Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Who are you?

Don't worry. This is not one of those year in review things. I promise.

A few weeks ago, there was a thing going around on Facebook where people were assigned numbers and asked to tell x number of things about themselves. I read a number of these and was surprised at the number of them that made me sad. 

Several people focused solely on their achievements. Now, there is nothing actually wrong with this. We all need to toot our own horns occasionally. But, I found it sad when that was almost ALL of what a person put on his or her lists. Jobs can be lost. Illness can take away one's ability to work steadily. Even great achievements are eventually forgotten. I would encourage folks to look at WHO they are and not just WHAT they do. Are they loyal? Thoughtful? Brave? Food for thought. And harder to do than one might think. 

Who are you?






 

Monday, December 23, 2013

When Christmas is "Not so Merry."

Every Christmas I try to take some time out to think of, pray for, or otherwise support my friends who are not feeling so merry this holiday season.

Christmas can be a magical, happy time. But, just as often, it seems, Christmas can be a time of loneliness, despair, and sadness. There are often increased attempts (both successful and unsuccessful) at suicide near Christmas. As a former counselor in public mental health, I can vouch for this.

Christmas might not have been a easy time for some people growing up. Alcoholics tend to use more alcohol. Drug addicts more drugs. Substance abuse can make Christmas a more of a war zone than a celebration.

Depression also takes hold during the Christmas season. Single parents struggle because they can't give their children all they want them to have during this season. The newly bereaved or divorced can feel particularly isolated. People who lost loved ones near Christmas have feelings forever tinged with sadness.

Old family rivalries and disagreements can rear their heads during the emotional settings of Christmas time. Expectations can be too high. Uncle Joe and Aunt Patty aren't suddenly going to be able to stay in the same room together, just because it's Christmas.

Christmas may not be YOUR time of year, and that is OK. You are not alone. And you are not "strange." Sometimes you just do what it takes to survive and move on. There is no shame in that survival.

But none of this will stop me from praying for just a glimmer of joy, somewhere, in everyone's Christmas.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Friends

Most people have different types of friends. There are the "acquaintance" friends that we see in the grocery store and say hello to. There are the "fair weather" friends who disappear when things are not going well, but miraculously back when life is better. I even have a couple of "bad news" friends. The only time I hear directly from them is when something drastic is happening. I am blessed to have many, many "thick or thin" friends who are there for me no matter what.

Then, in my family's case, there were the "Christmas friends." When my mother did not wake up on Christmas morning and was taken by ambulance to Vicksburg Hospital, these Christmas friends came out in force. There were so many people there that we had to spill out of the tiny ICU waiting room and into the other hospital waiting areas. Don and Juanita Houston, David and Trudy Gunter, Doug and Marilyn Boone, Janis and Bob LaGrone, and others took time away from their families to sit with us. I remember the Gunters taking me home hours after midnight. Spending Christmas in an ICU waiting room is a pretty major gift of love. One that was never taken lightly, and one that will never be forgotten.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Prayer Requests

When it comes to things like fairly major surgery, I am not bashful when it comes to asking for prayers. My faith in the power of prayer is unshakable. I know "dead" people who are still alive against all odds. I am a realist, but the power of prayer is clear in every aspect of my life.

Please feel free to put me on any prayer lists or chains if you wish to. I am not shy about asking for this vital link to the power of the Great Physician. 

My asthma and congenital myopathy will make a brief stay in Intensive Care necessary. This actually makes me feel better, knowing that I will be more closely monitored for any spikes in blood pressure or respiratory distress. 

I would not be totally truthful if I said I had absolutely no worries about this upcoming hip replacement. But, I receive peace from the prayers of supportive friends and family who have been praying for calm and lack of fear for me. 

Prayers for the patience of my husband will also be appreciated. This kind of thing can be pretty exhausting for the caregiver as well. And I am the most patient of patients! 

And, of course, I will be praying on my own behalf and for those who will be taking care of me. 

Prayers. Keep 'em coming!
 

Monday, December 09, 2013

Dr. David

"Dr. David" became part of my life when I was a child. We had moved to Vicksburg from Port Gibson and my mother joined the Newcomer's Club. Dr. David's wife "Miss Trudy" was a member of that club. She and Mama became friends, and, by extension, Dr. David and their 3 children, April, Angie, and Tony. 

Dr. David was our vet. He took care of our succession of Toy Pomeranian dogs when I was growing up. I believed that he could fix anything. When our first Pom was run over, I remember crying and begging my Daddy to take Taffy to Dr. David. I just knew that if anyone could help her, it was him. Alas, it was too late for Taffy, but Dr. David took good care of  her successors, Pom Pom, Brandy, and Bonnie, for years afterward. 

