Rebecca Spencer, RN, Health Care Coordinator at Legend Assisted Living stays professional and positive as she cares for the residents.

by Vickie Jenkins, Staff Writer

Legend Assisted Living is located at 11320 N. Council Rd. Oklahoma City, OK. Here, you will find a place designed for those who need assistance with life’s daily tasks. Assisted living at Legend offers a personalized approach, caring for your loved one with the utmost professionalism and tender loving care.
With beautiful decor all around, I was greeted by Rebecca Spencer, RN and Health Care Coordinator. Rebecca grew up in Craig Colorado and Alethea, Colorado. She attended Mesa State College. She has been a nurse for 12 years, working at Integris Southwest Medical Center in Oklahoma City, OK and has worked in a long-term care facility. “I am happy to be here at Legend. I love working with the staff and getting to know the residents. We try to stay as positive as we can, making the residents happy,” she said. “I think it brightens up everyone’s day,” she added.
What qualities make a good nurse? I ask Rebecca. “I think a nurse would definitely need to have some sort of compassion for others. A nurse needs plenty of patience. Some days, we need a little more patience than other days but whatever the case, they need to know that every day is a new learning opportunity and they need to take advantage of it,” she replied.
Rebecca’s advice for someone going into the medical field would be to be to make sure that person has a passion for helping others. “Also, I would tell them to keep their focus on their goal, staying strong in their believes.”
“My favorite part of my job is working with the residents and the staff. I love to teach so I get to do that with all of them. I love to build the relationships with each one of them, forming a bit of a bond between us, “she commented.
When asking Rebecca if anyone influenced her to become a nurse, she replied, “When I was young, I knew I wanted to be a nurse and I never steered from it. When I lived in Colorado, in a small town, the kids in the church would go visit the elders in the nursing home. We would go every third Sunday. I befriended a lady there and I really enjoyed seeing her each time. She always had a smile for me and called me Becky. After I became a nurse, I went back to the same nursing home to work. It was then, I heard a voice say, there’s my Becky! Yes, she remembered me! It was nice seeing her again. “
Even though I have worked in hospitals, I like the long-term care better. At the beginning, I always thought I wanted to work in the ER, you know, around all of those tall, dark and handsome doctors on the soap operas? After doing my rotation in the ER, I knew that wasn’t for me. I realized the long-term care was my fit. It’s a slower pace and I have had plenty of experience in geriatrics. Maybe, it’s because of the lady that I became friends with back then,” she said with a smile.
When Rebecca is not working at Legend, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Nick and their four daughters; Abigail, Morgan, Katelyn and Breelyn, 10, 8, 5 and 3. Rebecca is also a Girl Scout leader for one of her two daughters in Girl Scouts. She loves the outdoors, and enjoys camping and fishing. She also has a dog, Oscar and a cat, Minnie.
When talking with Rebecca, she had wonderful things to say about two people that helped get her through nursing school. She gives praise to her husband, Nick (who is also a nurse) and saw her through to the end. The other person is her mom, who has worked in a health care setting for over 20 years. Cheerleader, study buddy, best friend, and rock are just a few words to describe her mom.
Asking Rebecca to describe herself, she replied, “I am a strong willed person and try to find something good in everybody. I am a great listener, trying to really listen to the residents, which is very important for them. I try to see the potential in others, giving encouraging words and trying to make their day a little brighter,” she said.
“I live by the words: Be proud of yourself, and don’t change for anyone, Rebecca said. “I tell my girls that every day.”
Summing up her life in one word, Rebecca said, “Fulfilling.”

