A voice has been silenced

Neuroendocrine cancer (NETS) has claimed yet another world renowned figure and again many of the press reports are failing to report it accurately. I was saddened to learn this morning of the death of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, at the age of 76.

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Though many of the news reports are calling the cause of death pancreatic cancer, it really wasn’t. That would be exactly like saying that I have colon cancer because my primary neuroendocrine tumour is located in my colon. According to a family statement, the “official cause of death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.

A powerful voice has been silenced by a little known and insidious disease. We who suffer from the same disease need our voices to be heard. We need the medical profession and the population in general to be aware of NETS, to recognize the symptoms and to put more resources into the search for better treatments and ultimately for a cure. We do not need it to be misnamed and ignored.

 

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Digital detox

After two weeks away from my computer and with very limited cell phone access, I’m home and back at the keyboard again. I was able to write my last two Fashion Friday posts in advance and schedule them to publish automatically while I enjoyed a much needed digital detox.

We spent the first week camping with our daughter and her family on the banks of the same lovely little creek at Botrell, Alberta that we visited with them last summer.

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Every now and then, we retreated under the awning or into the trailer when the sky began to rumble with thunder and it started to rain. One afternoon, about ten minutes of golf ball sized hail left us with damage to the awning and a hole in one of the skylights. Those will need to be replaced, but we patched them up with some awning repair tape and carried on.

Another day, we did the same hike at nearby Big Hill Springs Provincial Park that we did last year. A beautiful spot, it also has historical significance as the location of Alberta’s first commercial creamery as well as a failed attempt at a fish farm.

On the trail, our old knees had a hard time keeping up with the grandkids who ran up and down the hills like little deer!

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When they stopped long enough, it was a beautiful spot to get some great photos of them.

Time with these little people is always such a blessing!

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We spent our second week away from home at Camp Harmattan, the Church of the Nazarene campsite located in the valley of the Little Red Deer River between Olds and Sundre. There we enjoyed rich times of worship and prayer and sat under the teaching of two extremely gifted speakers. We also spent most of our afternoons relaxing and reading and evenings visiting around a campfire. What a blessed time of rest and rejuvenation!

Now we’re back in the real world, but feeling very refreshed by our time away.

 

The notion of “home”

When and where are you truly at home?

Except for short stints of five months to a year spent living in Asia, I’ve lived in the same small Alberta town for more than four decades, but there’s always been deep within me a yearning to be somewhere else, to be traveling, to see new places. The dictionary calls it wanderlust.

When I did live overseas for a time, it sometimes felt almost surreal. I remember walking the streets of Funabashi, Japan shortly after our arrival there and marvelling that this place, so foreign, so different, and yet so fascinating was actually my home. I lived there!

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Funabashi

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The view from our apartment

A friend who has been an expat for almost six years, living in China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and now Mexico, recently said this: “I am very comfortable here, but every once in a while, say, once in six months, I will be out walking in my lovely colonial town, which looks nothing like what I grew up with, and all the sounds I hear are in a language which I did not grow up hearing, and it is like I am in some kind of strange dream place, and I wonder what is going on.” That got me thinking about the notion of “home.” What makes a place home and why is it that I always have that yearning to go somewhere else, to see someplace new?

I have a theory about why I feel this way. In the New King James Version of the Bible, 1 Peter 2:11 calls us “sojourners and pilgrims.” The New International Version translates it “foreigners and exiles.” The writer of Hebrews says that “we are looking for the city that is to come” (13:14), “longing for a better country—a heavenly one. (11:16) At best, we are temporary residents here. We are pilgrims on a journey. While there is much to be experienced and enjoyed along the way, I believe that there is deep within me a longing for that eternal home. That, I believe, is the source of my wanderlust, the reason that I could probably settle almost anyplace and yet not truly feel at home anywhere.

