Friday, December 20, 2019

Angel Song

I heard angels sing last night.
It was a glorious heavenly melody
Under the nighttime stars 
          and Christmas lights.

The songs were familiar too:
          “Silent night.”
          “Hark the Herald angels sing.”
          “O little town of Bethlehem.

The story was familiar too... 
          about a heavenly choir
          come to some shepherds
          bringing a message of joy and hope
          because of the birth of a special baby to a young woman.

Last night the faces were familiar.
          but the message was new:
          It was a message of hope and joy 
          to a sick and tired old lady. 

And the angels joined us for tea and cookies.
          What a beautiful Christmas gift! 

MarySue Helstern Rosenberger 

Angel Song

I heard angels sing last night.
          It was a glorious heavenly melody
          Under the nighttime stars 
          and Christmas lights.

The songs were familiar too:
          “Silent night.”
          “Hark the Herald angels sing.”
          “O little town of Bethlehem.

The story was familiar too... 
          about a heavenly choir
          come to some shepherds
          bringing a message of joy and hope
          because of the birth of a special baby to a young woman.

Last night the faces were familiar.
          but the message was new:
          It was a message of hope and joy 
          to a sick and tired old lady. 

And the angels joined us for tea and cookies.
          What a beautiful Christmas gift! 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

"Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu"

When we spent our winters in Texas, we often danced  to this song. As I recall, it was an upbeat excuse for calling off work. (You know, “I’m sick!”)
Well, ten days ago I met his first cousin,”Coughin’ ’Pneumonia and the Sleepin’ Thru Flu”!   He is definitely not an upbeat kind of a dude! He is invisible and attacks you unseen. Although he (or she or it, depending upon your personal image of the gender of the flu!) is spread from one person to another.  But nobody ever told me, “Hey, I just gave you the pneumonia and the flu!” They just let me wait ten to fourteen days to wake up one morning achy, feverish, and coughing my painful head off.
I couldn’t  see this internal misery-maker coming and  I can’t see that bum roaming around inside my body creating pain in everything he touches.  Now it’s my head; now it’s my back. My shoulders, knees and hips feel as if they have been beaten on.  
Finally, that pain-causing invader reached my lungs, already sick of scarring, and the coughing began.  First, a bothersome tickle in my throat; then a hack from the lungs. Deeper and harder grows the cough until it feels as if that invader of my  inner space gathered up all the breath I had left in my lungs and rolls it into a ball. That Flumonia Maker then flung it out of my mouth at the opposite side of the room! So, unable to breathe and too weak to cough, I fell into an exhausted sleep!
Hours later  I woke up and discovered that sleep was exactly what I needed! It gave me the strength I needed to ask for some help.  I knew that an antibiotic would be the only way to break this beast’s hold on my breathing. And so it was, but it took my pharmaceutical savior several days to completely deliver me from this respiratory torture!
I am grateful to be feeling a little better, but I have an important favor to ask of you: “Please, please, keep your flu and pneumonia to yourself!”

(NOTE: Have you had your flu shot yet this year?)

9 Dec 2019 - mshr

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Tug - of - Peace

Nearly every single day
I hear from friends who care,
Uplifting words and promises
To remember me in prayer.

What they pray for I don’t know:
 Healing? Joy when I’m blue?
Whatever it ts they pray for
I’m so very grateful. Thank you.

However, the Holy One has a plan
Of when to call me home,
So when that invitation is given
I want to be ready to come.

When my friends’ prayers for health
Meet God’s call for release,
Who will prevail in that
Tug - of - peace?

Friday, November 8, 2019


Bruce does a wonderful job of keeping my spirits up!    Part of his strategy is to take me out for a short walk in the parking lot in front of our house when the weather is fit.  But even when it is raining or chilly we can take a driving tour out in the countryside around our city, or tour one  of its many lovely Metro Parks.  The country girl in me still delights to see the harvested bean fields, livestock feeding at pasture, trees full of fall color and winding woodland paths.

Sometimes when we  get a late start or take a long drive, our return home always seems to go by way of a restaurant or fast food fount of temptation.  Last week it happened to be Wendy’s.  The drive through line was so long that Bruce decided to skip it and go inside to order our meals.

He got out, leaving me in the car tucked securely into my seat belt and squeezed into the corner around my oxygen tank. As is his custom, he locked the car behind him.

Trying to be efficient in the use of my waiting time, I squeezed a little hand lotion out of a small bottle I keep in the car to try to soften my cold weather hands.  It slipped out of my juicy hands, bounced off the seat and fell down into the crack between my seat and the door, just out of my reach!

Without thinking, I quickly opened my door and retrieved it.

At once, a loud and unfamiliar sound began splitting my ears.  “Somebody’s car alarm,” I thought.  Then I realized it was mine!  By opening the passenger’s door of our locked car, I had set off the alarm.

Snugly  belted into my own seat, I frantically began pushing all the buttons on the dashboard that I could reach hoping to turn off the noise before the police arrived.  Nothing worked, and of course my keys were at home!

Nearly in a panic, I unclicked my seat belt so I could lean over closer to the driver’s side and punch more buttons.  I thought perhaps Bruce would hear the alarm and come and rescue me.  But no, he was apparently intent on his task of getting our supper.

Finally, by stretching across the gear shift and console between our seats, I was able to reach the lock button on the driver’s door and unlock it!  Sweet silence descended.

When Bruce came out to the car carrying our supper he saw both front doors of our car standing open.  “Did you have a problem?” he asked.

