A New Kind of Normal

People often ask “what do you eat‘ since our major treatment for John’s heart disease is our diet.  We’ve researched a lot, talked to specialists in Houston, Cleveland, and Tulsa, and have gradually eased into our new way of eating.  In the year and a half since we began this life style change, John’s health has stabilized and his doctor’s say “keep doing what you are doing.”  John is grade-school skinny but that makes it easier on his heart.

We certainly aren’t experts but from what we have gleamed, it seems there are four major things that play very important roles in our health:

  • Exercise
  • Diet(included in this smoking, drugs, or alcohol)
  • Stress
  • Genes

John’s family has no history of heart disease and he’s never smoked nor drink alcohol. He was, however, exposed to second-hand smoke the first nineteen years of his life because his parents both smoked.  He also worked forty years at a very high stress job (where he was called out also in the middle of the night) and he wasn’t the healthiest of eaters either.  He recalls coming home one night after a long stressful shift.  Tired and hungry, he grabbed the first thing he could find…his dinner was a whole bag of croutons. Sometimes when his days were the busiest, he worked straight through with no stops for meals other than something quickly grabbed from a vending machine….so for him, two of the above four things were out of whack in his life.

For most of us, our world and how we eat has changed drastically over the years. so even when we’re trying to eat correctly, it’s difficult.  When I was a girl, most of our food came from our garden. In the summer it was fresh, in the winter it was from our frozen and canned stash, minus the preservatives of today.  Our meat was from our own grass-fed beef and in the early years our milk and butter were too.  Seldom did we have cheese or any processed foods.  In fact, I guess corn flakes, raisin bran, saltine crackers, peanut butter, white flour, and sugar are all I recall.   We never ate out, or picked up fast food as many in our generation do today.  The stage has gradually been set for more and more disease as our foods have become less and less nutritious.

I don’t propose to have all the answers but what John and I have done has changed our lives for the better.  We don’t do our diet perfectly or as well as some other extremely committed people, but I think we do pretty well.  AND It makes sense that if we are careful what gasoline we put in our cars and are faithful to change the oil every so many miles, shouldn’t we be more diligent about what we put into the bodies God has given us?  If we can’t pronounce the list of ingredients in something, chances are our bodies don’t need it and probably can’t use it effectively either.

That brings me to this, before John’s health crisis, I thought I ate well.  I’ve seen people take a dose of vitamins with a candy bar lunch.  I’d never do that.  I’ve seen people eat a whole bag of cookies or chips or a carton of ice cream at a time, but I’d never do that. I baked with butter and cooked with olive oil because I thought that was healthy.  I never skipped meals. BUT when I had my blood work done and my carotid arteries checked, it showed a forty-five percent blockage in my neck and blood work showed several high risk heart markers along with high cholesterol.  I needed to change some things too.  So with John’s situation only treatable with diet, and mine needing to change directions, we embarked on a plant-based diet….no oil, no dairy, no eggs, no meat. (“The China Study”, “Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease”, ” Forks Over Knives” the documentary(which can be watched online),  “Eat to Live,” “What the Health”(documentary),etc give info on why we choose plant-based eating)

So what does a Southern girl who has twenty plus well-worn cook books and forty-five years of learned recipes, filled with all the before-vegan-ingredients, re-learn how to cook and eat?  VERY SLOWLY!

For those who keep asking how we do it, this is for you.  We can have almost any veggie, fruit, or bean…as much as we’d like, though we have to major on the veggies, not the fruit. (Note: John isn’t supposed to have avocado or nuts because the ‘no oil’ is what is helping to reverse his heart disease.)

What do we eat?  I pick up the two ingredients pictured below at Sam’s and keep them on hand. I do this when we travel also. I buy fresh veggies and fruit a few times a week and try to always have a couple fresh bunches of Kale on hand.  I steam the kale and we eat it with our meals. or snack on it through out the day.  It is filled with vitamins, often called a super food. With the two tubs of ingredients below, I can always make a wonderful salad quickly.  I vary what I put in them but typically I’ll throw in a handful of shredded carrots, sliced mango (when it’s in season), chopped sweet peppers, cucumbers, shredded zucchini, segments of cuties, craisins, pumpkin seeds, edamami (thawed), black beans, or garbonzo’s etc. The more multi-colored stuff I can throw in, the more vitamins I feel we’re getting. Sometimes I’ll use shredded broccoli, some times I’ll chop an apple and toss it in along with a little lime juice.  I love adding fresh blue berries or sliced strawberries.  I’ll use a little of the dressing from the “Sweet Kale package” for myself sometimes but I’m learning to toss it and make my own oil free.  I make John’s dressing or use a vinaigrette (he eats no oil at all). With all the ingredients in the salad, you really don’t need much dressing and there are lots of great no oil dressing recipes out there.   I also have a recipe for just a straight kale salad(it’s at the end of this blog)that we fix and enjoy.  Different programs say eat at least 2 lbs of veggies a day….this puts us in the ball park of eating that much.