Interestingly, I was in the middle of sorting through my thoughts and had already started writing this post when I attended the funeral of a long time resident of our small community. Though she was only 71 years old, the lady who passed away had suffered debilitating illness and endured a great deal of pain in the final years of her life. In his message, entitled “Home Sweet Home”, the pastor told us of her readiness to go “home.” He referred to 1 Corinthians 5:1. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Our bodies are but tents, temporary dwellings! Like refugees, we live in them until the time comes when we can go to a more permanent home.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not in any hurry to vacate my tent! In fact, with the help of medical professionals, I’m doing everything I can to keep it intact. Though life is often far from easy, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to enjoy all that we’ve been blessed with during our sojourn here on earth and I’m in no hurry to see that come to an end! I’ll have all of eternity to enjoy my heavenly home. In the meantime, I will continue to wander this globe, perhaps never feeling quite at home, but marvelling at all the good things that this life has to offer.  There is, after all, a lot of world that I haven’t yet seen!

Summer sales!

LogoIt seems like summer has hardly arrived in our part of the world and already retailers are selling off their summer stock and preparing for the next season. It’s a great time to perk up your summer wardrobe at discount prices.

Those of you who have been reading my Fashion Friday posts for the past couple of years are aware of the fact that I’m a cabi girl. Cabi clothes, sold through direct sales, are fun, fashionable, and good quality, but they’re a bit pricey for this frugal fashionista. That’s why I love it when my cabi consultant holds her end of season sales!

On my recent visit to her beautiful in-home boutique, I came away with a couple of delightful buys. Today I’m wearing the Poet Blouse. I love the uneven hemline and the feminine flair of this ruffled bohemian top. The lightweight sheer poly drapes beautifully and gives the blouse an airy feel on hot summer days. Its muted colour palette of beige, soft pink, green, yellow and black adds versatility allowing it to be worn with many different bottoms.

Perhaps the most surprising and delightful aspect of the Poet Blouse is that it’s really two garments in one. Snap the tank top liner off at the shoulders and it can be worn on its own or mixed and matched with other garments. The overtop could also be worn over a different tank or camisole to add a solid colour at the neckline. The versatility is endless!

The tank isn’t limited only to summer. Under a cardigan or jacket, it will move right into fall with me.

Have you checked out any summer sales? Did you find any bargains?

Living a life of significance

I think it’s safe to say that most people yearn for significance. Perhaps when we’re young, we’re too busy to think about what that means or to wonder if what we’re doing will have lasting significance, but those of us in the second half of life, especially those who have entered their retirement years, may struggle with finding purpose or significance in their daily lives.

Significant Living - Jerry & Shirley RoseSo what does living a life of significance really mean? Significance can be defined as “being worthy of attention” or “meaningful”. It begins with the word “sign” for a reason. A thing’s significance is a sign of its importance.

I’ve just finished reading Significant Living: A Road Map for the Second Half of Your Life by Jerry and Shirley Rose. One of the things that the Roses point out is what significance is not

“Some people confuse significance with success” but they are not the same thing. Many so-called successful lives lack true significance.

It’s very easy in this day and age, when we’re exposed to the lives of the rich and famous through the media, to feel that we’ve somehow missed the boat if we haven’t done something truly big with our lives, but what does significance really look like? The answer will be different for each one of us, but again I quote the Roses, “For some, significance may come through mentoring or having a significant influence on the family. It may be starting a business or doing volunteer work. The important thing is not the size of what we do. Whether our pursuits are ‘big’ or ‘small’ the importance lies in filling a need in the lives of other people. Significance usually translates into getting involved with others.”

That definitely resonated with me. I do want to make it clear, however, that in our relationships, and particularly in marriage, we ought not to depend on another person to give our lives significance. Significance should come not from another person, but rather, from how your life affects the lives of others.

The simple key to living a life of significance is to share your time, talent, and treasure with others. Those of us who have reached retirement age usually have an abundance of time to give. Chances are, we have also developed skills and talents that can be used to better the lives of others. Regardless of where you are in life, you don’t have to be wealthy to give generously of what you do have to worthwhile causes, to family, or to friends in need.

For me, significance begins by knowing that God has a purpose for my life and that I am using the gifts He has given me to impact the lives of other people. I believe that the most significant thing I ever accomplished was raising my children to be the responsible young adults that they are today. I know that I also had a significant impact on at least some of the students that I taught during my career. Now that my children are grown and I’ve retired from teaching, it would be easy to feel that my significance had waned, but that is not the case. Even in our very small rural community there are many opportunities to volunteer time and talent. Over the past couple of years I’ve had the pleasure of teaching two young immigrant women who never had the opportunity to receive a formal education how to read. I’ve also done online editing and mentoring, again on a volunteer basis. If anything I’ve said on the blog has impacted another person in a positive way, that too has added significance to my life.

