Friday, July 22, 2016

Let There Be Light!

We had a power outage last week. I was watching Dr. Phil on Wednesday afternoon when the local meteorologist interrupted the show to report on stormy weather moving through the area. The storm was predicted to hit the town where I live 20 minutes later at 3:30 PM, and sure enough, it did. My mom was in the middle of getting me back to bed to start my afternoon routine when all of this was going on. It got very dark and stormy, and the wind was really blowing and whipping the trees around. All of a sudden the power flickered and then went out. My special air bed promptly went flat. (I must say that it doesn't take long for this to get mighty uncomfortable, since it basically means lying on the bed frame and the tubes that are inside of the mattress.)

My mom and I did my afternoon care routine the best we could, considering the circumstances, as we waited to see if the power would come back on. After about two hours the power was still off, and by this time I was really starting to hurt from lying on the flat bed. Mom called our friend/helper, Linda, who lives up the street to see if she could come over and help Mom get me out of bed and into my recliner. Linda was out running errands, but said that she would shortly be on her way home. I'm so glad she was able to stop by and help get me up! My mom always plugs my overhead lift in to charge it after I get back in bed each day. I'm also glad that she is in the habit of doing this, because the liftwhich only takes about 10 minutes to chargehad enough time to fully charge before the power went out.

We do have a generator, which my mom bought about five or six years ago, but we've never used it in a power outage. Our power used to go out on a fairly regular basis (a handful of times a year), but in the last many years, we've been very blessed not to experience any power outages that lasted more than a few minutes. Mom did go out to the garage to try and start up the generator before I got out of bed, but she couldn't get it to come on. Mom called a couple of our friends, Steve and Daniel, to see if they could help her get our generator running. They both came over that evening and worked for hours on it, working until the last traces of light were gone, and then into the night, using headlamps and flashlights to illuminate the generator. They took it apart, inspected and cleaned all the parts, and then put everything back together again. In the end, although they could get the generator to turn on, they couldn't keep it running for more than a minute. Steve and Daniel were determined to see the job through on a matter of principle, and they worked on the generator until close to 11:30 PM, but they were ultimately defeated. I was glad when they left for the night, because I was worried that our neighbors, who likely had their windows open to get some sort of ventilation without the use of AC, were going to hate us for making so much racket, because the generator (which is extremely noisy) kept going on and then off.

Mom and I went to bed about midnight. Mom slept downstairs on the futon, so that she could hear me, since our monitor obviously needs electricity to work. We had the windows open, and it got nice and cool, and there was a breeze blowing, which made for very pleasant sleeping conditions. The other great thing was that everything was very still and quiet, since nothing electrical was running in the house or anywhere in the neighborhood. I fell asleep to the sounds of insects buzzing and frogs croaking, and woke up to the sounds of birds chirping. It was nice to hear nature's soundtrack, since I don't usually have any windows open when I sleep. I was hoping that the power would come back on sometime in the middle of the night, but  it didn't. I slept well, despite the fact that I couldn't sleep in my bed. I'm very grateful my recliner is so comfortable! I definitely wouldn't have wanted to sleep in my wheelchair.

My mom didn't open the refrigerator/freezer at all when the power went off, except on Wednesday evening, when our friend Jenni (wife to Steve, who helped with the generator) came down with a big bag of ice. Mom got one of our coolers, filled it with the ice, and quickly got into the fridge and removed a few things for us to use the next day.

I did get pretty bored during the power outage with nothing to do. While my mom and our friends were working on the generator on Wednesday night, I did get on my computer for a few hours and I just worked off of the battery. I didn't have Internet since the gateway didn't have power, but there were still some other things I was able to work on. On Thursday morning my mom and I started reading a new book together. That kept us occupied for a while. We also took a nap. My sister Chandra called on Thursday morning to see if our power was back on. Hers had come back on about 1 AM, after being off for 10 hours. Mom and I weren't that lucky. She came over and took some of our meat and other frozen foods and took them home with her to put in her freezer, so that all of our frozen food didn't go to waste. Chandra also took my portable suction machine home with her, so she could charge it.

Earlier in the week my mom had discovered that the battery in my portable suction machine (which we only use when we go out somewhere and leave the house) wasn't holding much of a charge. Mom hadn't had a chance to call about it yet, so this was one thing that made our power outage a bit stressful. As fate would have it, I needed my airway suctioned a bunch of times on Thursday throughout the day. The motor in the machine usually purrs away when it's turned on, but it slooowly chugged along each time we needed to use it. Not long after Chandra took the machine to her house to charge, I could tell that more secretions were collecting in my airway (which makes me cough and makes it difficult to breathe). I tried to suppress my need for suction as long as possible, but a few hours later I knew I couldn't wait much longer, so Mom called Chandra and she brought the suction machine back to us. I felt badly because she had only gotten a few hours of sleep the previous night (she got to bed late and had to get up at 5 AM to drive her boyfriend to the airport). She had just gotten her baby to sleep and had just lain down to get some sleep when Mom called her saying that I would need suction soon. Chandra said she had a feeling we would call her as soon as she lay down, and she was right! She got back up, got her baby up, got the suction machine and drove the 15 minutes back to my house. Chan is SO good to me! By some miracle, the suction machine was able to get the job done each time it was called into service, even though the suction was quite weak.

