October Beauty

22 10 2011

I just had a hunch that we better head to Pennyroyal State Park and enjoy the beautiful Autumn day of October the 11th.  The sunshine and warmth were abundant.  The park is just 22 miles from our home.  I suggested to Jim that we spend the day there and just read and enjoy lunch at the lodge’s restaurant.  And a lovely day it turned out to be.  Sometimes a mini retreat is in order to refresh the body, mind and soul. 

Hope you enjoy these pictures of our day!  God Bless!


Back To School and Waffles

12 08 2011

I was anxious to hear how Anna’s two boys were adjusting to public school.  They have been part of a Christian private school for all their early education.  John is in the 4th grade  and Alex is in the 2nd grade.

They are adjusting quite well.  Partly, because Anna enrolled them both in a summer day camp which allowed the boys to get  used to meeting new children.

I’m out of a job though.  I’ve picked up the boys all of their years of private schooling.  I have felt a void this week because it is a routine that had been such a part of me.  I’m on the emergency list though–If Anna needs help in any way.

Anna ate lunch with us today and we had old fashioned waffles.  I’ve made homemade waffles for 37 years now.  It was an inexpensive meal to serve at least once a week when our children were growing up.  Made with plenty of eggs and milk–the waffles provided some good protein and carbs for our growing children.

I don’t make waffles very often any more but it was good to make them today.  It was fun to catch up with the boys week.

Ruth put her stepson in school this week, too.  She and William came by on Monday to get an old chest of drawers that we had bought used in 1979.  She just called to tell me that she spent the day refinishing it.  She found the date that it was made–August the 8th, l958.  And , I gave it to her on August the 8th.  Wow!  Ruth and I always get excited about stuff like that.  William likes school.  He is a student in the Trigg Co. school system.  He gets to ride up and down all the country roads on his school bus.  He especially likes the cafeteria and all the good food that is served each day.

So everyone has had some great experiences this week.  And, the waffles were yummy!

God bless each of you!

A Birthday, An Anniversary, A Stepson, Fudge and A Fish

14 07 2011

I made 4 lbs. of  fudge yesterday with Steven’s birthday in mind.  He is Ruth’s husband of almost 8 years.  He loves my fudge–which I give to him for his birthday and Christmas.  Steven also had another birthday present.  His son ,William ,flew in for a month from California.  William has never been to Kentucky.  Ruth has only met William once.  Last summer, Steven and Ruth went to California for the funeral of William’s great grandmother. 

It was fun to meet William today.  He is 11 years old and has blonde hair.  He is a slim little fellow and very quiet.  Our dogs immediately took to William.  We’re looking forward to spending more time with our step grandson.

Anna ,our oldest daughter, and her husband, Jeff, have been married 16 years.  They are in the Great Smoky Mountains as I write –for their wedding anniversary celebration.  We’re taking care of their fish.  I don’t know what kind of fish it is.  She told me that I should probably clean out the fish bowl today.  Poor little fish didn’t know what to think when I took an ice  cream scoup to get him out of the dirty water into a glass of clean water–while I cleaned his bowl out.  He, She , whoever, is very happy and content now.

I also made my bread today and gave Ruthie some for their dinner this evening. 

I saved a little fudge to take to our coffee hour after church this coming Sunday.  A friend who dropped by yesterday –also got a chunk to take home. 

To me– these small celebrations make life worthwhile.  God Bless each of you!

Adjusting and Readjusting

10 01 2009

It has not been easy to face the fact that my husband will never be strong again.  I told Jim recently that in my heart I knew that he probably wouldn’t be able to stand the rigors of working in his factory much longer than a year.  This time last year, there were no signs of the economy hurting the business of the factory.  Jim was working seven days a week.  He only got to attend church about once a month.  He got an excuse from his heart doctor to work no more than 50 hours a week.  The factory would not honor the excuse.  His supervisor told him that if he couldn’t work what was required then he would be fired.  I ached for Jim.  He was so tired and weary.  I suspected that his health was not the best.

Signs of the recession finally hit the factory in May.  Suddenly there was no more overtime for Jim and many others.  It was a real relief.  I believe now that if Jim had kept up that pace–he would have died.  Since August, this factory has laid off about 200 employees.  Jim made the first cut and his illness came right before the second cut.  This was a trememdous blessing as Jim was able to keep his insurance and draw short term disability pay.

