Sunday, December 30, 2012

Husband's Best Fish Story Ever



With Husband’s terminal diagnosis of Psuedomyxoma Peritonei hanging around us like a death angel waiting to take him away, we decided to fly to Oregon and spend time with family. 

My sister’s husband, Jack, and Husband had been friends since they were about nine years old. What do guys do when life hangs heavy? They have fun.

Husband wanted to teach my Aunt Millie with the best fish story ever. “We can take a photo and I can add the fish,” Jack said.

Jack took several shots to capture the right facial grimace. I caught one of Jack taking the best of the best.

The biggest catch of all time, Husband’s record catch, brought lots of fun to an otherwise mentally and physical taxing time for him.

He gave away laughter then and through the next two years while he struggled with PMP. His laughter helped me through breast cancer, too. 

 Still Lionhearted, Kat 




Wednesday, December 26, 2012

MY CORNEA TRANSPLANTS part 1


“The bad news is you have Fuchs’ Dystrophy. You are legally blind. The good news is, with a cornea transplants we can help you see again,” the eye specialist told me in the spring of 1999.  

With only the knowledge the first specialist gave me I started a journey into a year of pain filled trauma. Before I left the doctor’s office that day, my name was placed on a donors list. In August I received the call, “We have a match.”

This blue eyed, still working in medical billing, scared of going blind at 58, I received my first cornea transplant. Eighteen stitches held the cornea in place for a year. Every one of those stitches felt like a dirt clod in my eye.  

I didn’t live on the internet then like I do now. No one told me to research Fuchs’ Dystrophy—I understood it could be genetic, but usually happened in older individuals. In school I probably studied the makeup of the eye, but by 1999 I’d forgot all those details.

Fresh cornea transplant
photo from Wikipedia 
Until today, December 16, 2012, I didn’t research what a fresh cornea transplant looked like. Now I know why I lived with pain.   

Because of Husband's good care, the help of my children, and my co-workers, I lived through and worked that year and then through the 2nd transplant. November 2002, with a different doctor, I received a transplant in my right eye. 


What did I learn? 1) Ask a lot of questions. 2) Get a second opinion. 3) Research and understand what you face. With knowledge comes understanding and less fear.







Sunday, December 23, 2012

Another Fish Story



Last week Ken Coreson from Creating Memories 4 DisabledChildren told me about a mentally challenged woman who wanted to fish. Her fishing coach sat at the edge of a lake with her. He explained how to put bait on the hook and then cast the line into the water.

The coach and all who watched hoped for the best—a good day of memories and smiles.

The woman cast her line into the water and sat waiting. I’m not sure if the coach didn’t expect her to catch anything, but he failed to explain how to reel in a fish. When the fisherwoman realized she had a fish, the coach said, “Reel him in.” The woman jumped up with the fishing pole and line trailing over her shoulder and ran away from the lake toward the woods.

All those sitting around the water’s edge felt certain when the fish hit the dock it would get away, but it didn’t.

“Some of the disabled take their catch home to eat,” Ken said. “But not this woman, she took it home and froze it. It doesn’t matter who you are or how many times you stop by her place of residence, she brings out her frozen fish for everyone to admire.” 

This catch was better than a photo and the memories live on.

Again I’m reminded of the fishermen in John 21. They were fishing for food, but think of the memories attached to the day they caught 153 fish and the net didn’t break.

Still Lionhearted, Kat 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sneaky Grief

Husband and I on coffee date in Fremont

Grief is sneaky. There is no warning of when it will overtake you, no “heads up today will be a blue day,” or no banner that flies through the sky to say, “Don’t listen to the radio today, you’ll hear a song Husband sang often.”

Grief doesn’t come with labels. It doesn’t say, “That movie will touch a sore spot,” or “If you use that cup you’ll think of Husband.” It doesn’t tell you not to use a fragrance, no you spray it and then the tears come.

Grief happens. It doesn’t matter if it’s three months or three years. It still happens.
What do you do with grief that sneaks in to rob your joy?

I’ve tried to ignore the feelings. That doesn’t work. Feelings are real—might as well acknowledge them and do something.

I’ve tried shopping. That doesn’t work—I’m reminded more of the times when Husband talked to the clerks. “I better be good to my wife or she might not feed me. She’s threatened that a time or too.” Often I leave the store empty handed knowing the tears will blast through any minute.

