Friday, November 8, 2013

Just Breathe!

     One more post while I'm on a roll. . . As we have advertised unashamedly on FB, we are spending a few days on the central coast of CA.  This quick 3 day trip has been WONDERFUL!  We love it here! This is our "go to" place whenever we have had enough of our Real Life.  Stresses just roll off our backs the minute we roll into town.  That first magical glimpse of the waves is enough to make up for months or even years of trying to get by. 
      We first came to Pismo Beach around 1980 when we were in California visiting relatives.  We were still living in Kansas at that time.  Our relatives had condos on the beach and we were their guests for a few days.  We rented four-wheelers, ate way too much and soaked up some much needed sun.  Dave's parents fell in love with this area and in 1982 after a near fatal heart attack his dad and mom recuperated here.  The next time we came to the beach was in August of 1989, the year we moved to Fresno.  We had just endured two summer sessions of Greek at MBBS and desparately needed a vacation.  Our kids were ages 6, 5 and eighteen months.  Dave's parents visited us from Kansas and treated us to a weekend in Pismo.  They kept the kids in their room and rented us a full ocean view room.  I will always love them for that! 
     After that re-introduction, we have come here countless times over the past 24+ years.  While the kids were in school, we would come every Christmas.  The beach is deserted right before Christmas so we would usually come December 21 or 22 and stay until the day after Christmas.  Sometimes we would bring all the presents along and other times we would open them before we left.  Some years the trip WAS the present. On occassion we even brought Christmas tree lights to put around a plant in the hotel room.  Whatever we did to celebrate the holiday, we ALWAYS, without exception had the time of our lives.  Those memories are among the very best of ours and the kids'.  There was a freedom in being somewhere that had no resemblance whatsoever to the way we celebrated Christmas prior to moving to CA.  Being in retail sales, how well we did between Thanksgiving and Christmas really did make or break us.  That's where the bottom line either fell apart or held us for the rest of the year.  Being free from that pressure was an answer to prayer.  Spending that time at the ocean was a little hard to get used to.  We almost felt guilty.  But, that didn't last long and soon we considered Christmas at Pismo part of our Friesen tradition.
      This time we brought our dogs with us.  To this point they have been terrible travelers so we always left them at home.  On our last trip I discovered that 1 Benadryl would calm them and they have become great traveling companions.  Having Abbey and Eddie with us this week has given us many joyful moments.  They have loved playing on the beach and along the water.  One problem when you're only a few inches off the ground is that when you run, sand flies in your eyes and mouth.  But, they have been troopers! They loved the mini ice cream cones the nice lady at The Scoop gave them today.  We loved the ones she gave us, too!  But we had to pay for ours!

The reason we are here now is because I have been slowly falling apart over the past few weeks.  Physically I have been a train wreck as I have been trying to adjust to a  medication change.  My emotions have been all over the place and with all the other changes in our life right now I had several mini nervous breakdowns and sometimes felt like I was spinning out of control.  Dave, bless him, has been riding the wave with me and has been ever so patient.  BUT, it's been no picnic for him, either.  He's on a medical leave from work due to worsening of some of the medical issues he has been dealing with and we are making some major life decisions such as: when to retire and how to live on less income.  Those things are not IMPOSSIBLE, just difficult because there are so many things to consider.  As things are starting to level off and I'm feeling a bit better, life looks do-able again.  I had to come here to get my wits about me again.  This brief respite from our regular life has done us a world of good.  It's given us a mental boost to help us face all the physical obstacles we are dealing with right now.

     Today I sat on the sand with the setting sun in my face and breathed.  In yoga, when I'm doing the deep breathing along with movement, I picture a wave crashing to the shore as I let my breath out and receding back to the depths as I take my deep breath in.  I did that today in tandem with the real waves and that was a powerful reminder of the how I can slow myself down and come out of my endless cycle of anxiety that I find myself in at times.  I also took the devotional book we are working through called, "Jesus Calling" which has been an amazing tool for both of us as it hits us between the eyes time and time again just when we need it.  This morning as we sat on the pier we read today's devotional and scripture.  The theme was that difficult days are inevitable.  It's what we do with the challenges that makes the difference.  The more we go through the more experiences we can look back on and say, "Yep, that was hard but with God's help we made it."  We don't think God deliberately gives us troubles just to teach us a lesson but we do know that if we use him as our guide and mentor things go much more smoothly.  It changes our attitude.  It brings us out of ourselves and puts things into perspective.  Just like these shadows make us look way bigger than we really are, problems seems to grow way out of proportion until they aren't even recognizable anymore.
     As I sat there today I began to get sad about having to go back home tomorrow.  Why can't I just always stay in this relaxed state?  Then I realized that my life includes all of it.  If I stayed here all the time not dealing with anything unpleasant, a whole lot of stuff wouldn't get done and I would eventually find myself in a gigantic mess.  I HAVE to go home and deal with insurance, Medicare, home repairs, and all the decisions I don't want to make.  If I consider it as part of my life just as being here is part of my life it's a bit easier to go back.  The beach will always be here waiting for me to return.  My place of Sacred Communion with God is anywhere I make it.  If I go gently through each day, being in God's presence and experiencing the life he has planned for me I can lead a good and satisfying life wherever I am.  Joy is always available.  God will take me away from the craziness and give me a chance to fully experience the reality of his presence and then return me to my "regular life" enriched and empowered to carry on.  This involves faith and trust which I have.  He know what lies ahead and that is good enough for me.  If I stop trying to control the future and concentrate on living the best way I can, I will thrive and can be a blessing to those around me.  If I don't project too far into the future I can see that I'm going to be just long as I can return to my beloved ocean now and then!

