Friday, September 16, 2011

life IS fragile

Last night I signed into to catch up on my mail.  A shudder vibrated through me as I read a message from Karen: “There is no good way to share this with you. One of our members ­­­­­passed away on Sept. 11.” 

I have been a member of for less than a year and I don’t know people very well—except for rixfarmgirl.  Rixy is one of those gems of a friend who is new in my life—someone I know will become a forever friend.  And now, she is only a memory.  I am stunned, shocked, numb, and so sad. 

The way works is, you post your own writing to be reviewed and you review the writing of others.  One of my essays caught Rixy’s eye, she saw potential in me and began to mentor me.  I consider her my anchor at—and even though she is no longer alive, she will continue to be my anchor.

Rixy was a retired English teacher and published author and in her retirement continued to encourage and mentor other writers.  She gave meaty constructive criticism that is worth its weight in gold.  Forgive me, Rixy, for mixing my metaphors and clinging to cliches—sadly I’m not writing for perusal of your reviewing eye.  (Oops, “sadly” is one of those pesky adverbs you wont let me get away with!  And I’m starting this sentence with “and” and putting this in parentheses—also one of your pet peeves!) 

With Rixy’s encouragement, I signed up to take a writing class in the New Horizon Academy.  I am taking “NaNoWriMo & the 30-Day Novel,” which begins in October.  Rixy was to be one of the instructors.

I signed up, in part, because Rixy was one of the instructors.  Also because I thought it would be a great way to s-t-r-e-t-c-h myself as a writer.  Every day I question, “What have I gotten myself into?”  NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month—and I not a fiction writer.  However, I hoped that, under Rixy’s tutelage, I could be successful.  The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  Gulp…


I responded to the e-mail about Rixy’s death, asking if there was anything I could do to help.  Karen responded, “If you want to help, you can do your very best in the NaNoWriMo course. That would mean a lot to Rixy.”

Rixy, I will be writing for you!  And if a novel evolves, I will dedicate my very first novel to you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Man with a Missional Heart

Rex and Linda - '09 Guatemala mission trip 
on hotel roof with volcanic mountain in background.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
 “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
 And I said, “Here am I.  Send me!”
 Isaiah 6:8 NIV

Few things bring tears to my husband’s eye, but the words of Isaiah, whether read directly from scripture, or vocalized in music, cause Rex to choke and tear up.  He takes the words personally, from God to him. 

Traveling with my optometrist husband on eye care mission trips is one of the highlights of our life together.  We’ve been to Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Kenya and want to keep going on mission trips.  There’s one problem, however: my health problems.  Fibromyalgia and chronic pain in my right leg, caused by a hodge-podge of issue in my spine, makes walking painful and arduous.

Last winter we signed up to go on a fall mission trip to Honduras with our church but cancelled out a few months later.   No way would I be able to negotiate the steep walking paths in Canchias, the mountain village where we were to go.  I was disappointed for me, but even more disappointed for my husband. 

In July, it became apparent that my left knee, injured in my early 40’s—when I bent down to tie my shoe, no less—needed a total knee replacement.  So I chose to have the surgery the same week as the mission trip we were missing.   Somehow, this soothed my disappointed heart, legitimizing my absence from the team.  

My dear husband, without telling me, decided that he would go on a different mission trip—to our home, to take care of me.  Several days into my recovery, I was thanking him for being so attentive to my needs and he replied, “I decided that I would make serving you my mission.”

He touched my heart and took my experience of his love to a deeper level.  My love for Rex deepened in like proportions.  What an amazing man!  If only all spouses and caregivers were this loving and compassionate.

One of Rex's satisfied patients
I know the limitations of my illness affect us both.  This has to be difficult for my hubby who is an always-on-the-go guy.  If he’s not playing racquetball or golf, he’s water-skiing or riding his bike.  He loves to work in the yard and is a Mr-fix-it extraordinaire.  

For years, he has taken one week of his vacation time (unpaid) to provide eye care to thousands of people who rarely, if ever, see an eye care specialist.  He has a heart for missions.  To think that he chose to be my servant—God’s servant—is a gift of grace beyond measure.  

