Now that it has been a month since Pope Francis visited three of our major cities, I can speak up about the leader of my church and the news reports that, if not 100% erroneous, tended to lead the unknowing down the wrong path.

Just as he was arriving, CNN used this headline: Pope: All priests can forgive those who’ve had abortions …

My impression? This is something new, never be done before.

Actuality: The priests could always absolve someone who confessed and was truly sorry for the sin.

Another prevalent misconception, even among practicing Catholics, is that divorce is a sin and therefore, a divorced person can not participate in the Eucharist.

When I was a divorced Catholic, I never stopped being a communicant. The priests at my parish knew I was divorced. One of them worked on my subsequent annulment in the church. The sin never was the divorce; the sin would be in a remarriage (without an annulment through the Catholic Church).

Confusingly, the annulment means there was a flaw in the sacramental bonds of marriage. Some thing the Catholic Church deems necessary to bind a couple in Holy Matrimony did not exist at the time of the nuptials. An annulment deals with the spiritual basis of the marriage. A divorce concerns legality.

Not specifically brought up concerning the Pope’s visit, but often used apparently mindlessly when discussing a member of the Catholic Church is the word “devout.” It seems to be obligatorily paired with “Catholic” when providing information about a member of the Catholic Church.

Now, it’s probably just me, but devout is something I strive for in my faith, but just because I attend Mass, contribute to the Church or declare myself Catholic does not make me devout.

Do I believe everything that the Catholic Church teaches? No. But I’ve seen so many changes I never thought would happen. I grew up in the days when no woman could set foot on the altar. Now females serve Mass, lector and act as Eucharistic Ministers.

What Pope Francis is living and demonstrating is what many have said for years but often forget: “It is not up to me to judge.”

My next blog posting was going to be about Booktopia (several stories to tell) or green finger nails or my super hero power or something I’ve discovered about my Fitbit. All good fodder, but…

I am upset. I am upset because of the news from Thursday, October 1, 2015. I am upset because another shooting in a school has taken place. I could be upset because I found out from one of the campus security guards at the university where I work.

A few hours later, one of our “regular” patrons came in worried about whether I would be protected if something similar happened at our campus. I assured him that there was a plan.

It’s not just that I work at a school. I’ve had two friends who know first hand about the dreadful phone call that went out to ten people’s families. One had a son who was killed at Virginia Tech. The other’s niece was one of the teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. Even if I didn’t know these two loving people, I would still be upset about the carnage, the inhumanity, the loss of life.

I’m also upset because of the futile arguments between those espousing gun control and those in favor of the NRA’s contrary position. Few listen to the other’s discourse. The gap between sides may not widen, but it certainly rarely converts any one.

Recently I read that President Lyndon Johnson wrote a letter to Congress on September 14, 1967 requesting “the Congress to serve the public interest by promptly enacting this vital gun control legislation.” ( For almost a half-century we’ve been without a satisfactory solution.

I don’t have an answer. I do have questions, though. Starting with “How many more people have to die before, as a society, we can say we’ve done what we can to end this senseless killing?”

As I progress through life, I become more and more aware of me. That is not narcissistic, it’s self-awareness. For example, I am a very few days back from my favorite travel trip to Booktopia (more in a future blog about that). I am exhausted. I’ve known the happy weariness of travel before, but it is this time that I realize in this instance a large part of my fatigue is that my personal light switch has been “on” for 4 days and not only “on” but the rheostat is turned to full blinding brightness. For an introvert (yes, I am), this is depletion of energy. I need to withdraw, sleep, and recover.

The sleep part of this process bordered on reel life. I awoke this morning, thinking I was about to get up and get my day in motion. I turned on the bedroom TV to watch Today on NBC. Soon I was drifting in and out of slumber.

When I do this TV-on-snoozing waltz, sometimes my worlds jumble. I distinctly remember being the nanny for Katie Couric’s children. Katie actually has no idea who I am. Matt Lauer and Al Roker have been in my dreams, too. I do know it’s because the TV was on and infiltrated my morning naps.

This morning news could have had me spending time with the Pope in either New York City or Philadelphia. It could be real. I have cousins in both city that I could stay with. My subconscious took a different tact.

Instead Morpheus decided on a more political plan. In my dream, I pulled out a chair at a round table where John Boehner was seated alone.

I asked him if we could have a private discussion, Buckeye to Buckeye, Catholic to Catholic about some of our idealogical differences. He agreed.

I don’t know any more about our fantasy time together except one potentially headline making thing. Neither one of us cried.