DON"T Pull That Thread!!!

How many times have we heard that?  Or said it?  We live in fear of pulling that loose thread and having all hell break loose.  Yet, we've all done it, right?  There's something so tempting about pulling it.  Whether it results in a lost button or a lost hem, there is danger in that first pull...

I've learned a sad truth.  After age 50 or so, that loose thread starts with your primary care physician.  Just walking into her office with a seemingly "minor" problem initiates the launch sequence.  With one small tug, you are sent into the dizzying world of referrals, specialists, tests, tests and more tests.  And this phenomenon occurs in waves.  The first is around age 50.  The next wave happens in the sixties.  We're experiencing our second wave and it is not FUNNY anymore!

With each pull of the thread the threat gets worse. It can start with something as innocent as a yearly exam.  You mention a problem with indigestion as an aside.  That leads to blood tests, the dreaded occult blood stool test which in turn lands you in the gastroenterologist's office.  "Probably nothing, but..." leads to a colonoscopy preceded by a three day prep (you do have a history of constipation AND you are on pain medication AND your other conditions preclude you to need a longer prep...). With a little 'snip-snip' a 2mm polyp is removed and the "screening" becomes a "procedure" and it goes from $0 co-pay to $300 co-pay just like that!  Oh, and by the way, since they also checked from the mouth down, they found some stomach ulcers.  New medication changes, a few dietary considerations and see ya in 3 months for another quick look-see. And, by the way, since we found something in your colon, we'll repeat the colonoscopy in 5 years, not 10.  Super! Sorry.  Oh doc, I also have a funny bump on my nose.  Trot to the dermatologist and by golly--you have cancer.  Come back in 2 months and we'll try to remove it.  TWO MONTHS?? you say.  OK, then, we'll see you in 2 weeks.  But what about this marble sized mess on the top of my head?  Oh, that's nothing. Don't worry about it.  We'll cut it off but it will grow back.  Just don't mess with it.

These incidentals are just condiments to go along with the main course.   Between the two of us we have Parkinson's Disease, severe back issues (too numerous and technical to go into here--trying to keep it light, and all that), Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Hip fracture, knee fracture and back fusion with enough Titanium to build a space shuttle, Migraines, Chronic Pain, Mobility Impairment from nerve damage, arthritis and way too much stress.

Who pulled that first thread?  If we had never gone to the doctor in the first place we never would have been diagnosed with any of this stuff.  Oh, to be young and naive again!

As if things weren't bad enough with the health analogy, the thread philosophy applies to home repair as well.  Last time the boys were both home Dave asked them to take out some shrubs from the front of the the house a few weeks ago.(In this photo Matt is either directing the operation or mocking me as I scream, "NOOOOOOOOO")  They all thought it looked so much better and would be really great when they re-landscaped it, built a retaining wall, put some benches and a BBQ grill with a card table and folding chairs and lawn gnomes all around. How about 50 or so little lighted doo dads all over?  It all sounds so magical.  Again I scream, "NOOOOOOOOOOO!"  They laughed their heads off.

Within a week Dave had contracted to have 6--which grew to 8--trees removed from our property (see previous blog).  Now that the trees are gone, there is a whole bunch of clean up that needs to be done that was never done because of all the trees being in the way covering things up.  AND, guess what? The fence that the trees were holding up because they had grown around it is coming down and will have to be replaced.  Our neighbor would like to help with the cost but can't right now so--ouch--the thread just got pulled a little more.  When that is done there will have to be some repainting of part of the fence and then we may as well paint the other part that was replaced by Matt a year ago.  And, while we have the paint out, there are a few areas of trim waaaaayyy up close to the roof that we neglected when we painted the house 2 years ago that should be done.  As you may recall, that whole house painting project came to a screeching halt when I did the half-gainer off the roof.

