Life — What a Wonderful Gift!

I Made it!!!!!!

This month I celebrated three years of retirement!!!  Over thirteen years ago I was diagnosed with a very advanced and aggressive breast cancer and told the “odds were not in my favor.”   Cancer Survivor.  As I went through nine months of treatment, my prayer was “Dear Lord, please let me live until I can retire and give me three years of retirement to enjoy with my husband.”

On January 3 of this year, I reached that milestone.  I  have enjoyed three wonderful years of retirement.  My husband and I have been able to travel to the east coast visiting the homes of Presidents Jefferson, Madison and Monroe as well as the Confederate States White House in Richmond.  We followed the Morman Trail out west and visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina with our daughter and her husband.

I have enjoyed days of working in our hosta garden, reading all the books I brought when I was working but never had time to read and playing countless games of Scrabble with my husband.  We share an addiction to the game.  Confessions of a Scrabble Addict! 

My prayer was answered and I have had these past three years.  Each day that I live beyond January 3 is like a priceless gift – a gift “above and beyond.”  I have no idea how much further this “journey’ will take me.

  • Will I live to be 102?
  • Will this be the last year of my life?
  • Will I remain cancer-free and healthy?
  • Will some day the cancer appear again somewhere in my body?

But I have determined to not worry about tomorrow – but just enjoy today!  I cannot change the past – I cannot control the future.  But I can enjoy every moment of today!

“It is not required that we know all of the details about every stretch of the river. Indeed, were we to know, it would not be an adventure, and I wonder if there would be much point in the journey.”
Jeffrey R. Anderson

 

So come on Life!

I’m looking forward to whatever God has in store for me tomorrow!!!!!!

Becoming an Old Woman – How Did That Happen?

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Several years ago my daughter brought me a book of poems and reflections on growing old.  When she gave it to me she assured me she did not think I was old – but she thought I would enjoy looking at my mother’s world (since my mother was old).

Too quickly the years have passed.  My mother is now deceased (how strange that sounds) and I AM becoming the old woman in the family.

I laughed when I first read this poem.  I still laugh – but I relate to it so much more than I did when she gave it to me.

So – for all my “old lady friends” I want to share this poem by Jenny Joseph.

Warning

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph

So – friend if you see me in purple with a red hat – know that I am an old woman for sure!

Moving On and Cleaning House!

Retirement List of Things to Do

I am now into my third year of retirement.  My list of “things to do when I retire” was quite a long one.

  1. Type all my husband’s sermons (from 30 years of ministry) and get them organized according to subject and/or scripture.  Check – done!
  2. Organize all the pictures, school papers and drawings of my daughters that had been sitting in boxes for years.  Make scrapbooks for both of them telling the story of their childhood and sharing pictures and history of their parents and grandparents also.  Check – done!
  3. Organize and make a listing of my large collection of historical biographies that I have collected over the years.  Also go through my books that I used in my teaching ministry and keep only a few that I really, really enjoy passing on the others.  Check – done!
  4. Downsize (which means get rid of) some of the “stuff” I have accumulated over the years.  Check – done!
  5. Began a genealogy study of my family.  Starting this month on this!

Getting rid of “stuff” is not always easy!

In line with number 4, today I did a very painful, but needful thing.  I threw away my files and files of study notes from 35 years of teaching the Bible.  I have taught all ages from preschool to adults.  I have taught on all the books of the Bible and on numerous topics involving the Bible.

It was hard to throw the notes away.  I thought:

  • I should pass them onto my children or other teachers.  (But no, they were “my” thoughts, “my” studies.  If someone else wants to study the Bible, they need to dig into the Word for themselves, to discover the truths hidden there afresh for themselves.)
  • What if I need to teach again?  (Facing reality, at my age, there will not be many calls for me to teach.  And if I should teach again, I need to study anew and not just regurgitate ideas, thoughts from past studies.)

Still, it has been a somber time for me as I looked though the notes, read some and then put them in a recycle bin.  Hard to accept that the role of teacher is over.  Yet – my age and health tell me the time has come to surrender that role.  It’s not completely over, for I will hopefully be a teacher until the day I die — teaching my children and grandchildren by my example and sharing my love of God and His Word as opportunities arise.  But the days of formal teaching are behind me now.

Another stage in life is gone!