Rex, you are my gift of grace from God!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fragile: Handle with Care

My son and daughter-in-law have attempted to help their three-year-old son Evan understand that Nana is fragile and can’t handle being tackled or jumped on, like Daddy and Papaw can.

Evan is catching on to the concept of fragility quite well.  One day he told his mommy, “Nana is fragile.  She’s old, like Panda.”

Yes, it’s funny and I take no offense, but our fourteen-year-old lab Panda is, in my opinion, far more fragile than me.  Poor girl has lost most of her sight and hearing and depends on smell to locate where she is and who is present.  Her spindled legs spread-eagle on her when she walks on tile or hardwood—her Bambi-on-ice impression.  Famous for her jumping ability, she now collapses in a lump on the floor when attempting to leap onto our bed and the sofa. 

Just this week, Evan and his two-year-old brother Josh stayed with my husband and me for a few days.  Seeing stick-it notepads on my desk, Evan asked to have some.  He then proceeded to plaster the notes everywhere.  I didn’t see the pattern until he stuck one on my leg.  He was marking everything in the house that was fragile!  His accuracy was amazing: TV screen, china cabinet, glass top tables, decorative items—and Nana.

During Invisible Illness Week—September 12-18—we hope to raise awareness regarding the difficulties people face when dealing with chronic pain and illness.  My precious Evan is far more aware than most adults. 

I hope you will follow Evan’s admirable example and increase your awareness of invisible illness and how you can support those who deal daily with chronic illness and pain.

Check out today.

If you are dealing with a chronic illness and pain, Rest Ministries—an online support ministry—invites you to explore and get connected with other people who understand what you are going through.

You don’t have to be old, like Panda—just fragile.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Invisible Illness blog post—August 12, 2011

What is an invisible illness? 

Consider this:

      Nearly 1 in 2 Americans (133 million) has a chronic condition.
      By 2020, about 157 million Americans will be afflicted by chronic illnesses, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
      That number is projected to increase by more than one percent per year by 2030, resulting in an estimated chronically ill population of 171 million.
      Sixty percent are between the ages of 18 and 64
      90% of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 77% have two or more chronic diseases
      In the United States 4 in 5 health care dollars (78%) are spent on behalf of people with chronic conditions. The Growing Burden of Chronic Disease in American, Public Health Reports, May June 2004 Volume 119 Gerard Anderson, PhD
      Source: Chronic Care in America: A 21st Century Challenge, a study of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation & Partnership for Solutions: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (September 2004 Update). “Chronic Conditions: Making the Case for Ongoing Care”.

If you don’t see a cane, wheelchair, walker of some other form of assistance, then there may be an invisible illness lurking beneath that beautiful smile and cheery voice.  People with chronic illness and pain can be masters at disguising their true emotional and physical status. 

At home I feel free to grimace and groan as I cope with pain, but in public, I do my best to appear “normal.”  I want to be normal.  I want you to think I’m normal.  I also want you to think I’m coping well and accept my limitations and restrictions on activities with an air of grace. 

The truth is, I struggle with this every day. 

I suffer from the mental malady of the “used-tos.”  I used to be able to walk a long way, ride my bike as long as I’d like, take my adorable grandsons on outings.  Activities that I used to take for granted are now off limits.  Places that I used to go—like Honduras and Guatemala on mission trips—now seem to be out of my reach.  I used to hike in the woods, just me and my dog Panda, enjoying nature together.  I used to spend hours weeding in the garden and now my neurologist informs me that this is just as strenuous an activity as playing football.  This may sound like an exaggeration, but I know he is telling me, that, for me, weeding is a danger to the precarious condition of my spine. 

The truth is, I an envious of other people who are able to do these things.   

The truth is, even though I go to God and depend on him in the midst of my pain, sometimes I am mad at him.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Invisible Illness blog post—August 9, 2011

For many years, I have written what I call my “ponderings.”   I write about my personal experiences, poking fun at my own foibles and tying my thoughts into a Biblical lesson about God’s grace.  I love nature and find wonderful metaphors with which to spin these nuggets of truth; truth as I see it.  I am not a theologian or minister.  I just like to ponder and encourage others to ponder along with me.

