Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Countdown Is Over

Friday the 30th of November marked my final day at work. Thirty-one years plus and that part of my life is in the past.

The luncheon held for me on the 27th of November was wonderful. Both our children were there and with them, our grandchildren. Son-in-law couldn't make it due to work commitments and we missed his wonderful smiles. My only regret is that neither my parents nor Riley's parents could make it to the ceremony. Most of the event passed by in a blur other than one particular segment. Wonderful husband that he is, Riley presented me with roses - each rose with a special meaning.

The picture I will carry with me always will be of our two grandchildren carrying a very long box with roses down to the area where I stood to receive my retirement certificate, an award plus some wonderful gifts. Ethan & Rheya struggled together to carry that lightweight box and it was the most beautiful sight of all. While watching them struggle down the "aisle", the thought 'full circle' came to mind. Riley & I raised two children who grew up to be responsible, caring and loving adults - and now these two children are parents raising children to be responsible, caring & loving. Full circle.

I couldn't ask for a better life. I have a husband whom I love dearly; we have two grown children who have become the adults I had hoped for; we have two grandchildren who clearly reflect their parents' values and now I'm on a new adventure that I will not label as "retirement" but simply THE BIG ADVENTURE.

What a blessed life I have!


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Day Two of A Lifelong Habit...and Five Working Days Left

I've read that it takes 21 days to make a habit become part of your life... twenty-one days. To put it to the test, today marks Day #2 of getting up at 4am, dressing in my very elegant walking clothes, searching under the bed for the shoes - and hoping that I have a somewhat clean pair of white socks to wear with them - and riding the elevator to the basement where the instruments of torture (aka treadmills) awaits both my dear husband Riley and me.

I have already gained some valuable insight - and this is only Day #2. First, one can really get dressed, press the correct button on the elevator, and actually step on the treadmill and walk about 1/4 of a mile before one wakes up. Second, I cannot fanthom that anyone really looks forward to getting up at 4am to do something such as this. Third, looking in the mirror to detect any changes in the body is only wishful thinking - not even 21 days is going to change that. And finally, fourth - scales can destroy following through good intentions in just one blink of an eye.
There is a fifth - but I'm still working on the wiseness of promoting the use of caffeine before stepping on a treadmill at 4:10am.

While testing out the 21-day theory of making something a habit (personally, I would have preferred testing something more substantial - like eating a piece of pie every morning for 21 days to see if it really can become a habit), today marked the end of my next-to-last week before retiring. Come Monday, five (count them - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) days left before I retire from federal civil service. Thirty-one years, 5 months and a day or two.

Thirty-one years - which includes four years of military time. Thirty-one years.

I was asked to put together a chronological sequence of jobs that led up to this point - something that could be read at the retirement luncheon that will be held next Tuesday. I was hired as a clerk typist at the VA Center and left shortly after our son was born. Rehired 18 months later with only the thought of being able to afford private school for both daughter (then 5) and son.

Job changes, promotions - and now, thirty-one years later I've discovered a startling concept. I had a career. I've worked for the Air Force for thirty-one years and I look back now and realize - I had a career. It started out as a job and before I knew it, it evolved into a career. Programs I helped create are in place; policies I had a hand in creating still live on - and I had a career.

In a sea of people who have bachelors and masters degrees, and with only an associates' degree (which took me 17 years to complete) I held my own.

And now - that career is coming to an end. How strange and odd to discover all this now - yet, it leaves me with a sense of satisfaction. I had a career. I'm proud of the work I accomplished.

So - end of one career - and the start of making something a habit. All in all, that's not a bad way to start one's retirement.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Less Than Forty and Counting

Today marks the end of a four-day "vacation" for me. I hadn't intended to take off Friday, but the opportunity to do so presented itself when son asked if I wouldn't mind babysitting Thursday evening. What grandmother could say no.

The evening was delightful and I learned a few things. NEVER give an almost-three year old a choice of what he/she would like to do. Feed the ducks or go to McDonalds. Lesson #1 learned. I got out the stroller, the little man rode while grandma hoofed it down a couple of blocks to McDonalds. Lesson #2 - always follow through. When I decided it was time to go, grandson was having the time of his life, climbing up, around & sliding down the various slides in the indoor playground. After being told sweetly, "no grandma, I like it up here", I then delivered the ultimatum "either you come down now or I will find a way to come up and get you and I do believe in spanking". Thank God I didn't have to follow through should he have decided not to come down. Thirty seconds later, he was sitting across from me and tell me I was the "best grandma and I really lovvve you". Lesson #3 - no matter what, do not crack a smile when disciplining a grandchild.

And now - less than forty days and counting until I retire. Thirty-one years & five months, most of which have been good. Working for the federal government offers quite a few sweet deals: great health benefits, and relatively speaking - a secure job and fantastic retirement pay. I can now travel with dear husband on his business trips - devote more time to quilting - finally turn those self-designed purse patterns into reality - and best of all - more time with the grandchildren.

Blessed beyond all comprehension - less than forty and counting.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Anxiety Removed

It's official. The MRI showed absolutely NO cancer cells. Zip, zilch, zero, NONE.

Simply put, I was stunned. The surgeon flipped through my chart, looking at the mammogram report, then the 2 ultrasound reports - and again at the MRI results. Frankly - a miracle. While he would like another MRI in six months, medical insurance would never agree to it. He settled on another mammogram in six months - and back to the routine of yearly checks.

While I was stunned, darling husband was not. To the surgeon's immense pleasure, my dearest friend danced around in the examining room. Later, it hit me. He was my rock during these past couple of months. Whatever resulted, WE would handle it. And if he could, he'd do it by himself. Until many hours later, I realized how these past few months were for him - yet, I didn't know it.

How many of us have spouses who would gladly carry others' burdens - without a question, complaint or whimper. Not many. I know this deep within my heart.

And I consider myself not only blessed, but I know now that God has chosen the best for me. His very best plan for me includes my husband, my friend, the father of our two grown children, the grandfather of all times.

Who else would dance a happy dance in an examining room when told "you have no cancerous cells".

