Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Choosing Life

Today is Brad's birthday. Thirty-one years ago I delivered this beautiful human being into the world. Brad is my birthson.

Brad's wife, Karen, shared this on Facebook today:

"Everyone should wish this husband of mine a very happy birthday today.  It is truly my greatest joy being married to you.  Having you in my life has shown me the riches of the love of Christ, how to never cease in serving others, how to be strong while being compassionate and tender and so much more. 

You never seek the spotlight but continue to serve, love, and live with God always before you.  I am so thankful to be on this journey of parenthood with you.  You deserve the biggest celebration of life today! ...

We get to celebrate this man today because an amazing woman chose to make a brave choice and give him life.  And a great family chose to raise this man in a loving way.  Today will be a reminder of the power the positive impact just one life can have on the world."

Brad and Karen are expecting their little guy in January
I have wanted to share the story of choosing life for a long time.  I've had many starts but can never find the words to tell a story that is so intensely personal it is almost sacred.  I'm realizing that it may be impossible to do the story justice. It's the story of adoption.  But it is so much more.  It's the story of everyone whose life Brad has ever touched. His parents. His brothers in California and his siblings in Minnesota. His grandparents, nephews, cousins, and all of his friends who literally extend around the globe.  It is the story of his life with Karen and the new little human being that will push his way into the world--their son.

Most of all, it is the story of God's astounding grace.

Maybe one day I will be led to share more about my journey in choosing adoption.  But for now I just want to say Happy Birthday, Brad!  I am so grateful that you are in our lives.  You are loved more than you can know.   All my love,  Jacci

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer

Two weeks ago I paid good money to find out what I have suspected for awhile. I am no longer the sharpest knife in the drawer.

In the last few years I've been having increasing memory loss. I've talked to other women my age who say they have the same problem.  I think mine is worse.

It's like my brain is short circuiting. I can't find my keys, cell phone, cheaters, sunglasses, tennis shoes and slippers. People's names?  Forget about it.

Then there's that little piece of paper my husband told me he needs to keep.  I panic a week later when he can't find it and accuses me of throwing it away. I dig through the trash can in the garage and it's in a garbage bag amidst coffee grounds and egg shells.

And I misplace my car in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Which, by the way, is just one more reason not to go to Wal-Mart. I avoid it at all costs. It smells like cheap plastic toys and cardboard. I always end up spending $173 for the can of hairspray I come in for and which I forget to put in my cart. I feel sorry for the checkout clerks. Those poor souls get minimum wage and deal with crabby, rude people who see them as the last obstacle in their getting home.

Anyway. What was I saying?  I lost my train of thought. Which brings me to why I got tested for cognitive impairment.

I can attribute most of my forgetfulness to simple inattention. It happens. But losing what I am saying mid-sentence really bothers me. This happened some when I was younger. But eventually I'd remember, even if it was a few hours later. Not now. I've come to accept that my memory occasionally leaves the building like Elvis, never to return.

A few months back I read Still Alice which is the story of a woman who is a Harvard professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at the age of 52--my age exactly. It makes me wonder.

My friend, DeAnn, works for a place that helps people increase cognitive skills. She works with kids who have ADHD and learning or relational problems. She also helps adults like me whose memory has taken a hike and can't find its way home.

Awhile back when I joke with her about having early onset, she doesn't laugh.  She says if I am really concerned about it, she has a coupon I can use to get tested at her school. I wasn't too keen on the idea at first. 

But then something happened at my women's Bible study that prompted me to reconsider. We were having our discussion time, and I opened my mouth to share what I'm sure was some profound nugget of wisdom. I said, "I think..."  I stopped. I didn't have a clue as to what I was going to say.  Everyone looks at me quizzically and waits. Nervously I make a joke that this is what happens when you get old.

I call DeAnn to make an appointment to get my brain tortured. I go to the school, where her boss gives me the hour-long test. It's like taking your ACTs but involves playing games, doing puzzles and reciting a series of numbers backwards. It wasn't fun, and I began to whimper halfway through it.

At the end of the test, I get my scores. In high school I wasn't valedictorian or anything, but I think I was smarter than the average bear. That has changed.

