Sunday, August 2, 2015

Resetting the Brain

Sometimes life becomes so emotionally and psychologically overwhelming you get in a rut. You slog your way through a painful daily routine, wincing as life stings you, hunkering down for the next blow. You pull your curtains, hide in your house, and plague yourself with what Adam calls "the three-thought cycle." Your brain spins in a relentless, damaging playback of whatever sadness is in your life.
At that point, you need a friend to yank you out of it, drag your from your dark couch, and help you reset your brain.
I dragged Adam from the house yesterday like a good wife friend. I didn't know where we were going. I only knew we would get on the ferry. That would put a wide river between us and home. We had no plans for the rest of the day. I mentioned ice cream.

But after the ferry I turned left instead, and we ended up in Beaufort. And we ate Mexican because Adam hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch, and he was hungry.
It was mediocre Mexican, but it was a start. 
Sometimes it's more important to make a start than to make it perfect.
Then we walked along the boardwalk and looked at boats. 
When you like boats, they tend to take your mind off other things.
This, my friends, is a serious boom tent. Rather like a Conestoga wagon on water.
And because it was there, and free, and air conditioned (!!), we strolled through the Maritime Museum. This is one of the finest free museums around. The exhibits are great!!
And they've recently opened a reading room, beautifully, tastefully decorated. Quiet. If I lived near Beaufort I'd come each week. You cannot take books out of the room, but you can sit in their leather sofas and read to your heart's content.
I foresee future dates with Adam here, each of us happily scouring boating adventures.
And look what they have!! A real live working card catalog!! Yay!
It's ridiculous, I know, but that wooden box made me very happy.
We walked town a little.
Here's an alley. Beaufort is small and lovely.
Usually our dates are discussions about logistics. When shall we leave? Where shall we eat? Are there any decent movies? Find directions. The questions require online searching, checking of hours. How much money do we want to spend? I believe I wear Adam out with the logistics.
This weekend, neither of us had mental energy to tolerate convoluted plans.
He said, "I would walk the beach at Fort Macon." So to Fort Macon we went.
We parked on the far left and walked north away from the crowds, toward the fort.
I think he was already feeling a little better. I was steadily administering that friendly medicine of care, helping him push his "reset" button :)
Adam is a rock-skipper. At the beach it's tricky, finding shells that skip well.
We saw turtle protection areas frequently.
I took photos. He skipped shells.
 The evening sun shone on our backs, and the surf thundered.
We walked past the last humans until my feet wearied and I asked to turn back. I hate turning back. I want to walk on and on. Adam crossed the sand to the high dunes to see the fort. If you click on the photo below, you can see the fort's pole and flag.
I collected some shells but didn't keep them. I'll just keep them here.
This walk was long and luxurious. How glad I am that we went!
Marriage is wonderful for many reasons, but one certainly is that when one partner is low or suffering, the other can notice, take action, and gently nurture the loved one back to a healthier state. I'm thankful to be in a marriage like that. Adam has done this for me many times. It's an important way of saying, "I love you."

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hello Again

I've been absent in recent days. I've had trouble with photos on my computer -- not sure if any of you have similar woes. I used Iphoto, and then it stopped being supported by  Apple, and stopped working for me. So ... I switched to Picasa, since Google seemed to want me to. And boom! -- as soon as I got as many photos as I could salvage out of Iphoto into Picasa, it became unsupported by Google! Argh!

So now, Adam and I have tentatively slid into Google Photos, and are hoping it will work well. But honestly, I have to get into the program and find out how in the world it works. It's like a maze to me, each time I try something new on the computer! I'll try to get a few photos here at the end of the post, and see if it works :)

My personal stress and shocking anxiety of recent days is a bit better. In the past few years I've generally handled it better, but this particular series of events really threw me for a loop, and made me realize how very weak and helpless I am in the face of fear. I wanted to pray for others when I was sleepless, but my mind kept racing, unable to focus or think coherent thoughts. I was panicked. I needed rest, but fear kept me awake. I read the Bible, but my brain found it hard to comprehend the words. I pleaded with God to send His Holy Spirit to fill and calm my own spirit, and He did, over and over, until I slowly began to feel better. Talking with a friend helped. After a while, thinking and reasoning with myself helped too. I drove in the car for about nine hours on Monday, and that gave me time to sort through my fears and examine them.