The not day continues and continues and…

I came home on Friday, early afternoon, from not getting my MRI to a message on my phone answering machine. Yes! I am old and old school – otherwise I wouldn’t be getting MRIs done on my knee. The message was from the doctor’s office which requested the test. I called back immediately upon hearing the message. The message that I received once their phone was answered led me to believe that no one was going to call me back until after the weekend.

Late Monday morning, my call was returned by someone in the orthopedist’s office. I explained that the MRI was not done because of the bone-growth stimulator in my back. She would check with the doctor to see what he wanted to do and get back to me. He was not going to be in the office until Wednesday.

On Wednesday she called back. The doctor insisted on an MRI and I would have to get the bone growth stimulator removed. “Okay, I’ll look into it.”

I called the office of the surgeon who performed by spinal fusion surgery in 2013. They had changed computer systems so no longer had my records easily accessible.

My call was passed around the office a couple of times as I got answers to the myriad of questions I had. A set of medical questions was answered by one person: “How long of an operation? What would be my recovery time? How long would I be off work? Is this out-patient or an overnight situation?”

Once these questions were answered: “About an hour. A few days. One or two days. Out-patient.” I was passed on to someone who would answer the money questions. My first question was a long shot, but, hey, I had to try: “When I had the original surgery and they put the bone growth stimulator in, the doctor said that if it bothered me, he could take it out. I don’t suppose that was part of the package deal that stretches out over 12 years?”


I didn’t think so, but I had to ask.

The Office Manager who I was talking to was more than polite. She was also sympathetic as I explained my situation.

In addition to needing the MRI, I was at the beginning of my medical year for insurance purposes. Since the new year started on July 1, I had to accumulate a $4000 deductible (a new high) before the medical insurance would kick in. The facility giving me the MRI had already collected $200 towards that bill which I could not pay in full.

The woman said that the doctor’s cost would be about $600-$650, but then there would be the hospital bill and the anesthesiologist’s costs. “Who’s your medical coverage with?”

I answered, and her quick response was, “Oh, dear.”

As of August 1, this medical office was not accepting my insurance provider. They had been negotiating, it might happen later, but as of right now…

I thanked her for her time. I guess I should either not have aches and pains in my knee or had them at a different time of the year.

I called the orthopedist’s office back. The woman I talked to said that she would talk to the doctor and get back to me.

When she did, she said the doctor was insistent that I get the stimulator removed so that I could get the MRI on my knee.

Easy for him to say.

I feel so loved and appreciated as a human being.

On a slightly separate note, a few days later I received a card in the mail, completely a surprise, that touted reduced pharmaceutical costs by using this card.

On my next visit to my pharmacy, I took the card (according to the accompanying letter, it was already activated.) The pharmacy clerk acknowledged that I was correct: It would be this card OR our existing medical coverage. Either, or; not and.

She very nicely checked to see which was the least expensive option to fill my script. The new card increased the price on the first prescription. Significantly.

She tried again on the second pills. It reduced the price by (drum roll) a nickel!

I decided that I’d put the nickel towards my looming deductible and asked her to input the information on that new card as a back-up for the entire family’s needs.

A few days later, the biggest curve ball was thrown when my husband arrived home from his first shift job at 9:30 a.m. He had been laid-off.

We certainly didn’t see that coming.

Neither did I see a week later when I received a bill for $5,000 for the MRI that I did not have.

I don’t even understand that. If I have, no matter how temporarily, a $4,000 deductible, why isn’t my bill for $4,000 (less the $200 I’d paid)?

My general practitioner tried to help out by re-writing my prescriptions for 90 days rather than the typical 30. We might be able to get those in before the September 1 end of coverage deadline.

The last time I went to get my blood pressure medicine I was told the price had jumped from $140 to more than $200 under the usual medical coverage. I was so stunned when the clerk told me this, I didn’t catch any number past the “2”. I asked her to check that other card.

The price dropped to about $50.

It was later, after I was home that I realized that jump had been because I had received the 90 day supply. So, then, it was understandable and explainable.

Maybe if I could just stop dealing with the medical situation, I wouldn’t need blood pressure medication.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to move on to a less stressful activity: applying for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. No worries there. Right?

Someone taught me new vocabulary. Not day. A not day is one in which whatever you planned does not happen.

My Friday not day started with on my right knee. I had an MRI scheduled for 8:15 a.m. I arrived at 8:05 a.m. I was required to fill out a couple of forms that asked for basic information such as my name and address continuing to a summarization of my previous health procedures. After that I was moved to another waiting room farther into the depths of the building.

The room had five people and one blasted operating television. Each person was called from the room for a procedure leaving me and Kelly and Michael Live disrupting my quiet time with my book. Shortly after I changed the station to something less distracting a woman came into the room and said with obvious puzzlement, “Linda Johnson? But you’re not hear for a brain scan.”