Think of what this world would be like if we had happy dancers - happy dancers who danced in public just for the sheer joy of life. Makes me smile.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Continuing Saga

The saga continues.

On Tuesday the 8th of August I had a high contrast MRI. In retrospect, it's quite an interesting exam. One has to be sure that all metals are removed from the body. For most of us, that simply means rings, watches, earrings & necklaces. For a few of us, it means body piercings. There was the momentary pause when I was asked "Do you have any hidden body piercings?" Hidden body piercings?? Good Lord - there really are such things???? I'm sure my "no" came out as "uhhhh ... no??" I'm sure the technician was thinking "Oh yeah , this one is a real live wire".

I had opted to wear a pair of cargo pants - no zippers - sandals and a sleeveless top - most of which I got to wear during the MRI (surprise - bras have underwires - now there's a picture I can't get out of my head had I been able to keep it on during the MRI).

A short IV was inserted. Now that's very comforting. A short vs long IV. Frankly, any length IV is enough to send my head reeling. But it was inserted painlessly - which was the best part of the exam.

After given a pair of ear plugs, I was given the choice of laying face down (possibly smothering myself to death within five minutes), or with my head to the right or to the left. Hands above the head and hands clasped. Now this sounds very relaxing. And it was. For all of two minutes. The noise of the MRI sounds much like a jack hammer - only a jack hammer is more melodious. Silence and then the rat-tat-tat. Then silence again. And on and on and on. About halfway through I felt a light touch on my arm - and I knew the dye was being injected into the IV. I could have wept at that point. This only meant the MRI was only half over. I had decided that setting my shoulders on fire would have been a nice diversion - and probably would have felt better had they BEEN on fire. Strange things floated through my mind. What if I left a penny in one of those darn cargo pants pockets? What if there's a quarter lurking around in a pocket? What if they were wrong about not having to worry about the sterostatic breast biopsies I had several years ago and little metal markers were left in? Would these little markers be sucked out with the MRI?

Finally the blessed words "you're all done" were heard. I heard those sweet words but alas my body did not. I feared greatly that my arms would be frozen forever above my head. It took awhile to get the body parts moving together - and even longer to get off the table. All of twenty-five minutes of my life spent laying face down on a board that was transported slowly down into an open tube. Just twenty-five minutes. Amazing the things the mind can come up with in twenty-five minutes.

The IV was removed - not painlessly. I was overly optimistic that insertion and removal would go unnoticed. Years ago, I had the brilliant idea that I would self-wax my legs. Removal of that IV was far worse than ripping off that sticky tape off the back of my calf. Finally, the arm quit throbbing, tape was applied across a half pound cotton ball and I was on my way out to a sleeping husband in the waiting room.

For the rest of the evening, I enjoyed a mild headache and a metallic taste that didn't go away until well into the next afternoon.

Since then, we have celebrated our son's 27th birthday a day early with a nice family gathering at one of the local Mexican restaurants. Darling husband got to play with the two grandchildren; I had my first margarita in probably six years; visited with daughter-in-law's mother; and decided right then and there that life really is very, very good.

And so - we wait for the next step - the followup with the surgeon at 10:30 on the 5th of September. I admit - I do have a lot of "what ifs" lurking around. But until the 5th of September, I think my time would be better spent on finishing up at least one quilting project or trying to finish that darn knitted baby hat - which now has held the world's record for being unraveled and restarted.

Life is very, very good and life is so much richer by experiencing it one step at a time - with an occasional hop, skip and a jump accompanied by a "wahoooo!"


Friday, August 10, 2007

Up the Anxiety a Tad

Today I accompanied my dear husband for a doctor's appointment - on the off chance the ultrasound came back. Always nice when husband & wife share the same doctor. Granted, this "short term" ultrasound was done just yesterday - but the word 'rush' was used, right?

Sure enough, the results were back. I really do hate the 'good news, bad news' routine, but it seems appropriate.

Good news is - the "spot" (what do we call it?) has not grown. Bad news it - it doesn't fit the "profile" of a cyst nor a breast lesion. Profile? What is a profile? A profile is appropriate for say - a guy who breaks into houses & makes himself a sandwich before he robs the place blind. That's a profile. How does something so small have a "profile"? I imagine this tiny cell, searching for his identity to make himself a name.

At any rate, our family doctor has already made an appointment for me to see a surgeon on the 22nd of August. Now, that's enough to make anyone sit up & notice. Surgeons = cutting. That's always been my experience. Little does anyone know that they also order special tests. The radiologist was nice enough to offer perhaps two avenues to the surgeon: biopsy or a high contrast MRI. I think when I grow up I want to be a radiologist. They look at pictures all day long and then pass the buck on to a surgeon. Sounds like a good deal to me. Have you ever read a radiologist's report? Now THAT'S an exercise in conservatism. Words like "suspicion maintained" and "further evaluation is warranted". This leads me to believe malpractice does not run rampart among radiologists.

The next step is to simply wait and try not to over-research the few words I can glean out of the radiologist's report.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Anxiety Followup

Several months ago (three to be exact - but who's counting??), I suffered through a mammogram (routine) and shortly thereafter, an ultrasound (not routine). The ultrasound pinpointed something "suspicious" but not "overly suspicious". Is this like - being kinda sorta pregnant?

Today, the followup ultrasound took place. Outwardly, just another ultrasound - pictures taken just in that one area. Inwardly, lots of "what ifs". The technician was very good but had to be reminded several times to ease up on the glider (she tends to "get into" her work). Frankly, I didn't see what was so fascinating on the screen that distracted her from ensuring the pressure was light.

Shortly thereafter, she called the radiologist (only several rooms down the hallway) to let him (her?) know the pictures were on the way. There's technology - and then there's technology. Several rooms down the hall and she emails the results? Maybe the radiologist really isn't down the hallway but is in India and they just tell the patients the down-the-hall story. After some chit-chat, she leaves - warning me to please remain where I was & keep the gown on. I think by saying "keep the gown on" is more than enough to keep me from wandering the halls. Heaven knows, I might meet up with the radiologist down the hall. Several minutes later, she returns - all is well, the pictures were received. Very interesting set up. Email the results, call to see if the email was received, walk down the hall to ensure the results were received, release the patient. A little time management study might be in order here. After several more seconds, the technician mutters "oh shoot" and dials a number on the phone. "Did you see that note - the dr wants the report right away".