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I use a lot of the Muir Glen products.  I buy their big cans of crushed tomatoes and use it in soups and sauces. One of our favorites soups (particularly in the winter)is tortilla soup with taco seasoning, canned corn, a big can of crushed tomatoes, one can rotel tomatoes, black beans, kidney beans, pintos, and one small can chopped olives.  It’s great. Some days we’ll have it as soup, some times over rice, and sometimes over a baked potato.  We’ll throw steamed kale in our bowl–chopped fine, and John will top it with a variety of hot sauces. This is a great recipe to toss the ingredients in the crockpot before church on Sunday morning.


I make brown rice often in the Instant Pot, baked potatoes, both white and sweet potatoes.  I make hummus often from garbanzo beans and keep plenty of fresh veggies to dip in it.  I use canned, no fat refried beans to make a variety of mexican dishes.  That takes care of our craving for Mexican foods. : ) I also cook a variety of dried beans from scratch but I also keep cans of black beans, garbanzo beans, pintos, and kidney beans. They can be washed with water and drained and thrown on the salads for protein or used in numerous plant-based recipes.  Seasonings are key in cooking with no oil. I’ve broadened the seasonings I use a lot.  I make curried rice (recipe from the Forks Over Knives Reversing Heart Disease book) and a variety of casseroles, lasagna’s,etc.  John cooks a killer stir fry and we’re still learning new recipes.  Here are pics of a couple of our meals.  We love mango with our curried rice as you can see below.

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We steam lots of veggies.  We’ve learned to love corn on the cob with nothing on it.  AND we love fresh green beans with veggie broth, onion powder, garlic powder, and pepper. Below, you can see the kale salad with the grapes, pasta, and shredded carrots.  YUM!

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We’re also asked often “what do you eat for breakfast.?”   Our answer, “OATMEAL!”   IMG_1472

Gone are the days of donuts or McDonald’s sausage biscuits…two of my favorites!  It’s replaced with raw oatmeal (the regular, not minute)  We have a big container filled with oatmeal with a scoop in it.  We place a couple scoops of the dry oatmeal in a bowl, add a TB of chia seed, one TB of pumpkin seeds(Pepita’s raw), and lots of fruit.  John uses mostly berries, frozen or fresh.  I cut up half a banana and throw on a few almonds. Then we pour unsweetened almond milk over that.  It’s’s great, and sticks with you.  You can have cooked oatmeal too…this is just what we eat.  There are tons of recipes for a variety of healthy breakfasts available but we’ve gotten accustomed to this and it is what we typically have.  We travel with our container of oatmeal too.  : )

Below is a picture of a bowl of steamed kale.  I pull the leaf off the stem and discard the stem, chop the kale, and then steam it for about 6 of 7 minutes.  We’ve tried a variety of seasonings but have found we like it best plain.  We’ll walk by and eat a handful (by itself) or serve it on our plate along side what we are already eating.  When we first tried to eat kale, we didn’t like the bitter flavor, but once we chose to eat it for its health benefits…we developed a taste for it and now enjoy it.  Interesting, isn’t it? The picture next to the kale is of one of our salads.


So for those who wanted to know how we eat, hopefully you have a better idea.  When we travel or don’t have a salad bar near, Subway is one of our go-to places…veggie subs are really good(on whole wheat bread of course). (And by the way, I’m sure subway’s bread has oil and isn’t 100% legal but this is how we live)  We have practically all their veggies (asking they go heavy on the spinach), and double the cucumbers and tomatoes. I top mine off with a tiny bit of sweet onion dressing.  It does have sweetener so I go very light on it. John skips dressing or better still just gets a salad instead of the sandwich.  (If we’re traveling, I taken my own hummus with me and used it as my condiment on the bread.)  Also when traveling, we are excited when we find a Chipotle Grill.  It works well. Some Chinese Mongolian grills work for us too.  Some do use oil on their grill so you have to be careful.  We also love to fix a salad at Whole Foods (if we are near one when we are on the road) and traveling by car.  If in the RV, we bring our own veggies. : )  I also use the App “Happy Cow” to look for vegan places if we are on the road.

I do hope this sheds some light on our way of eating.  It takes some learning and trial and error but the benefits are well worth the efforts. If you’re interested, “Forks Over Knives” and Engine 2’s web sites have a wealth of info. So does Dr. McDougal’s web site.  I love the FatFreeVegan’s blog a lot too.  She has a wealth of delicious recipes and quite a few that I use regularly.  Also I have found several recipes here….Oh She Glows   and here BRAND NEW VEGAN. I’ll also share a few of my favorite recipes Mexican Lasagna, Favorite Lasagna, Pasta Fagioli, and Sweet Potato Lasagna.  I also love to make a burrito type casserole with refried beans, black beans, and seasoning of red bell pepper and plus garlic, cumin, and chili powder.

Below is our favorite salad recipe, its keep very well in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.  It took a lot of trial and error to come up with these recipes and links to blogs, but they’re all good.  Hope it helps you on your journey too.  It was very overwhelming at first for me so don’t get discouraged.  Find what works for you. After all, I was a mayonaise, butter, and bacon loving gal.

