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Saturday, September 11, 2021

20 Years Later

From the first televised images to the heroic “let’s roll!” those of us who were of age remember where we were and the shock of the evil that attacked our country 20 years ago today. 

Following are the memories of my brother Danny, who was working near the Pentagon that day. I had never heard his entire story and part of it brought me to tears. Danny is a man of character. I am proud to call him my brother. These are his memories as he wrote them.

Stand By – Meetings Postponed 

On the morning of 9/11/2001 and in Skyline-1 of the Skyline Office Complex, my TMA support teammates and I had seen the pictures and reports of a plane hitting the World Trade Center in NY. It was time for us to make our way to Skyline-6 for a meeting with your client in TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) Information Management (IM). We discussed what we had seen about the World Trade Center as we walked through the underground and then as we sat waiting in one of TMA’s Skyline-6 conference rooms. The meeting time came and passed. We waited. We got word that due to ongoing events and uncertainty of what was going on, our meeting would be postponed until another time. Then …

TMA Skyline Offices Shook (Pentagon Hit)

Skyline-6 shook. Our TMA client (a Navy Captain physician) came into the conference room and told us, “The Pentagon has just been hit”. From his office windows, we could see the smoke rising from the Pentagon. Unknown at that time if other Government buildings or offices would be targets. “We’re evacuating. Everyone out of the building.”

Evacuating Skyline Office Complex

We were on an upper floor of Skyline-6 in the TMA Information Management (IM) office space. There were multiple elevators that serviced Skyline-6 which, of course, were all turned off (shut down) during emergency evacuation. Dave Oris (fully wheelchair bound and dependent) was in the elevator lobby and obviously not able to go down stairs … much less many floors of stairs. I told Dave I’d stay with him until we could get someone strong enough to carry him down without his motorized wheelchair. As many people ran past us and into the stairwells, a much younger and stronger young man (I don’t know his name) came by and asked if he could help. “Do you know how to do a fireman’s carry?”  Yes! He lifted Dave up onto his shoulders and I went ahead of them to serve as an icebreaker to clear a path through the many people running, pushing, and elbowing their way down the stairs. That strong, young man carried Dave all the way down those many flights of stairs without stopping, and we got Dave down to the basement parking level entrance that faced Rt7 (Leesburg Pike).  Dave had already called family to pick him up, and the young man and I stayed with Dave until his ride arrived. Whoever that young, strong man was … he was a hero that day. He kept his head about him and used his strength to carry Dave to safety.

TMA Skyline Parking Garage Chaos 

People react to crises differently (an understatement). After we got out of the Skyline Office Complex buildings and were at rallying points in the parking lot, we were told to make our way home. For some of us, our cars were in underground parking … and mine was under Skyline-1. Like with the people pushing and elbowing down the stairwells; I again saw panic on peoples’ faces and in their eyes as they tried to get out of the underground parking. Some people were making lanes where there were no lanes. Some were so focused on getting out that they cut off other drivers and forced their way ahead. One person I remember seeing didn’t look left or right, didn’t consider other drivers around her, but she kept her eyes focused on the exit opening of the garage … she was going to get out no matter what.

People Walking on 395 

Once out of Skyline parking and over to 395 south; the scene was very much from an end-of-times movie. Highway 395 was almost without cars, and there were some people walking on the shoulders of the highway. I learned later that day that my daughter-in-law, who was working for the Navy in Chrystal City, had driven through the smoke that was blowing across 395 from the Pentagon.


Thursday, January 07, 2021

I Been Workin’ on the Railroad … or … My Argument with the Shin-Hoe

 by Rex Eldon Nelson (from an article that appeared in “The Good Old Days”

In 1907, I worked as a bridge carpenter for the Utah Uinta Railroad. This was a narrow

gauge railroad that ran forty miles up into the Uinta Mountains to the mining town of Dragon. The

railroad hauled gilsinite from Dragon, down the mountain, to a loading platform for the Rio Grande

Railroad. The Rio Grande ran from Denver to Salt Lake City. 

