Monday, July 27, 2009

Happy Birthday

Hello Fellow Campers,

The sunburn is fading; the muscles ache a bit less this morning, we have nothing but praise for God’s blessing of good weather all weekend. It was a very good party.

Deb was 50 on June 15th, but we waited to celebrate until Father’s Day and all the graduation parties finished.

I had never considered making it a surprise party, as I knew I’d need help with the guest list and the arrangements, and I would be challenged to approach the competence Deb exhibited in 1995 when she threw my surprise 50th birthday party.

So we planned a pig roast with all the trimmings. We used Billy’s restaurant in Spring Grove for the catering and ABC rental in Round Lake for the tent, tables and chairs and some emergency help Friday night.

We invited family, friends and Deb’s co workers, and a few neighbors. I knew it would be a terrific turn out, and it was. It was wonderful to see so many good people having a happy time.
People brought appetizers, side dishes and desserts, and lots of hugs for Deb and me. We saw friends on Saturday that came a good distance to be with us, and people that we have neglected over time, as our path and theirs crossed less frequently. Uncle Johnny was there at 84, the senior statesman to attend. There were kids and Strider the Wonder Dog too. We also had a surprise visit by Little Miss Peanut, Hailey Fish, daughter of Perry and Julie Fish.

Our good friend John Puleo came over Friday and helped set up the tent, a 20 foot by 30 foot beauty from ABC Rental. Our friends and next door neighbor, Paul and Karen Sorenson own ABC, so we have always used them for tents and just about anything else you could want to rent. John and I were a little confused about the center poles in the tent, so Paul and his grandson Zak came over and helped tune up the installation to withstand the high wind Friday night.

Saturday morning Deb was a whirling dervish, making beds, picking up, putting the ubiquitous pillows shams on and doing last minute weeding. The weather was post card perfect and Billy’s arrived about 2:30 in the afternoon and proceeded to exceed my expectations completely.

They carved and served the pork, some with BBQ sauce and some plain. The pork was the best I’ve had, period. Their baked beans reminded me of my mom’s beans, and the potato salad and slaw was delicious.

Prior to that, there were plenty of things to snack on and after dinner there was cake and ice cream and singing. Plenty of other desserts were there too, including brownies, cookies and pound cake.

The party continued until about 9 PM when the mosquitoes became overwhelming.

During all of this Strider, our cocker spaniel was a real lady, trotting around with the kids and looking for hand outs. A week ago she developed a pain syndrome, perhaps caused by some nerve or orthopedic problem. It scared us a lot. We were supposed to keep her quiet until she healed, but on Saturday it was an impossible task. Sunday Strider paid the price. We had to carry her down stairs to go out, and she laid in the yard most of the day looking sad. Her eyes seemed to ask the question, why? We’ll be getting x rays and hopefully she will return to 100 percent soon. She will be seven years old in September.

Deb and I cleaned up Sunday, stacking the chairs and tables and taking down the tent. We took our time and started the day (at 8 am) with a cold beer and birthday cake. Who says the Harrell’s don’t know how to party.

We probably had seventy five adults and twenty kids at the peak. Music was provided by John Puleo’s speaker system and my Ipod.

Too many times the only way to get this kind of turn out is at a funeral or wedding. We forget how many wonderful people we know and sadly lose track of in the rush of everyday life. It is too easy to get wrapped up in our own problems and activities until something happens to bring us together.

We thank everyone for the gift of their presence, sharing their favorite dishes in the feast, and the many hugs and smiles that still light our way.

I thank God for the gift of Deb all these years, as she is the leavening in my life, the ying to my yang and my wonderful partner.

God Bless.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Health Care-Everyone Has Thoughts


You either have to be living under a rock, or senile, not to follow the intense debate on health care. One of many initiatives before the country now.

In a perfect system, the patients rights and concerns would be paramount, but always with a nod to sensible economics and end of life issues.

President Obama tonight tried to address the misinformation about his health care proposals. He tried to check the hysteria being fed by those who would profit by the status quo. His plan will not raise the deficit nor will it mean less care or will it mandate government provided care as the only available option, he says, and I have no reason to believe he isn't less than sincere in what he says.

Make no mistake, when someone tells you they have only your concerns before them, count your fingers and change when you are finished, because if there is money involved, you can bet that the primary purpose of the transaction for them is making a buck.

Only insurmountable public pressure or legislation can regulate health care and reduce the enormous cost we pay for it by changing the way health care is delivered. Sadly, even the best intentions are doomed to fail if we can't get the politics out of the debate.

