Friday, December 30, 2011

Smart


*****Rant Alert*****

Over the past few weeks, I have encountered many "smart" people, both children and adults. Kids with high IQ's who are achieving high grades in school. And adults who are not working, going to school, or doing anything really significant. What happened to these over-acheiving children? They were so smart. I thought they were going to conquer the world. What happened?

The only answer I can come up with is LIFE happened. These kids get plenty of book knowledge in school. But they don't seem to get life skills. Kids don't know how to cope with adversity, because many simply have never had to face it. Mom or Dad make sure that they never face the consequences of their actions. Things are always the "teacher's fault." Many kids don't have a concept of budgeting or saving for things they need. They are afraid to take risks and "just do it." They have never been taught how to fail.

I just want to shake these adults and say "Go to college, live in a ratty dorm, and eat Ramen noodles. You will survive and you will have an education that no one can ever take away from you." I want to say "Take the fast food/retail job. You will learn skills that will serve you well in life. Things like the fact that, in life, you are going to have to take orders from people without your level of intellect." I want to send them to classes to learn life skills if they have not learned them from parents or grandparents. And, if they really don't have a clue where they want to go in life, tell them to join a volunteer organization like "Americorps" that will help them clarify their goals. Or, join the military. 

Just DO something. 




Sunday, December 25, 2011

Together for Christmas

Today is the 21st anniversary of my mother's death. I remember spending Christmas Day 1990 sitting in the ICU waiting room of the Vicksburg hospital struggling to let go of my Mama. On paper, the date is the 26th, when the doctor got there after midnight to pronounce her dead. But, she was gone Christmas night.


Since then, Christmas has been bittersweet. It was my Mama's favorite holiday and she went all out. After her death, I cut way back on things. Less spending, less cooking, less decorating. Trying to find someone off the "beaten path" to help. Not necessarily bad things. And eventually, as time passed, I began to truly enjoy parts of Christmas again.


But now, with my Daddy dead only 10 days, I am now spending the wee hours of Christmas morning in tears. It is like I am not only grieving his loss, but the loss of my mother again as well. Both gone, right here at Christmas time.


The one thought that brings me comfort at this point that my Mama and Daddy are together for Christmas, once again. And not just together, but in Heaven to boot. 


So, I will mourn my losses and hope that time once again heals me enough to enjoy the Celebration of the birth of Jesus once again. 







Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sorting Through

One of today's tasks was to meet with the rest of my family to sort through some of my Daddy's things. I will be the first to admit, I am not good at this sort of thing. Even with the person gone, it seems like such an intrusion to go through their drawers, closets, and desks. 


As the others picked out things to keep as mementos, I found very little need for this. I am at a point where I am trying to simplify my life and get rid of the "things" that are not really useful or beautiful. I have photos, both displayed and on my electronic devices. My memories are safe in my head (at least for the moment). I did bring home a small coin bank that my Daddy has possessed as a child, simply because I liked it and found it charming. 


Twenty one years ago, it was much harder to part with my mother's things. While the rest of my family tossed, I gathered and boxed for going through at a later date. I guess that need for tangible things has diminished as I grow older and realize that the real "mementos" are the gifts my parents gave me growing up. I learned to be resourceful, generous, helpful, and (most of the time) kind from my parents. I learned the value of a dollar and how to work for it early on. I learned the importance of family and being there for each other. 


And these mementos are the ones that really count. 



Saturday, December 17, 2011

Timing

My Daddy went "home" on Thursday night, December 15th. 


In the past, I have never really understood when a deceased person's loved ones said things like "It was a blessing" or "He/She is not suffering anymore." I do now. 


Watching my Daddy weaken, become disoriented, and struggle for breath was the hardest thing I have ever had to watch. By the final days of my Daddy's life, I was begging God to take him home. 


Now I am the one saying "It was a blessing." Don't get me wrong. I will miss my Daddy terribly. But he is not suffering anymore. 


And I am beyond thankful.



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

I will be the first to admit that decision making is not the easiest thing for me. I don't make them lightly or without a fair amount of thought and prayer. The hardest ones are those "lesser of two evils" decisions. Does one take chemo and live 2 years? Or is quality more important than quantity? Does one stay in a dating relationship that is safe, but no longer healthy? If a teen is depressed and suicidal, is a solution that helps keep that child alive OK, even if it is not the ultimate one? 

I know these decisions are inevitable. They are part of life. But that does not make them any easier. 




Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Curse of Libra?

According to astrology (which I take with a healthy grain of salt, btw!), I am a LIbra, represented by the scales. Librans tend to want things balanced, can see many sides of a story, and like fair play. These characteristics fit me to a "T."


Being able to see more than one side of a story was essential to my work as a counselor. I was not allowed to choose my clients. I saw the people I was assigned. And I had to find a way to connect with them. Yes, even the sex offenders, the thieves, and the abusers. 


Don't get me wrong. Some of the crimes I heard about were horrendous. And I DON'T  excuse them. But there was almost always more than one side to the story. A mother who was arrested for child neglect was a teen "throwaway" child whose boyfriend would beat her up if she neglected HIS needs for the needs of her child. The thief was a gentle lady who had gotten caught up in gambling and was terrified after the person she owed money to threatened her child. And in some cases, a person's mind simply could not "take in" situations if he or she had been through a similar trauma. 