Photography and Text by Terry “Travels with Terry” Zinn

The red rocks of Sedona, Arizona have been a fabled attraction for decades. Given the chance to explore a fable is enlightening, surprising, and sometimes disappointing. Upon arrival I was overwhelmed by the traffic and congestion caused by road improvements, which I’m sure have been completed by now. Maybe it was just this weary traveler’s evening arrival that put a haze on first impressions. Where was the red rock spiritually attracting features so often expounded?
Driving a bit out of the main town, one can find amid the building of new residences, a sense of the iconic fable. The natural Arizona desert terrain is appealing, especially when juxtaposed with the Chapel of the Red Rocks, which appears perched half way up a dramatic cliff.
Another side road takes you to a lookout point above the main street, to view the massive red rock backdrop for which Sedona is so famous. The coffee pot outcropping is especially humorous, as it is near the Coffee Pot Restaurant. There you can get your fill of pancakes, and buckwheat waffles with real maple syrup (for an additional price) in place of the common corn-sweetened syrup most people take for maple syrup. A good compliment for any café is returning a second time within a matter of 2 days, which I did.
An early December visit can be flavored with a bit of child-like Christmas lighting displays at the Los Abrigados Resort and Spa With spacious rooms and suites, during the Christmas season, Los Abrigados plays host to the Red Rock Fantasy. The resorts 22 acres are decorated by a variety of lighting displays: traditional secular Christmas characters, sacred displays, and your favorite cartoon characters.
Each evening from Thanksgiving to January, the area is open for visitors to walk and take in the displays provided by a variety of local patrons. Over twenty years ago ILX Resorts Chairman, Joe Martori, wanted to boost the slow tourism during winter months and also support local charity, and the Red Rock Fantasy was born. The cool desert air made the warm taste of hot-chocolate-sipping during the tour a welcomed stimulant to the evening’s stroll.
The resort offers popular dining venues at Stakes and Sticks, the sports bar and Joey Bistro with Italian dining. ILX Resort features a spacious outdoor swimming pool, an active exercise room and extensive locker facilities with a hot tub, sauna and steam room.
With only a brief visit planned, a march through Sedona’s many art and accessory galleries, was mandatory and rewarding. Sculptures of a favorite bronze artist, Joshua Tobey, were abundant at the Exposure Gallery, Hot art glass can be enjoyed at Kuivato, where I met by chance, Liz Freund, the wife of Bruce Freund,, a favorite hot art glass artist.
The glass gallery of Kuivato,, is located in the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts village, which is adjacent to Los Abrigados. The village is filled with shops and eateries. Of course I had to have a farewell martini at the Oak Creek Brewery and Grill to celebrate the splendor of Sedona’s red rock outcroppings, and toast my purchase of two special art martini glasses reserved for upcoming holiday gifts. Sedona can be magical anytime of year, but even more so during holiday times.

Mr. Terry Zinn – Travel Editor
Past President: International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association