“Yes,” I admitted, “I discovered that our car alarm works!”

“That’s interesting,” he remarked,”`A man in the restaurant asked me if I had a blue truck out in the parking lot because the alarm was sounding. I didn’t hear anything myself and I told him I didn’t have a blue truck. (It’s a dark blue Honda SUV.) So I didn’t pay any attention to him.”

“So,” I retorted, “the whole community may have been alarmed by your car - but not you!”

Saturday, October 19, 2019


Lord, please give me two more ears. The two I have aren’t enough
To hold up my glasses, my oxygen tube, and earrings and other such stuff.

They still hear everything quite well but they get shaken by my cough.
I’d like to give them a little help before they both fall off!

So, Lord, another pair would help my worn out ears to bless.
I really would be grateful if you could just say “Yes.”

You say that You could do that if I just tell You where
I want those new ears planted?  Is this some kind of dare?

Not on top of my head, please cause my hat would never fit.
Not anywhere on my backside. I need that space  to sit!

My feet and knees would not be good. They’re much too far away.
On my hands those ears would suffer each and every day!

If you put them on my shoulders, Lord, they’d look like angel wings
And that would look quite funny for my voice no longer sings!

Forgive me. Lord, I now understand Your body design is best!
    And I’m so thankful that I can hear that with two I’ll be fully blest!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Marital Discord

Fifty years of happy wedded bliss,
Never arguments nor fights.
Happy days of work and parenting,
Lots of happy cuddling nights.

Then our marriage faced a crisis
That stressed us toward a break,
The night my precious husband 
Used my toothbrush by mistake!

4 Oct 2019 - mshr

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Failing Eyesight

Old age has finally caught up with my eyes
And is covering them with a layer
Of cloudy crud!
Nothing looks clear anymore.
- Nature’s like a painting with colors running.
- People like rag dolls.
 - Words are just rows of riddles on a page.
- Flagpoles have curves in the middle.
- The ground is not level anymore,
  and it’s farther below my feet than it used to be!
      My view of the outer world is 
                   blurred  distorted  unreliable.

Yet my view of my inner world has never been so clear!
Three-quarters of a century have polished my image
- Of who I am and my contentment with what I see.
                     - Nature’s glories are there untarnished 
in my memory bank.
          -  I see a beauty within, sprung from 
                             grins, giggles, guffaws,
and an occasional tear.
- Inside, I see growing acceptance of difference,
          -  and wisdom gained from life experiences.            
            And love is blooming there, nurtured 
- not by my goodness -
   But by God’s gift of the Holy Spirit!

 So my vision is still 20/20 --  if I only look In or up! 

2 Oct 2019 - mshr      

Sunday, September 29, 2019


Creator of Caterpillars,

Is this how that long, writhing worm feels
        As the silk threads from her body begin to bind her
                To a branch or a leaf into a cocoon?
                - she is now alone as her world begins to shrink
                - she does not know that these bonds come from inside her 
                - or that they will soon isolate her from all of life
                - as the silk bonds grow upward, she can no longer move
                - or see through clouded eyes
                - her breathing is slowly cut off until she dies.

        Like me, she doesn’t understand what has happened,
                Or what lies ahead for her.
        Is she as frustrated and discouraged as I am?

But, Designer of Butterflies,
        you know she is not dead,
                but being changed into something new:
                        A beautiful, brightly colored creature with wings!
The caterpillar’s losses cleared the way
                for the butterfly to emerge.

Controller of Chaos and Lover of the World,
        Can You do that with human worms, too?

29 Sept 2019 - mshr

Thursday, September 12, 2019

"I've Lost It"

Last week we almost had a crisis!  Wednesday morning I got up and reached for my bathrobe to wear to breakfast. But the belt was missing!  I had sent it to the laundry the day before as my hired helper was gathering together a mound of dirty clothes and bed linens. 

I knew that the belt was tucked into the belt loops where it belonged when I sent that bathrobe to the laundry.  But now those belt loops were empty and looking quite lonely.

It wasn’t that it was such a valuable loss; the belt might have been worth a dollar or two.  Monetary value wasn’t the issue.  The crisis was that the belt was gone.  It was missing from its proper place.  And, of course, I couldn’t wear the bathrobe without the belt.  I’d have to find something else to wear to breakfast!

That started my day off badly and it went downhill from there.  Where could that belt be?  Surely it was in the house somewhere, but where?

I could not get my mind off that belt.  Bruce looked everywhere while I sat in my recliner chair and called out suggestions of places for him to search.  He checked in the washer, in the drier, in the empty laundry hamper, in the closet, all around the house, under the bed, and even in our underwear drawers.  No belt.

He kept reassuring me that the belt would surely show up sometime soon but I could not get it off my mind.  The longer he searched, the more upset I got.

First I felt angry: “I have enough problems in my life  I don’t need another one.”  Then some sadness sneaked in: “What if we can’t find it.  I’ll have to throw away a perfectly good bathrobe.”  There was also some sense of helplessness.  “I don’t even have the energy to walk around the house,  How can I possibly turn the house upside down searching?”  And, of course, self-pity.  “Why do I have to deal with all these problems when other people don’t?”

A few tears of frustration dribbled down my cheeks when I remembered my mother’s emotional struggles after a stroke in her 90th year.  She was never able to believe the losses the stroke had caused her.  She was intent on walking without help even though her leg could no longer bear her weight.  For a long time she refused to try to learn to eat with her left hand, stubbornly struggling with her unresponsive right hand.