Quinoa Kale Salad  

-kale, snipped or torn into small pieces –

cooked and cooled quinoa(I’ve used the quinoa pasta)

-lemon zest and fresh lemon juice

-shredded carrot (optional) -craisins – raw sunflower seeds -red grapes, each grape cut in half -(optional) small amount brown sugar in a little bit of warm/hot water If you use it for the dressing, dissolve some sugar in the hot water and whisk thoroughly to dissolve. Set aside to cool a little.

Place kale in large bowl. Combine freshly squeezed juice with sugar mixture if you use it. Pour juice only or juice/sugar mixture over washed and chopped kale- massage it in until it coats the kale thoroughly. Add in quinoa and toss thoroughly. Add in grapes and raisins and zest and carrot. Toss again. If you use them, dust with sunflower seeds before serving.  This is so good!

I’m so thankful there are so many resources available to help us all on our journey.   Hope this helps you a bit too. Blessings to you.

Additional Notes to help you: Applesauce is a substitute for oil in baked goods.  1 TB spoon of ground flax seed with 3 TB water is a substitute for eggs in baking.  Nutritional Yeast is high in B-12 and gives things a cheesy flavor. I sprinkle it on a lot of our casserole dishes. We saute veggies in vegetable broth, using non-stick pans.  I make our own bread often but have also found a brand named “Dave’s.  We buy it at Sprouts but you do have to read the list of ingredients on Dave’s. One of theirs has oil but most don’t. Avoid all white refined products like flour, pasta, bread, or sugar.  Choose whole wheat instead.  Most pastas, spaghetti and lasagna come in whole wheat.  I substitute honey, or maple syrup for sugar and use frozen bananas often for sweetener too.  Frozen bananas, thrown in the food processor with frozen fruit makes a delicious “Nice Cream.” It fills our need for ice cream, gives us a couple of servings of our fruit, and is nutrition filled.

Also contemplate Daniel 1: 11-14

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
― Hippocrates


In 2012, John and I visited the Smoky Mountains on our first anniversary.  We stayed in the Buck Horn Inn, a picturesque Bed and Breakfast, in the foothills of Gatlinburg.  We loved the area and hoped to go back one day.

When Brett and Angie mentioned they’d love to take an RV trip to the Smoky Mountains and invited us along, we said, “Yes.” And on Mother’s Day of 2016 we headed out in our RV’s on a new adventure.  John hadn’t felt well in the previous weeks so it was another trip taken by faith and bathed in prayer. Among our health challenges, eating healthy on the road is one of our hardest. For John, it’s a matter of life and death & when you don’t eat oil or processed foods, often there aren’t many choices available.

So we always take along our healthy foods, including our trusty kale, but we love it when we find a healthy place to eat along the way.  We spent our first night boon docking at a Walmart in Jackson, Tennessee. We found a Jason’s Deli near by so we were thrilled to be able to eat out. Their salad bar is always awesome.


Along the way, we can always find a Subway. In fact, Subway is our best friend when we travel because we can order whole grain bread loaded with spinach and plenty of other veggies.(cucumbers, bell pepper, pickles, & tomatoes)  That does get old after awhile though.  : )

Monday night we arrived at our camp ground in Gatlinburg.  It was a quaint little park, Camp LeConte Luxury Resort, complete with Clamping areas. (Clamping is a new term for me)

Tuesday we headed to the park for our first day of adventure.  It was a beautiful Spring day. I’ll share some of the beautiful sites along the way.

We drove to the top of Clingman’s Dome and the weather was in the fifties. we loved the scenes but didn’t last long with the temps.  Can you tell we were cold?

My friend, Judith Hilbun, told me of a stop she thought we’d enjoy while in the Gatlinburg area…Parrot Mountain…we took this little side trip the second day of our visit.  Can’t wait to share these bird pictures. This little paradise area is filled with scriptures and beauty and parrots and birds from all over the world. Several of the parrots talked and waved hello and bye!

In my attempt to document our adventure, I’m over loading you with pictures!  One more I have to share is our visit to Bubba Gumps.  We ate there on our anniversary before we were Plant Strong and didn’t think we’d be able to eat there again.  BUT we were thrilled when we found a mushroom burger on their menu(I looked at their online menu & called to make certain) and John was able to order broccoli as his side. He normally doesn’t eat avocado so that was a cheat.  It was a delicious burger.


So thankful for the fun we had.  We ended our trip with one more night of fun at Hot Springs.

img_3374-2Angie snapped this picture of our last evening. THANK YOU, LORD, for another opportunity to enjoy Your creation. Thank you, Brett and Angie, for traveling with us and making it so much fun.  Angie, thanks for your creative Owlbert Snap Chats.  I feel I should have his picture here. : )  (Owl-bert is a little puppet..for those wondering)


2015 Cookie Exchange

Another Christmas season is upon us.  Our Memory Tree is loaded with my collection of ornaments….it may resemble a Griswold tree to some, but I love every precious memory it contains.  : ) The manger scenes are out and the garlands hung.  That means among many things,’it’s time for another cookie exchange.”

