Monday, December 24, 2012

The House Without a Christmas Tree

When I was a little girl, there used to be a Christmas show on every year called "The House Without a Christmas Tree." The basic plot of this show was that this little girl's father, embittered by the fact that his wife died in childbirth while his child lived, refused to show this child any affection. He refused to celebrate Christmas, and this little girl had never had a Christmas tree. Of course, there was a happy ending to all this. The father woke up, smelled the coffee, and decided to get this child a tree and love her after all. 

For the past two years, due to the illnesses and deaths of first my father, and this year, my father-in-law, our house had been without Christmas trees. Just no time or energy to put one up. 

Until yesterday. 

My husband saw headlights in the driveway and looked out the window to see who was here. I saw a precious friend come up my steps bearing a lit and decorated Christmas tree. I brought it inside, made a star for it out of bead left over from making Christmon ornaments, and plugged it in. Then, I cried. 

Our house is no longer the house without a Christmas tree. 

My heart is full. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Party

These past 3 Decembers have not exactly been conducive to Christmas celebrations. In 2010, my sweet stepmom was in ICU for several days. In 2011, my Daddy died after being in the hospital for 20 days on December 15th. And, of course, this year, my precious father-in-law passed away December 8th. There has simply been no time, or energy, to get things out of the shed and put them up. 

I am one who loves to decorate for Christmas. My tree is precious to me, decorated with hand crocheted snowflakes from my mother-in-law,  given to me and my husband on our first Christmas together. Old fashioned Santas given to me by my mother shortly before she passed away Christmas of 1990, that survived being in a room that was destroyed by a falling tree after Hurricane Andrew are lovingly placed every year. My tree topper was given to me by one of my dearest friends many years ago. I have a partial Nativity that my mother and I found in a "junk" shop in Jackson and fell in love with. 

So yesterday, I went to a Christmas party for the first time in several years. I had the most marvelous time. My friends Alex and Dylan had decorated beautifully, cooked a wonderful meal with the help of friends bringing in dishes "potluck" style, and had gifts for everyone. I was tired and in a certain amount of physical pain when I arrived, but I soon forgot all that in the company of fun and creative people. Many of these folks are young enough to be my children, but I enjoyed conversing with them more than most people my own age. They still have hope for the future and plans for how they want to get there. 

So even with no tree or decorations, no time to really buy Christmas gifts, and no energy to really "do" Christmas, I felt warm, valued, and loved. A tiny flicker of Christmas Spirit was ignited. And I am going to fan that flame. 



Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Bird Clock

When my father-in-law passed away, I was asked by his family if there was anything I wanted to have to remember him by. I thought for a few moments and pointed to the "Bird Clock." 

Mr. Sanders had owned this Audubon Society "Singing Bird Clock" for years. And even after years of that clock being in his home, it still startled me everytime the hour struck and I was twittered, hooted, or honked at. I used to make my thumb and forefinger into a "gun" and pretend to shoot the darn thing. I think my little gesture used to amuse my father-in-law, somewhat. 

Today, the cotton pickin' bird clock was indeed brought into my home. And it is already startling the wits out of me on the hour. I am going to have to figure out just what to do with this thing. Maybe I can disable the bird calls and just use it as a wall clock? Or maybe I just need to continue to take the bad with the good. Have a listen. What would YOU do??




Sunday, December 09, 2012

Goodbye, Mr. Sanders

My precious father-in-law passed away last night surrounded by all five of his children. Alice, Mike, Bill, Jerry, and Becky were  there to watch him take his last breath as he journeyed from this life to the next.

The thing Mr. Sanders was most proud of was his children. It delighted him that they all got along with each other. He was proud of the people they had become.


When I married into the Sanders family, Mr. Sanders "took me to raise." He treated me like I was "his." I never, ever felt like I was an outsider. I felt like I had a second "Dad." 

Rest in perfect peace, Mr. Sanders. You deserve it. 



Saturday, December 01, 2012

Doomsday?

I actually know several people who are gathering supplies in anticipation of "Doomsday." Some people believe this event is going to happen because Obama was re-elected. Others believe that this is going to happen for other reasons. 

Don't get me wrong. I believe in keeping enough supplies around to get by during the average natural disaster. I have some bottled water, canned food, batteries, etc. And, probably, most of my neighbors here in Mississippi do as well. To me, that is just smart. 

But, this extensive hoarding for "Doomsday" is just not something I am going to do. First of all, if something happens and most of my loved ones are gone, I don't particularly want to be here either. I can't imagine a world where the only people alive are me and the other hoarders. Secondly, the idea of hoarding, to me at least, implies that I don't believe that God is going to provide for me. And, to this point, He always has. And I don't think He is going to stop providing anytime soon.




Monday, November 26, 2012

29 Years

Twenty-nine years ago, I stood in front of this mirror in Bill's aunt's house and, just for a moment, had a tinge of panic. Marriage? Forever? What was I getting myself into? 

Unlike so many these days, I really did not enter into marriage lightly or unadvisedly. I never thought of it as something I could get out of if I was unhappy or bored. 

When I married, I was 24, college was behind me (at least for the time being) and I had plans for the future. I was alone for about a year an a half between a previous relationship and Bill coming back into my life. 


