My One Night of Luxury!

Shortly after my retirement my husband and I made a trip to North Carolina to visit our children who live there. On the way we decided to stop and explore the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina.

Built by George Vanderbilt, grandson of famed industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt, in Asheville, North Carolina in 1887 it is unbelievable how big it is. The home contains over four acres of floor space and includes 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces.

On the grounds is a conservatory which is full of beautiful orchids. We were told there are over 600 different orchids. I could not of course get pictures of all 600 but I did my best to capture some of the most beautiful ones.

While there we decided to spend one night at The Inn on Biltmore Estate. We knew it would be expensive, but thought after all these years of working, we deserved one night of luxury. The view from our room was wonderful.

The lobby and lounge areas made us feel so pampered.

In our bedroom we found custom bathrobes and slippers. They offered complimentary night turn-down service, but we passed on that.

When it was time for supper my husband suggested we go into town to find a restaurant, but I wanted to enjoy a meal in their dining room – it looked so special.

Wanting to keep me happy, he agreed. After we sat down and saw the menus, I realized this was probably not a good idea. But, too embarrassed to get up and leave, and still wanting to enjoy one night of luxury, we stayed. The food was excellent and we really enjoyed the meal. When we had finished the waiter asked if we would like a cup of coffee. My husband passed, but I asked for a cup. Thinking after spending such a large amount on the meal, the coffee would be complimentary, I sipped my cup that was served in very delicate china and enjoyed every drop.

I was very upset when we got our bill (which I knew would be much too high for our budget) to discover they had charged us $4.00 for this tiny cup of coffee.

The next morning we enjoyed some coffee in the library (which was free and served in paper cups) and read the newspapers savoring one more moment of luxury.

I felt a little guilty for spending that much money for one night – but looking back now I’m glad we did it. What price do you put on good memories!

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!

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?

We Did It! Now on to 2000 Games!

Those who have been following my blog for awhile know that my husband and I are Scrabble addicts.

Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

We have actually got out of bed at 3 am, played a game and then went back to bed!

We began keeping score in 2008. We have the score books from all these years. My husband keeps score and he keeps tab of the total of games we each win – by how many points and even the seven-letter words we play.

At the beginning of 2020 we realized we were close to playing 1000 games – so we set a goal of doing just that. And with the year it has been cooped up at home – it was a good thing to keep us from going crazy!

We have the official Scrabble dictionary and after several challenges by me, my husband uses it a lot to make sure he is spelling the word correctly so I don’t challenge him again.

Being totally crazy, we even have a list of all the three-letter words in the dictionary – and we allow ourselves to use the list to help us make more points.

As we began the last game of 2020 I was one game ahead of my husband and I wanted to win this game and end this 1000 game stretch ahead. However, it did not start out too good for me. These were the letters I had – no vowels.

My husband’s hand was not much better. He had no vowels also but he did have a “y” which he could use. After playing the word “sty” I had to take a “0” for my first turn because I could not do anything with these letters. So – the game did not start off in my favor.

I gained the lead quickly and when we were about two-thirds done, I was ahead 487 to 434. However, it game turned to his favor when he was able to spell a seven-letter word which gave him 50 extra points and he won the game with a score of 711 to my 692.

So – after 1000 games in 12 years we ended all tied.

We each have won 498 games and we have four tied games.

A friend told me she found it hard to believe we were tied after all these games. She said she thought one of us was letting the other one win. Clearly she is not a very close friend because if she were, she would know we are too competitive for that.

Since it took us 12 years to reach 1000 games, I seriously doubt we will ever see 2000, but we can have fun continuing to challenge each other – and keep our old brains active.

My husband fell earlier this year and was rushed to the hospital for surgery following a brain bleed. I worried if he would still be able to compete with me in Scrabble. The doctors told us that one of the possible side effects of this injury was damage to his ability to speak or read and communicate. It was such a blessing to see that he recovered quickly and could keep me on my toes. We both think getting right back to Scrabble was a big help in that recovery.

I’m Back With a Miracle Man!

Well – I did want to end ahead of him – but such is life. I’ll just have to put on my big girl pants and go on.

My Own Personal “Rainbow Row”

When we moved into our condo last spring my husband decided to work on the unfinished basement and create a place where he could fully enjoy his love of painting.  Before this move there was never a really good place for him to keep all his painting paraphernalia.  A place where he could also display his art work.

So – he began working and made a great “man cave.”

