With Gratitude to God…

One of our brothers-in-law passed away suddenly last week, and, just like that, many lives stopped to mourn, and we found ourselves traveling across Wisconsin to attend his funeral. We were comforted by the muted colors and tranquility of the changing leaves, splashing across the forested backdrops of fields at this time of harvest.


As we drove along hour after hour winding through the rolling hills, I could not help but hum along to a favorite song on CD, How Great Thou Art:

  • Verse 1:
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
  • Verse 2:
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:
(Repeat Refrain.)
  • Verse 3:
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:
(Repeat Refrain.)
  • Verse 4:
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Our brother-in-law, George Sportel, joined our family later in life when he married my husband’s sister Marcella. The couple was seventy-ish at the time. God gave them, and us as family, thirteen years with this gentle man whom every one loved and who loved the Lord and lived out his life showing his humor and warmth and grace to all.


We last saw George on Labor Day weekend. When we left, he hugged me and said his famous line, “See you, kiddo. Thanks for coming. We sure do appreciate it.”

Me too.


Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_Great_Thou_Art


Fall, Millennium Park, Chicago – 2014

2014-10-05 13.43.37

Yes, I know we feel like summer has passed us by, but it is time to enjoy this season of change. Fall is on its way. The Chicago Marathon yesterday. The nippier temperatures. The leaves changing outside our window.

I didn’t know that leaves on top of trees change color first until we moved into our high rise nine years ago. See the photo above taken a week ago Sunday, the 5th.

2014-10-08 06.55.19

And, I rarely get a chance to photograph the sunrise. The reason is obvious. Even though many days bring breathtaking views, I’m still asleep. But last Wednesday, the 8th, I happened to be up long enough to grab my camera…before I went back to bed.

2014-10-12 12.09.39

Yesterday’s view, Sunday, the 12th, showed a lot more redness than a week ago. Boats are still in the harbor, though, so a remnant of summer is still here. I plan to hang on to those summery pictures in my mind while starting to pay attention to the new ones that fall brings. And to thank God for the beauty in our changing seasons.

I hope you do too.

10 Good Things About Being an Older Nurse | Off the Charts (Reblog)

“You say that you didn’t want to become a teacher or nurse. But then you became both. Looking back, what would you have done differently?” asked a senior nursing student at Hope College while I was meeting with them last week.

Chatting with former student, now faculty member
Chatting with former student, now faculty member

An interesting question because it’s one my friend Marianna and I pondered many times as we traveled along together in our respective careers. Even after all our ponderings, I had to answer I wouldn’t change a thing.

But, I  did have to tell the students there was one time that Marianna and I thought we’d spruce up our careers. It’s a long story, but the students caught my humor when I told them a shortened version of when Marianna and I decided to check out joining the Navy. We went for the introductory interview. Our reasons for joining weren’t very solid. First, of all the armed forces, we chose the Navy because those uniforms would fit our color wheel, knowing, for example, that neither of us would look good in Army green. Second, we could enjoy our new positions working just the one required weekend a month, allowing us to still carry on our careers and our roles as moms and wives. And, third, we could fly free to where ever we wanted to go if there were empty seats.  We saw ourselves flying all over the world.

I told the students my friend and I were gone for a long time on that interview day in downtown Chicago. I recall the interview being about three hours long, and I’m sure we had lunch before and dinner after before we took our trains home to our suburbs. I remember when I got home my husband greeted me with, “Oh, when you didn’t come home by dinner time,  I thought you were already out sailing on the high seas.”

We did not end up joining the Navy. But we sure had fun entertaining the idea.

I loved being a nurse. So many options. I loved being a teacher. So many fun students. Now, I  love being an older nurse. More correctly, I love being a retired older nurse. But no matter, I still like reading about us older nurses. I especially liked what Nurse Alice Facente said in the October 3rd, 2014, AJN Off the Charts article describing what’s good about us.

10 Good Things About Being an Older Nurse | Off the Charts.

So, yes, we appreciate what you younger nurses can offer us. Just know we’ve been there, done that, probably many times, and maybe have a thing or two we can share with you. Along with a little humor.

As a retired nurse looking on, I’m hoping you younger nurses are being patient with older nurses that may be having more difficulty than you are transitioning to EPIC or the latest  electronic record system. And know, when the system goes down, the older nurses will gladly help you chart on paper. And even graph your BPs and TPRs.


