Sunday, 27 June 2021

What July 4 Means to Me

At the northwest corner of my house stands a tall flagpole that my neighbor erected long before I moved here. I can hear the whipping of the fabric of our national emblem of freedom and peace on a very windy day and see it from the corner of my bedroom window as I start my day. I greets me as I return home and reminds me as I am working in the yard how much the past seems to have become lost in the push for ideologies and many other things that are far different than what the average American believes in or wants. 

I have tried not to think too much about the 4th of July this year because all it does is make me cry. As a baby boomer, so much of the country I was raised in has disappeared that I hardly recognize it anymore. I was too young to appreciate the Vietnam War, not that it was ever recognized as being a good thing by very many people, but it still impacted the lives of millions of Americans who came home tarnished and disillusioned to a point where they were never able to fully recover. The same thing applies to the sexual revolution of the sixties where every moral value of the past was questioned as drugs and the concept of free love overtook the sound reasoning of parents who only wanted what was best for their children. And the courageous actions of people like Rosa Parks who helped usher in the right kind of equality for every American were imprinted on my heart as I watched a revolution take place during my own lifetime.

I remember the morning I sat in a class at school and word came over the intercom that our president, John F. Kennedy had been shot. I couldn't move for the longest time as we listened for further word. The tears, fears and disbelief were so strong in the room that day they really felt like they could be cut with the proverbial knife. That shocking and unparalleled incident--at least in my lifetime--was followed by the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. I thought our entire world had gone crazy back then, but it was nothing when compared to the turmoil, loss of believe, fear, media control of almost everything, unrighteous dominion of members in every branch of government and the unraveling of our constitutional rights that is being unleashed today. 

The days of my youth when we said the Pledge of Allegiance each morning at school, were allowed to offer prayers, studied history so we  would value what we had and not repeat the past, cherished our belief in the equality of all Americans, not just the rights of special interest groups or government mandated ideas, are long over and greatly missed. I feel deep sadness when the statues and memorials representing those who have sacrificed for others are torn down and replaced with ones of people who have done nothing to show love, respect and honor to what our founding fathers worked so hard to achieve. They were not perfect men, but they were instruments through which the greatest nation on the face of the earth was built. It was a country founded on a covenant with the specific blessings of liberty, protection and prosperity, if the inhabitants would only obey and serve God. 

I don't like what is happening to our country, nor do I like the impact it is having on our youth. The ideologies that are being rammed down their throats will destroy so much of what I hold dear and sacred. But as the older generation, I believe we cannot give up or give in. We must continue to fight for our rights, our beliefs and our desires for a future that may never materialize. Each day I hear or read things that cause the pain in my heart to increase as so many of my God-given rights are being stripped away. The thing I find most disturbing is that so many Americans can't see what is happening. They are buying into  the garbage they are being fed without any resistance, or the belief that it will ever impact life as they know it. But in my mind, that is far from being true. We will reap as a nation what those in positions of power are pushing for unless we have the moral convictions to take a stand by supporting people who have the same values we do. I will keep doing that because as long as I live I want to see our flag flying brightly outside my front door.

I would like to end this post with the words from Moses' farewell address to his nation under the same covenant we have (found in Deuteronomy 30). It was repeated by John Winthrop in 1630, Martin Luther King Jr. on the night before he was killed in 1968 and President Ronald Reagan at the base of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. May we really internalize them is my prayer for the 4th of July this year.

See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and adversity. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments. But if you turn away, you shall certainly perish; you shall not long endure on the soil that you are crossing the Jordan to enter. I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life--that you and your offspring might live. That you may love the Lord your God, and that you may obey his voice, and that you may cleave unto him: for he is your life, and the length of your days: that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.



Sunday, 20 June 2021

Father are Never Forgotten

Father's Day this year has hit me harder than it has for quite some time. Perhaps that's because I lost my brother the day after Thanksgiving and feel a little jealous because he is now with the father we lost as children. I was 13 when he was called home. I remember that afternoon with clarity. He was in bed resting when I returned on the long, yellow school bus. My mother left me to tend the little ones while she and my older sister went to town to get something she hoped would help settle his stomach. My siblings were watching Rawhide on our small black and white television. I loved that show because I had a schoolgirl crush on the character named Roudy Yates. (Clint Eastwood for those who are too young to remember the show.)

But for some reason, I couldn't get into the episode. Our father was never sick, so I kept going his door to ask if there was something he needed. He was a six-foot, four-inch cowboy who loved to ride his horse, tend his cattle and perform in rodeos. He was our champion, and I had been his right-hand man since the day I got out of bed after my first bout with rheumatic fever. I was going into the 4th grade. I got up at 4:30 every morning to drive the tractor while he fed the cattle and worked with him on every project I could around the farm from setting fence posts to stacking hay. I looked more like him that any of my siblings - mostly because I have the same long, straight nose - and that was definitely a plus to me. 

Anyway, back to my story. I heard a thump and went racing towards the back of the house. But my father wasn't where I had left him. He had gone into the bathroom and had a heart attack. His body was blocking the door. I cried out for help and push with all my might, but it wouldn't budge. It was about this time that our mother got home. She sent us next door to the neighbors. That short walk seemed like the longest of my life and after we were left alone in the neighbor's kitchen, I had all of us kneel down to pray that our dad would be okay. Then the long minutes of waiting began.

I had been taught to pray as a child at his knee but never before had I felt the need to do so with such intent. I loved my father completely and trusted that he would always be there to take care of me. But God had other plans. It was nearly dusk when my uncle came to get us. He said our father was gone but we could come home. Walking into the house he had build for us with his own hands was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I wanted to hear his voice more than anything else in the world, or even see his face, but his body had already been taken to the mortuary. I don't remember much about the next few days, except that neighbors filled our freezer with tuna casseroles and chocolate cake. 