Suddenly I realized that the bathrobe belt was not the problem that was really upsetting me.  It was simply a symbol of the many invisible losses I have been experiencing.  There’s been loss of strength and energy, ability to do simple household tasks, ease of breathing and talking, independence, freedom from continuous oxygen, the self image of well-being, certainty about the future, ease of getting around, and other losses even I have not yet identified.  But it is hard to grieve invisible and unrecognized losses.

It took me some time to sort through a lot of ignored emotional stresses but it was time well spent.  It was very important for me to free up that bathrobe belt from all the blame I had been laying on it and to deal with the real issues.

The next day, my hired helper rescued the lost bathrobe belt.  It had been “hidden in plain sight” hanging on the quilt rack at the foot of our bed!  Will my deeper issues of emotional losses get solved that easily?  Definitely not if I keep hiding them from myself!

12 Sept 2019 - mshr

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


“Guns don’t kill people...”
They tell us.
But trigger-pulling demons
Pop up suddenly
From so many unexpected places,
And people
-- far too many people --

But, too many of those
We elected to lead us
Find National Rifle Association dollars
More precious than
Human life,
So a solution is beyond our reach.

   Could the angels
Who comfort the grieving
  Pull all our proud, high flying 
   Stars and Stripes
Down to half-mast?
Then, at least, our national sadness
Could be public, and shared.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Saga of the Selfish Squirrel

Several months ago, our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter bought us a bird feeder.  It’s quite unique.  It is a solid, plastic plate-like base on which stands a column of bird seed.  (They chose a bird-seed column shaped like an owl!)  Over the top, shielding the entire feeder from rain and unwanted four-legged visitors, is a clear plastic dome.  The entire device hangs from a pole embedded in an open area, away from trees or other small animal hideouts.

They placed it beside our front sidewalk, outside a window where I can watch the bird banquet every day.  It took the birds a while to find it.  A brilliant red cardinal was the first feathered friend to try it out.  He must have passed the word around the bird world because soon he was joined by a dove or two, some sparrows, an occasional woodpecker, and other species we cannot  yet identify.  It’s a delight to watch several birds of different types peacefully eating together.

But trouble was on its way.  I began to notice a squirrel, who normally lives in the trees behind our house, wandering around under the bird feeder picking up the food that had fallen to the ground.  He was gray with a snow white belly and a very long bushy tail that was constantly in motion, and he was FAT.

Apparently he became dissatisfied with eating leftovers and decided he was entitled to eat at the first table.  So this sneaky, selfish four-legged thief began to climb up the near-by shrubs looking for a way to get to the bird feeder itself!  And he found it!

It took several unsuccessful tries, and bone-jarring falls, until he found just the right branch of the near-by shrub to leap from.  At first leap, he only caught the edge of the bird feeder with his front paws with his hindquarters and tail swinging wildly to and fro below the banquet table!  Great was the fall of that would-be thief!

Obviously encouraged by his near-success, he tried again -  and reached his goal in a stable position on his back legs!  He wasted no time in wrapping his left front paw around the neck of the birdseed owl and grabbing huge handfuls of food with his right front paw, stuffing them into his mouth and reaching for another!  Finally, when his mouth could hold no more stolen food, he dropped down to the ground to digest his haul.  Later that afternoon, Bruce cut off the branch of the shrub the squirrel had used as a launching pad!

But the very next morning he was back to his thieving ways.  As I watched I saw that he had discovered an alternative launching branch.  There he was, up in the bird feeder again, almost too fat to fit, greedily stuffing his face with stolen bird food.  That afternoon, the bird feeder was moved to a new location farther away from the shrubs!

Next morning, I watched as that persistent four-legged robber learned how to climb up the support post directly into the bird feeder from below!  Later that morning Bruce made a special trip to the Wild Birds Unlimited store and returned home with a squirrel-stopper device to attach around the post of the oft-robbed bird banquet site!

This morning I almost felt sorry for that persistently selfish squirrel!  That gluttonous, overfed beast had managed somehow to jump or climb to the top of the feeder he had so often robbed.  But he was on the outside of the transparent dome over the birdseed and could not reach it!  All he could do was look and long for another taste!

Now, if there is a moral to this story, I don’t know what it is.  As I sit inside the window limited by my breathing limitations, I have learned a lesson from the antics of this selfish squirrel: No matter how hard you try, how frequently you return to the task, or how creatively you approach the job, there are certain things in life you can’t have!

20 July 2019 - mshr 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Devil's New Disguise

The devil has been around for a long, long time.  Different religious groups picture him differently but the majority consensus is that he is the Supreme Ruler of the powers of evil in our good world.  If we take a serious look at our earth, our environment, and our personal and international relationships, we can clearly see that something keeps them all from goodness and perfection.  For centuries the devil has usually been blamed for all that goes wrong in human life.

One of the most recent images of this Prince of Darkness is as a human-shaped being, bright red in color, who bears two horns on his head, a long pointed tail trailing behind him, and carrying a pitchfork.  But, in the ancient biblical story of Job, a righteous man of the land of Uz, the devil is called Satan and he is part of the heavenly council of God (See Job 1 and 2).  He raises doubts in God’s mind by questioning why Job serves God so faithfully.  God’s response is to give Satan limited permission to destroy Job’s blessings.  After causing Job to lose all his livestock wealth, all his children, and his health, Satan disappears from the story, perhaps to cause evil and suffering in the world in other ways and in other times.

