Today I’m Sharing a Loss with You

My dad, Arthur Manning

It has been two jam-packed months since I’ve posted a blog, and that hardly seems possible to me. As I told you way back then, Bob and I moved my parents in with us on September 8. And then we had Hurricane Irma blow through. Both of these events generated a lot of work, but we were happy and relieved to have Mom and Dad with us.

We were all making the adjustment just fine, and Mom and Dad were feeling settled, when on October 2 my dad began to decline. Just the week before, Dad, who was 94, told me he was glad they were with us. That was a big deal, because moving wasn’t his idea. But it clearly was God’s timing and his amazing grace and mercy for them to be in our home.

On Thursday, October 19, Dad breathed his last and was ushered into the presence of God – the God he loved and gave his life to over forty years ago. I am confident of where Dad is now, and I am grateful that he has a new body. His old one was clearly worn out. Dad was very hard of hearing and had gone completely blind over a year ago. The last weeks of his life he could no longer walk or even stand. The VITAS Hospice group were our constant companions, and we are forever grateful for their support.

In many ways, I can’t believe he is gone. Wasn’t it just yesterday that he would call out, “Hey, Bon-bon,” when I entered their house. It’s a weird time. I miss him.

Things are calmer now. Family has gone home. The meals, which our dear friends brought to us, have stopped coming. We are finding our footing in the midst of grief. There is a peace that passes understanding that flows through my soul as I slow the pace of my life down and walk through this with my mom, but it is not easy to slow that pace. My natural inclination is to get things done so that they are done and I don’t have to give mental space to the many details. Frankly, that doesn’t always work!

I have to remind myself that “normal” is a fluid concept. I have a new normal that is in the developmental stages. I am not particularly fond of transitions. Change is hard and can be stressful, but it is within those transitions that I am reminded of how much I need Jesus. I have to lean not on my own understanding and wait on God.

Dad had a practice of asking everyone who entered their home if they knew Jesus as their personal savior. I did not know of anyone who was bolder. My dad was not a big man, but he filled a room. He had a big personality. He loved to tell stories and he loved to entertain. He was an accomplished magician and brought joy to a lot of people through his illusions. That man could control a deck of cards.

Knowing that my dad is in Heaven with no more limitations makes me happy. Watching my mom lean into God encourages me. Experiencing grace for things that I never thought I could remotely do, builds my faith.

I guess there really isn’t a lighter side to this post. I just wanted you to know what’s been going on and why I’ve taken some time off. I’m back now and expectant that once again, God will show me the lighter side of things and I will share them with you. Thanks for reading.

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Nobody Likes You Irma (Part 2 of 2)

Irma was an unwelcome guest, but there was no stopping her from blowing through. I thought I would share what it was like for me and my family as she came knocking on our door. Looking back, we got off easy compared to a lot of folks, but my story is the only one I can tell. I tell it mixed with prayers for those who have truly suffered through this storm and the many other “natural disasters” that are going on in the world today.

By 11:00 Sunday morning we were hunkered, which is a word we used liberally during the entire ordeal.

Hurricane Warning

By 2:20 PM our phones were going off like crazy with alerts. Watches turned to warnings. (Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for the storm. Warnings come when the storm or flood is imminent.)

The first rain bands arrived before 3 PM.

The wind significantly picked up by 7 PM. By 8:30, those winds became downright scary as they gusted over and around our house.

By 10 PM the rain was coming down in torrents. We experienced minor flooding over our front sidewalk. And the eye of the storm was hours away. FYI, we did not board up our house.

Our front sidewalk in the light of day. It took 3 days to dry out.

We decided to go to bed and get some rest. The worst was supposed to come around 2 AM. My parents seemed to go right to sleep on the other side of the house. Bob and I lay in our bed listening to the weird noises that the wind was making. I thought our roof was going to come off. I told Bob that I couldn’t sleep with all that noise. He said that he could.

And he did! I went to the center of the house and tried to rest in a recliner, but by then it was raining even harder and I could hear the dripping in the chimney while the weird noises continued. The wind whipped through our screened pool enclosure making eerie howling sounds. This was the first time in a long time that I can remember being legitimately scared. So, I ate some chocolate chip cookies.

The entire household was sleeping through this (minus me, of course). That amazed me, but I was thankful somebody was getting some rest! It was now clear that the storm was going to go right over Orlando. With the wind picking up even more, a little before 2 AM, I prepared the hall with cushions and chairs for my parents. Our phones, computers and car keys were placed in Ziploc bags. I was ready to take the hunkering to a new level.