On Thursday afternoon, the power finally came back on after nearly 24 hours. Things could have been so much worse for us, so even though the power outage was inconvenient, I really can't complain. There were other people in our area who were without power for 48 hours, so I'm just glad ours came back on when it did. We didn't have any damage to our house or property in the storm, and we didn't lose any trees, either, like other people we know. (We later found out that fallen tree limbs on power lines were what caused the power outage.) I'm grateful for good friends and neighbors who were very kind and willing to help us. I'm especially thankful for my sister Chandra, and for her continued help to my mom and me. I heard on the news that there were around 200,000 homes and businesses without power, so I'm very appreciative to the Ameren employees who worked through the night to restore power.

The take away from this experience is that we have a bit of work to do to make sure that we are prepared for emergency-type events in the future. We need to take our generator in to find out why it's not working, get the battery in my portable suction machine replaced (which is already in the works) and things like that. I'm grateful that my mom has always tried to be prepared for things like this, by having plenty of food storage and water, flashlights and batteries, candles, etc. I'd rather be prepared with things and not need them, than to be in a true emergency and not have what we need to survive. I'm so grateful that we have electricity and don't have to live in the "dark ages." :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Lambs' Visit 2016

My sister Miriam and her family visited from Texas earlier this month. We had a nice time together. I'm always amazed at how much her girls have grown in the past year (since I only see them once a year). It's hard to believe that my oldest niece, Kim, is going to be a junior in high school this year! Today is actually her 16th birthday. I remember when she was born, because I had just turned 16 exactly one month before. It's crazy how quickly time goes!

We took some pictures after church:
We had a little birthday celebration on Sunday evening, to celebrate the summer birthdays. Michaela turned 14 last month, and Kim turned 16 today, as I said earlier. It's always fun to celebrate with the birthday girls when they visit!
Miriam also had a birthday earlier this month, and she turned the big 4-0! That is hard to believe, too! I remember when she turned 30. Miriam's family was living here at the time, and that's when she had her 30th birthday. It's so difficult to believe an entire decade has passed since then!
Miriam's girls enjoyed finally meeting their newest cousin, Christian. We made sure to get some pictures of the cousins together. It's really hard to capture a decent picture where everyone is looking, has their eyes open, is smiling, and where everyone is in focus!
Chan joined the picture!
Here's a picture of Chandra and Miriam. Chandra said that they are the engine and the caboose of the family (since Miriam is the oldest sibling and Chandra is the youngest). What I wouldn't give to have a photo of all six of my sisters and me! Below that is a picture of Miriam, Chandra and me (sisters 1, 5 and 7).
Kim liked helping with Christian.
Victoria liked playing with Christian, too:

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Christian: 10 Months Old

Christian is now 10 months old! He is on the move, and it's so cute to hear the sound of his little hands and knees on the ground as he makes his way around. You know when he's really excited about something, because he starts crawling faster and faster. It's difficult to get decent pictures of him these days, because they either turn out blurry, or he isn't looking. Christian thinks that there is too much interesting stuff to explore to stop and take pictures! Chandra followed Christian around the house with the camera last week trying to get a few pictures of him, but she wasn't too successful.
We went to a local drive-in for ice cream earlier this week, and Christian had his first licks on an ice cream cone. He wasn't quite sure what to do at first. He took a few tentative licks, and it didn't take long for him to discover the deliciousness of ice cream. I think he liked it!
Christian went to the doctor for his nine-month checkup, and is doing great!
Christian loves to chase the dogs around. Also, a picture of Chandra and Christian at church.
Christian got a new toy. It's one of those ones that you can push while walking, so it's helping him learn to balance while he walks. I'm sure he will be walking in a month or two. Yikes!
Chandra's friends, Lauren and Ryanne, came over with their kids for lunch and to hang out. It was fun to visit with them again.

Monday, June 27, 2016

What I've Been Reading

Here are three books I've read this year that I recommend:
SYNOPSIS: Four days before Christmas 1943, a badly damaged American bomber struggled to fly over wartime Germany. At its controls was a 21-year-old pilot. Half his crew lay wounded or dead. It was their first mission. Suddenly, a sleek, dark shape pulled up on the bomber’s tail—a German Messerschmitt fighter. Worse, the German pilot was an ace, a man able to destroy the American bomber in the squeeze of a trigger. What happened next would defy imagination and later be called "the most incredible encounter between enemies in World War II."