The Making of a Man Cave

DSCF0002(1)(1)

On a row, he decided to work on the second room in the basement.  Instead of putting up dry wall or paneling, he designed a mural – just for me.

A few years ago we spent several weeks in Charleston, South Carolina.  I fell in love with the city and especially loved the area called the Rainbow Row.  Paul bought me a tray painted with the colorful houses and it sits on a shelf above my kitchen sink.  Often I stand for a moment at the sink and remember that beautiful place.

Since we decided we would make this room a place where we could watch TV in the summer when the basement would be cooler than upstairs, he wanted to create for me that beautiful row of colorful houses.

These historic homes were built around 1740 and local merchants had their shops on the ground floor while they lived on the top floor.  At that time the houses were not the colorful ones we see today.

After the Civil War the area became a slum.  Then in 1931 Dorothy Haskell Legge brought the homes numbering 99 through 101 East Bay.  After renovating them, she had the houses painted pink.  Soon future owners began buying the house on East Bay and painting them in pastel shades.  By 1945 after most of the houses on this street had been restored.   Mrs. Legge was given an award from the Preservation Society of Charleston in 1992.

If you ever have the good fortune to visit Charleston, you must see this beautiful row of homes.

rrrrrrrrr

I hope someday to go back and view these homes in person, but until that day, thanks to my husband I can enjoy the memories with my own Rainbow Row.  He is painting the concrete floor a grey/blue and soon I will have an easy chair to sit, read and remember!

86858039_489153725082604_8272839136516243456_o

He has started a mural of the sea wall which is near Rainbow Row.  It is a work in progress as he will be adding sailboats to the sea.  This is still a rough scene but will be great when he is done.  Can’t wait for him to get that finished.

Image may contain: indoor

Enjoying Retirement – My Husband the Artist

When my husband and I married years ago he told me he used to paint.  However, he only had one painting to show me.  It was one he had given to his oldest daughter.  I found it interesting because if you looked at one way it appears the people were walking forward side by side; viewed at a different angle it appears they are walking to the left – or is it to the right?

 

walking

Over the years he had given all his other paintings away.  I tried to encourage him to take up painting again.  One evening he sat down and starting painting.  I loved the finished product.

64238536_344046396260005_445541292898779136_n

My camera does not do the painting justice.  In the trees above there is a small cabin but my camera does not pick that up.

He did not continue painting because being a pastor and a family man his time for painting was limited.  Also we had no area where he could really set up his paints and work at his leisure until a painting was done.

While he did not paint, his love of art was clearly seen in our home.  We often visited art galleries and art shows and he collected quite a few beautiful paintings.

Thankfully, retirement has arrived.  Now he has the time to devote to this love of art.  He also now has a place of his own where he can set up his paints and canvasses and work without the need to set up and put away his work each day.

Last spring we were fortunate enough to buy a condo.  The basement was unfinished and he quickly went to work to make a studio for his art.

He loves to paint the sea with the beautiful sky above.  In our new home state of  Michigan he has plenty of sites to inspire him.  Michigan also has so many small towns with great art galleries and we have loved exploring them.

83737552_483196055678371_6071513306047184896_o

p4p3

Making road trips, he also finds inspiration.  Driving through South Dakota with the treeless view inspired this painting.

p1

A trip to South Carolina led to these two paintings.

p220190903_113942

One of my favorites is Storm at Sea.  You can see the rain coming out of the dark storm clouds.  Looking at the ocean it invites me to wade into the waves as they rush to the shore.

p

He recently has a display of his work at the local art gallery featuring his series based on the Creation story in Genesis 1.

67166070_10156536898433364_8080866330451902464_n (1)

Of that series my favorite is the first one where he tried to imagine Genesis 1:1  How do you capture the Spirit of God hovering over the waters?  To him, it was the darkness with the flame of fire since God’s spirit is often depicted as fire in the Bible.

beginning

While he is no Rembrandt, I am so glad that he finally has a place of his own to enjoy expressing himself in his paintings.  He even set up a page on  Facebook – PWL Art Gallery.

He has worked hard all his life and as he approaches his 80th birthday, I’m thankful he has time to devote to his love of art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Husband Says

During my marriage to my pastor husband, I have kept scrapbooks of our many years in ministry.  Looking through the scrapbooks tonight I came across the pages from when my husband retired as pastor.  (This was his first retirement.  He came out of retirement twice – once to serve with me as worship pastors, once to be an interim pastor for a local church.)

