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I'm most recently a writer.  In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot.  As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades.  An unwilling transplant from the South,  twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US.  Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect.  When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do.  Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Every Step You Take

It's been more than two weeks since I wrote the last post about our new life. You settle into a routine, it seems, no matter how foreign, and the days go by. That's true for us, but I think it's fair to say routine does not necessarily translate into comfort. The challenges seem to keep coming, and the less sleep you get, they more challenging they can be. There are days when I think if only we could get enough rest, we would be so much better at this. I'm beginning to wonder if, when everything takes so much longer, so much more effort and energy, there will ever be enough rest.

Don't get me wrong. We're doing okay. If fact, we've made great strides. I'm writing again, and promoting, and generally trying to revitalize my writing life. John is getting better at doing everything in a seated position. (Try it sometime and see just how quickly you want to stand up!) Most significantly, we overcame the onset of what I can only call "Nurse/mommy Syndrome." I suppose it's inevitable, given the odd assortment of roles one takes on as primary caregiver to one's spouse, that normal relationship dynamics get a little bit confused. Off and on, (well, more on than off, really) I struggled with a distinct lack of husbandly  presence and an overwhelming expectation of service. To be fair, I probably laid a good bit of the expectation part on myself. I tend to do that, require more of myself than anyone else does. But the lack of affection, the loss of conjugal attention, and the typical regression to childlike behavior from any ailing husband really got me down. I'm happy to report that's subsided. I've always been grateful that John can eventually untangle my mixed messages and wavering moods. He may not articulate the problem, but he makes the necessary adjustments to set things right.

We've spent more time together during our marriage than most couples. For a number of years, we both worked at home. We learned to give one another space and come together during breaks in the workday to enjoy time together. We don't mind being under each other's feet at all. Now, however, we're closer than I could ever have imagined. We literally take every step together.

The doctor's orders upon discharge from the hospital were "transfer with assistance." The rehab discharge was something similar, "ambulate with walker and assistance." What that means in practical terms is every move from point A to point B, every single step John takes, requires another person holding securely to an accessory known as a "gait belt." This woven strap with an adjustable buckle becomes the primary point of contact between the patient and the "assistant." In our case, this means that when we walk together, rather than hand in hand or arm in arm, as we have always done, John leans on the walker and hops on one foot, while I hold onto the belt and walk, very, very slowly and carefully, along behind him. It means that when he wants to get in or out of the chair, or on or off the bed, I grasp that belt and together we manage, not always gracefully, to make the move. It also means that if he needs to do the most private things we all mastered with pride by the age of two or three, I must be there with him, holding on to the belt. Togetherness becomes an entirely different kind of intimacy.

Romance, which we have succeeded in keeping alive and healthy during twenty-odd years of marriage, has been lost in the shuffle, as my grandmother used to say. Affection, I'm happy to report, has slowly found its way into the routine. It's enough for now. As much essential contact as we have in the course of an ordinary day, a loving touch or a kiss on the forehead is greatly to be treasured.

Tonight when you watch your significant other going through their evening routine, take a moment to appreciate the ease with which they change their clothes. Admire the strength of their stride as they cross the room. Return their absentminded goodnight hug with all the intention you can muster. Imagine that tomorrow, everything might be changed. Remind yourself that if it is, what bound you to them before will still be there with you, every step you take together.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Writing Life--Updated

Every writer knows the importance of discipline and routine to creativity. Even if we're really lousy at maintaining those things, they are something we strive for, or imagine we'll get the knack of eventually, at least. But there are times when life--real everyday life--shoves its way to the front and the writing life is out of necessity placed on hold. The past several months have been one of those times, which you know if you've been following here.

But as my real life begins to assume some sort of order out of chaos, I'm finding a place, if a somewhat modified one, for my writing life again. As much as I'm a wife, a mother, and a person, I'm also a writer, which means I need to write. Another fact of this new life is that I still need to earn a living. The pennies I earn from my writing are more important than ever now.

So, I'm pulling on my big girl writer panties and picking up the fallen strings of my writer's life with a renewed sense of purpose. Finding time--or making time--in each day to write, to promote, to put my writer self out there, may be more difficult than it was before, but it also feels really good! There were already a number of projects in the works, so I had a good place to begin. More on those as they progress, so stay tuned!