This is the true story of the two pilots whose lives collided in the skies that day—the American—2nd Lieutenant Charlie Brown, a former farm boy from West Virginia who came to captain a B-17—and the German—2nd Lieutenant Franz Stigler, a former airline pilot from Bavaria who sought to avoid fighting in World War II. 

"A Higher Call" follows both Charlie's and Franz’s harrowing missions. Charlie would face takeoffs in English fog over the flaming wreckage of his buddies’ planes, flak bursts so close they would light his cockpit, and packs of enemy fighters that would circle his plane like sharks. Franz would face sandstorms in the desert, a crash alone at sea, and the spectacle of 1,000 bombers each with eleven guns, waiting for his attack. Ultimately, Charlie and Franz would stare across the frozen skies at one another. What happened between them, the American 8th Air Force would later classify as “top secret.” It was an act that Franz could never mention or else face a firing squad. It was the encounter that would haunt both Charlie and Franz for forty years until, as old men, they would search for one another, a last mission that could change their lives forever.

This was a great book! My mom read it aloud to me, so I found some of the "action sequences" in the book a little hard to follow since it was so detailed (especially since I couldn't see the words since I wasn't reading it to myself), but it was an exciting read. It's a true story, too, which is my favorite kind of book to read. I bought this book for my grandpaa World War II veteran, himselffor his 94th birthday this past March, and he and my grandma both enjoyed it, too.
SYNOPSIS: Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

I haven't read a fiction novel in a long time, so it was a nice change from the usual books I read. I liked it and wouldn't mind listening to the audio book again.
SYNOPSIS: Though Anderson Cooper has always considered himself close to his mother, his intensely busy career as a journalist for CNN and CBS affords him little time to spend with her. After she suffers a brief but serious illness at the age of ninety-one, they resolve to change their relationship by beginning a year-long conversation unlike any they had ever had before. The result is a correspondence of surprising honesty and depth in which they discuss their lives, the things that matter to them, and what they still want to learn about each other.

Both a son’s love letter to his mother and an unconventional mom’s life lessons for her grown son, "The Rainbow Comes and Goes" offers a rare window into their close relationship and fascinating life stories, including their tragedies and triumphs. In these often humorous and moving exchanges, they share their most private thoughts and the hard-earned truths they’ve learned along the way. In their words their distinctive personalities shine through—Anderson’s journalistic outlook on the world is a sharp contrast to his mother’s idealism and unwavering optimism.

I love Anderson Cooper, so when I found out that he and his mom had written a book together, I knew I had to read it. A little over a year ago, Anderson and his mother started corresponding over email just to make sure there was nothing left unsaid between them, since his mom is is now in her 90's, and realistically nearing the end of her life. I listened to the audio book, which was read by Anderson and his mother. It was great to be able to hear the inflections in their voices and the emphasis that they put on words, because I think that gave an even better look into their relationship. Anderson's mother has had such an interesting life, that's for sure, but it was also filled with a lot of tragedy and loss. She seems to have overcome most of it, though, and seems like a very strong woman.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

My 32nd Birthday

I celebrated a birthday this past Sundaynumber 32. It was a very low-key day. We went to church in the morning, and then we had dinner in the late afternoon. My sister Sharon was still in town with her six kids, and Chandra and Christian also came over for dinner, so it was fun to have some extra people around to celebrate with.

For my birthday dessert, I chose to have brownies and ice cream. Sharon has a recipe for THE best, most chocolatey brownies, so she made them a few hours before dinner so that they would still be warm when we ate them. My mom found a recipe for homemade ice cream on Facebook a couple years ago. It is extremely easy—only three ingredients—and it doesn't require an ice cream freezer, either! It's really creamy and yummy, and it doesn't get too hard or icy, like some homemade ice creams do. Needless to say, it was a very yummy dessert!

After dinner, we watched the 23-minute "year in review" slideshow I made for 2015. I made it earlier this year after I had all of my family's 2015 pictures. These slideshows take hours and hours to make, but the time I spend working on them is well worth it, especially when my nieces and nephews tell me how much they love watching them. I love watching them, too!

Here are a few group pictures:
Sharon, Chandra and me, a selfie, and a few silly pictures:
My niece, Sarah, made me this picture for my birthday. (I've asked her several times over the years if she wants to stay here and live with Grammy and me instead of going home with her family, but she's always turned me down.) I thought her picture was so adorable...a definite keeper!
My birthday was great, and it was wonderful to be able to spend time with my family. I can honestly say that my family members are truly my favorite people to spend time with!
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