I’ve tried sleeping—for me to sleep eleven hours straight usually means I’m trying to ignore the inevitable. I drag myself from bed feeling worse than if I’d slept only six hours.

Often I wait too many hours before I call a friend. “Hey, how are you?” I ask.

Is it terrible if I say I feel better when they have more problems?

Still Lionhearted, Kat 


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Touching Neighbors

Close Neighbors in North Bend, OR
photo by Kat 2010

Nothing is impossible,
the word itself says ‘I’m possible’
~Audrey Hepburn



Last week I posted the story about a woman in Worcester, Massachusetts dead in her home for four years before found. When I first read the story in our Sunday School lesson, I remembered what happened in Omaha. The local news story touched my heart—enough to write a story for In Touch Magazine.  

In October 2006 Omaha World Herald ran a story titled, “Alone Far Too Long In Omaha.” A woman had died in her upscale home on 90th street in west Omaha.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Great Fish Story


For the last six weeks I’ve been building a blog/website for CreatingMemories for Disabled Children Foundation (CM4DCF)

The photos are my favorites. They tell the stories of the excitement of both disabled children and adults. It doesn’t take a professional photographer to help these people keep their memories alive year after year.

Ken Coreson is the President of the CM4DCFI. He and his wife Patty are my friends from our years of ministry in Enterprise, Oregon. Ken pastored the Nazarene church in Enterprise for several years after we moved to Omaha. It’s a privilege to help them with their new endeavor to help those less fortunate be able to experience hunting and fishing for themselves.

One day Patty fished with a group of the disabled adults from the area. Two men in wheel chairs were wheeled onto the boat. “It is so much fun to watch these guys catch even one small fish," she said. "They get so excited.”   

The men took home a string of fish by the time they finished. When Ken took the fish to the cook, the cook said, “You help them catch them, I’ll clean and cook em.”

My favorite Bible fish story is John 21:10-11

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.

Every time I read the story I think about Peter. Jesus is waiting for him and yet he counted the fish. Peter truly was a real fisherman.

Still Lionhearted, Kat 

Clean for Guests


A clean house for guests is important to me. When I’m hosting a party, I clean. Why I clean cupboards and drawers, I don’t know. But quite often I even dust in places my guests will never see.

This last week I drove my granddaughter crazy with my need to scrub the kitchen floor. First my Swiffer wouldn’t work, I texted her. She wrote, “Grandma, I’ll come early on Thursday.” But in my mind, Thursday being the day of the party was too late.

I bought a new Swiffer thinking I’d get the floor done sooner. The new Swiffer wouldn’t work. I texted and called and left a message for Savannah. She called, “Grandma, if neither of them work, I have a feeling it isn’t the Swiffer, it’s the operator.”

When I complained to my daughter she said, “Did you change the batteries?” 

Batteries? Who knew a Swiffer used batteries. I looked all over the new one and didn’t see anywhere it explained the use of batteries or how to install them. Irritated I couldn’t figure this out for myself and husband is having fun in heaven, I texted Savannah again. She didn’t budge on coming sooner. I sighed. Complained and finally my son-in-law arrived to fix the Swiffer.

I scrubbed the floor, almost embarrassed about my obsessing over such a little thing. The day of the party arrived, I relaxed. Then only minutes before guests were to arrive, the sweet hounds living with me, Snookie (Savannah’s dog) and Paddy, ran outside and back inside. The slight mist helped them leave a trail of the greatest footprints ever across my kitchen floor.

If anyone noticed besides me, they didn’t say a thing. We had a great party, muddy footprints and all.





                                           Still Lionhearted, Kat

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Where is Your Neighbor?








Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody,
I think that is a much greater hunger,
a much greater poverty than a person who has nothing to eat.
~Mother Teresa


Police in Worcester, Massachusetts, made a gruesome discover in October, 1993: They found a woman dead on her kitchen floor. What made the discovery horrific was the fact that she had been lying there for four years. Transactions on her bank account had ended in 1989. Police speculated that she died in 1989 of natural causes. She would have been 73 years old at that time.*

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fun Title—Joyful Widow


I’ve learned over the past three years, every smile I give away is a gift to me. If I can find laughter in anything, I’m healthier. A few days ago I talked with my sister. Again she told me her internet doesn’t work.

“You need to get that fixed, Karla. I have a new website titled: “From the Eyes of a Joyful Widow.”

“Are you glad Gary’s gone or what?” She giggled like a little kid.