The town of Dragon was home for the railroad workers, as well as the gilsinite miners. When I got word that I had the job in Utah, my wife Nettie and I were staying with her aunt in Grand Junction, Colorado. At the time, Nettie and I had one baby [William Earl Nelson] and another in the oven [Oliver Lescher Nelson]. We were both excited about the job, as I had had no work for a few months and we both disliked having to lean on relatives. The job started as soon as I could arrive, so we packed our things and bundled the baby, and were ready to leave in a few days. [RJE note: based on these clues, they most likely made the move in late 1909.]

We rode on the Rio Grande Railroad to the base of the Uinta Mountains. There we

transferred to the Uinta Railroad's only passenger car for the forty-mile trip up the mountain to

Dragon. That final leg of the trip seemed the longest to Nettie and me, as we were excited to get a

look at our new hometown.

Our home was a tent house. That was the only kind of house that Dragon had. The floor

and about the first four feet of the walls were wood planks. The tops of the walls and the roof were

canvas. Over the whole house was a fly, like an awning, that sheltered us from the worst of the


We had two rooms: a sleeping room and a living room. We had a big cook stove that

doubled as a heater. The town had a central well and each house a water barrel. Every night after

work, I hauled water from the well to our barrel so that Nettie would have plenty of water the next

day. That house certainly wasn't much, but Nettie had a way of making a house into a home. We

didn't have much then, but we were young and we were happy.

Dragon wasn't a very big place. Including both the railroad and mine workers and their

families, the population couldn't have numbered more than 200. The town, however, boasted a

beer parlor, a general store, and a hotel. The hotel was the biggest building in town; it was a two

story all-wood structure. The hotel had a restaurant and the office for the only doctor for miles

around. If Dragon hadn't had a doctor I wouldn't be telling this story today.

As a bridge carpenter for Uinta, I worked with the crew that constructed the railroad

bridges over gullies, rivers, and marshes. We also built the wooden bulkheads that held the earth

back when the track sliced through a hill.

One morning we, on the bridge crew, traveled about six miles out of Dragon to work on a

bulkhead. We went by hand cart on the railroad tracks. That day my job was to strip bark from the

logs with an adz. You don't see anyone using an adz anymore; power tools do the work instead.

An adz looks like a hoe with a long slender, sharp blade. It is a dangerous tool if handled

incorrectly. In fact, we called the adz, a shin-hoe, which seems a better name to me.

I straddled a log and got to work. I pulled the shin-hoe toward me, skinning off the bark of

the tree. I must have gotten careless, because suddenly the adz sheared off a knot hole and came

toward me out of control. The blade buried itself in the inside of my leg, close to the knee. When I

pulled out the blade, blood spurted from the gash in my leg.

One of the men working close to me saw that I was hurt pretty bad and he hollered for the

others. Someone tried to press the wound closed, but the bleeding wouldn't stop. Someone else

said that they had better get me to the doc . . . fast. They hoisted me up and carried me to the

hand cart. They didn't waste any time getting that cart started. I got dizzy and fainted and don't

remember much about the trip, but I was told later that the hand cart literally flew along those


I vaguely remember being carried into the doctor's office, but I passed out before he

stitched me up. I slept in that office all day. When I woke up, the doctor told me that a few more

minutes and I would had lost too much blood to recover. He said that I was lucky the men had

acted so fast. The doc added that it was a good thing, also, that I was so young and stubborn.

It was awhile before I was strong enough to return to my job. I still have that scar where,

over 70 years ago, I had that argument with the shin-hoe . . . .

Nettie and I stayed two years in Dragon, and when the railroad didn't need us anymore, we

moved with our two boys to Oregon.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Nana Elf … and Changing Cars

There’s always good news and bad news.