After Bill and I married and bought our first home, Dr. David called us. He had  Yorkie there that the owner was wanting to put to sleep because it had grown too big to breed with her smaller female. Were we interested? Definitely! We picked up Duffy that day. Dr. David had to operate on Duffy more than once for mishaps suffered in scuffles with much larger dogs, but he always pulled that dog through. Dr. David even took Duffy home for the night after one surgery to check on him through the night. I think his optimistic attitude had as much to do with Duffy's recoveries as his skills did. 

I have always admired Dr. David as a Christian. Unlike many 'Christians", Dr. David doesn't just "talk the talk." He truly "walks the walk." When Bill was diagnosed with cancer last Spring, Dr. David was one of the very few people he wanted to talk to. 

Dr. David has been diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. I know that attitude plays a big part in dealing with cancer. If anyone can beat this, Dr. David can. I am praying without ceasing for this precious man's safe travels to MD Anderson, his treatment, and his recovery. 

 

 



 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful

I won't lie. This past calendar year has been one of the toughest I have had in many years. Losing my father-in-law last December, my aunt in February, Bill's cancer, and having to face the inevitable prospect of hip replacement have all been physical, mental, and spiritual challenges for me. 

But, in the midst of all this, I have found much more to be thankful for. Of course, there are the big things like my faith, my family, my friends, a roof over my head, and good insurance. 

There are many other things as well. I am thankful that I found a church that really needed me. Hermanville UMC has been a source of fellowship, joy, and fulfillment that I honestly did not think I would ever find.

I am increasingly thankful for art and the amazing people I have met (or gotten to know better) through my classes at the Senior Center. I am thankful for the people who buy my art and help me help others through my fundraisers. 

I am thankful for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, that keep me in touch with my young nieces and nephews, and great nieces. If I learn their "language", I get to be part of their lives even though they are away at college or live hours away from me. 

I am thankful for kind people who help me get things off the top shelf in the grocery store. Waiters who take my money to the counter to save me painful steps or bring my order to my table even though they don't have to. I am especially grateful for the enormous man that God placed behind me when I turned my scooter over today! That man lifted me like I was a rag doll and righted both me and my scooter when all I could do was lay there and yell for help! 

I am thankful that my friend, Teresa, and I got to go on our big adventure during the brief lull between deaths and illnesses. It was a blessing to see family and dear friends, and so much of the history of our still great nation. 

I work at trying to maintain an "attitude of gratitude", even in difficult circumstances. And, most of the time, I think I succeed. 

I am thankful.

 


Monday, November 25, 2013

30 Years

Thirty years ago today, Bill Sanders and I were married in Port Gibson Presbyterian Church by the Reverend David Daniels.

By today's standards, it was a pretty simple wedding. My dress, hat, and shoes cost less than $500.00. I made all the flowers, including my own bouquet, out of silks. The bridesmaid's dresses came pre-cut in inexpensive kits (these proved harder to make than advertised!).

The cakes were homemade and put together by loving friends. A few ferns and two silk arrangements were all the decor that was needed in this gorgeous old church building. I had my best friend, my sister, and my dear friend who became my sister-in-law that day as attendants. Bill had his Dad and his two brothers.

David Cox played Trumpet Voluntaire and Trumpet Tune accompanied by organist, Anna Davis from Jackson.Riley Harper was soloist. Being a music major, I could not choose between my talented college classmates, so I picked musicians from "outside." It worked out nicely.

I was extremely nervous walking down that aisle. I took my marriage vows seriously. I was planning to be in this for life.

Bill and I are polar opposites. Marriage has not always been smooth sailing. We have had our ups and downs. But, the older we get, there seem to be more and more "ups."  We are thankful for our many blessings. After Bill's cancer and treatment this summer, we are particularly mindful of not taking what time is left to us for granted.

Contrary to the cliches, Bill and I do not "complete" each other. But, we do work at compromising and complementing each other.

Who knows? We might have another 30 years.

And they may be the best yet.



Monday, November 18, 2013

Certifiable?

In my quest for a December 17th hip replacement, I am finding the number of hoops I am required to jump through before then a bit overwhelming! Some of the requirements are routine things that I would expect. Other things are totally unexpected. 

I have to be seen and cleared by my neuromuscular doc, my pulmonologist, and my family doc. One down, two to go.  I am actually surprised that they don't require a psych evaluation! 

I have to attend a CLASS on hip replacement when I go for my pre-op.

