Mountain or Valley – He’s Still There!

Our pastor has been doing a series on Psalm 23 – taking one verse at a time. Today she spoke on one verse that has been such a blessing to me throughout the past almost 20 years. It is the verse that says:

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou are with me.

That is the verse that came to my mind the day of my first visit to the oncologist following surgery for breast cancer. His first words to me were “The odds are not in your favor.” Immediately the above verse came to my mind.

I did not know if the Lord was assuring me I would walk through this valley to health and life on the other side or if I would walk through this valley into death.

What was comforting to me was the assurance that He was going to be with me through this time.

Looking back on my life as I near the last years of life I am so thankful to see all the times He has been there for me.

What comfort I find in knowing He will continue to walk with me through the rest of my life – both on the mountain times and the deep valley experiences life may bring.

At this point in my life I would say I’m mostly experiencing those “mountain” times. Last week my husband and I celebrated 37 years of marriage. What a blessing it is to be able to say that he is my bff and our love for one another is deeper and stronger than the day we married. We are blessed with good health for our age and we have a beautiful home to enjoy.

Yet I have been facing some “valley” moments these last few weeks. When I had surgery for cancer the surgeon apologized and said that he had done quite a bit of nerve damage as the lymph nodes were full of cancerous cells and he wanted to make sure he removed all the cancer. That plus the extensive radiation I had has left me with pain ever since. The damage done to my side has, with age, also led to a damaged rotator cuff. Surgeons now do not want to do surgery to repair the cuff because there has been so much nerve damage already done.

For whatever reason – old age I guess – the chronic pain that I have learned to live with has recently become much worse. It is especially difficult when I try to lay down and I have come to dread bedtime.

This morning my church family gathered around me and prayed for me. What an encouragement that was. One young man put some legs on his prayers and offered to come help me with my housework, even to vacuum my floors. My husband is able to help me and I refuse to just sit and give in – got to keep moving. But it was so kind of him to offer. That’s what real love is all about.

How blessed I am – how good to know not only that God is with me – but He has given me friends to love and support me.

Whatever situation dear reader you may be in – let me encourage you to lean on God. He is our Good Shepherd and His promises to be with us in “all” seasons I have found to be true.

Little Miss Vain

For those of you who follow my blog you know I recently stopped wearing a wig after 19 years post cancer and I am trying to get my hair to grow back.

Give Me Hair!!!

I have googled “hair loss” “hair growth” and read all kinds of articles and commercials on products that will help your hair grow thicker. It’s amazing the number of products and claims made to grow hair. If I tried every product on the market, it would cost a fortune.

It took some courage but I have been going out in public without my wig. Of course all my friends tell me I look fine with my thin hair. But what are they doing to do? Say “Barbara, you look terrible, put your wig back on?”

While I don’t have a lot of hair yet what I had was getting scraggly so I made an appointment at the local salon for a hair cut. I imagined my stylist laughing when I walked in and asked for a hair cut. “What hair?”

When the stylist asked me what I wanted – well why not ask for the best????

Realizing that beautiful – magnificent – ravishing might be too much to ask, I suggested just a “clean-up” of the scraggly ends.

Now I’m massaging my head every night (supposed to increase blood circulation to scalp) and using some essential oils. Also taking Biotin although most legitimate sources I read say there is no proof that this will really help.

With all the problems in our world – politics, Covid 19 and vaccines, the economy – I know I am a little vain focusing on my hair – or lack thereof.

Gunsmoke, Joe Namath and Medicare Supplements

I wrote a few years ago about a favorite show from my childhood – Gunsmoke. You can check out that post here:

Anyone Remember Gunsmoke?

My husband and I found a TV channel that has Gunsmoke reruns every day at noon. Several days a week we watch the show while eating lunch. By now most of the shows we have already seen and know the ending before it even starts.

Obviously Gunsmoke is a show that appeals to old folks. We laugh because most of the commercials are for Medicare supplements, Depends, or in-home care. It is amazing to me how many different commercials they have for Medicare supplements and how untruthful they are.

One that plays over and over shows Joe Namath (remember this former professional football player also did a commercial years ago wearing pantyhose) talking about you getting all the Medicare benefits you deserve.

While Joe talks, very large letters appear on the screen listing these “new” benefits. Rides to medical appointments, private home aides, nurse and doctor visits by telephone. Even dental and vision coverage. All of these extra benefits Joe says, you can get with zero premiums. Joe then encourages you to call the number on the screen and assures you there is no charge for the call. He says “One simple call gives you free, professional assistance to help you get more benefits and save money.” It sounds like a public service announcement from Medicare and the screen is even designed to look like it is from Medicare.