Our house closing was to happen tomorrow, but probably won't now -- next week, we hope. It's a lengthy, complicated loan, with so many documents to hand in. (sigh!!!) We wait. God usually asks us to wait, and wait, and wait, before He ever asks us to do anything.

I'm also looking for a part-time job, to help make ends meet, but also because my youngest child will soon begin community college, and I want to be busy, and not sitting around the house checking facebook :) You know how it is!

Yesterday was our 26th wedding anniversary.
 Here's Adam, when we were dating. He loved photography.
 Scrounging around in photo albums, looking for pictures from mission trips, I found this one from Poland. I think it was 1988. That's me in the blue turtleneck with a perm! My translator Ewa is over my shoulder. I've always wanted to get in touch with her agian.
 Around the same time I was hanging out with a crowd of fun girls. Oh, we had so much fun! I'm sprawled out in the middle of the couch with my mouth hanging open. I do wonder what we were all watching on the TV. "Princess Bride"? From the time I was 18 until this point, I had clearly come out of my shell.
 And just to show that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and I get that silliness honestly ... here's my mother (in the middle) with two friends, in 1948.
 A few more random photos from the past -- this is in Iowa, about 2000? Cousins, having fun together. It was wonderful when my kids' cousins came to live so near us then. They were very hard days in many ways, but perhaps we didn't see then what we can see now -- that God put us all together there for our blessing.
 Philip and Peter with Philip's good buddy Adam, on the left. You can tell from the landscape that it's Iowa.

 I mentioned it was our anniversary. Celebration was quite low-key this year. We ate breakfast at the local diner. I took photos of us as we start this 27th year together. I can truthfully say I think Adam is cuter now than when I met him, and that's sayin' something! Happy anniversary, darling. Even if we never ever get that little farm, and even if everything else in life falls apart, we still have each other, and that is the very best. I consider my (quite a few now) widowed friends, and I do wonder how in the world they face the troubled days in life without their husbands. I would be so bereft. When I was so fearful and anxious lately, what a comfort it was to sit close to Adam and feel him near. How weak I am. God knows I'm certainly not capable of facing widowhood yet. I admire you ladies who are passing through those dark waters with such grace.
Not to end on a sad note -- Happy end-of-summer to everyone! Autumn will be here before we know it, and I do hope I will be sharing it with you from our little farm.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Even in July

Even in July I feel it coming
like the evening storm
you smell at morning,
a heavy waiting in the air
until the gray clouds
nibble into the western sky
at last.

Like the souring of a love affair
before anything’s gone wrong –
One feels one’s heart drift,
something’s changed.

Like the fluttering in the stomach
that's probably nerves,
but might be a baby.
How could something so important
be so small?

Even in July I smell you, Autumn,
my old friend, beloved season,
I’ve been waiting for you.

Oriental, NC
July 23, 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

In the Dark Hours of the Night

It's 12:15. Just after midnight. I stayed up until 11:15, knitting, trying to become sleepy enough so that when I did go to bed, I would fall asleep. My stomach hurts from so much churning, and the churning is from anxiety. There are things to worry about, and it doesn't much matter what they are this time; in a few years it will be a new thing to stress over. But the stress, the anxiety, the churning, will feel the same. It's felt the same for years, on nights like this.

When I flicked off the light and lay there and almost drifted into sleep several times between 11:15 and 12:15, each time my nervous, frenzied brain would wake me with a start. It's just fear. Sometimes I deal with it better, and sometimes I deal with it worse, like this time. I recited the Scripture I presently have memorized, and it's a good one -- "For this reason (because you cannot worship God and money) I say unto you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or drink, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap nor do they gather into barnes. Yet your heavenly Father takes care of them." That's as far as my memory could get.

