What is on my mind today? The pain, suffering and trouble humans inflict upon themselves and others by their need to be right instead of focusing on the more important task of doing right.
What is on my mind today….I hear there is an opening at the White House for a Communications Director.
What an opportunity for professional and personal growth! And, here I am with experience working with national, state and local press; both political parties; elected officials at state, county and local levels; and military generals. I confess, I liked the generals best.
I have written over a hundred press releases and can pump one out in minutes, in plain speak, while on the phone fielding press calls, with management standing over my shoulder.
My customer service remains professional and excellent even when subjected to a profane diatribe. I enjoy a certain amount of—goal orientated—chaos, and I have been known to successfully meet complex and difficult challenges that would arrest most folks in their tracks.
With my background as a preschool teacher, legislative staffer, assistant communications director and press secretary, I know from personal experience that the difference between toddlers and politicians is….height.
Where do I sent my resume…my country needs me!
Oh, that’s right, I’m multiple myeloma broken….darn.
The horse I had as a teenager looked much like this one. Beauty was an Arabian-Pinto.
Since I am now officially sick of hearing about politics, especially Russian hacking, instead of watching the morning news, I explore YouTube for videos of really beautiful horses.
This morning as I was watching YouTube videos about pinto horses, one video had music playing in the background. At first the tune did not catch my attention, then, a memory from long, long ago came back. I knew that tune and I knew it well!
While I was growing up, my parents would farm in Minnesota in the spring, summer and fall months. Then, in the winter they would move our whole family to Arizona. Minnesota winter’s were hard on my dad’s chronic rheumatoid arthritis. So from the time I was in 4th grade until I graduated from high school, I was the new kid in school… twice a year.
My class in Grove City, MN was just over 30 Scandinavian kids. My class at Cholla, High School in Tucson, Arizona was in the hundreds and Scandinavian students were an endangered species.
Now, transferring in and out of schools twice a year was sometimes a challenge, especially in the areas of math, band and choir. It never failed that whatever math I was learning in Minnesota was never even close to what was being taught in Arizona. Then, if I wanted to get my music credits, every year the music instructors in Arizona, made me try out to first just make the team, then, I had to perform a solo…vocal and with my clarinet….to determine chair placement.
As a very pale-skinned young white girl who literally just came off the farm, I stuck out like a sore thumb from among my Arizona peers. I will never forget my first time in the Arizona Junior High School locker room, standing there buck naked waiting to shower after a physical education class, only to hear one of my African-American friends yell, “Girl, you is white, you is white all over!.”
After a confidence boosting experience like that, imagine having to stand in front of your AAA class talented peers, whose choir performances more often than not brought home the state championship, and sing a solo your first week in a new school. At least the clarinet playing was only in front of the band instructor.
My first solo for my choir instructor was the, Carol King song, “It’s Too Late.” When I finished, and before I had the chance to start to cry, my teacher hugged me, and asked if I planned to be the next Linda Ronstadt. He then made me a first chair alto.
The band tryout was easier, I usually practiced the song that I was given the night before and sailed through. I didn’t like playing the high notes, so I generally aimed low….for third chair. Eventually, the band instructor figured out my game, and switched me to the bass clarinet. I loved playing bass clarinet.
The band in Grove City was probably no larger than my class, just over 30 students. My band at Cholla was over one hundred students. Every year we would march in the largest non-mechanized parade in the United States, the Tuscon Rodeo parade.
Each year we’d have to learn a new marching song with a western theme and go out onto the football field to practice our marching moves. Marching in rows and doing perfect pinwheel turns while in step with a hundred other young people came quite naturally to me. I should have gone to West Point.
Our band was huge. We had rows and rows of clarinets, flutes, trumpets, trombones, french horns and a whole row of just tubas. Our drum section was amazing, the head drummer was named Abel Hernandez. He was in charge of the other drummers and was the best looking. When those guys pounded all of their drums, it felt like the turf beneath your feet moved.