Meanwhile, many were urging us to complete the process for Jim to draw Social Security disability.  We both dragged our feet because it seemed so final.  I can’t speak for others but neither Jim nor I wanted to believe that he  was actually disabled.  Although the signs and symtoms were under our nose each day.  Finally, close to Christmas I called the national social security number and set up an appointment for Jim in our local office.  Our appointment was on Christmas Eve day.  It was a nasty day weather wise and we got a call from a social security worker in Campbellsville, Ky asking if we would rather have the interview on the phone.  I asked her if I could be on the line because Jim doesn’t handle these types of things well.  I had already filled out forms of medical information for Jim to take to his appointment.  We had about a 45 minute interview on the phone.  She told us that they would back his date back to November 1, 2008.  Moreover, she told us that if he was accepted that he would get his first check the end of May. 

There are two kinds of social security disability.  One kind is for people who have never earned enough credits for working and are extremely poor.  We didn’t meet that requirement.  That kind of social security comes with immediate health care. Jim , if approved, will get the kind of disability based on all of the working quarters he has completed in his life.  He will have to wait two years to get medical care. 

That certainly left us in a dilemma as Jim’s insurance runs out when his short term disability is finished.  We can buy what is called  Cobra for 18 months but it is extremely expensive.  We started thinking about any benefits that he could get because he is a veteran.  We had already been thinking about completing the paper work for us to be buried at the beautiful veteran’s cemetery in our county. 

This past Monday we made a visit to the veteran’s cemetery.   Jim handed the secretary his DD214 form and she said that it would be processed in a couple of days and that we would receive a post card of affirmation.  I can be buried with Jim, too.  We have to furnish our caskets but the rest is free for Jim.  There is a $300.00 dollar cost for me.  It doesn’t matter if I die first.  We will be buired on top of each other.  That was a relief to get that matter settled.  Jim asked how one could find out about veteran’s health benefits.  We were surprised that a veteran’s benefit’s person had an office right there.  So we went in to talk with her.

She got Jim’s DD214 and started working on our case.  We spent almost an hour answering questions and we were done.  She faxed Jim’s information to the veteran’s hospital in Nashville and told us that we could call in a few days to see if Jim was in the system.  We did call and they had not processed  Jim’s claim yet.  Hopefully, by early next week we will know.  The lady who helped us didn’t seem to think that it would be any problem for Jim to be approved. That will take care of Jim’s health needs.  I will be able to have cobra and that will cut our cost for healthcare in half. 

Early in December I completed all of the requirements to go back to substitute teaching.  I didn’t have to get references again but I had to get a TB skin test, fill out a few forms and get fingerprinted again.  I also had to get an extenstive physical exam.  I’ve done this three times since 2000.  I’m not going to be able to resign this time.  I’m going to have to stick it out.  I had been teaching junior high and high school students.  I enjoyed it so much from 2000 to 2003. However when I went back to work in 2006 I was shocked at all of the cell phones and ipods in the classroom.  There  were rules against them but I couldn’t get the administration to back up my discipline referral slips.   Finally, I resigned.

This time I’m only going to teach kindergarten through the 5th grade.  I had tried some teaching in the lower grades initially in 2000 and didn’t like it at all because it was so “busy” all of the time.  I didn’t like lining up the children for every little thing.  I didn’t like going out on the play ground twice a day for recess.  But that was before I had grandsons.  I’ve learned to like young children once again.  I think all of my experiences  of working with my grandsons will be a great benefit to me.  I have developed a more “childlike” heart since they have been a part of my life.   I now believe that working with the younger children with their very full days will be better that dealing with high school students who are bored out of their minds with the 90 minutes class room blocks. 

Hopefully, the calls will come soon.  It will be another adjustment.  But that is what life if all about with adjusting and readjusting.  I’m thankful that we have completed the process for Jim’s social security disability, our burial and his veteran’s healthcare.  Life is certainly much different for us these days.  There is a path of grieving that we are both walking through.  And I’m sure many ideas of future blogs will grow out of that grief.  Yet in the midst of our grief  is joy because we still have faith in God to see us through each day.

May God bless each of you!

Helping The Sick

20 12 2008

Jim and I have been home from the hospital for two months.   I remember being in a daze our first day home.  I knew that Jim could never eat foods that were high in sodium again.  I also knew that his fat intake had to be monitored.  It was not that we over indulged in eating unhealthy foods but sodium is sneaky.  For example one tablespoon of ketchup has 7% of one’s daily sodium needs.  Now who wants to waste 7% of one’s daily sodium on a tablespoon of ketchup.  Those were the issues that I had to become an expert at.  So I was very uptight that first day and was extremely happy when a friend brought over a nice hot lunch for us.  She was very attuned to Jim’s health needs and cooked accordingly.  The word “attuned” is key here to helping those who are sick.  The caregiver needs encouragement along the way and I want to share a few suggestions.

