March 6

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It is frigid once again here in Lima. I’ve consulted several 10 day weather forecasts, and I think this may be the last cold snap of the season.

There are plenty of overexposure spots in the photo above. I like how the winter morning sun dazzles the eyes when there is snow or ice to reflect it. If I let my camera meter the picture for the bright spots, I get all sorts of weird colors in the snow. If the sun were dim enough to permit our gaze, snow would include all the variations within mother of pearl.

I don’t have long to write this morning. There is a thought flitting through my mind, and it is this: in what ways do we hold onto pain because it has become useful?

Still Winter

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March is here, and the snow is still with us. Recently I overcame a decade-long phobia of driving over snow and ice, but I still don’t relish winter storms. I read the Book of Job in its entirety for the first time this week as part of Nicky and Pippa Gumbel’s Bible in One Year program available through the free Bible.com reading app. Near the close of Job, God mentions something about snow that resonated so deeply for me that I decided to superimpose the verses on one of my snow photos:

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Job 38:22-24

The idea that snow could be associated with perilous times is not alien to me at all. For nearly ten years, the mere presence of snow was a peril unto itself. I had the unfortunate experience of having the brakes of a now-defunct van give out while I was driving in snow. It wasn’t a matter of the brakes locking up because I wasn’t allowing enough stopping distance in the snow. Unknown to me at the time, the van had been leaking brake fluid, and I had no fluid left at all by the time I started up the van on that snowy day. I drove a mile through town and coasted through four stop signs (thank God I was the only who happened to be driving through those intersections at the time!). I managed to get the van stopped at my parent’s house, and those tense moments of sailing through the stop signs in the snow haunted me entirely too many times over the next ten years.

I tried getting past this phobia in many ways. Brief therapy. Rides from friends and family during snowstorms (in all honesty, sometimes when there was just the mere threat of snowfall). I even bought a SUV with all wheel drive. Still, I’d despair at the prospect of driving in winter weather, even though I’d gradually been doing better with driving myself though ice or snow. It’s not that I was quaking with the the physical signs of fear. It was like a proverbial brick wall would appear that demanded I drive nowhere, that almost nothing was worth the risk of driving in snow.

Recently I tried something entirely different. I’ve been experiencing a renewal of my faith, inspired in part by my daughter’s sudden, unexplained decision to read the Bible from cover to cover. We’ve started attending our neighborhood Methodist church, and one of the women in the congregation was kind enough to give me a copy of Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, a daily devotional that addresses anxiety among other issues that can erode one’s peace of mind. A few weeks ago, when I was doing the day’s reading from that book, I decided to try trusting that God could help me with my winter driving problem.

A few days later, we had a four-inch overnight snowfall, and almost none of our local streets had been cleared by the time I needed to leave for work. When I looked out of our front door at the snow, I felt no dread and no plot emerged in my mind to call someone to come and get me. I waited for news that my daughter’s school day would be cancelled, gathered my things for work and drove five miles through the snow with no resistance or anxiety whatsoever.

I’m glad that my snow phobia is over. Before the brake malfunction ten years ago, I seldom thought about winter driving, let alone agonize over it. It’s a relief to be back in that state of mind on the subject.

On a clear day you can see the end of winter

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The saga of my lying coworker continues, but compassion has calmed most of this storm. In borrowing from the losses and frustrations of those around her, she may be telling us, “I am no stranger to pain, but I cannot bring myself to tell anyone what wounded me.”

Half an eon ago in internet history, I read a superb parody tribute to Journey’s Steve Perry which listed bizarre fictional accomplishments. The feats included being locked in a sauna for seven years, which somehow destroyed his perceptions of the present tense. It’s like my coworker was locked in that sauna too and emerged with a faulty grasp of the past and the present.

I took the picture above the morning after last month’s storm. The beauty of that snow reminds me that I need to alter my attitude about winter. In the past ten years, I’ve felt like winter is at best a waiting room for spring. I’ve considered that this is a habit that could result in my wishing away 25% of the rest of my life.

Weekend Snow, January 20

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This weekend offered the first snow storm of the season. The snow has drifted too much for accurate measurement. Some patches of our yard show blades of grass, but other parts are buried beneath drifts 12-18″ deep.

Here in Lima we don’t suffer from the sometimes massive lake effect snowstorms well known in northern Ohio, so any projected storm with rumors of snowfall in excess of 3″ tends to inspire milk-and-bread stockpiles. Actually, one of our local restaurants shared a meme online that showed a weather map in which the inches of snow in the forecast were replaced with how many loaves of bread should be purchased in advance to endure the storm. According to the map, this weekend’s storm was a three loafer.

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The Thaw Begins

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The weather continues to vary, and the graph of its changes could stand for an equation not yet quantified. Last night the low was 30 degrees, but Tuesday’s forecast high is 71 with heavy rain. We have reached the point of winter that reminds me of that arcade game with the ever-growing row of quarters that inch ever slowly toward a jackpot that really is the watched pot that never boils.

Against the backdrop of disappearing and reappearing snow, there has been some movement forward in my family, but there are lingering frustrations. The boys who taunted my daughter at lunchtime have been moved to a different cafeteria at her school. As for me, I finally had my epidural injection for nerve pain arising from my L3/L4 disc.

The epidural has definitely helped with my nerve pain. Six days after the injection, it seems as if it resolved 80% of my pain and redistributed the rest in oddball locations like the toes and bridge of my right foot. Before the shot, almost all of my pain was on my left side. What matters at this point is that my pain is tolerable. I sure wish the cortisone shot hadn’t bloated me (hooray for elastic waist pants!), but that side effect should be gone within a week.