Life after that was nothing more than existence. My mother had a complete nervous breakdown three years later, and I ended up running away from home because I couldn't take the abuse any longer. My grandmother drove me to college a few months later. I had been lucky in receiving an academic scholarship, or I never would have been able to leave Idaho. 

The first year being completely on my own was the hardest. If I could find a ride back to Idaho Falls, I would stay with my grandmother. After my mother had left for the night, she and my uncle would take me to see my younger siblings. We would cry as I held them in my arms and promised that we would get to see each other more often. But those promises were empty because I never went home to stay again.

It would be nice to say that my trials gave me strength, and I suppose in many ways they did. The challenge was trying to keep it together without any support after my grandmother died the spring semester of my freshman year. I was left without any of the emotional tools I needed to navigate a very confusing, and often frightening, world. But there were a few times along the way when I knew my father was with me. It's been a long time since I've heard his voice in my head, but I'm sure I will recognize it when I hear it again. I know this life isn't all there is. It is but a small moment in the span of eternity.

Despite many times when I wish I had been smarter, more astute and less emotional so I wouldn't have made my life more difficult than it might have been, I am so grateful that I got to be with my father for as long as I did. I miss him so much and wonder quite often how things would have been if he had been allowed to stay with us. We needed him so much. He was our rock, our champion, our defender, our teacher and our best friend.

I wrote this poem a few years ago and want to share it with you. I know many of you have endured similar experiences, and I would love to hear about them. All you have to do is reply to this. I hope fathers around the world know how important they are to their children for we are all a little lost without them.


 Daddy,

 

Did you know that perfect spring morn so long ago

that you would be leaving your loved ones alone 

to return so abruptly to your heavenly home?

 

Did you know that the unexpected loss and confusion

your children felt would bring sorrow, loneliness,

tears, uncertainty and a lifetime of regrets?

 

Did you know that the wife you loved above all

would lose her way, struggle with fear, grief,

adversity and the harsh responsibility for us all?

 

Did you know your seven little ones would become divided, 

holding pain, sorrow, anger, self-recrimination and anxiety inside,

almost forgetting that you were ever part of our lives?

 

Did you know that the emptiness felt to our very cores 

would fester so completely that the most vulnerable of us 

never knew true intimacy, especially with a spouse?

 

Did you know how many of us would fight with all we had

to stop the abuse in our own homes - ramifications of the nearly

debilitating treatment we had suffered so often after you were gone?

 

Did you know that we would long for your wisdom,

your gentle way of caring, and your heartfelt laugher

as we tried to navigate our often bewildering journeys?

 

Did you know that all of us would want to be with you again,

to see your smile, to hold your hand, to let you know that

we did our best through some very difficult moments?

 

 

 

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Many of you have been following my rantings about doctors, hospitals and such the past few months. I'm not saying that I'm doing a whole lot better when it comes to the issues that were plaguing me when my journey began because most of the symptoms are still there, along with an acute nausea that hits me most mornings and last until early afternoon. Not sure what is going on with that, but I'm determined to turn things around with a more positive attitude. That's not to easy to do right now since it was 100 degrees yesterday, it's only the 14th of June, and we haven't had any rain for over six weeks. We're down to 17 percent in the reservoirs and restrictions on water usage are already being put into place. To say that it's going to be a long, hot summer is an understatement. 

To let you know just how bad it is even in town, my son was sitting at his desk in a bank where he's a loan officer last week and the lawn in front of the restaurant next door burst into flames it was so dry. No one knows for sure how it happened, but it is a prelude to what we have to look forward to as the heat continues. I went out to do a little weeding early yesterday and was so sick when I came in that it took a couple of hours until I could even move about without feeling sick. Summer has never been my favorite time of year, but I'm afraid that this year it's going to be even harder to find something exciting about it. Of course it might help if I was going somewhere, but work will keep me here until September when I'm going back to see my sister again. (It's just no fun to travel alone when you're older and basically become a backdrop to what everyone else is doing.)

Nonetheless, I do have one piece of good news. I've finally finished my next book. It's the last of the four I completed the first draft too when I was in my thirties but never had the time to complete with all the responsibilities that come with family, work and home. But waiting until life had given me more experience to draw from made it more believable and real since most of us have dreams we wish we had captured while there was still time. Like the heroine in Kismet Finds a Way, this book is semi-autobiographical since I fell in love wth a special someone I have never forgotten when I was in college too. It gave the song Reunited by Peaches and Herb new meaning because I dreamed for many years what it would be like to see him again. But I'm sure that reality would never equal what I have experienced in my dreams. So I wrote one of the scenarios about a possible meeting where we could rekindle what had been lost. Is there anyone out there who has some of the same fantasies I do? I think it makes us human because love is the most driving force in the world, especially for those of us who have never found it.

I guess that since I've been alone for over 20 years it's not so bad to have a few lost dreams since it means I used to have a life where love was always a possibility, and I could feel things I have never experienced. My marriage did not bring peace, fulfillment or a reason to be myself and explore what most women long for. Fear, putdowns and never being good enough were what marriage meant to me, and I really envy women who have been truly loved by a man because that has never happened for me. Perhaps that's why my first publisher told me I needed to learn how to write love scenes - not steamy, explicit ones because they take all the romance out for me and are not something I am comfortable doing - but tender passion that shows what true joy in a loving relationship should be. It's hard to write about something that has never been experienced, but I still know what I would like to happen before this life is over. However, I am realistic enough to know that men anywhere near my age are looking for women 30 years younger.