The really great thing about all of this is that I'm sitting just steps away from the Pacific Ocean as I write this.  Nothing can hurt me when I'm here.  I'm not even stressed out writing this.  I'm not.  I'm not.  I'm not.  I'm not.  I'm not.  I'm not.

Can't See The Forest For The Trees

I've been meaning to blog for a couple weeks but something or other prevents me from doing so.  Is it really so much trouble to open the laptop, connect to the blog site and write? That's not the hard part.  I have to have my pictures ready to publish and sometimes that's just too much trouble.  Well, enough on how darn lazy I've become.  The belated topic today is TREES.  I am a bit of a tree hugger.  I love them--the bigger the better.  I appreciate the work it takes to grow a tree and really love the old ones with all their characteristic gnarls, twists, turns, zigs and zags.  They represent life in general as they persevere against all odds to grow tall and strong.  When we bought our current house in 1994, we loved the trees on the then 14 year old lot.  They provided shade from the brutal Fresno summers sun and gave us some privacy from the too-close neighboring homes.  I could lay on my bed and look out right into the middle of the huge Chinese Elm tree right outside the second story bedroom window and make myself think that I lived in a big tree house.

When I was in grade school, we lived in an old home in Eureka, Illinois.  It was then about 50+ years old and full of nooks and crannies.  My bedroom on the second floor had seven windows marching along the two outside walls.  There were big trees in the lawn that were in the right place for me to envision that I lived in them.  I would look out those windows for a long time just imagining what it would be like to be a member of the Swiss Family Robinson.  My last memory of that room was the day we moved to a newer home.  I stood in my empty room at one of the windows with tears in my eyes wondering if I would ever have another bedroom like that one.  The one I have now isn't the same but it's close.  Or should I say it WAS close...

Last week we had 8 trees removed from our property--three big Chinese elms and five smaller
volunteers that cropped up and outgrew their locations.  Our property isn't big and we have a pool that takes up half of the back yard.  If you're not familiar with Chinese Elms, they grow fast and big with large outstretching canopies that provide wonderful shade.  They also have millions of tiny leaves that clog gutters, drains, pool pumps and walkways when they fall--in our case twice a year.  They also attract a certain insect that leaves a sticky residue on the leaves and anything that happens to be around it, such as a car parked in a driveway. The leaves are so sticky that it's impossible not to track them into the house.  In one of our rare thunderstorms, they can be several inches deep on the surface of the pool so you can't even see the water.  Every single one of them has to be removed by manually skimming them or through the skimmer basket.  Sometimes it takes only minutes to fill the basket.  The roots are so invasive that part of the pool decking is lifting and all the sidewalks have huge bumps.  The neighbors on both sides have complained for years about their fear of the roots breaking up the foundations on their houses.  Dave's been complaining of that, too but I wouldn't hear of cutting down "MY" tree!

But, it had to be done.  It was sad but it would be sadder to be sued by a neighbor and having to pay to replace their foundation ( or ours).  The time had come.  The guys who did the work were amazing.  Using principles of physics and geometry, they used ropes to drop the newly cut limbs precisely where they wanted them.  The one closest to the bedroom window was huge and they only had a few feet to work with between our house, the fence and the neighbor's house.  It was fascinating to watch as they shouted in Spanish to each other.  They also seemed to be having a good time wielding their chain saws and making a calculated mess.
When it was all over, I dreaded looking out of my window.  As I scurried from room to room to assess the view damage I was surprised at what I saw.  My trees were gone but I now had a chance to see what had been behind them all these years and was for the most part, pleasantly surprised.  I saw trees that I never knew existed.  The new abundance of sunlight is welcome now as fall and winter approaches but I'm not so sure what it will feel like next summer.  Surely the A/C bills will soar.  Too bad we didn't have that extra $40,000 burning a hole in our bank account when we first considered solar.  We'll just have to deal with the heat next year.  For now, bright is nice.

It's actually quite nice now that the trees are gone.  Since we don't burn wood in our fireplace and didn't need the wood, our neighbors took it off our hands and things are pretty well picked up.  Of course, now that everything is exposed we see that our fence is almost ready to fall so we have to replace that.  Also, the vines that were hidden by the trees are completely out of control so we need to do some more cleanup there.  Also, there are years and years of dead leaves formerly trapped in the roots, trunk and limbs of the trees that now need to be cleaned out.  I love working outdoors but have felt so lousy in the past several years that I haven't done anything outside.  I'd love to get out there and work but can't do as much as I want to.  Also, our gardeners have had it way too easy.  Now they will have to stay for longer than 10 minutes to do their weekly landscaping.  With everything exposed, there's a bit more work involved.