I hosted my first cookie exchange in 1980.  At that time, I was doing a program with my handicapped daughter that involved (over a period of two years) one-hundred-twenty patterners (Yes, 120 precious ladies!)  who helped my family to do a very intense program with my daughter, Jan.

I wanted to do something to honor them, so on a cold December afternoon in 1980 around fifty ladies arrived with their cookies-in-hand to celebrate our shared task….cheering Jan on to achieve her potential. Slipped in with the Christmas Carols that day a Gaither song played in the background on our old eight track stereo.  The lyrics were “I am a promise, I am a possibility, I am a promise, with a captital P, I am a promise to be exactly what God wants me to be.” Some of you will remember that “I Am a Promise”melody. : )

I remember the fun of those days and the wonderful break that party gave that tired young mom as she saw all those ladies who were “Jan’s Clan” come together to celebrate. They were old and young, all volunteering to help me and Jan have a better life.  Many of you are still friends on Facebook and I send you a big hug and say thank you for all you gave to the Whitley family at a critical time in our lives.  I still pull out recipes from those by-gone-days and think lovingly of the ladies who brought those sweet treats.  They blessed me more than they’ll ever know.

Though I’ve skipped years for one reason or another in hosting the exchange, I added it back to my traditions five years ago, at a time when every known normal in my life had changed.  And once again, it has been a great blessing to my life.  One of His Tender mercies—coming together with friends, laughing, and sharing our memories, our faith, and our sweet treats.  Count me blessed!

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One of the few pictures taken at the 1980 Cookie exchange. 

Gulf Coast Adventure #3

DSC_0025When we returned from Houston, John had several not-too-good weeks. He was very discouraged because he had little stamina and quite a bit of pain but he was determined to exercise in spite of it.  In fact, before we left Houston and he was barely out of recovery, he’d make twelve laps around the hospital halls…that was a mile. Then when we got home, he wasn’t strong enough to walk our neighborhood…it’s hilly…but he faithfully walked on the treadmill.  Eventually we were able to walk in Angie’s neighborhood because it is flat.  And then the past month, we were able to make the trek in our hilly neighborhood.

As soon as John started to have enough stamina to walk our neighborhood and the glory of the fall-ish days arrived, his hope of going to the Gulf returned. We’d given up on taking that trip. We’d done it the past two years but he felt so bad after Houston, he didn’t think he had the strength.  But John’s theory is if he sits around until he feels up to doing ‘something‘, he’ll not get to do very much.  So almost over night it seemed, we made the decision to head to the gulf.  We packed our bags, loaded the RV,  and off we went.  I was going to learn to tow the trailer in case I had to drive, but the whole trip came and went, and I never did hop into that driver’s seat. John made it very well.  We took the trip in three days, taking our time, and had a wonderful time.


John’s sister, Genevieve and her husband, Jim blessed us by a visit while we were there. They’ve recently moved from California to Oklahoma so what a blessing to have some extra time with them.


I think walking in the sand is so therapeutic for John. He grew up on the beach in Barbados and the crash of the waves and the sand between his toes seem such a comfort.


A fun day at Fort Morgan in the Mobile Bay area.


I always have to take as many butterfly pictures as possible.


Fort Morgan Jim, Genevieve, and John


This is a little place at the Gulf State Park. It’s behind the visitor center and we love to just sit and soak in the sun.


This dude was after fish.


Isn’t this a beautiful flower? It was a climber and covered a portion of the railings at the park’s nature center.


Fort Morgan Jim, Genevieve, and John


Genevieve snapped this when we were fixing their burgers. We had vegan one. : )


I love this picture of Gen and John


One of our mornings at Cracker Barrel. We can eat the oatmeal there. : )


If John can get to the camp ground, he is as happy as a lark. He loves his camping.

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Tropical Storm Patricia is on her way so we are out of here!


His light always shines through the storm, always. Isaiah 25:4a For You have been a defense for the helpless, A defense for the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat

Back From Houston

It’s a beautiful fall-ish day and I am sitting out on our patio watching the hummingbirds dart over my head.  A blue-jay and a beautiful cardinal sit spying on me from their perch above the bird seed, wondering if it is safe for them to feed.

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My view from the back porch! Wish you could see the hummingbirds and cardinals.

Our trip to Houston was a tough one, but there were many precious times too. It gave John, Angie, and I time to visit.  Angie drove about 400 of the 500 return miles, and John googled iTunes on his phone for the songs he and Angie listened to when he drove her to school many years ago. She went to a private Christian school in Tulsa and their drive time took them about twenty-five minutes each morning.  He found and played their long ago favorite songs on his IPHONE, and they sang along and laughed and reminisced.  It was such a blessing for me because I could picture a thirty-something John driving his beautiful little Angie to school and them rocking out with their tunes.

I sang a long with them as they listened to “AppleJack” by Dollie Parton and “Jolene”.   I may have recorded their voices as they sang Applejack but I think I am only allowed to share it with Brett!   Such a blessing for me to feel apart of those by-gone days.