My heart stops. Okay - right away. What does that mean? We suspect the worse, so hurry up and confirm? We know it's bad - so hurry up and confirm? Before I go into panic mode, I remember my last conversation with our family dr. The followup ultrasound was to be done in three to six months. My reputation as the paper cut queen (also fondly referred to as the "hang nail queen), prompted the dr to reassure me that waiting three months vs six months is a splendid idea. Which prompted the immediate report. Whew. Thank God for decent memory recall.

Report should be ready tomorrow - which I will gladly accompany my dear husband to HIS appointment and ask nonchalantly "hey, how did that ultrasound go on Thursday?"

I think I can pull it off.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fourth of July

Today DH and I celebrated the Fourth by watching a home town parade - with grandson as the main attraction. There is nothing like watching a parade through an almost-three-year old. He danced, he waved his small flag - and he constantly tested the don't-go-in-the-street rule. Dad was there too, along with grandson's other grandparents plus a friend of his other grandmom's; it was a great experience. I missed seeing our daughter-in-law who had to work. Thousands of people sat in chairs and stood up whenever a group marched by with the American flag. Marching bands - cheerleaders - a few floats - and lots more various bands who were transported by trucks pulling flatbeds - and lots of advertisers took advantage of promoting their businesses.

After the parade, son, grandson, DH & I walked for at least a mile, looking at the various vendors. The highlight of the walk was the most elaborate outdoor "porty-potty" I have ever seen. No sirree - not your typical blue, one door, must-I-go-in-there john we've all seen. This was the king of all kings. Sitting regally on the parking lot of a gas station, it boasted FIVE stalls, piped in music, 3 sinks with running water - AND air conditioning that turned on when the entrance door closed. Of course, that was just the women's side. For some odd reason, neither of the two men (grandson didn't count) would venture over to the men's side just to give me a report. Funny - that would not have been a problem had I asked a female to check out the women's side.

Almost 4 hours later, we arrived home - tired and sunburned. Our planned picnic was cancelled due to thunderstorms, so we had a quiet dinner in the dining room, feasting on picnic fare.

Couple of observations and thoughts now that I look back at the time spent watching the parade. I still get teary eyed over high school marching bands. I marvel over World War II veterans still participating in walking down that long mile plus in uniform. There is still pride in standing up whenever the American flag passes by. I love all-drummer marching bands best. My heart warmed when I heard grandson's other grandpa thank a couple of the kids from the parade who walked by with a "job well done" and "you were terrific". Being welcomed warmly into this yearly tradition of watching the parade by daughter-in-law's parents.

Great day - great company - and later on, great food (even if it was enjoyed indoors).


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Family Time

Yesterday evening, my dear husband (fondly known in print as DH) delivered the Saturday evening message at church. Along with several other men, he's been attending weekly mentoring sessions with our pastor. From what I gather, the pastor's goal is to mentor & teach so if the opportunity so arises, these men can deliver the message at Saturday evening services.

DH delivered the message for the first time the previous Saturday. It's taken me a little bit of time to digest the fact that (1), he did it well and (2) there was a sense of right when he delivered it. The fact he did it well did not surprise me. When the Holy Spirit calls and is within you, you have no choice but take care of the task at hand in a pleasing manner. The sense of right when he delivered the message is a struggle for me. What if God has called him to the ministry? What if God's plan takes us on a new course of action? Now this is a large piece of life to struggle with - for me, at any rate. Something to pray about, I'm sure.

Our son came to hear his dad speak - and brought our grandson. No, not his son - our grandson. Once his son enters grandma territory, he instantly becomes our grandson. Almost three, he found quite a few things in the church fascinating. Once grandpa got up to speak and addressed his grandson and the reply was "Hi Grandpa - what are you doin'?", I knew it wouldn't be long before grandma & grandson would be taking a little walk outside the church. And so we did.

I wasn't overly comfortable with our walk. Our church is surrounded by a cemetary - a very old
cemetary. While many of the headstones are worn, it's clear that they mark the spot where a very young child was laid to rest. In anticipation, I thought - oh Lord, this is not one of the conversations one has with a grandchild. Your own child, yes - not a grandchild. There are four discussions that are reserved for parent and child: sex, death, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. None of the four should ever enter into grandparent territory. Thank God, grandson just looked and asked if that was an "E" or and "L". Whew. And so it remained that way. Grandson has an extraordinary ability to divert one's attention away from the inevitable - that of going back into church. Several times on the way back, he'd say "hey grandma - look at this" and in total concentration would crouch down and find a piece of clover that was utterly fascinating. After clover, a tiny headstone, a larger blade of grass and part of a feather, we finally made it back to the church. No small feat considering we were less than 30 feet away from the church.

After church, we decided it would be grand to go to a coffee shop and talk a bit. Okay, I decided it would be grand. We met up in a small coffee shop, one of the many shops in an 'elite' shopping area. The coffee shop was probably the least expensive store in the entire area. My sister had attended church with us. Wonderful opportunity here. She took grandson for several walks and was delighted more so than he was with the walks. She has never had children - and I truly believe she would make a wonderful mother. She listens with her heart - which many of us do not do even with other adults. She reported grandson's favorite expression while window shopping: "Hey, check it out" accompanied by finger pointing. She reported that several times, accompanied by the most beautiful laugh. We all loved it.

So, another beautiful weekend made even richer by the presence of our son and grandson at DH's 2nd 'preaching' episode. Next Saturday evening will be his 3rd opportunity. Hopefully, daughter-in-law will join son and grandson to hear grandpa (AKA DH) talk again.

Whatever God has in store for us, I already know we've been so wonderfully blessed with two children - two grandchildren - two additional children called daughter-in-law and son-in-law plus my sister living so close by. Anything else is just icing on the cake.