By Lisa Sydnor

When the opportunity to write a column for Senior News and Living sharing stories, answering questions and helping to identify services for Oklahoma City seniors at-large was presented, it was for me a childhood “Ann Landers/Dear Abby” dream come true. What an incredible mission, helping seniors by telling their stories. The belief that it takes a village; we must walk by faith and that there is a solution for every situation is a driving force and the foundation for this column.
My professional career spans more than fifty years working with and guiding nonprofits. I found my passion for service working with amazing organizations and having the opportunity to help so many people throughout our great state and our great country. Early on serving as the secretary/bookkeeper/file clerk/custodian for the Oklahoma Museums Association, I found my passion for nonprofit service. Then the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City gave me the opportunity to develop and lead fundraising campaigns, Oklahoma City University financial development department presented the opportunity to work closely with the board and to develop new ideas and strategies in fundraising, National American Red Cross lead to developing, writing and teaching curricula for Disaster Colleges and the opportunity to grow the individual chapters. Returning to Oklahoma in 2009, I tried to retire, really, I did but the exciting challenge of leading a team of 100 staff in six counties, administering 13 programs, including a homeless shelter; weatherization program; a transportation program; rental units; six food pantries and other social services made it impossible to turn down the position as CEO of the Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency. Then, I tried to retire again, honestly, I did. But a part-time job with The Salvation Army (TSA) senior program became the full-time job as Senior Programs Manager at TSA where I served with joy and love until my recent retirement in October of this year. Now, I am officially RETIRED, AGAIN! Sorta. My career experiences as well as my role as a mother and grandmother placed me in the unique position to make quick command decisions that impacts peoples lives. It was an extreme honor to serve then and to continue serving you. I look forward to us getting to know one another each month through the pages of Senior News and Living. As my new 2019 bright pink journal so appropriately states on the front cover “Let the Adventure Begin” and so it does.
Are you a part of the ‘RE’ movement? If your answer is not “Yes” – I hope that after reading this article, it will be a resounding “Yes”!
My middle child, my youngest daughter, drives the entire family nearly crazy. She lives the “RE” movement – REclaim, REpurpose, REuse, REcycle, REbuild, REfurbish. And although, she can be exhausting, her words on these subjects often fit many other seemingly unrelated situations.
For example, I am officially REtired. Again. Sorta. Learning to REpurpose my professional and personal focus and master the art of RElaxing. See how that works?
REbuilding or REclaiming an estranged relationship is another example. Have you ever been, or are you now, estranged from a loved one? Have you let hours, days, weeks, months, or even years fly by without reaching out – without mending relationships? Have you wanted to REbuild a relationship or REunite with a loved one? Are you so certain you would be REbuffed, you don’t take the first step, after all who wants to risk REjection? I am not saying the hurts aren’t real. Many times, they are devastating. However, our pride should not keep us from offering and/or seeking REconciliation.
Jan (not her real name) is a prime example. Jan and Jack had lived in Oklahoma for five years. She married Jack and left the Philippines against the wishes of her children. Jack died on a Saturday and Jan was alone, thousands of miles from her family. There had been no contact with any family member since leaving five years ago. On Monday, in despair, Jan went to the senior center in her apartment building. A staff member stopped to talk with Jan, sat down asking if there is something she could do to help her. Jan tells her that her husband died, and she is alone. Jan is encouraged to reach out to her children, tell them of the situation. When unkind and hateful words have been exchanged, forgiveness seems out of reach. Someone must take the first step, make the first call.
After lunch, Jan returned to the apartment – her intention was to take her life. In desperation, Jan called her eldest daughter. The daughter couldn’t stop crying. Within an hour, with no words of REcrimination, there is a paid airline ticket from Oklahoma City to Manila, leaving in 36 hours.
Reaching the seniors experiencing such depths of despair and encouraging them to seek counseling and take the first steps to REclaiming their lives should be a priority. Don’t let the hurt, the anger from the past, keep you from forgiving, REbuilding and REconnecting with friends and family. Take that leap of faith. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Be that person – that “RE” person: REunite, REconnect, REbuild and REclaim the estranged relationships in your life.
Do you feel there is no place to turn, that you are alone? Oklahoma City has great resources. Call 211 for information on agencies and programs. IF YOU FEEL SUICIDAL CALL 911 or the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE.
Senior News and Living has set up a dedicated phone line for you to ASK LISA questions, please call 405-631-5100 ext. 5 and leave; your name, phone number and a message regarding your question or topic, if your question is chosen to be in an upcoming issue I will follow up with you.
Afterthoughts with Lisa
Have you ever done something so foolish, something you have chastised others for doing, something you must have been brain dead to have done? Well, the other day I did a dumb thing on that level. I was in a grocery store; looking at a display, when this soft voice says, “Baby, you know Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner.” I instantly knew what she was referring to…my wallet, cell and keys were laying in the shopping cart, unattended. I put myself in a position for potential harm. Be aware of your surroundings. Never leave your purse, wallet or bag unattended. Thank you, Mary, for caring enough to approach a stranger (fellow senior) to warn of danger!

Bill Muir, and wife Karen, provide guidance and support for seniors needing to make a transition.

