Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Mourning into Joy

Last summer, I was working out at the construction shop where I have done the bookkeeping for 25 years.  I work out there two short mornings a week.  A sub-contracted painter popped in and dropped off his bill.  Hmm, I thought.  He is the guy that some friends have mentioned to me about dating..........but didn't think much of it.  During that time, several names were mentioned to me for dating, but I wasn't desperately out looking to date.  "All in God's timing", I would say!  A month went by and that same painter popped in with another bill.  This time he said, "So you are Karen........."  and I said, "Yep, and you must be Jim"  Profound, I know!!!  He asked for my number (panic mode!!!) and he later texted me for a coffee get together.  I was out of town that weekend so the next week he brought dinner for us to eat out on my patio.  I didn't want to go out in public (!!!!) and I refused to call this a "date".  It was just a get-to-know-each-other!   I made him dinner a week later.........and after that we spent time together a couple of times a week.  We were just getting to know each other........... not dating!!
Our first hike together
Dating at this age is a crazy thing.  It had been 37 years since I dated.  All new territory!  We discovered we have lots in common.  We both lost a spouse.  We both know grief.  We both love Jesus.  We both love to hike, to get outdoors.  And those are probably the most important things, right??  There are so many things to consider - kids, houses, churches, finances........ We decided to focus on "us" and let the rest fall into place if we were right for each other.

Jim is a "retired" missionary.  Him and his wife Cheryl (who, by the way, was a class mate of mine at Dordt!) were missionaries in Bolivia for 17 years.  They had 4 children while in Bolivia.  They lost their son Derek when he was 18 months old.  The family moved back to the states about 10 years ago.  Cheryl died suddenly 7 years ago.  Jim's three surviving children all graduated from Whitworth College.  The two oldest live in Denver - Peter is married to Katie and they have darling 5 month old Eliana.  Cristi also lives in Denver, and Jonny is just finished with Whitworth and deciding where to work and settle.  Jim's dad was a teacher/principle and he painted on his off seasons.  After Jim graduated from WSU, he also painted with his dad.  Since Jim has been back from Bolivia, he picked up the paint brushes again and is now painting.  He is his own boss, I am (mostly) my own boss.  If we feel like taking a day to head to the mountain, we do!!  (Not often enough tho!!!)

We had breaks throughout the summer/fall.  I went on a mission trip to Guadalajara for 10 days in early August.  Jim went fishing for a week.  He went to Idaho/Denver for almost three weeks the end of September into October.  These breaks were needed and so well-timed!  We both had cold feet at different times (although one of us more than the other......)  By the time Jim was back in October, I had realized I didn't want to live without him in my life.  We went to Denver over New Year's and had a great time visiting with his kids and extended family.  I think it was during that trip that Jim decided he wanted to keep me in his life..........  We had talked in the fall about getting married, but in January we decided for sure we did indeed want to marry.  He surprised me with a ring.  We kept this a bit quiet a first --- this is all so different at this age and so personal.  We know that some people won't understand.  And yet we truly believe this is a gift from God and we are so thankful!!

My dad's health declined around this time; wedding plans got put on the back burner.  Dad met Jim, Dad knew we were getting married and he gave us his blessing.  What a gift to have that before Dad passed away!!!  Meanwhile, my amazing friends have been a great help with this wedding planning business.

So, next month on April 28 we will marry again.  Our children, grandchildren and immediate family will join us; our closest friends will be there with us - they have walked the road of grief with us and we want them to celebrate in this new joy with us.  Our grandchildren will be our ring bearers and flower girls.  How cool is that??  Pastor Mike, who took his turn once a week to put Les to bed, will marry us.  Jim and I are both grateful for great families and great friends.

I will always miss Les; I will always love Les.  Jim will always miss Cheryl; he will always love her.  But, Les and Cheryl are with Jesus and we were left here on earth to piece together a new normal and a new life.  We feel truly blessed that this relationship has blossomed into a new chance at love.  God is good.

Please keep us in your prayers this next month and following our marriage.  There will be many adjustments.  Jim and I are both very independent individuals!  Yet we have changed through our grief and loneliness.  We realize how fleeting this life really is; we want to enjoy whatever time left we have on this earth.  We look forward to spending many years together, all in God's perfect timing.
"I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and JOY instead of sorrow"  Jeremiah 31:13


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Hospice - again

Just about three years ago we put Les on Hospice care.  Now my dad is on Hospice care.