Friday, June 29, 2007


This morning one of the many emails I received contained a link to an U-Tube video. I'm not a huge fan of U-Tube but as this dear lady posted "I am proud of our service men and women", I knew I had to watch it.

It is a simple video with beautiful photos and a haunting music track. Air Force, Navy, Marines, Army - all these men & women simply doing their jobs so we can continue to have the freedom we've taken for granted.

We live in a country that allows each of us to express our views publicly. We live in a country that allows freedom to worship without fear. We live in a country that generously helps other countries fight against tyranny and repression. Yet, the gratefulness is not expressed through the written and spoken news media.

I don't think I will ever understand how anyone can say this war is wrong and we shouldn't be there. Just ask our deployed soldiers - many of whom are on their 2nd and 3rd tour - why they're there. This video pretty much tells it all.

Take the time to view this moving video.....

... and then thank God you live in the USA. And to Lizzie Palmer - I don' t know who you are, but my heartfelt thanks for creating this video. May God protect and keep you safe.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Picnic with Grandson

On the 16th of June, a pre-Father's Day picnic was thoroughly enjoyed by myself, dear husband, my sister, dear son and his son. Three generations of men - but for me, the attention was focused shamelessly on our grandson.

We held the picnic at Riverscape - a beautifully landscaped area next to the Miami River (not the most picturesque river - but it is moving water and it does hold a strange fascination for ducks).

One of Riverscape's attractions is a unique "square" of shooting fountains - perhaps twelve of them. At times, all twelve fountains shoot straight up - and then one by one, turn off - and then they come back again, one at a time - or two. You just don't figure it out - you just merely hope you can run through it when it's dormant. Grandson managed to do it once and claimed victory by jumping up and down with his hands raised. Such a glorious victory dance for an almost-three-year old. The second attraction is the little fast food shack that has the greatest ice cream in the world - soft swirl with ribbons of flavor. You can choose from 15 varieties - my personal favorite is Tropical Orange (which I opted to forgo - not with that last glucose reading!). Enjoying grandson's reaction to sharing a cone with his dad was better than eating one myself.

The highlight of the picnic was a walk with the little man along the riverwalk. Other than a continuous clutch of the heart, it was a beautiful walk. We discovered the lovely presents the ducks leave everywhere - which he declared with great enthusiasm "duck POOP" every thirty seconds, accompanied with pointing of finger and leaning down to get a good look. Several families rented paddle boats - most of which resemble large ducks. You could see the yearning on his face to get in one right away. Uh uh - that's definitely a mom & dad decision. The next best thing was to wave to the paddlers. When they waved back, he was thrilled. A second wave along with a couple of jumps brought smiles from the paddlers every time. The sunburned shoulders later that day mattered little.

I cannot express the joy this young man brings into our lives every single time we see him. It's beyond words. It's beyond description. It's simply pure joy.

I thank God every day for the blessings He gives me - a beautiful sunrise, a day of hearing laughter, a phone call from my traveling husband when he reaches his hotel room, an email from my dad - and a few hours with a grandchild. Blessed? Beyond comprehension.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Going Home....

On Thursday, the 7th of June, sis & I loaded up a rental car at 9:00AM and started the long drive to Oshkosh, WI.

Oshkosh is home for a multitude of our relatives: mom, dad, brother and his wife, several nephews, a niece and her husband and aunts & uncles.

The purpose for this trip was to attend our nephew's wedding - our brother's oldest son. Several months of emails went back & forth about the wedding - and it resulted in just sis and I going as my dear husband had a chess tournament to run during the weekend.

Four hundred and seventy-three miles is a long trip to make - and sis does not drive. As I get older, I find the driving a little more tedious than in years past. I had made a quick trip to the library to stock up on music CDs and books on CD. This helped a little - but I noticed that we made more frequent stops than previous trips.

An older woman once told me that her solution to long trips was to first pray for a safe trip and would ask God to show her something new and exciting every trip. It didn't matter if the trip was across the country or to the grocery store. As she noted, the older we get, even a trip to the grocery store is something to be reckoned with! This sounded like fine advice. I passed this on to sis and we began to note there were indeed new and exciting sights to see. However, when one is driving through "deer country", counting the deer fatalities on the road does not count as an 'exciting sight' and frankly, is not very comforting. We noted beautiful ponds, unusually shaped trees, very creative billboards, a dome home (still wish I had thought to stop and photograph) and several antique cars traveling down the highway with us.

We made it in relatively embarrassing-free time (translation: I did not get lost) and spent the next couple of days in a whirl. Driving up on Thursday and leaving on Sunday did not leave much time to sit, relax & visit - although there was time to do a little of that.

On Friday, the 4 of us met up with brother & wife for an hour at a "local" (forty-five minute drive) casino. The six of us are high rollers - only quarter and nickel slot machines. From the conservative (mom and sis plugging in nickels only - and very few at that) to the liberal (brother, dad and myself - over $20 in quarters and some nickels for me) resulted in brother winning a nice little sum and I came out $2.40 ahead. Dad has a wonderful system that works well - you only throw in what you came in with. None of this putting the money through until you finally hit the big one. More than likely, the big one will elude you. After an hour, the coins are taken up to the cashier where you wait expectedly for that big total, all the while thinking - did I lose or did I come out ahead. Coming out ahead has its disadvantages for those of us who could potentially become gambleholics ... even if at $2.40. You think to yourself, 'oh just one more quarter could do it'. I silently thanked God for the restraint of not popping in another roll of quarters on the way out of the casino.

Afterwards, we drove to Michiels - home of the world's best hot bacon salad dressing and salad bar. The salad bar has to be one of the smallest I've ever encountered - but all the items are fresh, innovative and just plain marvelous!

The rest of the visit went by quickly. The wedding was beautiful; the words spoken by the priest brought tears to my eyes. Several hours later we went out to dinner - and several hours after that a reception was held. We opted not to go to the reception - it was a long day for most of us and sis & I still had the drive home facing us.

