Many of my friends are writing a book.

I’m a writer, too.  My first novel was “Miss Nutshell.”  (1968) I illustrated it also.

I write for my family and friends.  I want them to know me.

I told my son Jeffrey that I want to be a writer.  He said, “Writing is too lonely a profession for you.  You are more of a teacher.”

My mother was a teacher.  She taught 5th grade, English and then many Bible studies.  I wanted to be a school teacher all my life.  When I went to Wheaton, the Education department asked me to find another major because I told them I didn’t believe in grades.  I was ahead of my time in 1975.  Mother directed me to a Christian Education major. “You’re always volunteering at church.”

Mother wrote a bit.  She left a few paper notebooks of her writing; mainly travel diaries of England and sermon notes.  I wish she had written more.   Days before she died, she scrawled her goodbye.

“I love you all!

(my) children and grandchildren are all unique and gifted.  God has blessed our family in so many ways.  I love all of you and Jesus loves all of you.

Now make sure you are loving and following Jesus Christ!  Only way to go.

The Book will tell you what you need to know.  Psalm 119 tells us all…”

Mother knew Jesus and the Bible well.  She was what every teacher should be, a fountain of that treasure.  In spite of all she knew, and she knew alot, she often quoted, “You only teach one thing:  you teach your life.”


Last week I drove middle school carpool.  It gave me a chance to tell Ethan about when I became a Christian.  (Even though he’s ‘on’ his phone playing a game, he’s still listening.)  I told him this story:

“I woke up from a nightmare about hell.  I was shaking with fright as I left my bed and walked through the dark house to my Mother and Dad’s bedroom.

‘Mother, I’m afraid I’m going to hell,’ I whispered to her.

Mother got out of bed,  and went and got her Bible.  We went to the living room.  Mother sat in the black rocking chair and turned on the light.  She opened her Bible to the book of John.  Her finger pointed to a verse.

“Here, chapter 1, verse 12, ‘But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.’  God promises you that you are his child when you believe in him.’

So Ethan, from that point on, I have known that for sure I am a Christian.”

A memoir writing class teacher responded to one of my pieces, “Your style is very didactic.”  I looked up the word in the dictionary – “intended to teach.”

I hope I am like my Mother.









At the top of 8 year old Pam’s To Do list:  “1.  Get up.”  Yes, number two, then three, etc. followed.

We laughed at #1.  It’s so obvious.  So funny, for a little kid to think of that.

Last night I laid awake thinking about a granddaughter hitting middle school next year.  That idea led to considering the lack of neighborhood friends, like I had, for all four grandkids.  My brain kept going.  Maybe I had said the wrong things in an earlier conversation with Mike.  His job has been so stressful because of company policies over covid illnesses.  The pillow was soft but sleep didn’t come as I continued to try to figure out the imperfections of the past week.

Because I was wide awake, I went for a relaxing walk outside.  The stars and moon lit the street.  When I came back into the dark house, Duane greeted me, half awake.  “Come back to bed.”

I did.

We both, finally, slept.  The alarm went off, too few hours later.

Duane pulled his body out from under the blankets.   He works a full day today.  I change the bed on Fridays.  Go to class, figure out dinner, contact Bible study ladies, do my lesson for Bible study, clean the kitchen floor where the sour cream tub leaked.  I should call the company that’s starting that project on the sunroom.  I have things to do on a mental list.

After the restless night I didn’t want to leave the warm soft sheets.  But I did.  I sliced an apple for Duane’s lunch.  He wanted to show me something on the computer.  I yanked the sheets off the bed and got the first load of wash started.

I waved goodbye to Duane as his car pulled out of the driveway.  I smiled, remembering Pam’s #1.

“Get up.”

She’s right.




Jill heard the gentle clinking of ice cubes.  She and Jennifer were snuggled, each in their twin bed, reading.  Jennifer, in kindergarten, was only ‘pretend’ reading her favorite book, ‘Papa Small.’

Dad appeared in the doorway, balancing three Flintstone glasses of Coke in his hands.

“I brought you a little drinkie,”  Dad offered the first glass to Jennifer.  She dropped her book onto the covers and reached for the evening treat.

Mother peeked in the door.  “Lights out soon.  We’re going to Woolworths to do our family Christmas shopping tomorrow.”

“Good!”  Jill said, reaching for her glass from Dad.

“I can’t wait to see what you’ll get me!”  Dad said in his joking voice.  He left to bring Wendy the remaining Coke.

Jill finished her drink and scooted farther under the green corduroy covers.

“Lights out,”  Dad leaned in their door.

” I know what I want for Christmas…,”  Jill whispered to Jennifer, reaching towards the switch on her lamp.

“You want that baby doll,”  Jennifer whispered back.   Jill always talked about dolls.   “I wanna get Mother something really good.  It’s so hard to think of something.”

“It is,”  Jill agreed.  They both fell asleep.


Saturday morning,  Jill, Jennifer and Wendy ran down the front steps to the car. They wore their matching winter jackets to keep out the brisk December weather.