We also tend to filter our reactions to things through our own experiences or where we are in life.  I am not a mother, so there are things that don't hit me as hard.  However, situations involving elderly people (as I care for my seriously ill father) tug at my heartstrings in a big way. 


Nothing is completely black or white with me, and I have to be careful about voicing my to people who are (sometimes mercifully!) able to see the world that way. 


I always see shades of gray. 








Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Dressing

"The Dressing" has been almost a sacred ritual in my family since I can remember. This is true "Southern" dressing made with cornbread, as opposed to "Yankee" dressing made with "light bread." Most true Southerners shudder at the thought of light bread dressing. 


My Mama and Daddy used to make the dressing together at Thanksgiving. Since Mama's death, Daddy has continued to make the dressing, with subtle changes over the years, but it is pretty much the same recipe. 


Daddy has been quite ill this Fall and for the first time since I can remember, was not up to "hosting" Thanksgiving this year. I volunteered to make his dressing for him and deliver it this year. This was a huge step, a changing of the guard in the dressing making hierarchy. 


Of course, Daddy was unable to let go completely. He called one day to make certain that I knew to use fresh broth instead of canned and to make sure I put in mostly dark meat. He even gave me the specific chicken parts he wanted used. It was to be baked in a 4 inch deep dish. The Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix I used in conjunction with the corn bread had to be the CORNBREAD version of the stuffing mix. Celery and onions could not be chopped in a food processor. They had to be done by hand, with the pieces coming out about the size of my little fingernail. Since he and my stepmom both love sage, the tablespoonful for the dressing was to be "slightly heaping." 


By the time I was ready to make the dressing, I was somewhat anxious. What if my dressing did not measure up? Horrors! 


I watched my Daddy as he scooped up his first forkful of my dressing, waiting for a response. I did not realize that I was actually holding my breath until he chewed, swallowed...


And pronounced it "perfect." 

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

R&R

Tomorrow, I will get in my minivan, crank up some music and head to Columbus, Mississippi. There, I will meet up with my long time best friend, Teresa, and we will tour antebellum homes, eat, sit in the hot tub, and sleep as late as we want to for three glorious days and nights. 


Teresa has been my friend for so long that most of the time, words need not even be exchanged. We can convey volumes with just a look or a gesture. And we have a tendency to burst into song at the drop of a hat. 


Coming off of a summer of illness and crisis for me and loved ones, I need this break desperately. I am letting other family members handle things for a few days. I have to rest and recharge my body, my mind, and my spirit. I can't afford not to. 



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

iPhone 4s

On Friday, Oct. 14th, I did something I never thought I would do. I drove to the Apple Store in Jackson to get in line for the newest incarnation of the iPhone on the actual day it came out. I skipped the "4" altogether. I can't afford to upgrade every time a new iPhone comes out. But the timing of this was perfect. Two days after my birthday, with birthday money in hand, I decided to go for the 4s. 


When I got to the store, the first wave of customers had already come and gone. The store was full, but I was ushered in and quickly set up with a white, 32 gig model. As I exited the store, clutching my new toy, a reporter from "The Clarion Ledger" asked for an interview that would be quoted in the next days business section. How cool was that? 


I am actually not one who has to have the latest or most expensive gadget. I saved my money for almost a year and waited until the second iPad came out before I bit. What a difference being able to read on that thing has made in my life! My iMac was another thing that I did not buy until my old PC crashed and burned. A Mac just happened to suit my particular computer needs better than a PC by then. I did not get an iPhone until the 3Gs came out. 


So far, I love my 4s! It is much faster than the 3Gs. The battery life is longer. It has more capacity than my former phone so I can load more of my music and my e-books on it. And it has "Siri", that voice activated personal assistant that is getting so much attention. I have to admit, I am loving this feature! Today I was able to find a friend the name of an Italian restaurant in Clinton, create a reminder to pick up my medicine, and find all the United Methodist churches in Warren County. Pretty cool!


Over the past month, life has changed rather drastically. Not just for me, but for several loved ones. I foresee a fair amount of sitting in doctors office waiting rooms and hospitals. Being able to read, listen to music, check my email, Facebook, and text easily makes a huge difference and may just save my sanity. (If I ever had any. That is debatable!) 


Thanks again, Apple. 









Friday, October 07, 2011

Wireless

Last week, I purchased an early birthday gift, to me, from me. Sony wireless headphones from newegg.com. 


These headphones including shipping were slightly less than $40.00. I can already tell that this is some of the best money I have ever spent. They work quite well, the sound quality is pretty nice for the price, and best of all, I can watch TV and movies freely without worrying about disturbing my husband who is often in bed by 9PM.


Before my headphones, I would try to watch TV in our small home, but always cringed when a noisy commercial came on before I could find the mute button. I love to read, but by evening, my vision is too blurred to do much of that. Depending on vision and hand stiffness, painting is often out by late evening. So, I depend on the "boob tube" to keep me company when I am up till 1 and 2 AM. I can DVR and watch all the stuff my husband is not fond of like "Dancing With the Stars", "Say Yes to the Dress", "Project Runway", and "America's Got Talent." Hey, I need my doses of mindless TV every now and then. And I have to have my periodic Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan fixes as well. 


A new "Coach" store is opening in our outlet mall today. I couldn't care less. Forget fancy purses and shoes. Forget fine jewelry. 


For me, it is all about electronics. 


Call me "Gadget Girl".