I have already had to choose my home health agency for the first two weeks of physical therapy. 

I have to be prepared not to be able to drive for at least 6 weeks. I may BE certifiable by the end 6 weeks! (No comments from the peanut gallery!)

When I got home from my appointment with the hip surgeon, I realized that our one tiny bathroom was going to be entirely unusable for months. I have to lift my leg higher than recommended, or twist it in a bad position for hip replacement patients, just to get in my tub and shower. A shower stool won't work due to my shower doors. I also really need a high toilet for both my knee and my hip. My Christmas gift to myself is a bathroom remodel that will, thankfully, be done before I enter the hospital. Pricey, but worth it. 

Add in a PET scan, surgeon's appointment, and oncology checkup for my husband and, hopefully, at least lunch together on our 30th wedding anniversary (sandwiched between the oncology appt. and my pre-op) and I may be ready for a rubber room.

Feel free to join me. 

 

 


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fall Colors

Fall colors are so late this year that I was beginning to think they would never come. Looking at the trees turning while driving to a doctor's appointment in Jackson yesterday, I was poignantly reminded of one of the last times I drove my Daddy to Jackson.

Daddy had earlier received the news that his cancer had returned and spread. Although we really didn't say it out loud, we knew that he had only a matter of months to live.

I remember that Daddy did not talk much on the return trip. He spent most of the trip looking out the car window, as if he knew that he would never see another Autumn. It was if he was "soaking up" the colors. They were particularly beautiful that year, as if God has painted a masterpiece just for Daddy.

And, for those wonderful colors, at just the right time, I was and ever will be grateful.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Early Christmas Gift

If all goes well between now and December 17th, I will be getting a new hip for Christmas. Instead of diamonds or gold, I will be getting titanium and staples.

Many years ago, a doctor told me that arthritis would probably come somewhat early to my right hip. Due to untreated scoliosis (we did not have screenings when I was in school) my hip is high and skewed forward. My left hip is perfect.


I have been in severe pain for almost 9 months. I was told by a friend that when the pain began keeping me awake at night and affecting every activity, I would know that it was time to get it replaced. It's time.

The vast majority of people that I have spoken with who have had this surgery are very positive about their results. The main down side is the idea of not driving for 6 weeks. However, I have a number of friends who will "Drive Miss Karen" if need be. Attitude has a lot to do with surgical success and recovery and my attitude is positive!

Being out of pain might very well be my best Christmas present ever.




Sunday, October 13, 2013

Stories

 Everyone has a story. This story is influenced by events from childhood to the present. Most of us may know parts of people's stories. But we seldom know the entire thing.

Back when I was still working in mental health, I had the opportunity to really hear people's stories. There were some folks who were reluctant to share their stories. Some were all too eager. I had to learn to check preconceived ideas and prejudices at the door. As I listened to hundreds of stories, this became easier and easier.

A drug addict is brought in from the Warren County jail. Orange jumpsuit, handcuffs and all. What a bum! Right? I listened to his story as he told me about turning to drugs after his young child died and his marriage collapsed.

That young woman arrested for child neglect? A throwaway child herself, dropped out of school in junior high, no job skills, no self confidence, dependent upon a cruel older boyfriend who beat her senseless if she put her child's needs above his own.

The obviously bright woman who can't get a decent job?  She never learned to read because she went to school before teachers learned to look for things like dyslexia. According to the US Department of Education, 14% of the US population can't read. At all.

One of the most heart breaking was the precious lady who had finally had to quit work because her hallucinations were so severe that she was afraid she would hurt someone. She had developed coping mechanisms over the years, but could not stay stable long enough to hold a job. Medications just made her so sleepy that she could not drive or work safely.

If one saw any of these people in the outside world, they looked healthy and normal. To the casual observer, it would not seem that anything could be wrong.

Unless they knew the rest of the story. 








Friday, October 11, 2013

Colonoscopy

The year I turned 50, I gave myself the "gift" of a colonoscopy. We have a family history of colon problems, so I felt it wise to just bite the bullet and do it.

Since I had polyps, I was put on the 3 year plan to get rechecked. I did not have time to do it last year due to my father-in-law's serious illness. So, this year, I made sure I got it done. 

Many people tell me that they just don't want to go to the bother of having a colonoscopy. They are afraid of the prep. They are afraid of what the results might show. Understandable fears, for sure, but when one considers that there were (according to The American Cancer Society) 102,480 new cases of colon cancer and 40,340 cases of rectal cancer in 2012, the inconvenience is well worth getting this test done. If colon cancer is caught early, there is a 74% survival rate. At stage IV, the survival rate drops to 6%. 

