I’m Still Beautiful!!!

I’m re-blogging this post from 2014 because as I celebrate Valentine’s Day with my husband, I’m reminded of his love shown to me almost 16 years ago. And now as my body begins to show the signs of aging – sagging skin, wrinkles, etc. I’m glad he still makes me feel beautiful!

Grandma's Ramblings

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Every October I always reflect back on the time I was first diagnosed with cancer.  During the nine months of treatment, I kept a journal.     Cancer Survivor   As I read the journal every year, there is one entry I love to read over and over again.  Last February, I shared this article with our newspaper in a contest they were holding for stories of love and commitment.  It was exciting to have my story selected and once again, I want to share it with you.

On our wedding day, my husband spoke beautiful words to me as he shared the vows he had written for our special day.

“I pledge myself to you alone with a devotion that shall increase as we pass together through sorrow and joy, through darkness and sunlight.”

As I listened to his words and saw the love expressed in his eyes…

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Do You Remember Polio?

When I was in second grade the vaccine for poliomyelitis was declared effective and safe, and a nationwide inoculation campaign began.  Children were the first to get the vaccine because the disease was known as “infant paralysis” mainly affecting children.

This disease attacks the nerve cells and sometimes the central nervous system, often causing muscle wasting and paralysis and even death. Since 1900 there had been cycles of epidemics, each seeming to get stronger and more disastrous.  It seemed to attack more during summer and I remember the panic as a child when several cases appeared in my home town.  Most people recovered quickly from polio but some suffered temporary or even permanent paralysis or death.

One of our neighbors had a little boy who had contacted polio.  He was five years old and could not walk.  His parents could not afford expensive leg braces so the little guy crawled everywhere he went.  He had a sister my age and I remember playing with his sister outside as he would try to keep up with us crawling behind.  He would wear out the knees in his pants from crawling all over outside.

When my school announced that the children would be given the vaccine my parents and many others were not sure if this was safe.  They were told that we would be injected with the polio vaccine.  The idea was that they would take the polio virus, kill several strains of it and then inject the benign viruses into the bloodstream.  The person’s immune system would create antibiodies to the virus and he/she would be able to resist future exposure to poliomyelitis.

My parents were afraid of the very idea of me being injected with the polio virus, even a benign form.  The very idea of polio was frightening.

Besides our neighbor’s son who was crippled from polio, we also had a friend whose body was twisted from the polio and she walked with braces on her legs and using crutches.

We heard of people who had to be placed in an iron lung when their chest muscles would not work enough to help them breath.

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After many long discussions they agreed to let me have the vaccine.  On the day we were to be vaccinated a bus came to our school.  We were taken down town to the civic center where there were doctors and nurses all lined up at tables and we walked through one at a time to get our shot.

I was terrified!

Just the thought of a shot was scary, but even more the realization that they were injecting the polio virus into my body.  My parents explained to me that it was not a “live” virus and it would not give me polio.  Still, I was scared.  This was all a new thing.

What if they were wrong?

What if I could not walk like our little neighbor boy?

What if I ended up wearing leg braces and using crutches like our friend?

The vaccine at that time consisted of three shots given a few weeks apart.  So, we were all scheduled to go back down town in a couple of weeks for the second shot.

However, the night after I was given the vaccine I began running a fever.  I complained to my mother that my legs were hurting me and I had to lay down.  Panic-stricken my mother called our family doctor.  He believed that I was somehow allergic to the shot and told my parents I should not get the other two vaccines.  He wrote a note telling the school I was not to participate in future vaccinations.

My parents and I worried over the next few years when we would hear of someone getting polio praying I would not come in contact with anyone who might pass the virus on to me.

Thankfully, that fear of polio was soon gone.

Following the vaccination of school children, there was a rapid decrease in cases of polio.

In 1955 there were 28,985

In 1956, 14,647

In 1957, 5,894

Because of widespread polio vaccination in this country, polio has been eliminated.

There is always danger of someone from another country bringing the polio vaccine with them when they travel to the USA.  But if we keep our program of polio vaccination current, we can rest assured there will be no epidemics again.  No children left crippled.

What is even more encouraging is that we have shared this vaccine with the world and today few countries have any current cases of polio.

polio map 1988

I rejoice in that knowledge because many of these poorer countries do not have access to good medical care that patients of polio would need.

When I remember the fear we had of polio and all those who were crippled because of it – people I knew – the fear the very word “polio” brought to us –

and now I see that to my children and grandchildren it is only a word – something they read about –

I’m thankful to God for the knowledge He has given us to win the battle over this dreadful disease.

I pray it always remains just a word to future generations.

Döstädning – Death Cleaning

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I have been “death cleaning” but did not realize it!

Over the years I have watched my friends fret as they anticipated turning 30, 40, 50 or 60.  I never understood why they got so up tight.  To me those milestones were just another birthday.

But this spring I turn 70 and that is a milestone I find hard to accept.

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70 – I can no longer count myself in the middle age group.  I’m old!

Thinking about this milestone in my life I have found myself looking around at all my “stuff” accumulated over the years and suddenly it just seems like too much “stuff.”  I have had an irresistible urge to clean house – to declutter.