Sound too good to be true?

There is a lot Joe does not tell you. While the ad says that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid has announced these new benefits and makes it seem as if they are part of Medicare, original Medicare parts A and B do not cover benefits like this. They are considered to be “benefits for daily maintenance”. To get these extra benefits requires you to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. A plan offered by insurance companies.

Joe also says that “All of these benefits may be available to you at no additional cost.” While the screen is showing all these extra benefits and Joe is waving his hands around and talking rapidly, at the bottom of the screen in very small print it says that “plan premiums, co-payments and co-insurance may apply.”

These ads encourage you to call the number on the screen. They make it seem like they are doing you a great favor as they say there will be no charge for the call. Of course not. When you call you will be speaking – not to a Medicare government official – but to an insurance agent. This agent may not even live in your state. What happens if they sign you up and you then have a question. Will you be able to reach them when you need them?

I am certainly no expert on this subject and the Medicare Advantage plans may be the best option for some. However, I feel there should be a little more honesty in these commercials so that senior citizens are not fooled into thinking that Medicare is offering more benefits at no cost to them. They need to know they are dealing with insurance companies whose whole purpose is too make a profit and not with a government program offering them something for nothing. Instead of calling some number on the screen I would recommend anyone thinking about Medicare Advantage plans to contact a local insurance agent.

The American Medical Association passed a resolution in 2019 that says: 

“Whereas, Medicare Advantage plans are heavily marketed to seniors by insurance companies, with less than ideal transparency in advertising; … and 

“Whereas, Presentations by insurance company officials to seniors can overemphasize the value of different options and can create confusion; therefore be it 

“RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association encourage AARP, insurance companies and other vested parties to develop simplified tools and guidelines for comparing and contrasting Medicare Advantage plans.”

The AMA identified the need for tools to help individuals go beyond the TV commercials and get the information they need to make a smart decision.  

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid has created a “Medicare Plan Finder” on their website Medicare.gov to help any senior trying to decide what works best for them.

Joe is not the only one doing these commercials. I have to wonder just how much money he makes with this less than truthful ad? It must be profitable because more and more celebrities are making these ads.

Watching one hour episode of Gunsmoke we counted six Medicare commercials. Much as we enjoy Gunsmoke we are beginning to think we need to find something else to watch during lunch time.

Any suggestions?

Give Me Hair!!!

My latest prayer

When I was a little girl I had beautiful red hair and my mother fixed it in curls like Shirley Temple. Everywhere we went people would comment on my hair and I felt special.

As a teenager I always felt like I was not “pretty” but I still took comfort in the thought that my hair was “pretty.”

Then as an adult cancer came and took my hair.

After cancer treatment ended my doctor told me my hair would grow back – possibly even thicker than before. But it did not. After a year or so he ran various tests to see if there was something else wrong as his cancer patients had always seen their hair grow back. We eventually found out that one of the three chemo drugs I took caused more permanent hair loss.

I did not really mind too much as I had worn wigs during my treatment and no one knew it was not my own hair. Slowly a little bit of hair came back but it was very thin and grey. So I just continued to wear my red wig and enjoy being that “special” redhead. My husband said he loved it when we were at ministers’ conference and someone asked him who was his wife, he could just say “the redhead.”

As time went by I realized it was probably time to accept that I was no longer a young redhead and join my husband with grey hair.

So I found a beautiful grey wig and made the adjustment to losing the “special” way I felt as a redhead.

Still, grey can be beautiful, right?

After accepting my grey hair I had to get hearing aids. With aids and glasses it became hard to get my wig adjusted and the ear tabs aggravate me. The last few years my hair has come back some but is still thin. I wonder if wearing a wig all the time is preventing it from growing back. So I am going without the wig and praying it will grow back. I always loved being a redhead and it was hard to go grey. Now I struggle with having little hair.

It has been hard for me to go out in public with my thin hair, but people tell me it looks good. (Of course what are they going to say – “you look terrible.”) 🙂

I am using different essential oils with lots of vitamins and nutrients and massaging my head each night. I will give it this summer without a wig and see what happens.

In the meantime I’ll just keep playing the Cowsills song and make it my prayer.

I Love the Words “Grandma”

I still remember the day I became a mother! Looking at the little girl in my arms I did not realize how much you could love another person. Blessed once again a few years later to again hold a second daughter in my arms, I felt that love just grow. Looking at my daughters, I thought it was impossible to love more.