I imagined Jesus speaking to me, just to me. "Do NOT be anxious." Worries are so much worse in the middle of the night. My heart is unreasonable and will not be consoled. "He has it all in hand." 'Then why is it falling apart?' I ask. I bring to mind the consolations that friends have shared in recent days, especially one from an old saint. "Try not to worry about things so much, and if you do, remember that He has it all under control." That's a paraphrase. The mind paraphrases a lot after midnight.

Again, this isn't about this particular trouble. There have been literally hundreds of troubles over the past thirty years. It's about how I handle the trouble. Sometimes it seems to slip off my back and leave me unscathed. This time, my heart is trembling and palpitating, my throat feels closed, I can't eat much. I feel sick. And my brain jerks me awake when I'm exhausted.

So I sit up now. It's 12: 26. My old trusty Bible lies by me, and I will read. I will read until I feel reassured, until the Holy Spirit calms me and takes charge of my weak spirit again. Anxiety is such a useless state. Reading the Bible puts one's life in perspective. When I read about how God rescues millions of people from slavery, or saves a man from death, or keeps His promises over and over, then my little trouble seems manageable. I know it's manageable to Him.

Then why does my heart still quiver? Why am I so afraid? My eyes drift over the pages of the psalms, looking for words for my situation, comfort for my trouble. Some are so pertinent that they're sharp. I will not quote them here. But "In my trouble I cried to the LORD, and He answered me." Yes.
Suffice it to say, I know both David and the Lord fully understand my fears and inner strife.

How thankful I am that His Word brings such comfort in the dark hours of the night.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Crazy Chinese Birthday Candle

Hi, all. Today is Julia's birthday. She's sixteen :) She's happy because her cousin is here visiting, and they're having a ball. Today they went swimming in the river (again). Adam made a pound cake for her birthday with a light strawberry glaze and strawberries on the side.
So far, so good. Julia got a few fun gifts. Then Anna pulled out ... the Crazy Chinese Birthday Candle that she bought in China last summer. Yep -- she bought a big birthday candle in China, brought it to the U.S., and saved it until Julia's birthday today. It came in a box. "Happy Birthday!" it says. The rest of the text, however, including all the directions, were in Chinese.
It was the strangest-looking thing. We studied it, and studied the pictures on the box, quite carefully. We wondered exactly how to light it, and ... um ... exactly what would it DO after we did light it.
You're supposed to stick the candle into the cake, but because the cake already has a big hole in its middle, we had to stick the candle into the side.
Maybe we should've taken that as a warning ...
It looks kind of cute from above. Lots of little bitty candles. But that circle in the middle with the red dot ... it looks more like a firework.
And lo-and-behold, it was. It hissed and flamed and shot up toward the ceiling, and we all screamed. My niece captured it on video. Being the intrepid blogger that I am, I made sure to photograph the terror.
Yep, it really was a torch, no kidding. Anna snickered with delight. She admitted that the Chinese are really into birthdays, and kind of into pyrotechnics.
I'm not sure which is more annoying though: the flame-thrower moment at first, or the truly irritating high-pitched happy-birthday-song that the candle kept playing, over and over. It ran (and the little candles circled slowly like a carousel) for five or ten minutes.

Julia blew out the little circling candles, and I told Anna to take the contraption outside at last. I couldn't listen to the song One More Time. That was about two hours ago. It's still playing out there stuck into one of my front porch ferns. I'm sure the neighbors think we're nuts.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Three Poems by Nick Barker

A Ten-Year-Old's Wisconsin Summer

From the dark of the woods where damp bark rots,
Dave the handyman lugged by its spiky tail
The biggest turtle I had ever seen.