No one, republican or democrat, disagrees that health care has become too expensive for many people, and and unavailable at any cost to many more.

Deb is fifty, I'm sixty four. It stands to reason that with her exposure to cancer she will have trouble getting good health insurance on her own. Which means we either get a high deductible policy, she finds a job that provides health care, or I work another 15 years.

The thought of working until I'm 79 seems a bit unrealistic to me. Think of how my boss would feel about having me another 15 years. Reporting to work with my walker and in my depends.

Back to the theme though. We have to make hard choices and understand that we can't have unlimited options for health care without paying for it with higher premiums. Employers pass along benefit costs dollar for dollar to employees by limiting our paycheck compensation. And it is a tragedy in a country such as ours that so many people, including little children, go without not only basic care, but do without health education and nutritious food.

Some things should exist without debate.

Every person in this country, and I mean every person, should have access to affordable, competent health care. Secondly, every person should have access to mental health care and counseling. All Children should have three good meals each day, however they are furnished. Every student should have a safe school and good teachers. Children should be clothed for the season and we should have enough DCFS employees to make sure children are truly safe.

And while were talking here, or I guess I'm talking, lets get rid of property tax as a barbaric means of funding schools.

How do we pay for this? Take the cost for the basics and develop a graduated tax without any loop holes and let all income be subject to it. Then trot out these other optional programs, that really are ear marks and pork, and let the people understand their true cost and have a say in what gets funded.

We live in a land of plenty, yet we have become self absorbed and selfish. That is, you all have, because all of you know, I'm a truly wonderful altruistic person.

We do very well, with our charity, even in times of hardship. And there are government programs that reach out to the poor and the sick. But we could do so much better. Private programs only go so far. We need the boost only our government can provide, when it not hogtied by bureaucracy and red tape.

There are a lot of people in need out there. Most of the time they don't have a face we can see, and that makes it difficult to respond to the need.

Many children lack food, clothing and with a new school season around the corner, we're reminded that many do not have the school supplies they need to start a new year. There are a lot of good programs out there that will furnish those supplies to needy kids.

I think Deb is doing very well. We have been working on the yard it seems, every free minute and there is still more to do, but it is taking shape just in time for her birthday celebration this Saturday. She loves working in the yard. Our new kitchen counters and sink look. We go on vacation in August, so we are anxious to have the free time.

Today, hug a friend, call someone you miss, write a thank you note and make sure that you tell everyone how much they mean to you and that you love them. What if tomorrow never comes?

There is no one that can't use a smile and a cheerful word. Someone's day may completely change for the better with your small kindness.

I tell Deb each morning as I leave that I love her. Then (and this is sad) I go around the bed to where Strider (the wonder dog) is now laying on my pillow, and pat her and say goodbye.

Finally, I ask you, where is the sin in sincere, and what is the good in goodbye? (Music Man 1957)

God Bless

Monday, June 22, 2009

Relay for Life 2009

Hi all,

Compared to the weather last year, this was a peach. Except, Deb like to froze overnight. But all in all it was a terrific time for her and she raised about $800 in pledges for the American Cancer Society.

We continue to bump into people with cancer or their care givers. Others deal with the loss of someone to cancer.

There is no feeling like hearing for the first time that someone you love has this dread disease.

Please continue to pray for all those who struggle with cancer.

God Bless,


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Welcome To Spring

Hi Everyone,

I hope this finds you well and happy, as spring is here at last.

Deb continues to do well. Her exams are unremarkable, and her physical strength and spirit seem to gain ground steadily.

Deb is going to take part in the Relay for Life starting on May 30th. Here is what she said in her e mail.

"Hi everybody. I am planning to participate in the GLMV (Green Oaks, Libertyville, Mundelein, Vernon Hills) chapter of the American Cancer Society's Relay for Live this year on May 30th and 31st. I will be a member of the Mundelein Community Women's Club team.

Thanks to all of you who supported me and the cause in last year's Relay. I had never participated before and surprised myself with my emotion that came over me as I joined so many others on the survivor's lap to start the Relay.

During my life, and especially since my breast cancer diagnosis in April of 2007, I have been touched as family, friends and acquaintances have had to personally fight this disease, act as caregivers or mourn the loss of a dear friend or family member. The Relay is a way for me to continue to "fight the fight" against cancer.Following is a link to the Relay for Life website. It provides additional information and provides an opportunity to donate if you wish. I would really appreciate your support.Deb

Deb and I know that there are so many worthy causes out there that compete for our charitable contributions, so please don't fee that you need to contribute anything but your prayers for Deb's continued good health and the success of the Relay for Life gathering.