Then I became a grandmother! There is truly no greater joy than that of hearing someone call “Grandma!”

On this Mother’s Day I thank God for my mother, for the privilege of being a mother myself – but best of all for the joy of being a grandmother.

Funny how the household rules change with grandchildren.

No More “Huh” or “What”

For some time I have been denying that I am having trouble hearing. Watching a movie or listening to my pastor on Sunday there are times when I will miss a complete sentence or two because I just cannot hear well. When listening to friends I find myself asking them “what” “huh” or just trying to guess what they said from the part of the sentence I did hear.

This is not good for meaningful conversation. Trying to “fill in the blanks” when you do not hear everything someone said can lead to real miscommunication.

My husband, who has worn a hearing aid for several years now, has pleaded with me to get a hearing test. I found myself turning the TV up louder and louder until he insists we must turn it down.

While I recognized I was not hearing well, I hated the thought of needing a hearing aid. Hearing aids to me were for old people and I did not want to accept that title for myself.

Still, I knew I could not deny my hearing loss much longer. Some days my husband would not put in his hearing aid because we were just staying at home and he did not want to bother with them. However, before much time passed I would insist he put them on because he kept denying he was not having trouble hearing – but I just needed to speak up.

When we began having that same conversation – but this time it was me who was insisting he was mumbling, I found it hard to deny I needed help in hearing.

The straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak came on Easter Sunday. My youngest daughter and her family joined us for lunch. After lunch we took communion as a family. When my husband finished leading us through the sacraments, I thought he said he was going to pray. Bowing my head I kept waiting to hear him pray.

When several seconds had passed and no sound was coming, I looked up to see my family all looking at me. My daughter said in that exasperating tone that told me I needed to listen, “Mother, he asked you to pray.”

I quickly prayed and I knew I was going to be in trouble when I finished.

Again in that very exasperated tone my daughter declared, “Mother, you have to get a hearing test.”

I agreed. So – I scheduled an appointment.

No surprise – I failed the test. So now there’s the cost to consider. Good hearing aids are not cheap. I checked out different models. This one was the cheapest, but probably not the best.

Now that my husband and I both have hearing aids, buying Christmas presents for each other will be easier.

Only one thing wrong with having hearing aids. Now I can’t excuse myself from not listening to others by saying I just did not hear.

Hope in the Storm

As my husband and I age, we find we are no longer able to be as active as we once were. For years my husband was a pastor and I worked alongside him teaching Bible classes, playing for worship and all the many tasks that come with serving a community of Christians.

This year I celebrated 72 years of life and my husband celebrated 80. While most people that meet us do not think we are as old as that and we do remain alert and active, we find our bodies do not always want to keep up with our thoughts and desires to be productive. Many days the afternoon hours call for us to take a nap.

Still, because we have both experienced true miracles in times of serious medical problems, we desire to still give and help others. (I share these stories in these posts)

I’m Back With a Miracle Man!

Cancer Survivor

Since my husband loves to paint he recently painted a beautiful rainbow scene he called “Hope in the Storm.”

The rainbow to Christians is a reminder of God’s promise to Noah after the flood. To us when we see the rainbow after a storm, we are reminded of the hope we have that God is faithful.

After receiving several compliments on the painting and its message my husband decided to paint smaller versions of this rainbow and send to those we know who are battling a health issue. He has send ones to young people fighting leukemia, to a young woman fighting a heart disease and to several others with different ailments. It has been a joy to hear from them that the painting and the message it gives of “hope in the storm” is an encouragement to them.

It blesses me to see the joy my husband has received as many have told him how much his painting has meant to them.

It is so true that when you give to others, it comes back to you.

Can I say I’m proud of my husband that at 80 he still is thinking of ways to bless others?

If you would like to see more of his paintings, check it out at PWL Art Gallery.

https://www.facebook.com/PaulWLaneArtGallery/

I Am Not Alone

What a week this has been!  Sunday evening my husband was rushed into emergency surgery for a subdural hematoma.  Because of the coronavirus I could not go to the hospital with him.  At 3:30 that afternoon the surgeon’s assistant called me and told me they were doing emergency surgery and without the surgery my husband would not live.  They promised to call me when the surgery was over.  But hours later I still did not have a call.

I finally located ICU and found out that he had come out of surgery and was in a room in their Critical Care Unit.  They assured me they would have the doctor call me.

It was not until 11 PM that a doctor called.

The week has been the most challenging I have ever experienced.  Knowing my husband was in critical condition was bad enough but the fear that he might die without me present kept me awake.

