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Wednesday, March 09, 2022

At What Price?

 If you have seen some previous Facebook posts, you’ve noticed that I’ve been reacquainting myself with this series by Jack Cavanaugh. The series follows a family from 1620 to present day. Wars. Intrigue. Family highs and lows. I have been thoroughly engrossed in the stories and educated at the same time. 

Until this one.

I don’t mean to say it isn’t well written. It is. The difference is the timeframe. You see, all the previous novels have harkened back to an era in which I had no personal experience. You know … I didn’t live through it. 

This story covers the Vietnam era. I DID live through this one. So it is hitting me in a different part of my gut. It is uncomfortable. Both the story and the feelings it dredges up as I think back over those tumultuous years … for me and for this country.

A scant year after the assassination of John F Kennedy, my father determined he would take a last ditch opportunity to enter the Air Force as a chaplain. 35 years of age was the cutoff. He was 34. 

Unlike most military families, where the inductee enters service right after high school or college, this was an anomaly. I was 10.

At the end of 1964 (hello, Beatles!), we left the pastor’s parsonage in Conrad, Montana, and made the trek to Duluth, Minnesota. Get the picture? Bleak midwinter. Northern states. And tears for leaving the known for the unknown.

Fast forward to 1967 and my father’s new assignment. Yokota Air Force Base, Japan. 

What’s going on in the South Pacific? You got it … Vietnam. 

My father left for overseas, but there wasn’t enough housing available, so the rest of us moved in with my maternal grandparents in Bellingham, Washington. I started 8th grade, not knowing when my roots would be pulled up yet again. 

Three months into the school year (end of October, 1967) we got the call that Dad had purchased a “paddy house” off base for a grand sum of $5000 US. Time to pack our bags and head to Travis AFB, between Sacramento and San Francisco. 

One of my uncles (Ed Sawyer) was getting his doctorate at Berkeley at the time, so he and his family said they’d show us around until we had to board the plane. And yes, THAT Berkeley. Pretty much the headwaters of brainwashing at the time.

I remember the drive through Haight-Ashbury (you might want to look that one up, too). I can’t say I’d had a sheltered life, but that was an eye-opener. I had picked up a Haight-Ashbury “news”paper and was thumbing through it. The columns and the artwork would have appealed to their hippy, drug-stupored readership. Psychedelic nudity ruled the day.

For the years of 1967-1970, we lived in the relative safety of the Air Force base and its environs. There were some times when Japanese dissenters would threaten the base and throw Molotov cocktails over the fences. We always got advance warning and, as a teen, we’d joke, “See you at 5 for Molotov cocktails!”

Unrest doesn’t even begin to describe what was going on Stateside during those years. It didn’t take me long to be grateful that we were not anywhere near it. 

My father ministered to airmen and soldiers who had been injured in Vietnam and were on their way back to the States via Yokota. Our youth group went to the hospital to sing to them at Christmas time. It was the first time I saw a person’s midsection held together with giant staples. 

Our family always knew that we (the US) were involved in Vietnam to hopefully keep it from succumbing to communism. We all knew that threat was very real. No deserters or card burners where I lived.

It was also the advent of the “Black Power” movement. Since the Air Force was an integrated service as far as I could tell, it seemed like a moot point to me. However, the black power fist was frequently used in greeting.

Yes, that was a tumultuous time. The sixties were a cultural revolution from which we have never recovered. And reading about it in a novel pulls up all that sludge. I’m only 150 pages in, and already I’m steeling myself for the challenges that lie ahead.

If this were a book report, I’d tell you to start in 1620 and follow the thread  

Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it (or something to that effect). 

Monday, January 31, 2022

I’d Rather Dye!

Why in the world would I be showing you this silver streak down the top of my head? I’ll admit that I’m vain when it comes to the color of my hair. Kudos to my friends who rock the gray, but I’m not there yet.

You see, this particular gray streak is important to me.

In July of 2018, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a single mastectomy that same month. God is good no matter what. He walked me through that, providing family and professionals along the way. And I got through it without chemotherapy … all hair follicles intact.