“I call the front seat!”  Wendy yelled.

“I need to run a quick errand, ”  Mother said as she climbed into the car.  “I’ll only be a minute.  Then we’ll go to Woolworths.”

When they arrived at Lord & Taylor, Wendy said, “”We’ll just wait in the car.”

“I want to go in,”  Jill said.  In August, she had fallen in love with a doll in their toy department.  A pink suited Madame Alexander baby doll.  Small tufts of fine blond hair peeked out from her pink silk bonnet.  Sweet lips and blue eyes lit up her chubby face.  Every time Jill visited that store she held her baby in her arms.

“No, I’ll just be a minute,”  Mother said, getting out of the car and hurrying toward the door.

When Mother returned, Jill asked anxiously, “Is my doll still there?”

“I didn’t even go upstairs!”  Mother answered. “I was picking up a pair of shoes.  You girls have so many dolls.  Now on to Woolworths!”


The wind blew them inside Woolworth’s door.

Jill looked around at the wooden aisles filled with needs and wants that she and her sisters shopped through most Saturdays.  Each week Dad would give them an assortment of change to spend before they walked there with their friend Nancy, from across the street.

Today, Mother oversaw the Christmas expedition.  She lifted a maroon shopping basket on her arm, ready to hide the gifts they would find.  They each had two dollars to spend.  That two dollars must pay for four gifts.

“Do you have some ideas for each other?”  Mother asked.  Jill had one present settled.  Dad’s.  She would get him a comb.  He had mentioned at dinner the night before that he needed a new comb.

“You have fifty cents for each gift,”  Mother reminded.  “Wendy, you start on this aisle.  Jennifer, you go to the next row.  Jill, start here.”

Jill began searching in the art section, her favorite.  “Maybe Jennifer would like something here.”

“This might be handy for Jennifer’s desk,”  she thought, picking up a pair of scissors.  Then she looked at the price: 99 cents.  Too much for one gift.  “What else could Jennifer use for her desk?”  She spotted a jar of paste, and picked it up to look at the tag.

“Only 49 cents. Perfect, ”  she headed towards Mother.  She found her in the next aisle, trying to keep Jennifer from seeing what Wendy was picking out.  “Here, Mother, this goes in your basket.”

Then she headed towards the hair care aisle for Dad.   She bumped into Jennifer, running from the jewelry section.

“I’ve found the most beautiful present for Mother!”  Jennifer panted.  She held a small box in her hand.

“What?”  Jill asked.  Jennifer didn’t stop.

“I found you the most wonderful present, Mother!”  Jennifer exclaimed, when she found Mother by the dishes.

“Good,”  Mother smiled.

“It cost a dollar,”  Jennifer whispered.

“That’s too much!”  Mother protested.  “How will you have enough for your other presents?”

“I don’t care,”  Jennifer insisted, her eyes still bright.  “I know you’re really gonna love this.”

Mother hesitated.  She wanted  Jennifer put it back. But  Jennifer was so excited.

“Alright,”  Mother relented.

Jennifer dropped the box into Mother’s basket, her gift nestled beside the other Christmas treasures.


That afternoon Dad squeezed through the front door with The Tree smashed around his body.

“Mother! Girls!”  he called.  He leaned the tree against the wall and called again.   The sisters were watching “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol’ downstairs.  “Our Christmas tree has arrived!”

The scent of fresh pine greeted Jill when she walked into the living room.  Fir needles littered the green carpet as Dad carried it to the front picture window.

“It’s so tall!”  Wendy exclaimed, right behind her.

Mother appeared from the kitchen where she was making her mother’s roll out Christmas shortbread cookies.  “It doesn’t look very …full,” she remarked, examining the tree.

“It smells so good!” Jennifer said.  “Can we decorate it?”

“After dinner,”  said Mother.

“Help me, girls,”  Dad directed as as he got down on his knees to fasten the tree in the stand.  “… while I fiddle with this bloomin’ thing.”

“It doesn’t have any branches on this side,”  Jennifer observed.

“There!”  he announced, standing up to see his purchase.

“It’s empty on that one side,”  Wendy agreed with Jennifer.

“It will look fine once we get the doodads on it,”  Dad believed in his choice.  “The empty spots will help with conversation.  See, a person sitting on this side of the tree can talk to the person sitting on the other side, right through it!”

Mother laughed.

“Can’t we decorate it now?”  Jill begged.

“After dinner,”  Dad agreed with Mother.


The girls slept under the tree that night, now dripping with lights, ornaments and tinsel.   Their heads rested on their soft pillows, heads tucked under the lowest branches.

“Look at the ceiling!   I see designs of the pine branches,”  Jill pointed.

“I can’t wait til Christmas morning to give Mother her present!”  Jennifer talked about Mother’s present every day.

“Is that all you’re thinking about?”  asked Wendy, propping herself up on her elbow.

“Well…”  Jennifer added, “It’s the best gift I’ve ever found.”