First of all,  I have had numerous phone calls from people who told me to just let them know how they could help.  I know that their intentions were good but I for one will never tell anyone what our needs are.  I would be hesitant to ask anyone for help–accept perhaps my own flesh and blood children.   I got very frustrated by those calls and notes in cards.  There are things people can do without asking the caregiver’s thoughts.

Very close friends will usually ask what type of food can be eaten. That is exactly what my friend Hope asked me about.  And Hope was also very sensitive to my need for time out at the hospital.  Twice she came and took me out for a meal.   If one is not that close to the family but still concerned–gift cards to grocery stores are greatly appreciated.  Also just gifts of cash go along way to help.  While Jim was at Vanderbilt–I received cash from several sources.  The cash was used to help with my meals and I also shared it with my adult children’s gas expenses in driving back and forth to Vanderbilt.  It doesn’t have to be a great deal of money.  A $20 dollar bill placed in one’s hand is greatly appreciated. 

Visiting the sick is also very important.  However, when one gets home from the hospital–one is very consumed with many details.  It is best not to call or visit until about 10:00 in the morning.  This gives the caregiver time to make sure the patient has been fed and bathed.  Also it gives the caregiver a little time to wash dishes , put a load of laundry in the washing machine and do a little straightening up around the house.  I well remember the pressure I felt when Vera, our daughter, was recovering from a bad fall.  It took a great deal of time to get her ready for the day.  We had a very rigid schedule all day and I was very grateful when people called first before a visit. 

In my situation now with Jim–I have the responsibility of taking care of our home and yard.  Jim will never be able to do any physical taxing home chores again.  In such situations as mine–a great gift would be an offer to rake leaves in the fall or cut the grass in the summer. Of course these would be one time gifts—as I would never expect any one to do these things on a regular basis.  However, just lifting the burden as a one time gift means a great deal to the caregiver.  Even though I’m not a widow–I’m a widow now in some ways.  Jim can never be the strong man of the house again.  Thus, thinking about the needs of widows and care givers of sick husbands in practical ways will be greatly appreciated.

Caregivers can use time out from their patients.  Offer to come sit with the patient so the caregiver can get out  for awhile.  In my case, Jim can be left alone now but in the beginning I would not have left hime home alone for anything.  Vera was a big help in being my co-caretaker.  Not everyone is so fortunate.

I’m also blessed with having my adult children who can step in and help in many situations.  For instance, our kitchen plumbing went bad.  We had an awful link under the sink.  Our son was able to put new plumbing in for us.  Not everyone has a son who can do those kinds of things.  Thus, asking if there are any household problems to be fixed is another kind thing to do for a home where a woman is taking care of a sick husband.

But let me not just dwell on the needs of the aging.  Children who are very sick especially with cancer–need all kinds of encouragement.  Gifts of stuffed animals, coloring books and crayons etc are always appreciated.  Again, gift cards to pizza or hamburger fast food restaurants are always exciting to a sick child.  If a child has a long lasting illness–again time out for the caregiver is a must.  Volunteer to take care of the sick child so that parents can have some time to relax. 

Be creative.  Think about things that you can do to help others.  The Bible teaches us that caring for the poor, the sick and the needy is the right thing to do.  The Holy Gospels are full of such admonitions.  When we learn to do for others–we grow out of our self serving habits. 

Jim and I have always enjoyed reaching out to others in their times of need.  In fact, during our two months home from the hospital–we have enjoyed reaching out to others who are in need.  It is just the right thing to do.  Do you have any other ideas about helping the sick?  I would love to read them.

God bless each of you!

Some Harsh Realities

11 12 2008

Death, cancer, diabilities of all kinds, unemployment etc don’t often give a warning that they are about to happen.  Sometimes if we are extremely in tune to our lives we can often sense a warning.  I know that I’ve had many such times.  Even so–I’ve missed some real warnings in my life.  It is not good to be naive about the harsh realities of life.  Dave Ramsey likes to talk about how Murphy’s law lives in our guest bedroom.  In other words, if we don’t do some preparing about our lives–we are often left with very deep problem solving in times of real crisis.