This year, I was pleasantly surprised by a much easier to swallow (pardon the pun) preparation. Instead of that gosh awful, pre-mixed stuff, I was able to mix Miralax with the Gatorade flavor of my choice, lemon-lime. Four Dulcolax and clear liquids for a day completed the getting ready phase. Needless to say, have some good bathroom reading on hand! 

The test itself is much easier than the prep. They give you enough good drugs to make sure that you don't really know much of what is going on. At GI Associates, the staff went over my somewhat complex medical history and list of medications in detail with me. I felt completely safe doing this on an outpatient basis. If one is not a good risk for outpatient procedures, they can do colonoscopies in a hospital setting. 

My results this time were good enough to put me in the 5 year plan, so I don't have to go again until I am 59. I can certainly "live" with that. 

It is not that bad. 

Just do it. 

 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Doing it All

A few months ago, a line of T-shirts, huggies, caps, pillowcases, and mugs appeared at The Cricket Box. The slogan reads "I can't do it all" and in smaller letters "and neither can you." 

Despite many studies that show how damaging trying to "do it all" can be to our physical and mental health, so many people are still running on the hamster wheel of belief that they CAN do it all without any physical, spiritual, or emotional repercussions.

We women are usually the worst about this. Doing it all and keeping ourselves at the point of sheer exhaustion is a badge of honor for many women. I can relate. I used to be that way myself. Until, one year, it all caught up with me, causing health crisis after health crisis. My body and my spirit "broke down", leaving me with permanent medical problems.

I see so many of my younger friends constantly trying to "do it all." I am concerned for some of them. Can they keep up this pace indefinitely? I wish someone had really encouraged me to slow down, take some time to smell the roses, and slow down some before my body made the decisions for me.

None of us can truly do it all.

Now, can we say it and believe it?


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Why Now?

I am sure that I have friends shaking their heads and wondering why I am doing a fundraiser NOW, of all times. 

Since I heard about the need for better security for the children and staff of Good Shepherd Community Center, I have been moved to do something about it. I had this fundraiser planned well before the government shutdown. I am on disability, so my income is threatened as well. We have medical bills from my husband's cancer surgery and the hundreds of dollars I pay out of pocket for my medical needs every month. We are certainly NOT rich. 

But, I am stepping out on faith and praying that, despite the shutdown, I can raise some money for the Good Shepherd Community Center. Every time I have stepped out on faith, I have been blessed beyond measure.  I am claiming those blessings in this endeavor.

Won't you step out on faith with me?


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Handicapped Parking (Update)

I am happy to report that the handicapped parking situation at River Region West Campus has been remedied! 

Last time I went to visit my cousin, the misleading handicapped parking sign had been taken down in the front lot. Apparently (after over 30 years??) the angle of the front parking lot was deemed too steep for handicapped parking. This also makes me wonder how the City of Vicksburg gets away with having handicapped spaces on hills such as the one by The Attic Gallery.

But, I digress. I drove around to the back lot. Handicapped parking closer to the door had been created and clearly marked. The door was unlocked this time, and the automatic opening feature was activated. 

I really don't like being the squeaky wheel. (Do I hear comments from the peanut gallery?) But, in this case, it paid off for me and my cousin's daughter, who is also disabled. 

And it was totally worth it. 

 
 

Friday, September 20, 2013

"Chosen"

A few weeks ago, I was approached by my friend, Robyn Lea, about singing in a one woman show she was presenting at The Coral Room theater this Saturday night. I love to sing and this sounded like a really cool thing to be a part of. I eagerly agreed. 

As the time for the show grew closer, there were some bumps in the road. People who had agreed to sing were unavailable. Hoping I still had friends in the music world, I told Robyn that I would try to round up an ensemble. 

I was initially discouraged by refusals and lack of response to my requests for singers. But, I am nothing if not persistent. I prayed for the right people to join in this effort. Then, I took to the phone and the streets to round up the perfect ensemble.

When the eight piece ensemble sang together for the first time Tuesday night, I was completely blown away. We sounded like we had been singing together for years! In spite of my doubts and worries, God had put the right people together in the right place at the right time.

Thursday night we had dress rehearsal. It went amazingly well and I am so excited about this show that I literally cannot sleep.

Now I just pray that God uses what we do Saturday night for His glory.






Wednesday, September 04, 2013

"Mr. D"

About 12 years ago, I was (finally) diagnosed with sleep apnea.  After my sleep study, I was given a C-Pap machine to take home and use. I knew I needed the machine, but I was baffled by the jumble of mask parts, wires, and tubing.