“You haven’t given that many gifts,”  Wendy said, laying back down.  “You’re only five.”

“Five and a half,”  Jennifer said.  “And it’s the best present.”

“I hope I get my doll,”  Jill said.  “She’s the most beautiful baby doll ever.”

“Oh you and your dolls,”  Wendy frowned.  She had never played with baby dolls, like Jill and Jennifer.

In the pine scented, twinkling lit room they soon stopped talking.  Their eyes closed.  Dad peeked in and turned off the lights on the tree.


Christmas morning arrived.   Bright sunshine poured in the dining room window and filled the living room, too.  The Mitchell family gathered around the tree in their pajamas.  The space under the tree that had been empty the night before now was bursting with boxes disguised in Christmas paper decorated with ribbons.

“The first thing we need to do, now that you’ve opened your stockings, is to have breakfast,”  Mother announced.

“Breakfast?!”  all three girls cried.

“Yes, I want to relax and enjoy this morning,”  Mother answered.

“That will take so long, to have breakfast!”  they moaned.

They looked longingly at the packages stacked under the tree.

Jennifer started to cry.  “I want you to open your present.”

Jill and Wendy started to cry, too.

“Well isn’t this a lovely Christmas,”  Dad sighed.

“Girls,”  Mother calmly continued, “We’ve waited this many days.  You can wait a little longer.  Let’s go in the kitchen and I’ll put the kettle on for Dad’s tea.”

After breakfast, Dad moved his dining room chair next to the presents.  The sisters sat around him on the carpet.  Mother pulled her red velvet chair nearer to the tree.

“First l’ll read the Christmas story from Luke 2,”  Dad did that every Christmas.

Jill could hardly wait any longer.  Jennifer bounced up and down.

“At that time the Roman emporer, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken….,”  Dad began.  “…I bring you good news that will bring joy to all people.  The Savior has been born today….”  Later, he finished, “… it was just as the angels had told them.”  He closed his Bible.  Mother walked over to the presents.  She picked out three packages that looked the same size.

“Here’s a present for each of the girls,”  Mother handed three flat gifts to Dad.

Dad passed them out, reading the tags.  “To Jill, love, Santa”, “To Jennifer, Love, Santa” , “Wendy, love, Santa”

“Look, a Peanuts calendar!”  Jill exclaimed.  Wendy unwrapped a “Dresses of Jackie Kennedy” calendar.  Jennifer got a Suzi’s Zoo.

Jennifer watched Dad hand out presents as  if he was passing out gold pieces.

“Dad, where’s the green present?”  Jennifer asked.  “My present for Mother.”

Jill’s opened gifts sat neatly in a pile next to her.  The high stack around the tree got shorter and shorter.  But no doll.

“What a thoughtful gift,”  Mother said as she unwrapped a book from Aunt Marian.

Jennifer opened the jar of paste from Jill, selected carefully that Saturday at Woolworths. “I love this!”

Jill smiled.

“Here’s a big package for Jill, from Santa,”  Dad handed her a long rectangular box with a red ribbon.  Mother set the book she was looking at in her lap.

Jill pulled off the paper.  Tiny pink flowers covered the box.  “Madame Alexander” was written in lacy handwriting across the top.   Jill opened the box and sniffed.   She drank in the scent of her new doll, the exact one, with the pink silk bonnet.

“Oh! Mother! Dad!  Thank you! Thank you!”  She took her new baby out of the box and felt her softness melt into her arms.  “She’s just right!  She’s so beautiful! Thank you!”

Dad and Mother beamed.  Dad turned back to the few gifts left under the tree.

“Here’s a small one for Mother,”  he said.

Jennifer jumped up.  That was her tissue wrapping!  “I’ll give it to Mother.”

She took the gift out of Dad’s hand and placed it triumphantly in Mother’s.

“I can’t imagine what it can be!”  Mother smiled.

She unwrapped  Jennifer’s treasure.  “What a nice box.”

Then she carefully lifted the lid.  Her eyes widened with surprise.

“I absolutely love it!”  she exclaimed with the perfect timing and poise an actress would use to win an Academy Award.  “I’ve never seen anything quite so… wonderful for Christmas!”

“Let us see it!”  Wendy cried.  “Hold it up.”

“Wait,”  Mother raised her hand.  “Jennifer, I want you to show everyone.”

Jennifer proudly displayed it: a two inch plastic pin of Santa’s head.  In the place of his nose sat a tiny red bulb.  A red string with a jingle bell was attached at the bottom of the pin.

“It’s Santa!”  Jill exclaimed.

“LOOK at this…”  Jennifer pointed out.  “When you pull the string, his nose lights up.”

Jennifer’s small fingers clasped the thread and yanked.  The tiny red bulb at Santa’s nose came to life.  It glowed.

“That’s cool!”  Wendy said.

“Jennifer, this is my best Christmas present,”  Mother said.  “I just love it.”

Jennifer’s eyes shone.

“Ruth, you’ll be the only one at church with a creation like that!”  Dad said.