Do you feel that your life lacks significance? Consider your gifts and passions, then look for ways to use them to impact others. Are you living a life of significance? If so, please share what it is that makes your life meaningful. Perhaps it will help someone else!

 

 

Celebrating 95!

Our main reason for choosing this particular time to come to Vancouver was the fact that my father was turning 95. Rather than all three of we Alberta siblings visiting at once to help Dad celebrate this momentous occasion, we determined some time ago that it works better if we space our visits out giving him company more often. Thus it fell upon me to make this birthday a special one, but I certainly didn’t do it on my own.

On Dad’s actual birthday last Tuesday we took him to his favourite restaurant for dinner. There were four generations at the table that evening. We told Dad that our son, Matt, would pick him up after work and bring him to the restaurant where we would meet them along with Matt’s wife, Robin, and their two boys. What we didn’t tell him was that Matt would be driving the Beatrice, the 1983 Volkswagen Westfalia van that my parents picked up at the factory in Germany, lived in in Europe for over a year, and that Dad drove until just a few years ago when his sight began to fail! It’s now one of Matt’s most prized possessions and the grin on Dad’s face as they pulled up to the restaurant was heartwarming.

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Dinner out, as nice as it was, wasn’t enough to mark reaching such an amazing milestone, however, so we hosted a birthday party at Matt and Robin’s home yesterday afternoon, managing to pull together a group of sixteen relatives, again representing four generations of Dad’s family. There were cousins and second cousins and cousins once removed, though I’ve never really figured out for sure what those terms mean! I just call them all cousins. There were relatives who hardly knew one another and spouses that some had never met. It was truly an enjoyable occasion and though I’m sure he was quite exhausted by the time the festivities were over, Dad was delighted to see everyone.

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Choosing your Grandma name

When this hilarious video showed up on my Facebook newsfeed this morning, I couldn’t help laughing out loud! Those of us who have grandchildren have all faced the question… What will your grandchildren call you?

Next Tuesday I will have been a grandmother for ten whole years. That’s right! Our Drew is hitting the double digits! I can’t believe how quickly that decade has flown by. It seems like only yesterday that I was thinking about what I would want him to call me.

Growing up, I had a Gran and a Nana. I only have one clear memory of my Gran who passed away when I was five. Though she was younger than I am now, she had a serious heart condition and all I remember is a frail little lady who needed help from the car to the house when she and Grandad came for a visit. Tiny and frail wasn’t the kind of grandmother I hoped to be, so that name didn’t resonate with me. My Nana was robust and a woman known for speaking her mind. I think I must have inherited that trait from her! She was very much a part of my childhood and lived to see my first two children. The only reason I didn’t want to be called Nana was that some of my childhood friends didn’t know what a Nana was. I wanted a name that clearly identified me as a grandmother, but like the lady in the video, I wanted one that sounded younger and hipper than Granny.

I didn’t want to be called Grandma because Drew’s other grandmother already had three grandchildren who called her Grandma or Tiny Grandma because of her small stature. I wanted to choose a name that was different from hers and I most certainly didn’t want to end up being Big Grandma!

After considering many possibilities, I settled on just plain Gram. It’s simple and easy to pronounce, or so I thought. I was thrilled when Drew, at the age of 15 months, began to call me Am. Of course, we didn’t realize then that that was a symptom of a severe phonological disorder that caused him to drop the initial sounds off almost every word. As he began speech therapy and he and his Mom worked diligently at home, we began to see a marked improvement in his speech and finally the wonderful day came when he called me Gram! Thankfully, you wouldn’t know today that there had ever been a problem with his speech.

Now there are five children who call me Gram. Distance prevents us from all getting together very often so the photo is over a year old, but these are my treasures. That’s Drew in the top left hand corner with his siblings in front of him and their cousins to the right.

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Do you have grandchildren? What do they call you? How did you choose your Grandma name? If you don’t have grandchildren yet, but hope to, have you thought about what you would like them to call you?