Our marching uniforms were always the same…blue jeans and a white shirt, tennis shoes and cowboy hat. I loved this outfit, due to the fact that my mother felt that girls should never wear blue jeans. So, this pair of blue jeans were the only ones I got all year.
Since, wearing blue jeans was the “in” style in those days, I wore them constantly. Of course, going bra-less in peasant tops was also the thing in Arizona at that time, however, that did not workout for me. As it turned out, my white Scandinavian skin was eventually offset by other assets attributed to my ethnicity.
At one Tucson Rodeo parade our band played the song that I heard this morning. It is the theme song from the movie, “The Magnificent Seven.” I will never forget marching next to Barbara Clark, playing my clarinet, having the instrument’s bell fall off, get chipped and be picked up by the gals behind me. None of us missing a step!
Masterful steppers we were, and we had to be! We started off with a high “kick step”, then spent the next several miles and hours trying not to step in horse manure from over a thousand horses and step around the dead horse that dropped in the middle of the parade route.
When I listen to that song, even all of these years later, I still can picture Abel thundering on the on his kettle drums, hear all of the guys hammering on their woodblocks, see Tim’s dancing trumpet leading the brass section, and feel the power and magic of all of our woodwinds playing that beautiful melody.
I think it is safe to say that a good time was had by all…well except for the dead horse.
Here is a link to the theme song from the movie “Magnificent Seven” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iteRKvRKFA
I have this friend, of many years, whose name is El.
El is a 93-year-old World War II veteran, who still carries the bullets in his body from a surprise attack during the battle for Luzon. One of our first conversations was about this very battle and how he’d been a Japanese prisoner of war for four hours.
I thought he was jesting with me, as nobody was a Japanese prisoner of war for just four hours. The Japanese just did not operate that way during World War II….except in cases like his.
Not yet twenty years old with bullets in his back and legs, he spent over four hours laying on a jungle battlefield, as Japanese soldiers poked him and his fellow American soldiers with bayonets, to make sure they were all dead. As he laid there, every once in a while he would hear a gunshot, and know that another boy would not being going home. El will tell you the only reason he survived was that he fell face down when he was hit and how hard it was not to flutter his eyelids when poked with a bayonet.
He and his fellow survivors, made it off the island and were given medical aid. Unfortunately, there was only one small plane to evacuate the boys and it seated four. So, El and one of his buddies were put into body bags, used for the dead, with only their heads sticking out and tied to the wing of the plane. His only request was to be tied face down so that he could see where he was going.
As they flew over the Pacific ocean, at about 1000 feet, he could see the whole Pacific naval fleet, whirling around in the ocean waters beneath him. He says he often wonders what their plane looked like on radar and is amazed that they were not shot down.
By the time he reached medical care, just a day or so after being hit, his leg was already black from infection. He did not lose the leg, but he has scars the entire length of that leg that tell the story about how hard it was for him to keep it.
El is a very well known, popular, active member of the City of Forest Lake, MN. He has been a fixture on their city streets for many years as he cruises town in his “scooter”, with a big American Flag flying behind him.
Winter, spring, summer and fall, regardless of rain, sleet, snow, fog, heat or cold, not much could stop El from getting where he wanted to go on that “scooter.” He was even given a special permit, by the city, so he could legally drive on city streets.
El’s health had been more of a challenge as of late and he was recently moved into a nursing home. Today when I arrived for a visit, and to deliver several dozen of his favorite cookies, homemade gingersnaps, I found him sound asleep, with his ever present”scooter” parked right beside his bed.
I always enjoy El, and again today we had a great chat. I announced to him that I have decided that Elvis was murdered with codeine by Ginger Alden, and that Lyndon B. Johnson was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He gave me a broad smile, and I got the look I always get for my foolishness. Then, I was told to write a book.