Fortunately, I found a website, sleepnet.com, where people who had been dealing with these machines for years "hung out" on forums to help address sleep issues. One of the most popular was the C-Pap forum. Thanks to these great people, I was finally able to get a set up (full face mask, extra long tubing, etc) that worked for me. Even more valuable was the friendship and encouragement I received during my quest to get my C-Pap therapy as efficient as possible.

My time at sleepnet.com ended when the site creator decided not to allow participants to post or exchange email addresses. Fortunately, I already had contact info for some of the folks that I corresponded off-forum with. One of these was "Mr. D."

Mr. D and I have corresponded now for over 10 years. He is an elderly gent who puts one in mind of Santa Claus. He has more lives than a cat and is still hanging in there, despite many severe chronic health issues. Mr. D. has a number of dogs and when the weather turns cold, he jokes that to get warm he just puts another pup on the bed. Mr. D. scoots around in his mobility scooter, works on his house, and paints pictures in his studio. Since his wife has had to enter a nursing home, Mr. D lives alone.

There have been times when Mr. D has been out of touch for several weeks or even months. Each time, I have feared the worst. But, then, out of the blue comes a email from him. And each time this happens, I rejoice that my "unseen" friend is still out there. I picture him curled up in his bed, with his beloved dogs around him.

And I smile.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vocabulary?

There was a time in the not-so-distant past where I was able to keep up with much of the latest slang terminology. But, after reading about (no, I did not watch the VMAs) the performance of Miley Cyrus, I realized I was hopelessly behind the times.

I had no earthly idea of what "twerking" was. I thought "motorboating" was something done in a boat. Well, I suppose it could be. I had seen "smh", but had no idea what it meant. If you want to know what twerking and motorboating are, google them. I am still "smh" (shaking my head) over those!

I did watch clips of the performance, which I did find tasteless. I found myself "smh" over it. I found it a little "cray-cray." I am obviously too old for this stuff. I found it kinda wack. 

I think I'm finna put on some 70's music and chill out in my crib. 


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Butterflies for Jessica

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to put the daughter of one of her co-workers on my prayer list. Young Jessica, age 12,  was riding in her family's van when a tire blew out. She was wearing her seat belt, but it malfunctioned and she was ejected from the vehicle. Jessica's spinal cord was severed and she is now paralyzed from the waist down.

Of course, I immediately began praying for young Jessica and her family. I also began following her journey on her blog and now Facebook. I painted this late one night and imagine my surprise when I saw the following post on Jessica's Facebook site the next morning.



Color Me Purple
Jessica needs some color in her room. 
Let’s help her out by sending her beautifully colored
 Get Well cards, pictures, and posters.
Jessica loves butterflies, the colors purple, orange, lime green, and sky blue.
Draw a picture for Jessica to help brighten her day and also decorate her room.
Send your cards and pictures to:
Jessica’s New Journey
P.O. Box 17511

Memphis, TN 38187


It was quite obvious that this painting was meant for Jessica. So, I will get it matted today and ship it off Monday. I pray it will brighten her room and her spirit.

If you want to follow Jessica's Journey, check out

 https://www.facebook.com/jessicasnewjourney 
or
http://www.jessicasnewjourney.blogspot.com/


 
 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Star Trek: Voyager

I find it a bit ironic that I (finally!) finished watching Star Trek: Voyager on the 80th birthday of Betty Jo (Bjo) Trimble. Bjo waged a successful "Save Star Trek" campaign back in the 1960's that allowed Star Trek to run a third season and further cement its legacy in the hearts of Trekkies everywhere.

I missed Voyager the first time around. I was in graduate school and starting a career in mental health when it came out. Not helping was the fact that it came on a station which we did not consistently receive and the broadcast times were at some unholy hour. These were pre-DVR days. I figured that this was one Star Trek series that I would just have to miss.

Then, along came Netflix. When they began offering the streaming service, I immediately searched for Voyager and was overjoyed when I found it among the offerings. It did not take me long to fall in love with this incarnation of the Trek franchise, as I had with TOS and TNG. No, I am not going to spell those out. True Trekkies will get it.

This series was perfectly cast. My favorite character is The Doctor, played to perfection by the immensely talented Robert Picardo. I admit had my doubts about a woman captain, but Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway, proved to be as tough (maybe tougher!) than Kirk or Picard.

Next up, another Trek series that was buried on obscure stations at odd times.
Star Trek: Enterprise.

