Life Happens

When around a large group of people on a special vacation, wear a mask.

I started a new blog about a month ago, but I never finished it. I thought I would work on it and finish it before we left to go on our Alaskan vacation. Didn’t happen with all of the hustle and bustle to pack and get ready to leave for two weeks. We had booked a cruise/land tour with Princess Cruises. We had been on an Alaskan cruise with Princess before, but this time we added the land tour and planned different port excursions. We started our trip in Vancouver, BC, Canada and ended in Fairbanks, AK.

I took my trusty iPad along with the intention of (maybe) finishing up my blog and posting it. So much for good intentions.

The cruise was awesome. Princess was celebrating 50 years of cruising to Alaska. We had a balcony room (which I highly recommend), and the weather was great. I have also cruised on Carnival. Princess is much better. Carnival food is okay. Princess food was fabulous. The service was outstanding. Our waiter and assistant waiter even knew what our drink orders would be and had them ready for when we got to the table. Our head waiter spoiled us with special dishes that were not on the menu. We didn’t see much of our stateroom steward, but we knew he came by our room several times a day. He quickly picked up on our schedule and came by when he knew he wouldn’t bother us. He kept our towels replaced, the room neat, and the bathroom spotless. He even organized my shoes. Anything I mentioned to him was quickly taken care of.

We loved watching the scenery from our balcony. We even saw Humpback whales one evening from the balcony. One whale was playfully slapping his tail on the water for a long time.

We always schedule excursions through Princess. My husband has a fear of returning to the ship late and them leaving without us. If we book through Princess, we are guaranteed not to be left behind. They have so many wonderful excursions.

However, when you are with a large group of people, there are germs. And it seems that no matter how much you wash your hands or apply hand sanitizer, someone will manage to spread germs on you. I caught a cold and cough on the ship. It was starting to make itself evident as we were disembarking. That totally ruined my enjoyment of the land tour part of our vacation. I spent the land tour taking Robitussin and popping cough drops.

The land tour is a great deal of traveling by train and bus. We traveled from Whittier (where we left the ship) to Anchorage and spent the night in Anchorage. The next morning we rode a train to Talkeetna. In Talkeetna we were supposed to take a float trip, but since my husband and I were both not feeling great and the weather was cool and damp, we decided to cancel. So we took the bus to Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge.

The next day we took another bus to Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. Then we had a Jeep excursion on the Denali Highway. By this time, I’m exhausted, coughing, and feeling miserable. The next morning I opted not to go on the Denali Natural History Tour. Then it was another bus ride to Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge. Here we were going to spend two nights. By the time I got to Fairbanks I wanted to go see a doctor. The lady at the desk was so sweet. She told us of an urgent care clinic that was open until 8:00 PM and gave us vouchers for a taxi.

The biggest bummer for me was missing the Gold Dredge 8 and Sternwheeler Riverboat Cruise. I was just too exhausted and sick to go.

We got up at 4:30 AM the last morning to go to the airport and fly home.

Princess was quite organized. At each place, they gave us a welcome packet which included our room keys.

My assessment: the land tour is exhausting, especially if you’re sick. You do a lot of riding.

Lesson learned. When around a large group of people on a special vacation, wear a mask. If someone sneezes near your plate of food, get a new plate of food.

I still want to go on the Gold Dredge 8 & Sternwheeler Riverboat Cruise.

The “C” Word

The “c” word most people dread hearing is cancer. 

The “c” word most people dread hearing is cancer.

Five years ago, I went for my routine mammogram. I wasn’t expecting anything unusual to turn up, but within 2 weeks I had a diagnosis of cancer. The diagnosis was made in early June, and my mastectomy was scheduled for July 8. For a couple of weeks, I wasn’t sure if I would get to go ahead and have the mastectomy or have a port put in for chemo. Thankfully, the test results came back that I didn’t need to have chemo.

The word, cancer, hit me hard like a car coming out of nowhere and slamming into me. I just didn’t see it coming. My summer plans were instantly changed to surgery and then recovery.

