Changing Providers

We recently changed our cable service provider. Customer service had gone from bad, to awful, and finally to can’t live with this anymore. After a bit of research, I found a new provider offering a better deal with a lower rate. Yeah, I know the price will increase in a year, but for now, it’s a better deal.

Changing cable service is not for the faint of heart, especially at this age. The programming is pretty much the same, but just a little off kilter. One has to relearn a bunch of stuff you already know; learn to operate a new remote, find your favorite shows and figure out how to record them, again.

No manual. No instructions. Well, unless you count the two-minute orientation by the installer.

Tom and I have a totally different learning style which drives both of us a little crazy. I sit and study the remote, looking for similarities to the previous one. My philosophy is the buttons are the same, just located in different places. Tom’s process is to push buttons until he figures everything out. Of course, the TV screen often goes blank and he doesn’t remember which button he pushed.

It’s sort of like the old saying, “everything old is new again.” Living through a little period of adjustment, we familiarized ourselves with new channel numbers, finding the mute button, and so on. However, we sort of ended up back where we started with tons of channels and nothing we wanted to watch.

Tom is happy to have inherited a few more options for watching sports. I was happy to find several channels with old sitcoms (i.e. Donna Reed, Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons). Relaxing shows that make me smile. Sure they’re from a different era, but they feel like easy listening music or what my daughters used to call mom’s elevator music.

Having to give up our 25-year old phone number and our email address was a bummer. But, a positive has been no telemarketing calls for almost two months. As Martha Stewart would say, “That’s a good thing.”

Changing contact information was a bit more difficult. I told myself it was an opportunity to change user name and password information which I understand everyone needs to do occasionally for safety reasons.

Purging one’s computer now and again seems like a good idea. I eliminated tons of useless information. Now if I could only get motivated to clean out the file cabinets.

Changing our email address eliminated junk emails and companies trying to sell us stuff. My inbox has been a breeze to maintain lately. However, I order online (a lot) so I know it is only a matter of time until they find my hiding place.

Checking emails this morning, saw an email I had not requested. I have been found.

The communique was from Tips on Life and Love offering me advice on how to have a successful first date. The article said that first dates can either go really well or horribly wrong. Gee, you think?

The article went on to say the way to successfully navigate a good first date is to ask the following seven questions. Not all at once. Just sprinkle them throughout your conversation.

Maybe too many years have passed since I was on a date, but I found the questions strange. Listed them below so you all can make up your own mind. (Excuse my answers, but it was too big of a temptation.

Tell me what a typical day looks like for you?

Is this a date or a job interview?                                            

Have you ever doubted your career choice, and how did you deal with the doubt?

Considering I am retired, it just seemed the right thing to do.

How did you and your best-friend meet, and how did they become your best friend?

Met him in the 4th grade. I don’t know. It just happened over the next few years. He                went away to college, fell in love and married my new best friend. We were like                        sisters for the next 45 years.

What is the most embarrassing story about you your friends would tell me?

Are you kidding, I grew up in Norwood. Everybody knows my embarrassing                             moments. Heck, the stories have been repeated so many times, they aren’t even                       embarrassing anymore.

What do you have to apologize for most often?

I’m too old to remember.

What’s in your fridge at home right now?

Vegetables, fruit, cheese, butter, blackberry jelly, salad fixings/dressing, milk, OJ,                     fruit juice, water, and strawberry ice cream. Not very exciting, is it? Bet you’re                        sorry you asked!

Without telling me what it is, why is your favorite movie your favorite?

Love movies and discussing them, but I’m too old to play guessing games. My                           memory isn’t that great anymore.  

After a good laugh, I pointed out there was no mention of grandkids in those questions. Not one single question. Agreeing we couldn’t exist without talking about our grandkids, Tom wondered aloud, “What did we talk about before they came into our lives?”

Nodding my head in agreement, I told him the highlights of my week had been dinner with our youngest granddaughter and a phone call from the oldest one telling us about her first week of college. Important stuff in our world!

Struggling to remember the conversation from our first date, we finally decided it had been too long ago. It didn’t really matter. Obviously, we had liked each other because we kept dating, even got married.

Me: “So, do these people know something I don’t? Are you thinking of flying the coop?”

Tom: “Nope, never really thought about it. Where would I go?

We both laughed. Where would we go, indeed? What would we do? What would we talk about to someone new? Someone who doesn’t know our stories, couldn’t finish our sentences.