Mother pulled the string, too.  Once again, the red nose lit.  Then she set the Santa pin neatly back on the cotton in it’s box.

“I want to try lighting up Santa,”  Wendy said.

“No.  I don’t want to wear him out,”  Mother answered.  “I want him to stay special.  I’m going to wear this on my jacket. ”

Mother smiled at Jennifer.

“I thought you might really like it,”  Jennifer said shyly.

“This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had,”  Mother announced.


That night,  Jill tucked her new baby into the toy crib jammed next to her bed.  Jennifer was already snuggled under her covers.

“You won’t be able to get out of bed,”  yawned Jennifer.

“It is pretty smooshed,”  Jill said.  She pulled her covers back and jumped under the icy sheets.  “Mother really liked the Santa pin.”

“I know,”  Jennifer said. “Best Christmas ever.”

“Yup,”  Jill agreed.

Best Christmas ever.

MORAL:     “Love people, not  things.”

Thanks to Jennifer, who now owns the Santa pin that Mother showed off many years at Christmas speaking engagements.





In November, cold winds blew across Overlook school’s playground.

“Time to pull out the winter coats,”  Mother said as she rummaged in the front closet before school one Friday morning. “Jill, here’s your coat.”

Mother lifted the dry cleaners’ clear plastic off a clean navy blue coat with shiny brass buttons.

“That’s Wendy’s coat!” Jill exclaimed.   She stared at what she would have to wear all winter.  It looked like a boy’s coat:  straight and plain.  Embroidered on each shoulder was a white anchor trimmed in red.

“It’s too small for Wendy,”  Mother corrected.  She took it off the metal hanger.

Being the middle sister,  Jill was used to hand me downs.

“You’ll look sharp!” That was Mother and Dad’s commonly used adjective for someone who looks their very best.  Mother’s fingers unbuttoned the front.  “Here, try it on.”

Jill slipped her arms into the sleeves.  She turned towards Mother.

“The sleeves look right,”  Mother said, running her hands along their length.  “Button it up.  Now go look at yourself in the mirror.”

Jill obeyed.  A large rectangular mirror hung on the wall between the living and dining room.

She studied her reflection.  The pixie haircut didn’t seem right with such a formal coat.  She wasn’t sure how she looked.  “I guess I like it.”

“You look sharp!”

Jill smiled at herself.  She turned her head to inspect the sea themed trim on the shoulders.  Maybe hand me downs weren’t so bad after all.

“Can I wear it to school?”  she asked.

“That’s why I got it out,”  Mother answered.  “You’ll need it on a cold morning like this.”

Jill ran into the kitchen to grab her lunch box, then out the front door.  The screen door banged shut as she skipped down the front steps.  It was easy to get to school when it was right across the street.  The safety patrol sixth grader stationed in their driveway held up her arms in front of a group of students waiting to cross Silver Avenue.

After several cars and an orange school bus passed, she said, “Go ahead.”

They all ran across the street.

Jill passed the monkey bars, slide and merry go round on her left.  She marched onward, across asphalt painted with  yellow hopscotch lines.  She wanted to get inside before the school bell rang.

The crisp fall air made her nose cold.  But she was warm in her new coat.  She swung her arms and puffed out clouds of frosty air.

Jill pulled open the heavy school door.  One instant later she was sucked into the hallway along with jostling students wearing their sweaters and jackets for the first time.  Overlook, with its’ own special scent of paste, floor cleaners and mimeograph ink , was like a second home.  She passed neat bulletin boards of construction paper displays.   Mrs. Reinhardts’ first grade class was the farthest down the hall.

“Hi, Jill,”  Peggy greeted, as she entered her room.  The cloakroom was on the other side of all the desks.  She walked towards it.

“Oh, Jill, you have a new coat,”  Arthur noticed, as she passed his desk.  He was the smartest and the smallest boy in the class. He got up and followed her.

The cloakroom was full of kids hanging up their winter garb.

“Jill, I like your coat,”  said Vivian, slowly.

It was a different coat than the other girls wore.  Or the boys.  No one had a coat like that one.

The kids stared at her new coat, with the bright brass buttons and red and white trim.  They didn’t always know what to expect from Jill.  She was the first girl they knew who chased the boys on the playground at recess and kissed them.  She could catch all of them, except George.  A television screen with knobs on the side was painted on her lunchbox.  In the cafeteria, when she was finished with her peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she pretended to watch cartoons on it.

“It’s a Navy coat,”  Jill blurted out.  She wasn’t sure, herself, where the idea came from.

The kids looked surprised.

“A Navy coat?”  Arthur questioned.

“Yes, I’m in the Navy,”  Jill answered, smiling.

“How can you be in the Navy?”  asked Arthur.  “You’re in school.”

“Not on the weekends,”  Jill insisted.  “I go on Saturday and Sunday.”

No one could disagree with that.  They didn’t know where  Jill went on the weekends.  And the dark blue coat with shining buttons looked like a real uniform.  She must be telling the truth.