The results are displayed on a percentile chart compared with people my age. There are nine categories which test, among other things, memory and processing speed.  I score highest on Logic and Reasoning. I am in the top 75% of something called Word Attack (I guess I have a good grasp on word pronunciation). I don't score great on any of the others. But I am disturbingly low on Working Memory. The bar is scraping the bottom of the chart. 

I try to be philosophical about my results. After all, somebody has to be last. I figure I'm taking one for the team, but I'm blinking back tears.

The woman doesn't make light of my scores. No sense of humor. Instead she explains how memory and retention can be improved through training. I ask if I'm getting Alzheimer's. She said she doesn't think so. She says it's normal to misplace keys. It only becomes problematic when you can no longer remember what to do with the keys.

She explains the program. The personal intensive training sessions are designed to work your brain to exhaustion so that it has to create new pathways of learning (or until it cries Uncle). She shares success stories of adults who have had remarkable improvement with their memory. Even people who are super smart can increase their cognitive ability. One of their students has an extremely high IQ but wants to have sharper skills as she goes through med school.

At this point, I'd be happy to be sharp enough to slice a piece of bread.  I ask to see prices. 

DeAnn is encouraging me to do the training. I'll be able to improve my memory and recall. But the price is steep, and I don't like torturing my brain. It hurts. 

Meanwhile, I've bought an industrial pack of Post-Its to leave myself notes around the house. I'm doing Sudoku. I'm also playing board games with my 78-year-old mother. So far I haven't beat her in Scrabble once. True, she has been playing her whole life while I've just started. But still.  She's 78 and I'm 52. No fair.

I also have made an appointment with my doctor to find out if there is some kind of underlying cause behind my memory loss. Like maybe my medications are slowly frying brain cells.  

Or, maybe I'll find out I'm just a normal 50+ woman who has a lot on her mind and sometimes misplaces her car keys. But when I don't remember what the keys are for, I'm calling DeAnn to sign me up.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Long & Winding Road. My Kinky Colonoscopy

The defining mark of turning half a century, my first colonoscopy. When my doctor said I needed to have one done, I was less than thrilled. But I was resigned. If colon cancer is caught early, it can be successfully treated and cured. And, the only way that is possible is to do a search-and-rescue up your behind.

I made my appointment for a Monday. I was to limit what I ate for the week, fasting the last day before the procedure. I was warned that if I wasn't completely cleaned out, I'd fail the test and have to come back to repeat it. Fearing being a failure, I did exactly as I was told.

By Sunday, I felt like I had been in the hunger games. I was dreaming about fajitas with guacamole on the side. At 6 o'clock that night I was to drink the first dose of the nuclear laxative aptly called MoviPrep. I read the directions and mixed two bags of powder--Bag A and Bag B--with a quart of lukewarm water.

Remember when grocery stores used to hand out suckers at the checkout line?  If you found a bunch of those suckers --the green lemon-lime ones--all stuck together in a clump under your car seat, peeled off the wrappers, placed them in a jug of warm water overnight and then stirred in a cup of salt in the morning, you'd have the equivalent to MoviPrep. Awful stuff. 

After an hour, I had finally gacked it all down.  I went downstairs, telling my husband and son that I was going on a private retreat and that under no circumstance were they to visit. I lit a few candles, placed several magazines strategically in the bathroom, then found a movie on Netflix. I watched "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead," which, ironically, is about the American diet and how it is killing us with diseases such as colon cancer. Colon cancer is rare in other countries where people have plant-based diets.

Thirty minutes into the movie, I finally felt the need to go. I can only describe what happened next as traumatic. I didn't want to think about what would have happened if I had eaten the fajitas.

By eleven, I was pretty sure that my colon was more than cleansed. It had been sterilized. I went to bed, fell asleep for five hours and then got up to the alarm to repeat the whole process. Since there was nothing left inside of me, I was pooping pee.

At this point, I was so hungry I felt like a wartime prisoner. My only comfort was that it would soon be over and I could eat again in a few hours.