But all is good!  I continue to study my Bible and make new notes just for myself.  It’s kind of nice to “start anew” and hopefully I will learn even more.

I’m never too old to learn!

 

Fiery Red-heads Have More Fun!

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Growing up as a red-head I soon grew tired of all the comments:

  • Where did she get her red hair?  My parents were always asked this since they both had dark hair and my siblings all had brown or black hair.
  • And my Dad’s response to people’s questions on where I got my red hair – “She stood out in the rain and her hair rusted.”
  • Is that your natural hair color?
  • Being told what you can and can’t wear gets annoying.  For years I was told I should not wear red.  I loved the color and it was not until I was in my late 20’s that I decided to wear what I wanted to wear.  To my surprise, I found that I look fine in red!
  • Hey carrot top!
  • Hey red!
  • Hey firetop!
  • One young boy made my life miserable for a while by chanting every time I came around, “I’d rather be dead than red on the head.”
  • I bet you have a temper!
  • Are you Irish?

So for the first few years of my life, I hated being a red-head.  Then I discovered what a rare group I belong to (only 1-2% of humans in the world have red hair) and I have loved being a red-head ever since.  When my pastor husband and I attended conferences, he said it was great having a wife with red hair.  When the meetings broke up and everyone was trying to find their wife in the crowd, he just looked for the red-head – and there I was.  It also made it easy when someone would ask him, “Which one is your wife?”  Simple answer – “The red-head.”

My two sisters had dark blonde and brown hair.  Years later when we would meet someone who knew our family in the past, they always would remember me – “the little red-head” even if they did not remember my sisters.  (I think they may have hated that.)

My paternal grandmother had red hair (and Irish ancestry).  I was one of the last grandkids born in the family so by the time I was a young girl, Grandma was losing her sight.  When we would visit, she would always have me stand in the doorway where the sun would strike my hair and she could see my long red banana curls (yes, I had banana curls).  I think more than anything else seeing Grandma’s pride in me made me feel very special and love the idea of being a red-head.  As I have grown older, I have wanted to learn more about my Irish ancestry.  Think researching that will be my next item on my “bucket list” in retirement.

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Learning more about red-heads I discovered:

  • Red-heads have influenced history out of proportion to their numbers.  Famous red-heads include King David, Helen of Troy, Queen Elizabeth I, Cleopatra, Napoleon Bonaparte, Antonio Vivaldi, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill – and of course Lucy (although she was a “fake” red-head).
  • Russian tradition declares that red hair is both a sign that a person holds a fiery temper and craziness.   A Russian Proverb warns “There was never a saint with red hair.”
  • Mark Twain said, “While the rest of the species is descended from apes, red-heads are descended from cats.”
  • We are a big hit in the wizarding world!

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  • We have the most beautiful Disney princess!

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Some “facts” I’m not sure are true, but they certainly are interesting.

  • Medieval Romanians believed red-heads turned into vampires when they died.
  • Hitler is reported to have wanted red-heads killed so that they could not produce “degenerate children”.
  • The witch-hunting manual from medieval Europe, Malleus Maleficarum, instructed that red hair and green eyes were marks of a witch.  (Thankfully my eyes are brown.)
  • And I found there is a study done in Hamburg, Germany and another in England that claimed women with red hair had sex more often.  (Not sure if that is a blessing or a curse.)

One question I used to be asked a lot was “Is that your real color?”  No one asks that now – guess that’s because they assume that anyone my age who still has red hair must being using Miss Clairol.  However, some brave souls do ask me, “Is that the color your hair used to be?”

Well – I don’t use hair dye – I use a wig!  After 16 rounds of chemo when battling my breast cancer, I lost my hair.  When it grew back, it was still red but very, very thin.  After a couple of years of hoping I would regain the thick head of hair I first had, I gave up and popped on a wig.

Yes, my wig is the same color that my hair used to be.  Sometimes I think I should buy a grey wig since I’m well past the age of natural red hair.  But one thing my husband really loved about me when we got married was my red hair.  So – taking the teasing chant the little boy used to taunt me with, I have changed it from, ‘I’d rather be dead than red on the head” to “I will be red until I’m dead.”

Brunettes may be smarter, blondes may have more fun, but nothing beats the intrigue and fascination of being a red-head.

Thank you Grandma Tate Sechrest for my red hair!!!

Top Ten Wonderful Things About Retirement!