Now as I sit outside, I’m also reminded of something else God allowed me to experience in Houston.  Before we were dismissed, I realized I’d forgotten to bring a shirt inside for John to wear home. (The car was a long distance away)  For some reason, John didn’t think it appropriate to leave shirtless in his jeans.  : ) Angie had been my naviagator around the huge hospital all week but I didn’t want her to make the trek to the gift shop.  She yet had that hike to the parking garage to get the car and her knee was still healing from surgery six weeks earlier.

John had been moved the day before to the 6th floor of the Cooley Building, and I wasn’t as familiar with it as I was with where we’d spent the previous five days.  SO, since I’ve always been directionally challenged, and couldn’t use my GPS for this jaunt, I got lost.

I found myself going in circles on the first floor of St. Lukes Hospital.  I started to panic, but then felt the calming nudge of the Holy Spirt.  I felt Him impress on me to calm down, slow down, and look at the sign posts around me more carefully.  I stopped and read everything around me, and, of course, directions were clearly posted everywhere.  As I stayed focused on Him and calm, I found the gift shop. I bought John a tee shirt and headed back to his room.  It was very easy to find my way there as I let go of fear and watched carefully for the sign posts.

I’m reminded of that right now.  No matter what lies ahead for any of us, as His children, He will calm us, direct us, and take us safely thru our trials. We just need to look expectantly toward Him for His directions.  Thank you, Lord.

Houston Days

For several weeks now, John has cycled into a few days here & there of extreme tiredness and/or heart pain.  Sometimes this discomfort occurred only at night after he lay down, other times he’d feel the old familiar pain as he walked up an incline or hurried to do something. The pain/tiredness was random but seemed to come a bit more often and stay a bit longer.  He gradually needed nitros more often and we became more and more concerned.







When John reblocked in March of 2014, the doctors didn’t give him much hope of longevity.  Intimal Hyperplasia was the diagnosis, and it is called the bane of heart disease.  At that time, John wondered if he’d see his birthday that was only two months away.  We are now one and a half years from that time and John has done very well. He’s celebrated two more birthdays and I believe his commitment to our ‘no oil, no dairy, & no meat diet’ has been a part of his success as well as his faith and the faithfulness of others to pray.  

Since John isn’t a candidate for another bypass, and Tulsa can’t place stints, they sent us to these specialists at St. Luke’s a year ago.  This is our third visit here but the first time to have a procedure. So ….here we are in Houston facing John’s third heart cathe tomorrow.  It’s a scary thing but also an opportunity to grab hold of God.  We see His fingerprint in so many provisions and place tomorrow in our Great Physicians hand.  Please pray that we can leave there!  

PS. We are so thankful that Angie has been able to be here every step of the way.  Such a blessing to us.  

It’s Working!

We’ve traveled over one and a half years on this plant based diet road. We’ve not cheated much but I will admit that John had a Java Chiller from Sonic a week or so ago.  He had a wisdom tooth pulled and while under the influence of Doc-given-drugs, he begged for his old farmiliar treat.  We’d left the surgeon’s office, and dropped a pain script at CVS when John asked for it.  His asking turned into begging so I turned the car around and drove thru the Sonic drive thru.  He ate the whole thing before we got home. How was I to know that he’d have no memory of eating that sugary treat?  I had to show him the video that I filmed so he’d believe he ate it all.

Other than that, we’ve been very diligent to adhere to our no oil, no dairy, & no meat eating style.  We meet our Sunday School Class on most Monday nights at a local pizza place.  While they eat pizza, we load up on the salad bar.  It really doesn’t bother either of us.  We enjoy the fellowship but John does enjoy telling them that while they’re not looking, he licks their pizza.

So we keep pushing forward on our plant based journey and recently were greatly encouraged at one of John’s checkups. Though they won’t do an angiogram anytime soon, they do check his carotid arteries yearly via ultrasound.  Even the doctor was surprised when John’s plaque had decreased in his neck.  It went from twenty-five percent blocked to seventeen on one side and nineteen on the other. The technician wrote below it that his carotids were like those of a fifty-two year old.

img_0918.jpgIn the meantime, we’ve traveled some other roads as well.   We celebrated John’s 60th birthday(which he never thought he’d see)  And we’ve celebrated our 4th anniversary  with a trip to Eagles Nest, Red River, Tin Cup, and Lake City, Colorado.  We are blessed.  Thank you, Lord.

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Church with our dear friends Gay and Andy was a special treat.


The pass to Tin Cup


Lake City Baptist Church –  Gay and Andy’s Church


The Visitor Center in Buena Vista, CO


An unexpected sighting treat!

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A Tribute to My Sister

Lynda and I

Fourteen years ago today, my brother Jerry and I stood with my nieces at my sister Lynda’s bedside as she took her last breath.  She was only 58 years old and died from Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. (Yes, the same cancer that took Mike’s life two years later)  She left behind two daughters, two grandchildren, and a host of friends and family.  She loved the Lord and I remember her saying, “I win either way this cancer goes.  If I die, I go Home to Heaven. If I stay, that’ll be wonderful too. Either way, I win.”