That "alone" time turned out to be a really good thing for me. I had never been the kind of person who "needed" a man. Indeed, I feel sorry for people who "have" to be in a relationship. Who are afraid to be alone. Who allow their relationships to dictate who THEY are. I cringe when a couple tells me they "complete" each other. It takes two complete people to make a healthy relationship. My alone time gave time to think and decide what I really wanted out of a relationship. Honesty, trust, and respect were very high on my list. 

I am not saying that Bill and I have not had our ups and downs. We, like all married couples, certainly have. I wanted to call it quits when I lost my sense of self for awhile. But, we have learned to give each other space to pursue our individual passions. We have learned that we can be apart and still be "together." I love Bill, but I am not in this relationship because I "have" to have him. 

Like my psychology teacher once said "It takes two healthy "I's" to make a "We."

She was right.




Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dad-less Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was my Daddy's holiday. He was an excellent cook who truly (with a  little bit of grumbling!) enjoyed hosting the yearly gathering. He would assign dishes to the rest of us, not trusting us with the turkey, the dressing, or his cream style corn. We could bring the lesser things like lima beans, stuffed eggs, and dessert. 

With Daddy, there was never any set limit on people who could be invited. Every year, he would have his children, his stepchildren, the spouses, the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren. Also included were my sister's in-laws, and any other folks who needed a place to be on Thanksgiving. It was not unusual for people to be coming in and out to eat for several hours. There was always plenty.

This year will bring a lot of changes. My stepmom is having her family over to the house that she and Dad shared. My sister is having her in-laws at her home. And I will be attempting my first Thanksgiving dinner on my own for my seriously ill Father-in-Law, my husband, Bill, and Bill's two brothers. While the dressing, salad, veggies, and stuffed eggs will be from scratch, I am depending on Heavenly Ham for meats and my sweet stepmom for a promised pecan pie. 

While I am sure it will all be OK, the "man of the hour" will not be there on the other end of the phone to coach me through my dressing preparation or answer the million questions I realized I never had answers for until Dad was gone. 

What I would really rather do this holiday is to just take off to parts unknown for a week. But, if I left Thanksgiving Dinner to the dubious talents of the Sander's brothers, I would NOT be my father's child. Dinner will be as nice as I can possibly make it. 

Daddy would approve. 


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Enough!

Every few days, I admit, I get overwhelmed with the number of requests that are made of me to share photos, copy statuses, and "like" pages.

If did this for all 462 friends, my wall would be unreadable, clog up the feeds of my friends, and not leave me any time to check on friends having a hard time, ask about their family members, and find out what I might be able to do to help. 

For the record, I live with several "invisible diseases." And I know and try to support my friends who are also living with these. I don't have to copy a "spiel" into my status to be aware of my friends who do suffer. Some choose to talk about their suffering. Some prefer not to. I try to honor my friends by letting them take the lead in such discussions.

Yes, I hate cancer. My Daddy died of this disease and My father-in-law is terminally ill with it. Not to mention other family members and friends I have lost over the years. Donations to the American Cancer Society, Blair Batson, and St. Jude's will do more for these folks than copying a status.

I hate animal abuse and give to organizations that try to prevent this. Sad, sick animals on my wall only make ME feel sad and sick too. I know what goes on and where to send my money. 

And the one that makes me the most crazy are the ones implying that unless I share this status or that picture, I am denying Jesus, don't believe in God, am ashamed of the Gospel, etc. None of this is true and not constantly sharing those things on my wall does not make me less of a Christian.

If I shared these every time I received them, my wall would never reflect "me." I try very hard not to "overshare" and I choose what I share very carefully. I have had to "hide" friends who clutter my wall with so many posts that I don't get the truly important things from other friends. Your latest 19 cat pix are cute, but I really want to know how another friend's surgery went. 

Be selective. Your friends will appreciate it. 






Monday, October 29, 2012

Civics 101


According to most current polls, approximately half of us are going to be disappointed on Election Day. 

So, how are we going to respond if the election does not go "our" way? Are we going to spend the next four years mired in "gloom and doom" thinking? Do we just "give up?"
I sincerely hope not. 

By design, our government is about more than one man (or woman). We have checks and balances in the form of congress and the US Supreme Court. 

So, if you are conservative, say extra prayers for Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. If you are liberal, you might want to reserve those extra prayers for Justices Sotomeyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Breyer. Since Justice Kennedy is often the "swing vote", maybe we all need to say special prayers for him!

As for Congress, the US House of Representatives currently has a Republican majority. The US Senate has a Democratic majority. Because one third of the Senate changes every two years and the House members are elected for two year terms, things can change fairly frequently. You can work on the local level to help elect members of your chosen party. Get involved!

If you want the possibility of more choices for President in the future, consider voting Libertarian. If your state is already a lock for your party, but you are not ecstatic about your candidate, consider helping this party get recognition and funding for 2016. 

Work for your party! Think positively. Vote! 

And, seriously, pray for them ALL. 










Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Become"

Back when I was first diagnosed with neuromuscular disease, asthma, and obstructive sleep apnea, I joined a number of online message boards in hopes that I would learn more about my illnesses and how to deal with them. 

I soon left the asthma board. There was not much activity and I was getting the education I needed from the staff at my doctor's office. Once I had a daily medication and a nebulizer, I had no real problems managing my asthma at home. 