Anyway, enough of that. I doubt any of us need a reason to feel down because life gives us enough reasons without  looking for them. But I am proud of Crossfire at Bentley. I think you will enjoy this story. Here's a quick synopsis. Happy reading for those of you who enjoy it, and for those who don't, have a wonderful day anyway. 

Jada Sloan spent four years at the university in love with a professor – seven years her senior - who hopped in and out of her life and made her feel like a queen. But he was never ready to settle down with just one girl. Ten years later, after a rocky road to success and a failed marriage, she found herself back at Bentley as a guest lecturer. But a new friend, a conspiracy and a chance encounter with her old flame threaten to destroy her now well-ordered life. Will she find the inner strength to let go of her past or become part of a puzzle no one seems capable of solving? Only time, and a great deal of understanding and patience will tell. Jada thought her past was complicated, but it was a breeze to what she is facing now. 

Crossfire at Bentley is available starting TODAY on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdvin both print and Ebook formats. It’s been a real labor of love. 



Sunday, 30 May 2021

The Old Army Blanket

I'm not sure why Memorial Day hit me with such force this year. Perhaps it's because I've taken the time to really think about why we have it. Somewhere over the years I've lost that it was meant to honor the men and women who gave their lives so I could enjoy all of the freedoms I mostly take for granted. It wasn't that way when I was a kid. My father was in World War II. He wanted to serve his country more than anything, but he had a bad heart due to Rheumatic Fever and also suffered a football injury to his left eye that impacted his peripheral vision. The war was practically over when the draft board finally accepted his papers. Since he couldn't go directly into battle, he became a military policeman who rode the trains back and forth across the country looking for the draft dodgers and deserters who had failed to do their duty as an American citizen. Then he received specialized training as a medic and spent some time on the Del Monte Pineapple Plantation in the Philippine Islands treating soldiers so they could come home. The sad part was that most of them suffered from venereal diseases rather than being wounded.

He always respected the flag and what our country stood for and taught his children to do the same. I'll never forget the flag my mother was given at his funeral or the gun salute that still causes me to shiver with each blast. I was thirteen and old enough to remember how dismal and frightening life had suddenly become. Never again in this life would I hear his melodious deep, base voice or climb onto his lap for a hug or a kiss. Since the cemetery was only a quarter of a mile away from our home, I rode there on my bike, or walked, many times over the years to spend time with him. And Memorial Day was always spent visiting cemeteries and placing fresh cut lilacs, tulips and peonies on the graves of our loved ones. The flowers were mostly put in glass canning jars with rocks at the bottom to keep them from toppling over. We were too poor to go to the story for plastic ones.

Many years have come and gone since then. I've moved a number of times, mostly farther away from where I grew up, and have only been back to the old Milo cemetery a time or two. Time went by so fast, all the older generation passed beyond the veil of mortality and I let what Memorial Day had once meant to me get lost in the more fashionable things the people around me were doing. It became a time for extra yard work, going somewhere for pleasure or, if I happened to live close enough to family, a time for barbecuing, playing and talking. Little to no time was ever spent recalling things from the past that should still matter as much as they once did. 

I suppose that's why this poem I once wrote about the Army blankets I grew up using as a child came back to me this morning. I had forgotten them like so many other things. I'm sharing it with you because the past should never be forgotten. It should live on, through us, in the hearts of the generations who will come after.

Scratchy, wool, army blanket,
What is your story?
Did you shelter soldiers 
fighting for other’s freedom?

 

Did you warm civilian bodies 

against the fear and the cold?

Did you wrap the remains of those who

had given all for the truths they held dear?

 

Did you shield a small, helpless infant 

against the wind and rain?

Or did you lie quietly on a self 

until the war was at an end?

 

I wish I knew your story 

though it might bring grief and pain.

But since I don’t, I’ll tell you 

how you were used in my childhood home. 

 

None of us wanted to touch you

since your surface was so very rough,

but you hung in the doorway on Christmas morn

so we couldn’t see our Santa stuff.

 

You traveled for picnics in the yard, 

the orchard or the mountain heights.

Draped over chairs you made new worlds, and

were ever near when the night became chill.

 

Your holes were ones of careless acts

since mostly children put them there.

You see, we didn't understand where you

came from or your incredible worth. 


It would be nice to thank you 

for all the service you have given, but

you’ve been gone for so many years
I have almost forgotten your existence.

Still, it's hard not to recall the smell of wet wool,
the dusty green color so unlike any other, 
and the stories of people thanking God
for even having you around to bring them warmth. 

Those things, and many others, 
have made me a more compassionate person.
I almost wish I had one now so I could share it
with the generations who have never even seen one.

I conclude this post with something I read yesterday. It touched my heart and gave me even more reason to reflect on what I am willing to sacrifice for freedom.




The Missing Man Table
When you see the table of the ones who have not returned, this is what it means. Please take a moment to respect those it represents.
•The Cloth is White- symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to serve.
•The Single Red Rose- reminds us of the lives of these Americans, and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith, while seeking answers.
•The Yellow Ribbon- symbolizes our continued determination to account for them.
•A Slice of Lemon- reminds us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.
•A Pinch of Salt- symbolizes the tears of our missing and their families who long for answers after decades of uncertainty.
•The Lighted Candle- reflects our hope for their return- Alive or Dead
•The Bible- represents the strength gained through faith in our country, Founded as One Nation Under God, to sustain those lost from our midst.
The Glass is Inverted- to symbolize their inability to share a toast.
•The Chair is Empty- They Are Missing.
🇺🇸Memorial Day 2021🇺🇸

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Not Always What We Expect

I was really quite shocked when I looked at this site the other day and realized that it had been almost two months since I posted anything. Now it's not that I haven't been busy since I found out my arteries were clear. I think I've been going through a sort of withdrawal because I always figured my heart was in incredibly bad shape. In fact my older sister, who had gotten down to 15 percent heart function for a still undisclosed reason, was telling all of my siblings that I was close to death's door because I hadn't been doing enough to reverse a lifelong condition. She was even visibly upset when I told her my good news because it meant that incessant exercising and watching everything that went into her mouth wasn't necessarily the secret to a long and primarily healthy life. 