Monday, October 03, 2011

The Age of Cancer

Over the past couple of weeks, several friends and loved ones of mine have been either diagnosed with cancer or that their cancer has returned. Coincidentally, all of these folks have been over the age of 70. But, they also are people who have, up until now, been active and independent. None of them have any problems with dementia. None of them were down physically, other than with some normal things that happen with age, such as osteoarthritis. Shoot, most of them can run circles around me!


So why, when sharing news and asking for prayers, has age come up as the primary issue? In these days of better health care, increased awareness, and prevention, 80 is really no longer what I personally call "old." My church has several members over the age of 90 who still live independently, drive their cars (safely, I might add!) and take care of their friends and families. 


I feel the same way about the cancer diagnoses of my 70+ friends and loved ones as I do when I hear of a loved one 30 years younger being diagnosed. It may be a harder fight, but, depending on the individual, that fight can still be worth it. 


And it can be won. 













Sunday, September 25, 2011

Attack of the Superwomen

I am not Superwoman. I admit, there was a time when I wanted to be. I was going to be the one who could do it all. And not just do it all, but with style, grace, and ease. 


Chronic illness helped knock the desire to be Superwoman out of me. I began to realize how much of my identity was tied up with "doing." It took a while for me to be at peace with just "being".  Of course, I still "do." But, I don't have to do things better than anyone else. I don't have to do "more." 


This peace has been tested this week. I have been in a situation where I have had to sit back on my little red scooter and watch others "do it all".  My relatively small offerings have been minimized and eclipsed. I just have to hope that my efforts have made some differences where it really counts and to not worry about the scope of them. 


Can I "not" do it all with style and grace? Stay tuned.







Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Verdict

After being in pain for most of the summer and being poked and prodded for a month, the verdict is costochondritis. This is severe inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the sternum. 


http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/costochondritis/DS00626


According to my neuromuscular doc, this condition is fairly common in people who have multiple autoimmune diseases. That includes me. 


Getting my heart, stomach, and gallbladder checked out were, according to my doc, the appropriate things to do, given my family history and age. But, in the end, it was benign, but painful, inflammation that was the trouble. 


I feel like I "lost" my summer, between being in too much pain to function well and being in hospitals and doctor's offices. But, the upside is that, after 2 1/2 months, I am finally feeling human again. 


Just in time for Fall. 







Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Frustration

One of the most frustrating things about being disabled is inability to guarantee someone that I will be completely and totally reliable. When I was healthy, I always took great pride in being dependable. And even sick, if a crisis occurred, I was going to find someone to cover for me or at the very least call (sometimes removing my oxygen mask in an ER, much to the consternation of the medical staff) to let someone know that I would not make an appointment. 

I know that people in charge of things have to make sure that things are covered. But I get discouraged when tasks and opportunities are taken from me "just in case." I try very hard to pace myself and do the best I possibly can to make sure I can meet the things I commit to. I may not get things done quite as fast as a "non disabled" person. But, I daresay, I fulfill my obligations better than a lot of healthy people I know! 

Believe me. I will be the first person to take myself out of the game if I cannot perform a duty well and in a timely manner. 

Don't dwell on my disabilities. Dwell on my abilities. 


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The "Box"

A year ago today, I took a gamble and became part of a new gift and consignment shop called "The Cricket Box." Little did I know what a blessing I was in for!

I am now selling enough art to keep myself in supplies, donate to charity, and make a bit of profit. People tell me that looking at my "wall" makes them smile. This is all I could ask for.

Forming relationships with other vendors has also been a wonderful experience. Most of us help each other out whether it is hammering a nail that is *just* out of reach or helping someone create a Facebook page. If a friend or acquaintance is looking for something, we direct them to our fellow vendors at the "Box."

But, by far, the biggest blessing has been getting to know the owners of this amazing operation, Debbie Tate and Judy Wooley. They have not only managed to start a business (yes, in THIS economy!), but they  manage their business with grace. And they always have a smile and an encouraging word for us vendors. They make it a pleasant place just to "be."

A year ago, I took a $100.00 gamble on myself.

And won.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

A Proper Funeral

Yesterday, I was privileged to attend the funeral service for a longtime family friend, Miss Jean.

It was a very proper service, the likes of which I had not seen in some time. Almost everyone was dressed in "Sunday best" attire which to me is a sign of respect for the church in which the service is held as well as for the deceased.

The choir that Miss Jean had accompanied sang favorite old hymns in voices that quavered a bit at times. Pallbearers marched in wearing dark suits and white gloves. Large white carnations, which would later be placed on the casket, adorned their lapels.

One of Jean's friends stood and shared stories about her. The pastor, a wonderfully upbeat fellow, did his best to make the service a celebration of Jean's life and focused on her "new" pain and struggle-free life with Jesus.

After the service, the pall bearers marched out behind the casket and after it was put in the hearse, stood still and faced the bereaved as they exited the church.

I did not stay for the repast after the service. However, I could tell that there was going to be quite a feast for Jean's friends and family when they returned from the graveside where she was laid to rest beside her husband.

Music, flowers, laughter, tears, and fellowship. I think Miss Jean would have approved.

Rest in peace sweet lady.





Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Party




As I was watching coverage of Hurricane Irene, this video came on CNN. Rather than submit to the uncertainties of shelter life, these feisty senior citizens chose to ride out the hurricane in their retirement apartment building.

I can't say that I blame them. As they pointed out, some of them had serious medical conditions that would make trying to sleep on cots difficult to impossible. And what about their medical equipment, special diets, etc?