“Class, time to get in our seats,”  Mrs. Reinhardt called.

Everyone whispered about the coat as they walked to their desks.

When it was time to go home, Jill’s friends followed her into the coatroom.  They watched as she lifted her Navy coat off its’ hook.    Jill reached her arms into each sleeve and pulled the coat around her  dress, feeling the thick wool fabric against her fingers.  The hand me down rated a new respect from her classmates.

“Have a good time with the Navy,”  they said.

“I’ll tell you about it on Monday,”  Jill waved and laughed as she walked out the door, towards home.


MORAL:      Make It Fun*

*credit for the wording of this moral to Dale Mace


PREFACE (which I generally never read in a book)

I wrote these fables for my grandchildren Ethan, Addi, Sophie and Henry Rommel.  Math love runs in the family so titled them with a number.  The moral, or “what’s the point?” is something I noticed they enjoyed discovering when we read Aesop’s fables.

These stories come from the home movies playing in my mind.  Jill’s the star, but her family wins the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

The Mitchell Girls, Wendy, Jill, and Jennifer (and later Pamela) lived in a red brick split level in Abington.  Dad called it his “estate.”  He and Mother bought the house because it sat across the street from Overlook Elementary School.

“Kids might walk across our lawn and litter their papers on our property,” they discussed.  But the school came with several playgrounds, baseball fields, and bordered Roychester park.

With three bedrooms upstairs, a living room with a picture window covering the front of the house, and a patio off the dining room on the main level, the yellow awning house was perfect.   The lower level boasted a pine paneled room with a window facing the school. A door in the paneling opened into a large laundry room and half bath.  A single garage would later be turned into a guest bedroom for missionaries, family and parents.  That was possible because another,  two car garage sat beside a hedge enclosed play area on the north side of the house.  Dad eventually assembled a swing set and wooden play house from Sears for that private paradise.

Mother chose soft green carpets for the living and dining room.  Her baby grand piano took up more than a corner of the living room, flanked by two red velvet tufted chairs.  The bedrooms had wood floors while the rest of the house was covered with linoleum; dark brown speckled in the lower level, and creamy white speckled in the kitchen.  The kitchen cupboards were fabricated from a metal of some kind.  All the accordion closet “doors” were made from what looked like plastic.  The house itself will not achieve historic status.

But lamps glowed in every room: floor lamps and sofa table lamps in the living room, lamps on bookcase headboards in the bedrooms or on mahogany dressers.  A wall sconce hung beside the phone on the wall in the kitchen.

“Turn lights off!”  Dad would scold.  But Mother turned them on in abundance: in the daytime, on cloudy days, or in the mornings before the sun shone into a room.  The house was ablaze with the warmth of those lamps, in spite of the pain of the electric bill.

In all that coziness Jill, her sisters and parents, lived these fables.

The address:  1802 Edge Hill Road, Abington, Pennsylvania  19001.

Guest Editorial by Dr. Duane Rommel, Board Certified in Pediatrics


The Wall Street Journal called upon Governor Ron De Santis to speak out on the benefits of the Covid Vaccine. (“A Covid Vaccine Crossroads, July 15, 2021). As a Primary Care Physician, I lend my experience with life-saving vaccines to this call.

As a grandfather of teenage grandchildren, this is personal. I support them getting the vaccine.

For years I’ve championed the benefits of vaccines, against a minority, the ‘anti-vaxxer’ voices who cling to internet science. After forty years, I’m not wasting my time arguing with them.

“You cannot reason someone out of something he or she was not reasoned into.”
– Jonathan Swift

My words are for those who support the vaccine. Unbelievably, I’m having to encourage those who do believe in science and are vaccinated.

John McEnroe, the famous tennis player, used to exclaim, “You cannot be serious!”

His outcry is mine. I’m shocked how some, in even the medical community and media, have complicated and confused the scientific facts regarding Covid. They insist mask wearing and social distancing are still necessary for the vaccinated. They don’t seem to believe in the lives saved and great success of the vaccines.

I do not believe, and neither does Ron De Santis, that our government needs to be in control of our health decisions. But, like Ron:

1.  I believe the Coronavirus is real.
2.  I don’t want to get a contagious illness that might cause mild to serious health problems, or death.
3.  I have gotten the vaccine.
4.  It is the vaccines, unlike any other measures, that have broken the back of the Covid pandemic.

For the vaccinated, the Covid Pandemic is over.

I’m writing to encourage those who are already vaccinated. You can live freely now, in spite of what we continue to read on the front page. Even fear mongering talk about ‘variants,’ can be disregarded, because they’re not life threatening to the vaccinated.

If you’re not vaccinated, join those of us living free from fear, and get the Covid vaccine. Currently 90% of people over age 65 have been vaccinated in the USA. However, if you look at people between 12 – 18 years old, only 13% of this age have been vaccinated.

My patients ask me, “Is it necessary, and safe to vaccinate my teenager?”

Although Covid 19 in children is usually milder than in adults, some kids can get very sick and have complications or long-lasting symptoms that affect their health and well-being.