While I certainly expect to live many more years I have looked around and thought:

Why am I hanging on to stuff I no longer need, want or use?

Why leave all this for my children to have to sort through deciding who gets what.  Or, what is really more likely, to not want any of it but feel guilty putting it in a yard sale or toting off to Goodwill?

Since my kids are grown, why do I need so many pots and pans, so many dishes?

Since it is now just my husband and me, do I really need two televisions, four recliners?

Talking to my husband he agreed that it is time to clean house, to declutter.  My daughter says I sound like a pregnant woman who is nesting just before her baby comes.

So we have started going through our home and making decisions.

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We have listed several items on the local swap websites and have been able to sell several items.

Our garage is full of boxes all ready to be priced and sorted for our community yard sale this spring.

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While I thought this was just my own unique experience I found out recently that there is a new book being published this month by Margareta Magnusson called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.  Translated from the Swedish döstädning the concept is not a negative focus on death.  It is just recognizing that maybe you should start shedding the baggage of life rather than leave it for your children to deal with.

Also – and this is where I am right now – having too much “stuff” can raise stress levels as you age and do not have the energy to keep it all looking neat and in order.

Besides, while I still have a lot of good years ahead, I realize there are more years behind me than ahead and I want to enjoy every minute of those remaining.

Instead of spending time and energy dusting, cleaning, I want to:

dance and enjoy fun times with my husband

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enjoy some road trips

road trips

and spend some romantic evenings just enjoying being together and watching the sun set.

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So – as I begin this death cleaning, I find I am already feeling much better – somehow freer to enjoy the years ahead.

So sorry kids!  Besides spending all our money on those road trips, now you find out there won’t be much else left in the house when we bite the dust!

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Collecting Joy

Joy Journal

A gift from my youngest daughter

March 4, 1998 – My youngest daughter surprised my husband and me by bringing home gifts for us both.  It was not our birthday, anniversary, not any holiday.  It was one of those “just because” gifts that are so special.

One of the gifts that day was “The Joy Journal” by Barbara Johnson.  Known by many as the “Christian Erma Bombeck”, she wrote many hilarious books such as:

Stick a ger

and

Humor Me

Barbara wrote in the introduction to this journal

This Journal is a new way for you to add joy to your life.  When good things happen to lighten your load and brighten your day, write them down.  When someone pays you a compliment, write it down.  When you remember nice things from the past, write them down.  Let the journal become a personal treasure chest – your collected thoughts of hope, gladness, and love.  When you start to collect joy, you will find it’s a magnet.  Joy is everywhere.  All you have to do is look for it and use it instead of saving it for Sunday-Best.

Less you think Barbara Johnson lived in denial and was just a “Pollyanna” telling people to “be happy” without really knowing what problems and sorrow were, she had plenty of sadness in her own life.

Barbara lost two sons, one in Vietnam and one at the hands of a drunk driver. Another was estranged for several years. A few years after her husband’s death she was diagnosed with Central Nervous System Lymphoma (CNS), a brain tumor and also diabetes.  Refusing to give in to despair, Barbara chose humor and looking for joy as a way to beat the odds of adversity.  In 2005 the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association awarded her the prestigious Life Time Achievement Award.  Her book “Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy” has sold over one million copies. While facing death, she was working on a proposed final book, Joyfully, Barb!

So – I took her at her advice and began looking for joy – and recording it.  Now 20 years later, I look back at all the entries in my journal and Barbara was right.  She had said this journal would be “a treasury of gladness to inspire you for years to come.”  And it has.

Most of my grandchildren are all grown up now – but I pull this journal out and relive those moments of joy I shared with them.  Here are just a few that make me smile and I  hope they will also bring a smile to your face.

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Matthew and Robert – my ‘little grandsons now all grown up

March 7, 1998 – Rob and Rebekah took Matthew to kindergarten roundup this week, a chance to show him the classroom, meet the teachers, etc.  After coming home he informed us that he was going to love kindergarten because there were lots of girls and they were going to love him!

January 16, 1999 – Robert spent the night with us and I took him to the Putnam Museum.  On the way there he just kept talking and talking.  I always want to give my grandchildren my attention when they are with me, but I had a headache and did not really feel like listening to his chatter.  So I told him, “Robert, Grandma has a headache and I don’t really feel like paying attention to what you are saying right now.”  His response was so funny, I had to try hard not to laugh.  He said, “It’s okay Grandma.  You don’t have to listen.  I just want to talk.”

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My beautiful granddaughter who is also my namesake, Barbara

April 4, 1998 – Took Barbara shopping at the mall.  Brought her a necklace and a headband.  We had tacos and sundaes.  She has been trying hard to “be good” so her parents would let her have this date with me.  As we were enjoying our sundaes she told me, “Momma is wondering if I am going to still be good tomorrow.  I’m not going to tell her but I’m going to surprise her and be good.  I’m going to try hard to be good but if I mess up, I’m going to say ‘I’m sorry.'”