It made me think about what I would do if faced with that choice. I might get down on one of those shelter cots. But it would take several people to get me UP. And if they had to do that every time I had to go to the bathroom, it would be a full time job!

Would I be able to hook up my biPap? I stop breathing at least once every minute and a half to two minutes without it and wake up in a total fog and with a terrible headache.

And would my medicines be safe? I take too many to carry around in my purse all the time. Especially if they were all in bottles. Not to mention epi-pens, inhalers, my nebulizer, my walker and my scooter. I am seriously high maintenance!

I have to admit, I would probably take my cue from those seniors and stay home.

And pray. A lot.



Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Grace Moment

Tonight I had what I call a "grace moment." One of those times when, unexpectedly, a burden is lifted. A dreaded task does not have to be performed. A day does not have to be completely juggled and reconfigured.

I would have performed this task with all of the grace I could muster. But, I was concerned about how my body was going to hold up in the heat that is expected tomorrow. Not knowing how far I might have to walk and what assistive device I would need. Whether the chest pains that leave me slightly lightheaded and short of breath would plague me at an inopportune time. Sometimes, even with my limitations, I am "it." 

But now I can go to bed, hopefully to sleep. 

And say a prayer of thanksgiving for my "grace moment." 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sapped


 
I have been in "extra" pain for almost 7 weeks now. I am in the process of being poked, prodded, and tested to find the source of the unrelenting chest pain. My heart has pretty much been cleared. This is good. But, I am still hurting.

I am no stranger to pain. I have been in varying degrees of discomfort/pain since I fractured my back in a bus crash at age 18 . I also have scoliosis and other back and neck issues. Chiropractic care helps me keep the pain at a manageable level for the most part. I take only an occasional OTC Aleve or Tylenol. 

But being at this level of pain is affecting both my energy and my creativity. My mind is so occupied with "keeping going" that I don't seem to have the energy left to be truly creative. And this lack of creativity is wearing on my spirit. 

I am sapped. 




Monday, August 15, 2011

CAPTCHA

This is the name of those codes that one must type in so that a site can make sure responses are generated by a real person. For most people, these are not hard to figure out and type in. 

But for someone like myself, who deals with bouts of double vision due to the the neuromuscular disease, myasthenia gravis, it can be impossible to read and reproduce these codes. Many of them contain letters that are slightly doubled to begin with. That means I see FOUR of the characters. Even when I greatly increase the size of the text, which I do for almost all webpages, I still can't figure them out. This affects my ability to do things ranging from commenting on a blog post, to making an online purchase. 

And yes, I have tried to use the audio version of these CAPTCHA codes. I have yet to be able to understand one of them. That robotic voice is as indecipherable to my ears as the letters are to my eyes!

There has to be a better way. 

Really.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Courtesy

Most of us were brought up to be courteous to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. But how many of us extend this courtesy to the people who should count the most...our families.

I try very hard to do this. I say please and thank you. I return things I borrow. I take my turn and try to pull my weight as much as I am able. I return phone calls and text messages. I think my family deserves this as much as anyone else. I don't always succeed, but I do try.

Is it too much to ask for that same courtesy in return?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Jobs

Lately, it seems like every time I turn on the TV, I hear the word "jobs." As in shortage of them. I do not doubt that more jobs are needed.

But, sometimes I have to wonder about the people who are looking for jobs as well. I see people in doctors offices, restaurants, stores, and other businesses who say they are there to fill out a job application or have an interview. One young man came to fill out a job application without even bringing a pen! I loaned him one, but I could tell that he was not prepared to make a good impression. His pants were "sagging" and his shirt was stained. He looked like a nice young man, but I would not hire him. Dress as if the job is already yours.

And then there are the people who say they are trying to find work, but no effort is made to really look. When one is looking for a job, one needs to MAKE that his or her job. It takes time, patience, and persistence. When I was looking for work in college, I went into to stores even if they did not indicate they were hiring. More than once, I was able to persuade these folks to hire me.

And it is true that one is more likely to find a better job when one is already employed. Do something! An elderly friend of mine went for an interview with the highway department. He was told he was not qualified for the position. He replied "How much skill does it take to cut a bush?" This told his prospective employers that he was willing to start at the bottom and work his way up. He got the job.

Is the job you get going to be your dream job? Maybe not. But it can be a foot in the door. And don't be afraid to try something new. Who knows? It might be the start of something big!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Project Runway

The new season has begun and most of these designers are fabulous!

And yes, I have already picked my favorite.  Bert Keeter won the challenge today, but I liked him from what I saw of him on the audition special before the season premiere. He was open and honest about what losing his partner and best friends to AIDS did to him. How he turned to alcohol to deal with his feelings and how he has worked to stay sober.

I was surprised at the pain his story brought up for me. I lost a number of friends to AIDS back in the 90's. Just as painful as the losses were the hateful and judgmental attitudes shown towards my friends, and towards me for supporting them. There were times when I was almost ashamed to call myself a Christian. I couldn't picture Jesus saying the things I heard from people who claimed to follow Him.

But, back to the present. Bert's winning design, made from orange checked boxer shorts and a bedsheet was spectacular. I hope he stays sober, finds love again, and wins Project Runway.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Heart to Heart

As my Monday afternoon cardiology appointment draws near, I find myself getting a bit anxious. Not panicky, just a bit unsettled.

