EMBRACING HOPE birthday sale!

2nd birthdayThere’s still time to get your paperback copy of EMBRACING HOPE on sale! I’m celebrating the book’s 2nd birthday by offering a paperback personally autographed (for whatever that’s worth 😜) for $10, postage paid. Facebook PM me and Let’s Make a Deal! Makes a great Christmas gift! 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

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Ornamental nostalgia

Reason for SeasonIt’s the same emotion every Black Friday. Nostalgia. No, I’m not talking about the tradition of hordes of shoppers invading the stores in a credit card-induced frenzy. I haven’t ventured into stores on Black Fridays since the mid-1980s when a woman ripped a sweater out of my hands in a JC Penneys.

(Wait, I need to amend that. I went into a Kmart in Charles City on Black Friday in 2008 with my mom to pick up a few necessities. That trip was indeed a Black Friday as my father had died that morning and we had just been to the nursing home to say goodbye.)

Anyway, I digress. This morning I was engulfed in that annual nostalgic rush when I got out my Christmas ornaments. We don’t have a tree inside anymore on which to hang them, so I hang them on the drapes in our living and dining rooms. I saw that done on HGTV. My display isn’t nearly as classy, but it serves its purpose.

IowaI’ve always had a method in picking out ornaments; most people do. They depict my life since childhood, and of me and my husband since 1993 when we got married. Yes, there’s the “Our First Year Together.” My prized ornament is a fragile brilliant red ornament with the simple message, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” I got that from my mother.

There are Iowa and Minnesota ornaments: Herbert Hoover birthplace, Bridges of Madison County, the Minneapolis skyline, hockey player, a hand-painted miniature Minnesota and Iowa with winter scenes.

I have a cartoonish cow from South Fork Ranch that I got on our trip there many years ago. Two are Charlie Brown themed: the 50th anniversary and the legendary Christmas show. My college years are represented with a clear ball filled with purple streamers and the college crest. And Peanutsfinally, a miniature saxophone representing my school years playing sax.

I haven’t added any ornaments for at least five years. I’m content to take that sentimental journey with what I have. By New Year’s Day I’ll carefully pack them away—and my nostalgia—for another year. Today, I wondered briefly what will happen to them when I’m gone, but quickly dismissed the thought. I prefer the look back at simpler times that get a bit sweeter with each passing year.

 

 

 

 

I can see clearly now, the gray haze is gone!

Yes, It’s been six months since I posted on my blog. Did anyone notice?

I took a sabbatical as I maneuvered through my corneal transplants. I needed to focus on the surgeries and recoveries while balancing my freelance work, so other writing and marketing Embracing Hope took a back seat. After Monday’s post-op check, I can get back into the swing of things.

eye chartFirst, both surgeries were successful! Thank You, Lord! I was fairly confident going in because of my ophthalmologist’s experience. He’s a nice guy with a tad bit of a sense of humor. For example, since the entire procedure is through a high-powered microscope using tiny instruments, my husband asked how he did such intricate surgery. “Uncaffeinated hands,” my doc deadpanned.

The only disappointment hubby had was after the doc took out the suture, he lost “sight” of it so we couldn’t see what it looked like. But since the suture is one-quarter the size of a human air, we excused him. It was pretty funny to see him scrutinizing the tweezers then the floor in search of it, for dramatic effect of course.

The surgeries were easy as I was under conscious sedation, which means you’re awake, but don’t care that he’s using tiny sharp instruments on your eye. Eye-numbing drops certainly help! Spending the first night flat on my back was the hardest part. I didn’t sleep so I prayed, sang some hymns in my mind (I’m a terrible singer.), and watched the clock move interminably slowly.

ROAD TO RECOVERY

Recovery was relatively easy, except for the occasional feeling the first couple of weeks that there was a GIANT eyelash in my eye. The biblical reference to “removing the plank” out of my eye kept springing to mind. I had an air bubble in my eye to hold the graft into position, so vision was very distorted at first, but the bubble absorbed in about a week.