I remember sitting in the breast surgeon’s office listening to him tell me about the surgery. I think it’s interesting that doctors go into all of this detail about the surgery and don’t tell you what to expect post-surgery. Yes. What he explained was important. He explained what kind of cancer I had. He explained why a lumpectomy would not be enough. I was okay with him taking the whole breast. He also explained that having a double mastectomy would not be an advantage. I opted to just have the one breast removed. He explained about reconstruction. I opted to not have reconstruction. I wanted that cancer out, and not put anything back in. Besides, I’d heard about problems with implants. I sat dry-eyed in the doctor’s office with the peace of knowing that God was in control. I had given my life to God when I was 8 years old. I knew that my life was in His hands, and that whatever I had to go through, He would be there with me through it all. He would give me the strength I needed.

I was NOT prepared for the first time I took the bandages off. The scar was a shock! He did NOT explain that I would have a drain in place for up to six weeks. And believe me, the drain made me cry much more than the missing breast. I could only take a shower with the water-proof tape over the drain, and the tape caused me some major itching. My husband and I tried everything we could find to cover the drain that would allow me to shower and also keep the itching under control. No such luck.

I thankfully didn’t go insane from the itching, and rejoiced when the final drain came out six weeks post-surgery. Then it was time to adjust to my new normal. I saw the oncologist and was put on a hormone inhibitor called Arimidex. I had several side effects from this drug, but the most severe were hot flashes and insomnia. Try to imagine 5 years of not feeling like you got a good night’s sleep. It would take me an hour or two just to fall asleep even when I felt sleepy. If I woke up during the night, it would often take me an hour or two to go back to sleep.

Then I was fitted with a breast prosthesis and special bras. My new normal also included having to be careful about low-cut tops (not that I ever showed cleavage). I found a necklace fan and carried in my purse. Some may have laughed when I pulled it out, but believe me it was not a laughing matter to be sitting there feeling totally normal and then have this intense heat take over your body.

That was 5 years ago, and the cancer has not returned. Since I’m low risk, the oncologist has allowed me to stop taking Arimidex. I will still see the oncologist yearly for another 5 years.

The toughest part of getting the cancer diagnosis was having to tell my older daughter. Her husband was also battling cancer. His battle was so much worse than mine. My son-in-law lost his 6 1/2 year battle with cancer on June 5. He was only 35 years old. Whenever I would get down about what I was going through, I would just tell myself that it could always be worse.

My son-in-law, Tony, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer during the fall of 2012. The doctor found a lump on his thyroid during a physical. He went for a sonogram and that started his cancer journey. He was diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive type of cancer. He had the thyroid removed and took radioactive iodine. During the fall of 2013, right after a wonderful family vacation to Disney World (my husband and I went along), something showed up on his scans. The cancer had invaded his lungs. He started going to M. D. Anderson in Houston in January of 2014. I began staying with the kids when Tony and my daughter would go to Houston. He went through several treatments, clinical trials, and most of the time took a daily chemo pill. I’m sure he had many days when he did not feel well. You would have never known. He powered through. He continued to work full time as a civil engineer, and helped with the kids and the house. He was an amazing man. My daughter began working on her master’s degree in counseling 2 years ago, and Tony took on more around the house to help her. He was admired and loved by so many people. He was promoted to project manager at his company. He served as branch president for his professional organization. And he won awards from his professional organization. All this while battling the cancer which finally took his life. I’m sure the last two or three months of his life were extremely tough. During his last few weeks, he could not eat and grew very weak. It was clear the cancer was spreading. He had a heart catheter for a few days in May, and came home with a lung catheter during the last few weeks. Tony had been a part of our lives since the fall of 1999 when he and my daughter started dating. I will miss him acutely.

During this last spring, my grandson wrote about his dad being his hero. I would also add Tony to my list of heroes.

God takes us down many paths we never planned to take. The important thing is to keep holding tight to His hand and trusting in Him for comfort and peace. I can’t explain the deep joy, peace, and trust I have in Jesus Christ. Life is a roller coaster. Hang on and trust the One in control.

 

 

Home

I’m going home.

Mention home and most people will think of the place where they were born, where they grew up, or where their parents live. Some will even consider their current place of residence as home. Home can mean a lot of different places to a lot of different people. However, I think the common denominator in all of these places is love.