On Tuesday, the neurologist informed us there is nothing else they can do for dad.  She, and the hospital doctor, advised that dad be put on Hospice care.  We did not expect that!  We thought they would get the meds controlled and dad would return to his shuffling, sometime mumbling, sometime talking old self!!  But Hospice!

Since then dad has been resting quietly.  He is unresponsive.  His eyes don't open.  He is on no meds - not even for his cholesterol or his high blood pressure or his Parkinsons.  He is not eating and he is not drinking.  He isn't hooked up to anything.   He coughs every now and then but that's about it.

We are waiting to transfer him to the Christian Healthcare Center here in town.  Hospice thinks he might be able to move tomorrow.  That will be much easier for mom to pop in and out for visits.  Now she spends most of her day at the hospital.  My brother Don was here last weekend.  My sister Becky is here this weekend, my sister Sharon comes on Tuesday.  Mom and I are so grateful for their visits!  Dad has had lots of visitors.  Pastor Ken loves to sing when he visits and asks everyone in the room to join in.  We have been playing dad's beloved Gaither music for him.

Please pray for comfort and peace for dad, and peace for mom.  We don't know God's timing, but we know it is perfect. One of my verses this morning:  Psalm 62:8 "Trust in Him at all times, O people, pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge."

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Dad Update

Thanks so much for your prayers!!  Many of you have been asking for an update on my Dad.   Easiest way is to blog!
A mutual love!

Last Sunday morning Dad was brought in to ER.  The overnight help we had, sweet Elizabeth, had been up with him almost all night.  When mom got up, Elizabeth recommended we bring him in.  Faithful nurse Kay was called and she came over to help make the decision.  Nothing could be done for dad, he was so so agitated!

I was out of town.  My niece Gretta Claire was in the Apple Blossom Pageant on Saturday night, and I decided to make a quick trip to Wenatchee to attend.  We had 24 hour care for Dad, so I felt okay leaving.  I had a great drive over the mountain - the sun was shining on those glorious mountains.  It does the soul good to see the majesty.  Gretta Claire won - she is the queen.  It was such a fun night!  I stayed with my niece Dani and her family - we always have a great time together.

On my way home Sunday morning, friends Jay and Marlene advised me Dad was in ER.  I went straight to the hospital and met mom in ER.  Dad was still there, but he was going to be admitted to the hospital.  We talked with the neurologist on duty.  He was going to slash Dad's medications and see if he was perhaps over-medicated.  At this point, Dad was very agitated.  He didn't know who we were.  I decided to take mom home - we didn't need to be there for that.  We knew he was safe and that the nurses would take good care of him.

Long story short, Dad is still in the hospital.  He has not been on his feet since Sunday morning.  Thursday when I was there, I fed him his lunch.  He's eating pretty good, but has no strength or energy.  Sometimes he is fairly aware of what's going on, other times he is not.  His pattern is to get worse in the late afternoon/evening.  This is apparently referred to as "Sundowners" and is common with dementia.  The doctors are playing around a little with his meds, but it appears this will be the new normal.   Yesterday, tho, Dad was unresponsive all day.  He would mumble, he would eat his food, but he wouldn't open his eyes.  When Pastor Ken, Kay, Mom and my brother Don sang Amazing Grace, dad mouthed the words!   We left him resting quietly last night.

We are not sure when he will be released.  At this point, it looks as if he will go directly to the Christian Health Care Center.  We aren't sure if that will be permanent or not.  We are not sure if he could be transferred later to one of the memory care facilities we visited.  He will not be going back home.

My mom is doing well.  She is relieved to not be responsible for him at home.  It's hard to watch your spouse deteriorate - I know this all too well!!!   Dad usually knows mom and asks for her often.  He was asking quite often for us to get him out of there.......and he also shows his humor often.  He tries to make jokes with the nurses.  That is good to see!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Dreary Days

Dreary days of the Northwest here lately.  Rain rain rain.  Not much sunshine.  We haven't had much wintery stuff, except for the big ice storm the first of January - but yikes we have had dark rainy days.

Another dreary thing is my Dad's decline with his Parkinson's.  My dad has had Parkinson's about 10 years, but it has really kicked his butt this past month.  We can hardly believe the rapid decline.  He is having hallucinations, he talks total nonsense, he is falling more often............ it just isn't very fun.