We admit it, we’re old. Tend to resist change. We like life just the way it is. Enjoy living in the comfortable stage of love. Understanding when one does something for a long time it becomes a habit, a comfortable habit. At this age, things seem to come easier than when we were younger, maybe because of the habits.

I am grateful we can’t even imagine life without each other in it. We promised each other we would stay together for a lifetime. Keeping our promise and loving each other has been a good thing.

We realize our life is not forever, but don’t think we’re interested in changing providers in this area anytime soon.

Ending on a Positive Note: Relationships matter. I have heard it said that the only things that truly matter in one’s life are the relationships we share with other people. At the heart of one’s life are the relationships we have with family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. How we choose to grow those relationships control the happiness and joy in our lives and in the lives of others.

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt,

kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate.”

– Albert Schweitzer –

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Life’s Ups and Downs

Tom took me to my monthly appointment at the Cincinnati Eye Institute earlier this week. Usually, it takes about three hours, but this appointment only took about an hour and twenty minutes.

The parking lot was packed so I was surprised to see so few patients in the retina waiting room. Fewer patients meant the routine moved quickly. A nice young man clicked new pictures of my right eye; a cute little nurse took me to the exam room for the usual drops to dilate, check eye pressure and all of the other fun and games. In record time, I ended up in the waiting room where a white-haired gentleman and I had a delightful talk about our grandchildren going off to college.

My eyes were exceptionally blurry so I was glad he was there to fill my wait time. His stories were entertaining and made me laugh. I wonder if people ever realize what a wonderful gift they share by making someone else smile and laugh.

The cute little nurse reappeared calling my name and led me to the room where I would get my monthly shot (in my eyeball). I’m used to the drill. As she hands me a Kleenex, I laugh and say, “Bring on the Mountain Dew drops.” The first time I dabbed with the Kleenex, I noted the drops were the exact same color as Mountain Dew so that is how I identify them. Gotta find some humor.

Not sure the nurses necessarily think my comment is funny, but they always laugh. God bless ‘em.

As I sit alone in a quiet room waiting for the numbing meds to do their job, my thoughts review the last few days. It’s been a crazy week, full of ups and downs.

I am grateful for being able to order my groceries online and now have them delivered right to my door. Once such an easy task, grocery shopping had become quite difficult in the past year. Now for a nominal fee, I don’t have to impose on others.

I am grateful to have received my new business cards ordered at 50% off the regular price; happy to finally have found the courage to put Writer/Blogger under my name. Doesn’t mean anything to anyone but me, but it was a big step and a reminder I can still create surprise in my life.

I am grateful for the joy of seeing my granddaughter’s smiling face filled with excitement as she left for college. Happy she has the opportunity to attend the college of her choice, study for a degree of her choosing, and represent her university while continuing to play the sport she loves. Although I am going to miss having her close, seeing her on a regular basis, and getting a sweaty hug after her games, I look forward to hearing her stories about her new experiences and the people she will encounter in her new world. This is her next step, her time.

I look around the room and notice a sign on the eye equipment folded against the wall. A simple sign with a flag of red, white, and blue that reads Made in America. A feeling of pride overcomes me. The same feeling I experience when I place my hand over my heart and stand for the National Anthem. One that becomes more special the older I get. Don’t get scared, I’m not going to break into a rendition of I’m Proud to be an American. My singing voice stinks these days.

Then my thoughts drift to the horrendous devastation in Texas after Hurricane Harvey roared ashore. In my mind, I pull up frightening images that have flashed across our television screens of houses and businesses flooded and destroyed.

Unbelievable pictures of expressway ramps, cars, semi-trailers, and even airplanes all under water. Another set of pictures of people of all ages being carried, airlifted, rescued and taken to shelters.

Difficult images to un-see of nursing home residents and hospital patients being carried to safety still in their beds. Victims cling to their rescuers; with nothing but the clothes on their backs. My heart is heavy knowing it will take years to repair the massive destruction.

I think of the heroic rescuers working around the clock trying to find victims in peril. Exhausted, overwhelmed. Do they pray as they do their job? Ask God to give them uncommon strength or do they just keep on putting one foot in front of another in the muddy, murky water? Knowing there’s a backlog of people still needing to be evacuated.

Victims are wet, dirty, afraid, grateful to be alive. A lady on the news with tears streaming down her face said, “Our family is glad to be in this shelter. We’re safe and dry, but wonder how long we have to stay here before we can rebuild our beautiful Texas and have our lives back.”