A thousand cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), out of millions and millions of vaccinations, have been reported. But it’s a rare and mild condition which resolves quickly.
The benefits of being vaccinated for COVID-19 far outweigh the risks.

Get your teens vaccinated. The science shows that for the vaccinated, no more quarantines. Vaccinated school children need not miss school.

Get yourself and your kids vaccinated.

The American Academy of Pediatrics fully supports vaccinating children 12 to 18.

Every Christmas my Mother gave each of her daughters a “Choice Gleanings” devotional calendar. I still buy myself one every year, now that she’s in heaven with Jesus.

From January 27: “And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places.” Isaiah 45:3 and “For you will light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.” Psalm 18:28 the note added, “… so do not fear dark places child of God, His presence will lighten your darkness and give you strength to go on.” another verse I have meditated on over the years , “When I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.” Micah 7:8.

Those words resonate with me after knee replacement surgery twelve weeks ago.

My knee is healing quite nicely. Duane and i have been biking with our red recumbent tandem since week four post surgery. I’m walking well although can’t do more than a mile. I’m back at yoga classes.

But after the surgery, what I thought was a mild anxiety disorder ballooned, with help from worry about pain, about not doing enough to heal properly and having some drug reactions that caused me to lose my appetite and ten pounds.

I’d wake up at 5 in the morning, sweating, jittery and crying to Duane for help.

Thankfully, I had a supportive doctor who I was able to get in to see. She did tests and said my health looked fine. I also called my therapist who I had seen in the past for direction and help with travel anxiety. She’s a Christian, and knows I’m a Christian, so when I told her, in tears, that I was worried I was going to hell, she could see I needed medical help.

“Jill, I’ve never seen you like this before,” she said. “I want you to see a psychiatrist to get your medications sorted out.”

The psychiatrist told me that one of the medications I had been taking for years for restless legs, and anxiety, had outlived its’ usefulness, and was the source of much of my problem, when it had combined with other knee medicines. It was time to wean off it.

Easier said than done.

One question my therapist asked, amid all the anxiety, was: “Do I feel safe?”

It’s a good question. I believe what I don’t feel safe about right now is my body. My knee is healing nicely, very well, and yet I still am limited in how much I walk and what I can do. I still remember the pressure the physical therapists put on me to “do everything right or you will not have a good outcome…”

Cutting back on the restless leg medicine solved the morning hysterics. Then as I cut back more, I began having hot flashes and jitteriness during the day or night, every day. It felt like my body was working against me with those general uncomfortable symptoms that some days had me laid out on the sofa. The psychiatrist gave me medicine to take the edge off, but the awareness of being on the cusp of an episode day after day is exhausting.

I was used to having a healthy body, but since December 10, when I had the surgery, I was fighting different body battles each week.

I grew up in a family where physical weakness was “poo poo-ed.”

“You’re healthy stock,” my father would say. He played tennis every day until he was 82. My mother walked daily with a friend. Neither was rarely sick. My mother developed Parkinson’s disease mildly at 65 which didn’t affect her daily life until her late 70’s.

Only in the last 2 years of his life did my father suffer with congestive heart failure, which caused him to lose so much weight he looked like a survivor of a concentration camp. That was when he and my mother had moved here to Clearwater, where my two sisters lived.

Some days we’d walk into their apartment at Regency Oaks and Dad would be sitting up at their small kitchen table eating his cereal, feeling fine. One day I walked in and he was sitting in his recliner, not feeling well at all. He often asked, “When do you think I’m going to go to the doctor and start feeling better?” He was a Dale Carnegie positive thinker. My unspoken response was, sadly, “Dad, you’re not going to be getting better.”

The day that hurt me the most was the day he said, “Just take me out and shoot me.” So unlike my Dad; he rarely complained but I knew the CHF was miserable.

Then the next time I visited, he was sitting in his recliner watching tennis on TV and he turned and said, “We’ll remember these days as the good times.” In my heart my response was, “Oh Dad, you have to be kidding, this is awful seeing you declining and suffering.” Now I laugh to myself that actually he was right: we enjoyed many good times with them in those last years, in spite of his health.

I’m thinking about my dad’s health because I think I’m too thin right now, like him. My appetite is coming back, but with drug withdrawal symptoms I’m not always hungry to eat, but know I should. Then I worry that the stress of being too thin and anxiety is hard on my heart. Duane checked that and it’s fine.

In my frustration and impatience with healing from surgery and overcoming medicine issues, my therapist suggested that maybe God has this time for me to slow down, wait, and work on relaxing.

“You need to adjust your expectations,” she said. “Give yourself six months to heal.” She suggested the “Calm” app when I was feeling anxious. Also, I began setting the iPad beside my bed so I could listen to hymns when I woke in the morning. Duane and I continue to take a walk after supper to listen to a Psalm and pray.

“Get a massage,” was another idea of the therapist, which was a new activity for me.

And Duane has been gently keeping me doing/going while also saying, “I understand.” I love him so much.