Our neighbors have commented that things look better now.  The house does look a bit more magnificent and bigger.  Things do look tidier.  All in all, it has been a good thing.  Sometimes drastic change is what's needed in my life to make me realize that what I hold on to so tightly may not be what I really want.  Good life lesson!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Time Anchors

Sooooo, I'm cleaning out my email inbox and find this gem dated April 19, 2009.  That's after back surgery but before "The Fall".  Before Susan's cancer diagnosis.  During Em's Junior year at UC Davis.  Before we added Eddie to our four legged brood. Before I grew my hair out second to the last time ago.  The last Picnic Day we went to at Davis.  Before Alice, the dog.  Before Henry, Emilie's car.  During Esther, Em's car before Henry. Before Emma and Murray, our current cars.  Before the Parkinson's diagnosis.

Isn't if funny how we mark time?  In Dave's family everything either happened "Before Polio" or "After Polio".  With Dave and me it "Before Kids" or "After Kids".  I'm really becoming aware of how I mark time as I go through all the photographs.  Worked on David Michael's boxes a bit today.  The first grand kid for the Friesen's, our first kid and the first grand kid after about 11 years for my family.  Looking at pictures of ex-brothers-in-law reminded me of another way of marking time.  Also, of course, "Before Dad Died"  "Before Steve Died"  "Before Al Died" . . . that list grows longer all the time.  Part of my sorting process involves locations.  This pile occurred when we lived on Old Farm Estates Road in Hutchinson.  That pile goes in the Adler envelope.  Those happened in the Townsend house.  Another good one for us is "Before Seminary"  "After Seminary".  Now we have a new one just around the corner: "Before/After Retirement". 

As I think about the kids' childhoods there are a lot more "Before/After" demarcations.  How about B/A potty training?  B/A Chickenpox?  B/A First Love, First Broken Heart, or for Emilie it was Before/After her first B+ in High School.  That one marked something huge in her life at the time.  Now it's a minor memory--but obviously big enough that it's still clogging my timeline.

So it looks like these landmark events range from temporary little blips in the road (B+) or major life changes (Polio) but at the time they must mean a lot or I wouldn't remember them at all.  Our lives are so full that if we didn't grab onto these little "time anchors" along the way we'd never be able to keep it all straight.  These can be kind of tiresome though. Think about if you've had a conversation with someone like this:
       THEM: "I was walking down the sidewalk yesterday and wait, it wasn't yesterday because I wasn't even in town yesterday.  Or was it?  Oh I think it was Tuesday.  Anyway I ran it couldn't have been Tuesday either because I took my mom to the doctor Tuesday.  Well, it doesn't matter.  You'll never guess who I ran into ...  wait a minute it was yesterday because I took my dog for a walk down Main Street and ran into...I couldn't have been walking down Main Street because............."


Why do we do this?  It's like the person (often us) can't go on with the story until the time anchors are in place. Funny.  I never really contemplated this quite this intensely but what the heck.  What I really wanted to let you know was that yesterday morning I was at Macy', it wasn't Macy's it was Target........

Flying Pomegranates

Whenever I start a blog entry I have to check to be sure I haven't already written about the subject I'm  writing about.  It's because I write these things in my head a few times before I actually make it to the keyboard.  I also have a bunch of saved drafts that somehow never got developed.  My mind is a terrible thing to waste...Anyway, on to bigger and better things.

Friday started out as a bad day.  That's saying a lot considering the days we have been having.  Have I mentioned that Dave is home right now (on sick leave from work)?  That's not what made the week bad but it's part of why I'm acting so crazy lately.  His health needs some attention right now so he's taking time off to take care of some things.  It's kind of like a maternity leave except there's no cute little baby around.  Just us.  This is also a practice run for retirement.  The hard part is trying to focus on just the things that need to be taken care of right now while thinking about our future. Medically speaking, it's pretty scary to think about because it seems like once we pull that thread of health issues, it all starts to unravel.  That's why a lot of people are reluctant to go to the doctor.  Once you get one diagnosis, others follow in lock-step until one day you realize that the highlight of your week is visiting one doctor or another.  Our list of specialist keeps growing.  Trying to find joy in life in the midst of all those -ologists can be a challenge.

Our lives as Christians are supposed to prepare us for times like these.  We know that if we rely on our frail human minds to make all of our decisions we will go down all sorts of roads that aren't even on the map.  We know that as we rely on God and his promises we will be in a much better position to enjoy life.  After 60 years of experience we know that every one of God's promises are available to us and he has never let us down.  We also know that as our Creator, God knows us and loves us more than we can possibly understand.  In fact, it's designed that way.  If we knew and understood  everything God did we would be, well--God.  Knowing all this we can "forget" this and get caught up in the whirlpool of our troubles and never see our way out. 