In December of 2021, I had the obligatory mammogram. The images came back “inconclusive.” A survivor doesn’t like to hear or see those words. So I was scheduled for another mammogram at the beginning of January 2022.

“Distortion.”  Now scheduled for a followup ultrasound that same day. 

“The radiologist will meet with you shortly.” Oh great…

BI-RADS 4A. This is a designation of how concerned the radiologist is that the findings may be cancerous. The last time I had a BI-RADS number, it was 5. You don’t want a 5.

So now I would be scheduled for a breast biopsy on January 27. Unlike my previous ultrasound biopsy in 2018, this one has to be done at the hospital with a different type of machine: Stereotactic Mammogram-Guided Biopsy.  (linked if you are curious)

At that point my mind started going in all directions. All the “what ifs” that I’ve been through before, and yet I was at peace with the “whatever comes.” 

One of the “what ifs” would be malignancy. And next step would be “what if chemotherapy?” 

And that brings me to this picture. I had determined that either a) I’d be declared NED (no evidence of disease) and schedule a much needed hair appointment OR b) I’d be told I have a malignancy and need surgery and/or chemotherapy. If so, I’d hold off on dyeing my hair, because … what if it will all fall out anyway?

I went through the biopsy. Not horrible, and the staff are always so compassionate. They told me I should receive the pathology report within 2 business days. 

About 20 minutes ago I got the notification of test results coming through My Chart. I stopped. I prayed. God prepared me for whatever I would read there. I opened up the My Chart test results and read:

-No evidence of malignancy in the submitted material.

And now we breathe a huge sigh of relief … and make a hair appointment!!!

Thank You, Lord! In the meantime, would you pray for a friend of mine who will be going through mastectomy surgery this Friday? Whether God takes us AROUND the challenge or THROUGH it, we can trust Him.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Jesus and Veterans

 In the late 1970s there was a popular TV show (I think it was on PBS) called “Connections.” It explored the gestalt of current events and inventions. A mind boggling, detail heavy, exploration of how we got to where we are.

This program came to mind while I was eating my breakfast this morning, staring out at the rain-soaked trees dropping their leaves on the green grass of the far west suburbs of Chicago. How in the world did I get to this exact spot on this exact day?

The short answer is “the sovereignty of God.” But a couple of the connections can be listed as Jesus and US veterans.

God’s provision for my life and eternity can be directly attributed to Jesus’ death and resurrection. The many connections He had to plan for me to get to the Cross of Jesus included the second major connection … US veterans.

When I was 10 years old, my father was a pastor in a very small church in Montana. There were weeks we apparently lived on the good graces of congregants who canned for the winter. Dad was at the edge of the age he would be allowed to still enter the Air Force, so that’s what he did. At the age of 35, he used his career field to enter the Air Force as a chaplain. 

I am extremely grateful that the Air Force provided for our family for the remaining years I was at home, and many years after. We were able to see parts of the country...and the world...we may have never seen. From Montana to Minnesota. From Minnesota to Washington. From Washington to Yokota Japan. From Japan to Kansas City. At that point I graduated from high school and went to college, but Dad was stationed at Greenland, Germany, Sacramento, Klamath Falls, and Las Vegas before he retired.

It was in Sacramento that I rejoined the family after graduating from college. And that’s where another veteran entered my life.

After he graduated from high school, Mark had hoped to go to communication school for radio. Alas, his draft number came up … remember those? He decided to preempt the Army’s long arm and enlisted in the Air Force instead. After a stint in Sacramento and Iceland, he resettled near the Air Force base in Sacramento.

Dad … chaplain at McClellan. Mark … singing in the chapel choir as a recently separated sergeant. (and by “separated” I mean from the Air Force!) Mom introduces us, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But the connections that God orchestrated are indeed mind boggling. Had there been any missteps along the way, I would not have been sitting here enjoying my breakfast, sipping my coffee, staring at a view and man I’ve come to love.

On this Veterans Day 2021, I thank God for Jesus and veterans! 

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!