However, I truly believe in the power of God when His people pray.

The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and produces wonderful results.  James 5:16

Through my family, my church family and FB the word was put out there and prayers began all around the country.

Sunday evening he was near death’s door.  Today – Friday he is out of ICU and in rehab.  It is clear we have a ways to go – probably one or two more weeks in rehab and then work at home.  But I am rejoicing – his speech is now slow but he can speak and he clearly understands.  His right side is weak and he needs a walker but he can walk.  With more prayers of God’s people and this therapy I’m believing for a complete and total recovery.

However, I realize that for a few weeks or months I will have to carry the burden of keeping our home going and will need to devote more time to him and his recovery.

Therefore, I will give up my blog.  I don’t know if this will be a temporary thing or if I will resume later.

I want to thank all my followers for your kind comments and I have enjoyed many of your blogs also.

God bless you all!

Here’s my song for this time and season.

 

The Story Behind the Song (It is No Secret)

Music is magic.

Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand….Stevie Wonder

Music is the emotional life of most people….Leonard Cohen

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain….Bob Marley

I see the power of music every month as I play for the residents of a nursing home in my town.   Eyes that look so dull without emotion suddenly light up as they recognize a song from their childhood.  Bodies that were slumped in their chairs suddenly sit up as a song brings back memories of days gone by.  Faces that were so sad looking suddenly light up with a big smile as I play a song that was once their favorite.  Voices that were silent began to sing along as music works its magic.

As I research songs from the past to play each week it has been interesting to see the stories behind the songs.  Each Friday for a few weeks I thought I would share of these stories behind the songs that I have discovered.  Hope you enjoy.

This week’s story is about the writer of an old gospel song – It is No Secret.

The writer, Stuart Hamblen was a songwriter, cowboy singer and appeared in motion pictures with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and John Wayne.  My parents loved Roy Roger and Dale Evans, his wife, and was a big fan of these movies.

His songs were recorded by many artists including Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.  Perhaps his best known song was This Old House that was recorded by Rosemary Clooney and was Song of the Year in 1954.

Part of the Hollywood scene, Hamblen’s wife tried to get him to attend the Billy Graham crusade held in Los Angeles in 1949.  At first he refused but then asked to meet personally with Graham.  During his conversation with Graham, he committed his life to Jesus Christ.

Shortly thereafter in a visit with his friend, John Wayne, he was asked about the change in his life.  He replied, “It’s no secret what God can do in a man’s life.”  Encouraged by John Wayne to write a song about that beautiful thought, Hamblen went home and began thinking about it.

When he heard the hall clock chime out the midnight hour, he was inspired with the words of the first verse.

“The chimes of time ring out the news, another day is through”

Hamblen went on to complete the song which has been sung throughout all the small churches in town after town.

If you have not heard the song – or if you just would like to hear it again – here’s Elvis Presley’s version.

And on a personal note:  I truly have found

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Enjoy The Moment!

Growing up I often heard my mother say that as you age time flies faster.  I always thought that was silly.  Time is time.  It does not move slower or faster.  A minute is 60 seconds, an hour is 60 minutes.  Same for everyone.

Now that my mother is gone and I am the old lady in the room, I totally understand what she meant.

time flies

 

As we approach the end of 2019 it is hard for me to believe another year is almost gone.  It seems only yesterday my husband and I put our house in Illinois on the market and took a big step to move to Michigan.  At our age (71 and 79) starting over in a new town, a new state was a little scary.  After our house sold we loaded all our belongings in a truck and headed out for a new adventure.  And here we are already in our second year here.

Come spring I will be 72.  When I look in the mirror and see the old woman with grey hair and wrinkles I often wonder how she got there?  Where is that redhead with the smooth complexion?

My mother was a strong, active woman and I found it hard to keep up with her as a young adult.  The memory of the day I was walking with her and suddenly realized  I needed to slow down so she could keep up with me is still so strong.  Now I see my daughter doing the same with me.

It truly seems time is flying much faster as I approach old age.  (Notice I said approach.  I still refuse to believe I am old.)

Looking at life from the last stage I can say it has been a great ride.  I plan to enjoy these last years to the fullest.

enjoy

  • Life, if lived well, is long enough….Seneca
  • Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments….Rose Kennedy
  • The truth about motherhood is that the days drag on but the years fly past…ChildInsider
  • Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind….Nathaniel Hawthorn
  • Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today….Mother Teresa

As we head into the Christmas holidays, enjoy every moment.  Don’t spend time regretting what you may not have, but enjoy what this year, this moment gives you.

 

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