I spent a couple of years on sleepnet.com, a message board for sleep disorders. That experience was priceless. I was finally able to get my C-Pap and mask setup right and having my apnea controlled was a major life changer. For the most part, the people on this board were positive, upbeat, and were determined to manage their condition as best they could and just keep on living.

The myasthenia gravis boards were a whole different story. They were very active and I did learn a lot. There were a number of people who were able to manage their illnesses, accept the things they could not change, and still have quality lives. Unfortunately, there were quite a few who "became" their illness. Their whole identities centered on being sick. They had no other interests or hobbies other than making trouble on the boards for other members, using their disability to manipulate friends and family, and bemoaning their fate. Don't get me wrong, neuromuscular diseases are not easy to manage. But, centering their lives completely on illness did not make them feel any better in the long term. Not mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally. 

Don't get me wrong. I have the periodic "pity party." Add reflux, chronic neck and back pain, arthritis, menopause, life threatening allergies, and post herpetic neuralgia to the above list and there are times when it is hard to stay "up." And I can certainly understand that it can be hard not to get so caught up in the routine of doctors, surgeries, and medications that everything else can get lost in the shuffle. At one time, I had 11 doctors. I am now down to "only" 7. 

I am a singer. I am an artist. I am a writer. I am a friend, a sister, and a wife. 

I refuse to "become" my illnesses. 


Thursday, October 11, 2012

"No Daddy" Birthday

Tomorrow will be the first birthday I have ever celebrated without my Daddy. I am still trying to totally wrap my head around the fact that he won't be calling me to sing his off key rendition of "Happy Birf Birf" to me. There are times when I can almost pretend he is still over at his house just 5 minutes away. But, this is not one of those times. This is one of those times when the "Daddy shaped" hole in my heart is aching. 

Maybe, if I listen very closely, I can "hear" the echoes of happy birthday songs past. More than a little off key of course. 

Monday, October 08, 2012

What it's Not...

Well, the good news is that I finally got my stitches out today.  And, while I still do not have an official diagnosis, I know what I don't have. I do not have muscular dystrophy. I do not have myasthenia, lupus, multiple sclerosis or anything autoimmune. But, my muscle fibers show signs of atrophy and we need to know why. 

Dr. Veda continues to do testing on my samples for mitochondrial diseases. He seems to think that is the problem. We just have to find out which kind I have. Samples will be sent off, and results can take months to come in.  I just have to be patient. I do have patience...somewhere!

Meanwhile, I just keep doing the best I can with what I have to work with. Some muscles are weaker than others. I still fatigue with ridiculous ease. But, I am thankful for what I do have. A visit to the neurology unit at University Medical Center makes it abundantly clear that things could be MUCH worse.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Debate

I just got through watching the first presidential debate. Quite frankly, I was not impressed with the performance of either candidate. I kept thinking, we have over 315 MILLION people in this great country. These two are the BEST we can do? 

And my Facebook feed was pretty discouraging during and after. Everything seemed to boil down to money. Don't get me wrong, money is very important. It is hard to focus on anything else when money is critically short. I don't mean having to cut out the daily Starbuck's coffee, not having the new iPhone, etc. I am talking about not being able to walk into a doctor's office and get care (BTDT) or passing out from not eating for three days (BTDT, too). These were both quite a while back, but I remember. 

Are these debates even really helpful? Do they really make anyone change his or her mind? Or just they just add fuel to the fire of divisiveness? 




Thursday, September 27, 2012

Still Waiting

My trip to the doctor today did not yield the desired results. My leg is not healing swiftly or properly, so I left with those darn stitches still in, a prescription for an antibiotic, and another appointment for 11 days hence. 

My preliminary biopsy results show that there is no inflammation of the muscle, so  the problem is not autoimmune. The samples have been sent out of state to be analyzed for the presence of mitochondrial disease. 

I will be the first to admit that patience is not always my strong suit. Especially when it comes to my health issues. But, patience I must have. 

 So, I wait. 


Monday, September 24, 2012

"Miss Louise"

Louise Hudson, "Miss Louise" to me, celebrated being 96 years young yesterday. If I live to be 96, I hope I look this good. 

Another really neat thing is that, at 96, Miss Louise still has friends to celebrate with her. So many people her age have no friends left. But Miss Louise has spent her life making friends of all ages, including 52 year old ME. 

I am not quite sure just why Miss Louise "adopted" me at Crawford Street United Methodist Church. But, I am certainly glad she did. She has faithfully called me, prayed for me, sent me cards, and just loved me. The older I get, the more I treasure the people still on this planet with me who really and truly love me. 

I have long been slated to sing at Miss Louise's funeral when the time comes. At this rate, she may very well outlive me! 

We may have to find a back-up, just in case. 


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Not MG

After 10 years of being diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, I found out yesterday that this is not what I have. It is a bit of a strange feeling. I have been on MG message boards, mailing lists, and have been to gatherings with other people diagnosed with this particular neuromuscular disease. My symptoms fit into the "mold" of MG and I never really questioned my diagnosis.

One thing I have found out from my research and observation is that many neuromuscular diseases have very similar symptoms. Often, the difference is in the prognosis. The muscles of myasthenics do not degenerate. The problem is with the transmission from the nerves to the muscles. 