I was awake and praying or chatting with other hunkerers on Facebook through most of the night – manning the conn from our recliner in the center of the house while eating the occasional chocolate chip cookie or three. I’d peek outside toward the east and look at the weird lightning and watch the trees bend in the glow of it. The water in the pool, though Bob had drained several inches from it twice, was over the edge. Irma was loud and violent, and the rest of my family slept through it.

With everything in place, I returned to my recliner. I must have dozed off, because I woke up around 6 AM and realized that it was over, and we still had electricity.

We live in the back of our neighborhood, which has 450 homes in it. A tributary of the Little Wekiva River flows through the center. Typically, it is a creek of about 8 feet width. Monday morning it was a raging little river.

The front of our neighborhood looked like a war zone of fallen trees and debris. They were without power. Our end of the neighborhood never lost it. But there were a lot of downed trees and fences and a new lake in our neighbor’s backyard. A wonderful neighbor had a front-end loader and went up and down every street clearing a path. Everyone was outside working and checking on each other.

Our next-door neighbor’s backyard

Bob looking at all the debris – our neighbor’s newly formed backyard lake in the background

Our damage was so minimal it doesn’t even count. I told my mother that we had an extra blessing from God because they moved in with us.

Bob and I put on our sneakers and leather gloves and got to work. Trees are no respecters of property lines. We have the neighborhood border wall behind our house. There is a vacant, treed lot behind us, so we got lots of debris from that. When I set foot in the yard, I was surprised to be up to my ankles in water. But there was no damage and nobody was hurt. We were amazed and grateful to God for that.

One of our sons and family showed up in the early afternoon. They were safe but without power. By nightfall, theirs was restored. Our other son and his wife were not so lucky. Theirs was out for nine days.

My parents’ home sustained no damage, but that area was without electricity for five days. It may be September, but it’s still close to 90 degrees every day down here.

 

     There are piles of debris along the roads that are taller than I am. And there is a subtle, funky smell in the air that is like a mixture of old diaper and chicken farm. Thankfully, the garbage truck removed the regular garbage today, so that may improve. Mass spraying has begun to combat mosquitoes. The sound of frogs in the morning is deafening as they take up residence in the newly formed ponds. We are keeping our eyes open for snakes. Alligators have been reported in some yards and pools. Flood waters are cresting along the St. Johns River. There are still some who have no power and others who can no longer stay in their homes. But we give thanks for being on the other side of this. It has been a blessing watching neighbor helping neighbor and churches joining together to serve. A lot of the differences that tend to divide us have taken their proper place, and we see each other simply as people going through something together.

I thought about being afraid in the middle of that night. I thought about how rare that is for me, and I was thankful. Now I think about people living in fear of storms real and imagined and how that affects their lives, and I pray that they will call out to God because He is there.

 

Nobody Likes You Irma!

Looking for the lighter side of Irma is similar to what it was like trying to find bottled water before she hit. Seemingly impossible. Water was the hot commodity – you had to search and search for it. For those who came up empty, all that had to be done was look down at the spigot in their very own kitchen and turn on the tap. Finding the good in a situation is like that – it’s often right under our nose.

My husband and I were prepared, as I felt prompted (no doubt by God) to make my preparations for a hurricane over a week before we knew she was coming for sure. Her fast development from a depression to a Cat 3 storm in less than 24 hours was impressive. Water, peanut butter, protein bars, apples, canned goods, and emergency M&Ms and Oreos (for keeping spirits up) were secured well in advance. Gallon Ziploc bags filled with frozen water from my tap and Tupperware containers with frozen blocks of ice were at the ready.

I am forever grateful to God for that, because by the end Labor Day weekend we needed to make our most important hurricane preparation – getting my parents out of their manufactured housing, about 30 minutes away from us.

That Monday night Bob and I visited them and basically told them that ready or not, they needed to come by the end of the week. Permanently. We had been trying to convince them to move in with us for months. Well, it took a hurricane. I had joked/not joked with them that if we had to evacuate them, we weren’t taking them back. Now they are residing here with us. I am so relieved.

My parents have been married for 69 years. They are mentally sharp. Mom has been taking care of my Dad for quite some time. He lost the remainder of his vision about 18 months ago. He is 94. Mom continues to be his caregiver, but now we walk alongside her. Mom and I laugh at the same kind of things. I think I got my sense of humor from her side of the family. It brings me great joy and peace to have them with us.