Once I noticed what turned out to be a tiny broken blood vessel in my eye, which can happen just by sneezing, said the PA after I called in a near-panic. It cleared up in a few days.

I had dry eye, which is a complete paradigm shift from the over-abundance of fluid caused by Fuch’s Dystrophy.  I use lubrication gel occasionally.

I experienced a couple of weeks of extreme light sensitivity. It was so extreme, that on a road trip to Iowa I was unable to look out the windshield even with my Roy Orbison/Stevie Wonder sunglasses. I had my eyes closed most of the trip. But it gradually improved to where I can now go without sunglasses in cloud cover.

vision equipment

This sure looks familiar!

PATIENCE PAYS OFF

Improvement in clarity can take months or even years, so it was barely noticeable at first. Then one day about six weeks after the first surgery in January, I looked at my cell phone and the bright colors and sharpness literally gave me a start. I quickly noticed other things were brighter and sharper: TV, green trees, blue skies, purple lilacs, a white eyebrow hair.

I’m near-sighted so close-up vision is GREAT. (Corneal surgery doesn’t correct astigmatism since that’s an issue with the retina.) I can clearly read expiration dates on coupons! I’ve put away the magnifying glass and reduced the zoom on my computer to 100 percent. Distance is a work-in-progress, but once I get my updated prescription for glasses next week distance will be greatly improved.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

I drove a little after the January surgery as the non-surgical eye was good enough. But after surgery on that eye April 4, I didn’t drive AT ALL until the end of May. I didn’t like depending on others for transportation, but I learned it’s OK to ask for help and people were very willing.

My first road trip was to church a mile away, with hubby in the passenger seat to supervise. When the church’s small blue street sign at the corner popped up a half-block away instead of 50 feet, I knew I could drive on my own.

The goal was to make a trip to Iowa June 1-3 alone to see family and have a book-signing. I wasn’t worried about my vision. Maneuvering through road construction and resulting detours on roads I rarely use is what nerved me up. The road trip was a success; the book-signing, not so much. Grrrrr!

THE NEXT STEPS

eyedropsBecause surgery was a transplant, I’m on a routine of steroid eye drops once a day to prevent the small chance of rejection. I’ve become such an expert at using eye drops the last few months that it’s a simple task. And, of course, rubbing my eyes is a big no-no!

My doc told me Monday that I’ll continue to “see” improved clarity for a year or even more. “Really?” I told him. I think the clarity is greatly improved now, so imagine my anticipation at seeing the world with even more brilliant colors and sharpness.

So, this is the last blog entry on my eye-opening adventure. You won’t have to endure all the sight-related clichés, metaphors, and puns. I’m running out of them anyway.

BECOME A DONOR

Although I will never know who my donors were as my grafts came from an eye bank, I thank the donors and families for restoring my eyesight. I also thank the New Brighton Lions for their financial gift to help cover the insurance deductible.

If you haven’t considered becoming an organ donor, please do! It’s as simple as indicating it on your driver’s license. While it made a life-changing experience for me, I can’t fathom what a life-SAVING experience it would be for those in desperate need!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The promise—and the reality of restored eyesight

“What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.
Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”
Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. —Luke 18:41-43

This is the week! I start down the road to better eyesight with a corneal transplant on Jan. 17. And I’m ready—more than ready! I’ve talked with my ophthalmologist, researched, and found kindred spirits who share my experience to answer my questions and give me an idea of what to expect. Still, there are unknowns and people respond differently to the healing process. Bottom line, I’m facing a three-month recovery process.

eye-diagramTo recap: I have Fuch’s Dystrophy, a heredity disease. I haven’t found a link in my family, but because it emerges after age 50, it’s possible a family member who had it was never diagnosed, thinking it was just aging.

Fuch’s is a rare condition when cells in the corneal layer called the endothelium die off. These cells normally pump fluid from the cornea to keep it clear. When they die, fluid builds up and the cornea gets swollen and puffy. Vision becomes cloudy or hazy. As a result, I have foggy days even when the sun is shining brightly. Glares bother me, and I’m more sensitive to the sun. I no longer drive at night. I tear up to the point where people think I’m crying. Reading is difficult.