We really love to do things with friends.  It seems like we always need them more than they need us.  We'll go through spurts of asking friends to do stuff, etc. but then feel that they don't ask us enough.  Maybe they don't really like us, that's what we think.  It all stems back from childhood when we both had loneliness issues--who doesn't have childhood issues?  It seemed like we didn't quite measure up to others, always trying just a little harder than other people to be liked.  This is really going deep and I don't want to disclose too much lest you think I'm human or something...  Anyway, part of our MO when we feel down is that we feel like we don't have friends. We can feel abandoned by God and that leads to us feeling all alone in the world with just each other.  And sometimes each other isn't enough.

Friday was starting out to be that kind of a day.  We had been feeling pretty overwhelmed by all the things we had been going through and didn't allow ourselves to reach out to God because we hadn't "heard" from him in a while.  That almost makes me laugh because when it comes to listening to God, we sometimes stick our fingers in our ears, shout "lalalala" and do everything in our power NOT to hear him.  Then we get pissed off at God because he's not helping us.  When we actually do sit down and read our devotional with scripture and pray and  journal and all the other stuff that actually gets our mind straight life is so much more manageable.  All the answers are there for us so I don't know what we think we're doing when we arrogantly tell God that we're tired of waiting for his help and that we will now take over the controls of our life because at least then we know things will be done right.  We must look like two year olds having tantrums sometimes...or always.

Once more, back to Friday.  It was about 10 am and I was well into a roiling pity party.  The kind where I throw whatever is handy just because it feels so good to throw something across the room.  The other day I threw a pomegranate in the kitchen--twice--and while it felt really great to do that, it was a MESS to clean up.  The poor dogs ran for cover and Dave, bless him, did help me clean up.  Friday morning I didn't have a lot to throw because I was in the bedroom but I suffice it to say I was in a REALLY BAD place.  I was feeling bad physically, emotionally and spiritually.  I wanted to just get into the car and drive away.  As I was deciding where to go and what to do I heard a knock.  No car out front so figured it was Dave making some noise in the studio.  Another knock and then Dave went to the door.  There was our oldest offspring home for a quick weekend.  I'm always glad to see Mike, but on Friday he looked like an angel.  I was so glad to see him.  It's like God had sent him to me.  We went out for pancakes, looked at some of the pictures I've been sorting and had a stress-less visit.  He and Dave worked outside a bit.  Then some friends called and invited us out to dinner. Friday afternoon Mike went with us to do some errands.  I wanted to get an accessory to go with the dress I planned to wear to dinner.  Dave, Mike and I ended up at a trendy little shop in River Park and they helped me pick out a jacket/shawl/fringie/Stevie Nicks kind of thing.  I've never been shopping with my hubby and son and it was so fun.  Both of them picking out stuff for me to look at, making suggestions and generally making me feel like a queen was a once in a lifetime (so far) thing.  Fun time!  Friday evening while Mike was visiting a Fresno friend, Dave and I went to one of the nicest restaurants in town with some of our nicest friends.  We spent too much money but it was less than a therapy session.

This brings me to another paragraph.  This is why blogs are so great.  It's all subjective so I can add paragraphs whenever I need to.  The experience we had Friday night with our friends Gary and Sue reminded us of another time in our lives when we were rescued by friends.  In the spring of 1993 as Dave was finishing up his last semester at Seminary, he got encephalitis and ended in the hospital.  This triggered some bottled up body memories of his from when he had polio and encephalitis when he was 3 years old.  Since he was only 3 at the time and his dad was deathly ill at the same time, a lot of those memories were safely locked away in his scared, little brain.  This was a stressful time for his own family and the scars of that time are carried by each of them.  As Dave's 1993 illness progressed, emotionally he was again three years old.  Since Emilie was only 5 at the time, Dave's brother Dale and his wife Julie came and got her and cared for her in San Jose.  The boys were in school and were "farmed out" locally.  Having Emilie gone was one of the emotional triggers for Dave--abandonment--which is what he felt when he was separated from his parents for days as he was in isolation.  ANYWAY, this is a whole other BOOK and I just want to make one point among thousands.  In 1993, after the hospitalization, and all that the illness entailed Dave went into a deep depression.  The kind where people say--"we'd all be better off dead".  I was scared so I sent him off to an elderly mentor of his which did help some.  However, he was still pretty bad off.  We had some friends, Mark and Alice who asked us if we would like to get out and see a movie.  YES!  We would bring the kids to their house and their daughter would babysit and we'd go out.  BUT, we couldn't find our keys (Matt had been playing with them in his bed!) and it got too late to see the movie.  When we finally found them I called to cancel and they said, just come to our place and we'll do something else.  We ended up going out for ice cream but what Mark and Alice did for us that night we will never forget.  They sat across from us and listened as Dave opened up.  They didn't say stuff like, "But Dave, you're so strong.  you'll get through this.  They let him be vulnerable.  They believed what he said and they let him talk.  Most people thought Dave was tough and immune to depression so they wouldn't "allow" him to express himself the way he needed to.  Mark and Alice said very little but I will never forget looking at them as they listened, with love, to Dave.  I was surprised at how much he opened up to them.  That wasn't his MO back then.  That's what Gary and Sue did last Friday night.