Telling Our Stories / Hope College – September 30, 2014, 7pm – Science Auditorium

I’m looking forward to tomorrow night, September 30, when I will speak once again at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Last time, soon after Caring Lessons came out, I talked about why nurses should tell their stories. This time, I’m taking a viewpoint from my Christian background on why all of us should tell our stories. And, if we want our words to keep on living, we should write them down.

I’ll be suggesting to the audience, if they want to have my details on why nurses should write, they can check this blog post. With that in mind, I’ve copied and pasted the notes from that speech below. Read if interested, pass up if not!  (Contact me directly for this information at caringlessons@gmail.com)  But, by all means, do tell your stories, and if you don’t want your words, your wisdom, your values, your beliefs, your passions (see Taylor below) to die when you die, please start writing!

I’m using a few sources this time that are extremely inspiring: Frederick Bueckner’s Telling Secrets: A Memoir (Harper Collins, 2000),  Daniel Taylor’s Creating a Spiritual Legacy: How to Share Your Stories, Values, and Wisdom (Baker/Brazos, 2011), and Nish Weiseth’s Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World (Zondervan, 2014).

If you live in the area, come on over. We’ll also do a few very short writing exercises that you won’t have to share.

Now, I’d better get scooting. I’m going a day ahead to bum with a sister. And I’ll stay overnight after the speech to spend time with senior students the next day that are reading my book for a class in advanced studies in nursing. Plus, I’ll see the beginning of  our fall change of colors along densely forested stretches of  I-94 from Chicago.

All in all, a pleasant journey…probably leading to another  story!



Aging in Chicago: An Unexpected Anniversary

The other day I discovered I was having an anniversary this month, or maybe I should call it a birthday. I’m not sure, the only thing I’m sure of is that I’ve not celebrated this date ever, and it’s been nineteen years. Nineteen fairly good years. Oh, a few downs, but many more ups. I’ve gotten more grandchildren, retired from nursing, written a book, and moved from suburbia to downtown Chicago. I’ve attended a host more plays and concerts than I ever did in my working life. I’ve read many more books, frivolous books, that is, books that were not about nursing. I’ve also taken more trips, because there’s so much more time. All in all, life’s been good in spite of never having celebrated this date.

So why didn’t I celebrate before?

First off, I didn’t know about it until a few days ago. Reason enough, I guess, to not have celebrated. But even if I’d known, what would I have done? I can’t imagine telling my husband that I have this anniversary to celebrate, that does not involve him, but would he please take me out to dinner? He’d look at me with that “what now” look and leave for coffee.

Secondly, even if I had known about it, I’d say I haven’t celebrated this date because it has had no particular significance for me. You know the dates that have real significance—like the day you were married. Forbid, either one of us ever forgets that. Forgetting is tantamount to rejection and no one wants that at our age. Or like the dates that you had your kids, but then, now you’re celebrating their birthdays, so those don’t really count as personal anniversaries of your delivery room visits.

So, why am I sharing this with you today? Because I want to celebrate. Just once. I won’t bore you with this again. But it’s a worthwhile event to note. Especially since I’ve done something for nineteen years that you maybe did at one time for a few years, but gave up long ago. In fact, some of you have chided me for being outdated and not keeping up with current trends. For making sure, through my correspondence,  that all my friends, business associates, and others know that I’m old.

So, how did I find out? Last week, I spent the week, and I mean forty-plus hours trying to get photos off my iPhone. In some ingenious way, I’d synced the photos from my computer to my phone when I’d intended the opposite. And the photos were taking up so much memory that I was getting hostile messages to increase my memory for lots of dollars. So while I communed with my computer to solve this problem, I spent mucho minutes clicking on every possible icon and exploring where each one led. I deleted cookies. I deleted cache. I deleted files. Eventually, I’m ecstatic to report, I got my photos deleted off my phone and recovered my memory capacity. The hostile messages stopped.

And the fun outcome of all this foraging on my computer was finding out that, after I broke up a lengthy liaison with Juno (we got our first computer in the early 80s), I started my electronic relationship with AOL in September of 1995.

So, there you have it. Happy anniversary to AOL and me.

Eat your heart out Yahoo, Comcast, Gmail, iCloud, and others. I’m not ready to break up. Not yet, anyhow. After all, we old folks like the familiar feel of keyboard keys knowing what they’re doing and where they’re going. We like living without the frustration of having to figure out new ways of composing, sending, saving and downloading. We like the memory of being told, You’ve got mail. We old folks simply like hanging out with friends our age.


The cake is baked, the nineteen candles are burning. Come celebrate with me.

U.S. Health Care: Are you happy with your plan?