I walked with dad every day we were there. Dad is amazing. At 70+, he walks almost every day - and varies his walk to check out the 'doings' of Oshkosh. We walked in the early morning - and he would point out various things, told little stories of businesses - and before I knew it, we had covered over three miles easily. I have got to find a walking partner...!

Here is what is even more amazing. Just a few months ago, Dad bought his first computer. Now our weekly letters are daily emails. His enthusiasm at what the internet has brought to their home is a delight. Those of us who have grown up with the wonders of the 'net have taken it for granted. It's just there - it's always been there - and what's the big deal. Find someone who is discovering the wonders of google, yahoo and the multitude of search engines and you'll know what I mean. It's a re-awakening.

Going home was wonderful. I learned that there are still wonders to behold. I learned that no matter how old I am, going home means I get pampered and spoiled. But most of all, I realize once again that I'm blessed to have my parents to go home to.

I pray I can still 'go home' for many years to come.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Sometimes an Apology Isn't Enough....

Yesterday I blundered. While that in itself isn't unusual for me, it made a powerful impact on a coworker - and for that, it will take awhile for the apology to take root and grow.

Several weeks ago, our team (a mighty group of four individuals) became adrift in a sea of bureaucracy. Our supervisor was promoted out of our lives. The five of us were quite a team - each with his/her own competencies that enabled us to do quite well - and we produced some spectacular programs and policies. Then the five became four. Management decided the four of us would rotate in leading the small team - if the plan suited. It did. My rotation was to be last; I'm much more comfortable in a support role - not in a leading role (although my dear husband would argue quite convincingly I am wrong).

And here the blunder slowly took root. First the dynamics of the team of four need to be described. I'm completely and utterly retirement eligible - and have been since the 26th of February when I turned 55 years young. In June of 2006, I have been working for 30 years. Hence - age + years of service equals completely and utterly retirement eligible. Team member two, the sole male in the group, can retire in four years. Team member three, a recent transfer to the group and a lovely lady, is eligible also to retire in four years. And then team member four - a bubbly younger lady who can retire in fourteen years.

Names were drawn out of a hat, and team member four undertook the role of leading the team. Bubbly young lady with lots of energy with fourteen years to go before she can retire. After two weeks on the job, the blunder was planted.

She's a very detail orientated individual - doesn't like to leave anything to chance - and after hearing her express more than once the degree of stress she was experiencing, I shared the concern. Unfortunately, not to her - but to another team member. Subsequently, part of the conversation was overheard. Interpretation - criticism of leadership role.



Bad mistake.

I now know that stress can be expressed in many different manners. Some may threaten their computer screens; some may find satisfaction is tossing a stapler or two against a wall; others may bang their head a couple times against their keyboards - all of which are highly suitable for those of us in office settings. Team member number four expresses her stress in such a manner that it allowed her to simply let out steam.

Who knew.

Today, the apology. And tomorrow and the next day and forever more - more than one lesson was learned.

One - unless the stress expressed by another individual involves bodily injury to me, ignore it.

Two - unless the stress expressed by another individual involves same individual's head to explode suddenly, ignore it.

Three - always try to imagine what your comments, however well intended, might mean to someone else. Interpretation is everything.

And finally...

Four - apologies mean nothing if the act is repeated.

All I can say at this point is - I'll never stop learning.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Friend

Today I participated in a 5K walk/run - and I found that striving to come in first, second or third isn't necessary anymore.

Today I walked with a friend - and we talked. She cautioned me twice to slow down - and after the 2nd mile, I really appreciated the caution. While it was hot & humid and others passed us by, I realized that a slower pace was a pleasure. I saw several geese flying overhead. I heard birds scolding one another - and prayed that they would be not plotting to cover either one of our heads with little white presents. When the wind blew gently by (at least once, I'm sure of it), it felt wonderful. And we talked and talked - and every so often, we just quietly enjoyed the walk.

My friend became a grandmother about 5 months ago...and so now we have grandchildren in common. I learned more about her in that 50 minutes than all of the past six or more years we have spent together in the office. She's one of the most positive people I have ever encountered - always seeing that half full glass. I have never heard her speak badly of anyone nor have I ever heard anyone speak badly of her. She is the one who encouraged me to walk with her last year - with the enticement of a Tshirt if I walked 3 of the 5 events. She found my weak spot - a prize waiting for me at the end of the journey! So again, the reminder came from this lovely lady to walk again. One 5K down, 4 more to go.

One of life's greatest pleasures while working is to find a few people you can connect with. It's a joy to live with someone whom you can connect with on a regular basis. I am one of the lucky ones. I have a husband whom I feel a deep connection with. He makes me smile, he has moved me to tears with his kindness (he spent all of Mother's Day researching a MP3 player that could record books on CD - just because I said I would like one some day - and bought me one on line), makes me feel like a new bride so many times, and still holds my hand in the car or while walking. Now I discovered I'm blessed because I slowed down on a 5K walk so that I could spend time talking to a coworker who along has been a friend - I just didn't know it. A new connection has been formed.

A friend. Two simple words yet those two words go down deep inside and make you feel warm and comfortable. God has a way of blessing us so many times ... and sometimes it just takes slowing down a bit to discover those blessings.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day and Other Things...

Yesterday was Mother's Day. I phoned my mom, wishing her a Happy Mother's Day. I listened to her accounting of her day so far - and that my brother was taking her & dad out to an early dinner and also my brother's wife and mother-in-law would be joining them. It was good to listen to Mom. She was clearly pleased over her day. My sister called her later and wished her the same. My husband made a call to his mom - and I could tell from his end of the conversation, she was having a very good Sunday.

This morning I came to the realization that I missed hearing from our two kids yesterday. They're married now & have their own family - and I hope daughter was honored on Mother's Day and that daughter-in-law was honored as well.

Early this morning, I realized I must have erased messages on my cell phone as I noticed a missed call from our son. An email inquiry to my son let me know that the erased message was a Mother's Day call & I didn't get to hear it. Saturday, dear husband & I spent a good part of the day with our daughter, son #2 and granddaughter. All in all - a good weekend. However, this is the first year that I didn't hear a Happy Mother's Day from either one on Sunday - and I had no idea it would give me pause. Years ago, I missed calling Mom on Mother's Day ... and dad surely let me know about it a few days later via his weekly letter. I had sent a present, as always, and a card...but it was the call that mom really was looking forward to. I had no idea that it meant that much - until now.