While I have tried very hard not to "become" my illness like many folks I know, dealing with what I thought was myasthenia gravis was part of my identity. Hopefully, by next Thursday, I will have an accurate diagnosis. I guess it will become a part (but by no means ALL) of my identity. And I will buy a new Medic-Alert bracelet and just keep living as well as I can for as long as I can. 


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Finally!

After over a month long wait, I am finally scheduled for my muscle biopsy next Tuesday. This is not exactly going to be fun, but at least it should give me answers. I am past ready for some answers. 

I am trying to read up a bit on what to expect. Like most information gleaned from the internet, it varies from "soreness, no big deal" to "severe and prolonged pain." I am planning on the "no big deal" myself. 

I won't say that I am not scared. Despite my many surgeries, I am a little nervous about a procedure that I won't be asleep for. And I am apprehensive about what the doctor will find. Muscle degeneration is not ever a "good" thing. But finding out how quickly this is happening, is it likely to continue, etc., will be helpful as I figure out ways of managing what may be increasing limitations. 












Thursday, September 06, 2012

Waiting

First of all, I must admit that having to wait, especially for medical tests, is not something I do well. I have a degree of patience with many things. This is not one of them.

Right now, I am waiting to be scheduled for a muscle biopsy. This biopsy will hopefully tell me whether or not I have indeed been misdiagnosed with MG all these years. It will also potentially tell me if what I do have is a form of mitochondrial disease. The big difference in the two is that mitochondrial disease is progressive. And my last EMG revealed serious deterioration of my muscles. 

Over the past year or so, I felt like I was getting weaker. I attributed it to the stress of caring for and then losing my Dad. My father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer before my Dad's estate was even settled. But, while stress can exacerbate any neuromuscular disease, this is far more than stress at work. 

I have adapted as best I can to the increased weakness and loss of stamina. But, I am a planner. I want to know just what I am dealing with. Bad or good.

So I wait. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Andrew: 20 Years Later

While watching the news tonight, I learned that this was the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. Actually, Mississippi did not see the worst of the weather until August 26th.

I was at choir practice when I received a call from my husband saying a "tree limb" had fallen on the house and that I needed to come home. I was not prepared for the sight that greeted me. A large oak tree had been blown completely out of the ground and rammed through a corner of our house. 

The tree fell on the room I used for crafts and sewing and where my husband had his desk. Fortunately, neither of us was in the room at the time. My husband was sitting in the next room, where the ceiling cracked over his head. 





Needless to say, it was a mess. The sewing machine I received for Christmas when I was 13 was crushed. Bill's desk was history. And rebuilding was slow due to the fact that this house was built in 1955. Our neighbor, Ross Ables, had to scrounge for old materials and make things from scratch that could no longer be found commercially. A lovely gentleman, Stanley Mullins, hired by Ross helped me sift through the rubble and, to my delight, found a box of Christmas ornaments given to me by my mother (who had died a year and a half earlier) still intact. Nothing else in the room mattered to me as much as those ornaments did. 

Fortunately, we were able to live in the part of the house that was not damaged. Chaotic and difficult as it was during those long months, it could have been much, much worse. 

But, I admit, any indication of a potential hurricane still has me scrambling for supplies and looking anxiously at my trees. And, a bit selfishly, hoping it will pass me by this time. 


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

MG or not MG?

I had an appointment today with my new neuromuscular doctor. I was very nervous, since I had been with one doctor for the past 12 years.

As Dr. Veda put me through my "muscle strength" paces, he kept frowning.

And then I received a bit of a shock. While he was suprised at the level of weakness I exhibited and recognizes that something neuromuscular is going on, he is not sure it is myasthenia gravis. Or, it may be that I have MG and something else besides. Dr. Veda is not sure that the doctor who originally diagnosed me (the one before the 12 year doc) made the correct diagnosis.

From what I gather, this is not uncommon in the neuromuscular realm. My symptoms could be MG, but they could also fit a number of other neuromuscular diseases as well. All I know is what my body will and will not do.

So, for now, we start over. Nerve conduction test #7, more bloodwork, and maybe a new diagnosis. Maybe even new hope for some treatment that might help me function more normally.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Not Ready for Prime Time

OK, I admit it. Although I love my mainstream Olympic events, such as artistic gymnastics, diving, swimming, and track and field, I also love some of the sports that never make it to prime time coverage.

Lame, I know. But I am fascinated with the team event in synchronized swimming. I was 25 years old before Betty Jo Pfifer taught me to swim and I barely made it through the rinky dink swim test required to pass the class. Watching these people actually stay afloat while throwing each other up in the air and staying in sync fascinates me to no end.

I also love rhythmic qymnastics. These women not only manage to dance, leap, and tumble, but they do it with hoops, clubs, ribbons, and balls that must be completely under control while they are doing all this. And in the team event there are 5 of them all trying to keep these things in the air. As a person who has always had a tendency to trip over her own feet, I am fascinated by this level of coordination.

Track cycling is another sport that intrigues me. I don't see how these people play the cat and mouse games they do on those skinny wheels! I even get into the canoeing and trampoline.

And, of course, I can't wait till the 2014 Winter Olympics where, in addition to watching my favorite figure skating and snowboarding I can also watch...I can hear the groans already...

curling!




Sunday, July 29, 2012

Denny P.


Today, it will be my privilege to celebrate the 80th birthday of my precious friend, Denny P. Allman. Or "Father Allman" as some know him.