“Smarty. No, I’m not glad Husband is gone. I’m happier in life than in the past three years. I’ve come to a place of accepting singlehood.”

We talked for awhile about life and death. After I hung up I too giggled at her reaction to my clever title. I don’t take credit for the new name. When Lee Warren helped me understand more about blogging he suggested the title. Granddaughter Savannah helped with the banner. 

It doesn’t matter where the name originated, I like it. I hope my everyday presence at work, home and in the grocery store says “Joyful Widow.”

Years ago I wrote a newspaper column called “Sunshine and Smiles,” it’s still my desire to bring more smiles to everyday life.

A chuckle here. A Chuckle there.

Still Lionhearted, Kat


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ever Lose or Misplace Precious Items


I’ve lost so many things lately. On my way to the eye doctor I stopped at Bed Bath and Beyond—I wanted a small timer to help remind me to use eye drops. Found the cute timer, purchased two and then couldn’t find my keys.

After checking the car (no keys in ignition), I asked at customer service (no keys there), I walked my path through the store (no keys found) made my way to the front. A young lady hung my bright red lanyard in the air. “Are these yours?”

“Yes.”

I’m not so fortunate with my camera 

and debit card—both used on November 25th—they haven’t reappeared. I’ve checked pockets, been on my knees, used a flashlight under seats in the car—nothing.
 Every day I checked to make sure no one used my card—finally gave up and cancelled it. My frustration—I’m not sure what I have that card attached to—maybe my Amazon account or pay pal.

I do have another camera, but I liked my compact blue baby. Besides the photos from the “Hanging of the Greens” service are on there.

In the scheme of life these are truly not problems. I’m alive, well, and the bank cancelled the one card and issued another. The minor irritants aren’t worth losing sleep over. I think my greatest concern is I don’t want anyone to think I’m old and forgetful.

The benefit of misplacing anything is how much straightening, rearranging, purse cleaning, desk organizing and all the cleansing that goes along with the proverbial hunt. Do you agree?

Still Lionhearted   

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gladys Merek My Special Neighbor

Great Neighbor Gladys Merek and Me

We moved into our home on a rainy November day. In only a few weeks we were mired in snow. Husband and I weren’t used to the early wet, heavy snowfall. It looked like winter might go on forever.

On one of those nasty, knee-deep snowy days, we met Bob—about 82 at the time. We later learned he’d survived a bout with cancer and a heart attack, but still he shoveled snow up the alley between our houses. Husband and I grabbed shovels and started helping and later, Gladys called us all in for coffee. 



When I realized Gladys suffered from the winter ‘blahs’ I wrote funny poems for her. She enjoyed them and they brought a smile to Bob’s face, too. Somehow their smiles warmed my mired-in-winter- feeling-gloomy heart.

Both Gladys and Bob are gone now, but recently I read those old poems and today I found one of my last photos of Gladys. Her daughter surprised her with a visit to one of my book signings at Barnes and Noble—she was near 90 at the time. What a delightful surprise for both of us.   

There are new people living in Gladys and Bob’s home now, they are nice and have four children. But my memories of Gladys are special. No one can fill that ‘Gladys’ spot in my heart. 

Still Lionhearted, Kat 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Most Easterly Neighbor

Ethel, My most Easterly Neighbor


Neighbors are a gift to unwrap 
if we have the courage to knock on the door.

When we moved into our home eighteen years ago, a young couple with three kids lived next door. We soon learned the parents didn’t want new friendships—they were rude, turning away when either of us tried to speak to them. But the children seemed starved for friendships.

Over the four years they lived next door, the kids were in our house many times. The father had problems. The police were at the house too often for comfort. Then one night the family moved out.  

Husband and I prayed for our new neighbor. Then Ethel moved in.

A week later I took her a welcome gift. She didn’t invite me in. She didn’t seem friendly, but Husband encouraged me to visit again. And I did.

At Christmas I took her fruit and a Bible. She apologized for being rude, said she had never had a neighborly neighbor before. I told her she reminded us of my mother in Oregon. We exchanged emails that day.

Not to be nosy, but to make sure she didn’t have problems, I emailed her daily. Her replies let me know she was fine. On one of her emails she signed it, “Your Most Easterly Neighbor.” I replied with a picture of bucking horses signed, “From Kat in the West.”

When Ethel died, I realized how her independence, her humor, and her friendship enriched my life. I always thought I helped her—it turned out the other way around. 

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14 (nlt)

Still Lionhearted, Kat




Saturday, December 1, 2012

Where Do We Learn the Art of Caregiving?