Throughout the Christian scriptures, the devil is consistently portrayed as the power behind evil in the world.  He is called The Tempter, the Father of Lies, the Evil One, the Deceiver and other negative and hateful names.  But he is never depicted as equal in strength or power with Almighty God.

Throughout history, writers have attempted to describe this evil figure.  In the 14th century, Italian poet Dante Alighieri, wrote The Divine Comedy, a lengthy three-part description of “The Inferno” (Hell), “Purgatorio” (Purgatory) and “Paraiso” (Heaven).  He describes Satan as an angel, forced out of heaven when he tried to usurp God’s power.  He is also known as Lucifer and is frozen in ice in the center of the 9th circle of hell, immobile and silent.

Three centuries later, John Milton, an English poet, wrote a ten-volume poem entitled Paradise Lost.  In it he describes Satan (also called Lucifer) as one of several fallen angels who inhabit Pandemonium, the capital city of Hell.  It is the illustrations from this work that picture the devil with wings, a tail, and pitchfork.  Returning to the earth, he disguises himself as a snake and successfully tempts Eve and Adam to eat of the fruit God had forbidden them to use, thus introducing sin into the world.

So, although the Bible does not give us a detailed picture of the devil, it clearly accepts the reality of the evil he causes.  Writers through time, however, have attempted to specifically describe his appearance, his behavior, and his nature.

So, I, too, will offer my image of his new, 21st century disguise.  I think that the devil (the Evil One or whatever you choose to call him) has chopped himself up into millions of tiny pieces.  He has turned many of those tiny bits into cancer cells (or irritants that cause other serious diseases) and has spread those tiny evil cells around, infecting many of my dear and beloved friends as well as many, many strangers!  It seems like every day I hear of another friend or read of someone who has been afflicted by a dreadful disease.  So I can only conclude that “the devil is doing it!”

(ADDENDUM: If the devil has any bits of himself left over after making cancer cells, I’m sure he could sell them to the military industries of many countries.  They could use them as projectile weapons in a new form of germ warfare!)

20 July 2019 - mshr

Thursday, July 18, 2019


A powerful force has invaded my life.
His name is Agent O2.
Invisible, weightless, no odor or taste.
He’s a nuisance, but what can I do?

He’s even changed the way I look,
As a glance in the mirror shows.
A long green tube is attached to my face;
Wherever I go, he goes.

He’s taken control of my schedule, too.
Chopped it up into four hour bits.
When his assistants give me treatments or meds.
Oh, how bitter!  They give me fits.

He’s also cluttered up my house
With a machine and tanks, big and small,
And a tube that stretches from front to back,
Just waiting to cause a fall!

Yes, Agent O2 - my oxygen booster -
Now controls my every minute.
I don’t like him.  But I give thanks for life
And without him, I wouldn’t be in it!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Conversation Stoppers

My father-in-law never met a stranger.  He could turn to an unknown person standing behind him in line and start up a conversation.  He could turn to a person he had never met seated beside him in the theater or concert hall and begin visiting like a long-lost friend.

He had an enormous supply of “conversation starters.”  He might ask, “Have you lived in this area long?” or observe “Your hands look like they’ve seen some hard work over the years” or “Your accent reminds me of New York. Have you ever lived there?”  His “conversation starters” always conveyed his personal interest and curiosity about the unknown person.  Such an approach never failed to get the stranger talking about himself or herself like a new friend.

I admired my father-in-law’s ability to quickly and gently break through social barriers with his “conversation starters.”  But I wish I could consult with him about some problems I am currently having with “conversation stoppers”.

In my present state of declining health, I am discovering that common phrases I used to take for granted are becoming “conversation stoppers.”  That is, phrases such as “How are you?” temporarily stops conversation as I consider whether I should answer truthfully or kindly.  Does my friend really care enough to listen for 20 minutes to my description of my most recent breathing challenges and weakness?  Or should I be kinder to their limits of concern and time schedule and just answer “I’m OK.”

“Surely you’ll get better soon,” is another of those “conversation stopper” phrases.  How should I respond?  Should I answer honestly?  “Excuse me.  You don’t seem to understand my situation.  I’m not going to get better.  I am going to slowly and steadily get worse until I die!”  It is far kinder to say, “Thank you.  I hope so, too!”  Since I don’t like to upset friends or other people, that is my usual comeback.

Another “conversation stopper” I’ve had to deal with several times is the stranger who approaches me in a public place and asks,”May I pray for you?”  I am not used to being prayed for in public. On the other hand, I am deeply grateful for prayer support from my many friends, so innocently I’ve said “Yes.”  What has followed several times is a lengthy prayer spoken aloud in a commanding voice instructing God exactly what God is to do for me!

Now don’t misunderstand me, friends.  I believe in God and I believe in the power of prayer.  I even believe in God’s healing power, but I also believe that acceptance of God’s love - even in an unwanted form - is more important than demanding God to perform a miracle!  I must confess that these events embarrassed me.  After a quick and quiet “Thank you” I went looking for some private place where I could offer my apologies to God!

“Conversation stoppers” continue to pop up from time to time.  I have not yet figured out what to do with them.  Do you have any suggestions?

Thursday, June 6, 2019

I Know You!

On May 14, 2019 I was an outpatient at Mount Carmel St Ann’s Hospital in Westerville, Ohio for the surgical placement of a pacemaker. A friend had taken me to the hospital with a 7:30 am arrival for a 9:30 am procedure. After I was prepared for the procedure staff called my friend to sit with me until I would be taken for the surgery.