That's the kind of support that we felt from our sons this weekend as Matt showed up on Saturday.  They had planned to meet up in Fresno and go to Huntington for the weekend but what they really did was give their old parents a shot in the arm--like a booster shot to keep us going a bit longer!  And God used all these events to show us that he was still here for us.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


I'm melting.......


Well, this is really embarrassing.  Whoever is in charge of my graphics misunderstood.  I'm not MELTING, sheesh!

Does that clear things up?  At the ripe old age of 60, my hubby and I are looking more and more like a retired couple.  I'm there and he's getting closer all the time.  As we molt or shed or whatever it is we are doing, we look toward the future with a positive outlook.

As far as I'm concerned, molting is a very good thing. If we never molted-or shed- we'd be a big mass of dead skin walking around.  Isn't that gross?  Do you remember the scene in one of the Narnia books about a dragon that went through a very painful molting?  He come out of it a new "person".  It's a chance to get to the things that are essential and stop carrying around dead weight, excessive baggage and all that.  The analogies and metaphors aren't new but they have new meaning as we grow older.  We shed excess pounds to feel and look better.  It's healthy.  Whether the pounds are measured as fat off our bodies or stuff out of our house or toxic memories, all this excess in our lives does one thing: robs us of the true joy of simple living.  Back to the basics and all that.  Debride the wound (medically speaking).  Trim the fat.  Clear out the  deadwood.  Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

During the past few weeks I have attacked almost every nook and cranny of our 2,300 square foot home.  Every photograph is not in my living room, sorted by person, age and activity.  We have all the remaining photographs of the Friesen and Dick families going back several generations.  All the extra kid, wedding and miscellaneous photos we gave to our parents over the years has come back to us to there are duplicate, triplicate and quadruples of some pics.  An example is our wedding pictures.  We have our wedding memory book and album, "Our Son's Wedding" album from Al and Dolores, all the negatives from our wedding, snapshots, formal shots, newspaper photos, articles and on and on and on.  A forty year marriage is enough testament to the fact that we had a ceremony on a hot August afternoon.  We don't want or need those.  Plus, to be perfectly honest, that wasn't the happiest day of our lives.  We were very young, still in college and broke.  We took a quick "honeymoon" from Illinois to Kansas and two weeks later I stared nursing school and Dave continued on at Wichita State University.  We had part-time jobs, an old--yet quaint--apartment and lots of stress.  The wedding was simple.  I wasn't one of those girls who tore out pictures from wedding mags and fantasized about my wedding all my childhood.  Anyway, we don't need a lot of reminders of that time.  We've changed, our marriage has changed and I like us a whole lot better now than then.  So, last weekend we went to an outdoor cafe and with a sandwich and glass of wine, dug through our box of wedding pics and tore up about 2/3 of them.  I plan to throw out more but now it's down to a small pile.  Feels way better.

One of our many Pismo trips with Grandpa Friesen.
The pics of our kids are also numbered in the thousands.  We took a lot of pictures of the rascals.  So now I'm going through them and eliminating the ones I never could part with before.  You know, the blurry ones that you can still see well enough to know how cute that kid was that day, the many copies of each pic of some random kid  kicking a soccer ball the wrong way on the field, etc.  They're being sorted and sifted.  I can't even explain how much this is helping me simplify my life.
The first time my dad met Emilie.  Mike on hand to give advice.

Dr. Friesen
The scary thing is that this project is just starting.  I haven't even thought of where all the digital photos are.  A couple years ago our nephew Nick scanned hundreds of pics for us.  But that was just a start and, of course, I didn't throw away the hard copies.  I don't trust technology THAT much!  That will be the next thing.  It makes sense to do that.  How are we supposed to manage all this media????  And, the piles of videos have to be gone through, too.  A few years ago I started transferring the VHS family vids to DVD.  That project needs to be resumed.

The most fun is finding long lost pictures that are real gems, then going through these with the kids.  If I can't have those times back, at least going through the memories is second best.  

Still adorable!
Mike with HIS pride and joy
A face only a mother could love!
Doesn't smell quite as good as a baby but she loves me unconditionally!