When I arrived at my appointment, I was told to take off all my clothes and don the gown. I went to sit in a waiting room with strangers who were also butt-naked under their gowns. We all knew we were there for the same reason. No one looked each other in the eye.

I was given an IV. From here it gets a little fuzzy. I remember singing "The Long and Winding Road" by the Beatles. I caught a rather unflattering view of my derriere on the overhead screen before the lights went out.

The next thing I remember is opening my eyes and asking if I could have a cracker. The nurse said that, unfortunately, no, I would have to remain fasting. I had failed the test. They had run into a kink and couldn't finish. I was a fail? I had a kink? Yep. I would need to go for a scan that afternoon. I was given another jug to drink, this time filled with dye for the scan. Then they put me in a recovery room to wake up and pass gas along with everyone else I had seen in the waiting room earlier.

After three hours laying on my side in a dark room, it was time for the scan. I figured the scan couldn't be that bad. Just a picture, right? Oh no, the fun was just beginning. The tech said she was going to fill my intestines with air. She'd then insert a balloon to hold the air in while she took pictures. "Oh, and please don't emit any gas while we do this." She said this all with a straight face.

I had to get into several awkward positions, somehow holding the balloon and the air in while she took the pictures. Mercifully, she finished and told me I was free to go home. Dave pushed me in a wheelchair to the car. I wasn't feeling so hot. Halfway home, I got out of the car and got sick. There wasn't anything to throw up except my tonsils.

I continued to get sick the rest of the evening. Finally, it occurred to me that this may not be normal. Maybe they had punctured my colon, and I was being poisoned to death by toxic laxative and dye. I called the resident on call. She said it was probably an effect of the anesthesia. I think it was the combined result of all the atrocities done throughout the day.

Finally, it was over. I woke up the next morning surprisingly no worse for the wear except for sore tonsils. On the bright side, I must have lost like ten pounds. I hopped on the scale. Two.

Since I failed my colonoscopy, I was told I would need to come back in five years instead of ten. At first I said that I'd become a vegan before I'd have another colonoscopy. But I'll suck it up. There are worse things than a colonoscopy. Like having colon cancer and not knowing it until it's too late.  Thankfully, my test came back negative.

If you haven't had a colonoscopy, don't let my experience scare you. Really it isn't bad as long as they don't run into a kink in the road. Which probably wouldn't happen to anyone else except me.

Revised from post in Mama Drama blog:  http://jacci-mamadrama.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-kinky-colonoscopy.html

Monday, June 22, 2015


This is not my typical post. For those who read my blogs, you know I try to bring levity into just about any situation.  But with this post, I just can't seem to find the humor. 

When I came into work Friday morning, a co-worker asked if I knew the man who was killed on Highway 42 the afternoon before. The name hadn't yet been released. I hadn’t heard about the accident, but I knew the intersection where it happened. A classmate of Paige's was killed there two years ago.  And despite the extra signage put up since, there continues to be accidents there.  

At break I checked Facebook. The first newsfeed I saw was from Beth.  She and her husband, Andy, are a vibrant young couple who go to our church.  They have an adorable daughter who is not yet two and another baby on the way. 

Beth wrote: 

"In case you haven't heard, Andy was killed in a car accident this afternoon.”
Stop right there. What? “In case you haven't heard, Andy...” In the split second between reading those few words and what followed, I thought I'd hear, Andy was in an accident, Andy was ill, Andy was, well, anything. Not Andy was killed. Immediately I realized he was the one my co-worker was telling me about. 

Her post continued: “A dump truck hit him in the driver's door, an off duty cop saw the accident and immediately began administering CPR. There was nothing they could do and Andy went to be with the Lord. I know he's in a much better place - he was so looking forward to being in Heaven someday..."  She finished with sweet words of love to Andy from her, their daughter and baby #2 on the way. 

Death is always a shock, whether it is expected or not. Certainly, nobody expected Andy to die that day. You can’t wrap your mind around it. A 31-year-old husband and father who was so loved and needed gone in an instant. You are reminded once again of how brief and fragile this life is. 

Andy was full of life, handsome, polite, humble, genuine, a true gentleman. By his words, actions, and countenance, there was no doubt how much he loved God and his family. 