The best news is that I am the beneficiary of a new (to me) car. That is exciting.

More good news: I didn’t go into debt to get it, due to the generosity of our firstborn!

More good news: the sun is shining and the temp is hovering around 50 degrees.

More good news: I was flattered by some people with whom I was commiserating at the DMV.

So here goes the bad news:

The other day, when I would have liked to register the new cars and transfer license plates, the line at the DMV was excruciatingly long. So a day later I figured I’d try another facility. Yay! No line! Alas, that was because the facility was CLOSED due to COVID.

Since the sun promised to shine today, with mild temps, I decided to return to the original DMV and just stick it out. I can do this! 

In these times of virus protocols, the lines are definitely long because of “social distancing.” But I also remembered in previous dealings with the DMV that there are separate lines for licenses and for titles/registrations. I should have put this in the “good news” category, because I remembered to go to the front door to check out any line I should be aware of.

Lo and behold, there were indeed 3 lines. One for licenses (that is the line that stretched 3 blocks long), one for title/registration (that one had 5 people in it), and one specifically for “senior citizens” (with 3 people in line). 

Pride goes before a fall, so of course I valiantly gave up my right to stand in the senior citizen line and instead stood with the title/registration folks. You can guess that the senior citizen line was emptied quickly, as they got priority, whereas I stood in line for 50 minutes behind my line. I pity those folks in the licensing line!

My turn finally came to get in the door. This is where you meet the “triage” employee. Title to transfer? Check. Current registration? Check. Driver’s license? Check. “Do you have your check or money order for the tax?” What tax? Oh, you know, just for showing up. Nope. I don’t carry checks (don’t use them), and so I was summarily dismissed to go to the closest Post Office and buy a money order. Ugh!!!

A bit of side good news was that there was no line at the Post Office. Whew!

Back I go to the DMV, and this time I took advantage of the senior citizen line, you can bet on that!

Ten minutes later, I’m in the door again and given the go-ahead to take my number and wait to be called. 45 minutes later I’m at the window explaining my needs.

"Oh … you want to put your personalized plates on the new car? I see they are in your husband’s name as well. Here is a form he will have to sign before we can do anything." UGH!!!

By now I’ve wasted three hours of my day. But hey, it’s still sunny and early enough that I can drive the 30 minutes to get Mark to sign off on the plates and get back to the priority senior citizen line, right?

Whew, I’m back and in the door within 5 minutes, given a number, which is called within another 5. Great!

Until I reach the window. She looks over all the documentation. So far, so good. Yippee, I have the money order to pay for the tax. But what’s this? You mean the new car is a Tesla? Oh, that’s an EV. Yeah, we don’t allow personalized plates on an EV. You have to buy new plates. And by the way, they are a LOT more expensive than normal OR personalized plates. (Yeah, I get it. They have to gouge you somewhere since they aren’t going to get any gas tax off of me.)

So, you’re telling me that even though I renewed my NanaElf plates in July for a full year, that they are no longer good? *insert her shrug here* Not only that, but there was no reason for me to go have my husband sign off on my personalized plates? *insert second shrug and a mumbled sorry*

When she slid all the paperwork for me to fill in, sign, and date, she then said … that will be $401. Yipes, what??? Oh, you’re using a credit card for that? That will be another $9. I said … After $400, what’s another 9?

Lots of wasted time. Lots of wasted “donated” money to the state of Illinois. But I’m street legal.

And so sad that “Nana Elf” is no more. :-(

This cautionary tale is brought to you by a citizen of the state of ILL. Yes, I did that on purpose.

One more piece of good news…I did not run into any ill-mannered customers or employees. Major gratitude there.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Food Talk

 I am battling (unsuccessfully) a sinus headache this morning. I thought my caffeine would squelch that thing, but no. It’s probably wise not to compose a blog while suffering an annoying pain, but here goes.