My morning devotional thought from March 5 was, “…He gives more of Himself to one person than to all the governments, politics, programs and opinions of this world. So dear believer, take courage and trust your loving Savior to get you through whatever you are facing today. You are a much loved child. Believe it.”

The blind hymn writer Fanny Crosby penned the lyric that followed, “…. Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast. There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul doth rest.”

Dad served on H. M. S. Glory, a British aircraft carrier, during World War II.

He traveled to Deal, England, to enlist in the Royal Marines in October 1943.  This is that ‘last day’ photo before leaving his mother, father,  little sister Ruth, and the family dog Carlos, at 20 Valley Drive, Gateshead.  He was 18 years old.

H. M. S.  Glory sailed from Belfast to ports around the world: Alexandria, Egypt to Australia and the Japanese surrender in the Pacific in 1945.   I can see in the pictures that Dad lost weight.  Dad told us his mother sent him a chicken in a tin can, she was so worried about how thin he was getting.  I can hear Dad laughing:

“When I opened the tin, the chicken had to be thrown overboard immediately.”

Dad earned the nickname “Posty” with his ‘pals’ (his word) because his job on the ship was delivering the mail.  I can’t figure who took these pictures or who owned a camera and where they developed the film, during a war.  Dad learned a cheerful attitude from his commanding officer.

“We started each day by looking in the mirror and saying, ‘In every way, throughout the day, this is going to be the best day of my life.”

The men entertained each other with shipboard shows.

Dad also told stories of the planes that missed the ship’s runway and disappeared into the sea.  Or the horrors of transporting the British P. O. W.’s from the Japanese camps after the surrender.

“They were in terrible shape.  Many didn’t make it home.”

Dad told us he held the pen at the signing of the Japanese surrender, which wasn’t true.  But the Japanese did surrender to Britain on  his ship the H. M. S. Glory on September 6, 1945, at Rabaul, off the coast of New Britain, now New Guinea.

Dad’s hero throughout and after the war was Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

“We shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a second believe, this island, or part of it, is subjugated and starving, then our Empire across the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, will carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, in all its strength and might sets forth to the rescue and liberation of the Old.”

I close my eyes or don’t watch movies with scenes of torture, or when a child dies or a pet is hurt.

So it’s been tough watching my grandkids, 4th and 7th grade, sitting, sitting, staring in front of a computer monitor for electronic ‘supposed’ learning, off and on the last months. 

I ventured out to Palm Harbor Nursery yesterday to buy red geraniums.  

“Don’t go out!” I hear the CDC voice, but I go out anyway.  The sun is shining in the great state of Florida.

During the purchase, the owner shared her horror about the kids in New York City who have been banished to E Learning.  I agreed with her.  The Academy of Pediatrics has stated that the safest place for children during The Virus is in brick and mortar schools.

Last Sunday, friends shared their experience visiting their elderly mother in a senior living facility.  

“They wouldn’t let us hug her goodbye, after the fifteen minutes, and she was crying.”

After nine months, these are not isolated cruelties, but repeated over and over and over, 

“Be safe,” everybody says to everybody now.

We’re sick of hearing it because it has created, not a safer world, but an unhealthy way of existing in our homes, churches, schools and businesses that used to bring life and joy.

The news media continues to peddle fear and misunderstanding so that we continue to tune in tomorrow. They’re desperate for ratings.  They have become expert in making us feel.  They should be helping us to understand.

The biggest turning point of 2020 is upon us.  Covid vaccines are ready for approval and distribution. We’ll be able to put this season of misery and death behind us.  However, in the misguided ideal of reporting both sides of the issue, the news continues to give air time to vaccine naysayers.

Many politicians, and the medical politicians at our CDC only make the problem worse.

We’re advised to not:  not go out, not get together with family for the holiday or any time, not travel, not touch.  That is cruel.  I can’t remember one week for the last nine months when the word ‘Surge’ wasn’t a headline in the newspaper, but the present week is always, according to The Experts, the beginning of The Worst.  That’s emotional torture.

In actor Alec Guinness’ autobiography “Blessings in Disguise” he describes his search for God during World War II.  He describes how he, along with many soldiers, turned to God, reading the New Testament on their Navy ship, in the days before battle and possible death.  

God is still our help, and we acknowledge Him as the source of providing treatments and vaccines for Covid.  He is our healer.

In Agatha Christie’s “An Autobiography,” she describes what life was like in London during the years of World War II:

“So time went on, now not so much like a nightmare as something that had been always going on, had always been there.  It had become, in fact, natural to expect that you yourself might be killed soon, that the people you loved best might be killed, that you would hear of the death of friends…”

Later, she reflects on the virtue that made those cruel days livable:

“…we can hope… we do not appreciate that second virtue in the trilogy ‘faith, hope, love.’ … how often do we forget that there is hope as well, and that we seldom think about hope?  We are ready to despair too soon…”  – Agatha Christie

The simplest shopping trip, over the last few months, could be a cause for despair.  I’d overhear a customer snap at another customer, “Stand back six feet from me!” Or encounter empty shelves.  But yesterday, I had a different, delightful experience. I stopped in at “The Painted Pear,” one of the few specialty shops of handmade and unique gifts that has not gone out of business because of the pandemic.  After picking out Christmas tree ornaments, I spotted, on the top shelf of one of the display cases, a wooden, handmade sign:

“Courage,   Dear Heart”

               -C.S. Lewis

I’m a Wheaton grad and devoted fan of Lewis.  He has a way of getting to the important point in a most clear and beautiful way.