Sandy’s ( my oldest daughter) father-in-law died this past weekend.  Sandy and her husband, Rob, were in Memphis for a marathon.  They received the call around 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.  They had plans to enjoy a leisurely morning before heading home.  Instead, they had to gather their belongings fast and get on the road.  Sandy’s husband is his father’s power of attorney and he had to get things moving fast.  Later that day–I talked with Sandy and she told me that the funeral would cost about $12,000.  Rob’s dad had plenty of insurance and that was not a worry.  Through Sandy , I’ve learned that all wills are probated and that  the death is published in the paper for all creditors to see.  The creditors get their money before any is dispersed to the family.  Rob senior’s situation is not going to be an easy one because there are five grown children who want their share of the estate.  Rob junior is going to have a huge job to deal with.   Rob senior’s death struck another one of those “planning nerves” in my body.  I thought that all of our life insurance policies were in our lock box.  However, when I opened our box up–I was shocked to learn that they were not in the box.  I had to go searching for them.  I did finally find them and placed them in our lock bos.  Our wills were in our lock box.  Jim and I took a look at them and although they are adequate–they are not the best.  Thus, sometime soon–we will work on updating our wills.

Death is costly not only in the painful emotions that those who are left behind feel but it is also just plain earthly wise costly.  Life insurance  should be bought when one is young.  That is when it is the least expensive.  The more health problems one has–the more costly will be the policy.  Jim and I locked into our main policy when we were still fairly young.  Then when I was 48–I bought another small policy for myself.  Because I was beginning to have health problems–I could only aford a $25,000 policy.  I’m thankful that we have life insurance.  I would encourage all young people to get busy and purchase life insurance. 

Cancer is another issue.  There are some financial advisors who teach that cancer insurance is a waste of money.  They say that if one is coverd by health insurance –then no other insurance is necessary.  However, health insurance companies these days are making it harder for all of us. For instasnce,   this past year–for the first time in 15 years we had what is called a “bridge” to complete.  In other words, the company gave us the first $2.000.00 dollars then we had to pay the next $2,000.00 before the 80/20 percent kicked in.  We had chosen the inbetween plan.  However, the top plan was not much better.  This coming year we chose the lowest plan because Jim is on disability pay.  We won’t have to pay any of the premiums like we did with the inbetween plan. But this year the insurance will only pay the first $ 1000.00 then we will have a bridge of $4000.00 to pay before the 80/20 percent kicks in.  The insurance companies do this so people won’t go the doctor’s for minor complaints.  And even though we have benefited greatly through having medical insurance–we pay the equivalent to a car payment in medical bills each month.

So getting back to cancer–the standard health insurance is not going to pay much up front.  The benefit is not seen until one has paid a great deal out of one’s pocket.  With my cancer insurance–I got a check for just being diagnosed with cancer.  They also paid a part of my hospital stay when I had my masectomy.  Lastly, they have paid a good portion of my monthly medicine.  I would never have been able to afford my medicine with out my cancer insurance.  Our policy which we started at my husband’s workplace has only cost us $25.00 a month.  We were able to take it with us even though Jim will never go back to work.  The price did not go up –it is locked in at $25.00 a month.  So if your compnay offers you a cancer policy and ours was from Aflac–grab the opportunity. 

My last piece of advice would be to be faithful to saving money.  When Jim had to be at Vanderbilt for two weeks–I was able to put a check from my money market into my primary bank.  Even though Jim was still getting paid–the extra money was a help.  I didn’t want our daughter, Vera, to be in a lurch as she was paying our bills.  We haven’t always been people who saved money.  We got a late start in our lives but late is better than never.  So get started on some kind of savings plan.

Now I realize that I have people from different parts of the world who read my blog.  Many live in the UK where all medical bills are paid.  My advice  on medical insurance won’t mean much to my UK friends but my advice on savings and life insurance is for all people. 

We have watched Rob senior be in and out of the hospital for a decade now.  He had many lung and heart problems.  However, he has always been able to get back to work.  In fact, he was dressing for work on Sunday morning and just died instantly.  Death, cancer and other kinds of  illness can take any of us by surprise.  So get a will, some life insurance, start a savings account and buy some cancer insurance.  Be prepared.

God bless each of you!

An Aorta Adventure, Part 7

3 12 2008

We had one more major hurdle to get through before Jim could leave the hospital.  He wasn’t feeling well at all on Wednesday morning.  He was having awful pain in his urinary tract and thus could not urinate.  By 11:00 a.m. –his pain had hit a peak.  Regular pain medicine didn’t help him at all.  The nurse had to give him a shot of morphine.  Actually, that didn’t help much either.  Finally, an ultra sound was ordered.  The ultra sound revealed that his prostrate was enlarged.  Jim was put back on the catheter and was given a drug to help him urinate.  Almost immediately, his comfort level improved.  The plan was for Jim to get the catheter out by the next morning.