I can't wait to go exploring the galaxy, Trek style, once again.


Friday, August 09, 2013

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

I began reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Benjamin Franklin on May 29th. I finished it on August 8th. I can't remember when it last took me over two months to read a book. This particular tome was not easily read during my husband's hospital stays or waiting for doctor appointments.

That said, overall, this was an absolutely fascinating read. Isaacson was extremely adept at showing the whole man. Franklin was often callous, and indifferent to his family. He could be manipulative and misleading. The demands of his ego could sometimes override his better judgement. In short, he was all too human.

Of course, these lesser qualities were balanced with his many accomplishments. Every school child knows of his studies in harnessing electricity, Poor Richard's Almanack, and his role as a Founding Father. Not as well known were his efforts in establishing the first volunteer fire brigade, the first subscription library, and the flexible urinary catheter, among dozens of other achievements. Of course, among his many inventions, bifocals are indeed a mixed blessing!

Worth the read.

I promise. 






Tuesday, July 30, 2013

#SaveOurDrumlines!

A few weeks ago, our school board and interim superintendent decided, in a cost cutting measure, not to replace two departing percussion instructors in our local high school band programs. They obviously did not truly realize the power of one of the most determined breeds of parents on the planet:  BAND PARENTS.

When the decision was first made, I have to admit that I thought that was the end of it. My first reaction was to try to figure out a way to make money so that the existing directors could at least hire some part time clinicians or even a bright graduate student. Anything to keep this program alive. I decided to donate the profits for the last two weeks of July from sales of my art at a local gift and consignment shop, The Cricket Box, to the cause. A former band kid myself, I knew how important this was. Not only to the bands, but the schools and the community as a whole.

What I did not expect was the number of new friends I would make during this process. In order to get the word out, I became Facebook friends with several people that I had heard of, but did not know personally. I have enjoyed getting to know these folks and hope to meet face to face soon. These are dynamic, interesting women who get things done.

With some determination, unification, and plain hard work, these band parents helped get the decision to eliminate the percussion positions reversed. The percussion units will have their directors, scholarships will be saved, and these band kids got a lesson in the importance of fighting for what they believe in.

As for the sale, we no longer need to #SaveOurDrumlines! The money raised will be divided equally between the band booster organizations of both schools.

Band parents rule!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Handicapped Spaces

This is a follow-up to a Facebook post I made recently about my frustration at not being able to park at one of our local hospital campuses. I went to check on my loved one and was unable to get a space in the front of the building. There was only one sign, NO blue lines, and the wheelchairs had been painted over with black paint.

A sign touted handicapped parking in the back of the building, so I drove around. I parked, got my walker out of the backseat (my scooter in the the rear of my van), and went to the door. Locked! A kind nurse's aide went to another door. That was locked as well. Unable to get my mobility devices out of my van in a "normal" space, I left in frustration.

So, this morning I went to the main campus of the hospital and spoke to a lovely man by the name of Johnny Reynolds, who is the patient representative. I began by telling him several of the positive things my husband and I had experienced at River Region (yes, there were many!). Then, I approached him about the parking problem. He agreed that it was unacceptable for handicapped individuals not being able to access ill loved ones and agreed to talk to the hospital administrator about it. He promised to follow up with a call.

A few minutes later, as I was visiting my relative (who had become so ill she required a transfer to acute care), the call did come in. The story is that there is handicapped parking in front, but there was no signage or easily visible markings. This situation is supposed to be remedied in the near future. Also, we discussed a bell or buzzer and camera for the back door so that security could "buzz" in disabled visitors. These all sound like good ideas.

I will be watching to see if action follows. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Anxiety

I can't believe I am awake at 12:35 AM fretting about a doctor appointment that does not occur until August 1. 

My long term neuromuscular doc left University Medical Center. We had a great relationship and I did not mind going to see her. But, my new doc is taking getting used to. His nurse has yelled at me and made me cry. 

Seriously. 

My new doc wanted me to lose weight before I came back. I was doing well till Bill was diagnosed with cancer. Food choices for me at the hospital were extremely limited. Yes, they had low fat yogurt...with strawberries. Anaphylaxis anyone? I have since gotten back on track, but I don't know if I can lose enough in the next 2 1/2 weeks to show the kind of progress he is expecting. 

Another concern is that I think he is going to take me off the steroids that have given me a greatly improved quality of life for the past 12 years. I know there are downsides to these, but I will take quality of life over quantity any day. He wants to put me on a stimulant that I have tried before. I did not like the way I felt on this drug. It made my reflux worse, caused sleeplessness ( like I need more of that!) and just made me jittery. 