I remembered the day he and Beth were baptized in the Zumbro River. Both had become Christians as young adults. I don't remember the exact details of Andy's testimony. I just remember it was very genuine. This big, strong guy sharing with tears in his eyes the story of how he became convicted of his sin and came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Both his and Beth's testimonies were very moving. We all cheered when they came up out of the water, grinning and hugging our pastors. Two lives changed for eternity. 

We are all rallying around Beth and her sweet babies. There will be terrible grief for a very long time. Life will never be the same again. But there is great peace knowing that Andy was ushered into the presence of the Lord.  I think how God called his name not so many years ago in his early 20s. Beyond relief and blessing, his eternal destination was heaven. 

In the last years as I’ve grown in middle age, I think of eternity a whole lot more than I used to.  It seems everything we do in this life is to distract us from the most important thing, the only thing that is for sure. We are going to die; it’s just a matter of when and how.  

I’ve often thought that life is a series of clubs we join. We’re kids. We graduate from high school, enter college and adulthood.  We join the married club. The parent club. The empty nester club. The grandparent club. And, if we live long enough, the geriatric club.  People tell you what each stage will be like. But you don’t know until you get there. 

Death is the last club.  But no one can tell us about it. The Bible gives us hints of what it will be like. But how can we possibly know until we get there?

None of us want to think about it. True, we shouldn’t be morbid and dwell on it continually. We have to live our lives. But we need to consider where we’re going when it’s over. 

I’m a Christian and totally believe that there is a heaven and a hell. Heaven sounds great. But hell? Terrifying. I wish it weren’t so—the hell part. But there is no denying that Jesus spoke about it. A lot actually. I can’t think of the reality of hell too long or I’d go crazy. 

But I do think of it, most often in the middle of the night. I wake up; for some reason it is almost always at 3 a.m., and loved ones who haven’t professed Christ come to mind. The thought of their dying without Christ is crushing. 

I struggle. It all seems so wrong. How can there be a hell? Why would God allow anyone to go there? But there is one consistent thread throughout the Bible from beginning to end. God’s continual and persistent pursuit of us, to bring forgiveness, reconciliation and eternal life. 

Friends, most of you have already put your trust in Christ for your salvation.  We rejoice and celebrate God’s goodness.  But for anyone reading this who doesn’t have peace with God, I urge you to consider your eternal destiny. God loves you more than you can possibly imagine.  He wants relationship with you. He’s offered freely life with Him for eternity. He sent Himself to die a brutal death, carrying my sin, your sin, and the sins of the whole world, so that we could have eternal life. Life lived well, doing good things doesn’t get us to heaven. Only putting our trust and faith in Jesus Christ. He will change you from the inside out. 

It’s hard to believe. I admit it’s hard to explain. But I know what the Bible says. And I know what God’s done for me. I have been forgiven of a lifetime of sin, and I know His love. One day I will die--today, tomorrow or in my withering old age. And on that day, I will know. Just as Andy knows.

That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:9-10

Friday, June 12, 2015

Memaws and Muumuus

I love being called Grandma Jacci.

But shortly after our grandbaby is born, her parents begin to conspire on what Evie will call me. Something that's not grandma. Evie’s other grandma is Yaya, so Matt and Paige think I need my own unique name too.

They ask me, “How about Memaw?”

Memaw?  I'm offended. I don't care that Memaw is Betty White's character in The Big Bang Theory. I just picture Memaw as an unattractive woman in a muumuu sitting on a broken down porch fanning herself. No, not Memaw.

“Well, we could call you Mimie.”

I consider this. Mimie is too close to Mamie, the name of my Great Grandma Johnson’s roommate in the nursing home. Mamie was really just a lonely, old soul who was happy to see children. I tried to be polite when we'd come to visit Grandma, but as a five-year-old little kid, I was scared silly by Mamie. She’d reach for me, clutching my arm and giving me a snake bite if I tried to break free. I don't want to be Mimie.

I ask what's wrong with Grandma Jacci. I like being Grandma Jacci. Plus I think grandparents should have a say in what they want to be called.