I was able to leave for vacation two weeks after my angiogram - with an appointment to see a vein specialist two days after I got back. The doctors still had no clear idea what was causing all the swelling in my legs and feet or the reason for my continued inability to do much without getting winded. They figured my lungs, my inverted varicose veins or my still overly-high blood might be the culprit. So I flew into St Louis feeling no better than I had for years but found great comfort being with the sister I felt closest to.

We had a great time laughing over our inability to get balls in the right pockets during games of pool, watching our favorite music videos and just being together. We spent time with friends during our side trip to Branson and were even able to hug and kiss many of them because all of the mask mandates had been lifted. We spent close to an hour in the basement of the motel where we were staying because the siren when off letting us known a tornado was about to set down. Those were fun and stimulating times. But I also had a horrid flareup with my allergies and spent several days with some kind of bug that caused explosive diarrhea without any warning. Those conditions, along with the allergy medication I was taking to keep my eyes from swelling shut and my nasal passage mostly open, made me unusually sleepy. I had to fight to keep my eyes open when we weren't doing something active or loud.

I came back far less rested than I usually did, only to discover that the veins in my legs weren't bad enough to be causing any of the symptoms I still had. The doctor put me on a diuretic and gave me a prescription to get my some support stocking - which I have yet to do. So after all the months of hoping for an answer, I felt like I was back where I started still feeling overly tired without any diagnosed reason. I was beginning to think that the doctor who blamed all my conditions on getting older might be right. 

Since then, I guess I've been in a state of depression. I mowed my lawn three times, pulled every weed I could find and even got my garden planted. But something seemed to be missing until today. I think it's a sense of true gratitude for what I still have. I've been concentrating on things I may never understand rather than on all the daily blessings I'm receiving. That was brought forcefully back when I read a short story someone posted on Facebook. I can still do everything that needs to be done, even though it may take longer and require bending over rather than squatting. And the things that can't be changed won't really matter that much once I leave mortality behind. I need to be building for eternity with my Savior, my eternal Father in Heaven and the people I love, rather than putting so much energy and effort into things that can never be recovered because I have moved past the years when my body was able to adjust to my demands. 

I share it with you because I would imagine that a lot of people feel as I do. The Golden Years aren't  what we expected them to be, but in many ways they aren't all bad. We have time to do things that have been neglected in the past and feel more secure in who we really are because we are no longer quite so concerned about what others think of us. As I see it, that's a huge relief since we longer have the energy to chase down all the creams, diets and exercises that are supposed to be our answer to the fountain of youth - a real myth that has only made certain people very wealthy.  

That's all for now. I hope you enjoy the story. It brought me out of my doldrums and made me feel a little pretentious because I haven't been participating in my life story the way I could have these past few months. There is a season for everything, and no one is going to make it out of this life without a great many tests. After all, that's part of the reason we're here.

Here's what Scott Mann wrote. I've included the photo he used.



This is Sharon, my mother-in-law.
She taught me it’s important work to see someone for who they are and not what you expect.
When I first met my mother-in-law I had a hard time understanding her thick south Virginia accent.
And she seemed a little bossy in that southern passive aggressive polite way.
But I knew she was important to the love of my life, so I accepted her grudgingly as some of us do when family is forced on us.
After 5 years I still didn’t really know her.
When my wife got leukemia at 30.
When our world was shattered and changed forever, Sharon very quietly and very firmly stepped into the role she was born for.
She moved, with her dependent Vietnam vet husband, into our house and became Michele’s caretaker too.
Over the last two years she bought most of the groceries, cooked almost every meal, did most of the laundry and cleaning, drove both dependents to almost every one of the 300+ doctor appointments, sorted tens of thousands of pills, and made sure they were all taken on time at every hour every day.
And she did this when she herself was diagnosed with cancer 6 months ago.
When she was getting a mastectomy.
When she is going through chemo.
She hums when she works.
She talks to herself when there’s no one to listen, and she goes about every day with humility and grace.
I took this photo before I left work this morning.
She didn’t know I was there.
This, friends, is what greatness looks like in a quiet moment. Waiting on oatmeal to cook for her daughter for the 300th time since she got sick.
Not everyone gets to have a real-world superhero in their lives.
And for this I am filled with gratitude every day.


Sunday, 4 April 2021

My Easter Miracle

It's Easter Sunday, and I am more than grateful to be alive so I can express to others just how full my heart is for my Savior, Jesus Christ, for the amazing love and blessings he continues to shower on me and most importantly, the gift of eternal life he has given to all of God's children. We are truly brothers and sisters. It doesn't matter our age, color, nationality, religious beliefs or the condition of our hearts. His love for each of us is pure, complete and freely given. I will never fully understand his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane or on the cross during this life. The agony he went through is beyond my level of comprehension. Nor will I ever fully appreciate the fact that he suffered for every sin, sorrow, illness or moment of doubt each mortal must go through. And while I know that trying to live as he did is the only thing I can do to show my gratitude, I fall short in that department every day.