My dad is the youngest of 5 kids.  He was born in Iowa - moved briefly here in Washington, and then his mom (grandma Grace) moved them down to southern California. My dad did not graduate from high school; he started driving truck, married my mom and had a baby before he was 20!

 Dad has always liked to have a good time and my parents were very social...playing softball, going water skiing, barbeques.... Mom and dad decided they didn't want to raise their childern in Southern California so they moved to southwest Washington and bought a dairy farm (he knew nothing about running a dairy - but he succeeded!).  After 5 years of that daily hard work of milking, he decided to be a hay farmer instead and bought a hay farm in eastern Washington.  This was a very busy life in the summer with more time off in the winter.  We had a water ski boat;  we snow skied; dad raced mini-Indy cars - he golfed, he hunted, they made lots of trips to Hawaii, he snowmobiled.  Dad loved being busy, he loved being social, he loved having a good time.  He always had a good joke to tell!

Trucking in California
Farming in eastern Washington
Race car driving
Fun on Dad's fishing boat!

After they retired, dad golfed ALOT and him and mom spent winters in Palm Springs golfing and playing tennis.  He loved to fish up in Canada.  They had a motor home and enjoyed traveling America and also did several "work" trips with CRWRC helping in disaster zones.  And then he was diagnosed with Parkinson's.

My mom has been amazing through all of this.  The past few months she has been so so good with dad.  But now she can't take care of him anymore.  He doesn't listen to her and he is too strong for her.  I spent two nights this past week at their house - to help when Dad wakes up in the night.  This has been exhausting.  Mom finally made the decision that Dad needs to live somewhere else - somewhere that is safe for him.  The other day he walked outside a couple of times, he tried to light the gas stove - it is just too dangerous for him to be at home. We now have a care giver in the house for 24 hours a day.  Mom and I are checking out care facilities to decide what place will be best for Dad.  Please pray for us as we navigate this new season of life for my parents.

Dad's 80th birthday last year

BUT - the sun is supposed to come out today.  There is still much joy in my life.  I have a new grandson, Cash Keith (Keith was Les' middle name).  What a gift to hold this new born baby in the middle of all this.  I have other joy in my life and that will be the next blog!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Holiday Happenings

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We have had some fun holidays this year.  But - we will ALWAYS ALWAYS miss Les.  Seems like holiday church services are what hit me.  He was always involved in some way - singing, praying, speaking, serving communion........ Those are such precious memories for me.

 We had a full table on Thanksgiving.  That's a bit unusual for us since we don't have a lot of extended family here.  This year was an exception and it was great!  My Alaska nephew Mark, his wife Sarah and their son Levi asked awhile back if they could visit over Thanksgiving.  Um, yes please!!  After they decided to visit, my Iowa sister (Mark's mother) also decided to visit.  Thankfully, it was my year with my kids AND my Wenatchee brother's year to be here at Thanksgiving.  We ended up with 23 at my table!  So fun.
Alaska people
My girls and I had our third annual Christmas-shopping-in-Seattle weekend in December.  My niece Rachel lives down there, and she recently had baby Abby.  Our first stop was to meet baby Abby!  She was a chunk at 6 weeks old!  We missed Lily - she's in kindergarten - but had a fun visit with Rachel & Abby.  Come visit soon Rachel!

Seattle shenanigans - girls only, no boys allowed!!
A friend and I went out hiking on a nice day in December - prob the last sunny day before the rains came.  And now we have very cold temps and snow on the ground!  This is a fairly difficult hike but it's local and the views are stunning.
Raptor Ridge
For the Christmas holiday, my kids come on Christmas morning.  We have caramel rolls and open stockings.  Then we open presents.  Then its hustle and bustle to get Christmas dinner on the table.  My son-in-law Brett did a great job helping get the prime rib cooked up just right.  Such a treat!
Again, we had a full table.  We had Wiersma's,  Kooistra's, and some guests.  It was a busy day and I was pooped at the end of the day.  My heart is full tho, and I'm so thankful.