I have a very active imagination, and yet—it seems silly to say—I do not have the gift for writing fiction.  I have to write from my own experience, boring as it may be.  I liken myself to Bert on Sesame St. who collects paperclips and likes pigeons.  What do I have to say that would be of interest to someone else?  In spite of such reservations, I find that writing nurtures me, and I hope that what I write encourages others to treat themselves with a little bit more grace and gentleness, and to welcome God’s gift of infinite grace.


As Invisible Illness Week approaches, I hesitate to write about my aches and pains.  I’d much rather write about what a pain in the neck I can be!  Writing is one way that I escape from inhabiting my pain-filled body.  So to write about what I want to escape seems counterintuitive.  I am taking on this challenge because I believe in the ministry of Rest Ministries, the sponsor of Invisible Illness Week; and I support the mission of Invisible Illness Week. I want to do my part to increase public awareness about invisible illness. 

What is it like to have an invisible illness? 
What is it like for my family? 
How can my friends and family be supportive?
What are my fears for my future?
What do I miss the most, due to the constraints of my health?
What does a good day look like for me?
What does a bad day look like for me?
What helps me through the pain?

These are the type of questions I will be “pondering” over the next few weeks. 

I invite you to read some of my earlier posts along with what I will be blogging about my experience with invisible illness.  I’m much more than my diagnoses and hope to give you a reason to chuckle about my foibles while also learning about invisible illness.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 5, 2011


What is Invisible Illness Week?  
Check out and find out!  

I will be blogging about my own experiences with invisible illness over the next few weeks--so check back with me and learn more about what it's like to have an invisible illness.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Handicapped, Disabled or Differently-abled?

Traveling in the Wheelchair of Life—Part 4

In this day and age of politically correct language, I’m thoroughly confused on when to use certain terms, lest I cause offense. When is it proper to refer to someone, such as myself, as handicapped, disabled or differently-abled?

When it comes to sports, I’m definitely handicapped — a congenital defect encoded in my genes. My instinctive reflex to dodge or duck when a ball flies my way, desperately weak ankles and poor eye-hand coordination make me likely to be last picked in all but the most domestic activities. Challenge me to a bed-making race, and I’ll win blue ribbons for speed and neatness. Challenge me to cleaning a bathroom and ... well, you’ll win that one.

I am currently disabled due to knee surgery and a lengthy healing process requiring that I not put weight on my left leg. I get by with the use of a wheelchair, walker, and hopping-about on my right leg. The latter requires modest athletic ability, which as I pointed out earlier, I am lacking. Your prayers for my safety are coveted.

And I am differently-abled in ways too numerous to list. While you may be able to slam a baseball over the fence, I am able to slam computer keys and produce words and thoughts that are equally a hit in my field of play. I am able to listen by the hour (which comes in handy on my job as a therapist) while you may be a non-stop gabber. Don’t ask me to do any form of math and I’ll not ask you to define or spell esclandre, prosopopoeia or guerdon. (Cheer up; I don’t even know what they mean — I’m just messing with you.) We’re just differently-abled, you and I.

Recently I decided to negotiate the grocery store in one of those nifty motorized carts that are now provided for the handicapped, disabled, and/or differently-abled individual. You may not have ever noticed, but a grocery store is an obstacle course in disguise. All those produce, baked goods and soda pop displays, set at angles to keep the physically-abled from racing through the store, are a nightmare for those of us on wheels.

The scariest part for me, however, was backing my buggy up when I failed to stop in time to collect the particular cookies or laundry detergent I was after. Putting my vehicle into reverse set off an obnoxious alarm, not unlike that installed on road construction equipment. I’m not noted for my vehicular backing ability, so I recommend you clear the aisle, street or driveway if you see and hear me operating any mode of transportation in reverse.

The most difficult aspect of grocery shopping, however, was getting into the freezer cases for my weekly supply of Lean Cuisine and Skinny Cow Ice Cream Bars. The freezer doors at my store open outward rather than sliding aside. If you want to feel differently-abled, I invite you to attempt to line up a mobile cart, just so, open the door and lean in for your item.

I do wish to thank all the kind people who helped me retrieve the Wheat Chex and other items stowed on the top shelves. My thanks, also, to those who did not laugh at me and those who pretended to nonchalantly get out of my way (I know you were scared to death and wanted to run for your life!) There are a lot of kind-hearted, gracious and tolerant people eager to be of assistance.