An Eye on Hope

There is no cure; the only treatment is a transplant. I have every confidence in my doctor. When I was first referred to him I did the typical internet research a little apprehensive about to whom I was entrusting my eyesight. I was quickly reassured after reading his bio. In fact, I wondered why I was being sent to a professional with such an impressive resume. Then it dawned on me how serious this was.

The preciousness of sight has impacted our family in several ways. My maternal grandfather was blinded in one eye due in a work accident. He didn’t let it stop him from driving, though. Heck, he’d drive us 200-mile round-trips to Dodge Center, Minnesota, to meet our Minneapolis family halfway. A second cousin-once-removed (or some removed number) lost an eye in a car accident. She wore a glass eye, but it didn’t negatively impact playing in and winning regional golf championships.

And now me. As a professional writer and debut author, eyesight is indeed precious: It’s both my livelihood and my passion.

The Transplant Reality

The sobering fact about the transplant is the cornea comes from a deceased person. I’ve developed a deep appreciation for donor programs, and the individuals and families who make the difficult decision to donate organs. While my transplant isn’t a matter of life or death, I’m grateful for the person who will help me see better.

I’m also grateful to the Lions Club in New Brighton who gifted me with a grant to help cover medical expenses. The New Brighton Lions are affiliated with the Lions Club International Foundation, of which one of its programs is saving sight. Right in my back yard is the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank at the University of Minnesota.

Thanks also to my loving and supportive family and friends; my church families (Elmwood Evangelical Free Church, St. Anthony, MN; Calvary Baptist Church, Greene, IA); social media family; and my author family at Heart”Wings” women’s fellowship for all their prayers.

Because of my surgery and recovery, I’m unsure how active I’ll be in social media and blogging over the next couple of weeks, so be patient. I’ll keep you posted, and when it’s over, my theme song will be “I Can See Clearly Now.”

Related Article: Insights about Eyesight

 

 

 

 

 

When I kick the bucket, you get the family stainless steel flatware

bucketA sheaf of paper sits on my desk awaiting action. I attempt to read the contents, but my eyes cross trying to make sense of the legalese. The sheaf has three parts, each escalating in significance, but all have the same objective: establishing what happens when by husband and I become incapacitated and/or, to quote my grandmother, “Kick the bucket.”

Here it is, early in the new year, and I’m sitting at my desk staring at the Legal Trinity of the End of Life: Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, Last Will and Testament. I’ve had them for several days, under my day planner. (Symbolic, huh?)

willIf that sheaf wasn’t enough to tune me into my mortality, I had a routine doctor’s appointment last week. Remember the days when you’d go in for a physical and the doctor’s questions revolved around your general well-being? Now they include the query, “Do you have a health care directive?”

“Why? Do you know something I don’t just by taking my pulse and blood pressure?”

Am I going to be carried out of the exam room feet first, one foot stuck inside a rusted dented bucket?

Taking out an Advance

Advanced Planning is a fact of life (well, death), and I get it as I’m nearing the threshold of qualifying for the 10 percent senior discount at the dry cleaners and choosing entrees from the senior section on the back of the menu.

Although my husband and I had a will, it was over 20 years old and things have changed in our lives: like grandchildren! We did online research on advanced planning documents hoping to find something simple to do on our own. You know, a fill-in-the-blank will.

But even the sample wills on websites such as Legal Zoom are chock full of terms like fiduciary, indemnification, per stirpes, and my fav, perpetuity. Crickets! We decided the smart thing would be to use an attorney.

stack of paperOur wills ended up being 18 pages, single-spaced. Two-thirds of one page deals with “Powers and Authorizations Regarding Digital Property.” In other words, who gets my five-page list of logins and passwords. Our wills are considered simple by our attorney. Can you imagine how many volumes—or gigabytes—the Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg wills are?

Seriously, in my research I found an informative article by, appropriately enough, AARP, that spells out 10 things you should know about wills. Bottom line, you don’t want to die without one. Just ask the heirs of Prince.