For now, there are a couple of promotions coming up this week I want to share here.

Christmas at Valley Rise (Miracle at Valley Rise) - Kindle edition by Karen Welch. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. 

Hearts Unfold (Miracle at Valley Rise Book 1) - Kindle edition by Karen Welch. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. 

And of course--every Friday right here on the blog a new installment of --

And finally--drum roll, please!

Coming in August (or September)

The Audiobook!



Saturday, July 11, 2015

Life Goes On, Yeah!

We've been home a week. Seven days so full I can't tell you exactly how each one was spent. We now have more visitors coming and going daily than we've had in the entire 15 years we've lived in this house. Home health nurses, aids, and therapists call and then arrive to do their jobs at varying times, so a schedule is not something we have the luxury of keeping. My husband is a creature of habit, meal times, nap time, television viewing were all previously predictable down to the half-hour. I myself kept to a fairly routine schedule, too, calling it "discipline." That's all behind us now. We're adapting, learning to take things as they come, learning to let go of what was once comfortable and discovering the comfort in what we have now.

The biggest thing we learned this week was that everything previously "routine" now takes much longer. There are extra steps in every move from room to room, from bed to walker to wheelchair to recliner, from recliner to walker to wheelchair for meals, from wheelchair to walker back to recliner or to bed. Next time you walk from one room to the other in your home, add ten minutes to the process. That's our routine now. After a week, we're getting better at it, but I often wish for the wide corridors and open spaces of the rehab center. Our old house is not nearly so accommodating. No matter how much space, we always seem to need another inch or two to make that turn or clear that doorway.

One of my biggest concerns was resolved when our ramp was built in one miraculous day on Monday, right before the rain moved in. It was an awe-inspiring experience to watch two men  who said they were both older than I am--though I found that hard to believe--construct something so large and complex in such a short time. It was clear they knew their way around lumber and power tools, and even clearer they were committed to getting the job done ahead of the weather forecast. Words can't begin to express how grateful we are to them. That ramp is the difference between Possible and Impossible. Imagine being confined to your home, barred from your previous activities, not only by an injury, but by the stairs that lead from your front door. Then imagine someone providing, as a gift of their time and labor and expertise, the freedom to come and go as needed. "Thank you," which I said many, many times on Monday, seemed a poor acknowledgment of that kind of generosity, yet they replied each time that they were just happy to be able to do it for us. I sincerely hope I have the opportunity to pay forward their example of working with a joyful heart at some point in the future.

On Thursday, we put the ramp to use for the first time when we left at 7:00 am for the three hour trip to Kansas City, where we saw the surgeon for John's first follow-up. While the trip was long, it was uneventful. With a lot of help from our daughter, we were able to make all the necessary transfers, find the right office, eat lunch, and return home without doing anyone any further damage. The visit with the doctor was routine--X-rays, dressing change, and much to our relief, a new and less constricting brace. There is no sign of healing yet, and while the doctor said it was probably too early, he also repeated his initial caution that the bones may not heal. They are currently held together with an impressive hardware collection. Only time will tell if there is sufficient blood flow to promote healing. Meanwhile, that metal plate and those nine screws should keep everything securely in place.

I guess we're settling in to this new version of life. The last two nights we've watched television together, something we've rarely had time for in the past few years. I've done a little writer's work in between all the other work. And I've taken on a new project. One of the things that's driving me a little bit crazy is the challenge of living in half the space we were used to. Moving to the first floor created its share of issues, not the least of them finding a place for everything that had to move down with us. Clutter is not a thing we need along with all the other new necessities, like medical supplies and equipment. I bit the bullet and ordered the two pantry cabinets I'd been dreaming of adding to our kitchen for some time. As soon as I get them stained and moved into place, I'm hoping to at least close the doors on some of the extra "stuff" of this new life.