But I am truly baffled by those who were oblivious to this first-time mobile grocery cart driver, who wasn’t quite sure what she was doing. For future reference, I suggest that you look both ways from now on when you cross a grocery aisle to make sure you are not in my line of fire.

”We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”

Romans 12:6

FYI: Esclandre, prosopopoeia, and guerdon were the final three words in the National Spelling Bee, held on May 30, 2008.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Luscious Legacy - Father's Day Tribute

I wrote this years ago. Just this week, I was asked to share a favorite childhood memory to introduce myself to a Rest Ministries summer study group. Of course, this came immediately to mind. I love berries, both for their flavor (not to mention their vibrant colors and fruity fragrances) and for the family legacy and memories that burst into the present when I bite into their juiciness.


“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation:
seed-bearing plants and trees on the land
that bear fruit with seed in it,
according to their various kinds.’
And it was so… And God saw that it was good.”
Genesis 1:11-12

One hot, summer day, when I was a little girl, my daddy introduced me to the delicious hunt for strawberries. We were visiting Grandma and Grandpa Reuman, my mother’s parents, in Attica, New York. Their large home—hand built by Grandpa—overlooked a picturesque valley. I doubt that Dad and I talked much out there in the field behind the house, but just being with him and having him all to myself was a real treat. I couldn’t resist popping a few of the reddest and juiciest sun-warmed treasures into my mouth right there in the field.

Suddenly, the muted, country quiet was broken by an alarm sounding from Attica State Prison, far off in the valley, alerting the community that a prisoner had escaped. The harsh sound scared me to death, and I just knew that the escapee would come get me! Dad tried to allay my fears, explaining that the occasional escapee was usually a “trustee,” a prisoner who was trusted enough to work outside the wall. Such prisoners were typically due to get out of prison soon, but the security of what was familiar was more appealing than freedom, so they’d head downtown to a bar and wait to be captured, successfully extending their tenure. My fears were soothed and we enjoyed our berries with Grandma’s homemade shortcake.

Strawberries have always been a vital part of my summers, even when I did not have easy access to a strawberry field. During the summer, our neighborhood was frequented several times a week by a truck laden with berries. I got just as excited when I heard this truck coming as I did for the ice cream truck (well, almost). These luscious, locally grown berries sold for the tempting price of four quarts for a dollar. Mom would make shortcake and we’d top it all off with a generous spritz of Reddi-Wip. Dad registered his appreciation with groans of delight and lots of lip-smacking.

Before moving to Anderson, my husband and I lived in Northern Michigan where I went berry picking around the 4th of July. When we returned to Indiana, I couldn’t wait for July to come around, only to discover that I was a month late! You can bet I didn’t make that mistake twice.When my parents retired and moved to Anderson to be near my family, Dad and I took up pickin’ once again. For several years, we went to a local fruit and vegetable farm, oftentimes accompanied by my kids, Matt and Beth, who were as young as I was when I picked my first berry. Later, Dad put in a big garden next to his condo, a generous portion of it dedicated to strawberries.

Bethie and Grandpa loved to trek out to the strawberry patch where Beth would load up her t- shirt with berries and bring them in, thrilled with her payload. It was a special time between little Beth and Grandpa, reminiscent of my own special times with my strawberry-loving papa. I plan to take my own grandkids pickin’ someday!

Exodus 20:5-6 tells us that God promises his love “to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Just think: when we receive God’s love and respond with obedience, we pass God’s love on to the next one thousand generations! Is “a thousand generations” simply a metaphor to emphasize the abundance and availability of God’s love? I don’t know. But if the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Indiana can impact the ecosystem in China, then I certainly think God’s love has its own eternal “butterfly effect.”

Just as we receive a legacy from our Heavenly Father, our own family legacies are also passed on. Enjoying strawberries together is a love-filled legacy, a crimson thread in the enduring weaving that is my family. Such a simple act of grace! Every Father’s Day—appropriately celebrated during strawberry season—I fondly remember my strawberry-loving father, Frank Elmore. Thanks for the legacy, Dad!