I don't know which is worse. Being afraid that it *is* my heart, or being embarrassed if it turns out to be a very expensive case of indigestion. I know I will feel better when I know one way or another. I have just been dismissed and ridiculed before concerning my (very real) health issues and the scars remain. And although people mean well when they say "don't worry", "put it in GOD'S hands" (imagine the stentorian tones here), or "it will be all right", it does more harm than good. Sometimes I need to hear "It's OK to be scared."

But, having buried my mother, grandfather, and an aunt all at age 57 of heart disease, I suppose I would rather be safe than sorry.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge (Finally) Continued

Somewhere on the way to finishing blogging about my 30 day song challenge, I got lost in a sea of the stuff of life. But, finally, I have a breather, so without further ado...


Day 16: A good song that does get a little repetitive: Two out of Three Aint Bad Meatloaf 1977


Day 17: A song from your childhood: "Goin’ to the Chapel The Dixie Cups 1964." I actually had the 45 to this. I was only 5, but I sang this tune constantly. I can still remember all the words.

Day 18: The Greatest Guitar Work you have ever heard: Smooth Santana/Rob Thomas 1999. People may argue this one with me, but this song makes me want to dance! Even with my two left feet. :)

Day 19: An Exceptionally Sad Song "My Immortal" Evanescence 2003. Sad, but beautifully sung by Amy Lee. 

Day 20: A song by an artist no longer living: "Fields of Gold" Eva Cassidy 1993/1996. The early death of Eva Cassidy was a tragedy for the world of music. Fortunately, she left us a legacy of wonderful tunes like this cover of Sting's FOG. I first heard this version when Michelle Kwan skated to it, and instantly fell in love. 

Day 21: A song with a great bass rhythm: Under Pressure Queen 1981. Queen is and remains one of my favorite all time bands. 

Day 22: A song you can deeply relate to: "The World I Know" Collective Soul. 1995. The "Bird" video. Need I say more?

Day 23: A song you can play over and over and not get sick of: "Iris" Goo Goo Dolls 1998. This song was on the "City of Angels" soundtrack. One of my favorite songs and soundtracks ever. 

Day 24: A song played at a memorable event in your life: "Colour My World Chicago 1970." My band director sang this at a bandcamp dance. It was my first time to be away from home for an entire week and the first time I was really noticed by BOYS. 

Day 25: A song you don’t understand: "Winter" Tori Amos 1992. Yet another song skated to by my all time favorite skater, Michelle Kwan. Tori Amos is somewhat cryptic to say the least, but the song is lovely.

Day 26: The Best Rock Song You’ve Ever Heard: "Livin’ on a Prayer" Bon Jovi 1986. This was a toughie, but I finally had to give a nod to the amazingly gorgeous Jon Bon Jovi. 

Day 27: A song that forces you to reminisce: "Hopelessly Devoted to You" Olivia Newton John 1978. 'Grease' came out the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. It stayed at our little movie house all summer and my boyfriend at the time and I saw it so many times I lost count. 

Day 28: A Song that gives you shivers: "Who Wants to Live Forever" Queen 1986. Eerily foreshadowing of the untimely death of Freddie Mercury. This song also reminds me of the many friends I lost to AIDS. 

Day 29: A Song that Helps You Live: "With a Little Help from my Friends" Joe Cocker 1967. What would I do without them?

Day 30: My Favorite Song: "Mad World" Adam Lambert 2009. I don't know exactly why this song touches me like it does, but since I heard it performed on American Idol, it has been my favorite "popular" song. Sometimes it really is quite a "mad world." Yet, we prevail. 









































Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Betty Ford

I think the title of my blog sums up her style quite well! I can remember when people did not say the word " cancer" out loud. People would whisper that someone had "c."

And getting treatment for alcoholism, at least in the South, would have been covered up or shrouded in secrecy. I never knew my own grandfather had been in treatment back in the fifties until after my grandmothers death less than ten years ago.

God bless Betty Ford. May she rest in peace.

And thanks for saying it out loud.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Weary

After two days of more than usual activity, I woke up this morning already weary. But, it is more than the physical tiredness. I am weary to the soul. So many of my friends and family are going through tough times. My nature is such that I "go through" these times with them on both physical and emotional levels. And 99% of the time, I would not have it any other way.

I have a list of people I need to call and check on and things I need to do. But today I am having trouble mustering up the energy to do any of these things. I am so exhausted that a just getting in the shower seems to be a Herculean task.

This is a time when I am going to have to disengage for just a bit, find some ways to refresh and renew my own strength, and get some rest.

I just have to do it.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Sold in Jackson!

This is "Summer Trees", my first painting to sell at Fondren Art Gallery in Jackson, MS.

I feel like a little kid at Christmas! It is such an affirmation to have my work sold in another city. Admittedly, Jackson is still a small pond to many, but it is an awfully big pond to me. After all, I have only been watercoloring for 2 1/2 years myself.


I am still sort of dazed by what this has all become. My work is in 2 shops. I am invited to be a part of a festival in December where I will show and sell my work. I speak to groups about watercolor and where it has taken me. Best of all, I am privileged to teach 3 watercolor classes at Vicksburg Senior Center and one at Redwood Elementary School.

I just wonder where watercolor is going to take me next?
I can't wait!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Part 1

For the month of April, I participated in a 30 day song challenge. It was both fun and thought provoking. For this challenge, I restricted my answers to popular music.