As I struggle to take my thoughts in a different direction, the door opens and the doctor enters the room.

As I say hello and try to match his light banter, he brings me up-to-date on my issues. Quickly he administers the shot, asks if I have questions, tells me he is pleased with my progress and is off to another patient. I wonder if he is tired, stressed or wishing his day was almost over.

Outside, sitting on my walker and feeling the light breeze on my face, I wait for Tom to pick me up. Even my fuzzy-eye can see well enough to enjoy the beautiful sights that surround me: bright red flowers, flowering bushes in pretty shades of purple, a beautiful sky of blue with big fluffy clouds. It is difficult to understand the conflicting scene before me and the devastating images that linger in my mind of Texas.

Uncontrollable situations like Hurricane Harvey happen. I don’t know about you, but they make me feel very small, helpless. Like many Americans, I want to help in some way. But, old age and physical ailments are constant reminders those days are in my past.

What can I realistically do? Send a donation? Clean out a closet and send items I can do without that might help a person who has lost everything? Pray? Those things seem like such a small effort for such a big disaster.

At home, Tom brings me a glass of water and an aspirin. Settling into my recliner to sleep off my headache and the swelling in my eye, I pray with gratitude for the thousands of volunteers from all over the U.S. helping with the relief effort in Texas. I ask God to provide strength and comfort to the victims and the rescuers, to keep them safe as they struggle to get through this horrifying situation.

As my eyes grow heavy, I remember to thank God that the things in my simple, everyday world are okay, for the moment. I am blessed.

Ending on a Positive Note: As the water from Hurricane Harvey diminishes and the massive cleanup starts, I am reminded of being a part of a Keep America Beautiful campaign back in the 80s. As thousands of people across the U.S. worked to reduce the amount of litter in their communities through education and prevention efforts, one campaign stood out.

Their slogan, Don’t Mess with Texas , was simple. It spoke volumes with boldness and swagger. “Don’t you dare litter in Texas, this is our home and we’re going to keep it beautiful.” That sentiment is still going strong with a commitment to keeping the Lone Star State beautiful and litter-free.

My small donation went to Matthew 25 Ministries, an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization helping more than 20 million people in need each year. I love their mission of Caring for a Needy World with the Things we throw away and appreciate that their response time is swift in situations such as Hurricane Harvey. I am struck by the simplicity of two great organizations that impact people’s lives every day.

Although it will take a lot of time, Texas will recover. Their people are strong, tough, and hardy. Plus the American Spirit is alive in the good, decent Americans who are rallying around them. Whether bringing comfort to the people of Texas by providing much-needed supplies, donations of time, money, or prayer. Texas will survive and come back strong, still proud of their rich history.

 

Sight vs. Vision

Ever notice how life changes without our permission? No matter how well we plan, how disciplined we are, life can change in an instant. The only real constant in life is change.

Some months ago, my eyes started getting fuzzy.  At first I noticed keeping score at my granddaughter’s softball games had me filling in the wrong box on the score sheet or having difficulty tallying hits, runs, or RBIs. I blamed it on the bright sunlight or the fact I had forgotten my hat. But, that didn’t explain dealing with the same issues on rainy days.

Although my handwriting had never been worthy of an A+ in penmanship, it had always been readable. I didn’t write much anymore having become dependent on my computer. Banking online had virtually eliminated the need to write checks, except for a few here and there. Those few had my words slanting up and down, above the lines, below the lines.

The changes didn’t make sense as I had recently had my eyes examined and was sporting new spiffy red glasses.

My frustration spilled over into everything I did. Trying to read street signs or judge distances became a problem so I stopped driving. I was annoyed that using my computer was becoming increasingly difficult; I cut way back on my computer usage.

The final straw was when I could no longer read a book, even the ones in larger print. Increasing the font size on my Kindle was of little help. My blurry vision just got worse, and worse.

I scheduled an appointment to get my eyes checked with a new doctor. She was upbeat, friendly, about the size of a pencil, and looked about fifteen. I liked her immediately. At the end of her thorough exam, she said, “You have a cataract that desperately needs to be removed.”

Her next comment surprised me. “Which eye would you say is your worst eye?” My reply was immediate. “That’s easy, my right eye.”

She looked at me rather strangely, saying, “My exam shows your left, the one with the cataract, is much worse.” So she did some scans; took some pictures.