“Um, no!” I told her it was supposed to be for my knee. She told me to sit tight until she could find the orders and then she went on…

…looking at the papers I had filled out in the lobby, “You have a bone growth stimulator?”

“Yes, in my back.”

“We can’t do an MRI if you have that.”

“I’ve had two other MRIs since I’ve had this put in. One for my other knee and one for my left shoulder.”

“Maybe they were open MRIs.”

“Ohhh, no, they weren’t. Especially the last one.”

She gathered more information from me as to when the stimulator was put in my back, which hospital and which doctor. She said she’d make some calls.

Soon she was back saying the hospital didn’t have the records available going back that far and the doctor’s office had updated the computers in the twelve years since the original surgery, so they didn’t have access to that information either. They did say that what was being used in 2003 would definitely not be compatible with an MRI machine.

Peggy, the woman trying to work through the lack of records to get me my MRI suggested that I leave and she would continue to gather information and we would subsequently reschedule. I agreed and moved on to my second task of the day wondering if medical professionals shouldn’t have a brain scan scheduled.

I drove to Beavercreek to get to an Office Max that I had called early in the week to make sure what time frame was needed to print a book for me.

My husband and I had been in the store in Springfield the previous Sunday. I had asked an employee in the copy center whether they had an espresso printing machine. He told us Springfield did not but the store near the Fairfield Commons did. Okay.

I backed up the information he gave by calling the store and was told yes, they could do what I wanted and it would only take 20 to 30 minutes. Wow! That was fast.

I wasn’t quite done putting my book together but worked diligently on it during the rest of the week until Friday, the day before I needed it.

I took my computer and a fresh thumb drive to the store. There were two employees at the copy center and two customers standing at the perimeter. I was in no hurry.

After watching a few minutes, I knew that one of the employees was really new at this job. He seemed uncertain and asked his co-worker a lot of questions. He rarely smiled.

After 20 minutes, it was my turn and it was the new employee who tried to wait on me.

He may have been new, but at least he knew that there was no espresso machine on the premises.

“WHAT! but I was told…”

David, the new employee, turned to Matthew to back him up, which Matthew did. But Matthew also had a solution. If I could be flexible. Matthew aimed to keep the customer happy.

Matthew explained his resolution to both David and me. I agreed. Then Matthew explained to David what information to get from me and left the area.

Partially because he was new and partially because I’m Mac (computer) there were complications so David kept using the store intercom to contact Matthew.

I asked him how long he worked at Office Max. “Three days,” he answered with a timid smile. (Ah, ha! he had one.) I commented, trying to make him more at ease, that he has a nice smile. He rewarded me with another one — a little warmer.

All the information needed was exchanged. When could I pick it up? They would put it on a fast track and have it for me just before they close at 9 p.m.

That meant another round trip to Beavercreek, but at least I would have my book.

I arrived at home to discover a message from Peggy. She was unable to glean any more information about my bone growth stimulator. She offered to take an X-ray of my back to see if it’s there. (I know it’s there, why can’t she just take my word for it?). I offered to drive back to Springfield after being assured that she would just include the X-ray cost as part of the MRI cost. (We are at the beginning of our medical insurance year. I haven’t put a dent in my $4,000 deductible, so the MRI was out of MY pocket.)

I ended up making one more round trip to Springfield where (SUPRISE!) X-rays show there is a bone growth stimulator in my back. No one will do an MRI on my knee until that instrument is taken out of my back.

And, I made one more round trip to Beavercreek where after a few more minutes of waiting, I picked up 25 copies of my self-published first book, Champaign Taste.

Since we were right next door to Half-Priced Books, Husband wanted to go in. (Hey, that’s usually my line.) We went in, he found what he was looking for, we left.

“That’s a first. I came out of a book store with nothing and you bought a book,” I said to him.

Obviously it was just not for me that day.

George FriedaA friend of mine died this week. For the first time in my grief life the tears I am shedding are of joy and relief. Oh, yes, I will miss him. Greatly. He was a sun in my life. I always looked forward to seeing him. And, yes, Husband knew.

In February, 2007, I realized a dream. I became a paid writer. I was asked to write a column for the Springfield News Sun about the county I live in. The column started out as bi-weekly on Monday. By July, the job became weekly on Sunday. I knew that was the big time – to be a Sunday columnist– since that was the day of the week with the greatest circulation.

In no time, my column that I hoped displayed my inner Erma Bombeck, provided me with a notoriety I was not expecting.

Strangers stopped me in the grocery store to express fondness for my column. I rarely got away from 7:30 a.m. Sunday Mass without someone letting me know that my writing had already been read. Usually these statements let me know how I ranked in the reader’s priority list. “I read you second, right after the comics/sports pages.”