Eileen still is still not thrilled about attending school, but what teenager ever has been? There is still a moment every school morning when there is a possibility that things will fall apart, but I’m so proud of her when she overcomes that inertia and gets on the bus.

I’ve started reading In a Different Key: The Story of Autism by John Donovan and Caren Zucker. I’m just a third of the way through this excellent book, but the experience has already been a bit cathartic, especially the passages about the “Refrigerator Mother” paradigm that reigned for entirely too long. Essentially, this theory insists that mothers create autism through poor parenting.

Unfortunately, my experiences suggest to me that this theory just formalizes a common layperson’s definition of autism, that the behavior of such children is nothing more than proof positive of a parent who is too lazy to raise a child properly. This has been the greatest frustration of my time as a mother. There have been a few people who shall remain unnamed, people who matter to me more than anyone else in this world, who in anger have told me that I created all of my daughter’s problems through my parenting. I have been hurt by such words, but there has also been the agony of knowing that I love some people who cling to ignorance despite all of the information I’ve given them, despite their witnessing firsthand many of the trials my daughter and I have endured and overcome together.

When my daughter turned two, a local hospital evaluated her intelligence as part of her intake for early childhood speech therapy. The staff informed me that their evaluation indicated that my daughter was “retarded.” Oh really? She learned to read less than two years later. She took the ACT in eighth grade and scored 31 in the English section.

Don’t believe what people tell you about your child and your parenting if it rings false.

A Fortnight and a Day

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Wake me when this mess of a winter is over. I really wish I could hibernate through this season. Having lived in Ohio for most of my life, I am accustomed to wide variances in weather. A 70 degree weekend in February is not impossible. I’ve also witnessed a two-inch snowfall in May. Still, recent weather has tested my endurance:

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These brief reprieves of warmer temperatures make it hard to acclimate oneself to the spells of ridiculous cold. Our average January high and low should be 33° and 19°, respectively, but it seems we hardly ever have a winter day that represents that average.

At least the crazy weather has afforded my daughter a few snow days to work on switching back her nights and days.

In other news, we have found a second guinea pig, aptly named Buddy:

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He is quite unlike our other guinea pig L’Orange in one way: he actually likes to snack on vegetables. I hope they do not develop a sibling rivalry with Buddy occupying the role of the child who better conforms parental exceptions whilst taunting his rival sibling in secret (btw, I was that sort of sibling when I was growing up).

It is too soon to tell how well the guinea pigs will get along. I’ve taken Buddy to the vet for assurance that he is not carrying infectious diseases, but I feel I should wait a bit longer to put them together in a large habitat. L’Orange just seems to be a mountain of a man compared to little Buddy. I did succumb to temptation and placed L’Orange in Buddy’s cage for a few minutes a couple days ago. What ensued was a comedy of errors wherein L’Orange literally dragged his ass around the cage while Buddy tried to make his elder a hobby horse. I suppose they can have another opportunity to sort out who’s the boss at a later date.

My vacation at home during the first week of the year was a misery of sciatic grade pain and frozen weather. I learned something important that week: spinal stenosis and sedentary living do not combine well. As much as I’d like to do so, it is a terrible idea for me to sit down and read for eight hours a day, no matter how engrossing the texts before me might be.

As for my back, it turns out that my L3/L4 disc is bulging to the point that it is impinging a root nerve that runs across my left hip, thigh, and knee. As a result, I have nerve pain along that pathway. I will be getting an epidural injection soon to help remedy this issue.

I had one of my periodic surgery follow-ups last week. It’s been ten months since my L4/L5 fusion, and my spine is fusing well:

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If only my lumbar degeneration had been confined to the disc that was removed. If so, I would be fairly trouble-free at this point with orthopedic pain.

p.s. Of all the Golden Age mysteries I’ve read recently, I highly recommend Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse. I think that Christie’s body of work explores a lot of the anxiety of coping with a changing modern world. This theme is very apparent in this novel.

Frozen Again

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I am on vacation this week, and I have few plans other than drowning myself in Golden Age detective fiction. This morning I thought I’d advance toward the revelation of the culprit in Harriet Rutland’s superb Knock, Murder, Knock!, but I fell asleep not once but twice as I tried to read. These naps were of the dreamless variety, so even my subconscious mind didn’t help me in revealing further details of the plot.

I’ve been digging into these Golden Age (1920’s-1930’s) narratives not so much for their well-crafted plots but for period details. I’m not sure why I’m finding these fictional worlds so comforting. This was a time when meritocracy ran a distant second to lucky accidents of birth, and I have no wish whatsoever for the world to revert back to its socioeconomic terms (e.g., heaven forbid that dressing up for dinner become a trend again). Maybe in these pages I am finding some constants of the human condition amid the relatively baroque decor and fashion. No matter how many layers of clothing we must wear, the heart still covets and the will within may fail, yet we adapt and survive. In these fictional worlds, there is the hangman’s noose awaiting those who cannot remake themselves in the face of life’s defeats.

Onto the weather . . . another Alberta Clipper dropped a few inches of snow. Now that the snow has finished falling, the temperatures are drifting to zero degrees again. I tried shovelling some snow this morning, but early afternoon wind gusts undid my work. My husband ventured outside with the leaf blower to clear off some walking paths:

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The dogs next door were out just long to do their duty and bark at us:

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I think the hound on the right is asking me why I’m outside when my toilet, unlike his, is indoors.