Following the placement of the pacemaker I returned to the same room as before for a time of recovery and observation. The nursing staff allowed my friend to spend some additional time with me before he needed to leave for an appointment. But they told him that I would be ready to meet him if he would be at the main entrance of the hospital at 3:30 pm.

I rested comfortably for those several hours and even enjoyed some tasty food and at least one nap. I remember looking at the clock at 3:00 pm and thinking that I was still in a hospital gown and had an IV in my arm. I began to wonder whether it would be possible to get dressed, go through all the discharge routines and still be at the main entrance by 3:30 pm. So I pressed the nurse call button. 

The call was answered by somebody whom I had not seen previously that day, but she explained that my nurse was helping somebody else. Was there anything she could do for me. I explained about the 3:30 promise and asked about getting dressed and the discharge, but she said wait another ten minutes.

Then, she looked closely at me and said, “I know you!” Quite honestly, I did not recognize her, but I told her all the units of the hospital where I had been in the last month related to my diagnosis and heart valve surgery and recovery.

No, she said, she had not been working any of those areas.

Well, I said, I had an aortic valve replaced in 2015.

“Yes,” she said, “I was working on One East at that time. I was on night shift the first night you were in the step-down unit and I was watching the monitors in the nurses station when you flat-lined.

I went running to your room and by the time I had gotten there you had come around all by yourself. Normally we need to do chest massage, but you revived all by yourself.”

She went on to tell how she called my wife with the update and how they transferred me back to the ICU for additional observation.

I had to acknowledge to myself that even though she recognized me after three and a half years, I did not recognize her. I thanked her profusely for recognizing me and for retelling that story.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Poverty Puzzle

My declining health has put us in a new and unfamiliar situation.  For the first time in our lives we are having to hire household help.  Our employed caregivers are only in our home for five hours each day because most of the time we can manage on our own,  But it’s been a learning experience for us in many ways.

Our caregivers are women, in their early 20’s or middle aged, and almost all of them are west African immigrants.  Some came to the States as children and others are more recent arrivals.  Quite a few are preparing for, or currently enrolled in, higher education, especially in nursing or social work.

They’ve given us a different outlook on the problems of poverty.  Listening to their stories, we learn how difficult it is for a single mother to raise four children by herself on minimum wage; the life-long effects of a chaotic childhood; the dire results of  disasterous marriages and unexpected pregnancies; the stresses of being profiled by police; the struggle to find the money to pay off a traffic ticket or to save for college; the trick to saving your job when your car has been totaled!  It’s the “personal and underside” of poverty that we are not used to seeing or hearing about.

It reminds me of a jigsaw puzzle my sister once had.  It was circle-shaped and on the top side showed a lovely nature picture of flowers and trees.  That same picture appeared on the back side of the puzzle, too, but at a 90 degree angle from the front!  So maintaining the proper perspective was essential to working out the puzzle.

Most of us who are fairly comfortable financially spend our time looking at the top of the poverty puzzle.  We probably agree with my nephew’s analysis when he was working with a home repair ministry in a poor section of a big city.  “The problem with poor people,” he would say,”is that they have no money!”  So, staring at the top side of the poverty puzzle, we decide the solution is that the poor should “get a job”, “stop buying alcohol and junk food”, “go to college and get a better education”, “stop having so many children”, and on and on with shallow advice.

However, there is another side to the problem of poverty: the underside of the puzzle where the angles of reality’s picture run differently than on the top side.  The poor are more familiar with this view where a dark skin is the same as a black mark; where prejudices and unwritten rules limit all available opportunities; where, despite many laws, housing, education, health care, and voting rights are limited.  The picture is not as pretty on the underside because it is in black and white.  White is considered normal and black is out of place.

One of the major differences between these two worlds is in what each values.  The economy of the wealthy on the top side of the puzzle counts value only in dollars and cents,  Anything that cannot be measured in dollar signs is not considered valuable.  Only money counts.

But the underside of the puzzle, the world of the poor, considers value in a different way.  There, compassion, community, and cooperation are as important as dollars and cents. Caring for one another, working together, and forming supportive networks is a kind of wealth they understand.  This is the currency that has enabled the poor to survive when money is scarce or absent.

I asked one of our hired helpers why so many of them from west Africa were attracted to such caregiving work.  She replied,” That’s what we do in our home country. We take care of our sick or aged family members in our homes.”  Community, compassion, and cooperation at work.

Sometimes this type of currency is forged into crime, violence or intoxicants because it, too, can be contaminated with the worship of money.  This economy of three Cs is mostly ignored by those caught up in the dollars and cents value system.

However, community, compassion and cooperation is a currency practiced worldwide wherever money is scarce.  People learn to care for others, especially family and neighbors.  They work together to solve problems and form communities from which any can draw help when needed.  Could it solve the poverty puzzle if we all could learn to value both systems?

Monday, May 27, 2019

Playing the Numbers

One of the social sins that can impoverish us ethically and financially is gambling.  “Playing the numbers” is something that I have never wanted to try,  By nature I am a “penny pincher” so I cannot even imagine taking chances with money.  I agree with a friend who used to say, “I’ve been blessed financially.  I’ve had enough money to buy everything I needed and some of the things I’ve wanted.  But I’ve never had enough money to risk throwing it away!”