On the eve of Christmas Eve, I visited my friend Steve (and his wife Glenda!) who was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  We had a great visit - I can't wait to go back!  That same day I visited my friend Tom, who has ALS.  He was a good friend of Les'.  When we first met Tom about 3 years ago, he was walking and talking.  He was still walking and talking (although both were much slower) at Les' funeral.  Now Tom is in a care center and cannot move any of his limbs.  He cannot talk.  He uses his eye gaze device to spell out sentences.  (Weird thing - the eye gaze device SOUNDS just like Les' - brings back some memories!!!)  Tom is handling this disease very gracefully.  He and his wife Jen have two beautiful little girls, they are now 5 and 7.  Spending time with Tom is good for my soul.  It brings back many memories (feeding tube, suction machine.....) but it puts my world back in to perspective.  My devotional this morning worded it so well (from Jesus Always):  "My loved ones often fail to enjoy the riches I provide because of an ungrateful attitude.  Instead of rejoicing in all that they have, they long for what they do not have.  As a result, they become discontented."  And our sermon this last Sunday was on JOY.  Joy is not a giddy, excited feeling.  True joy is a "persistent gratitude of the soul - it staves off despair"  The good news of a Savior who is Christ the Lord is the source of this joy.  AMEN AND AMEN.

I will chose thankfulness and I will chose JOY.  Jesus is the reason for this season.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

October Madness

The month of October was a crazy one.  I was gone every weekend, plus a whole week to California!
That's makes for a busy life.

October also brought sadness.  I lost a very good friend, Carl.  He and I had gone on 3 youth group mission trips together back about 18 years ago.  Him and his wife Renee became dear friends of ours.  He was diagnosed with a very rare disease 6 months ago; sadly, he succumbed to this disease.  I was not home when he passed away, and I am very sad I didn't get to say goodbye.  We had a wonderful celebration of his life on Saturday.  It's so surreal to sit with Renee and realize we are both widows!  Craziness.  You will be missed Carl.

Sweet memories!
 Another sweet friend of mine, Jill, recently lost a stillborn baby girl.  Jill also lost a 6 week old baby girl 10 years ago - I cannot fathom that this happened to her again.   Please keep Jill and Renee in your prayers - these losses are so hard.

I traveled to two weddings in October.  The first one was in Bend, Oregon for my friend Kay's daughter.  I haven't been to Bend in several years and it was really fun to be back.  It's SO beautiful there.  My friends Doug & Lu let me ride along with them - I'm grateful for that!  We had so much fun at the wedding, and the entire weekend.  I spent an afternoon with my fun cousin Lori; I visited with her daughter Michelle for a bit.  It was a great weekend!

The other wedding was my nephew Derek's.  He married sweet Marina - a beautiful wedding!  This wedding was in Seattle so we spent two nights down there.  My sister Becky & family flew up for the weekend and we all stayed at the same hotel.  I drove down with my parents - they spent one night and left shortly after the wedding.  I'm so happy for these newlyweds - they make such a great couple.
Siblings!  Missing Sharon...
I spent a weekend over the mountains watching my sweet niece Gretta Claire play soccer for the purple panthers - her senior year!  It was a tough game and they won!  I stayed with my niece Dani on this weekend.  Always fun to stay there and get woken up at 6:30 with a latte delivery to my room by her two little girls and their dog Murphy!  I drove over with my parents - they don't get out of town much anymore.  Dad didn't feel super great so we left a bit earlier than expected, but still a fun weekend.  The drive over the pass was beautiful.
Watched Natalie play soccer!!
Always a fun time in Wenatchee!
My annual trip to California happened in October.  My niece Jenae is also a senior so it's my last year to be 'auntie nanny' while Becky and her husband Darrell go on their fall work trip.  I've been doing this for about 10 years or more.  I will miss it!  I watched Jenae play a couple of soccer games.  My nephew Mitchell came home for the weekend - he's a working guy now - I was so glad to spend some time with him.  I stayed a couple extra days to spend time with Becky after she got back from her trip.  We got a great hike in and I watched her coach her JV volleyball team.  The weather was in the 80's and I soaked it in!!

California hiking
A couple weeks ago a friend convinced my to play hooky from work and go on a hike.  I had just got back from California and should not have gone (work was waiting!!) but I am so glad we did!  It was a beautiful fall day, probably in the 70's.  We had a great hike with a magnificent view of Mt. Baker.  We had snow on top of our hike - the fall colors were stunning on the drive.  I was struggling with the loss of Carl and it did my soul good to be up in the mountains.
"Go rest high on that mountain - son your work on earth is done"
I am staying home in November.  We've had some snow and cold weather already last week - I'm not quite ready for that!