Day 1: Current Favorite Song: "Mad World" as performed by Adam Lambert on American Idol. 1982/2008

Day 2: A Song That Always Calms Me Down: "Vincent" by Don McLean. I also like the Josh Groban cover. 1971

Day 3: A Song I Like That Nobody Else Seems To: "Beautiful Heartache" by Oksana Grigorieva. Her troubles with Mel Gibson aside, she really does have talent. 2009

Day 4:  A Song That Uses Weird Noises Well: "The Marvelous Toy" by Peter, Paul, and Mary. 1969

Day 5: A Song You Believe Has Great Lyrics: "Inside Out" by Eve 6. 1998 Who can resist the line "You put my tender heart in a blender?"

Day 6: A Song You Would Like Played At Your Funeral: "Please Don't Bury Me" by John Prine. I say this tongue in cheek, but this is exactly the way I feel. 1973

Day 7: A Song That Gets Your Heart Racing: "The Way" by Fastball. 1998

Day 8: The Song That Changed Your Mind About Music: "One of Us" by Joan Osborn 1995. Actually, this song changed my mind about 90's music and opened me up to Alanis Morrissette, Leah Andreone, and Shawn Colvin.

Day 9: A Song By a Band You Stopped Listening To, But Started Again: "Pink" by Aerosmith. 1998 I had just kind of drifted away from Aerosmith, but this song caught my fancy and brought me back.

Day 10: A Classic Song Everyone Seems To Like But You: "Heart of Gold" by Neil Young. 1971 I just never have liked him.

Day 11: The Best Love Song You Have Ever Heard: "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" as performed by David Cook on American Idol. 1969/2008

Day 12: A Song That Ends Too Quickly: "Tequila Sunrise" by The Eagles, 1973.

Day 13: A Song With A Great Drum Rhythm: "Wild Nights" by John Mellencamp, 1971/1994.

Day 14: A Song By Your Favorite Singer: "Little Jeannie" by Elton John, 1980. I don't know that I can pick ONE favorite singer, but Elton John is certainly one of them. And for some reason this song just makes me happy.

Day 15: The Craziest Song You Ever Heard: "Forest Lawn" by John Denver 1970/1975. The first time I heard this song, I howled.

I am going to end this post with Day 15. Things that surprised me to this point about my choices is that most of them are either from the 70's or 90's. Some things have been covered by current artists, but I seem to have an affinity for those periods. I could tell I was considerably older than most people participating in the challenge. But, I don't seem to be totally stuck in the music of my teens, for which I am thankful.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Flood of 2011

When I was a teen, there was a song about the Lord telling Noah there was going to be a "floody floody" and to get those animals out of the "muddy, muddy." It was a fun song with hand motions and clapping.

Well, here in Vicksburg, there is going to be a floody, floody for sure. Projected to be one of the worst in our history, this flood is creating headaches for businesses, homeowners, schools, and yes, animals.

The children in this picture, my watercolor students from Redwood Elementary School, have had to evacuate their school due to the rising water. We are praying a hastily built levee will keep the damage to the school building to a minimum.

The local humane society has been called on to house all kinds of animals that they normally don't. Chickens, goats, and cows are now being sheltered there. Not to mention the housepets that owners have not been able to take with them to temporary lodgings.

Businesses that are flooding are having to shut down and employees are out of work. Those that are staying open face increasingly hazardous working conditions. There are some that may not be able to recover.

Many of the people now being flooded were still trying to rebuild after last years tornado. As one of my friends said today about the children from Redwood School, "Many of these babies don't have much on a good day. What are they going to do now?"

But, Vicksburg is a resilient city. They have survived war, pestilence, floods, and tornadoes. The people of this city will work together, help each other out, and we will survive the flood of 2011.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Peace, Perhaps?

It looks like we are going to have a peaceful night tonight after two nights of storms. I am ready for a nights' sleep in my bed, with my biPap. Sitting up on the couch so I can sleep and breathe at the same time while being constantly awakened by thunder, wind, and lightning gets old fast. 

I can't remember having this many severe storms in less than a month, ever. And certainly not having this many, this close to me and the people I care about.

Hoping and praying that tomorrow is a much better day for the many who are trying to put their lives back together after tragic, weather related events. 

Goodnight.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sadness Overload

These past few days have been a time of what I call "sadness overload." Another church friend passed away last week. This on top of still mourning the loss of my friend, Joyalene.

Then a tornado mowed down Clinton, MS. Six of the people I love most on the planet (including my sister and her family) live in Clinton and there were several anxious hours while I was unable to get confirmation that they were all safe. Thankfully, they are all OK. But much of the city is trashed and there is much cleanup and rebuilding to be done.

Later Friday, a massive apartment fire in Vicksburg made 11 more families homeless. This on top of another fire in a neighboring subdivision last week.

Saturday was a funeral for a young solider from Brandon. The peace and solemnity of this occasion was threatened by the presence of the Westboro Baptist Church. Thousands of citizens showed up in force, bearing American flags to shield the family. Fortunately, the church members got themselves arrested for trespassing before the funeral began and spent their protest time locked up.

And, for the kicker, a family member lost his job.

I guess I feel particularly helpless right now because I am not in a physical or financial position to help much. This frustrates me to no end.

Praying for all affected by the tragedies of the past week.

