I Asked for Two Years – I Now Have Nine Years

When I was 54 years old I was diagnosed with a very aggressive and advanced stage of breast cancer. My doctor said I had only a small chance of still being alive in ten years.

Ten years – that would put me into retirement age. At that time I planned to retire at age 62. So I figured if I could last ten years and retire at 62 that would give me two years to enjoy retirement with my husband.

For years I had worked a secular job which kept me busy with work Monday through Friday. My job was a very demanding job and often required overtime. When the weekend came I was really not free to enjoy time with my husband because he was a pastor. That meant that much of his weekend was involved with the church.

So I thought if I could just make it to those ten years, that would give me two years of retirement to enjoy more time with my husband.

That is what I asked for – “Lord, let me live to retire and give me two years to enjoy some quality and quantity time with my husband.”

As the time grew near for my 62nd birthday, I was thankful that I had made it eight years – but finances dictated that I needed to work until I was 65.

“Lord, let me live until I am 65 and give me two years of retirement with my husband.”

Well, obviously I made to 65. What is so wonderful is today I celebrate nine years of retirement. Nine years ago today I walked out of MidAmerican Energy Company for the last time. Still praying for those two years of retirement with my husband.

God has given me now nine years of retirement – and I am still going strong looking forward to many more years.

What I have been able to enjoy in those nine years.

Seeing my oldest daughter get her Master’s degree
Seeing my youngest daughter become an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church
Being able to just “hang out” with my grandsons
Enjoying my “crazy” grandchildren – and seeing two of them happily married
Meeting my first great grandson – and looking forward to seeing the second one.
Getting to watch this youngest granddaughter grow up.

And all the trips we have been able to make:

All across the south loving the old oak trees and the Spanish moss.

Enjoying the beach and the carriage rides.

And out west to Wyoming and Montana following the Pony Express/Mormon Trail.

Being a history nut I have been able to visit many former presidents’ homes and I loved walking the grounds of Fort Laramie.

Seeing the names carved into the rock at Register Cliff.

But most of all, I am so grateful for all the quality and quantity time I have had with my husband, my bff, these past nine years.

Still my bff after nine years of “real” togetherness!

Thank you Lord for your blessings on me!

Let Us Not Forget

Eighty years ago today our nation was attacked at Pearl Harbor.

My parents’ generation sacrificed much in the next few years. My father was in the Navy and came back from the war with many difficult memories of death and danger.

My mother was left to take care of three children on her own.

President Franklin Roosevelt created the OPA (Office of Price Administration). This organization placed ceilings on prices of goods to prevent companies from taking advantage of the situation to raise prices on goods and also created rationing to limit consumption.

Ration books were issued to families restricting many things such as sugar and gasoline. I remember hearing stories of how people would trade their sugar rations for gasoline so they would be able to get to work.

Families were encouraged to raise their own vegetables to allow more food to be canned for the military. These “victory gardens” led to the government publishing guides on how to plant a garden and how to can the produce. Women’s clubs began with women sharing new recipes and ideas of how to create tasty food with less ingredients available.

No woman wanted to go out on the town without nylon hose. As the nylon was needed for parachute and other military needs, the hose became hard to find. (Like toilet paper in our Covid-19 situation).

When I see our generation facing a different type of crisis with Covid-19 – and the response we have made, I wonder how we compare to this “Greatest Generation.”

This past week one of the last of that generation died.

Bob Dole served in the Army and was injured in a German machine gun attack. He lost a kidney, he was temporarily paralyzed from the neck down. While he regained mobility, his arms never fully recovered. He lost the use of his right arm and his left arm was partially numb. He said he had to allow 50 extra minutes each morning to get dressed.

There are many stories of other men/women I could write about. But I’m sure you all know parents/grandparents of that “Greatest Generation” who lived through the Depression and World War II.

Sadly as my generation is gone, I wonder if anyone will remember and appreciate the sacrifice of that generation.

Let us not forget!

Where Did The Time Go?