I had no idea what this day would mean for me. Those of you who read my last post know that I went into the hospital for an angiogram last Thursday. I had my first bout with rheumatic fever when I was nine years-old and spent six months in bed. I could only get up to go to the doctor's once week so my blood could be drawn. I had two other flare-ups of the illness over the next few years. The experience left me with a hole in my heart and the inability to do anything of a physical nature during my entire school career. So I opted to take drama and write for the school newspaper. They were great experiences, but I always felt like an outcast because I couldn't participate in any of the activities other kids took for granted because my heart was bad. 

It wasn't a fun way to grow up, but neither was losing my aunt, my mother's sister,  from heart disease when I was 11 or my father from a massive heart attack when I was 13. They had both suffered though rheumatic fever like me as kids and had been left with bad hearts. I knew what my prognosis for life would be and never believed I would live that long since I had the same pesky genes coming from both sides of my family. I was quite surprised when I made it into my forties and decided that every year I had after that was a true blessing. But I decided I would live my life the best I could and keep moving for as long as possible. I always worked at one or more jobs away from home, took care of my house, my family, my yard and my garden. I always tried to serve others but knew my limitations since I got tired very easily and worked best when it was at my own pace.

So being diagnosed with myocardial ischemia a little over six years ago didn't come as a great surprise. I'd had high triglycerides and high cholesterol for years and would find out a few months later that I also had Type ll Diabetes. But I moved to another state so I could help my son and his family after my daughter-in-law was diagnosed with Melanoma-Lymphoma not long after finding out there was a blockage in my heart.  Since I didn't feel any worse than I always had, I didn't seek further medical attention. I believed the family doctor I was seeing for my allergies would alert me to any real problems. 

Anyway, when I met the doctor who would be doing the surgery he said there was definitely a problem with blood flow in the lower, left portion of my heart, but he was going to take care of it. Preparing for that procedure was not fun, nor was laying on that table for the longest time while everything was made ready. I was very grateful my son had taken the day off to be with me but wasn't overly scared. I had put my faith and trust in God and was ready to accept the next part in his plan for me. I had even added a codicil to my will so there would be no issues if something went wrong.

Imagine my surprise when the entire procedure took less than five minutes and the doctor stood back and said that all of my arteries were clear. I was a little out of it due to the sedative and thought I had misunderstood, but he left the operating room and I was taken into recovery. It was a couple of hours before he came to see me. By then I had a lot of questions to ask but the only really important one was why. He said there must have been two false positive readings with my tests because the one they had done ten days before confirmed what the one in Missouri said. He believed that most of my issues had to do with high blood pressure, including the swelling in my ankles and feet. He would change my medication, and we would look at other things if I didn't start feeling a whole lot better.

So that's my Easter Miracle. I had gone into the hospital believing the best news I could get was needing a stent or two in my heart so the blood could get through and came away knowing that my arteries were clear. I'm still trying to digest that but know that God has more work for me to do before I leave this life or things would have turned out much differently. None of my symptoms have gone away yet, but my spiritual heart feels so much lighter. I know God hears and answers our prayers, and I know I can turn to him for anything. And I am so grateful for my Savior. He lives! He loves us! He gave us the most precious gift! And I will continue to follow him the best I can so I can live with him, and all the people I love, again some day. 




Sunday, 28 March 2021

Easter and Hospitals

I've spent a lot of time reflecting on my blessings the past few days in preparation for Easter Sunday, especially the deep and lasting love I feel for my Savior who gave his life that I might live with him again if I am willing to repent of misdeeds, sins and thoughts that are a common to mortal man and strive each day to be more like him. I love knowing that he is my advocate with my eternal Father and is always there when I need someone to turn to who truly understands what I am going through. That's not often the case with family members and friends who have their own struggles to deal with and don't always know what to say. He has been my constant companion since I was little girl and has never censured me when I didn't remember to call on him as I should. I know his arms are always open to hold me when I'm scared, alone, in pain, having doubts or feel as if I don't have the strength to go on.

This season of rebirth brings me a little closer to him as I reflect on him rising from the tomb that early spring morning and the joy he brought to all those who believed in him and loved him so completely. Even the earth heralds his resurrection. The tulips and daffodils are coming up, and the pansies that survived the winter are already showing their beautiful purple colors. I even managed to get the fertilizer with crab grass control on my lawn before the only rainfall we've had in what seems like forever came last week, and I am anticipating the first cutting of grass and filling bucket after bucket with weeds, despite what pollen, leaves, dust and mold do to me. I first noticed acute allergies to every plant and grass outside the day I graduated from college. I remember the red, weepy eyes and stuffiness very clearly. But I've never let that stop me from enjoying my own little piece of nature. I get allergy shorts every week or two and supplement that with over-the-counter medication whenever necessary because I refuse to quit digging in the dirt.

But this past week has been a little different than the way I usually spend the first days of spring. I've had heart problems since I was nine and never really believed I would a long life, but I also knew that God was in charge, and I would be here for as long as it took to complete my earthy mission. Six and a half years ago while living in Missouri, my doctor diagnosed myocardial ischemia (a blockage in my heart not necessarily due to the rheumatic fever and micro-proplase I've had for decades). I kept telling my doctor here that I had it, but he was a GP and said everything sounded okay. So I didn't think much about it until the symptoms became so severe that I decided to see specialist and called his office for a referral.

His nurse wasn't too pleased with my request but said she would check it out. When she called back and said the referral had been placed, she told me that my complete records had gone directly to the records department at the clinic instead of to their office so the doctor didn't know about my condition. It was a copout because I had told him a dozen times about my issues, but I guess he was just too uninterested to listen. It was easier to blame everything on getting older. I suppose there are a lot of lessons to be learned from this beginning with incompetency, but that's not the reason for this post. However, it is a clear reminder to anyone who is not getting the help they need or deserve to push harder at being their own advocate.