But I am discovering that there are non-monetary ways of “playing the numbers” and I have little choice but to play.  My aging and scarred lungs cannot take in as much oxygen as my body requires.  So I have to give them supplemental oxygen constantly in order for my body to function. 

I wear a little`device around my neck - an oximeter - that tells me numerically whether my body is getting enough oxygen.  At 90% or more, I’m at a functional level.  If the reading is in the 80s or 70s, my body is getting “oxygen hungry” and needs a boost.  I can usually tell  by the way my body feels but sometimes a spell of “oxygen starvation” can come on quickly.  Then I have to check the oximeter reading to make sure what is going on!  So even though I’ve never wanted to gamble, life and declining health are forcing me to “play the numbers” frequently!

Several weeks ago a friend and a hired helper took me to an appointment at my lung doctor’s office while Bruce was recuperating from his heart surgery in the hospital.  The doctor’s staff always invites me to use their oxygen tank to save use on my own tank.  We were talking together paying no attention to the oxygen tank when suddenly I began to rapidly get very short of breath.  My oximeter reported low 70s.  I was in trouble!

I glanced at the oxygen tank I was connected to -- and it was empty!  The staff quickly got me connected back to my own tank and I could breathe again.  What a relief!

We headed home from the doctor’s office and I got out of the car to walk into the house -  but could not even stand up.  My own tank of oxygen had run empty and my number was at 55%!  I was in big trouble!  I was losing consciousness as they quickly got me into the wheelchair we were wise enough to take along.  I don’t know how they got me into the house and re-connected to my oxygen concentrator, but they did it somehow!  (The concentrator is a machine that converts room air into oxygen and so provides a constant supply.)

It took several hours to recover from that event but it did teach me to check more often to see how much oxygen there is left in a tank!

We’ve learned a lot in the past 18 months about the use and care of a supplemental oxygen system.  But, even so, it still often feels like a gamble, a game of chance.  I’m  “playing the numbers” to survive.  But perhaps that is the penance I must do for passing judgment on other people’s sins!

MarySue Helstern Rosenberger
27 May 2019

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Dem Bones

Do you remember the Negro spiritual about “Dem Bones”?  It’s a musical description of part of a vision the Lord gave to the prophet Ezekiel. That revelation is recorded in chapter 37 of the Old Testament book that bears the prophet’s name.

The Lord takes Ezekiel into a valley full of dry bones and asks him, “Can these bones live?”  The prophet does not know the answer to that question, but when he speaks the words given to him by the Lord, “suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone…” (vs.7).

The song “Dem Bones” picks up on the image of the bones reconnecting and declares in the chorus “Dem bones, dem bones gonna’ live again. Oh hear the word of the Lord.”   The verses then picture exactly how those bones were put back together again: “The toe bone connected to the foot bone,
            the foot bone connected to the ankle bone,
            the ankle bone connected to the leg bone,
            the leg bone connected to the hip bone,
            the hip bone connected to the back bone,
            the back bone connected to the neck bone,   
            the neck bone connected to the head bone.
           Oh, hear the word of the Lord.”

I was reflecting on this image of re-connecting dry bones when a question popped into my mind: I wonder what the “lung bone” is connected to?  (Now friends, I successfully completed two courses in anatomy - one in college and one in nursing school - so I know there are no bones inside the lungs!  But that is the question that came to me!)

What IS the “lung bone” connected to?  I confess I think about my lungs quite often these days as they struggle to perform their respiratory responsibilities.  I’d be delighted to hear the word of the Lord about what lies ahead but I had not thought about connectedness.  Does my “lung bone” feel disconnected and alone like I sometimes do?

Of course not!  My “lung bone” is connected to my “heart bone,” the center of human life and vitality.  They work together, strengthening each other and me.  And my “heart bone” is connected to the “heart bones” of other people!  Every kind thought, warm greeting, or supportive prayer your “heart bone” sends my way strengthens my “heart bone” and empowers my “lung bone” to keep on keeping on! Thank you, thank you!  Perhaps that is as much of the word of the Lord as I can understand at this point in my life!

30 April 2019 - mshr

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Fine Art of Napping

  The Fine Art of Napping

No, I’m not talking about kid-napping or dog-napping, or theft of anything tangible. I’m referring to those blissful moments when I can close my eyes, lean my head back, relax all my muscles, and perhaps sleep!

This kind of napping is the most frequent item on my daily schedule these days. There’s a little variety with occasional doctor’s appointments but the rest of my time seems to be filled with naps. Since I am napping so often, I decided to do a bit of personal research on that phenomenon. The findings are still tentative because I have slept through most of them!

Why nap?  Because babies and cats should not be the only ones able to enjoy this pleasure.  All of us deserve times to close our eyes, turn down our ears, and drop out of our chaotic life and confusing world for few minutes.  Personally, I nap because I don’t have the energy to do anything else!

Where to nap?  Nearly anywhere, with some important exceptions.  Never nap in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that is moving, whether it is an airplane, a car, a riding lawn mower or a bicycle. Also, avoid napping while you are swimming or scuba diving. Unfortunate consequences could result if you ignore these warnings.

It’s usually best to nap on your own property.  However, allowances are often made for quiet naps in the theater during a boring play or concert or in church if the pastor gets too long-winded in the sermon.  If you nap in a public place, it’s fun to choose a visibly unstable position and then watch the expressions on the faces of those who pass by as you drift off to La La Land.

When to nap?  Anytime is great, whether you are tired, bored, or want to escape an unpleasant task awaiting you.  It’s usually advisable to allow time between snoozes for a meal or two, and maybe a bathroom break.