Part of the ceremony of that day included a bulletin summarizing some of his work.  Looking at the bulletin, I found his “Top Ten Sayings.”

Thought perhaps some might find them interesting.  Some are a little amusing but many contain a truth to consider.

  • Say “no” to sin and “yes” to God.
  • Eternity is too long to be wrong.
  • What part of “thou shalt not” did you not understand?
  • You have a right to be wrong if you want to.
  • There is more to serving God than 11 am on Sunday morning.
  • Emotion without devotion is just commotion.
  • Serving God is walking straight after you repent.
  • I never saw a U-Haul behind a hearse.
  • If you want something out of church, put something in.
  • It is not what Grandma told you, what you think or what you saw that is the truth, but what “thus says the Lord.”

Thank God for Mondays!

We often complain about Mondays.  Back to work, back to school.

Since I am now retired Mondays are different I must admit.  I can sit with a second cup of coffee and just relax while many have to hurry off to a job that may be stressful, to a school they do not like.

Still, this morning when someone asked me on social media how I felt about Mondays, I could not help but reply as a cancer survivor Mondays mean that God has given me another week of life.

I pray today for those struggling with difficult job or school situations.  But I hope in the midst of those difficulties, they can see something to encourage them.

As for me, given another week of life I say:

 

Mom, You Left Too Soon

32440391_10214416821847842_3554931807990317056_o

My mother, Fern, and me, Barbara Fern

 

In the last years of my mother’s life she lived in southern Illinois while I lived over 300 miles away in northern Illinois.  I worked a Monday-Friday job and my husband was a pastor which meant his job required work on the weekends.  Thus, it was hard to have a chance to get away for a few days to visit her.

We took some vacation time and made a visit three or four times a year.  When we drove in the driveway she was always standing at the door anticipating our arrival.  Every time we left she would stand on the porch and wave until we were out of sight.

Becoming interested in doing genealogy research on my family I began asking Mom and Dad to tell me more about their childhood.  On one of our last visits, they took my husband and I to the cemeteries where grandparents were buried, to the place where my mother grew up, to the school my dad attended as a small boy.  My husband took a videotape of our adventures that day.

In February 2006 my husband retired and I was so excited as that meant we would have weekends free to visit my parents.  Now I could visit more and begin writing down their stories and take pictures of places from their childhood.

So, early in April we sat out to visit my parents.  I knew Mother would be so happy to hear that I was going to be able to start coming down more and that I wanted to hear more about her childhood and her family.

My excitement soon turned to worry.  When we arrived I found my Mother in great pain.  She had made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon.  I took her to the doctor expecting to hear that she had some “bug” that would require some medicine and rest.  All prepared to stay and help her recover, I was shocked when the doctor admitted her to the hospital for tests.

The first couple of days seem pretty routine and we had some great visits in her hospital room – just the two of us talking.  On the third day Mom took a turn for the worse and I called my two sisters to come.  Something was wrong – much more than routine.

Mom quickly went downhill as the days passed and it became clear she was not going to make it.  The time came when we had to make that dreaded decision.  Do we continue to do treatments that were clearly painful or do we let her die with dignity and in peace?  A tough decision.

A few days later Mom was gone.

Gone – before I got to write down those stories.

Gone – before I got to spend more time with her.

It has now been thirteen years since Mom left.  As I age myself I begin to understand her more.  I find myself doing and saying things to my children that she once did and said to me.  Often I see that my comments are not welcome.  I’m being bossy, old-fashion, interfering.  All the things I once thought about my mother.  Now I realize while she may have been (and I certainly am) bossy, old-fashion and interfering, her motives were one of love.

Gone – before I could say, “Mom I understand you now.”

Gone – before I could say, “Mom, I’m sorry.”

 

Döstädning – Death Cleaning

When I wrote this post I was only thinking about downsizing to make life a little easier. I had no idea that it would really pay off when we moved several months later – not just to a new home, but to a new state. I recently read statistics compiled by The SpareFoot Storage Beat that were amazing: there are between 45,000 to 52,000 self-storage units in the USA – much more than there are McDonald’s or Starbucks stores. The annual revenue for the industry is $38 million. Almost 10% of households rent a self-storage unit. BecomingMinimalist.com shares that 65 pounds of clothing are thrown away annually by typical Americans. Having less is proving less stress for me!

Grandma's Ramblings

clutter

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.

70 2

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…

View original post 387 more words