There’s a fourth end-of-life component that shouldn’t be overlooked: final arrangements, a.k.a. what they’ll do with the bucket. Some years ago my husband and I filled out a packet of information from a local funeral home. We felt so good that we were taking matters in our own hands so the family wouldn’t be making decisions on the fly.

Now if we could FIND the packet. I hope it wasn’t in the “gently used” items we took to the thrift shop when we moved four years ago.

 

The Reason for the Season

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Mary AngelBirth of Jesus Foretold to Mary – Luke 1:26-56

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

Mary's songAnd Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lordand my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

“From now on all generations will call me blessed for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

“His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

“He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

“He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.

“He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

“He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

 *****

Joseph’s Dream – Matthew 1:18-25

Joseph dreamThis is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

*****

The Birth of Jesus – Luke 2:1-20

Mary Joseph BabyIn those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

ShepherdsAnd there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

*****

The Magi Visit the Messiah – Matthew 2:1-12

WisemenAfter Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

 

 

 

 

Photos of Christmas Past

I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry as I paged through a family photo album from the 1960s. I was looking for a certain photo, and in the process was transported back in time to childhood Christmas innocence. It’s amazing the memories that the settings evoked. Take a look and see if you’ll get a nostalgic rush, too.

1967 – Grandpa and Grandma Butler’s house in Greene, Iowa

G and G Butler CmasMy grandparents didn’t put up a tree, which never bothered me. The working fireplace with gifts stacked in front was just as Christmassy. Grandma decorated with artificial poinsettias, which might be why I came to love the poinsettia as an adult.

A red wagon with metal body and rubber wheels which is now considered vintage (a.k.a. old).

The walking doll I named Sandy, after a pretty classmate with straight blonde hair, who I envied.

My mother’s plaid skirt, my plaid skirt, and Dad’s plaid shirt were so stylish! Back then. Mom had the cat’s eye glasses and white anklets, also in fashion.

I wonder whatever happened to the clock sitting on the fireplace mantle.

 

 

1969 – Our farmhouse, Bristow, Iowa

Family christmas

Gold décor was all the rage judging by the gold carpet, gold drapes and gold wallpaper.

Yes, that’s a bicycle in the living room. Mom made sure the tires were untouched by Iowa dirt, mud, gravel, snow or slush.

My brother, Phil’s, plaid shirt and black horn-rimmed glasses were hip back then. Notice one of the two shirts he received as gifts is just like the one he’s wearing.

I can’t remember the name of the baby doll I’m holding, but she had thick black eyelashes.

The tree, somewhat straggly, was adorned with store-bought and homemade ornaments.

Looking closer at the upright piano next to the tree are a familiar Christmas carol songbook and the purple John W. Schaum lesson book, both evidence of our pathetic attempts at playing the piano.

My plaster handprint (also gold) hangs on the wall next to the piano.

The blue and white rectangle box in front of my brother is Scribbage. , a dice version of Scrabble.

Framed wedding photos of my aunts and uncles sit on the bookcase. One couple was married on the day I was born.

I’m pretty sure the TV is black and white.

1969 – Living Nativity

Christmas programThe second photo pulled a gasp from me: a Nativity tableau photo at Calvary Baptist Church in Greene. It was taken in the basement, based on the black and beige tile floor. I chuckled over the bathrobes and bath towels; especially the (ugly) orange and yellow one. The angel had the best costume; I was probably jealous.

I recognize about half of the cast, most who have scattered around the country. I’ll let you pick me out. Today, the actor in the red robe with black trim and black head covering is the adult Sunday school teacher at that church. I’ll show him the photo when I visit the next time and we’ll get a good laugh. My heart fluttered seeing a little girl in the cast who will spend her second Christmas in heaven this year.

In the end, I both laughed and cried as I studied the photos. Do I wish I could go back in time to that brief period in my life? For the plaids and the décor, no. For the piano lessons, no. For reenacting the Nativity, yes. For the innocence, most definitely!

And I never did find the photo I had been looking for.