Thirty minutes later, she showed me photos of her finding. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), and a growth filled with fluid and blood attached to the back of my right retina. If she had never asked the question, I would never have had a clue.

Two days later, I spent the afternoon at the Cincinnati Eye Institute (CEI) for a battery of tests and heard the ophthalmologist’s confirmation of the diagnosis of Macular Degeneration in both eyes.

The only thing I knew about Macular Degeneration was people with the disease could end up going blind. My mind swirled with questions, and a bunch of scary thoughts.

The ophthalmologist took time to patiently answer questions about the disease and discuss various types of treatment. He prescribed special vitamins and a monthly shot directly into the eyeball to stabilize the growth attached to my retina and slow the progression of the disease.

I learned about the forms of AMD, wet and dry. About 90% of people diagnosed have dry AMD. Early AMD usually starts out as dry, but in about 10% of cases it can develop into wet AMD. I had the disease in both eyes, one was dry and the other was wet.

My mouth opened saying, “Well I always try to do things in an interesting manner.” Sometimes I make the dumbest comments, but the doctor smiled, telling me he liked my attitude.

Although I had been at CEI for over four hours, it seemed in the blink of an eye I was diagnosed, received my first shot, handed a card with appointments for recurring shots and sent home.

After reading the information from the doctor, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a progressive eye condition that damages the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision.

I soon realized there really was nothing much I could do. Accept the doctor’s finding. Pray. Turn the whole thing over to God and let Him take care of the situation.

When I was young, my mother used to tell me, “Don’t ever feel too sorry for yourself because you can look in any direction and see someone much worse off than yourself.”  Her words had seen me through a lot of rough spots and saved me from numerous “worry wart” sessions.

After several months of shots and cataract surgery my blurry vision is improving.  The growth attached to my retina is nearly gone, for now. The swelling and bruising is slowly disappearing. I no longer look like I’ve gone a few rounds with Muhammad Ali or George Foreman. (Sorry these were the only boxers I could think of at the moment.)

I am anxious to order new glasses in a few weeks. New glasses will mean reading the stack of books patiently awaiting my attention, resuming writing my blog, and outlining some thoughts for a new book. New glasses will mean I can drive again. Although, I have to admit I will miss my chauffeur with the bright brown eyes that twinkle when he smiles. Who am I kidding; I’m not giving him up, not after 53 years.

Only downfall: the shots in my eyeball will continue indefinitely. They are a pain, literally, but I can live with them.

Getting older has opened my eyes to see that life just goes on, with or without our permission. It simply is what it is.

Life is every-changing. We cannot control our destiny. However, we can remain optimistic; never losing sight of the beauty and the joy that surrounds us.

Trusting God is in control and feeling His presence all around me; my heart is full of gratitude for the awesome life I have been given.

Ending on a Positive Note: God never promised life would be easy, but He continues to provide strength and guidance to get us through the rough times.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths before you and be steadfast in all your ways.”

Proverbs: 4 25-26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Where You Come From

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Graduation signifies the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another.

The first time I was totally aware of the meaning of that statement was when I graduated from high school.

June 5, 1963 came so quickly. It didn’t seem possible our graduation day had arrived. But there we were marching across the high school track to the football field, through the junior honor guard, walking past our parents seated in rented wooden folding chairs , marching in time to the processional played by the high school band.

As we filed onto the stage built just for the graduation ceremony, we were happy everything was going as we had rehearsed it. After hearing stories of girls at past graduations walking right out of their shoes when heels got stuck in the grass, my friends and I were happy to hit the stage with our high heels still intact.

The sign to be seated was given and the class went silent. Even the rowdy students were on their best behavior; no one wanting to embarrass themselves in front of school officials, their parents, and friends.

Suddenly it became real. High school days were over. We were really graduating. A chapter of our life was closing, never to be reopened.

The graduation ceremony included the usual speakers reminding us of the highlights of our four years at Norwood High School and describing what our futures might hold. All too soon, we were standing one row at a time, walking across the stage when our name was called to receive our diplomas from the Board of Education president.

Then standing as a class, we completed our last official act, switched our tassels and it was over.

Afterwards, happy graduates milled around, smiling, and laughing. Flashbulbs flashed as cameras captured images of graduates posing with family and friends. Parents were proud and some of our mothers cried. We didn’t understand their tears.