I then asked him if he was still cruising around town on his “scooter.” “No!”he fairly shouted. “They won’t let me out of this place without someone with me!” His response surprised me some, knowing the man as well as I do. And, I told him so. I went on to explain that find it hard to believe he could not evade capture by mere nursing home staff. After all, he has, under dire circumstances, escaped capture many times before. Then, I remembered that he was incarcerated…once.
During World War II, after El recovered from his wounds, he was sent back into service. By this time, the war in the Pacific had ended and El was sent to Japan. He and his unit were on guard duty near one of the towns that had been blasted off of the face of this earth by atom bombs.
El and his buddies had a pretty great time in Japan. They were young, had survived the war and had money in their pockets.
In those days, when in a United States military uniform in Japan and you had too much fun, you would end up in a military prison. The commander of this prison was a proud, obnoxious, arrogant, peacock-strutting of a man, who continually boasted that no one had or ever would escape his fenced stronghold of character development and repentance.
So, one night, after having enjoyed a goodly portion of fun, frivolity, frolic and fermentation, El and a buddy decided to break into the prison. The success of their venture was made known to the hilarity of all the very next morning when there were two extra soldiers during roll call.
Well, the prison commander became positively apoplectic! Both El and his commanding officer received their due portion of this man’s verbal wrath. When the prison commander finished his tirade, El’s commander turned on El threatening all sorts of dire consequences. El was then marched to his commanding officer’s jeep. When they got into the jeep, the officer turned to El and said, “Ewert, you are such a dumb ass!” Then, burst out in laughter.
El and his commanding officer returned to their camp, went into the officer’s quarters and proceeded to spend the remainder of day consuming more than their share of beer toasting the success of El’s prison break-in.
And, yes, El has met Elvis
El and I with matching hair-dos, during my cancer battle.
Squirrels vs. The Church
The Presbyterian church called a meeting to decide what to do about their squirrels. After much prayer and consideration, they concluded the squirrels were predestined to be there and they shouldn’t interfere with God’s divine will.
At the Baptist church the squirrels had taken an interest in the baptistery.. The deacons met and decided to put a water slide on the baptistery and let the squirrels drown themselves. The squirrels liked the slide and, unfortunately, knew instinctively how to swim so twice as many squirrels showed up the following week.
The Methodist church decided that they were not in a position to harm any of God’s creatures. So, they humanely trapped their squirrels and set them free near the Baptist Church. Two weeks later the squirrels were back when the Baptists took down the water slide.
But the Catholic Church came up with a very creative strategy. They baptized all the squirrels and consecrated them as members of the church. Now they only see them on Christmas and Easter.
Not much was heard from the Jewish synagogue; they took the first squirrel and circumcised him. They haven’t seen a squirrel since.
I remember the call from my oncologist so very clearly. After months of battling brittle bones and being injected daily with bone hardening drugs into my stomach, just as I thought I had begun to make progress, he called me to tell me that my bone marrow biopsy was positive for multiple myeloma…a bone marrow cancer.
My first thought was thank God they finally know what’s slowly killing me. My second thought was like the words of the song says, “Lord, this time you gave me a mountain. A mountain that I may never climb. It isn’t a hill any longer. You gave me a mountain this time.”
It isn’t surprising that my first thoughts were of God and mountains. Throughout the four years that I battled multiple myeloma, at first just to survive, then to get mobility back, I would often mentally picture walking in the mountains of Montana. Mountains have always been where I have felt closest to God and found peace.
Multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer, destroyed my bones. They became so brittle that all of my thoracic and lumbar vertebra sustained compression fractures. I once had six new fractures in my back at one time. I also endured several cracked ribs.
I would break my back doing the simplest of tasks including flossing my teeth, lifting a toilet lid and trying to pick a shirt up off of the floor. For over 18 months I was imprisoned in a chin to hip hard body cast. I spent over two and a half years confined to a hospital bed in my living room staring out of my living room window at a small oak tree in my front yard. I was unable to stand or walk without using a walker for over three years. So, being able to hike in the mountains of Montana was a pretty far-fetched goal.