I met Denny, and his charming wife, Norma, when I was Nimue in "Camelot" back in 1989, if I recall correctly. It was a behemoth of a play and the cast had plenty of time to bond between times when we were needed on stage. Heck, some people had time to get to Daquiri World and back between scenes where they were needed!


I was thin then.


Over the past 23 years, Denny has been one of the best friends I have ever had. He helped me pick up the pieces of my life when I lost my mother in 1990. Denny invited me to come and sing for his church and began the tradition of my singing the "Via Dolorosa" that continues to this day. He cuts mats for my art classes at Vicksburg Senior Center. And he is a world champion hugger!

As is the case with these 80th birthdays, I have a moment or two of tears for my Daddy who did not make this much anticipated milestone. But, again, celebrating with a beloved friend like Denny helps mitigate the sting a bit. 

So Happy Birthday to my beloved Denny P. May it be a day as special as you are!



Thursday, July 26, 2012

Letter to Mr. Grant


In light of the passing of Larry Grant this morning, I thought I would post this letter I wrote to him on February 17, 2012. 


Dear Mr. Grant,
Please forgive the typed letter, but I would like for you to be able to read  the thing. This would not be possible if I wrote it myself!
I was so sorry to hear of your cancer diagnosis. Cancer sucks. There is no “nice” way to put it. It just does. 
Even after being out of high school for almost 35 years, I still remember being in your 8th grade band like it was yesterday. You scared my 4 foot 10 inch, 85 pound self, half to death the first time you got really mad. If I recall correctly, that was when you yelled at Jim Cooper and threw things because he used his trumpet as a Halloween noisemaker. Thank goodness I was a clarinet player. You tended to throw things towards the brass players more. ;)  
But, most of all, I remember that you really cared about us. I remember you fighting tears when you told us our classmate Beverly Bell had died. And I remember you taking up for me when I was accused of writing “Yo mama lives in a creek” on Sheila Dunn’s band folder. I would have been waaay too scared to do any such thing, and you knew it. When Sheila’s mom threatened to call my mom, you told her that “you knew Mrs. Nelson, and that you wouldn’t advise it!” I still get tickled every time I think about that. 
Anyway, know that you and “Miss Israel” (Now Mrs. Grant!) are firmly in my thoughts and prayers. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blooming

I must admit, I have always agreed with the saying "Bloom where you are planted." I used to get anoyed when people would move to my town from other states and larger cities (usually for employment reasons) and bemoan the fact that they were "stuck" here. 


I know it is not easy starting over in a new place. But I have seen many people bloom in their new places. They join a church or civic organization and do volunteer work. They create new opportunities for themselves. And, if ample opportunities cannot be found in town, they need only to branch out a little ways to find more things to do. Even if their roots can't leave the current situation or place, there is a good chance that their branches can. 


Over the past few years, I have found myself "rootbound" at times. I was not happy in some situations, but could not quite bring myself to take leaps of faith in order to find ways to blossom. I have no desire to leave the city I have called home for the past 44 years, but I needed some change. 


One change was to put past negative experiences behind me and pursue art, first as an experiment, and now as a serious hobby. I had to get out of my "rootbound" mentality and just go for it. Another place where I feel like I am blooming for the first time in several years is music. My "roots" are still with my church, but my branches are reaching out to churches who need music, both in my community and other nearby communities. I feel like a flower that has finally found the sun again.


I am once again beginning to bloom. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mary

Yesterday, Mary came over to "do art" with me using the mixed media techniques we used in the "Forest Floor" workshop I mentioned in a previous post.

As is sometimes the case, I can't remember just exactly when I met Mary. But somehow, she ended up in my Senior Center watercolor class almost 3 years ago. Since then, we have bonded like we have known each other for much longer than that.

We have been together through her cancer and fractured legs, to my health issues and the death of my father. We have celebrated the joys of her grandchildren's accomplishments and my own accomplishments as a developing artist. She even came to my "beginner" art class at the first of the year and helped me out. This entailed dealing with almost 20 people spread out to paint on every available surface. If that is not love, I don't know what is!

So, as she celebrates her birthday tomorrow, I celebrate the circumstances that brought her into my life. Happy Birthday, Mary Irene! And many more.


Sunday, July 08, 2012

Cool!

When I read the weather forecast for next week, I nearly wept with joy. Temps in the high 80's with realistic chances for rain. Be still my beating heart!


This is quite a gift for July in Mississippi, and I am grateful.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Forest Floor

Last weekend, I took a class at our local Southern Cultural Heritage Center called "Painting the Forest Floor." We were e-mailed a list of materials to bring, but I really had no idea what to expect.

Throughout the week before, I dutifully had my dear husband out looking for interesting leaves, acorns, twigs, etc. My first thought was that we were going to glue these onto something. But, this was not the case at all. We used these things, pressed into modeling paste or something similar, to create texture on our support. Then, after it dried, we used paint to enhance the textures. I chose to use all organic materials in mine, even using twigs to paint the dark lines.

All I can say is "Thank you, Jean Blue!" These are materials I did not know how to use and some that I had never heard of! But they have opened up a whole new fountain of ideas and methods for me to use in my art. These are things I can do even when I can't see well, or when my hands are shaky and uncooperative. Acutally, that can lead to even nicer results.