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Granddaughter, Abby, has a lot of musical talent

I don’t have a date written down for the laughter this granddaughter gave us but when she was quite young she came with her siblings to spent a week with us.  Helping her Aunt make some cookies, she sat on the counter and began chattering away.  Seeing a frown on her grandpa’s face she asked, “Am I annoying you Grandpa?”  When he said yes she quickly responded “Good!”  Which brought laughter to us all – including Grandpa.

There are many, many more memories I could share but I’m sure at some point you would stop reading.  But I want to encourage you to look for joy that is all around you and record those special times.  Not only will you enjoy the moment, but like me, years later you can remember and experience the joy all over again.

As Barbara Johnson said in her journal, “Laughter is like a shock absorber that eases the blows of life.”

Get busy looking for joy!  I wish you good hunting!

 

 

Five Years and Counting!

November  4, 2002 – Call from doctor – biopsy shows I have cancer.

November 14, 2002 – Surgeon tells me after surgery that the cancer was very advanced and I will definitely need chemo and radiation.

November 27, 2002 – Doctor tells me the odds are not in my favor.  He says chances are slim I will still be alive in ten years.

No, I’m only 54 years old.  It’s eight more years until I can retire.  That means if I even live to reach early retirement, I will only have two years to enjoy with my husband.  For most of my marriage my husband has been an evangelist, missionary or pastor.  I have worked right alongside him, providing music for services, training Sunday School and youth leaders, teaching Bible classes and overseeing ministries for women.  Being a pastor is a 24/7 job (at least for those like my husband who have a shepherd’s heart).  I cannot count the times our own plans have been put on hold because someone in the church had a need.  My own job required us to be at home Monday through Friday – and weekends were filled with church obligations so vacation times were few and far between.  I was so looking forward to the day we could retire and have some time for just the two of us.

Lord, please let me live to retire and give me two years – just two years of retirement with Paul.

April 8, 2010 – I turn 62 today.  I had thought I would take early retirement now.  If I did, that would give me those two years with Paul in retirement.  However, looking at our finances I realize it would be better both now and in the future if I work until I’m 65.  My doctor has now told me it appears I have beat old man cancer and may very well live much longer than first expected.  Still, that clock is ticking.  If I wait to retire at 65 I will be past the ten years.  How many years of retirement will I have?

Lord, let me make it until 2013 and then give me two years in retirement with my husband.

January 4, 2013 – retirement is here!  I have retired about three months before 65 but it’s close enough and I’m ready to begin a new life.  I have reached that ten-year survival mark.

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Lord, please give me two years of retirement to enjoy with my husband.

January 4, 2018 – God has not only allowed me to reach retirement age, not only given me those two years of retirement I prayed for – but today I begin my sixth year of retirement.

Thank you Lord for every day, every week, every month, every year you give me to enjoy time with my husband.  

 

 

My Addiction Cost Me 27 Days in 2017

Grandma's Ramblings

I am addicted.  I have made my confession before.  Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

I have tried hard to overcome it but I have not been able to do so as I reported in  My Addiction has Returned.

And now this year it has taken 27 days of my life.

We played 216 games in 2017.  It takes us about 3 hours to play a game.  So that amounts to 27 days playing scrabble.

We play on a super scrabble board which has twice the letters of regular scrabble and an expanded board.

We also take forever to take a turn because we are so competitive and try to either play a seven letter word which gives us 50 extra points or find a place on the board to give us triple or quadruple points.

scrabble 3

Winning with us is like a seesaw.  I get a couple of games ahead…

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My Addiction Cost Me 27 Days in 2017

I am addicted.  I have made my confession before.  Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

I have tried hard to overcome it but I have not been able to do so as I reported in  My Addiction has Returned.

And now this year it has taken 27 days of my life.

We played 216 games in 2017.  It takes us about 3 hours to play a game.  So that amounts to 27 days playing scrabble.

We play on a super scrabble board which has twice the letters of regular scrabble and an expanded board.

We also take forever to take a turn because we are so competitive and try to either play a seven letter word which gives us 50 extra points or find a place on the board to give us triple or quadruple points.

scrabble 3

Winning with us is like a seesaw.  I get a couple of games ahead, then he comes backs, ties me and pulls ahead two or three games.  The most anyone of us has been ahead is five games.  When I get that many games behind, the adrenalin kicks in and I HAVE to catch up.

 

Keeping scores since 2008 we ended this year with a tie.  We each won 107 games with two tied games.  In the ten years of keeping score, I have won one more game than he has.  One more game in ten years.  What a tight contest!

So into the New Year we go!  Suspect mounts!

Will he be able to win more games than me in 2018?

Will I pull ahead even more?

For those who follow my blog and are tired of hearing about scrabble (which proves my addiction) I promise no more posts on this subject for a while (at least I promise I will try).

So just a few scrabble jokes to end this blog and start another attempt to overcome my addiction.

  • In Russia when a baby is born, the parents play a game of scrabble and the letters they pick up is the name of their child.
  • Scrabble is all fun and games until someone loses an “i”
  • the dreaded Old MacDonald rack – eieiooo
  • I accidentally swallowed some scrabble tiles.  My next movement could spell disaster.