The other day I was listening to my playlist while doing chores around the house. The song, “Home” by Chris Tomlin started playing, and I began praising God. What a joy to be reminded that the place where I am now is not my forever home. I have a special home in Heaven.

…I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Philippians 1: 20-24 NIV

How do I know that I will go to Heaven?

I accepted Christ as my savior and Lord. That doesn’t mean that I don’t sin. It means that I don’t wish to sin, and I ask forgiveness when I do. The sins I ask forgiveness for are according to GOD’S definition of sin. Many churches and people today have watered down the Bible’s teaching to align with their own way of thinking. Rituals won’t save you. Good works and being a good person won’t save you. Being dunked in water or having water sprinkled on you as a baby won’t save you. And you can’t explain away your sin by saying that you were born a certain way.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. Ephesians 2: 8-9 NIV

Don Piper has written several books about his experience just outside the gates of Heaven. He described Heaven as a feast for the senses. The colors are more brilliant than anything on Earth. The music is more beautiful than any you’ve ever heard. Love is everywhere. There is no pain, no tears, no sadness, no sickness, and most of all, no darkness. It was difficult for Don Piper to describe in mere human words, and I’m sure it is far better a place than our feeble brains can imagine. Everything there is perfection. Don Piper described seeing his grandmother who was fragile and stooped over from osteoporosis on Earth. In heaven, she was upright and strong. I know my dad who was bedridden from Multiple Sclerosis, is now walking with his long-legged lanky walk up in Heaven.

There are two places where you will go after you die–Heaven or Hell. What you decide about Christ here on Earth will determine where you will go.

You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. Matthew 7: 13-14. NIV

 

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14: 6 NIV

Hell is described as a place of constant torment, darkness, and pain for eternity. Think about the worst thing you have ever experienced on Earth. Now multiply that awfulness by at least a million times. The Bible says that Satan, his demons, and those who follow him will spend eternity burning in Hell. I can’t imagine be burned and tormented and never have it end. Thankfully I will never know that.

I know where I want to go when my time on Earth is over. I hope you want to go there, too.

Not everyone who calls out to me, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in Heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, “Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.” But I will reply, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.” Matthew 7: 21-23 NIV

I believe that it will be very sad to think that you are saved and then arrive at judgment day and find out that your name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

How can you know you are saved?

  • You’ve repented of your sins and accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Jesus died on the cross for anyone who believes and accepts His death as atonement for his/her sin.
  • You live your life doing the will of the Father in Heaven. I’m not talking about what you think is God’s will, but actually seek and do God’s will. Faith in Christ will bring about obedience to God.

I’m going home

Where the streets are golden

Every chain is broken

Oh I wanna go, Oh I wanna go

Home

Where every fear is gone

I’m in your open arms

Where I belong

Home

Song sung by Chris Tomlin

I hope I’ll see you in Heaven.

The Family Photo

The family photo has changed over the years.

I was looking at family photos recently, and it got me to thinking about how the family photo has changed over the years.

Our family photo began with the marriage of my parents. A couple of years later, I was added to the photo. Then 2 years later, my brother was added. Nine years later my sister entered the photo. The location of our family changed a lot over the years. I lived in Waco, Texas; Salina, Kansas; Bangor, Maine; Wiesbaden, Germany; and Omaha, Nebraska before eventually settling in Dallas/Fort Worth area. While in Germany, our family spent a summer in Newbury, England.

In 1979, my husband was added to the picture, followed by one daughter in 1982 and another daughter in 1985. My sister got married in the 1990s. A nephew became a part of the picture in 1999. A niece was added in 2000 and another niece in 2001. In 2004 my older daughter got married. Enter my first awesome son-in-law. My brother also got married. My granddaughter was born in 2007.

If we could just add to our family photo without having to deal with the loss of family members, life would be great. However, there comes a day when we have to say good-bye to those we love and cherish. My dad passed away in the fall of 2007 after a forty year battle with Multiple Sclerosis. A picture of the last family photo which included my dad is still on my mother’s fireplace mantel.