I still love my watercolor. But I am looking forward to this new world of art that "Painting the Forest Floor" opened up for me.



Friday, June 22, 2012

Blue in the Face

I know most of us have used the expression "I talked until I was blue in the face." I really try not to do this often and only in cases where it is really important.

I have been in a situation for years now where I have tried to get someone to understand a situation. Off and on for about 10 years to be exact. Finally, I  have come to the conclusion that:
a. The person hears and simply does not care.
b. The person honestly can't grasp the situation.
c. The person thinks that if he/she does not acknowledge the situation, it will cease to exist.
d. The person has an extraordinary ability to ignore physical evidence.

Blue is not my color.

And I am tired.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Overload

I love Edvard Munch. His simple, expressive "Scream" painting say it all some days.

This week has been one of those weeks where it seems that I have just had too many things (words, problems, situations, ideas, etc.) thrown at me in rapid succession.

The problem? I just can't seem to take it all in as fast as I used to be able to. I don't know if it is just age, fatigue, or what. Due to many factors, I don't sleep as well as I would like to. I know lack of sleep tends make me feel "dull."

I am pondering as to whether or not I need to step down from some obligations (NOT my watercolor classes at the Senior Center!) and let younger, more energetic people handle them. Unfortunately, these same folks tend to lack the time to follow through and maintain things.

For the time being, I guess I will just scream silently and hope things settle down soon.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Father's Day 2012



Tomorrow will be my first Father's Day without my Daddy. And it is hard to believe he has been in Heaven for six months already. 


Tomorrow, the newly added handicapped restroom at Yokena Presbyterian Church will be dedicated in Daddy's memory. Now I know that some will see this as perhaps undignified, but I see it as perfect. 


Because of treatments for his prostate cancer, and following the removal of a sizable portion of his colon, Daddy always knew where every restroom was in every store, restaurant, and gas station. And, as he was an extremely practical soul, he would heartily approve of the memorials given to him be used for the purpose of a more accesible restroom. 


Daddy loved Yokena Presbyterian Church. When asked during Sunday School class one day what he thought would happen after he died, Daddy made the following quip.


"I'm not worried about it. I am going to be a little angel with wings floating around everwhere, checking on the Sunday School class." 


Tomorrow, I think he will be watching from Heaven. And beaming with pride. 



Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Singing

Lately, I have found myself singing around the house again. For the longest time, even though I love to sing, I didn't do this. There just did not seem to be any point. I wasn't going to be singing a solo anytime soon. Why keep in shape? 


But since I have been really using my voice on a regular basis (not just holding back and trying to blend) I find that I am getting back notes and a degree of breath control I thought I had lost. And what a joy this is! 


Next Sunday, I will sing at Yokena Presbyterian Church. In July, I will be singing at First United Methodist Church in Clinton. Then I am off to Hermanville, MS for two Sundays. And, of course, I hope to make a stop a Truly Ministries during this time as well. I am grateful to them forever for allowing me to spread my wings and get back what I thought might be gone forever. 


This is just part of "The Lord's Prayer" from last Sunday at Truly Ministries. Not perfect, but so much better than I thought it would ever be again. 


Thursday, June 07, 2012

A Pocket Full of Nickels

This poem is by the late Bev Nason, who was also "blessed" with Myasthenia Gravis. She really hit the nail on the head. Substitute prednisone for Mestinon in my case. And my variety of MG does not go into remission.

A Pocket Full Of Nickels

By Beverly J. NASON  

On a good morning, we awake with a dollars worth of invisible nickels
in our pocket, or perhaps we find them after our
first dose of Mestinon.
We must decide how to spend this precious supply.

Shall we shower, dress, make the bed, have breakfast, go to a job,
and recklessly spend them all at once?
Perhaps, we should just use twenty-five cents,
and dress without the shower or shave, leave the bed for later,
and spend five to fifteen cents for breakfast.

We alone may judge from our recent experience.
Having decided, we act, and our precious deposits is made into an
invisible slot, filled with invisible batteries.
These batteries kick in slowly and we drain their reserve.
When it is close to gone, we force ourselves to rest.
As the day progresses, we decided to do a small chore.
The shave, shower, shampoo? Five more nickels perhaps?
The bed? One nickel perhaps. Cleaning house? Going to work?

How many nickels will we have to spend today?
For many of us, we can barely afford one nickel at a time, today.
If we have the luxury of time for a rest period or a nap,

We might awaken with a sudden new supply of nickels in our pocket.
Probably our next dose of Mestinon will provide us with a
fresh supply. For others, we may find we've chosen unwisely
and squandered our day's wealth,

Or borrowed from them tomorrow, to do what had to be done,
or simply what we wanted to do to improve our quality of life.
the debt must be repaid, and time in bed will be the price.
We can gamble them all away, or spend them gratefully.

When we awake, morning after morning, with pockets full of nickels,
Such an abundance that we no longer have to count them
We have achieved Myasthenia Gravis remission

May you all have "pocket full of nickels"

Monday, June 04, 2012

Carefully Taught

I just watched a PBS special on the late, great, Oscar Hammerstein. Most folks know him as the lyricist, who, with composer Richard Rogers, gave us timeless musicals like "The Sound of Music", "Oklahoma", and "South Pacific" to name a few. 