For me, having them here has lightened my emotional load. So, thanks be to God, who used a terrible hurricane like Irma to make this happen.

Bob’s birthday was September 10. I was determined to have some kind of celebration before the September 9, Irma-is-coming-to-town curfew was enforced. (Everyone to get from streets!) I thought it wasn’t quite enough that, not only was he getting a hurricane for his birthday and his in-laws, too. We had to have a party.

We gathered on Saturday for lunch and cake. Interestingly, I forgot to get candles for the cake even though I had plenty of flashlights and lanterns. Oh well! Our local kids and grandkids came over and we had our little party. Then everyone left to batten down the hatches in their own homes.

Saturday brought an uptake in winds, but it was the quintessential calm before the storm. The sounds of plywood being nailed over windows and lawnmowers making a final pass to shorten the grass were everywhere. People were filling their garages with all outdoor paraphernalia in order to eliminate flying debris. Neighbors were checking in with each other. Swimming pool water levels were being lowered.

Throwing furniture into the pool keeps it from blowing around. Our chairs seemed to want to exit up the stairs though.

Hurricane Irma was larger than the state of Florida – that included the area from the Panhandle all the way down the Key West. We watched her wobble along. Would she visit Orlando or Tampa? We prayed she would not go into the Gulf and hit Texas. It took her forever to make “the turn.” But when she did, it became clear that Central Florida was in for it. We had done all we could to be ready. Now it was time to wait.

In my next post, I’ll tell you what it was like to go through the storm. I said it was time to wait, didn’t I?

The Bands are Coming

Bob and I have been preparing and waiting for Irma. It now appears that the band is back together. That is, the rain bands.

We had decided it would be relaxing to sit in the hot tub and take a nice soak while there was a light drizzle gently falling.

And then this happened.

Thanks, Irma!

So I thought you would like a firsthand look at our weather this Sunday afternoon at 2 PM – from my phone, not from us in the hot tub! All it took for a band to come through was a decision to go outside. I think we’ll stay in for a while. Stay safe, everybody!

 

A Pick-up Line in a Pick-up Line?

Pick-up Line

Bob and I were waiting at Subway (the sandwich shop not the mass transit system), trying to figure out what delectable delight we’d feast on for lunch. From across the not-so-crowded room, I saw him. His back was to me. Without hesitation, I walked right up to him, tapped him on the shoulder, and asked, “What are you doing tonight?”

Think me brazen if you will, but I had to know.

I stood there gazing up at this tall, young man, who was easily young enough to be my son, waiting for my answer. What was he going to do tonight?

He smiled and replied, “The same thing I do every night – try to take over the world.”

Well, that made my day. You see, I am a huge fan of Steven Spielberg. You may have heard of him. I understand he has produced numerous, notable films. But if you have not had the pleasure of viewing his animated TV series, Pinky and The Brain, while sitting next to your child or grandchild, you are clearly missing out on some serious fun.

I spent many hours watching with my kids. Brain is a genius mouse who is set on taking over the world, and Pinky is his insane sidekick (according to the catchy theme song and obvious to all who view). Every day Pinky asks Brain what they are going to do tonight. Every day Brain replies, “The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.”

Just the thought of Pinky driving Brain crazy makes me smile. The thought of watching with my kids does, too. And, that day in Subway, I smiled as I engaged with a fellow fan and thought that if we all tried to take over the world with fun, love, and kindness, that would really be something amazing. Pinky would love it!

Adventures in Computer Land

Lately I have been busy tending to my writing life. By busy I mean that I’m thinking about it. I’m giving myself pep talks laced with guilt to help me get on with my projects. And, I’m taking naps when that gets too exhausting.

Seriously, I have been working on submitting my middle grade novel to various agents. This is extremely taxing. I have to figure out what they want and how they want it and turn that into a dazzling submission.

I was working on Submission #3 when a problem arose. I do not want to put in writing exactly what that problem was just in case the people to whom I am submitting decide to read this blog post. I don’t want to show my hand and have them thinking stuff like – Can we really work with this woman?

So, I set out to fix my problem. It should have been simple. Emphasis on “should.” After repeated attempts, I called my resident IT guy and brilliant husband at his office. Bob the Engineer is a logical and linear thinking guy who has a tendency to roll his eyes. I think I actually heard them roll when I told him my problem.