Almost a year ago, my primary physician told me that I was solidly in the Type 2 diabetic category, with an A1C of 7.4. Having lived with a Type 1 diabetic all my growing up years, and with a Type 2 diabetic for the last 20 or so (my husband), I desperately didn’t want to go on meds to control my rampant blood sugar.

Enter low carb eating … or keto. Actually, the two are a bit different. Keto is quite strict as to percentages of types of food one eats. Low carb is just being aware of carb values of foods and keeping consumption of carbs to a minimum. Some people track their carb intake.

I started battling what I thought was overweight early in my adult years. What I thought was “overweight” then is now my goal weight!!! And I have serious doubts that I’ll reach it.

When I decided to take weight loss seriously, I found a plan and cookbook that followed the “Exchange Program” suggested for diabetics. You got a certain number of colored dots, each representing a different food group, per day. You had to figure out what color dot your food was worth and go from there. It worked well.


Having reached my goal, I slowly started putting the weight back on. And that began my long ride with Weight Watchers. Tracking, avoiding, worrying, you know the drill. It was a roller coaster ride of losing, failing at maintaining, gaining, and starting all over again.

I was a stickler for tracking when that’s what it took. But I got sick of food having that much hold over my waking moments. 

You know what? Our bodies have needs. And God has provided a way to meet those needs. However, we always seem to go overboard into the “want” category, or worse yet, find ways to meet the needs that are not in God’s plan.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made, but that overdoing the food stuff brought me smack dab into Type 2 diabetic territory for many reasons. Eating too much. Eating too much sugar. My pancreas didn’t want to keep up.

So here I am, at the age of almost … oh well … 66, once again trying to get a handle on what my body needs versus what my appetite wants. I’m hoping I’ve hit a happy medium.

My goal is no longer a number on a scale. I do not track foods in any way. But I do make choices that I think my body can handle from a natural insulin perspective. 

I belong to several “keto” pages on Facebook. But truthfully, I don’t follow the keto diet. I’m removing the word “diet” from my vocabulary. But there are some excellent and creative recipes I can use to keep my carb count in a manageable range. 

My weight stalled several months ago. As I mentioned, I doubt that I will lose any more weight at all. However, my A1C is solidly in the normal range now. I think that qualifies as my happy medium.

So, back to the battle against this morning’s headache. It’s a small battle. The food battle will probably be top of mind until the day God calls me home!

Monday, March 16, 2020

From Both Sides Now

As with any event or life experience, there is more than one view to be had. Look at the Gospels and discover that four different perspectives of the same era have basic commonalities and yet personal slants.

Enter COVID-19. Oh my. What can be said that hasn’t already either raised a panic or an eyebrow of distrust?

If you are sitting in an apartment in Italy, you will have a very different view of this virus than if you are sipping coffee in an Idaho cabin.

Following are two very different (or maybe not) angles on the corona virus panic of 2020. One is from an avid political watchman. The other is from a medical professional in California. Both have drawn me up short. I need to be aware and possibly wary. But never weary in well-doing.

So … where do you land?

From an evangelical opinion writer:

March 15, 2020

  • Any real state of fear will bring panic, and once panic is the prevailing attitude of society at large, the herd seeks safety at all cost.  Seeking safety under these circumstances allows for tyranny by the ruling class, and when the restrictive consequences of that tyranny are in place, escape from mass servitude is almost impossible to achieve.  It must be understood that decisions made under stress due to fear end with a loss of freedom, and when freedom is compromised, what is left is slavery. 
  • We have been told that a pandemic is upon us, and that we must sacrifice for the good of all, and for the sake of the nation.  If the people at large accept this premise, individual sovereignty is not only compromised, but also permanently damaged.  When the masses as a group seek shelter from harm, and agree to temporarily relinquish some or all of their freedoms, oppression is the result. That is why panic is so perilous, and why hasty decisions should never be made during a real or supposed crisis. 
  • As I write this, it is obvious that none of these suggestions have been followed, and the herd has acquiesced to most all commands from on high in order to gain what will most likely turn out to be false hope at the expense of accepted domination. At this point, it is not too late to reverse part of the damage, but any continuation of mass subservience will only end in oppressive misery. 
  • There is no certainty that this new coronavirus called COVID-19 is any more dangerous than any other virus in the past, but the ruling class and their minions in the mainstream media and beyond, are screaming at the top of their lungs that this is the scourge of mankind, and that tens of millions of Americans will become infected, and that millions might die.  This is being promulgated by government at every level, by so-called national and world health organizations, and by a complicit media that seemingly does as it is told by those holding political power.  This is being done regardless of the fact that no one knows much about this so-called virus, knows little or nothing about its true origin, and knows little about its mutations.  Also, politicians, claimed authorities, and alleged experts are in the dark as to how particular cultures have been more susceptible than others, and are unwilling to discuss that the probable cause of this is due to a man-made strain created in a bio-weapons lab, even though a preponderance of evidence points in that direction.  All possibilities should be discussed. 
  • This government is now taking total control over our lives, and will take full advantage of this situation to bring draconian anti-liberty measures to all that live in this country.  This is an atrocity, and one that will change the face of this nation.  Current risk includes the implementing of medical martial law as well as the possibility of total martial law with any major resistance from those not willing to accept being in a captured society.  
  • Besides the sheer tyranny of these measures being planned and implemented as I write this, the certain economic devastation to come is unimaginable.  No one will be spared economic harm, and many will be completely destroyed by the government’s response to this manufactured panic.  In addition, when the virus scare is over, and it will be, the economic destruction will remain, and it could take years for any recovery to take place. 
  • Has all this panic been planned?  
  • What is next on the agenda due to this panic?  Will there be total lockdowns?  Will there be universal travel restrictions, even at the local level?  Will there be forced vaccinations?  Will there be mandatory testing and inspections?  Will there be food shortages?  Will this lead to concentration camps for dissenters?  Will the National Guard and military be patrolling the streets of your town? 
  • There are many unanswered questions, and much uncertainty about this virus, so what is the real danger?  
  • The real danger to America is the U.S. government and its dictatorial response to what appears to be an orchestrated hysteria. 
  • The solutions offered by this government, regardless of who is pulling the strings of these puppets, are far more dangerous than any manufactured pandemic.  Fear and panic allow for control, and those in power understand this truth, and use it to their advantage.  Panic is worthless, and can only lead to the acceptance of authoritative rule.  This is the real risk; this is the real danger.  If the people allow a takeover of their lives due to this panic, they will not only have lost their liberty and all they own, they will have also lost their sanity.
  • You have now been warned!

From a medical professional tasked with caring for the elderly in northern California:

  • I guess that is one paranoid way of looking at it and I admit I was one of these paranoid folks. I have changed my mind after reading what is occurring in other countries and is coming here. 
  • It is our elderly and chronically ill who are most at risk. My people. 
  • I am at risk because I take care of them and have them cough on me as I listen to their lungs. And I am in the “elderly” category with heart disease. 
  • Even with protective gear I am at risk because there is not enough protective gear everywhere . 
  • If those who are younger and healthier can keep this thing from spreading and stay home if possible to keep hospital beds available for those most in need it will possibly  make a world of difference. Because people panicked and hoarded hand sanitizer and masks now we don’t have enough. 
  • [The Chief In-House Physician] is truly worried and he is not by nature a worrier. He keeps in touch with colleagues overseas and knows people will die because we don’t have enough resources.
  • It is tragic that our representatives have so abused their power that in a genuine emergency our response is to rebel. That was my response. Not any more. 
  • If some can sacrifice their freedom so others might make it isn’t that our highest calling? 
  • Thanks for your prayers. I was making house calls today to a facility on lockdown. I have several patients awaiting test results. We need to get as many people as possible tested but the kits arent available yet. 
  • This is the most dangerous time in an epidemic because we don’t know who is infected.  
  • Do it for grandma. 
  • ❤️ 

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Looking Him in the Face(book)

If my memory serves me, lunches on every Friday of my school career consisted of a non-meat option…presumably in deference to Catholics who had been admonished by the Pope not to eat meat on those days.