Looking back on that night, the keynote speaker’s comments remain a blur. I wish I had paid more attention to his advice. Bet his talk shared some wisdom that might have helped me somewhere along my way.

Flash forward to 1986 when the keynote talk was my responsibility. The ceremony was no longer held on the high school football field. An increase in graduating class sizes had changed the venue several times; otherwise the format hadn’t changed in the twenty-three years since my graduation. The only obvious changes had transpired in my life. Marriage, motherhood, building a career, and trying to live a good life had kept me busy.

I wrote and rewrote that speech, struggling for weeks to find the right words to inspire and offer helpful advice to the Class of 1986. In the back of my mind, I wondered if anyone would be listening. Would the graduates be more aware than I had been? Would they know a most important chapter in their lives was ending?

Would they understand that after high school, classmates go their separate ways, scattering into the next chapter of their lives; some to college, some to the military, some moving away while others stayed close to home? Classmates marry, have families. Some are never seen again. Never return for class reunions. Some never step foot in their old high school ever again.

As president of the board of education, I had the honor of awarding diplomas to the Class of 1986. While serving on the board, I also had the pleasure of presenting both of my daughters with their diplomas. What special memories.

Another big jump forward to May 25, 2017 when my husband and I attended our granddaughter’s high school graduation at Deer Park High School. The graduation once again, came too quickly. It seemed our granddaughter went from five to eighteen at warp speed.

Watching her sing in the Senior Chorus at the beginning of the ceremony, I cried as they sang For Good, a beautiful poignant song from the Broadway musical Wicked—the untold story of the Witches of Oz. It fit the moment perfectly.

“It well may be

That we will never meet again

In this lifetime

So let me say before we part

So much of me

Is made of what I learned from you

You’ll be with me

Like a handprint on my heart

And now whatever way our stories end

I know you have re-written mine

By being my friend:

Like a ship blown from its mooring

By a wind off the sea

Like a seed dropped by a skybird

In a distant wood

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

But because I knew you: have been changed for good.

After the song, the graduation format unfolded with the usual components; the same familiar words. This time I listened more intently to what the speakers were saying. I find the older I get, the better I listen.

I especially related to the words of the keynote speaker and hoped the young people on the stage were listening. Richie Schueler, a proud native of Deer Park and Class of 1996 graduate of Deer Park High School had an impressive life resume. He was an engaging young man who spoke honest, insightful, and inspirational words. It was obvious he had immense pride in his Deer Park roots and attributed the foundation of his life to the community he grew up in. He seemed to be telling my high school story.

His words about the advantages of small high schools; having the opportunity to know everyone in the class, or maybe even the whole school, resonated with me and my memories of Norwood High School.

He asked the 2017 grads to take a look around at their classmates, to recognize after thirteen years together their life was about to change drastically. That night might be the last time they would ever be together as a class. He encouraged them to follow their passion, work hard, and never forget where they were from, and to proudly go and show the world just what a kid from Deer Park could do with their life. He then closed with their traditional school motto: It’s always a great day to be a Wildcat!

Then standing as a class, they completed their last official act. All together, they switched their tassels, marched out with big smiles on their faces and it was over.

Once again, I watched as graduates happily hugged their family and friends, and posed for lots of photos, this time photos were taken primarily with cell phones. Hugging my granddaughter, I told her we were so proud of her and her many accomplishments, but also proud of her eagerness to begin college, her next chapter. Happy she was so excited to be on her way to her future.

I sought out the keynote speaker to offer my congratulations on his wonderful words. As he thanked me, he laughed saying, “That was the hardest speech I ever had to write. I really struggled.”

“You ever have to do one of those talks?” Laughing, I answered yes and told him of my own difficulties to find just the right words. We both agreed it had been a proud moment in our lives.

Norwood and Deer Park are similar; both small schools, both filled with tons of traditions. How exciting to think of the graduations happening all across the nation with millions of graduates, parents and grandparents experiencing similar emotions, going through comparable traditions at their respective high schools.

Traditions tend to create a common bond among fellow classmates because high school is a special time. Classmates together in the same place learning to take baby steps to discover who they are, learning to make their own decisions, discovering new interests, learning to trust, and beginning to find their way.

Life after high school takes us in different directions, down different paths. Experiences after high school help polish and hone one’s goals, one’s skills, and one’s determination to succeed. Smoothing out the rough edges while we are figuring out what kind of person we truly want to become. Those experiences help to define our life.

