing in that last post was exposing the little complaints that linger under the surface of the good front that we all present to the world. Mine are no worse than most people’s. But laying it all out there has attracted a lot of sympathy and advice that seem to be out of proportion to my degree of suffering. Maybe that is because, for fear of seeming like hypochondriacs or complainers, we don’t usually expose our discomforts to each other. Our facebook posts are smiles and celebrations.

When I write anything longer than a facebook post, however, I am usually trying to get under the surface of things, and what has been there for the last four silent months has been physical discomfort. I didn’t find that an interesting topic to write about. And so I moved into this inadvertent experiment: What would happen if I just stopped writing? Continue reading

Body, body

Right here, right now, a light dusting of snow brightens the gray day. I am conscious of not having written in forever but I am trying not to let that flummox me. My fingers seem a little stiff, like my knees. Oh my knees. My knee. I have used it as an excuse to slack off everything. I don’t mean to judge myself; that is just the term that comes to mind. Slack. Slacking. Slacker.

This morning I woke at 4:30, restless and uncomfortable. The discomfort grew to the point where I was thinking about getting up and taking a bath, my almost nightly remedy for vague achiness. I was too tired even to do that, let alone get up for the day. I am so focused on my body, which is one big reason I haven’t written a blog since August. It’s been body, body, body.

It started with a little skin cancer on the back of my hand and then a special dental procedure and then all the preparations for knee replacement surgery, including getting rid of an infection, which involved a questionable succession of antibiotics. And then the surgery itself, on September 17, which went well by all accounts, and the rehab, which also went well, but I am still extremely focused on my body and its imperfections and the continuing recovery process. I’m not there yet.

On the one hand it is good that I am retired and don’t have to be fully functional in a day job. On the other hand it might help to have something to distract me from awareness of aches and pains and low energy levels. I do power through when I have something else to focus on. Like lots of family time, starting with a trip we took with the family to a destination six hours north, just two weeks after surgery. But wow, I did suffer some. And then a succession of visits and celebrations including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each time I have been brought up against my limits. Standing and cooking is hard on me. Being with the kids is daunting; much as I enjoy them I can’t handle them alone. I need days of recovery after each experience.

One of the biggest problems has been sleep. I got off pain medication pretty quickly because I didn’t like the side effects and the pain wasn’t bad enough to risk opioid addiction, God forbid. But I’ve been left with vague and sometimes sharp, tingly discomfort that is worse at night. After experimenting the doctors and I found a medication that at a low dose gives me at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep and often more. Getting to sleep is still hard and sometimes, like this morning, I wake up at 3 or 4, all antsy. Then I get up and walk off the jittery discomfort or take a hot bath and then maybe go to sleep for a few more hours. Every night of decent rest seems like a small victory. I would like to get off the medication (gabapentin), which is not addictive, but I am still dependent on it (there’s a difference, I think). I have tried going without it a few times and have had miserable nights.

In these past months I also edited a long memoir for a friend and I have played a role in Advent worship planning and leading. So I haven’t totally been lounging around. I have entertained a number of times, even if it is just making the main dish. I’ve kept the house cleaned and the laundry done and my husband and myself fed. If you go by outward appearances I am fully functional, maybe even back to normal. Other people see me say yes to most invitations, activities, and requests and walking at a normal pace, unassisted. They do not see my hesitation to commit to any activity that might involve walking more than a mile, total, or standing around for half an hour. They don’t see me shun the shopping mall, relying on meal kits to minimize grocery shopping, taking sleep meds, or rationing my trips up and down stairs, turning sideways coming down so it doesn’t hurt so much. Or if they do, or if I complain about these limitations, they may think my expectations, at age 74, three and a half months after knee replacement, are a bit high.