He walked me through it, and nothing worked. Thankfully, I wasn’t in a time pinch. I let Bob off the hook, and he said he’d help me that evening. But silly me thought I would give it one more try, and I managed to lock myself out of my own documents – something that would never have happened if Bob was in the room because my computer fears him.

After dinner that night, Bob offered to look at my computer. I said that I didn’t want to do that, because I was not speaking to my computer and he should join me in giving it the silent treatment. More eye rolling, but he was smart enough to leave this one alone.

The next night Bob forgot about it until bedtime. He innocently asked if I had checked to see if my documents were unlocked. I told him I was still avoiding the computer. I had not forgiven it for making me feel like an idiot. He turned around, presumably so I wouldn’t see him roll his eyes, and we dropped the subject.

By the third day I was feeling forgiving and allowed Bob to help me out. It took him about 30 seconds to rectify things and the next day I submitted my novel.

But now I have a new chapter in my computer saga. I write the blog for the Women’s Ministry at our church, which is posted on our church website, which is run by some church media group. We had a guest writer so all I had to do was format her words and post. Easy? Not this time.

I don’t know what came over me. For some strange reason I decided to get fancy and explore a new area using a featured photo that I thought would attract more attention to the site, since our guest writer had written a tremendous piece.

This is the photo I decided to delete. The photo that mocked me over and over. I should have thrown my computer over the cliff when I had the chance.

After I had the whole thing ready to go, I decided I didn’t like the photo that I chose, so I deleted it. Honestly, I did. But it had mysterious staying power. I’d get out of the program, go back in, and there it was. It refused to go away, much like the random calls that I get from people who aren’t selling me anything. Very annoying! Then I tried staying in the program and deleting the picture (again) and clicking to upload another picture. The twirly circle would just spin and spin and lock me out of my document.

I was starting to get a complex. This time I knew that it was not operator error, though in all honesty I have known that before and it turned out to be operator error, so I’m never too confident. I sent a help message to the web master, and lo and behold, it was their fault! They were having server upgrade problems. Isn’t that the best news?

It was to me, since I was locked out of two different documents in a week’s time. I told Bob that I think I may be getting the hang of this techy trouble shooting thing. I think he rolled his eyes.

The 2017 USA Total Eclipse of the Sun (for your safety, please read before viewing the eclipse)

Me preparing for eclipse viewing – practicing not seeing things in the dark

Oh, Total Eclipse of the Sun 2017, you’re so vain, you probably think this post is about you. I could deny it, but why bother. This is about you! Today, you’re the star! (I mean that metaphorically and literally.)

There is no need to fly a Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun. It’s not there this time. I could simply drive to South Carolina. But I won’t.

At 2:50:58 pm, from my very own, easy to get to, front yard here in Central Florida, 85.6 percent of the sun will be obscured by the moon. That sounds like a solid “B” to me. I will be satisfied, though a little sad, to stay home for this event. Even though I hate missing anything of this magnitude. And, the realization that just a short eight-hour ride up the road is a potential “A+” total eclipse (depending on whether the weather cooperates) might make me crazy if I let it, but I won’t. I don’t want to be a lunatic over a solar eclipse. That seems wrong.

I understand that (possibly) this is a once-in-a-lifetime event – a total solar eclipse going from coast to coast. I should be more excited. I should pack a cooler and my ISO approved solar viewing glasses and go. But the thing that I keep going back to is that I can’t actually look at it. Not even a little bit. So, the thought of hurrying north to not watch the eclipse confuses my thought patterns – especially when I realize that I am very tempted to go. I want to not see the sun and experience darkness in the daytime, just like everybody else.

Engineer Bob, my sweet husband, brought home a pair of the viewing glasses for me – a gift better than flowers (though not as good as jewelry). I think he knows how tempting it will be for me to look at the sun and he is looking out for me and, I might add, himself. Both of our fathers have gone blind in their old age, and Bob is hedging his bets to keep my eyesight. We look out for each other that way. We have seen the future and we want to be able to see in it.

So please enjoy not watching the eclipse. It will be a memory of something that you didn’t actually see that you will enjoy for years to come.

 

A Weird Connection – Maybe

In a day when everyone is taking pictures of everything and google delivers boatloads of images with the touch of a finger, it was surprisingly difficult for me to find a picture of Paul McCartney and my grandmother together. And by that, I mean – impossible.

I am a huge fan of Paul McCartney. I am a huge fan of my deceased grandmother. About ten years ago, I realized that every time I’d see a picture of Paul, I thought of Grandmom Manning. Weird. She was not a fan. She opted to watch Hee Haw when he was rising to fame.