High school graduation has always been a significant moment. As graduates everywhere close their first chapter and get ready to embark on an exciting next step, I hope they remember the foundation they received from the schools and communities they grew up in.

The carefree days before I graduated from Norwood High School remain inside me. Those years were some of the best years of my life. They helped prepare me to think for myself and to maintain an open mind as I ventured into a very diverse, complex world.

Reflecting on my life, three things stand out. Remembering who I am, where I come from, and what I believe.

Wishing all 2017 grads good luck in their future endeavors and hoping they will influence their world with good by remembering where they come from.

Ending on a Positive Note: The graduation photos and posts all over Facebook for the last few weeks have energized my spirit; given me new hope for the future of this country, this world. A new batch of bright, energized young people beginning their next chapter is cause for celebration.

 

Memorial Day – Picnics and Parades?

After stopping to schedule my next appointment at the doctor’s office last week, the young lady handed me a card confirming my appointment and said in a cherry voice, “Have a happy Memorial Day.”

Happy Memorial Day! The words didn’t go together. Memorial Day isn’t a happy day to be celebrated. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance and gratitude. Isn’t it?

I’m old enough to remember when Memorial Day was always on May 30th. Maybe that adds to our confusion about the true meaning of the day. Somewhere along the way, Memorial Day became a three-day weekend.

Today, the long Memorial Day weekend has become the unofficial start of summer. Picnics, backyard barbecues, the Indianapolis 500, mattress ads on TV, baseball games, and if the weather is warm enough, a dip in your neighbor’s pool. Some see it as just an extra day off work.

There’s nothing wrong with picnics or relaxing with friends. But, some seem to have forgotten we should take time to remember who paid the price for our relaxing day or that extra day off work.

As a young girl living in the country Memorial Day, or what my parents called Decoration Day, had a meaning that was a bit more special. Every year, families got all dressed in their Sunday best and headed for Mill Springs Cemetery in Nancy, Kentucky.

I don’t remember a parade, just speeches about war and patriotic songs being sung. Serious faces and snippets of conversations and tears about losing loved ones, a brother, or a father in the war. It was never referred to as World War I or WWII, just “the war.”

Daddy told me the site of Mill Springs National Cemetery was originally a Civil War battlefield. Today the cemetery is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. One of the first National Cemeteries created, it still receives burials today. It is one of the oldest National Cemeteries still in operation.

Many smaller towns and communities still have parades with the high school band marching and playing patriotic songs. A color guard usually carries an American flag and flags representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Along the parade route, excited little kids wave small flags and grab the wrapped candy tossed from the elected officals’ cars to those who watch from the sidelines.

In the early 1960s, as a majorette, I marched with the Norwood High School band in an annual Memorial Day parade, down Montgomery Road ending at Victory Park for speeches about the importance of remembering those who had died to protect our freedom.

There were always representatives from the local community, usually a few older men dressed in partial uniforms of the various U.S. military forces; veterans in a shirt, or a jacket covered with military emblems and maybe a few medals. Whatever they had left or maybe what still fit.

All veterans of different wars, they marched proudly. Their faces somber as they stood as straight as their bodies would allow, saluting the bronze plaques in Victory Park of the veterans who died in wars before Vietnam.

Today, I witnessed another small town parade in the community where we now live. Not much different from the parades of my teenage years. A color guard opened the parade, elected officials still threw wrapped candy, and little kids still waved flags. There was not one, but two bands. However, there was no patriotic music, just a drum cadence. I miss  the music.

People of all ages lined the parade route; some sitting in lawn chairs, some standing, some putting their hand over their heart as Old Glory went by, or saluting as the veterans rode past in the back of a pick-up truck. The veterans still had somber faces, still wore their uniforms with pride.

I wondered how many minds were thinking about lost loved ones. The husbands, wives, sons, daughters, grandchildren or friends who had served their country, but maybe had never returned from the war they had served in.

Today’s morning TV was filled with images of Americans observing the holiday by placing flowers and flags flapping in the breeze on the graves of fallen soldiers. By the end of the weekend, hundreds of thousands of people will have visited cemeteries all across America to pay their respects.

I started to end this blog by looking up the number of those who have died serving their country but stopped, knowing the number would be way too high. It would hurt too much.

In the past few weeks, I have attended celebrations with my family, special occasions such as a sports banquet, dance recital, a granddaughter’s 16th birthday, and watched my oldest granddaughter graduate from high school.