Another nephew was born in 2008. Also, in 2008, I added another awesome son-in-law. Then my older grandson was born in 2009. He was followed by my younger grandson in 2014.

Sadly, my brother passed away a little over 2 years ago from a massive heart attack. We were not prepared for this, and it took us all by surprise. I think my mother still has a hard time dealing with the passing of my brother at times. You never think you will be called upon to bury a child.

Just about a month ago, my older son-in-law succumbed to a very rare and aggressive type of thyroid cancer which metastasized to his lungs. He fought this cancer for 6 1/2 years. He went through several chemo drugs and clinical trials and treatments. There were times when we got good news from M.D. Anderson that his tumors had shrunk. And there were times when the tumors had grown. From his lungs, the cancer spread elsewhere and finally took his life. Even though we knew the cancer would likely take his life at an early age (he was only 35), we still kept hoping for some miracle drug to arrive on the scene. He was set to start a new trial at M.D. Anderson when he lost the battle. He had been a part of our lives for nearly 20 years, and I will miss him acutely. I’m sure it will be a while before I want a new family picture of my older daughter and her children without my son-in-law. Thankfully, they had taken family pictures in the fall.

When I look at the last full family photo we took this past Christmas, it is sad to see that some of our family members weren’t there. Other photos in the future will certainly not include some cherished family members. Either they will be elsewhere or they will have died.

I know the family photo will continue to change through the years. It’s important to cherish your family while they are still here. You never know when they’ll leave a gap in the family photo.

 

Does Everything Have to Have a Scent?

The world is not always a friendly place to those of us who suffer from a sensitivity to scents. 

The world is not always a friendly place to those of us who suffer from a sensitivity to scents. The sign on the door of my allergy doctor’s office asks that people not wear perfume and other strong scents into the office because it might cause an allergic reaction in a lot of patients. How true this is! With all of the scented products available for purchase, a person could become a walking smorgasbord of perfume. This is deadly for those of us who are sensitive.

I understand why perfumes may have been needed back in the Middle Ages. People then didn’t take baths or wash clothes as often as you can now. It is not the Middle Ages any more. Most people have daily access to bathtubs and showers and washing machines. There is no longer a need to cover up odors with perfumes. Why can’t we just be happy with clean smells?

Downy sells a product called Unstopables, which is a laundry scent booster. Gain also advertises its sweet smelling products. And let’s not forget Frebreze. I would like to see the science backing up its claim that it eliminates odors and not just covers them up. I believe that Febreze just covers them up. We currently have Febreze treated kitchen garbage bags (my husband bought these because they didn’t have fragrance free garbage bags). These give me a headache. Every time I handle one of these garbage bags, I have to wash my hands. I need to go to the store and find some plain garbage bags. There are also lots of advertisements for perfume.

When I was teaching, I had to tell my students that I could not handle any perfumes. I had students coming to school with their clothes reeking of Downy Fabric Softener. I also had a student one time come to school covered with perfume. He said his mother thought it would be funny to spray him with her perfume. I had to send that student to the office to have the mom bring the child some more clothes. After warning the students at the beginning of the year about scents and perfumes, I felt this was disrespectful of me.

I use products without added scents. I also have to be careful about what products I use on my hair and face. A skin care line I have used for years, changed formulas and now has a scent in its products. I can handle the scent if it is subtle and the scent goes away when it dries. The smell of this skin care line stayed around all day. I knew of others who had to quit using this skin care because of the smell.

Please be kind to those of us who suffer from “scents”-itivity.

PASSWORDS!@#$%^&*()

I don’t know about you, but passwords tend to drive me crazy!

I don’t know about you, but passwords tend to drive me crazy!

There are so many rules for creating a password and also rules for remembering them. They say don’t write them down anywhere, but how are you to remember them otherwise?

I was introduced to the wonderful world of secure passwords many years ago at the school district where I worked. I was told to think of a sentence that I could remember and use the first letter of each word in the sentence as my password. That worked well until I had to update and change my password on a regular basis. I needed to come up with more sentences. AGHHHHHHHH!!!! Let me tell you that teachers have enough to try to remember without adding more pressure with constantly changing passwords. I was getting to the point where I had to use sentences like, “Henry brought a spider to school in May.”