The rest of my life didn’t stop because of the column. In other words, I did not hide from my very minor celebrity.I continued to do many of the activities I had done, including volunteering at the Springfield Performing Arts Center.

One night while I was a greeter, the secretary from my church attended a performance. Sue ended up standing with me before the performance. We both noticed an elderly couple across the hallway who stopped abruptly while looking in our direction. Sue should have been my public relations manager.

She soon embarrassed me by saying loudly, “Do you recognize her from her column picture.”

The couple both had broad smiles as they nodded their heads.

“Would you like her autograph?”

“Sue!” I thought.

The couple seemed thrilled and presented their program for the night’s performance. I gave them my very first autograph. In order to personalize it I asked for their names . Sue stood by grinning and chatting away about the way I always referred to “Husband” and “Son” while I wrote a thankful note to George and Frieda McCann.

They were both short, neither much over 5 feet tall, although truthfully, I could not estimate his height accurately since he was bent over and walked with a cane. Her long white hair was twisted up and attached to the back of her head. They both had an unmistakable joy of life and each other that produced a contagious effervescence and twinkle in their eyes.

Subsequent volunteering posts brought the two of them for an evening at the symphony or a touring Broadway musical production. I always looked out for them and they for me.

I found out from a long-time Springfield resident that George had run a pharmacy in downtown. Frieda was a very active volunteer for the local library and helped to set up a library and other programs for the jail inmates. The two of them were in their 80s and seemingly had more energy than a two-year old.

Over time, we shared stories, prayer requests (mostly from me) and our common Catholicism. My close and longest friendship was supported by George when I let him know that Father Bob had cancer. He added Father Bob to his prayer list and would call me from time to time to see how Father Bob was doing.

When a 6-month old cousin was diagnosed with a kidney cancer, George was quick to add Bryson to his prayer list and then always ask how Bryson was doing when we’d see each other.

One year, a few days before St. Patrick’s Day, the McCanns came to the symphony. I was in the cloak room (coat room). George wore no green. I pretended horror (McCann!) and gave him my shamrock pin. He seemed tickled.

The McCann’s home was on a 2011 bicycle tour of homes. They insisted that “Husband” and I come in for a drink. It was the first opportunity for them to meet the man they had been reading about for four years.

I was excited for my friends to meet my husband while they expressed their disappointed that they could not have ridden on the tour since they had been avid bicyclists. George’s back had gotten so bad, he could not comfortably ride anymore. I think Frieda could have, but she would do what George could.

Time moved on, but George got slower and more bent over. It was a shock when Frieda died in January, 2014. She was in the hospital fighting flu symptoms and then she wasn’t. This was not the timing I expected. Frieda was 90.

George was devastated. His bride of 70 years.

Today I found out that George (92) and Frieda are reunited. I will miss my friend greatly, but I’m so glad he and Frieda are reunited.

I love you George and Frieda. Watch over me, please.

Two local business men, who became friends of mine, recently sold their bakery and retired. The sale included the equipment and the recipes.

The new owners will be changing the bakery’s name.

I’m sure that Bob and Roger didn’t precisely time their closing with the last of their business cards. Since I always try to be a helpful friend, I thought I should come up with a list of top ten things to do with old business cards.

It was easy to come up with ten. In fact, eleven and twelve just proved the cookie wasn’t crumbling. But what sense did a top twelve list make. I thought that I should work to get a number which is divisible by five.

Fifteen spawned sixteen and seventeen. A slice of cheesecake later and voilá I had twenty.

Without further ado, I present

Twenty things to do with old business cards

1. Build a house of business cards.
2. Crosscut shred for confetti, then throw a party.
3. Use as bookmarks.
4. Revive the Victorian custom and use them as calling cards(may take some scratching out).
5. Origami practice sheets.
6. Really awful toilet paper.
7. Alternative for dental floss or toothpicks.
8. Small note cards or scrap paper.
9. Leave under car windshield wipers at the mall.
10. Build boats for ants.
11. World’s smallest post cards.
12. Decoupage.
13. Tiny paper airplanes.
14. Cut them into smaller various sizes for a pocket jigsaw puzzle.
15. Make small paper hats for the Geico gecko.
16. Make small flip books (draw something on the edge so when you fan through them it looks as if the drawing is moving.”)
17. Tape them to toothpicks to make fans for dolls.
18. Compost filler.
19. Paper footballs (ask any sixth grader).
20. Support your local landfill.

That should be enough to get them started. They’re retired now. I’ll let them continue the list. Good luck Bob and Roger.


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