How many men and women fighting for MY FREEDOM would have loved to have been present for just one of those special occasions involving their own children? How long has it been, for some military moms or dads, since they have hugged their children or kissed them good night? I can’t even imagine what life must be like for the kids who miss their moms or dads every day. Just wishing and praying they were at home or on their way home.

Every year, I watch the National Memorial Day Concert from Washington, D.C. Last night the show was hard to watch. I didn’t cry, I sobbed. Instead of just saying nice, appropriate things about our service men and women to make us feel patriotic, or maybe to ease our consciences a bit, they chose to tell stories about true American heroes. Real-life stories about injury, death, and people trying to pick up the pieces of their forever changed lives.

Stories about real-life service men and women who are still struggling to find their way back to an old life, before war. A grown woman told of the heartbreak of losing her father (when she was eight) while he was serving in Vietnam. Another story was of a young husband and father, severely injured in an explosion, who struggles daily with difficult rehabilitation. He will never hug his children again. Never walk again.

All of the stories were so moving, filled with bravery and courage. Stories such as these should be incorporated into history books so our children and grandchildren can gain a better understanding of the horrors of war. Wars are more than names of generals, dates, numbers. Wars do irreparable damage that change people and the world we live in.

This Memorial Day, let us be grateful to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for  America’s freedom. It is a debt we can never repay. As Americans, we owe it to our all–voluntary military to appreciate what the true meaning of Memorial Day is.

Ask any Gold Star family, they can tell us what it means. It’s about the men and women who have given their lives for this country. Special men and women who died to make it possible for us to live in freedom.

Starting today, my prayer list will include praying for our service men and women every single day (and their families waiting at home). I invite you to join me in praying for their safety. To honor and respect our veterans, and those who still serve.

Ending on a Positive Note: Wars can’t possibly be the answer. There must be a better way to settle our differences. There must be a way for us to learn to get along, to find peace. As the song that closed last night’s concert says, “Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin with Me.”

Special Women’s Retreats

Yesterday, I did something I hadn’t done since April 2011, I was a guest speaker at a women’s retreat.

Occasionally I receive requests asking if I still do speaking engagements saying I was recommended by a friend who heard me speak some years ago, etc. Since my speaking business has been non-existent for seven years, I am always caught by surprise that people would still remember me. I guess it pays to keep the same phone number for so many years.

I don’t know why I accepted this time, except I liked the lady who contacted me and my signature talk was exactly what they wanted for their retreat. Part of me was curious to see if I was capable of doing a presentation seated since I can no longer stand long enough to deliver a 45-60 minute talk.

So glad I accepted. It was a special time. Their theme was a Recipe for Life. The ladies were delightful making me feel right at home as if I were a friend instead of the speaker.

Retreats are a special treat for a speaker. They are an opportunity to see women taking time from busy, hectic schedules to unwind and enjoy time with their friends. Watching as they talk, laugh, and spend time refreshing and renewing their thoughts and minds. I loved that not one cell phone rang.

In one-on-one conversations, a couple of them shared painful experiences when they were going through dark times; some I could relate to while others were things I haven’t experienced yet. I was deeply honored to hear their stories and thank them for their trust.

I couldn’t believe it had been seven years since I had done my last retreat representing my small speaking ministry focused on living a life in balance. 2011 seemed like an eternity ago, when speaking, blogging, everything was put aside so I could care for my daughter after her diagnosis of stage-IV cancer.

Seven years ago, I found other speakers for my upcoming commitments, except one at a retreat where I was the only speaker scheduled to speak four times during the weekend. I already had the talks prepared and wasn’t sure I could find a replacement on short notice, so I did it. The ladies at that retreat also welcomed me as a friend and blessed me with so much love and support. I still am in contact with several of them today.

As I refreshed my talk for Saturday, I was pleased to see that I had remained true to many of the changes referenced in my talk but realized there are still many more that await my attention.

However, I have learned one important thing. I no longer try to do what only God can do? Try to control the uncontrollable, stop the unstoppable, or fix the unfixable.

I often hear people ask, “If God is in control, why doesn’t he change this, or do that, or make this thing better?” I honestly don’t know. But, I have found time and time again that He is trustworthy and faithful. He knows what we need. Knows how our stories end. That’s good enough for me.