But I learned a lot more about Hammerstein, the man, tonight. He fearlessly dealt with racism in 1927's "Showboat." He cast "Carmen Jones", an all black musical, and quite daring for 1943 (20 years before the Civil Rights Movement." And Hammerstein pondered the issue again in the "South Pacific" in 1949 with "Carefully Taught."


The sad part is that we have not come that far in the past 60+ years. Everyday I see instances where young children are already being taught hate in places and by people who should be teaching them to love. 



You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Mrs. Kennedy and Me"

I am currently reading this book, written by Jacqueline Kennedy's former Secret Service agent, Clint Hill.

Clint Hill was one of the agents in charge of President Eisenhower's detail. When he was assigned to Mrs. Kennedy instead of JFK, he was intitially disappointed. But, he found that keeping up with this First Lady was going to be the challenge of a lifetime.


I am now at the chapter that will tell about that fateful day in Dallas back in November 1963. The Jackie Kennedy that Clint Hill describes in the first 3/4 of the book is about to have her life changed forever. I was barely 4 years old and I don't remember that day. But, even though I know what happens, I find myself reluctant to read this chapter. I am enjoying holding on to this portrait of one of the youngest and most vital first ladies in US history. I will read this chapter and finish the book.

Tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Yellow Bike Books

Last January, needing a little time away after losing my Daddy in December, I arranged to spend a weekend in Grenada with my friend Teresa. Grenada is a good sort of "halfway" point for us to meet and I had found a lovely Comfort Inn that sported "in room" hot tubs. Being able to watch football playoffs, while sitting in a hot tub sipping Diet Coke is about as good as it gets for me. 

Teresa and I are both booklovers, so when we saw the sign for a small, independent bookstore, we immediately went in to explore. I met the personable owner, Debbie, and somehow we got on the subject of the possibility of adding art to her inventory. She was going to be moving to a new building soon, adding a coffee shop, and would have more space. We agreed to stay in touch and make this happen.

This past weekend, I went up to Grenada with some of my paintings and prints. Debbie arranged them quite nicely and I spent Saturday letting children come in and paint watercolors with me. I held a drawing and gave away a painting. And I encourged people to look at my art for gift ideas for future birthdays, graduations, holidays, etc. 

Painting with the children was the most fun. From 2-13, each one had his or her own uninhibited style and ideas. I have to admit my favorite was this 2 year old, who painted with the solemnity of a Master. 

I hope my art "takes off" in Grenada! But, even if it doesn't, I would not take anything for my experience at Yellow Bike Books last weekend. I look forward to a return trip soon!



Monday, April 30, 2012

Mama's Birthday

April 30 was my mother's birthday. She died at age 57. It is hard to believe she would be 79 had she lived. Try as I might, I can't picture my mother as an "old" lady. No matter what her chronological age would have been, I don't think she would ever have been old in outlook or behavior. 

There are so many things I wish she had lived to see. She would have delighted in her grandchildren. They would most certainly have been the smartest and most beautiful children on the planet. And Mama was the one who used to practically gag when her friends with grandchildren used to boast! I think Mama would have liked the internet. Being able to find the answer to almost anything at the click of a mouse would have appealed to her. And I think she would have enjoyed Facebook. Mama loved to keep up with people and be in on the latest goings on. 

I wish Mama could have seen the person I have become. It was not until after she died that I went into therapy and learned to stand up for myself. I think she would have been proud that I went back and got my Master's in Counseling. She would have appreciated that I finally got up the gumption to pursue art. Of course, had she been able to live longer, I would have still been caring for her with no time to pursue these goals. A mixed blessing, indeed. 

So, tomorrow, April 30th, I will raise a glass to Mama. And when I look in the mirror, I will see a big part of her...in me. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring Show 2012



Last night, I was humbled and honored to win two honorable mentions for my artwork at the Vicksburg Art Association Spring Show.



Most of the art on display this year was truly amazing. Some years, there are a lot of pieces that I just don't "get." But that was not the case this year.

In these art shows, I am competing against people who are professional artists and art instructors. People who have been "doing art" for more years than I have been alive, in some cases. With my paltry 3 years of experience, mostly self-taught, I am always amazed when I am part of some pretty illustrious company.

But, as happy as I was with my recognition, I was even more thrilled for the winner of the second place ribbon in watercolor, my Senior Center student and longtime friend, Norma. She is living proof that it is never too late to pursue a passion and learn a new skill.




Sunday, April 22, 2012

Really Good Day!

Today was an absolutely wonderful day. 


It began with church at Truly Ministries at 8:30. A dear, dear friend met me there for worship. And worship we did! I sang a Ken Medema favorite "Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying" and even got the congregation to sing along with me. And Reverend Truly preached an inspiring sermon that had me smiling through the entire thing!


After that, my friend and I went to breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Grits, eggs, muffins, hot biscuits...what's not to like? We had a chance to catch up with and enjoy each other. 


Then, this afternoon, Mylie's "Gran" and I went to redo Mylie's room. We had Mylie's mom take her out and we did a room to make a 5 year old happy. Plenty of pink and purple, with hearts, flowers and butterflies that fit Mylie's personality to a "T." I never had children, so being able to spoil other people's kids brings me great joy. 


Now I am home, tired but happy. 


Mostly happy. 