Hoping this one will be better.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

There for You

Years ago, a group called "The Rembrandts" sang a song (also known as the theme song from "Friends") called "I'll Be There for You." Nice song. Catchy tune.

I am blessed with a lot of friends. Some of them are face to face, everyday friends, some live in other states, and some are friends I have never met anywhere but the internet.



As wonderful as the idea of being able to "be there" for all my friends, all the time is, I realize that this is impossible. Heaven knows, I used to try!

The best I can do now is pray that I can be in the right spot for the right friend at the right moment. I have to trust God to arrange that.

And He will.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Taking Stock

As April is almost upon us, I decided to go back and take stock of how I was doing with my 2011 "To-do" list. I have not done everything on the list, but I am making progress. 

#1 was to eat at The Lady and Sons in Savannah, GA for my friend Teresa's 50th birthday. Since her birthday is not until November, I obviously have not done that yet. 

#2 was to make another CD of Christian music. So far, asthma, myasthenia gravis, and reflux have conspired against this. But I am still hopeful of doing that this year!

#3 was to do one or more watercolor demonstrations at "The Cricket Box." I did do this in February and had a great time!

#4 was to find some new recipes utilizing the things I CAN eat. I have created a couple of nice recipes that help bring variety to my limited diet. 

#5 was to learn 10 new 7 letter words. I have learned about 4 so far and plan to keep on learning!

#6 was to increase my charitable giving. I am working on increasing my customary 10% to 15% and am succeeding with that most of the time.

So far, I am making progress. One step at a time.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Via Dolorosa

***Whine Alert***



I have been singing the Via Dolorosa at my church for the past 22 years. It is a special song to me and it means a lot for me to be able to witness once a year to my church family through this song.

Last year, I was not sure if I would be able to sing it. We had a new preacher and it was subject to his approval. Fortunately, he was OK with it, and I sang the song during Lent, as usual.

This year, I still do not know whether I will be able to sing it or not. I asked about it weeks ago, and still have no answer other than we may can "work it in."

I don't know how to feel. Despite some recent vocal problems, I think I still sound OK. I have given up the idea of even asking to sing more than one time a year. I am looking into opportunities to sing other places just so I can keep my voice in shape.

 I can't believe God would give me this gift and not want me to use it. Singing is what I do. It is what I have always done. It is a huge part of who I am.

So, I pray for my sore heart to mend and for guidance as to what I need to do to keep this gift in good condition so that I can sing to His glory.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Miz Oakes

This morning, I received an email informing me of the sudden passing this morning of my friend Joyalene.

I first met Joyalene when I was in handbell choir at church with her teenage son. But, we bonded some time later, after her husband left her, and filed for divorce. At the time, I was opening the church for morning prayer. Joyalene was having a very difficult time, and sometimes we would pray and cry together. She was of an age to be my mother, so I would call her "Miz" Oakes. Then she would mock glare at me and tell me to call her Joyalene. It became a running joke.

Even during life's difficulties, Joyalene was funny. She could crack me up with one look. And when she opened her mouth! Sometimes I would be sore from laughing so hard.

Joyalene loved her friends and family deeply. She was always supportive of me. I think she believed I could do anything.

"Miz Oakes", you will be missed.

Deeply.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Too Close

On March 4th, two criminals escaped from a Louisiana State Police Compound and began a 10 day, 4 state crime spree that hit way to close to home for me. 


After escaping near Baton Rouge, where a lot of my extended family lives,  they hitched a ride to Vicksburg. Then they carjacked a visitor to MY city just minutes away from where I live. And ultimately murdered him. I can't begin to express how angry it makes me that a visitor to my hometown could not be safe here. 


Then, to top it off, they are caught after crashing yet another stolen vehicle on the grounds of Fed-Ex world headquarters. My friend, Teresa, had left work there just minutes before this occurred. 


This has all been pretty jarring on top of other critical world events. 


Just too close to home. 










Friday, March 11, 2011

iPad2

I just ordered my last year's birthday, Christmas, anniversary, and Valentine's gifts all rolled into one. The iPad 2.

I have wanted one of these ever since the first model came out. But, I like to wait for the second generation of a new gadget to come out before I purchase. And today, my long saved for iPad became available. And, in 10 days, it will be in my hot little hand!

Giftcards from friends and family purchased the case and paid the tax. Thanks Amy, Bryan, and Granna!

My e-books on my iPhone have given me my reading life back and I am looking forward to reading on my iPad. Large print books are nice, but difficult for me to hold. I will be able to watch movies on it. And I love to be able to look things up while I am watching TV. I may even be able to show watercolor demos to my art classes on it. The possibilities are endless.

So, I will be watching my mailbox like a kid on Christmas morning! Santa is coming.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

(((HUGS)))

The meaning of this is pretty simple. If I were with you in person, I would want to give you a big hug. If your pain was nothing I have personally experienced, I would not want to trivialize your suffering with words. I have no real idea of what you are going through. I have not "been there."

If I have "been there", then I may try to offer words of help. What worked for me may work for you as well. But this still has to be done gently.

I would rather give you a (((HUG))) than risk invalidating your feelings or giving unneeded advice. 

So, please take this (((HUG))) from me today if you want or need it. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Toomers Trees

I am a tree lover. I always have been. I find them beautiful no matter what the season is. I adore the Spring and Fall colors. I love the fullness of the foliage in Summer, and admire the elegant contours of the branches when they are bare in Winter.