I love speaking, making people laugh, but an engagement requires a lot of preparation, strength and stamina. Not sure that is what I should be doing at this stage of my life. Think I’ll let God tell me what He wants me to do.

Which is exactly what I encouraged the women to consider adding to their Recipe for Life on Saturday, since God knows how to combine just the right ingredients to meet all of our needs, no matter what our situation.

Ending on a Positive Note: Age brings the wisdom of allowing God to put your life into perspective. It’s amazing what He can do if we just get out of His way.

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your path.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

Looking for Good

Some years ago, I began to intentionally look for the positive things in my simple, everyday life. I found saying thank you for small kindnesses or letting people know I appreciated them for doing their job well, was very rewarding. Sometimes, it’s hard to spot optimism, but you can find it if you look for it.

I do most of my shopping online because health issues make it difficult to actually shop in person. Online doesn’t always produce a positive experience, but I am slowly weeding out the stores where I have encountered a bad experience. As my shopping outlets are shrinking, some are gaining my trust. Those stores have made it easier to find products I like, easier to maneuver ordering and return policies. And, make it easier to accept shopping online as my new way of life.

Whenever a customer service experience goes well, I thank the young rep (most of them are young these days) for making my order experience go smoothly. If there is a follow-up survey after the experience, I always take the time to complete it. It doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes and time is the one thing I have plenty of.

However, it’s impossible to do doctor visits online. This time of year brings annual visits to several different doctors for a mammogram, ultrasounds, scans, etc. Doctor visits are difficult and usually leave me exhausted.

I try to be punctual for appointments and have my insurance card (and co-pay) readily available. I try to smile, answer questions, and be pleasant with the staff. This week proved to be a bit of a struggle as I encountered several folks who were just downright rude.

I try to overlook rudeness, if possible. I remember having bad days when I was working; days when everything went wrong. Often, we can be rude without even knowing it, I’m sure my life has found me guilty on many occasions.

However, this week one incident sort of got under my skin. Checking in to see the doctor, a young lady was extremely rude to me and to everyone who came in after me. I noticed that most people came through the door with a pleasant expression on their face, but after a few minutes of being treated with no respect, they became irritated. Many lashed out in frustration with anger in their voices.

After seeing the doctor and stopping at the check-out station, the same young lady didn’t even look at me before she said angrily, “Is May 6th okay?”

Trying to keep my cool, I explained I would need to schedule the ultrasound before making an appointment with the doctor. The reason for seeing him was to follow-up to learn the ultrasound results.

It was obvious she wasn’t listening. After repeating my words three times, I stopped talking.

After an awkward pause, she looked up at me with a blank stare. I then said, “Miss, I don’t mean to be impolite, but you are not listening to what I am saying. I must schedule the ultrasound before scheduling the doctor appointment.”

She was angry. Her face was a dark thundercloud; filled with such pain that I somehow knew she wasn’t angry with me.

Her name tag read Susan, so I quietly said, “Susan, obviously you are very upset. I’m sure this isn’t the way you normally do your job. I’m sorry you are having such a bad day. I’m going to say a prayer for your day to get better.”

Susan sat and just looked at me. My mind was whirling, thinking I had said too much, gone too far. I could see Susan was struggling. Her eyes filled with tears. Finally focusing, she leaned forward and whispered, “I am so sorry. Of course, the ultrasound should be scheduled before the doctor’s appointment. In fact, why don’t I schedule your ultrasound and call you back to confirm the date?” I told her that wasn’t necessary, but she insisted.

In the parking lot, I sat for a few minutes praying for Susan; asking God to guide her through the issues that were causing her such pain. I prayed she would find peace in her life.

A thought occurred to me that if I could fill out a survey, I could take a few minutes to pray for people like Susan, even when they didn’t know I was praying. That thought made me happy and is certainly more productive than getting angry.

The next day, Susan called to confirm the ultrasound appointment just as she promised. As we wound up our conversation, she said, “Yesterday was really a rough day for me. Thanks again for your kindness in helping me get through it.” 

Whether we approach someone with positive or negative expectations, they will often (not always) tend to move toward fulfilling our expectations. Seeing positive possibilities in others will encourage them to bring out the best in themselves.

Look for the good in others, and you will likely find it. But encouraging them helps us grow and creates more positive thinking in our own lives.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Ending on a Positive Note: Sometimes God gives us the right words to say to help someone who is struggling with something we don’t understand (or need to understand). I am amazed at God’s faithfulness when we put our trust in Him.