If in reality I couldn’t get to mountains, I could in my mind. I dreamed, I was in those mountains, often. I was there when I was encased in that body cast. I spent time in them when imprisoned in the hospital bed in my living room. I was climbing those mountains the day they put the Hickman chemo port into my chest. I visited those snow covered peaks each time they bored holes into my bones using only local anesthesia before they used a massive syringe to suck out bone marrow samples.
Those mountains were in my nursing home, rehab and hospital rooms. They were there the day I watched, “the nuclear bomb” of chemo for my stem cell plant slowly enter my body.
There were times during those years of battling cancer, fear, depression, chemo therapy and stem cell transplant side effects, mobility loss, and pain when my only contact with the great outdoors, for this outside farm girl, was dreaming of mountains and their meadows.
To beat my cancer I did everything the doctors asked me to do, except for one thing. I refused to use a wheelchair. I had no intention of being trapped in one of those. For, I had decided, like Winston Churchill stated in his greatest and shortest speech to “Never, never, never give up.” In fact, I bought a silver dog tag engraved with those words to always wear around my neck on a necklace that included my cross, a silver family tree given to me by my grandson on a Mother’s Day long ago and the first ring my husband ever gave me.
After making the decision to fight on, no matter how sick I was, whenever someone helped me out of bed, I would push my walker around my kitchen island until I was too tired to go any further. First one, then five, 10, 20 and eventually a 100 laps a day. I wore a trail into my hardwood floors.
During the long months that stretched into years when I was too sick and weak to leave my home, occupational and physical therapists would come to bathe me, and help me relearn the simplest of tasks. First, I had to learn how to get out of bed without breaking more bones. As I would sit up I could feel my weak spine bend sideways just like a willow branch and would pray that it would not snap and paralyze me. It didn’t.
Eventually, I re-learned how to do stairs. Then, after months of being totally house bound, with two therapists, one on each side, I was allowed to go outside and push my walker to the end of my driveway and back.
There were many trips to the end of my driveway. I can still remember the sheer terror of trying to step down from the driveway to the street for the first time without jarring my spine. I did it, though, and my world began to grow. First just to the edge of our property line, next came the end of our street and eventually laps around the block pushing a walker with tennis balls on the bottom. As I grew stronger, I mastered using a walker with wheels, next came two canes and eventually just one cane.
I walked and walked. I walked with shuffling feet, bent over, with a broken back. I walked sick and exhausted from chemo. I walked bald. I walked masked. I walked on flat streets, inclines and hills. I wore out many tennis balls. I have worn out many rubber stoppers on the bottom of my canes. I climbed stairs many times a day just to strengthen my bones and leg muscles. Each step I took was me telling my cancer to go to blazes.
After such a hard and long cancer battle, you cannot imagine the joy of traveling out of state for the first time in almost six years; being in Great Falls, Montana, to visit and hug my dear Aunt Margaret who faithfully called me weekly throughout all of those years to lead me in Bible study; and to at last stand on a hiking trail in Montana and see a horizon filled with snow and wild flower covered mountains.
Uncle Klynn and Aunt Margie
As I stood beneath a snow-capped footstool of God, the bible verse that I clung to throughout my cancer battle was again prayed.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
It did not matter whether I could only lift my eyes to the top of a small oak tree in my front yard, or the summit of a great mountain, my help always came from the Lord….who never left me or forsook me.
With baby steps, a bit a grit and by the grace of God, I climbed the mountain!!!
I hope you enjoy these vacation pictures!
Lots of Wild Horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Beautiful Wild Flowers
Animals galore! Bear, wolf, elk and antelope too!
It was a great trip. We hiked from sun up to sundown and I never even got sore muscles….Bully!!!!!