But with this last birthday, a month and a half ago, I was aware of how much older I feel than I did a year ago. This is what the knee injury (last spring) and surgery have precipitated: the inescapable awareness of aging. I feel older. Gravity pulls harder. It takes effort to feign energy and good cheer when I am just tired. Many days it is just too much work to push my physical limits as much as I should, continuing the painful stretches, getting out and walking. Will walking ever again be a joy and not a chore? Fortunately, I guess, sitting for too long is also uncomfortable. So I get up and move. It helps to have a destination, like a local bar called the Hideaway that has a great Moscow Mule.IMG_2549

I have no regrets about the surgery because I really had no choice. The knee wasn’t all that painful but it was unstable, not functioning properly. Now it is stable and functioning better, if not yet perfectly. I trust it will improve but I know that I have to keep working it.

The sun peeked through for a moment. I should get out and walk to the river and back. Maybe after lunch.

 

 

 

One foolish act

Several stories stick with me from my August trip to Congo. I didn’t write during the trip; there was just too much going on and not much solitude. So, like I do with a detailed dream of which I only remember a snippet, I will honor a few stories that have stayed with me. Here is one.

Three fellow travelers and I spent a full week in the dusty outback city of Tshikapa, in Western Kasai province, where the fourth teacher-training program, sponsored by the Mennonite women of Congo and Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, was being held. Sixty-one people–many of them educators and pastors–were following an intensive course in teaching illiterate adults to read and write.

It was marvelous. It was rigorous. It went well.

Tshikapa is the provincial capital of the region that has suffered the most recent, excruciating violence in that country. Continue reading

Ready, set . . .

I have never been this ready to go on a trip so far in advance. One full day to go and my bags are packed, the last laundry is done, the house is clean. I even sat down with my husband this noon and helped him go over meal plans during my absence. My iPhone is loaded with escapist reading for long plane rides. I just checked us in online with Air France. Continue reading

Travel puzzles

A blogger friend asked his teenage grandson, just back from 6 weeks in China and a veteran of other international adventures, what made him such a good candidate for future studies in international relations.

“I like people and accept them,” Sam replied. “I like to encounter ideas. I enjoy new foods.  It’s fun to solve travel puzzles.”

Sam is a teenager after my own heart. Right now, as I prepare for my next sally into the heart of Africa accompanied by three friends, it is the “travel puzzles” that are on my mind. Continue reading

Hungry to learn

A few days ago I received a follow-up report from some of the adult-literacy teachers trained last spring in Mbuji-Mayi, Congo. Attached were some fuzzy photos, including these.

Centre de Kamiji Kapangu et Kamiji Malenga, andragogue Patrice Yamba 001 (1)

Version 2

My first response was to feel overwhelmed, even at a safe distance, thousands of miles away. Continue reading

Charging my batteries

I have always been a morning person but recently it’s been taking me most of a morning  to get fully charged.

I start with coffee but Vic complains that I’ve been drinking more than I used to, i.e. more than my share. Yet I still drink a bit less than he does. Why is this a problem? Can’t we just make more coffee? Well, the system we’ve adopted to make our artisan pour-over, deliciously strong coffee makes no more than 700 g of coffee at a time. (Yes, we weigh it.) If one of us needs more than our established share, we have to make another pot or partial pot. That’s too much bother first thing in the morning.

But coffee is just the start. I’ve been needing more than my established share just to do the next parts of my charging routine. Continue reading

Kafka before coffee

Recently I saw a video clip of Ellen DeGeneris receiving a multimillion-dollar contribution from Ashton Kutcher for her school in Africa. It was subsidized by a company that specializes in quick and easy global money transfers, and so to give the money Kutcher just gave his smartphone to Ellen and told her to push the button she saw onscreen. She did, and presumably the millions flowed instantly and painlessly into the right bank account.

It’s not so easy for us ordinary folks either to drum up millions or, heaven forbid, send it to Africa. Continue reading

Follow your bliss and get your hands dirty

I dreamed recently that I was giving career advice to young people, but they weren’t listening to me because I hadn’t had a successful career.

I couldn’t blame them because, although I don’t feel like a professional failure, it has been hard for me to describe my so-called career.

I really tried for a while, beginning in about 2004, when I began going to writing retreats, to think of myself as a writer. Continue reading