Mom, age 86, my caregiver through
breast cancer. Loving her rootbeer
and being able to hear TV clearly. 2010



Grudge no expense—
yield to no opposition—
forget fatigue—
till, by the strength of prayer and sacrifice,
the spirit of love shall have overcome.
~Marie Weston Chapman

Thousands of people attend college to become a caregiver. Not me, I learned the “art of caregiving” from my mom.

When my Uncle Larry’s wife died in a car accident, she left behind 5 children under the age of five. Mom left Dad and me in charge of my younger siblings and she drove a hundred miles south to stay with my uncle and help with his kids.

When a limb fell from a tree and hit my Uncle Tommy in the head no one expected him to live, but he did. He suffered massive brain damage. Mom volunteered to stay with Aunt Elnora and help Uncle Tommy recover—a real challenge for both my aunt and my mom. I remember Mom talking about how she helped teach him to count again—she played cards with him for hours.

When my grandfather struggled with emphysema, Mom often drove the hundred miles south and stayed with Grandma and Grandpa. My grandmother didn’t drive.  Mom helped with grocery shopping and doctors visits—she also became good company for both of them.

When mom didn’t have a relative to take care of, she often visited the shut-in up the road or sent plates of food and homemade bread to those who were too sick to take care of the family.  

And Dad, well that’s another story.

Still Lionhearted, Kat

WHO ARE YOU TEACHING TO DANCE?

The Sun Comes After the Rain
photo by Kat 2007

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.
It's about learning to dance in the rain.

“How do you keep going?” Toby asked me when I took care of Husband after hot pulp from a paper mill digester had spewed over his body. At the time, I didn’t think about it. I did the necessary—took care of two elementary aged girls, four-year-old son and of course, a man in horrendous pain.

“How do you keep going?” Laurie asked me twenty-three years later when Husband suffered a nervous breakdown. I answered her with a lot of screaming and yelling. Laurie had become my ear, my listener and walking buddy. Several times a week she picked me up, we drove to the river and walked the boardwalk. I bawled, complained, yelled, cried and finally wound down before Laurie drove me home. By the time I arrived home, I once again committed myself to love and take care of the man I didn’t understand.

“How do you keep going?” Debbie asked me ten years later when doctors diagnosed Husband with a rare cancer, pseudomyxoma peritonei, which originated in his appendix. I shrugged, knowing I wasn’t coping well, but hiding my fear and anxiety from family, friends and Husband.

The obvious answer to each question was, “I pray for wisdom and peace every day. I ask the Lord to give me the strength to get through the necessary and have enough energy left over to have fun.” But now I understand more than the obvious.

When Mom took care of me through six months of breast cancer treatment, I realized why I could keep going—because Mom did. From my childhood I'd watched her take care of others. She modeled the role of caregiver before me.

All of us are teaching others to laugh, live and love whether we know it or not.

Still Lionhearted, Kat 



IMPORTANT LETTERS BEHIND MY NAME

Nazarene Bible College, Colorado Springs, CO




God doesn't call the qualified, HE qualifies the called.

I’m a graduate with degrees. My college education consisted of two years of college courses teaching me to be the preacher’s best wife and three years of training as church pianist.

Mrs. G. B. Williamson and Nazarene Bible College honored me with a PWPreachers Wife Certificate . Someplace I still have it, although it never hung on the wall. Those years of training served me well during our years of ministry. 

My apartment complex neighbors in Colorado Springs can attest to my earning every bit of my HPC—Hymn Playing Certificate. Every day I practiced for hours in our apartment complex. Four years later when our second church needed a pianist, Husband said, “You have the degree, you can do it.” And I did.

There are those other degrees I hold also. My PHT came with great honor when Husband graduated. I had worked at JC Penney, babysitting, teaching cake decorating and typing for five college students by the time he graduated. I earned every letter of my PHT—Put Hubby Through.

I think the hardest earned degree is one Husband said I earned—my DDSHK—Doctrine of Divinity from the School of Hard Knocks.

One of the toughest assignments arrived at my door when circumstances said, “To graduate from this SHK course, you will work 24/7, exercise the patience of Job, and develop a new measure of grace and forgiveness. When you graduate, your title of “Caregiver” will be imprinted on your heart and soul forever.”  

Still Lionhearted, Kat 

Retro Piano Keys--They look like my old upright piano keys.
www.freedigitalphotos.com