My other daughter, Amber, weighs in.  “Grandma is old school. Everyone picks a name now. It’s cute.”

Puff. To me, picking out a random name that doesn't have any significance takes all the fun out of it. It's one thing if the grandchild can't say "grandma" and comes up with her own sweet version. Or, if it’s a name that’s been used in the family before. That makes sense.  Amber couldn’t say grandpa so she called my dad Pop Pop.  Grandpa Dave will most likely be Pop Pop too.

I ask how Yaya got her name. When Matt's family was trying to get his nephew to say grandma, he kept saying “Yeah, yeah.” So she became Yaya.  See? My point exactly.

Paige says she just doesn’t want me to have a boring name. Okay, I kind of get that. I tell Paige as long as Evie comes up with the name, I will go with it.

I know though that if Evie suddenly starts calling me Memaw, her parents will have been secretly coaching her. I decide I better find a my own grandma nickname.

I find The Ultimate Guide to Grandparent Names on grandparents.com.  There are hundreds of names you can choose. They even list them in categories. Traditional, playful, trendy, celebrity, and international. You can be Nana, Oma, Birdie, Foxy, Tama, MuMu (go figure), Lovey, or Pittypat. Or, you can even choose to be called UdderMudder.

Good grief. This is just like picking out a name for your baby.

I give up on the list and think of a name my kids already call me. Mamacita. I google it. In the Urban Dictionary Mamacita means hottie. At 50+ not so much. But the literal meaning in Spanish is "little mama."

I think Mamacita means Grandma Jacci.  We’ll see what Evie says.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A little too personal, don't ya think?

I struggle with how much to say in a blog. Basically blogs by their very nature can be a little narcissistic. You're writing about yourself. Or at least I do. And depending on how much I say it can get a little personal for a Facebook audience that includes Tom, Dick and Harry. Don't know if I want those guys to be reading about the life of this 50-plus-year-old woman.

Anyway, in an effort to keep it real-life stuff, which at times can get a little personal, I am no longer going to post the blog on Facebook, other than to a closed group.

So, if you are interested in following, great. Let me know by commenting or liking this Facebook post, and I'll add you to the group.

And, if you don't that's fine too.  I'll try not to be hurt. No really, it's okay. Our Facebook feeds get clogged with a lot we really don't want to see but get drawn in anyway. And then we start wasting time reading stuff we really didn't need. Kind of like junk food. Looks good, but then we have regret and indigestion after we scarf it.

So, bottom line, if you will read it, I'll write it. If I have only three in the group, well I'll get the hint and maybe look for another hobby.

But just so you know, I love all of my readers. All three of them.


Over fifty but younger than dirt,


P.S. Or you can follow by e-mail. Just sign up on the site. Graci.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Stale as dry toast

Dave and I had a great Memorial weekend with my favorite cousin, Janet, and her husband, Bob. They spent a few nights with us on their way back home to Nebraska.

We click as couples. The husbands are perfectly content to sit on the front porch, drinking coffee while staring at the same spot in the grass. They don't have to say a word and they're happy campers.

Janet and I, on the other hand, talk nonstop until our voices are hoarse and we've given ourselves headaches. (Precisely why our husbands escape to the front porch.) Anyway, Janet and I are alike in a lot of other ways too, probably because we share the same gene pool. We're doubly related. Janet's dad is my mom's brother. My dad is her mom's brother. Brother and sister in one family married a brother and sister in another family. No husband and wife related. Just in case you’re wondering.

Growing up, Janet and I thought being double cousins was really cool. We had all the same grandmas, cousins, uncles and aunts and went to all the same family reunions and get-togethers. We were as close to being sisters as you could be without having the same parents.

We still think being double cousins is cool, although I don't feel the need to tell everyone about the doubly related thing like Janet does. 

Whenever we visit Janet and Bob in Nebraska, Janet shows me off around their little Mayberry-like town and explains our double cousin status.

She introduces me to the gal behind the drug store counter. "This is Jacci. She's my double cousin." Then she proceeds to clarify. "My dad is her mom's brother. And my mom is her dad's sister. We have all the same relatives. Isn't that neat?"