Anyway, after several incredibly expensive tests that only confined the prior diagnosis, I am scheduled for an angiogram on Thursday morning. They need to find out where the blockage is and how bad it is before my heart decides to give out. The procedure sounds very unpleasant and is complicated by the fact that I will have to wear a mask while it is being done, even though I've had both Covid shots. (Just another one of the vast issues surrounding the past couple of months that make me more irritable than usual and keep me from watching mainstream media.) 

I hate to admit that I'm scared, but I am. While the PA who made the arrangements for the procedure seemed to feel like a stent or two might be all that was required to get me back on my feet, and doing the yard work I love so much, nothing will be known for sure until whatever they're using to get through my veins and into my heart makes its rounds. I'm definitely hoping for good news because it will ruin my vacation plans if they have to do any bypasses. I told the PA my concerns and that I wanted to wait until May to have it done because I needed to see my sister. But when he said he wouldn't advise doing that, I had to reconsider living a longer life over having more immediate fun. I certainly didn't want to be admitted to a hospital in a different state where I didn't know anyone.

I guess that's what really got me thinking about our Savior's gift in a slightly different way. While I don't anticipate any problems, these could easily be my last three days on earth since there are major risks with any surgery, and there's so much I simply haven't done. They aren't big things - not like traveling the world, going on a cruise or even perfecting one of my talents. It's not taking the time to show added love to the people I care about most, offer more service where there is a need or making someone's day a littler brighter by taking notice of them when no one else will that has me concerned. These are things are should have been doing all along, but like most everyone else, I get easily sidetracked by things far less worthwhile.

My wish is for everyone to have a glorious Easter season filled with family, deep personal reflection and more gratitude for the gift only the Savior could offer. I love him with all my heart and want to be with him again, but I'm hoping I still have more time here to take care of things that have been left undone. Adding a codicil to my will hardly seems enough.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Just Cut the String

The last few months have been rough for most of us. Some of our reasons for feeling a little unsettled and even completely down and out are much the same, but a great many of them are individualized to our unique situations in life. I'll admit that my generally positive self has taken a beating as I watch the country I grew up in and always believed would remain the home of the free and the brave take quite a nosedive as special interest groups push their agendas above those of the masses - law-abiding citizens who love God, family and country. I've become so out-of-it emotionally that I actually raised my voice  to the salesman who came to my home last week wanting to sell me solar panels and told him how I really felt about some of things that have been happening recently in regards to how we obtain our power, gas and oil.  

It's not how I generally react because I really do appreciate honest, hard-working Americans who are trying to make a living. It's how I was taught to conduct my life and why I worked so hard to get what little I have, but I'm getting tired of having people tell me what I should be doing, and how I should think, feel and act if I want to be politically correct and not upset someone else. Well, I've been upset too. But like so many others, I'm afraid to speak up too loudly for fear of being mocked, criticized or targeted for having my own beliefs. I believe all men and women were created equal, and we should love and respect each other for the kind of person that resides within, not by the color of someone's skin, their political beliefs, or how much money they have. 

Before I left the house today to take a homemade, marble cake with white, fluffy frosting to my son for his birthday, I was praying to know what I could write that might be beneficial to someone else. I haven't done much of that lately because I want my writing to be uplifting, not cause anyone to feel more sadness or distress. There is still so much beauty in the world and so many people trying to live virtuous, good lives while loving and serving others. I want to be part of that group. I've always thought that if I could pick one word I hoped people would remember me as being when I am gone, it would be that I was kind.  To me, kindness embodies almost every other virtue because it's hard to be kind if we don't truly love others, pray for them daily and do whatever we can to make their sojourn on earth a little better.  

I suppose that's why when I read this little story one of my former students wrote, it hit me so hard. Not that it talks about kindness per-say, but because it talks about cutting a string. That string could be anything when it comes to what may be holding us back from reaching our true potential and being happy in the here-and-now. There isn't much any of us can do about the political climate, the weather, the impact Covid 19 has had on the world or any of the executive orders that have been signed that take away so many of the rights our  founding fathers fought so hard for us to have. But we can still live each day with gladness and do at least one kind thing for someone else every day. 

I've decide that the string I need to cut is the one that ties me to the fear I have right now because I know my grandchildren will never get to experience the world I grew up in. Not that it was perfect by any means, but we were not controlled by the media. We spent time as families listening to each other and doing things that brought us closer, even when life was very tough. I cry when my granddaughter tells me what classmates say to her because she believes babies have a right to be born, most cops are good and people should be able to decide for themselves what they want to do or become.

God is in charge. He knows the end from the beginning, and I will not live one day longer than my allotted time on earth. For that reason alone, I must learn, once again, how to to live my life with purpose, hope and joy. I must embrace challenges that cause me to reach and grow because that is the only way I will learn how strong I really am. I cannot be afraid because God has given me a mind to think with, make decisions and decide what is right for me. Agency is a beautiful gift - one that was given to every man, woman or child - and I must use mine wisely because someday I will have to account for how I used it. 

I'm going to share Chad's story now. Take from it what you will. Not all of it is grammatically correct, but the message is clear. Some of the greatest blessings in life come because we are willing to cut the string that binds us.

The first police officer reaches under the one-ton bale of hay and attempts to lift it off of me. Of course, it doesn’t budge. He grabs his flashlight and shines it under the hay into my face. I blink. He yells over his shoulder to his partner, “He’s alive! He’s alive! Help me move the hay.”