I have so many fond memories of her.  She and I shared a bedroom and even though she was 8 1/2 years older, we were close.  She was a bit like a second mom but also a good friend. One of my favorite memories is of her banging out songs on our old piano.  That wood frame farm-house would shake on it’s foundation as she played.  AND she could really play.  As a little girl I’d stand on the piano stool beside her and belt out tunes she’d taught me.  I didn’t know I couldn’t carry a tune.  One of the songs I sang over and over was “Let The Sonshine In.” She made it such fun. She also gave me my love for Elvis because she played all of his songs on the piano from Jail House Rock to Love Me Tender. And there are many other memories. There’s the evening when I was in the eighth or ninth grade that she spent the night with us and questioned me about the facts of life.  She suspected I didn’t know much.  She was right.  It was her that educated me, because I still thought women got pregnant from too much kissing.  (I know, I know…I was naive) You can bet I’d never kissed a boy!

She also was always telling me jokes when I was little.  I still remember one of them. “Pete and Repeat were walking along a bridge and Pete fell in and who was left?”  Of course the answer is “Repeat”.  She regretted telling me that one.  Her boyfriend came to visit and I couldn’t wait to tell it to him.  I mixed up the words though and my version was “Pete and Peter-reat were walking along a bridge. Pete fell in and who was left?”  The young man didn’t answer so I told it again, continuing to get the word wrong. : ) She tried to shush me unsuccessfully, as I’m sure her face grew red.  That wasn’t the last time I embarrassed her with a boyfriend either.  When we got our first telephone, a boy called her.  I told him she couldn’t come to the phone because she was busy peeling her bologna. I must have been a pain, but she was good natured about it.

We grew up on the farm and worked hard but she seemed to always take time for fun. I remember a picnic in the woods with iced tea in a mason jar and peanut butter sandwiches. I remember tagging along with her as she raided the crab apple tree down in the hollow in front of our farm-house.  She sprinkled salt on the sour fruit and ate it right from the tree.  I also remember her telling me if I’d take that same salt and sprinkle it on the tail of a bird, I could catch it! I believed her. I remember her climbing the fig tree in the back yard and picking the figs. She loved figs. The limb broke and she crashed to the ground.  She barely missed landing on me.(She wasn’t hurt thankfully.)  I also remember once when she trimmed my bangs.  She used a razor and as she swiped downward, she cut the tip of my nose.  I cried out, “Is it bad?”  She answered, “Let me put it like this. You’ll forever be known as scar nose!”

She was the one who I always decorated the Christmas tree with.  She taught me to whip Ivory Flakes for snow. And I remember a Christmas as a little girl that I longed for a bride doll.  My parents couldn’t afford it but Lynda found a beautiful doll.  It had movable joints but one joint was broken so they were able to purchase it for a bargain.  She made that doll a bridal dress complete with a veil.  I still have that doll today.   Another Christmas, after she was married, she gave me a store-bought wool skirt with a matching grey sweater.  My clothes were all homemade and I remember being so excited to have that store-bought outfit.  I’m sure she did without something herself to afford to buy that for me.

When we’d get together in later years, there was always a lot of laughter.  There’s the Christmas her family was visiting us in Oklahoma.  She and I stayed up late cooking goodies and at about 2 AM, as she and I stood laughing and giggling in the kitchen, I flossed a crown right out of my mouth.  It zoomed past her head and just about hit her.  We laughed about that for years.

I remember her marrying young and struggling for the next several years to finish her education. She eventually graduated with a Business Degree and then later obtained her Master’s and taught school up until six months before she died.  And let me brag a little here…she was really smart.  One summer when she was in school at Ole Miss, her husband over heard some students complaining (in a math or chemistry class) about that blond that set the curve so high.  It was her. I’m so glad she hung in there and got her education because she touched many students through the years.  I admire her and miss her so much.  She was a talented and beautiful lady who loved her family and friends.

I’ve attempted to write a story about her that is true.  It really happened this way and I wanted to get it down on paper for memories sake. It’s bit hard to follow, I know. Basically this is it…Lynda lived in Alabama and came to Oklahoma for a visit  one summer.  While she was there, I asked my dear friend, Brenda, to come by and meet her.  As they visited, they found out that Brenda had once taught at the same school where Lynda now taught.  In fact, they had both served with the same superintendent, Mr. Blocker.  This story below occurs the next spring as Mrs. Blocker came to speak at Lynda’s school. This is the ‘rest of the story‘ as told to me by Lynda.  I love to remember it. Hope you can follow it. It was hard to figure out how to write it but too good not to record.  It’s such a God blessing!

                                              A Memorial Moment

As Mrs. Blocker shakily stood to speak, she dropped her notes and they scattered haphazardly to the floor. Since her husband’s death years earlier, she’d presented a scholarship in his memory each year at this time. He’d served as superintendent in the district for a few decades but these students had no memory of him. To most of them, she was just some gray-headed old lady they didn’t know and weren’t interested in hearing. They snickered and laughed as she struggled to pick up her notes and regain her composure.