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It has been two years now since I called it a day and retired from my job as an energy specialist for a power company.  Often I thought the day would never come – it’s hard to believe it has already been two years now.

Top Ten Things About Retirement

10.  No more committee meetings.  I hated committee meetings – more talking about doing than actually doing.  The only one I have to coordinate my schedule with is my husband.

9.  No more blue Mondays!  Monday is now just another day to do whatever I want.

8.  No more deadlines to meet at work!  I can clean my closet today – or tomorrow – or next week.

7.  My time is my own!  I don’t have to answer to anyone about how I have spent my morning.  I can do – or not do – whatever I want when I want.

6.  No more alarm clocks!  I can get up at the crack of dawn to watch the sun rise (which I sometimes do in the summer) or I can wake up, pull the covers up tighter around me and sleep until mid-morning when I smell the coffee my husband has made (which is great on a cold winter morning).

5.  No more calendars.  No need to worry about what day of the week the holidays fall on – trying to add a day of vacation so I can make it three-day weekend.

4.  No more fast foods!  Working overtime I ate too much fast foods.  So good to have the time and energy to make delicious home-cooked meals for my husband and myself.

3.  Lots of time to read!  I love to read and now I have all the time I want to enjoy books.

2.  Lots of time to spend with my granddaughter!  She is growing up so fast and I treasure having more time with her to make memories to last a lifetime.

The Number One Top Thing About Retirement!

1.  Being able to spend time with my husband 24/7.  With each year that passes, I am grateful for each moment we have together.

 

 

RIP

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This past weekend my husband and I visited a local cemetery.  I felt a little strange as we drove in the main entrance because we were going to inspect our own tombstones.

While we are not ready to “kick the bucket” yet, we are at an age where we realize that we are not going to live forever.  Wanting to make sure our kids are not stuck with decisions and expenses on our demise, we purchased the tombstones this summer.  Friday we received notice from the monument company that they had set the tombstones in place so we went to take a look.

Looking at the inscriptions that gave our names and date of birth with a place for the future date of our death led to a little “soul-searching” and reflection on my life.

Looking Back

As I reflected on the past 66 years of my life, I feel like I have been many different people.

  • There was the little red-headed girl with banana curls that loved to walk outside after a rain, find a mud puddle and make mud pies.
  • There was the shy grade school girl whose parents moved so often, she was always the outsider, always moving on just when she started making friends.
  • There was the young girl in junior high who discovered through a speech class that, although she was shy when meeting people one-on-one, she could stand before a crowd and be funny and sing and dance with freedom.
  • There was the happy bride excited and looking forward to a long life with her first love.
  • There was the scared widow with two little girls wondering how she would go on without her first love.
  • There was the woman so grateful to find love again and a wonderful man to cherish both her and her daughters.
  • There was the stepmother trying to understand how to raise a teenage boy when her experience as a mother had only been raising girls.
  • There was the pastor’s wife trying to juggle family and job while trying to support her husband’s work at church.
  • There was the middle-aged woman facing breast cancer and learning to treasure every day of life.
  • And now there is the “older” woman who is learning to live with arthritic knees and back, leaking heart valve and decreasing energy.  While the body is betraying me, my spirit is still young.  Looking in the mirror, I often wonder “Who is that old woman?”  It can’t be me!

God has been good to me!

As I look back I realize just how good God has been to me.  I am so grateful for every day, week, month, year.  I can even thank God for the difficult times.  Not that difficult times came, but that in those times He gave me the strength I needed to make it through.  I have made mistakes – there are things I wish I could do differently.  But all in all, it has been a good ride thus far.

Looking Forward

Now I look forward to the years ahead.  All those years of responsibility as a mother, grandmother, pastor’s wife, worker are over and I have reached those “golden years.”  I find them to truly be golden.  Each morning when I wake up, I am free to do whatever I want to do.

  • No time clocks to punch.
  • No children needing breakfast or help with homework.
  • No church meetings to attend.

Having already faced death in the face when I battled breast cancer, I just enjoy each day as it comes, treasuring the memories I am now making with my husband.

Growing up I have treasured different verses from the Bible in different stages of my life.  And now as my hair gets thin and gray, my boobs sag (the one I still have) and my energy decreases with every year, I still find verses that encourage and bless me.

Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  

 

O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do.  Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God.  Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.