Saturday, April 14, 2012

Funeral for a Cousin

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of my Daddy's cousin Herman. Called "Little Herman", being a junior, he stood well over 6 feet tall. 


The funeral was very well done. Longtime, loyal store employees shared rememberances of Herman from the pulpit. Songs were sung and prayers were offered. 


After the service, my stepmom and I decided not to try to make the graveside service due to the heat and the long walk that faced us when we got to the cemetery. When I got home, my sister Tammy called and said that Herman's funeral procession did not go to the city cemetery. Instead it had gone across town in the opposite direction. 


I was baffled. I thought there was room in the Tillman lot for Herman. I could not figure out where another cemetery might be in the tiny town of Hazlehurst, MS. My sister promised to find out and let me know. 


This afternoon, I got another call. Herman had, indeed, been buried in the Tillman lot in the Hazlehurst city cemetery. But, first, the procession took him past Tillman furniture, the flagship of his 5 stores, one last time. 


I know that Herman would have approved. And that he and Daddy had a ringside seat watching from Heaven. 



Saturday, April 07, 2012

Another "First"

Tomorrow Easter will mark yet another "first" without Daddy. I have made it through Christmas, New Years, and his birthday. For some reason, this one seems hardest so far. No Easter get together is planned. I am not making a coconut cake in the shape of a bunny, I did not go in search of those awful individually wrapped eggs. The ones that are white inside with hard pastel coating on the outside. Daddy liked those and Circus Peanuts. I never really could figure out why. I find them both at the very bottom of the candy food chain myself.


Tomorrow, I will attend his little church, Yokena Presbyterian, with my sweet stepmom. It will be strange sitting in a pew without him beside me. Strange not having him make sure I have a bulletin and a hymnal. Strange not hearing his voice banter back and forth with his friends before the service begins. 


I know it will get easier with time. But first, I have to make it through another "first" without him. 


And that is not easy. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Via Dolorosa



Friday, Lord willing, I will sing the Via Dolorosa at Christ Episcopal Church Vicksburg for the 23rd straight year. This is something I look forward to every year. This year, I have a touch of bronchitis that is threatening the quality of my performance. I am hoping to be able to sing this one song, even if I don't sing again for weeks.

A couple of years ago, I scoured the internet for public domain images of Christ carrying His cross down the "Way of Sorrows" and made this video to accompany a recording of the "Via Dolorosa" done in Nashville a few years back.

Walk the "Via Dolorosa" with Christ this Good Friday.




Sunday, April 01, 2012

Joyful

This morning I went to Truly Ministries "Dream Center" to sing the "Via Dolorosa." I can't begin to describe what a joyful experience this was for me. It was as if the song just poured out of me, with an effortlessness that I have not felt in a long time.

I have been feeling the tug of spreading my wings and going to visit other churches and witness through music for a couple of years now. But I never truly felt free to do so until now. I think the joy I felt this morning was a sign that I am on the right path.

So, I am stepping out to see just where it leads me.

Joyfully!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

First Birthday


My Daddy desperately wanted to make his 80th birthday. When asked his age, he would say "I'll be 80 in March (the 28th to be exact) instead of 79." I have to admit that I don't like those newspaper ad things that wish deceased people a "Happy Birthday." With the passing of the Earthly body, there are no more Earthly birthdays. I hope that Daddy is rejoicing in Heaven every day now. 


This is not to say that these days surrounding Daddy's birthday are not hard. I won't be baking a coconut cake with seven minute icing. I won't be trying to find a card that will make him smile. Most difficult of all is that I won't be calling him to sing his own version of Happy Birthday (aka Happy Birf Birf) to you. 

The Dads wishing each other a Happy Birthday last year


But there will be an Earthly celebration for my Father-in-Law tomorrow. He shared my Daddy's birthday and will turn 83 tomorrow. Mr. Sanders has treated me like I was "his" since I married his son 28 years ago. The work of cooking on his birthday meal has helped distract me a bit from dwelling on my Daddy and how much I miss him. 


At least a little. 







Sunday, March 25, 2012

The End

Today marks the end of a tradition for me. I will not be singing the Via Dolorosa at my church. I have been singing this for at least 23 years.

Due to many factors, I have not been able to be in choir much this year. I chose not to do the cantata this year, due to it being the same week as Daddy's birthday, family coming to visit, health issues, and still being mired in settling Daddy's estate.

So, I was not asked to sing the Via Dolorosa this year.

And it makes me sad.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Daddy's Cookies





For the first time since last Fall, I am baking oatmeal cookies. These are not just any oatmeal cookies. These were my Daddy's special oatmeal cookies. 


My Daddy used to talk about the oatmeal cookies his mama used to make. Of course, like most cooks of her time, she seldom wrote down recipes, so after she died there was no way of knowing exactly what quantities of what went into her oatmeal cookies. 


Over the years my mom tried to recreate these cookies for him, but they were always "too sweet", "not the right texture", etc. Competing with a memory was tough! 


After mom died, I continued to try oatmeal cookie recipes over the years to see if I could somehow recreate the magic for my Daddy. Finally, I stumbled upon this recipe and refined it to Daddy's specifications. I made a batch and took them to him. He took a bite and I could see by the look on his face that these were the cookies he had been waiting for. 


So, I am making a batch of Daddy's favorite cookies today, and remembering his smiles.