My sister, Lynda, a teacher at their school, was also on stage that morning. While someone helped Mrs. Blocker get her notes in order, I’m told Lynda quickly walked to the microphone.

“Students, I want to share something about Mrs. Blocker. I want you to know her fame has spread far and wide. In fact, I was in Oklahoma last summer visiting my sister(Pam). While there, I met one of my sister’s friends, Brenda, who is also a teacher. As we shared about our careers, Brenda said she started teaching thirty years earlier in a little school in Alabama called Moody.”

“Brenda was astounded when I said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but that’s where I teach now.’”

“The next question Brenda asked me was, ‘Did you by any chance know Mr. Blocker? He’s the superintendent who hired me.’”

“I told her that Mr. Blocker retired a few years after I came but I’d talked with him several times and heard wonderful things about him. I also told her that Mrs. Blocker started a scholarship in his memory after his death and still presents it each year at our awards ceremony.”

“Brenda asked me,” ‘Mrs. Blocker,’ “that I give you her love and say thank you for all you did those many years ago for her. She told me a few of those things and I want to share them with the students.”

“Brenda said that not only was it her first teaching job but she’d also gotten married that summer and was a new bride. In the middle of her school preparations, her in-laws decided to come for their first visit the week before classes started. Brenda said her mother-in-law was a fabulous cook but as a young bride, she could barely boil water. She had no idea what she’d cook for them and was stressed about it.”

“Students, I want you to know that this lady (she pointed affectionately to Mrs. Blocker) surprised her and brought enough home cooked food to last their entire visit. Then later, that same weekend Mr. Blocker heard that some boys had messed up Brenda’s classroom after she’d spent all week getting it ready. He personally went up and waxed away all the skid marks the boys had made sliding on her freshly cleaned floors. ”

“So students welcome this special lady who has given much to Moody through the years.”

I’m told that when Lynda finished, the kids were listening intently and as Mrs. Blocker came forward to speak, they clapped in her honor. They again clapped when she finished as she went directly to my sister. She threw her arms around her and hugged her tightly as she said with tears in her eyes, “You don’t know what your words have meant to me today. Thank you, thank you so much.”

I think that was one of Mrs. Blockers last years to present the scholarship and Lynda died a few years later. Today I still ponder this story. I wonder what were the odds that Lynda and my friend would meet and share about the Blockers, and that Lynda would have an opportunity to minister on that Spring day to her.  It is so like God to orchestrate something so beautiful  and like Lynda to be a part of ministering to another’s heart.


Marching On!


Springtime in the Desert!

Last year, John read about a big RV rally coming to Phoenix in February of 2015.  He commented that he’d like to attend it if he felt well enough.  My son and family live in Phoenix so I thought the RV rally was something we might be able to do and couple it with grandson time too.

So in February, by faith, we struck out on another road trip, headed for the warmth of Phoenix, looking forward to grandson hugs and a tour of a few RV’s.   We left Oklahoma in a snow storm that lasted across Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.  Since John lived in Alaska for two years as a young man, snowy or icy roads don’t bother him a bit.  I, on the other hand, am not quite as brave. I always hold on tightly when we are traveling such roads.  Needless to say, I was very glad when we hit the dry roads of Albuquerque.  There we met up with a grade school friend of John’s that he’d not seen in 45 years. They’d reconnected on Facebook a few years back but hadn’t seen each other since their growing up years in California.   After lunch with his friend, Glen, John and I drove on to Flagstaff and spent our second night of traveling adventure there.

We arrived in Phoenix on February 25 and attended our RV rally the next day.  That was a bit ambitious because after all the walking we did at the show, coupled with our three days of travel, we napped everyday for the rest of the week and went to bed early each night. Still, it was a lot of fun.

I’ll document some of the highlights for memories sake. My son and his family moved to Phoenix five years ago. They’d not had ‘couple time away” since that move.   Since our visit corresponded with their eighteenth wedding anniversary, we asked them if we could keep the boys so they could have a little anniversary trip.  We were excited when they said ‘yes’. They went to Sedona for the weekend, and we had a blast back in Phoenix. We took the boys to eat, flew kites, picnicked at a park or two, and enjoyed watching them play football.  And they taught us some new tricks too!  My oldest grandson has an app called Jackbox.tv that is used via a Playstation. With it, each person can use an iPhone or iPad that interacts with the TV and play games with one another.  We played one called Fibbage and another one that involved drawing.   It was fun, challenged our brains, made for a lot of laughter, and the oldest (us) to the youngest (our 7 year old) could play.

Another of my cherished memories is attending my daughter-in-law’s Bible Study on the day that she shared her testimony.  I felt blessed to sit in the audience and hear her share her impactful journey of Faith. I held back the tears as I remembered the young woman I’d met twenty years earlier.  I felt honored that I’d gotten to watch her “grow-up-in-Christ” and so thankful that I can call her my daughter-in-love.

I write this post back home in Oklahoma as I think of the fun Phoenix trip.  And I realize  next week will be the anniversary of John’s heart re-blockage/bypass failure.  At that time, we didn’t think he’d live to see 2015.  But here we are.  We are so thankful to still be on adventure with Him and each other. Thank you, Lord.  We are blessed.