I will stop for now because this is getting out of hand and if I don't get back to my sorting it will  not get done.  Just be assured that you haven't seen the last of me/us!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'll be back...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Medicare: As "Easy" As A-B-C-D

Hallelujah!  Another perk of being old and decrepit!  And, Medicare isn't part of the Affordable Care Act (so I'm told) so the fact that I'm totally dumb on that subject isn't going to ruin my life (I hope.)  It's all very confusing but I think I've got things straightened out.

I've qualified for Medicare when I became disabled but didn't need it because I was covered on Dave's health insurance from work.  When Dave quit working for Fresno County, we went on COBRA because it was better coverage than his new employer offered.  We were happily on that for three years until we hit the limit and had to go off of COBRA and on to the coverage offered by his current employer.  I decided to take advantage of all the Medicare offerings but was told that since I hadn't taken it three years prior (when we opted to take COBRA) that messed things all up.  My biggest mistake: NOT realizing that COBRA isn't the same as employer offered insurance.  It was the same insurance company, same plan but totally different.  Clear as mud.  I still don't quite get it  but Oh Well.  Here's where the Feds in all their wisdom really showed me how very smart they were.  Follow me here, there is a lesson to be learned:
1.  I paid high premiums for a private insurance instead of paying a lower premium and having the government (aka Medicare) pay all my bills.
2.  During that time I had an accident and racked up about $100,000 in medical bills which were paid for by my private insurance.
3.  Since I hadn't signed up for Medicare which would have allowed them to pay my medical bills they, in all their wisdom penalized me and for ever and ever and ever I will, when I finally do sign up for full Medicare coverage, have to pay a 30% higher premium than if I had signed up prior and let them pay my $100,00 medical bills.
4.  Miss Thomas from Social Security would NOT sign me up for Medicare at that time and didn't really care how I got my medical bills paid.  No matter how much I paid for the premiums they said I wasn't able to get it at that time. 
5.  Fortunately I was able (barely) to still get in on other insurance then. And, even more fortunately, it proved to be very good coverage when I really needed it--this was during my "window washing" episode.  Wheew!
   If any of this makes sense to any of you, you are no longer my friend because I know this is really crazy and I don't want friends who use the same logic as our government.  BUT, the long and short is that NOW that I've served my penance I can once again attempt to sign up for Medicare and I think this time they will welcome me with open arms.  I'm going to get a part C plan which includes A,B and D through a private insurance company that works with Medicare to give even better service than Medicare alone.  Get it?  Don't worry about it if you don't.  Your time will come and you'll eventually catch on.

I had to get this out of my system so don't try to explain it or ask for me to explain it.  The bottom line is that I will be able to get good health coverage through Medicare at a very reasonable cost for the rest of my life or until Medicare runs out of money.  And that is something I refuse to even think about.  What scares me is that I am reasonably intelligent and well educated and a health professional myself having had jobs that deal with this kind of stuff all the time.  If I'm wading in mud up to my pierced ear lobes, how about people without any prior experience?  It is hard to imagine. Hopefully they get to speak with Gwen. 

I was just on the phone with  "Social Security"--somewhere back East and after being on hold for an hour, I had a nice conversation with Gwen and she was very helpful.  I have found that every time (except that problem with Miss Thomas over the COBRA issue two years ago...) I speak to someone from Social Security they are extremely nice and helpful.  I discovered this when I was handling Medicare/MediCal issues for my in-laws.  Once you get past the hour long hold time or the dirty, loud waiting room it's not like dealing with government at all.  I find that so refreshing.  They get bad press, but they have always been kind, patient and helpful when I've dealt with them (maybe Miss Thomas was constipated that day in 2011, I don't know.  I pray she is now flowing freely.)

The funny thing is that for a while Gwen was working on printing some of my information and thought I was on hold.  I heard her chit chatting with her co-workers about this and that.  It was nice.  Way better than the awful music.  She apologized when she came back on the line and found me live.  I told her at least I knew she was still with me and I hadn't gotten cut off.  That would have made me uncontrollably unhappy to have to re-dial again and wait again.   Oh, the humanity.....

So, if you have to find yourself in this position, be not afraid.  If you get Miss Thomas, just ask for Gwen.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sole Support for Parkinson's Walk September 28, 2013 Portland, Oregon

 A friend of mine told me tonight that she has been waiting for my posting about the Sole Support for Parkinson's walk Em and I participated in last month.   I realized that it's been several weeks since that walk and I haven't mentioned it.  So, Janie, here it is!   

It humbled me when several friends from our Assurance Illness Support Group contributed money to this worthy effort.    Emilie, Dave and I want to personally thank you for caring enough to be on our team!!  We also wish to thank the other walkers on our team who braved the rain and wind that day.  We had a total of six adults, two adorable children and one dog who walked all or part of the distance.  I hope that this will become an annual event for our team!  I have already volunteered to be "Team Mom" for next year and will provide signs, snacks and other fun stuff on the day of the walk in 2014.  Doesn't that make you all want to join us??