The plan went beautifully.  Jim never had any more problems urinating.  However, the doctor bottomed his blood pressure so low that they had to hook him back up to IV’S to get his blood pressure up to a normal level.  The doctor’s kept emphasizing that his blood pressure had to be no higher than 100 on the top.  However, they were not successful with their efforts unless they bottomed my husband out.  I wondered how I was so supposed to deal with such a crisis when we returned home.

Anyway, the plan was for Jim to leave on Friday.  So we had a little party on Thursday evening.  We walked to the nutrition station behind the nurse’s station and got some cereal, milk and juice.  Then we walked back to our room to celebrate that we would soon be home.  I pulled out whatever junk food I had left for my snack.  This was about 10:00 p.m.  Silently I prayed that nothing would prevent Jim was going home.  It had been a long stay and we were both restless to go home.

I have to say the counseling we got for our discharge was topnotch.  Not only did we get all of our instructions in print but we also got an hour’s worth of oral instruction.  We had also requested the hospital social worker to come and talk with us about social security disability benefits.  He gave us some printed material and also answered all of our questions.  Somehow, Jim and I both had a gut feeling that he would never return to work.  However, we tabled our final questions for his scheduled follow up in November.

Finally, we were able to leave the hospital.  Sandy came to pick us up.  We ate lunch at the Alektor Cafe and Book Store.  This is our absolute favorite place to eat when we visit Nashville.  It is an Orthodox booksore.  Fr. Parthenios and his wife Pres. Marion own the cafe.  Pres. Marion cooks most of the food.  Fr. Parthenios is always readily seen working on preparing all of the food orders.  Before we left the cafe–Fr. Parthenios had some special prayers for Jim. 

Our arrival home was full of merriment.  We had stopped by Sandy’s neighbor to get our grandchildren.  The boys were happy to see us.  John wanted to go with me to the pharmacy to get Jim’s medicine.  At that time–we had about 13 prescriptions.  Although Jim was tired–he was able to sit and visit with everyone.  We knew that we had a long road ahead of us but being home would hopefully help Jim to recover faster than a clinical environment.

On Saturday, our friend, Hope, cooked us a wonderful meal.  Our son and his wife also came for a visit.  The first weekend was rather rough on all of us but we soon learned to adapt and figure out better ways to make Jim comfortable.

I began taking Jim to walk each morning at the public library’s river walk.  We soaked in the Indian summer sun.  I would take a little snack for him to eat while we walked.  Or sometimes, we would take a break and he would eat his snack.  We did this faithfully the first three weeks Jim was home.  The Indian summer is gone now and the weather is getting harsh.  So we haven’t been walking as much.

Jim’s brother came for a visit from Iowa the first weekend in November.  Jim hadn’t seen his brother in 14 years.  His brother’s wife had recently died from a four year battle with cancer.  It was good being with Jim’s brother.  We took a ride into another county to visit an Amish store.  It had been so long since I had been to an Amish store.  We all enjoyed that so much.  Then down the road was an Amish bakery.  On our way back home we stopped and showed Jim’s brother the home we had wanted to buy in Todd County.  I, especially, had wanted to move but the door was closed on us.  Shortly after that disappointment, I found out I had breast cancer.  Our final stop was to visit some friends who used to be Mennonites but left their order.  They now farm and run a bookstore from their home.  It was great seeing this family again.  The oldest son was working on the addition they were building to their home.  The other five children were baking goodies in the kitchen.  They had made up enough cookie dough to feed an army.  However, that is the way to bake when one had a family of eight people.  We bought a few books from them and headed home.

Shortly after Jim’s brother left–it was time to visit Nashville again for Jim’s followup report.  Again, we got good counsel–about 90 minutes worth.  They told Jim that he would never be able to work again.  We were not shocked because after having experienced open heart surgery twice–it was very evident that Jim would not go back to his factory job. 

We were up front with Jim’s employer about his not returning to work.  Thankfully, they told us that the disability benefit was still his.  Jim had three weeks of vacation pay and one week of sick pay coming to him and then the disability checks would kick in.  At some point, Jim will apply for social security disability.  I’m making plans to go back to work after Christmas as a substitute teacher.  I know we will make it because we have lived frugally now for almost seven years.  It has been wonderful to be able to be home and take care of Jim for almost seven weeks now.  He has many computer interests that he hopes to continue working on.  He is not a blogger like I am but he loved the computer.  He also loved to read.  I’m happy that Jim will be able to be home now.  As long as he can keep his blood pressure under control–he should have many more good years of life.  I hope my story will be of help to others who are struggling with similar problems. 

God bless each of you!