story and photos by Bobby Anderson, staff writer

Over the course of the last 15 years, Bill Muir has held a lot of hands, eased a multitude of fears and moved more than a few boxes.
As owner of Compass Senior Living Solutions, Bill, and wife Karen, focus on the next step for families who are in the midst of making important living decisions.
Do I need an independent or assisted living community?
Will this community help me thrive and get more out of life?
Can I afford what I need and where can I go to find out?
The Muirs answer all these questions and more, offering a one-of-a-kind concierge service in the metro all at no cost to the client.
Muir’s business is such that most times he gets a phone call from a distressed family member. Overwhelmed, stressed and under time constraints – the call relays the urgent need for mom or dad, grandmother or grandfather to find a new living situation.
All too often families are asked to make future living decisions within the span of a day or two when their loved one enters the hospital after a fall or sudden illness that makes it apparent they won’t be able to return to their home.
“Case managers will say ‘here’s a list of assisted livings in the area. You need to go visit them and let me know tomorrow which one you want to move your mom into,’” Bill said. “Boom. It’s deer in the headlights.”
That’s where Compass Senior Living Solutions comes in.
Here’s how it works:
* Bill or Karen will meet with you or fill out a brief evaluation over the phone. They will discuss what changes are going on in your life and determine what type of community will meet your needs.
* A review of your financial resources and communities that fit your budget comes next. Bill can also search out financial resources that can save you money if you qualify.
* Finding the area you are most interested in living and choosing three or four communities to tour follows. They will accompany you – or provide transportation if necessary – on tours to help you evaluate the offerings of each community.
The best part is the service is free to families and those who refer to him.
“I’m unbiased and my fees are paid by my communities,” Bill said. “Unlike my competitors, both Internet and other local referrals services my rates are all flat.
“I’m the only one like that.”
That means Muir is beholden to no one but his client.
And it doesn’t end there.
What sets Bill apart is his experience from the other side of the door working for communities in the metro. He spent the last 15 years marketing senior living communities.
“I know the information those assisted livings need and I know where to go get it,” he said. “Most assisted referral resources just spread names, point people in the right direction but they don’t do the most important part which is holding that family’s hand and helping them navigate through this whole thing all the way through move-in process.
“My service doesn’t stop when I connect them with a community.”
Move-in day is a big one not only for families but Bill himself.
He’s there early to make sure promised arrangements have been made.
He’s making sure medications are in place and ready to be dispensed and care plans have already been established by providers and are ready to go.
“It’s making sure those families are getting everything these communities advertise,” Bill said. “That is my goal, to provide that piece that is really missing.”
Bill also utilizes his sister, Vicki Muir – a 30-year case manager and social worker.
In addition, he’s a licensed long-term care insurance agent who no longer sells products but helps clients navigate the lengthy process of filing for benefits.
Uncovering forgotten aid and attendance benefits is another service Compass provides.
Over the past decade Internet services claiming to help find a place for mom or dad, have sprung up. It’s often a one-way street.
Muir’s service overlaps so many professions. He’s part real estate agent, counselor, confidant, life coach and negotiator.
He’s been there as people have agonized over decisions and he’s also seen the worry melt away with the right fit.
“It’s a transitions program but that’s an overused phrase now,” Bill explained of his service in a nutshell. “That’s the real difference in what I do is I make that transition all the way from first contact until after the move-in.”

Marvin K. Schlegel served his time in the Korean War. He is one of the Veterans that were honored at the Veterans Ceremony at Legend Assisted Living and Memory Care.