Neuromuscular doctors are in short supply. The one I see is the only one I know of in Central Mississippi. I hate feeling like I have no choice. 

I know I have to get a handle on this. Explore and see if do have any options. If not, I have to find some effective way to deal with this situation. 

Wish me luck. 

Monday, July 08, 2013

Memories of a Band Kid

Little did I know when I passed the test making me eligible to take band in 6th grade, how far that clarinet would take me, both in music and in life. 

The first time the tiny band at Warrenton Elementary played a "tune" that actually sounded like something was one of the coolest moments I can remember. I was part of that tune and boy was I proud!

At Warren Central in 8th grade, I was a part of a much larger band. All of the 8th graders from all of the elementary schools, playing tunes together. This was even more cool and I was even more proud! 

That Spring, I tried out for "Big Blue" the nickname of the award winning High School band. I remember receiving my acceptance letter in the mail and screaming for joy when I found out I had "made it."

The first time I sat in the band hall and played with all the band kids from 9th through 12th grades, I was completely blown away. I was one of hundreds of kids, playing the same tune. Proud does not even begin to describe the feeling I had that day. I was completely blown away.

Band taught me lessons that helped in other areas of music. I was also a "choir kid" and I could count and sight read better than many of my choir peers, thanks to having taken band for three years prior to joining choir.

Most of all, however, being in band taught me life lessons that are still with me today. Be punctual. Respect others. Be part of the team. Work hard. Don't make excuses. Together, we could do anything. If we failed classes, we could lose our opportunity to play in the band until we pulled our grades up. And, if we got into real trouble, we could be kicked out of band for good. Very few band kids were willing to risk that.

I received a full tuition scholarship to Hinds by being in the band. Finances were tight and that scholarship helped me and my family. When I got to Mississippi College, health concerns and time restraints finally made me put my clarinet in its case for good.

When administrations decide not to fund band (all arts really!) programs, I have to wonder if they are truly counting the costs. They may save money in the short term, but what are they sacrificing long term?

Is it worth it?







Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Independence Day

I have always enjoyed American History. But, until I visited Philadelphia, Pennsylvania recently, it had never really "come to life" for me. 

Something about seeing the place where the signing of the Declaration of Independence occurred held me in thrall. As I caressed the landing outside the doorway into the signing room, I could not help but wonder at the thought of our Founding Fathers resting their hands there.


We take so much for granted these days. It is easy to look at the pristine portraits of the time, not really understanding the risks the signers took when they put their names on this historic document. Richard Stockton of New Jersey was imprisoned and the damage to his health hastened his early death at age 50. William Hooper of North Carolina contracted malaria while on the run from British troops which destroyed his health for the rest of his short 48 years. Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge, and Thomas Heyward of South Carolina were imprisoned, leaving families having to beg for help from friends. George Walton of Georgia was captured by the British after being shot and was held for years.

The signers not only put themselves at risk, but their families as well. Francis Hopkins' (New York) wife was 60 years old when imprisoned for 2 years in primitive conditions during the War. Abraham Clark's (New York) sons were imprisoned. Signers families often had to move frequently to avoid capture.

Most signers had property damaged and destroyed, and many were financially ruined, such as Thomas Nelson, Jr. (Virginia), from using their own funds to support the war effort.

So, this 4th of July, take a few minutes to read the Declaration of Independence. Better yet, check out this book and learn more about the signers for yourself.






Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Artist's Block

I realize that in times of stress and exhaustion, art has to take a backseat for awhile. That is normal. But, it can be very hard to get back into a creative spirit once life is getting back to normal. 

So, I bring out my "positive self talk" and work to end the creative drought.

Things I say to myself:

1. This creative drought is normal under the circumstances and will not last forever.

2. Everything I paint does not have to be a masterpiece. Just getting color on paper is important and therapeutic.


3. it is OK to paint just for myself. To paint what I want to paint regardless of how anyone else might receive it.

4. For better or worse, I AM an artist, and I always will be. 

 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Broken and Spilled Out

Every week, I ask our preacher at Hermanville to send me his next sermon topic and scripture reference. Because the special music is right before the sermon, I try to "match" the song to what the message is going to be.

This week's scripture reference was Luke 7: 36-50, the story of the woman who poured out an entire container of an expensive and precious perfume on the feet on Jesus, washed His feet with her tears, and dried them with her hair.

I almost cried when I saw what the sermon was going to be about. I have wanted to sing Steve Green's "Broken and Spilled Out" for years, but never had the opportunity. Today I did.