After much self-inspection, I realized that God has a way of using disappointments to point out failings of my own. It is the small things that do count more than the big things. How many times have I failed to make a call, send an email, write a thank you note - not an obligatory one but just to write a "'re great" note, and failing to put aside something I'm working on so I could listen to someone who needs to talk. More times than I care to admit have I not taken the time to do the small things.

So while I had a very quiet Mother's Day, I realized I'm a still a work in progress, thanks to God's great love. All in all, a better weekend than I realized.


Monday, May 07, 2007

A Touch of Suspicion...

Suspicious but not very suspicious cyst or lesion. Followup mammogram and ultrasound results from last Thursday reached our family doctor's desk. A followup ultrasound is to be done three to six months. After explaining to the doctor that six months wasn't going to be an option, an appointment was made for early August for the ultrasound.

I'm not sure how to take this. Foreboding? Confident that all is well? Suspicious - but not very? This is just so very strange. I don't know if researching cysts and lesions is going to make me feel better or worse. The mind is going into overdrive ... of course it would. Dealing with hangnails sends me in a tizzy.

Okay, God - this is in your hands. I sure would appreciate time going forward a little bit faster than normal, if that's okay, so we can just find out what's next.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Rich Life

On Friday evening my husband & I attended a viewing in Elyria, Ohio. The funeral was to be held on Saturday - and it was for my husband's cousin, Lane Tollett. We watched many people file in, pay respects to the young man whom I believe is in heaven, hug his parents and move on.

This young man was to be 31 years old today - and died in Iraq, fighting for his country. There are those who believe the war is wrong - and those who believe without our men fighting, we stand to lose the most precious commodity - freedom. I believe in the latter. This man whom I have never met believed in what he did ... and despite personal feelings about the war, was held in the highest regard by all. Flags flew at half mast in the entire small town of Elyria.

The funeral was held in the high school Lane attended. Hundreds came - and hundreds wept. It was a moving ceremony with military honors and blessings from the Catholic priests.

During the ceremony, I thought of what a rich life this young man must have led. He was doing what he wanted to do - what he felt he was called to do. He did it with honor - and he did it by choice.

For Lane, for all the soliders who are fighting this war, my prayers are with you each and every day. I thank God for you all - and for the gift of freedom you are fighting so selflessly for.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007


During a phone conversation this afternoon, I used a very interesting word to describe one's lifestyle: "complicated". That description was not met with enthusiasm. Actually, it was met with resentment. It wasn't a word I searched for nor rehearsed nor do I know where it came from. It simply came out.

After I hung up, I thought for a long time as to why I used this word. Webster describes complicated as:

to combine especially in an involved or inextricable manner.

Further described as:

to make complex or difficult

Still no help. Complicated. Then it came to me - of course! That's exactly how I've heard coworkers describe our lives - mine and my husband's.

Our lives have been described as complicated. Complicated because we both work 40 hours a week - and then we operate a chess club in a building we bought years ago. Complicated because we will spend, on the average, a weekend a month hosting a weekend long chess tournament. Complicated because we are at the club on Friday evenings. Complicated because we're doing something other than eating at a different restaurant every Friday evening. Complicated because we lead a very different life.

I see couples sitting outside a coffee shop, idly sipping coffee and reading - or talking. And I think - oh yes, that could be me & my husband. But every evening? Every Friday? Every Saturday? No. But when it does happen, it's savored, treasured and it makes me smile.

So yes - perhaps you do lead a complicated life... but it's not to be viewed with resentment if I use that descriptive word. Yes, you lead a richly complicated and full life - a life that isn't boring nor staid.

So apologies if the word was met with unfavor. It was never meant to be used as an unfavorable word but as a compliment. Wish I knew that earlier!


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Managing Stress & Learning Patience

On Friday, 27 April 2007 came the phone call, "after loooking at your mammogram, a couple tests need to be done right away". Words that strike terror into the staunchest of women. Okay - perhaps not the staunchest of women. Perhaps better written: words that strike terror into those women who suffer dramatically over a paper cut. At any rate, I'd have much preferred the call from the dentist to let me know "we're still waiting for you to come in for that root canal". Interestingly enough, I picked up on the "right away" theme. Those who work for doctors whose job it is to call patients and let them know additional tests are needed - practice this please: "I will not use the words 'right away' ever" before you make that call. And if you do happen to slip and use the 'right away' phrase - don't soft peddle it with "oh, sometimes these things just need a little extra test or two". It just doesn't work to relay that feeling of comfort & ease - trust me.

Of course the mind goes into overload and starts putting out the message: cancer. Now don't think it doesn't - even to women who can laugh off a papercut or a broken toe (neither of which I have been able to do successfully).

Two women in my office are dealing with breast cancer - each with her own story. One had to deal with chemo & radiation; the other, a masectomy. Naturally, being the curious sort, I learned a lot about cancer. Cancer is not kind nor is it easily dissuaded from taking what it wants to. Better yet, I've learned that we - not just women - can step up and take whatever life throws at us and come out the victor. And it is true - God never gives us more than we can handle. While I recognize this truth, I recognize it for others (smile). Yes, both these women confided that it wasn't a walk in the park - and they had this in common: moments of anger, grief and despair. But both of these ladies did what was necessary....they chose life and they fought and will continue to fight. I know that I will invariably chose one of these women to confide in when the time comes - and I already know the sharing will be met with a hug and "I'm there for you".

So while I go through these stages - anger, grief and despair - well ahead of even the appointments (one must prepare oneself!) - I hope to learn something that's worth passing on to whomever reads this. I know I have caused grief to my husband who, no doubt, feels there is nothing he can do that will help. How do you help a deranged woman who suffers mightily with a paper cut and tends to overreact ? Better to just smile until the teeth ache and just hope for the better - and buy her ice cream & give foot rubs until the tests on Wednesday.