Here we are in the car on the way to Portland--about an hour from Em's house in McMinnville.  Of course, Alice was a member of our team but she needed a nap before the big 5K walk.  She has to be the best traveling dog I have ever met.  The minute the car backs out of the driveway, she gets this mesmerized, dreamy look in her eyes and she is soon in la la land.  By the way, it may not look like it from this view, but it is POURING rain--er, cats and dogs--outside.  But, this is Oregon and the show must go on!

There was a slight let-up in the rain when we first arrived at the park, but the skies opened up once again as we started our trek. Since the unexpected rain was, well, rainy, the turnout wasn't exactly what was expected (close to 1,000 at this site alone) but there were hundreds of people there.  Everyone was smiling and having fun.  The rain can't keep us down!  Along the way there were encouraging signs and even real cheerleaders to keep our spirits up.  It was interesting to see the different people who were taking part in the walk.  There were families with young children, larger groups than ours of various ages, some people who had PD--walking on their own,  with canes and or in wheelchairs.  My heart went out to them, especially with the weather so bad as they gave back to the organization and its supporters who were there to help them.  The PD community in Oregon is strong and they are doing some amazing things with research, education and support.  I was proud to be part of this. 

Emily, Alice, Emilie, Kate and Richie
Our team was called "Pharmacists Fighting Parkinson's" so it's only fitting that we had 3 brand, spanking new pharmacists on our team!   The three chicks on the left are the pharmacists--not including Alice.  Just being part of this walk was a great experience.  My eyes filled with tears as I saw everyone participating because I felt grateful to all these people who care enough to show support.  Dave's and my personal journey with PD is just starting and it's so good to know we aren't alone.  Being a small part of something this big is amazing.  Emilie is getting involved with the local chapter in her community of McMinnville, Oregon as a professional pharmacist and the daughter of someone with PD. 

Emilie, Alice, Deb and Emily made it in one piece.  The rain didn't bother us a bit!  
We talked the whole time--what rain?!

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Here I am, once again visiting in Oregon.  I never thought I would have an opportunity to spend so much time in this great state.  The air is clear--my allergies take a break and it is definitely fall here.  Nice, cool, crisp fall days.  Yesterday on the way home from the airport we stopped at the Dundee Bistro for lunch.  I got some warm bread and stinky cheese.  Ummmm. Reminded me of Paris!

 Today we visited a couple of wineries.  There are so many around here and the views are spectacular. This is only about 20 minutes from Em's house.
Tomorrow Em works so I get the day to myself.  Alice and I will go for a walk or two and I'll spend some time writing.  Oh, and I better clean up my room.  Emilie told me to. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mamas, Grandmas, Greats and Great-Greats....

I love this!  It reminds me that all the generations of strong women who came before me are still a part of me and I am a part of all the generations who will come after me.  I love this image of them all lined up and wondered if I could name all my women: I'm in the middle with my mom, Ruth, on my right and my daughter Emilie Katherine on my left.  Emilie has no children yet, so those names are to be added at a later date.  By the time there are several generations beyond Emilie, do you think they'll still have computers so they can fill in the future generations??  My MacBook will certainly have turned back into dust by then!

On Ruth's right would be her mom, Emma Drange Smith.  Her mother was Emilie Sonderhoff Drange.  I don't think Emma or Emilie ever dressed quite as fancy as these ancestors did!  I have to look up the next few generations.  I think I have a family tree somewhere.  I would also like to include the women on my dad's side.  His mother was Katherine Bergen Dick.  That's all I know about that line, too, but I'm going to find out more.

Seeing a picture like this really puts my life in perspective.  I get so wrapped up in my life and those of my children that I rarely think backward or forward.  When I do, I am grateful for those who came before me.  Both of my grandmothers had very difficult lives; one raised 5 children in Russia in the early 1900's the other lost her mother at an early age and, because her father was alcoholic, she and her siblings were sent for a time to an orphanage.  In spite of these rough starts, both woman lived  long and very full lives.  They both influenced my life tremendously. 

I can't be so egocentric to think that I'm all there is, but sometimes I feel like it.  Why does that happen?  I know that what we can see and feel is  our reality is.  We often haven't even had a chance to meet our ancestors, certainly the ones from several generations back but we wouldn't be here if not for them.  It makes me want to find out just who they all were and what they were like.

I'm going to check back in when I find out who these women are.  I do know that I come from a long line of strong, faithful, hardworking women who have had to make many tough decisions including safety of their children from war and famine.  The stories would make great stories!  I feel another writing session coming on!  Whoo Hoo!

Thanks for listening!