I wanted to buy the sign, because it was the message I wanted to keep in front of me now.

I asked, but it wasn’t for sale. 

I’ll have to make one.

Encouraging truths which hide like secrets in the newspaper, regarding The Virus:

  1.  Safe and highly effective vaccines are almost ready to distribute.
  2. The Infection Mortality Rate, in spite of the constant drone of ‘case counts,’ remains extremely low, especially for the young and increasingly, because of advances in treatments, those of advancing age.

-picture taken at the College of Anesthesiologists in London, England.











an overdue guest editorial by pediatrician Dr. Duane Rommel:

“In a lecture at Cornell University in 1964, physicist Richard Feynman defined the scientific method:  First, you GUESS.  Then you determine the consequences of your guess.  Then you compare those consequences with outcome of experiments.  If your guess disagrees with the experiment, it is WRONG.   This is science.” 

    from the book, “How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom”

For the past 9 months, we’ve been making a lot of guesses about Covid 19.  Some of the guesses have been wrong.  Some have been right.  Some vilified, some verified.  Some, we await the verdict.

I hear leaders claim that they are following “science.”  What that really means is that they are listening to certain scientists who happen to agree with their political bias.  The science of Covid 19 is incomplete and complex.  Therefore,  public health policy leaders need to be open to reassess their guesses and policies.

Anthony Fauci was christened by the press to be our ultimate “scientist.” Policy makers had to heed his guesses or be labeled “anti-scientific,” “uneducated,” or a “conspiracy theorist.”   However, our present reality illustrates that scientific policymakers need to re-examine their theory and be open to new ones.  That is how science works.  

Today’s newspaper trumpets “New Virus Cases Surge Across U.S. and America.”  The scientific policies followed by most Western countries are failing.   Many states and European countries hit by the pandemic imposed strict lockdowns this spring.  They launched testing and contact tracing programs to stop the spread of the virus throughout the summer and fall. These policies have failed as these countries and states have tried to ease their lockdowns.   They prove that the virus can’t be controlled that way. Their scientific theories aren’t working.

In October, another group of highly respected scientists gathered to propose a new plan for dealing with the pandemic.  

I strongly recommend everyone read “The Barrington Declaration,” and watch their video titled, “Dissenting Scientists Issue Herd Immunity Declaration” on their website:  Their Declaration challenges the current guesses about how to defeat the pandemic.

They explain why our current policies are 1.) Poor public health policy 2) Unscientific in their conclusions, and 3) Immoral as general policy.

They present the concept of herd immunity as a scientific fact which applies to the covid pandemic.  We reach herd immunity with every highly contagious illness that exists.   Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results when a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease. Herd immunity is not policy or opinion, but the way infectious diseases are controlled.  It will happen. The only question is how we will get to herd immunity with the least harm to the public.

Their proposal rests on the unchanging scientific fact of Covid: the Infection Mortality Rate.  This undeniable scientific data should be driving public health policy.  The Infection Mortality Rate for Covid 19 is ‘age specific;’ or radically different for different ages.  These scientists insist that leaders in public health must, in their words, ‘exploit this weakness’ of the virus to defeat it and reach herd immunity.  

I’m seeing patients frightened by Covid in my pediatric office.  These young people and their parents equate getting Covid 19 with a death sentence.  In fact, according to the CDC, the chance of dying from Covid, for a person under age 19, is 3 per 100,000.   According to the CDC the chance of dying from the influenza last year for that same age person is 1.6 per 100,000.    For those 20 to 49 years old,  the chance of dying from Covid is 2 per 10,000.   The chance of dying from the flu is 2 per 100,000.   It’s not until age 70+ that the mortality rate of Covid 19 increases dramatically to 5 per 100.

This fact, the extremely low mortality rate in young people, which is accepted by all scientists, needs to be driving our policies. Scientific reality states that we will reach herd immunity at some point with Covid.  To clarify: the infection will largely come under control when enough people are immune to it.   Immunity will either be achieved through getting the illness or through a vaccine for the illness.  There is no other way.

The public health question that policy makers, assisted by the scientific data, need to discuss is: “How to achieve herd immunity with the least harm to the public’s health?”   

The Barrington Group recommends: “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.”

I strongly agree with their recommendations.  The second video illustrates their reasoning as to why this is better health policy, better moral policy and more compassionate than our current policy.  

We must stop being overly focused on Covid 19 alone.  That distorts our overall health policies to the point of harming the people we want to protect. 

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