A new favorite sent to me recently.

"You know, I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people didn't like me anyway."


Anger management. He- "You know when I'm upset, you never seem to get flustered and fight back." She-I work out my anger by cleaning the toilet." He- "How does that help?" She-" I use your toothbrush".

We continue to be amazed by the abundance in our life, all provided by God and by his grace.

On this Memorial Day Weekend, I look back over the years to a time years ago, when as a high school band member in Pontiac Michigan, I was asked to play taps at Perry Mount Park Cemetery at the conclusion of a Memorial Day Service. I was dressed in my band uniform with my trumpet shined for the occasion.

"Thanksgiving is a time when we pause to give thanks for what we have. Memorial day is when we thank the people who fought for the things we have". " Our heros who gave up all of their tomorrows so we could have ours".

There were proud men from World War Two and Korea, many in their dress uniforms, who stood at attention with a crisp salute as the rifles cracked. There were some tears too from family members remembering fathers, brothers and sons who had surrendered their very lives in distant places to keep America free.

Today we can add to the list those that served in the Gulf War, Viet Nam and everyone currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't know how we can ever fully appreciate their profound sacrifice, given for all of us, but this weekend, above all, we need to thank God for these brave men and women, the thin green line between the comforts of home an our enemies.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

There will always be troubles

Good Morning everyone, 

Yes, there will always be troubles for us. It may be cancer or the stock market, or loss of a job, but the only certainty comes from knowing that this life isn't ever going to be close to perfect. 

So it's not about the ability to avoid problems, because we can't,  it's how we face uncertainty and solve the problems that come along in life. We can't even be sure we will recognize the problems on the horizon. We may worry needlessly, or we may never see the silent unseen problem until it's too late. 

So as we move past the two year mark since diagnosis, we are only certain that cancer isn't obvious right now. It may be there, silently doing its worst, or it many never be a part of our life again. We just don't know. 

So we choose to have faith in God's plan for us and give him praise for promising that this life isn't all there is and we look forward to an eternity without sickness or fear. 

Our lives are close to what they were before cancer, with a doctor's visit once in a while and the physical reminders. But we know so many people that are going through what we experienced just a year or so ago. Sara Schuster is a local high school girl with squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx. Lori Niemeyer with breast cancer, just now facing chemo. A friend with leukemia, and more. 

There are those in harms way, or soon to be. Perhaps our nephew Kevin in Afghanistan,  Chad Davis in the Marines, and our son-in-law going to Korea. 

So all we know for sure is we have faith in God. We see him in every flower, all the beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and in the smile of every little girl and boy. We see God touching people to comfort them and heal them. God knows our every hurt and fear. He knows us even better than we know ourselves, and if we have doubts, he understands. 

We believe in love, electricity and the gentle breeze that makes the trees sway. So too, we have faith in the unseen merciful God.

God Bless. 

Friday, January 2, 2009

Almost a Year

Good Morning.

The New Year is here and it was last January that Deb finished her radiation treatments.

The change in her endurance and strength has been noticeable and welcome. As an example, Daughter Kathie, her Husband Jim and their German exchange student Nini were here on Monday and we walked about two miles from the train station to Michigan Avenue and finally to the John Hancock building, with a tour of Macy’s on State Street and other various stores along the way. Deb seemed tired after the long day, but bounced back well the next day.

Deb continues to visit the surgeon and oncologist every quarter, and so far all is well.

Before Deb was diagnosed it seemed that we were only vaguely aware of cancer other than statistics. Even when aware of the presence of cancer in acquaintances or their family, it never seemed to register with us for all the heartache, life changing reality and pain it causes to so many people.

Then, sometimes there is good news. Georghi is cancer free and does not even have to have follow up for a year! She had leukemia. All looked grim for her, but through a miracle cure she is well after bone marrow transplants, transfusions and chemotherapy all were given to her.

Sometimes we have to have faith. Faith is not believing in the impossible, but instead believing in something that offers tangible or circumstantial evidence to support our faith, but leaves room for doubt. Once the outcome is certain, faith is no longer possible or needed.

Deb and I believe in the unseen. We have faith in the goodness of God and his perfect plan. “For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face (with God we shall see clearly). Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known”. Paul was talking about faith in God. Paul never saw God, but had a close encounter. His faith was real.

Someday we will have a perfect understanding of all this and incredible joy in that knowledge.

Until then we will struggle when doubt assumes control, then have times when everything seems to be wonderful and hope and faith abound.