But even working together, two officers can’t move it – not a fraction of an inch. A thousand pounds each! Of course they can’t move it.
“Cut the strings,” I whisper. My voice is weak. They can’t hear me.
I am not going to last much longer. If they will just cut the strings, the bale will break apart, and they can drag me out of here.
“Lift, Joe, lift!”
“Just cut the strings,” I mumble, “Please cut the strings.”
“C’mon harder.”
“It’s too heavy! We can’t lift it. We gotta go for help! Hang on Chad, we’ll be right back!”
I am alone again in the growing darkness. Wonderful painless, peaceful, irresistible sleep beckons. I struggle to remain conscious. One. Two. Three. Four… Where are they? How long does it take for police, fire, ambulance to arrive? Where is the Coast Guard? Where are the Marines? Where is that one old farmer with enough common sense to just cut the strings?
The desert air grows chilly as the sky darkens. I grow weaker. Dizziness overcomes me and I begin to drift off into that gray space somewhere between the living and the dead.

Help finally arrives. One of the police officers bends down so I can see his face. “Hold on! A fire engine is here. There are six men aboard.”
I do the math. Two big, strong cops and six burly firemen must move a ton of dead weight off me. That’s two hundred forty five pounds each. No way can they possibly do that – but somehow, miraculously, they do. A couple of neighbors who have arrived at the scene stand by to catch me. They lower my limp body to the ground where I lie in a broken heap.
Why didn’t they cut the strings? They could have saved a long, tortured hour.
How heavy is hay? A piece of hay is about the weight of a feather. How many pieces of hay does it take to make two thousand pounds? Lots. That package of sixteen bazillion individual pieces of hay wrapped in a gigantic bundle is a crushing weight. But separated, it would have been nothing. 

I feel bad saying this because it makes me sound ungrateful – and I am very grateful to the guys who saved my life that night – but there is a point to be made here, isn’t there?
Is it too big?
Is it overwhelming?
Cut the strings – just cut the strings!
Are you buried under crushing burdens? Projects that are too huge? Schedules that are too complicated? Maybe you are trying to do too much at once – trying to do everything instead of doing something.
Cut the strings and cut yourself free. Do one thing at a time – and get it done. Move “out of the strain of the doing into the peace of the done.”

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Hearts, Vaccines and Other Things

I was going to send out a cheerful Valentine's Day message a week ago to everyone who is alone like me because there are more dimensions to love than simply having someone special in your life to share the ups and downs with and who makes your heart happy. But like so many other things the past eleven months, I've been a day late and a dollar short when it comes to most everything. I used to send out a pile of greeting cards to family and close friends each time a special day rolled around: Valentines, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Mother and Father's day, birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. But when we were basically told to stay home, I did just that. And with no cards on hand like the ones I always purchased at the dollar stores, I resorted to texting like most everyone else. It was efficient and got my message across, but like a few of us who remember the days before cell phones, it made me feel bad. Opening something personal with a bright, cheerful message is a welcome change from all the junk mail and bills.

All seemed to be going well until five days before Halloween when I realized that I hadn't sent a card with something special inside to my grandson. I hurried to the store to get one, knowing that it would never reach him in time. I felt just awful but took it right to the post office and then sent a text to my daughter telling her it was on the way. (She seldom answers her phone which is incredibly annoying to me.) My granddaughter lives close enough that I'm always able to do things for her, even if it is at the last minute. But when the same thing happened at Thanksgiving, I realized I had a problem so I stared making lists again and managed to make it through Christmas without another relapse.

When the new year rolled around, I figured I had it under control since I got the cards and texts out on schedule, but not writing my planned post simply flew right over my head. However, I do have a semi-reasonable excuse for not writing anything like planned. I was fixated on getting my first Covid vaccine on the eleventh of February at a place I had never been where the heath department could administer numerous doses at the same time. Trying to decide if I really wanted to have something put into my body that hadn't been DEA approved or even fully tested was a struggle. I've never wanted to be part of trail study for anything, always figuring I had enough health issues to deal with.

But after a lot of prayer and thoughtful conversations with other people, I decided to take the plunge. I suppose being older, having congestive heart failure and diabetes helped convince me that taking the proverbial risk might not be such a bad idea, but I still hadn't made up my mind completely when I arrived at the indoor arena and was told to pull into a certain parking space. I was greeted pleasantly enough by a man and a woman who seemed to know what they were doing. But as they asked me certain questions, explained side effects and that I wouldn't be able to get my allergy shots until two weeks after the process was complete, I started to panic. My heart began to race and I felt like I was going to pass out. The young man with the needle in his hand told me I wasn't required to get it yet and if I had any serious reservations I could leave and come back at another time. But the fact that I might not be able to get on a plane so I could see family and friends within the next few months without having the documentation made me tell him okay. 

I sat outside in the parking lot for the allotted time waiting for my anxiety to lessen. But while I was trying to check out the news on my phone, several people from the National Guard came to my car to tell me that the paramedics in the ambulance wanted see me. They said it wasn't an emergency but  encouraged me to visit with them anyway. So I drove to where they were and got out of my car.  In reality, they hadn't ask to see me at all. Someone from inside the arena had radioed the outside monitors that I was scared so they wanted to make sure they wouldn't have to deal with some real, or imagined, medical emergency. I was mortified for feeling like such a baby. 

I can't say that the next one will be any better since I've heard that the side effects can be much worse. I ended up with a sore arm and one day with a headache and a very upset stomach. But I will try to act a little more mature when I get the second dose. I'm sorry to say that when my sister wanted to know how it had gone, I had to fight back the tears as I tried to explain how hard it is to always be alone when difficult decisions have to be made. Life would be so much easier if I knew there was someone around who cared and who would be there to help if I ever ran into trouble. My sweet sister tries to be understanding when I have one of my moments, but she's been married for 48 years and has never even had to work outside the home. That makes many of our life experiences very different.