Mayo Clinic - A Place of Hope and Healing
Mayo Clinic – A Place of Hope and Healing

Before you answer yes or no, did you know that the foundational moral principle of all developed countries (around 40 out of world’s 200 countries) is to provide health care coverage to all of their citizens, irrespective of age and financial status?

All developed countries, that is, except us.

In the past few years, I’ve heard so many cons, and some pros, about our new Affordable Care Act that I decided to take the OLLI course, U.S. Health Care: Promise Unfulfilled, that I wrote about a few weeks ago, with the hopes of getting facts. So often, I think we spout off without knowing what we’re talking about. So I want to give you a few quick facts that I’ve learned from T.R. Reid, a researcher and health policy expert, in his book, The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care (published in 2010 by Penguin).

1. “…the primary issue for any health care system is a moral one” (p. 3).

Indeed, much of what I’ve heard has been, Do we as Americans owe health care to our people? And, the follow up, Is health care a right or a responsibility?

2. Most of the countries that have guaranteed health care have longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, and better recovery rates from major diseases, plus spend far less that we do (p. 3).

Scary, huh. What if we could get better outcomes for less money?

3. All of the organized health care systems that guarantee health care to all their citizens are based on or modified from four basic patterns:

a.) Bismarck Model: the health care payers and providers are private (Germany, Japan, Belgium, and Switzerland).

b.) Beveridge Model: the government finances and provides the health care (Great Britain, Italy, Spain, and most of Scandinavia). Great Britain’s plan probably most closely resembles what we in the U.S. view as socialized  medicine.

c.) National Health Insurance: uses elements of both the Bismarck and the Beveridge Models (Canada).

d.) Out of Pocket: the other 160 countries where their citizens either must pay out of pocket with no government or insurance assistance or go without healthcare entirely (Cambodia, rural India).

Now, I found this interesting (p. 20):

a.) For most of us still working and under 65, we’re Germany or Japan.

b.) For Native Americans, military personnel, and veterans, we’re Britain.

c.) For those of us over 65 and on Medicare, we’re Canada.

d.) For the millions of us still uninsured, even after the Affordable Care Act, we’re Cambodia or rural India.

One last thing: how many people do you think declare bankruptcy from health care expenses in countries with organized health care systems that guarantee care? Here’s the answer: zero for Britain. Zero for France. Zero for Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland.

How many bankruptcies are declared in the U.S.? According to a study done by Harvard Law and Medical schools, the annual figure is about 700,000.

So I give you these tidbits of health care information today. Draw your own conclusions. Think again about your plan. Happy or not? If not, what would you rather have, or suggest, for you, for the less fortunate, for our nation as a whole? Who do you think should provide and pay for health care?

I suggest Reid’s book as a starting point to read more about each of these plans, and countries, and when and why employers in the U.S. got stuck with providing health insurance, and more. An enlightening read.

I hope I’ve perked your interest to find out more before your next bragging or complaining session about your health care plan. I won’t be telling you much more here, because, as life goes, other opportunities are crowding my schedule, and I’ve had to drop this course.

Once again, my crave for learning was bigger that my calendar.

Hands – A Grandma’s Story

They’re soft. They’re warm. They’re innocent. They’ve not yet seen work or hardship or disappointment. They are the hands of my preschool granddaughter.

As I sit here this morning at my computer, photos of a recent visit scrolling my iPad, my granddaughter’s hands are bringing forth tears. Why?

Months separate our visits, so I savor them through photos. And, forgive me grandmas that regularly care for your little ones and could readily hide them under the bed (I know that feeling, too), but between visits, I live with lots of photos that yank at only the good side of my heart.

For where is there a more tender moment than the juxtaposition of old versus young?
See the differences? Size. Color. Texture.

If you pinched the skin on the top of her hand, you’d get nothing; if you pinched mine, you’d see tissue-thin skin staying upright a second or two before slowly receding to its previous position. Her bones and ligaments and veins remain hidden under her softness; mine shout hello and say, “Be careful, I’m getting older. I’m getting fragile.”

I wonder how long she’ll want to compare the size of her palm with mine. How long she’ll giggle as we try to line up our fingers, only to find mine are too long. How long she’ll stay quiet about the changes in the appearance of our skin. After all, she’s already observed, “You have a jumpy neck, Grandma!”


I wonder how long she’ll want to read picture books with me, her hand on mine as she says, “This page is pink, Grandma. Everything’s pink. Like my dress.”

Indeed, like her dress. And, my day. Because of the photos, my day is pink with memories.