So now we're on to week two. Our immediate goal is to get to church tomorrow morning. That involves more maneuvers than you'd ever dream a six block trip could include, not to mention a bit more muscle than I've built up so far to heft that wheelchair in and out of the trunk. But we'll never know whether we can do it until we try, right? Next week we make another road trip to yet another doctor, this one just an hour and a half away. With luck, in the next few days we'll have everything we need in place in the bathroom, and John will be strong enough to maneuver around all the obstacles, so that he can take a shower for the first time in over a month.

Milestones, each small step along the way back to comfortable living, seem to be those things we took for granted before but rejoice over now.  Little by little, all the new things we do feel more familiar, seem to require a little less thought and effort. With each day, we're letting go of what used to be and embracing what is. This may be temporary. We certainly hope so. But life is whatever you make it, wherever you find it. I learned that one a long time ago.

As the old Beatles song went, "Ooh blah dee, ooh blah dah, life goes on, yeah!" That may have sounded more like fun than a challenge back in the day, but it's still the truth!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

At Long Last Home

I thought about posting many times during the past two weeks. I could have told you about John's move to the Intensive Inpatient Rehab wing of a hospital less than an hour from home. I could have told you about the massive and frustrating effort to get a wheelchair ramp built, the hard work and sweat that went into turning our home literally upside down to accommodate our new life, or the morning I dropped everything to rush to the hospital and deliver a stern lecture on the need to take the anti-depressant he'd refused, not realizing he had slipped into an uncharacteristic lethargy that could sideline his rehab. But frankly things were moving too fast or too slowly for me to find time to write anything meaningful.

John endured ten days of intensive rehab--four hours daily of therapy designed to teach the patient to be as independent as possible while protecting himself from further injury and those at home from burn-out or even injuring themselves. He learned to "walk" short distances using a walker, one leg and his arms. He learned to dress using a "grabber" and to wheel himself in a chair. He learned to lift his bad leg with his good one when getting on and off the bed, to "kick out" a leg using muscles that don't remember how to "kick." He did it patiently, even graciously, and in between he slept the sleep of the dead and watched Wimbledon on television. At seventy-eight, all that work took a toll, but in the end, he met the goals and was rewarded with a homecoming, rather than a transfer to a skilled nursing facility.

The house was ready for him, I was ready for him, and he was more than ready to come home. We still don't have a ramp, but thanks to some determined friends and volunteers, the work should begin this week. Fortunately, our son-in-law and grandson spend a lot of time working out, so they were able to "lift" him, wheelchair and all, up the steps and into the house. We watched breathlessly as he rolled himself through the rooms, checking out the changes and discovering the potential barriers during his first few minutes at home. (My daughter compared the sight to a pet returning from a visit to the boarding kennel, sniffing out his favorite places and investigating anything new.) Once he was satisfied, he headed straight for his recliner and kicked back for a much deserved rest. And I went back to work.

I thought it would be easier once we were home. I imagined having more time without the daily trips to the hospital; time to cook our favorite meals and watch television with my husband, time to work in the garden or even write. I was kidding myself. Slowly, at times painfully, we're learning what works and doesn't work in this new life. We're discovering the barriers and ways to circumnavigate them--narrow doorways, odd angles, unaccommodating furniture. I seem to walk miles of extra steps as I figure out better ways to organize all the new things added to our daily routine. It's only been two days. I'm sure this will get easier. But already near exhaustion from preparing for his homecoming, I've been pushed to the limit to make it as painless as possible for both of us.

Tomorrow, something else new will begin. Home health will visit three times a week. Nursing, Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy will all claim their bits of our days. There are appointments to schedule with the surgeon three hours north in Kansas City and a spinal specialist two hours west in Wichita and the resulting road trips to look forward to. And of course, there will be the bills to look forward to as well.

Through it all, we'll be here together, God willing. For us, home has always been a haven. It is the space we share, filled with the things we treasure. It is humble and eccentric, an old house in which we've shaped a new home over the past fifteen years. After twenty-three days, coming home means we successfully passed the latest test to return to our life, modified though it may be. We still have a long way to go, healing and probably more surgery, and neither of us is fooling ourselves that all is well just yet. Still, coming home is the best possible end to this leg of the journey. Wherever it takes us next, if we start out from the sanctuary of home, I think we'll be ready.