PS  Maddie, I didn’t forget you.  Blessed part of our trip….the sound of your sweet little feet padding down the hall, following us to bed. You are a sweet doggie.

John's friend, Glen.

John’s friend, Glen.


Steph had finished her testimony. Glad she thought to have this picture of us taken.


Steph’s audience was captivated by her testimony.


One of the beautiful Phoenix trees covered in blooms.


Such a fun time at IHOP–a scorpion and a spiderman balloon character.(only in Phoenix would you get a scorpion) The boys loved these.


A beautiful Phoenix sunset. We always enjoy them.

DSC_0336 DSC_4992 DSC_5000 DSC_5016 DSC_0312  DSC_0344 DSC_0337 DSC_0395 DSC_0408 DSC_0338 DSC_5028  DSC_5039 DSC_5055  DSC_0341DSC_0379 DSC_0366DSC_0418

And as we left Phoenix, we added three more National Parks to our Park lists. I've now seen 21 National Parks. I'd seen none when John and I married.

And as we left Phoenix, we added three more National Parks to our Park lists. I’ve now seen 21 National Parks. I’d seen none when John and I married.


Another Year, More Blessings, & More Deposits

As many of you know, John’s heart re-blocked only eleven weeks after his 2013 Christmas open heart surgery. His diagnosis was Intimal Hyperplasia, which is called the ban of heart surgery.  March of 2014 was spent attempting to grasp the severity of his health situation.  We’d researched vastly already and had watched the amazing documentary,  “Forks Over Knives” before John underwent surgery.  We’d radically changed our diets after viewing that movie.  When his surgery failed, we were in shock. The Doctor’s weren’t giving us much hope either, but we continued to pray and God continued faithfully enveloping us with His Peace.

As John soaked his aching body in the tub one night,  I over heard him singing along with this Chris Tomlin song.  I was so blessed…and I think you will be too.  (It was also his Mom’s favorite song in the last days of her life.)

“There’s a peace I’ve come to know,
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well”

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There’s a day that’s drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

The truth of that song says it all!   As His children, we win, no matter how our future unfolds.  WE WIN! We cling daily to that truth.

In the midst of this unexpected test, another situation was also unfolding.  My mom was  loosing ground.  We were thrilled when she made it to her 100th birthday Feb 17, 2014  but we were seeing a steady decline in her memory and strength.  She was still remarkable for 100 years of age, but each time I went home to Mississippi to see her, I feared it was our last visit.  She feared she’d be bed ridden as her mom was.

In the meantime, we e-mailed Dr.  Esselstyn (one of the scientist behind that documentary) and he called us personally two or three times. We’d already cut out dairy, meat, and eggs but under Dr. Esselstyn’s guidance, we added more raw food to our diet, including six servings of kale a day.  He had us cut out nuts, as well as avocados, and fish oil tablets.   At the time we did this, John had no energy.  In fact, after he ate breakfast, the energy it took to digest the food exhausted him. But after talking with Dr. Esselstyn, we embarked on the no oil, no nuts, no processed food, mostly raw diet.   Dr. Esselstyn said he’d feel better in a few days. He was correct.  Within a few days of ‘six greens a day’ and ‘no oil,’ John felt better, much better.  It’s a tough diet to follow but we still follow it as best we can.

When traveling (Something we didn’t think we’d be able to do), we take foods in an ice chest and eat veggie delight subs at Subway or search for a salad bar or a Chipotle.  I’d say we stay on our target food 80% of the time.  Everyone who sees John tells him how wonderful he looks. : ) He is very skinny now but that makes it easier for his heart to work, so it’s a good thing.  And his Houston Dr. says “whatever you are doing, keep doing it.”  John’s chest hurts most of the time and he feels additional discomfort if he exerts more than he should or forgets to change his nitro patch but he is still enjoying life.  Often when people ask John how he is, he says, “I’m still here.”  That is what his mom said after her first stroke when asked that same question.

So here we are, John and I have made it to 2015 and it is still ‘well with our souls’.  We have added yet another new deposit to Heaven for 2014.  My mom’s Home-going occurred quickly and she entered Heaven on September 21, never having been bed ridden.  As for us, we are cautiously still enjoying life.

For each of us, as the words of the song say, “There’s a day that’s drawing near, When this darkness breaks to light, And the shadows disappear, And my faith shall be my eyes.”   In the end, for His children each passing year sees Heaven grow sweeter and sweeter.  So press on, Dear Ones.  THE BEST TRULY IS YET TO BE!

Our plant based Stuffing

Our plant based Stuffing

Our Berry Dessert

Our Berry Dessert

Our Thanksgiving Turkey!

Our Thanksgiving Turkey!

Our blessed sighting over Christmas. I had to share his Picture.








This sighting seemed a gift from God.  I snapped this picture in December in Phoenix.  I love this little hummingbird.

This sighting seemed a gift from God since it was a December picture taken in Phoenix with my favorite boys.