Now there is no doubt to anyone who reads this knows why I write such helpful advice: my husband does read my posts.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Warranty Blues

The 10th of April 2007 marked the day of realization.

I went to work as usual - only to experience pain like I've never experienced within an hour of getting ready to start the work day. Within the hour, my dear husband had me in the doctor's office. Blood was drawn, various poking in tender spots by the doctor, and I went home with an initial diagnosis of acute pancreatitis. Hours later, blood work revealed normal pancreas enzymes ... diagnosis changed to acute gastritis.

After much research, I have discovered that the warranty on this body has expired. In younger days, dinner could be a bag of chips and dip - and a soda (NOT diet). Not an ounce was gained. The warranty held up the body quite well. Not so any more.

Eating balanced meals, exercise & rest. Sounds simple enough. When one is not accustomed to self-discipline and an overwhelming desire for dessert before salad, it becomes more than a challenge.

At the age of 55, I plan on living for another 50 years. A lifestyle change is in order & prayers are most welcomed!


Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Attack of the Valley

On Friday of last week I admitted defeat and called my dear husband to pick me up at work to take me home. The sinus attack finally took hold. The rest of Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday I battled the sinuses. Cold medicine, allergy medicine, Advil, Tylenol - if we had it, I took it. Sinus symptoms won, hands down.

We live in the valley of hades here in Dayton Ohio. When the pollen count is high, it settles in the Miami Valley and plagues many allergy suffers. Word is that a radiologist can look at someone's lung xray and be able to foretell if they've ever lived in the Miami Valley. A better claim to fame would be preferred. I missed church today by sleeping most of the day. Husband brought home a new product - Allergy MD. We shall see if this really does the trick. If price is any indicator of effectiveness, it should work really well. So far it has wiped out the sinus headache - a real plus. Congestion - hasn't diminished it nor has the pain in both ears. Perhaps it is one of those accumulative medications ... after 120 days, one is symptom free. But then, in 120 days, the pollen count will return to normal levels.

For a few days, I will suffer (not in silence, much to the dismay of all) and within a couple of weeks, this shall be a distant memory. I'm praying for that.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Day with Grandson

Yesterday was Saturday - and we spent a little over 5 hours with our grandson while mom & dad were working. Dad is an AF reservist and this was his working weekend; mom works at a childrens' store (always a great thing when you have a child of your own).

The adventure of potty-training was ours on Saturday. This was supplemented by taking a walk with our lion sticks, examining dirty snow and watching grandson jump off the top of our car into grandpa's arms (not for the faint hearted - which was was cut short by grandma).

Did I really do all these things when our children were growing up? Now that they're both adults with a child of their own, I have a difficult time remembering if we took walks, found sticks and were prepared to beat off the lions or touching snow several times to see if it really was dirty. I DO remember the days of potty-training; no parent ever forgets those days. The sense of accomplishment and joy on a child's face to do something we take for granted...and seeing the child's face when putting on those marvelous 'big boy' or 'big girl' pants.

It's been a week plus since I broke my toe on my right foot (the toe next to the big toe) while getting into the tub to take a shower (lesson learned - RAISE the foot highter next time). This affliction caused a few problems while babysitting. We're experiencing spring-like weather now and we took a turn taking a walk with grandson...and I had to cut our walk a little short. This 2+ year old can run fast so I knew I would be limited should he decide to show off this ability. Somehow he knew that he needed to stay by my side during the short walk - and in that short ten minutes or so we listened to the birds, poked the remaining snow at the end of a parking area, waved our sticks just in case the lions were watching, slapped the sticks in a puddle and identified that noise as an ambulance passing by.

It was truly a wonderful experience...but truth be told, by the time both parents arrived home, I was tired. No, not just tired - exhausted.

God's plan surely does work - the young need to be raised by the young. Grandparents are given the honor to step in and babysit for a limited number of hours - that's about all we can take. I learned so much in those few hours - and hope to learn so much more when we get calls to help out. I don't know if our kids realize that we're really not helping them out - they're helping us make a Saturday an extraordinary adventure.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Birthdays ....

On Monday the 28th of February I will be 55 years old. This is typed with such an air of finality. Fifty-five. Five decades plus five. Half a century plus five.

Until today I didn't understand the statement "where did all the time go?" Now I do. Right now, right this minute it's not just a number. It's MY number. It represents so many things - and I just don't know which thing to choose.

Depressing? Somewhat.

Exhilarating? Oh yes - I'm still here to observe another birthday.

Happy? Yes, again. I'm healthy - albeit overweight - and I have my family and I have my sister living just four floors down from us.

Sad? Somewhat. No set of instructions came with this body. There should always be a set of instructions that God sends with each and every creation. At each stage of life, we should just instinctively know how we're supposed to feel. All of a sudden, I have wild urges to spike my hair, dye it some wild blond color and wear clothes a gypsy wouldn't be caught dead in. Someone please tell me what that is all about.

I also find myself internally at odds with other people. Thank you, Lord, that this is an internal situation; I don't find myself externally expressing dissatisfaction with others' behavior or their beliefs. Most days I find myself observing more and talking less. Observing is a very powerful tool - a very powerful and unexpected tool. When you find yourself simply observing, you become a magnet and suddenly there are people who just want to talk. No reason. No ulterior motive. Just talk. I'm not sure what that's all about either.

I've come to the conclusion that perhaps reaching 55 is just the beginning of an adventure. It's a rediscovery time of what I want to do when I grow up. It's a little intimidating, it's roller-coaster scary and it's a good feeling. Those periods of wanting to be "part of the crowd" are long gone - and now it's just me & my dear husband. Of course, there's our children & grandchildren...but mainly, it's just the two of us. We have all those years behind us - good years, not-so-good days - and there's all this time in front of us.

So another milestone will happen next week - and I think I'm ready for it - gypsy clothes & blond spiky hair.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Family Blessings Again....

Yesterday early evening, daughter & son-in-law & baby girl showed up to surprise their dad - a most welcomed birthday hello.