I've told her that people really aren't that interested in the double cousin business. You can tell by how their eyes glaze over. Plus, it sounds like the branches on the generational tree crossed and the kids are turning out funny.

The gal behind the counter blinks. "So, you mean your mom and dad are brother and sister?"  Oh, brother. 

I pull Janet away before she starts on about how she and Lars (who of course are also double cousins), married Bob and Karin who are brother and sister. So now their kids have all the same relatives too. Bring out the banjos.

Anyway, all this to say, Janet and I have a lot of shared family history and memories. As we've grown older, our lives have been running parallel. We seem to go through the highs, lows, and in-betweens at the same time.

Lately we've been talking about getting old and wondering if we've become our parents. 

When we were kids, we vowed that we wouldn’t grow up to be stale like our grownup relatives. At family get-togethers we cousins would run around pitching sheet tents over the clothesline, climbing the bluff behind our grandma's house, and playing spies.

Janet. The double cousin.
Sometimes we'd spy on our parents and aunts and uncles. Which wasn't too interesting. All they did was drink coffee, eat cake, and tell stories. Sometimes they'd play Scrabble.  Stale. That's what Janet called them.

Well, here we are. We're old and doing the same thing our parents did. We spent the weekend talking, drinking pot after pot of coffee, eating yellow cake and playing Scrabble. (I should say, Janet and I played Scrabble. Bob and Dave took naps in the living room.)

We tell ourselves that we are not completely stale though (lame would be the word used now). There are a few differences between us and the generation before us. One, we exercise for the sake of exercise. This is something we never remember our parents doing. Sometimes they walked. But that was just to get from Point A to Point B. 

We also think we look a lot younger than our grandmas did at our age. From our perspective when we were kids, Grandma Lela and her sisters never aged. They looked the same at 50 as they did at 80. White hair, wrinkles, glasses and comfortable shoes. 

Who are we kidding? If we let our hair go gray, wore curlers and shapeless polyester dresses and went around with no makeup, we’d look exactly like our grandmas. We try to picture what Grandma Mabel and Lela would look like wearing bling jeans from Maurices and eyeshadow.  Nope can't picture it.

I take a selfie of the two of us. We’ve just rolled out of bed and are wearing jammies and don’t have on any steel-case undergirding. Scary. Janet looks like Great Aunt Alice and I look exactly like Lady Elaine from Mister Rogers. (Remember her? She was the puppet with a weird voice and a red blotchy nose. She looked like the town alcoholic.)

Ah, well. We laugh over Scrabble and cake. Being stale isn't a bad gig if you're with your favorite cousin. 

We do think of one more thing that separates us from the women who came before us. We don't remember them being as self absorbed as we are. Certainly they didn’t take selfies with their polaroid cameras. 

Janet won't let me post the one we took of ourselves without makeup. But here's one of Lady Elaine. That was one scary looking broad.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A few more stories

It's been over two years since my last blog. I retired Mama Drama right after I retired from my midlife crisis. Mama Drama was my blog chronicling my musings and misadventures of the worst midlife crisis EVER. So once I turned 50 and the crisis was over (which didn't end without a fight, believe me), I was out of material for the blog.

After I hung it up, a few faithful readers urged me to start another one. But there wasn't much going on in our lives to write about. Dave and I had settled into a very pleasant, albeit lame, empty-nester existence. I doubted that anybody would want to read that we had gotten into our jammies at 6 o'clock the night before, watched the Weather Channel and then crawled into bed. 

But now that we're in the grandparent club, I have a few new perspectives. I will tell you this. Even though I will write some about being a grandma, I'm not going to be doing a "Grandma Blog."  No offense to the ones who have those, I just don't want to do one. I adore my granddaughter. She's the most amazing, lovable, and beautiful little six-month-old baby girl in the whole wide world. But my gushing on this fact might not be something everybody else finds so interesting.

So I'm over 50, I've joined the grandparent club, and I'm still musing. I might still have a few stories left in me. 

If you enjoyed my other blogs, join me with this one.

Stay tuned.