On a slightly different note, two days before I had my none-to-desirable experience, I got a call from my older sister who had just been admitted to the hospital. She has spent the last 25 years with anorexia and occasional bouts of bulimia if she can't get thin enough. She's almost 74, exercises 70 or more minutes a day, eats barely enough to make it to the next meal, shakes all the time and insists that being 20 to 30 pounds under the lowest weight in her height category will keep her cancer from returning or ever getting really sick. She was totally shocked when the doctor told her she had congestive heart failure and the bottom half of her heart was seriously damaged. She claims he doesn't know what caused it and maintains that it's a side effect from having radiation treatments 17 years ago because her arteries are clear. 

While I have to indulge her fantasies because she's not going to change, it makes me sad. Life is hard enough when we have to face the outcomes from some of our choices and behaviors, but denial is never the best practice. I want her to take care of herself so she can live to be 90 plus like she desires, but she's already cutting out more calories so she won't gain any weight while she can't exercise as hard. 

I suppose the one positive from both of these experiences is deciding that I really need to take better care of myself while I can. None of us know what tomorrow might bring, and each moment we've been given to live is a blessing and a gift. That's why I'm going to see a cardiologist as soon as I can get an appointment. I thought I had everything covered with the family doctor I was seeing who also gives my allergy shots. But I found out when asking his nurse for a referral that he wasn't even aware that I had congestive heart failure. Apparently, the records that were sent from my previous doctor in Missouri went to the record's department rather than his office and sat there for five years. That certainly answered my questions as to why he never seemed overly concerned when I told him how I was feeling when I went in for my semi-annual visits. 

I guess the bottomline is that we can only count on ourselves when getting the kind of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual help we need. People who claim to have answers and even professionals in any given field can make mistakes, and if we're not careful we can end up a victim of something that could be avoided.

Since it's after 5:30, I guess it's time for me to eat some of my homemade vegetable, bean soup. It's really good, but I always have to have a little treat afterwards. I guess that comes from growing up on a farm where we were always so physically active there was no need to worry about calorie intake. My how times have changed!


Monday, 25 January 2021

Kismet Finds a Way


I’m so excited that KISMET FINDS A WAY is now available on Amazon in digital, print and Kindle Unlimited at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv Unlike the other books I’ve written, this story is based on a major, life-altering experience I had right after college graduation. If there had been someone I could turn to for help and advice I might have chosen the path not taken. But history cannot be rewritten, and everyone discovers truths about human nature that are often not easy to digest. 

    

Andrea Halbert always lived by the rules. She was an obedient child, honor student, college graduate, loyal member of the community, and totally committed to making a success of her life. But she had never found Mr. Right. Then one dark, fall night, after moving to a brownstone in a city far away from home, a stranger enters her life in a very unsettling way. He is handsome, charismatic, and has a passion for living that makes her head spin, but he also has a dark past and secrets he doesn’t want to share. Her head tells her to be careful, but her heart doesn’t want to listen. Will a whirlwind romance, and some choices she does not see coming, cause her to fall from grace, or will she be the catalyst in helping a man she is unable to forget find his forgotten dreams? 

     

I dedicated the book to a very dear friend, DiAnne Pack, who lost her battle with cancer last month because she taught me so much about faith, courage and endurance during the tough things life throws our way. (If you read my last post, you learned about her. But for those who didn't, here's the brief version I put in the release.) When Covid hit Branson, Missouri, she lost her job and home in one day. The next week she was admitted to the hospital with fluid in her lungs. A week later, the doctor found an inoperable mass somewhere around her trachea. With no family to help, she lived in a motel room while going through 2 rounds of radiation and one of chemotherapy. When I saw her last September, she was down to 78 pounds but determined to keep on fighting. On Christmas morning, she lost consciousness and fell on her face breaking her nose. The picture of all the bruising was heartbreaking. She had just moved into a doublewide trailer when she stopped answering my texts and calls the first week in January. The Thursday before last, I heard from another friend, who had no additional information, that she had died. I may never know how it happened or if she was alone at the end, but I will never forget how completely she had turned her life over to God. We all have excruciatingly difficult challenges that bring us to our knees and cause our hearts to crumble. That humanness binds us together, even when we could have chosen a different path and didn’t. That’s why this book means so much to me and took such a long time to write. A split-second decision, or one piece of news, really can change the course of a life.


Each book I've written comes from my heart and reflects experiences, beliefs and things I've gone through as the years progressed far more rapidly than I ever thought possible. I have learned so much about myself and why I acted like I did while exploring my characters and coming to see life through their eyes. Each life is different, but they all contain many of the same elements of love, loss, heartache, joy, wisdom, regret and contemplation. While I often wish I had been dealt a different hand when it comes to certain aspects of my life, I know the valuable lessons I've learned through the hardest knocks have been the ones of most value because they caused me to reach inward and find the strength to go on when I thought I couldn't. 


KISMET FINDS A WAY is my fifteenth book. I would love to send each of you a digital copy of one of my books. It's my way of saying thank you for reading my blogs. I know each of you have your own unique story to tell and I would love to hear from you. Just send me quick email at janhill720@gmail.com and let me know where you want me to send it. 


Books by JS Ririe (my pen name):

 

Beyond the Glass Doors

Rivers of Rage

Final Allegiance

Book 2 - Resilience

Book 3 - Safe Haven

Book 4 - Unsheltered

Book 5 - Welcome Redemption

Indecision’s Flame

Book 2 - Lost

Book 3 - Exposed

Book 4 - Reawakening

Book 5 - Betrayal

Book 6 - Unraveling

Book 7 - Destiny

 

Happy Reading!