We usually consider naps to be daytime diversions.  However, if you are unlucky enough to have to work the “graveyard shift” during the night hours, naps are even more refreshing than in the daytime.  I detested the 11 to 7 shift but, of course, in health care had to work my share of those night hours.  I can’t count how many times I would wake up with my head resting on a stack of patient charts not yet signed off!

How to nap?  Everybody knows how to nap.  We were born doing it but growing up has taught us some bad habits such as taking on responsibilities and then worrying about how we will carry them out.  But if you can repent of adulthood for a few minutes, lie or sit down in a comfortable position, close your eyes, then imagine some beautiful places where you have been.  Before you know it, you will have traveled through Drowsytown and arrived in Slumberville.  That was easy, wasn’t it?  (The hard part is getting awake again!)

But naps do not necessarily involve sleep. A relax-a-nap is also quite restful.  That is when you stretch out, close your eyes, carefully rest all your muscles, but DO NOT fall asleep.  It may take some practice but you can get to the point when your friends and associates can’t tell whether you are napping or relax-a-napping, especially if your face is hidden behind a large and boring book! When you get that good at relax-a-napping, listen carefully! You may hear some very interesting comments made around you -- and maybe even some comments about you!

Well, dear readers, I must go now.  You see, it’s time for my nap!

MarySue Helstern Rosenberger
16 April 2019

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Saying Goodbye

 Goodbye, Adios, Auf Wiedersehn, Au Revoir, Chao ong ba, So long, 

On this journey toward the river between this life and the next, 

I must say “goodbye” too often.  

Sometimes out loud; sometimes silently; 

sometimes bitterly, never joyfully.  

Sometimes there are tears; sometimes happy memories, 

but never eagerness.

Such a harsh word! 

Now I understand a resident who refused to use it.  

As a gentler alternative, 

she chose the Spanish phrase “Vaya con Dios” (Go with God).  

I like that.  

It’s more like opening a window than closing a door!

 Family and friends will understand,

  But what about non-human things I must part with? 

- dreams and goals that will never be realized

- the things I enjoyed doing

- my independence and self-sufficiency

- setting my own schedule and use of time

- the stuff I treasured  

- the broader world beyond the walls of my home

 I miss them all. 

How can I properly take leave

of those important - but intangible - realities?

But I do not travel alone.

  Memories linger 

and love never leaves me. 

Emmanuel is my Companion and Guide, 

and when I reach that river, 

“God with us” will be my Bridge into eternity.  

Go with God, indeed!

9 April 2019 mshr

Saturday, March 30, 2019


My father had more illnesses and hospitalizations during his lifetime than I can count.  But he had a favorite saying about them.  “A sense of humor,” he would remind his family, “is the shock absorber over the potholes in the road of life!”  We are digging up our senses of humor and traveling slowly back to normal after the recent cluster of potholes in our life’s journey.  

Pothole #1: I reacted badly to an immunotherapy drug I received in February.  I  seemed to be improving a little when Bruce began finding some curious blind curves in his pathway.  

Pothole #2:  He noticed a few muscle aches here and there and discovered in the evening that his body temperature was 101.  Sometimes he would have a spell of shaking  chills when the temp went up but no other symptoms.  This went on every evening for a week, two weeks, three weeks when he decided to go to the doctor for the second time.

Pothole #3: This time he was sent to the local Emergency Department for some tests, and they kept him.  The hospital was so full of flu cases that there were no empty beds so he stayed in the ER for two days!  He was examined, poked, prodded, X-rayed, scanned, EKGed, echocardiogram-ed, blood cultured, and his every body part was tested, including his patience!  None of these diagnostic tools showed any cause for the infection that was raising his temperature.

Porhole #4:  Finally the Infectious Disease doctor decided to do a TEE, that’s a transesophageal echocardiogram (sounds impressive, doesn’t it?  It’s also a bit invasive!)  Through a tube passed down his esophagus, a camera did an echocardiogram.  It’s like the one that was done earlier but it gives the doctor a closer and more detailed view of the heart.  And there it was: infectious growth on the aortic valve that was replaced in 2015!  A cardiac cath was done the next day and showed that his heart was strong and healthy except for that patch of infection.  

Porhole #5:  So on Friday, March 22, he had open heart surgery to remove the infected valve and replace it with a new and healthy one.  His recuperation at the hospital went very well and he came home March 27.  He is on IV antibiotics twice a day and will be for 6 more weeks, but he is feeling well.

Pothole #6: Meanwhile, on the home front, MarySue needed help.  Her doctors advised her not to go to the hospital to visit Bruce because of infections she might be exposed to.  She was a little stronger than she was in February but still needed help managing her oxygen, fixing meals, doing laundry and other household tasks.  A near-by home care agency came to her rescue, providing help and companionship 24/7 while Bruce was in the hospital.  Except for the night time hours, we have continued their services since Bruce came home because MarySue is needing more help.

So the potholes in our pathway of life are flattening out somewhat but my sense of humor has not completely returned yet.  I hope it’s not lost out there in outer space where my lost energy is hiding!

MarySue Helstern Rosenberger

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Gift of Grace

You “churchy types” have no doubt heard the common religious definition of GRACE.  It is said to be “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense,” that is, undeserved divine forgiveness because of Jesus’ suffering for us. That’s a good definition for our spiritual well-being but this past month I’ve learned that grace can extend beyond the realm of the spirit.