I chose my home largely due to the wonderful big trees in the yard. The house could be fixed up, but trees like mine only come around once in a lifetime. When I go on vacation anywhere without many trees, I miss them so much that it is almost a physical ache.


Like most people I have talked to, I am absolutely devastated over the brutal and senseless poisoning of the gorgeous and historic old oaks at Toomers Corner in Auburn, Alabama. That just disturbs me deep in my soul. And what if some fools decide to do "copycat" tree killings? Are any historic trees truly safe right now? Especially if they belong to an SEC school like the ones in "The Grove" at Ole Miss. 


I am not going to stop praying that somehow, miraculously, these trees can be saved. And sending my best to my Auburn friends during this time. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Singer

I was able to sing a couple of hymns in church for the first time since New Years, making it a happy Sunday for me. 


I saw both my pulmonologist and my neuromuscular specialist this past week. Basically, the MG and asthma are going to affect my voice to some degree for the rest of my life, primarily in the area of being able to sing for very long at one time. This continues to rule out things like doing concerts at nursing homes and singing in cantatas. Right now, even an entire Sunday morning service singing in the choir is not manageable. 


I have to try to focus on what I still can do vocally. I can still sing a solo or two. I hope to make another recording, a bit at a time. I hope to sing the National Anthem for the Mississippi Braves this Spring or Summer. And, now I can "sing" with my paintbrush, which helps tremendously. 


But, for today, I am just grateful that I could sing a couple of hymns and sound almost like my old self. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

De-Friended

While browsing around my FaceBook account this weekend, I decided to look up a couple of people whose names had not come up in my feed lately.

Not totally to my surprise, I discovered I had been "de-friended." Even though our real friendship had cooled through circumstances, I was hoping we could at least keep up a distant FB relationship. I had limited my interactions with her on FB to "liking" links and pictures.

But, the de-friending speaks volumes. And I hear it loud and clear.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

National Anthem

Poor Christina Aguilera. For the next few days she is going to be ragged  far and wide for forgetting the words to the National Anthem. 


I can understand how this can happen. I have sung the National Anthem for everything from Little League to the AA Mississippi Braves. When all those eyes are on YOU, it is possible to get a bit nervous. 


I can deal with forgetting the words. However, for someone with Christina's talent, this performance was awful. I lost track of how many times she changed keys. And the only person who has really been able to get away with that degree of showboating is Whitney Houston. 


Of course, I am old fashioned. I don't think the "Star Spangled Banner" should be a platform for showboating and grandstanding. I think it should be sung in a manner befitting the flag and our country. Some of the most wonderful compliments I have ever received have been from veterans who come up to me I sing our National Anthem at some occasion with tears in their eyes. They always say "this is the way our National Anthem should be sung. 


Christina, next time you are asked to sing the National Anthem, remember who and what you are singing for. 


Then I bet you remember the words. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Doctor Dilemma (Dilemna?)

For the first time, today, I was refused as a patient by a doctor I wanted to see. Am I a difficult patient? No. Am I without insurance? No. Is the doctor not taking new patients? No. Am I expecting services this doctor is not qualified to render? No. 


The problem?


Medicare is my primary insurance now that my husband is retired. Although I also have Aetna as a full co-insurance, Medicare is the first in line. For me, this means I cannot see any of the doctors in the clinic of my choice. I also can no longer be seen in the MEA walk in clinics. 


This is scary. I have specialists for my myasthenia gravis, my asthma & sleep apnea, stomach problems, and female stuff.  My last two internists in Jackson have flown the coop. I just need someone who can treat me for minor illnesses and injuries, do blood work, and occasionally talk to one of my specialists. I was hoping to find that here in Vicksburg. But, Mission Primary Care takes no new Medicare patients. 


I may have some choices. I can go to River Region again and deal with a billing system that turns me over to collections before I ever receive a bill. And most of the doctors I want to see are fleeing River Region. What if I find someone and he/she leaves about the time I get settled in? 


With proposed cuts in Medicare funding, I can understand where the doctors are coming from. But, it is awfully scary not to be sure I can get medical care.


Like all of us, I am not getting any younger. 







Monday, January 03, 2011

To Do List 2011

I am no longer foolish enough to make "resolutions" that I am sure to break. However, I did want to make a list of things I HOPE to accomplish this year. Something I can refer back to at times to see how I am doing.

1. Go to Savannah, GA and eat at "The Lady and Sons" on Teresa's 50th birthday.

2. Make another CD of Christian music.

3. Attend another "Imagicopter" event to display and sell my art.

4. Do one or more watercolor demonstrations at "The Cricket Box."

5. Find some new recipes utilizing the things I *CAN* eat.

6. Have breakfast or lunch with a friend at LEAST twice a month.

7. Learn 10 new 7 letter words.

8. Increase my charitable giving.

OK, I think that is enough. I will check back on this post in a couple of months to see how I am coming along.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Letting Go

It seems today as if I have been bombarded by messages about letting go. I suppose many of these are expected at this time of year. But this year, they are really shouting at me. 


I need to let go of:


1. False hopes (not real hope, but things that are just not going to happen, and even if they did, would not necessarily be good for me.)


2. Stuff. Like many I have too much of it. I am looking to pare down considerably as my physical condition simply does not allow me to maintain it.


3. People who continually drag me down. I made progress with this over the past year, but more boundaries are needed. I just don't have the energy. 


Here's to 2011.