Fifty-one years ago today I became a mother for the first time. That day will always be one of my favorite memories. As I held my little girl in my arms I whispered to her that we would be best friends. All the fun we would have – shopping, reading books, playing games, singing songs.

I thought then that I had all the time in the world with this little one. I was wrong. Too quickly she became a toddler getting into everything. Then a little girl off to school. Her first day of school she gave me a scare as she did not get off the bus at our street. We still laugh about that day, but at the moment I was one frightened mother.

Then a teenager. Although we often hear parents complaining about teenagers I found the years when my daughters were teenagers some of the happiest of my life.

Finally she was a young woman in love. Then came marriage – and later three beautiful children making me a grandmother. Time has passed too quickly and she is now a grandmother (which means I am a great-grandmother). How did that happen?

Fifty one years – looking back at 1970 – what a difference.

In 1970 prices were:

  • Hershey’s candy bar – $.15
  • gallon of milk – $1.15
  • dozen eggs – $.62
  • pound of coffee – $.91
  • loaf of bread – $.25
  • can of Coke – $.10
  • average movie ticket – $1.55
  • postage stamp – $.06
  • median cost of house – $26,600
  • average cost of car – $3,500

Of course, income was much less then also. Median wages was $8,734

The top 10 TV shows were:

  • Marcus Welby M.D.
  • The Flip Wilson Show
  • Here’s Lucy
  • Ironside
  • Gunsmoke
  • ABC Movie of the Week
  • Hawaii Five-o
  • Medical Center
  • Bonanza
  • The F.B.I.

How times have changed. We did not have cell phones. The first commercially available cellphone was developed by Motorola and went on sale in the U.S. in 1984. The phone was huge, cost $3,995.00 and was only good for about thirty minutes of use before you had to charge the battery again.

Old Cell Phone

Other technolgies we did not have in 1970:

  • MRI – 1977
  • e-mail – 1971
  • post-it note – 1974
  • Rubik’s Cube – 1974
  • first commercial barcode scan – 1974
  • Apple computer – 1976
  • Sony Walkman – 1979

Looking back over these fifty-one years, while life has changed in so many ways – not only in my family but in my country, one thing remains true.

I have not lost that magical feeling of being a mother. Although my daughter now lives hundreds of miles from me and I do not get to see her as much as I would like, when I hear her voice on the phone or get a text, my heart still smiles.

Happy birthday dear Rebekah!

I Have Hair!!!

Those who follow my blog know that I lost my hair 19 years ago after 16 treatments with three powerful chemo drugs following surgery for breast cancer. Although the doctor assured my hair would come back for years I did not. It was only a few years ago that we found out that one of the drugs I was given could cause permanent hair loss.

I was okay with that – I just wore a wig. No one ever knew it was a wig and were surprised when they found out.

Lately, however, I became tired of the wig. Old age I guess. I also was showing some hair growth – not much – very thin – but hair.

My two daughters encouraged me to take the wig off and see if my hair might grow back. They wondered if the wig might be preventing hair growth

I was scared – but I decided to take the plunge and do it.

My approach to difficulties of life has always been:

with a strong faith in God and a good sense of humor I can handle this.

So – I wrote a couple of blogs trying to make fun of my baldness.

Now – after about three months without the wig – I HAVE HAIR!!!!

It’s pretty thin – but it’s my hair!!!!

As it grew back it was a sloppy unkempt mess. I had to let it get some length before I could get it styled so for a few weeks I was so embarrased to go out in public – but I just remembered my prayer “Give me hair!” and was thankful that God was answering that prayer.

Finally a couple of weeks ago I was able to go to a beauty salon and get it styled. The stylist kept asking me if I wanted to use a curling iron or a blow dryer and how I wanted it styled. . Since it had been 19 years since I had any hair to comb or style, 19 years since I had been to a beauty salon, I put myself in her hands and trusted her to guide me through this.

So once again I have hair. It is not thick – it is not red – but it is my hair! I am getting used to the white/grey and actually beginning to like it.

I am so happy and grateful – I HAVE HAIR!!!

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.