I’ve discovered a new definition for that commonly used word.  GRACE has expanded to also mean unexpectedly “Getting Relief After Confusing Events.”  Let me explain.

It was about a month ago - early February - that I last saw the lung doctor.  I knew I was in bad shape and he confirmed that.  Breathing was difficult leaving me with no energy.  I had become a permanent occupant of wheelchair, recliner or bed, unable to walk even short distances around our house.  I was coughing a lot but with no signs of any infection.  He ordered a course of steroids and antibiotics and again reminded me that pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive and terminal disease.  His nurse practitioner had already discussed palliative and hospice care with me.  So I went home in bad shape emotionally as well as physically!

Then Bruce and I remembered something important.  One week before this sudden increase of symptoms I had been well enough to receive my second immunotherapy infusion.  I had developed similar - but milder -  symptoms  after my first infusion in December!  We wondered if there was a connection.

That’s when the gift of Grace kicked in physically.  Surprisingly, the more time that passed after that second immunotherapy infusion, the better I felt!  I was “Getting Relief After Confusing Events.”  Little by little I got more strength, my oxygen needs decreased slowly, and the coughing became less frequent.  Within ten days I was strong enough to walk from the living room to the bedroom, and the wheelchair was again retired to the garage!

Grace is, indeed, one of God’s most precious spiritual gifts, freeing us from burdens of sin and the guilt we so often heap upon ourselves.  I am now rejoicing in the recent revelation to me that the gift of grace can also free body and mind from burdens of illness!

MarySue Helstern Rosenberger

Monday, February 18, 2019

Chasing the Wind

How much of my life I have spent chasing the wind,
and I haven’t caught it yet!
As a little girl, I loved feeling its gusts
rumple through my tidy pigtails.
 A teen on a bike, I delighted when its hidden strength 
pushed me down the road.
In adult years, I sometimes chased the wind
down paths designed for others,
Or let it pull me toward goals 
too high for me to reach.
I also pursued that breeze toward unknown adventures
down roads that others avoided,
So they missed the precious and profound experiences
those pathways held.

In recent years, I still chase the wind,  
but slower and in a different way.
I now chase the wind that comes from
oxygen tanks, a concentrator, and a nasal cannula.
I must constantly monitor myself
to make sure I have enough wind to keep going.

But I also chase a different wind:
A Holy Wind, a strong, divine Wind
Ru’ah, Pneuma,
The Holy Spirit.
This time I know I will catch the wind
because that loving Wind
Is also chasing me!

18Feb 2019 - mshr

Saturday, February 16, 2019

It’s Unanimous

Unlike current politicians, my health caregivers all agree.  My lung doctor, his nurse practitioner, my primary care physician, and our patient care advocate all say that I have lost the precious gift of longevity. None of them think I will make it to 100 years of age!

My scarring lungs have jumped to the next higher level of limitations and my health care professionals have all helped me get the additional equipment I am needing.  They have strongly suggested I enroll in palliative care at the local hospital home health.  This gives Bruce resources and a support system to call upon when needed.

You see, within the past couple of weeks after that thief broke into my body and stole most of my energy, both Bruce and I have had to make some major changes in our daily routines.  I now require twice as much oxygen 24/7 as I did before.  After two weeks of having to depend upon Bruce and a wheelchair, I am just now beginning to be able to walk around the house a little. I sleep ten to twelve hours per day and spend the rest of the time sitting quietly reading, doing handwork, or praying.

Our only social engagements these days are doctors’ appointments and Bruce spends much of his time monitoring my oxygen supply, picking up my prescriptions and running errands.  And oh what a God-send he is!  He is not only my “go fer...” but also my cook, bottlewasher, housekeeper, oxygen expert, personal care assistant, my emotional rock of stability, my companion, and through it all, my best friend.

It’s an enormous adjustment to make.  I often feel like the ball in a fast-paced ping-pong game: a fragile little object batted first one way toward sadness and loss, and then the other way, back toward gratitude and thanksgiving.  I have no idea how long the game will last - that part of the game God keeps secret! - or whether there will someday be one hefty smash that will shatter my little self!

That game, however, has no losers.  When my “ping-pong ball” life finally runs out of energy and breath, I will then be freed of all oxygen tubes and tanks, wheelchair and assistive devices, and limitations!  “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, free at last.”  And that’s unanimous, too!

16 February 2019 - mshr

Thursday, February 7, 2019

I've Been Robbed!

Yes, that’s right. I’ve been robbed! A thief broke in a stole some very valuable things from me. Nothing of monetary value, but lots of things more precious to me than expensive possessions.

You see, last Thursday I woke up to find my energy gone and my stamina. Much of my breath had been taken and I had barely enough to talk in short sentences. Unfortunately, my cough had not been taken. My peaceful mood had taken a hit and I thought my sense of humor was gone. Thank goodness I found it later buried under layers of other emotions.

But my independence has disappeared and my connections to the outside world. My plans for the future are gone.

The good news is that the thief has been caught and locked up. The bad news is that his name is Pulmon Ary Fibrosis.  He is part of the large Fibrosis family involved in many types of disorganized crime.  He is confined in my lungs.

There is hope for relief however.  I don’t expect to get back what has been taken from me. But if I turn up my piped-in oxygen and sit still doing nothing, my breathing is eased and the whole world looks brighter.  So apparently I’ve moved into a new relationship with my indwelling thief. I wonder what he will steal from me next.

6 February 2019  MarySue H. Rosenberger