She was an amazing woman who lost her eyesight when I was a teenager. I barely remember her being able to see, but I do remember her kind, gentle manner. When she was a young, she taught ballroom dancing. I am told she was quite a cook and a more than proficient seamstress. Probably her biggest achievement was raising my dad and his siblings. Born in 1900, she always said she was as old as the years.

So where is the connection? I think Paul looks like my grandmother. Seriously, maybe we’re related! Here are some pictures. Do you see a resemblance? My dad’s family is huge, so, you never know! Maybe that’s why Paul has always been my favorite Beetle/distant cousin.

Grandmother Manning before she was a grandmother

The last picture I have of her circa 1987

I’m a Fairy Blog Mother – Meet my Blog Daughter

I recently became a fairy blog mother. That is to say, barely a fairy blog mother. I have a wonderfully funny friend named Roxanne who has been threatening to start a blog for some time now. She asked me if I would meet with her to help her get started. Yes, she is that funny – I laughed and laughed. Only she was serious.

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that all of my computer prowess is attributed to the wonderful man I married, Bob the Engineer. (Yes, that is part of our wedding vows. I must ascribe to him all tech glory.) It is only because of him that I have not thrown the computer out the window.

You might not be aware, since I have been doing this blogging thing for a while, that I have a fairy blog mother. Her name is Debi and she is one of my bestest friends. She writes a blog called The Romantic Vineyard. She had the painstaking job of getting me on WordPress. She is very patient.

Roxanne and I met one day to get her started. The first thing I wanted to establish is why in the world she would ask me for help. She said (and rightly so) we think alike. It will be fun.

2 Ibuprofen for the laughter headache

The first meeting would have been more fun if Roxanne had remembered to bring her computer, but still we plugged along. We met again, this time with her computer. We were definitely making progress. Not! I suggested we call Debi, who I keep on speed dial.

Debi came to the rescue. She planned a meeting with Roxanne on a day that God chose for me to have other plans. (He is a good God.) They got it together. Now, Debi is a fairy blog grandmother. It’s always nice to have a grandmother around, blogging or the regular type.

Roxanne just started her blog, Not That Big a Deal, last week. Please check her out. I know you will love her as much as I do. Click here to laugh along with Roxanne.

And, if you would like to check out Debi’s blog, which is all about inspiration for your marriage, you really should! It’s a great resource. Click here to be inspired by Debi.

Happy reading!

 

“The Wheel”

We used to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy on a regular basis. That was before cable TV, Netflix, and the realization that these shows were geared toward senior citizens. Truthfully, the shows are really great for any age (especially when students are on Jeopardy, which gives the vast majority of us a fighting chance). It is the advertising on them that reveals their target audience. Now, with the DVR, we don’t need to watch and see if the lady who has fallen will in fact be helped up. (Spoiler: She will be.)

Last Saturday, Bob and I gathered at my parents’ house along with my brother, my sister, and her family. The clocked chimed seven, and we sat down to watch Jeopardy and The Wheel.

My dad is blind, but my mom calls the play-by-play for him during Wheel of Fortune. It is challenging for him, a man who was always involved in everything going on around him, to sit and interact in this manner. But to his credit, he does.

Let’s ramp up that challenge by acknowledging that Dad has a huge hearing loss. With his hearing aids, he can converse, but a lot of chit-chat and our yelling out answers at the TV makes it hard on him. With the rest of us engaged in being the first one to get the answer, we hardly notice their challenge.

The puzzle was “Found in the Kitchen.” It had two words.

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

Got it yet?

The letters started to fill in a few at a time.

_ O O _ _ O O _

_ O L L _ _ T I O N

Mom kept Dad informed. Dad, who can’t see the television much less what is displayed on it, who can barely hear, who has trouble with a lot of noise, softly said, “Cookbook Collection.”

We all went crazy. The blind man solved it before the five sighted adults in the room did. My sister asked if somebody whispered the answer to him, but we aren’t that kind of family, plus he would have never heard us! We are fiercely competitive, and we also would never insult our father by giving an answer to him.

This still has me shaking my head. Maybe Mom and Dad are using some of the products advertised on the show. Maybe they are onto something that keeps their brains sharp. Maybe I should be a regular watcher (not a joke about being regular). For now, I will just shake my head and smile when I think about what a great team my mom and dad are. I guess after 69 years of marriage, the two really do become one.

Mom & Dad celebrating their 65th anniversary,                                 4 years ago