by Vicki Jenkins, Staff Writer

Each year, on November 11th, we celebrate Veteran’s Day. It was the year 1938, Veterans Day became an official public holiday in the United States.
November 11, 1918, was considered the end of World War I and dubbed Armistice Day, according to the Department of Defense.
In 1938, Armistice Day became an official holiday set aside to honor World War I veterans. However, after World War II and the Korean War, veteran’s service organizations urged the holiday to be amended. On June 1, 1954, Congress changed the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day so all American veterans would be honored.
A big thank you goes to Legend Assisted Living and Memory Care for recognizing the veterans on their special day. Veterans were honored with a special Veterans pin by Reverend Miles Knutson, Bill Shahan, Medical Social Worker, David Dumbleton, Chaplain and Kristal Vasquez, RN, all from Valir Hospice. There were about 15 Veterans recognized. Mr. Dumbleton provided the music as he played his guitar and led the patriotic songs, a certain song for each branch of the military. Legend provided lunch for the Veterans and their families. The atmosphere was alive with emotions as there were a few tears shed, a little laughter, and lots of shared memories. Thank you to all of the men and women that have served their country over the years, past and present. You are all heroes to us.
While the Veterans were recognized for their military service, David Dumbleton, Chaplain of Valir Hospice read the following poem. Recorded over forty years ago by Dumbleton’s uncle, Dumbleton revised it 11-16-16. This poem has a several different versions and has been read at numerous celebrations.
I am the United States of America
I was born on July 4, 1776 and the Declaration of Independence is my birth certificate.
The bloodlines of the world run in my veins because I offer Freedom the oppressed.
I am many tongues and many people. I am the United States.
I am 300+ million living souls and the monuments of those men and women died for me.
I am Nathan Hale and Paul Revere.
I stood at Lexington and fired the shot heard around the world.
I am Washington, Jefferson and Patrick Henry.
I am John Paul Jones, the Green Mountain Boys, Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.
I am Lee, Grant, and Abe Lincoln.
I remember the Alamo, The Maine, Pearl Harbor, and Nine Eleven.
When Freedom called, I answered and stayed until it was over, over there.
I left my heroes dead at Flanders Field, Pearl Harbor, on the beach slopes of Korea, the rice patties of Vietnam, the desert storms of Kuwait and the Persian Gulf, the war in Afghanistan, the war for Freedom, and Shock and Awe in Iraq.
I’m the Brooklyn Bridge and the wheat fields of Kansas and the oilfields of Oklahoma.
I’m the coal mines of Virginia and Pennsylvania, the fertile lands of the west, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Grand Canyon.
I’m Independence Hall, the Monitor and the Merrimac.
I’m big and spread from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, 3 million square miles thriving with industry.
I’m more than 5 million farms.
I am forests, fields, mountains, and deserts.
I am quiet villages and cities that never sleep.
You can look at me and see Ben Franklin walking down the streets of Philadelphia with a bread loaf under his arm.
You can see Betsy Ross with her needle.
You can see the lights of Christmas had people sing Auld Lang Syne as the calendar turns.
I am Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle and the World Series.
I am 200,000 schools, universities and colleges, and 300,000 churches where my people worship God as they thing best.
I’m a ballot dropped in an election box.
I’m a roar of a crowd in a stadium.
I’m a voice of a choir in a cathedral.
I’m an editorial in a newspaper and a letter to a congressman.
I am Eli Whitney and Stephen Foster and Mark Twain.
I am John Wayne, Ronald Reagan and Billy Graham.
I am Francis Scott Key, John Philip Sousa, and Kate Smith.
I’m Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Dr. Ben Carson.
I’m Horace Greeley, Will Rogers, Paul Harvey and the Wright Brothers.
I’m George Washington Carver and Daniel Webster.
I’m Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Walt Whitman and Thomas Paine.
Yes, I’m the Nation and these are the things and people that I am.
I was conceived in Freedom, and God willing, in Freedom I will spend the rest of my days.
May I possess always the faith, the integrity, the courage, and the strength to keep my character intact.
To remain a citadel of Freedom and a beacon of hope to the whole world.
I am the United States of America!

Darlene Franklin is both a resident of a nursing home in Moore, and a full-time writer.

By Darlene Franklin

I’ve been about about life in a nursing home for over two and a half years now, and what unexpected twists it’s taken. Sometimes I’ve soared with national fervor, or the music in my heart.
And sometimes it’s quite dark. The day I returned from the hospital was gray and empty. A blood clot on my lung and acute respiratory distress had sent me to the emergency room.
I returned home, alive, but devoid of spirit. Empty. Alone. Uncertain.
If I had acted on my feelings on that day, I would have quit everything. Instead I sent up flyers of faith. Don’t let me make any rash decisions.
Things got worse. I forced myself to go to Bible study on Sunday night in spite my fatigue. A fellow resident responded to one of my comments by leaving abruptly. My joy in the study was tempered by his rejection.
Things got even worse when I almost didn’t my Monday shower.
After I did get my shower (after some not-so-faith-filled griping), something shook loose from my heart, and I realized why I felt so dark.
I wasn’t suddenly too ill to be of any use or too sinful to be a blessing.
The truth was far deeper and far simpler.
God’s up to something good—something glow-in-the-dark bright, and darkness wants to stamp it out.
With that, I realized that the my heart was dark only if I let it be. The darkness that pounded on my walls had more to do with its persistent rejection of God’s light, in the same way it has ever since He entered the world as a helpless baby.
God’s light flooded my soul, and I laughed out loud.
I still have a blood clot, COPD and Congestive Heart Failure. I won’t be ready to run a marathon anytime soon.
But I’m still feasting on the memory of laughing in the face of trials.
Half a century ago, I learned that God’s love was unconditional. Nothing I do can ever separate me from Him.
In my latter years, God is pounding another transformation truth into me. He will use me, as imperfect and undependable as I am, because He is the shining light. It’s never been about what I can do for God; it’s always been about what God can do through me.
God will accomplish His purposes for me. Period. His light guides my way—no risk at all to count on God. I don’t have to be perfect to have God’s favor rest on me. (If you doubt that, look at the stories of the heroes of faith from Hebrews 11. Flaws aplenty!)
Do I always see things that way? Of course not. But I am learning to believe it is so. Here’s a few pointers that help me keep those truths front and center,
1. Spend time with God, in His word, and with His people.
2. Choose what I fill my mind with, like music, and coloring Scripture verses.
3. Refuse to accept things as they appear. Know that God is still in charge given all evidence to the contrary.
4. Don’t give up prematurely nor move ahead without God’s green light.
5. Who I am is more important to God than what I do. He doesn’t need me, but He invites me to work by His side.
6. Testify often of who God is and what He has done.
7. Accept the testimony of others about myself, People tell me they see light in me. The same light that came to Bethlehem somehow shines in me. All I can say is to God be the glory.
The Light of the World called His listeners the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). He has placed us on a hill, where we cannot be hidden.
My wish this Christmas season is that God’s people will become a string of lights stretching from home to home across the nation and the world, the glory of God to our generation.