Fast forward to now. I need passwords for my bank account (plus pins), email accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts, retirement accounts, medical accounts, travel accounts, accounts for my writing, business accounts, this account, and that account. Then I have to keep up with changing my passwords.

Rules for passwords are: 1. You should not use a password that is used for another account, 2. It needs to be a strong password, and 3. It needs to be at least a certain length and use capital letters, small case letters, numbers, and symbols. Or not use all of these.

One of my email accounts was hacked into a couple of weeks ago. It took me a couple of hours to get it back and change the password. Whoever hacked it had also changed the security question to one in Spanish. Life on the internet is crazy!

They also say that you should never log into any account using a public wifi. They say limit your internet usage on a public network to only news and weather. I also heard a news report that using public ports to charge your phone (for example, at the airport) may cause your phone to be compromised. It’s called “juice jacking.” If you really need to tweet, check social media accounts, or email, and your phone battery is low, you should use your own usb charger.

Technology is great, but it does have a lot of drawbacks. Security issues, it seems, will always be with us. I wish the people who are trying to hack into people’s lives and technology would just go get an honest job.

That reminds me, I need to change a couple of passwords. Happy passwording! I wonder if this sentence, “I’m scared the Hershey Kisses will blow away,” would make a good password. (That’s another story.)

Dallas vs. Fort Worth

Fort Worth has a proud history, and it should be recognized and not swallowed up by Dallas’s shadow.

Being a Texas gal, I love Texas history, and the history between the rival cities of Dallas and Fort Worth is fascinating. Each city is unique in character and history.

The population of Dallas exceeds 1 million, while the population of Fort Worth is approximately 874,000. Dallas looks more modern and life moves faster. John Neely Bryan established a permanent settlement on the banks of the Trinity River where Dallas stands today. The city became a fast growing business center when the railroad reached Dallas. It is well known as the city where John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Even though the team plays in nearby Arlington, the football team, the Dallas Cowboys is named after the city. From 1978-1991, a popular TV  show named Dallas, aired on CBS. Dallas is known around the world.

Thirty-two miles to the west, and also on the banks of the Trinity River, a fort was established. This fort was named Fort Worth and a settlement grew up around the fort and continued to grow even after the fort was abandoned. Fort Worth is the smaller sibling to Dallas, but has had a much more colorful past. The population of Fort Worth swelled to nearly 4,000 in anticipation of the railroad reaching Fort Worth. However, the failure of the railroad to reach Fort Worth caused the population to dwindle to a mere thousand. However, the citizens were determined to save their town of Fort Worth and the railroad reached Fort Worth in 1876. Before the arrival of the railroad, Fort Worth was a jumping off point on the Chisholm Trail which cattle raisers used to drive their cattle north to the railroad in Dodge City, Kansas. The area around the present day Fort Worth Convention Center became known as Hell’s Half Acre because of the saloons, dance halls, and brothels clustered there to entice the cowboys to part with their money. After the railroad reached Fort Worth, the Stockyards was built. Fort Worth today still keeps its western heritage alive. Where else would you find a cattle drive down the streets of a city?

The rivalry between Dallas and Fort Worth has been around a long time. In 1875, a lawyer name Cowart, who had moved from Fort Worth to Dallas, intended to insult the “village” of Fort Worth by claiming that Fort Worth was so quiet that a panther slept near the courthouse undisturbed. The editor of the Fort Worth Democrat, B. B. Paddock, gleefully reported this claim in the newspaper and dubbed Fort Worth as “Pantherville.” The panther is still a symbol of Fort Worth. The rivalry continues today. The most recent example of this rivalry is found during the 2011 Super Bowl which was played at AT&T Stadium.

It is important to remember that a hyphenated Dallas-Fort Worth is fine. But you should NEVER, NEVER insult a Fort Worthian by shortening the name of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex to just Dallas. I still have family living near Houston who still call the entire metroplex, Dallas. I have tried educating them to no avail. Fort Worth has a proud history, and it should be recognized and not swallowed up by Dallas’s shadow.