Granddaughter has the most expressive eyes we (dear husband & I) have ever seen. She's all of 15 months old now...and each time we see her, those eyes take in every detail...more so each time. It's amazing. She uses sign language - some one's innovative way to teach babies sign language caught hold with our daughter and so she taught the baby sign language. It is amazing to see this wonderful young lady use her hands to express words. I am picking up words slowly (very slowly) and plan on finding a sign language book soon. I took a 6 week course many years ago while working at a VA hospital. That was far too many years ago to remember much of anything. And I am betting that the sign language book I bought for the class has long since disappeared.

Granddaughter warmed up to us in record time - small wonder it takes awhile since we don't spend a lot of time together. I hope that will change in 2007 - and it will require more effort on our part.

It was a beautiful couple of hours to see all three of them - but mostly granddaughter. She is a delight - and for me, the icing on the cake for this weekend since I spent a couple of hours with grandson on Saturday.

I do have memories of our children growing up - but not the age they were when I recall that memory. Memories of tantrums - both daughter & son - and the horrified looks on peoples' faces when I turned away and walked a few steps away. Of course, I was well within seeing & running range should the tantrum put anyone in harm's way. Calmness on my part cut the tantrums quickly - and the ability to experience no embarrassment when observers had the audacity to address my reaction to the tantrum . While "dancing" with granddaughter, I remembered dancing with daughter - perhaps the same age - where daughter threw up after being twirling in circles and then laughed and said MORE - granddaughter just giggled heartily. Where did we lose that joy in simple things as twirling in circles and enjoying that loss of equilibrium?

I hope for so many more family blessings this year - and know that sometimes those blessings come when they can but a little planning on our part can't hurt.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Family Trust and Faith

Yesterday afternoon I babysat our grandson for a couple of hours. This was a good thing. Even though I'm family, faith & trust was placed in me that all would be well while the parents took time for themselves to enjoy a movie.

I learned four truths while looking after this wonderful young man of 2 years plus.

First, we all start out with an incredible energy level. Sadly, we seem to lose this energy level as time goes on. I know the body isn't capable of doing things when it's 80 years old as it did when it was 15 years old ... but I believe now that we let the world dictate what's proper and what's not. Two year old kids can constantly revolve their bodies in circles for a couple of minutes and laugh when they fall down. Thirty year old people wouldn't even think of spinning in circles. Okay, maybe alone but not in public. I taught grandson the penquin walk which he picked up immediately. Mom was cool - she mimicked son immediately. Dad - well, he's a little more reserved. Dads are like that sometimes.

Second, never take a two year olds' words for gospel. If they say they like a certain food, don't believe it for a second. If it involves cooking something - think twice. The cheesey eggs story will be one I'll be telling for years. This two year old is bright. No, make that brilliant. He immediately linked not eating lunch meant taking a nap. For twenty minutes we went from "I like cheesey eggs" to "I no like cheesey eggs". He ate part of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich and then took a nap (no cookies and apple juice though).

Third, never underestimate the power of a hug. This child gives the best hugs in the world - okay, next to my husband's hugs. It's unreserved, accompanied by a smile and a kiss. It doesn't matter what sort of mishappenings occured during the day - the hug, smile and kiss takes it all away.

Fourth, family. I have learned the hard way that family will always be there no matter what. For a couple of years, we lost touch with one of our family members. I still believe God had His hands on us during that time. It taught us a couple of things. Patience, love and family comes before anything else. My husband drove 150 miles the day before his father's birthday, spent the night with his sister & her family and the next morning surprised his dad and mom for dad's birthday. My husband spent one of his vacation days to do this - and it meant catching up on work when he returned. Yet, it was important to do this. Family will be there no matter what. While I didn't really grasp this while looking after the grandson - I had a sense of this for awhile and it became a truth yesterday afternoon.

Our son has a blog. Every so often he comes up with a thought that stuns me - and then fills me with pride. He has discovered family. He wrote about accountability - and not turning off his cell phone. I tied that all into the concept of family - being available if needed. He's the dad of this magnificant 2 year old I mentioned earlier. And he's so blessed with a wife who can learn the penquin walk and laugh about it. I count my blessings to include the fact they live close to us.

Can't wait for the next episode of watching grandson. I bet I'll learn there's a fifth truth.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Power of Words

The other day I spent some time talking and listening to a member of the family. She's had some rough times in the past year all of which can be classified as 'marital problems'. After 15 years of marriage, she called us - she didn't know what to do anymore and she wanted to move out. Long story short, she now lives in our apartment building. It's been over a year since the big move and sadly, no vast improvement on the part of her estranged husband.

After listening to her laments, I realized that we all possess a very valuable weapon: the power of words. I heard over and over 'he never follows through'. Words can encourage, bring smiles, bring tears, plant seeds of doubt and if we're good enough with words & the listener is receptive - change the course of a life.

We all have free will and we choose so many courses of action - all part of God's plan. No sense in blaming others for choices we make in life. The power of words can destroy - if we choose to let them. However, we also have a responsibility to spread God's word - and the commandment to love is above all His commandments. That includes the words of encouragement, love and faith.

My only words of advice were: no more "you never follow through' - start with 'I knew you could do it'. Who knows what the power of those six words can do. Maybe it will make a difference - may it won't.
But said enough times, I believe those words will at least plant a seed in the heart of the speaker. Who knows what it can do to the listener.

I know I can do this ....


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Movies Making an Impact

Yesterday evening, dear husband & I ventured out to a movie. The choices are pretty slim if you set certain standards for a movie: must have no blantant sex in it (okay if the married couple disappear off the screen and it's obvious what's going to happen - emphasis on the MARRIED part), no excessive swearing (nix the movies that think four letter words are adjectives), and no body parts flying all over the screen (nix the bloody horror films). That kind of narrows it down.

For last night's movie venture, I chose Will Smith's latest movie "The Pursuit of Happyness". Based on a true story (which I intend to research sometime this week), it's an inspiring movie. Despite everything, this man achieved his dream - and never once thought of leaving his son behind. I've read numerous reviews of this movie - and not one review really captured the essence of it. You just have to see it for yourself.