Additionally, the only time I ever heard of Lent was from either Catholic friends or friends of friends. Giving up something for 40 days, from Ash Wednesday until Easter. Usually, it was meat or chocolate that made the top of the denial list.

I did not grow up in the tradition that included meatless Fridays, Ash Wednesday, or observance of Lent. Oddly enough, I have some Protestant friends who just recently decided that this practice might be meaningful to them.

“Religion” is a practice. Generally speaking, it is a practice that wants to attain something. Theologians have discussed the difference between “religion” and “Christianity” for quite some time. Law versus grace, and all the nuances of personal accountability.

This year, the definition of “Lent” became something I needed to ponder. Not in an effort to attain something, but in order to more fully appreciate the sins for which Jesus already died and resurrected … giving me eternal life as a believer. I knew I needed to repent of behaviors that took away the time and attention rightly belonging to my Savior.

Ouch! This hurts. The biggest addiction stealing my time is none other than Facebook.

Every day … multiple times most days … I access social media in fear of missing out (the dreaded FOMO disease). I get my news there. I share news there. I like to think that sometimes I even share soul-searching and encouraging messages. But how ironic is it that the very medium I say I’ll use to spread the Gospel is the medium that steals my time away from the same.

Since Ash Wednesday (an arbitrary date for me) I’ve had more time to read Scripture. More time to pray. More time to stir my mind. More time to rest. It may take the entire 40 days before I can genuinely say that my fingers don’t automatically head for the FB app icon.

I still struggle with the FOMO disease. But because I am so grateful for what Jesus did for me (as remembered particularly on Resurrection Sunday), it is time to look more fully in His face than into Facebook.

And that’s the truth.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

One Year…and Counting

I don’t know how I feel about the term “cancer survivor.” I feel like I dodged a bullet somehow.

Yes, I HAD breast cancer. It was removed during mastectomy surgery one year ago this morning. Clear margins. No lymph involvement (that they could discern). I did not need chemotherapy, nor did I require radiation. I am so grateful. Those women (and a few men) who have had the entire package of treatment … now, I might call them survivors. That is tough stuff.

The entire process did teach me something about prayer and faith and my relationship with God. When taking a spiritual gifts assessment, my “faith” score is abysmal. But I dare say it went up a few notches since my breast cancer diagnosis.

I counted on the prayers of believers—especially those who have been through this before me. They know the emotional roller coaster. They know the potential risks and outcomes. And they “lowered me through the roof” or “dragged me to the Throne Room.” When going in to surgery, I had an uncanny peace that wasn’t the result of drugs but of the prayers of His warriors.

I thank my daughter for being with me through it all, always giving me a good laugh, and making me a fight song list … it alternately had me dancing and crying.

I thank my sister, who took time and expense to be here from California. She encouraged me and did the things for me I wasn’t allowed to do after surgery.

I thank those “Pink Sisters” who paved the rocky road before I got to it: Wendy Carmichael and Janine Schaap. And all those other women who seemed to come out of the woodwork, who’d gone through the same. It is truly a sisterhood.

I thank my husband, who was stronger than I could be, and who loved me (loves me) through the process and disfigurement.

I thank my medical team. They’ve seen it all and yet made me feel like I was the only person they had to care for!

I thank my God and Savior, the Healer. Songs like “Wave Walker” and “Overcomer” and those too numerous to mention, reminded me of His steadfast love for me no matter what the outcome.

So, this is the first anniversary out of cancer.

Father, what do You want me to do with the next year?