That night with prehistoric ease it nudged
Its bushel basket prison noiselessly
Right-side-up again, left a crescent flaw
in the screen door, and scratched its way back home.

Mary the cook said they were good for soup
And under tough wrinkles their blood was not red
But black like oil. I didn't believe her.

Seasonings, p. 7


The fish bending incuriously away from the hook
Is last to become aware of his element.
His father on the wooden pier flop-gasping
Understands water as never before.

Seasonings, p. 55

Sunday Afternoon

Wafer flat snowflakes
Drop with more sound on browned lawns
Than your just removed stockings
On our waiting bed.

Seasonings, p. 70

Dr. Nicholas Barker was a professor at Covenant College. During my four years there he worked in administration, and rarely taught a course. But I was fortunate enough to take a poetry class from him during my last semester with a handful of other girls. We met in his elegant, quiet office. At the end of the class, as I recall, he gave us copies of his book of poetry, Seasonings. How I admired him for giving his precious writings away, sharing such personal thoughts of family and experience! Shuffling through a box of old photos and documents today, I found the unbound, unpublished (I think) volume. I chose three of my favorites to share with you.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mapping Oriental: the Bridge

"The Bridge" is a focal point of Oriental life. It looms high over the water. Where the Neuse River curves left and heads to New Bern, Smith Creek cuts off to the right and divides into three creeks: Smith, Kershaw, and Greens.
In the photo above, you can clearly see the three fingers sticking into the northwest from the big water. You can see the white line of bridge cutting across the neck of the creeks like a choker.

The span of bridge, as seen from the Wildlife Ramp on Smith Creek, at the end of Midyette St.
Here's a better close-up map of the village and its waters:
In the new Dog Days of Oriental story, the ketch rests in the shelter of that breakwater, a thin strip of rock that juts into the joint of the Neuse and Smith Creek, offering a nice anchorage at the opening of Raccoon Creek.
Here's the anchorage. The sailboat at anchor sits in front of the rocky breakwater. This is the dinghy dock where Muffin and her lady sat to rest after disembarking from the ketch. The big bridge is out of sight, to the right.
Shrimpers pull nets at twilight just southeast of the bridge. 
They're not allowed to net for shrimp on the other side of the bridge in the creeks, although they can drop crab pots there and gather them.
Gaggles of seagulls follow the small shrimp boats and harass the fishermen.
The shot below, taken just before the fireworks show on July 4th, shows the bridge as viewed from Greens Creek.
The bridge pilings dwarf the tiny shrimp boats.
From the Wildlife Ramp, looking out into the Neuse:
This "earth view" map gives you a more accurate idea of what I mean by the Wildlife Ramp and its three docks. You see the bridge. You see the white parking lot area straight north from the bridge,in the photo's center. Two docks jut west from the parking lot, and one sticks southwest into the water, parallel with the bridge. That's a favorite spot for photographing the bridge, and was where I was standing for the photograph above.
On this map you also see Raccoon Creek, which feeds straight into the heart of the village -- town dock and the Bean. Hodges Street cuts across it. The breakwater is evident. The three L-shaped docks of the Oriental Harbor Marina are in the center. You can even see the dinghy dock, sticking out at the end of Water Street. The only glaring inaccuracy I note is that the Catholic Church, St. Peter the Fisherman, is NOT located at the Wildlife Ramp! Why Google Maps chose to locate it there is a mystery to me!

at the foot of the bridge, near the Wildlife Ramp
viewing the Wildlife Ramp area, looking back up Smith Creek on the left.
I'm standing on the single floating dock. 
the junction of Smith and Kershaw Creeks, viewed from the Wildlife Ramp
the pair of floating docks at theWildlife Ramp, looking at Smith Creek.
The little fishing boat was probably picking up crab pots or looking for flounder.
Perhaps this quick tour with the bridge as a focal point has helped you understand Oriental better. If you read my dog stories, now you can follow the pups as they walk around the docks, the park, and Water and Hodges Streets.