You are the light of the world

Heaven’s electric company
Life-bringing, life-changing light
Exploding the darkness of my heart
Your brightness leads my way
You are the light of the world
Placed strategically upon a hill
Illuminating the way for others
Together you grow strong
Beautiful as a Christmas tree
You are the light of the world
Drawing all people unto Me
I won’t let you burn out
You may think your light’s feeble
I know differently—I made it so
You are the light of the world
Check out Darlene’s brand new website:

While many people decorate their own homes for the holidays, some use professional services.

By Greg Schwem, Tribune Content Agency

Greg Schwem, Tribune Content Agency

A friend of a friend posed the question innocently enough while we stuffed our faces with tailgate food prior to the last regular season college football game:
“Do you hang your Christmas lights yourself, or do you use a service?” he asked.
“Self,” I replied, knowing full well his answer was the other option.
Each year, post-Thanksgiving, I haul out a slew of outdoor lights I meticulously packed away the previous January, meaning I tossed them haphazardly into plastic bins, figuring there wasn’t a chance they’d spend the next 11 months intertwining themselves into a hopeless collection of knots even an Eagle Scout couldn’t untangle.
Ladders are no longer part of the decorating process, especially when putting lights on trees, for my fear of being permanently disabled due to a fall far outweighs the desire to place a star on top of my 20-foot-high backyard spruce. Instead, feet firmly on the ground, I use an extendable pole, staring into a blinding sun as I hook lights on the highest branches I can reach, slowly making my way down to the tree’s trunk.
Note to newbies who are installing lights on trees without ladders: Always start with new, just-out-of-the-package lights, for at least one string will burn out the moment the job is completed, even though you tested and retested every bulb before beginning the process. You don’t want to discover the topmost string is the culprit.
My neighbors to the immediate north and east have opted for the professional Christmas light installation services, or, as I refer to them, “those (expletive) guys.” Sometimes we are decorating simultaneously; while I wrestle with the pole, I’m hearing the click-clack of extendable ladders being raised three stories in the air. Yes, my neighbors have large houses. A nimble team of men with death wishes moves up and down the rungs like Cirque du Soleil acrobats. Each man is talented enough to hold onto a portion of the ladder with one hand, freeing the other to illuminate roof lines with colorful bulbs, all precisely equidistant apart. Often, they complete the entire exterior before I’ve finished one mini-evergreen.
Extension cords are nowhere to be seen on my neighbor’s properties; meanwhile, a slew of heavy duty orange cables snakes across my lawn at all angles. If a teenage rock band pulled up and the lead guitar player said, “Dude, mind if we plug in?” I could accommodate them.
When the decorating is finished, I proudly plug in my lights, mutter a few profanities related to the strands that are malfunctioning, run to the hardware store to replace them, reconnect everything, and vow this will be the last year my house looks like a paint-by-number creation hanging in the Louvre between Rembrandts.
At the tailgate, I listened enviously as the guest with the light service regaled me with stories about contacting “the on-call rep” regarding malfunctioning lights, and being told a “technician” would be out shortly to fix the issue. I imagined what it would be like to spend the entire Thanksgiving weekend watching football on the couch, knowing that, when darkness fell, I could gaze out my window and see trees and bushes so festive, Santa would look down from his sleigh on Christmas Eve and say, “Blitzen, let’s start with THAT house.”
I thought about wandering over to my neighbor’s house and asking the “head light installer” for a business card. And then I reconsidered.
For me, the holiday season doesn’t officially begin until the extendable pole has made an appearance. Yes, the freezing temperatures affect me faster, further curtailing my desire to adorn all my foliage with lights. This year, I skipped a backyard birch tree and tossed a bunch of candy cane-shaped decorations, which lined my driveway for years, into the garbage. I often joke to my wife that, in 10 years, our Christmas decor will consist of replacing the two clear porchlights with alternate bulbs, one red and one green.
Maybe I will make that switch in September. My neighbors will be so jealous.
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of two books: “Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad” and the recently released “The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian,” available at Visit Greg on the web at