Losing Carl brought back lots of memories of the process of losing Les.   Every loss is different, yet so similar.  However, being more than two years out, I can say that life is good, God is good,  and I am choosing JOY.  God has provided peace in my heart and I continue to be blessed with family and friends who encourage me - and keep me busy.  I am thankful.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Kooistra Strong to Stehekin Part II

A year ago, some friends and my girls hiked with me in to Stehekin.  We did it in memory of Les being gone for one year. You can read about our walk to remember here.  Some time after the hike, my son said, "Mom, I'd like to do that hike".  Well then.  I guess it's kinda like child birth........as time passes, you forget the pain.  So I said OKAY!!  But decided it would be family only.  I've had so many people say they would like to do this hike, but I thought it would be fun with family only.  I put the word out, and over the next months our team came together.  I know there were family members who REALLY wanted to join us, but the timing didn't work.  We ended up with a team of 11 and we hiked over the Labor Day weekend.

Start time 6 AM at trailhead!

I want to talk about the team members.  I'll start from oldest to youngest (me, of course, being the oldest of all!!!)  These people all mean so  much to me.

My sister Sharon is 3 years younger than me.  She lives in Iowa so was not able to train on mountains.  She would walk gravel roads for many hours.  But the most amazing thing is that she had a liver transplant 20 years ago.  The fact that 20 years later she was hiking with me for 18 miles is just so amazing.

My niece Emily (aka my third daughter) joined the hike last year and joined again this year with no hesitation.  She is in great physical shape and I'm so glad she joined us.  My son Kris was the instigator of Part II.  He had just come back from 10 days in Alaska a couple days before our hike.  He shot a caribou up there so hiked many miles with 120# on his back - packing out the meat, etc.  He was still pretty tired from Alaska starting out this hike - but still managed to run the last few miles.........  We were glad to have him along since he was the only one with a gun AND a sling shot.  He saved us on the trail by killing a chipmunk with that sling shot.
Nothing to do with our hike - this is in Alaska.  His dad would be so envious and so PROUD

Limping to the end!
My nephew Adam is also from Iowa (he is Emily's brother).  He committed right away to join us.  I was surprised, and so thrilled!  Adam has very bad knees but was willing to put up with that pain to join us.  He kept us laughing the entire weekend he was here.  It was such a joy to have him along!!

Brett, my son-in-law, was our last member to commit.  I'm pretty sure he had a great weekend with us!  He was an energizer bunny (as always!) and was usually our FAST pace setter.  He went in with NO training but did great!  He was pretty tired tho, and I think all these young males had a bit of respect for all of us ladies for hiking this last year!!
the boys!!
My baby girl Leslie joined us again.  She is a very busy mom and wife so doesn't have tons of time to train, but she powered through!  The journey would not have been the same without her along.  My nephew Sean lives in California, and he also committed right away.  He is training for a "Tough Mudder" so he's in great shape (and rocks an amazing moustache).   He took a bee sting for the team. So so glad he flew up for the weekend.
SO thankful these two were with me!
My daughter in law Hannah joined us.  She was a bit "iffy" because she was 18 weeks pregnant at hike time.  But Hannah is a very strong and determined mama and she hiked this like a champ - I admire her so much.  She also took a bee sting for the team!
Dealing with bee stings
Our youngest hikers were my two nieces Jenae and Gretta.  They are both seniors in high school and VERY busy.  Gretta is playing high school soccer right now for Wenatchee - she played a game on Saturday and hiked on Sunday!!  That is amazing.  Jenae is my California girl - she flew up for the weekend.  Love love love these two girls.  They have amazing hearts for Jesus and they will do amazing things in the future.
Aunties and nieces

Lunch time

My friend Kay hiked with us last year.  Her husband wanted to do the hike this year, so they committed to hiking over Labor Day.  We ended up hiking opposite directions - sharing cabins and swapping cars at trail heads.  It worked out so great!  All of us who hiked a second time thought the second time was easier.  I for one felt much better physically (I was a bit sick last year and so nervous) and was able to enjoy this hike more.

So so fun to meet on the trail!!
 The weather was very hot, but we started early (no rain!!) and ended by 2:00.  Stehekin is such an amazing place.  We had no smoke the day we hiked, but watched the smoke roll in the next morning.  We had smoke all the way down the ferry ride of Lake Chelan and all the way back home to western Washington.
Almost finished!
End of the trail!  No injuries!

Breakfast in Stehekin
Yes, #kooistrastrong took over the back of the ferry once again

Until next time Stehekin!!!