The holidays are officially upon us with the smell of pumpkin in the air and Christmas on our minds. This also means, that it’s a time when fraudsters work even harder to take advantage of people. According to the FBI, in 2015 consumers lost more than $19 million to solicitation scams. Whether it be “giveaway” scams or charity scams, this is the time of year to be even more vigilant in protecting yourself and your finances. Below are some helpful tips to help protect you during the holidays.
· Never “pay to play”. There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back or send you more than the exact amount – that’s a red flag that it’s a scam. If a stranger wants to pay you for something, insist on a cashier’s check for the exact amount, preferably from a local bank or one with a local branch.
· Confirm all stories, offers or charities independently. This is the time of year where charities reach out for help with funding. Confirm everything you have been told with an independent source. Look up phone numbers, check credentials, contact family or your financial caregiver before giving to a charity that you are unfamiliar with.
· Verify all credit card charges. The holidays are a popular time when people use their credit cards to help pay for gifts. This is also a common method of payment scammers use via fraudulent charges. Review your credit card statement as soon as you receive it and verify your charges. If any fraudulent charges appear, contact your credit card company immediately.
· Monitor your account. As with your credit card statement, monitor your bank statement for any unusual activity and contact your local bank immediately if suspect that you have been a victim of fraud.
Remember, under no circumstances give out personal, credit card, bank account information over the phone or in an email. Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. As always, if any offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
For more information, visit


OMRF's Joan Merrill, M.D., (center), Teresa Aberle (left) and Fredonna Carthen (right).

The American College of Rheumatology has selected Oklahoma Research Foundation physician-researcher Joan Merrill, M.D., as a recipient of its 2018 Master designation.
Recognition as an ACR Master is one of the highest honors members can receive and only those who have made outstanding contributions to the field of rheumatology are selected. The ACR selected 21 individuals for the designation this year.
The contributions come through scholarly achievements and service to patients, students and the profession.
Merrill was presented with the award at the college’s annual meeting on October 20 in Chicago.
“I went to my first ACR meeting during my rheumatology fellowship in 1987 and I haven’t missed a meeting since,” she said. “Now more than 30 years later, it’s an honor to receive this award after a long, long career in this field.”
A graduate of Cornell University Medical College, Merrill joined OMRF from the faculty of Columbia University in 2001 to establish a clinical trial laboratory to work on ways to successfully test drugs for lupus.
Since then, she’s built a research cohort of more than 500 lupus patient volunteers, led numerous clinical trials for investigational lupus treatments, and pioneered novel trial designs for testing innovative therapies for lupus and other autoimmune illnesses.
Lupus, a chronic, disabling disease, has proven challenging to understand, said Merrill, resulting in more than $1 billion lost in failed trials. Only one treatment has been approved for the disease in the past 60 years.
Recently Merrill has been at the forefront of improving the recruitment of minority patients to clinical trials for lupus. She has also has been spearheading a call for transformative changes in trials for new lupus drugs.
“The goal is to have more approvals of effective drugs and to prevent ineffective ones from succeeding,” said Merrill. “That would be huge, because our patients need safer and better treatments.”
The American College of Rheumatology is a nonprofit organization founded in 1958 to improve the care of patients with rheumatic disease.