This song epitomizes that way that I have felt for years. I wanted to be truly "used" and "used up" for Jesus. But, there wasn't time. That was someone else's  job. Or, I simply felt like I was intruding. But, I don't have that feeling anymore. The things I have to give are being used, broken, and spilled out. Poured at His feet.

Lord continue to let me be broken, spilled out, and used up for Thee.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Post



I can't believe I am actually writing this. I did not think the day would ever come when I would consider not renewing my daily subscription to the Vicksburg, (formerly Evening) Post.

But, the truth is, by the time the printed paper arrives, most of it is old news. I have already seen most of what is in the paper on TV, Facebook, or somewhere else online. When I was traveling, I discovered that I could get my comics, Dear Abby, Dr. Wallace, and the obituaries online for free. I am terrible at crossword puzzles and I can't even begin to do the Sudoku. I'm not looking to buy anything in the classifieds. I don't usually agree with the editorials. About the only things I might miss are the "Old Post Files" and the crime report. If a picture of me or one of my loved ones is in it, someone will usually cut it out and send it to me.

I would continue to take the Sunday paper so I can see who is getting married and read whatever Gordon Cotton writes. I like the Parade magazine and the big, full color comic section.

Between traveling and having a sick husband, I have not really read the paper since April. I don't miss it nearly as much as I thought I would. And, instead of struggling to read newsprint, I am getting more books read.

So, I am going to try saying goodbye to my daily "Post" when this month is over. Will I miss it?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The "C" Word

When I entered my husband's hospital room that Thursday morning, I could tell immediately. The biopsy news was not good. The doctor had made a very late round after I had left for the evening and given my husband the news.

The tumor is malignant. Bill has cancer. My lifelong non-smoking, non-drinking, clean living husband has lung cancer.


This all actually started with kidney stones. After 5 grueling, pain filled hours sitting in the ER waiting room, Bill was finally taken back and a CT scan taken to look for the stones. The stones showed up as expected. A spot on his right lung also showed up. Not expected. 

I have often heard people diagnosed with cancer remark that after they heard the "C" word, their brains immediately shut down. They simply were unable to process anything beyond this information. For this reason, people going to a doctor to receive biopsy results are advised to bring someone with them to ask questions, write down pertinent information, etc.

I was not even the patient and I felt like I had been hit upside the head with a baseball bat. The word "cancer", coming from my husband's mouth, changed our lives. Probably forever.


Fortunately, further tests show that there is only one tumor and surgery is scheduled to remove part of his lung.  It is not going to be an easy ride (for either of us!), but Bill's chances are good. 

Thanks to the "blessing" of kidney stones.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mr. Junior

His real name was James Otto Hearn, Junior. As a child, I was taught to respect my elders and would never have dared call an adult by his or her first name. So, to avoid confusion with his daddy, I called the younger Mr. Hearn "Mr. Junior."

The Hearn family ran a small store on the corner of 61 South and Redbone Road. Hearn's Store was more than just a place to pick up snacks or groceries. It was a place for a small crew of retired men to sit in the back and shoot the breeze. Mr. Hullum, Mr. York, and Mr. Lofton were usually there just waiting for someone to pick on. One of their favorite "targets" was my mama, Betty Nelson.

Now don't get me wrong. This picking was all in good fun, never cruel or hateful. And my mama could give as good as she got. Mama would walk in Hearn's Store, usually with one of her toy Pomeranian dogs in tow. These men loved to pick on my mama about her dogs. I don't think they even classified a Pomeranian  as a "real" dog. I had to smile thinking about how glad my mama, James B Lofton, Mr. Hullum, and Mr. York were to see Mr. Junior arrive in Heaven last night.

I can still remember the first time we walked into Hearn's Store in 1968. Mr. Junior introduced me to his young sons "Sam" and "Tater." I had no idea that these were not their real names until years later. Hard to believe ol' "Tater" aka Jay is a grandfather himself now.

I remember eating hoop cheese from Mr. Junior's deli case. It is still the best cheese I have ever eaten. Hoop cheese from anywhere else is just not the same. Mr. Junior had a glass fronted candy counter and we would stand in front of it for what seemed like forever, trying to decide which kind of candy bar we wanted. My mama had a charge account with Mr. Junior, and would tell him to "Charge it please, and thank you very much" when she had her selections on the counter. Mama was an only child, but she told me on more than one occasion that Mr. Junior was like the brother she never had.

Even though I had not seen Mr. Junior in a number of years, I still found myself tearing up when I heard of his passing. He was a constant presence during my growing up years. I don't remember him ever getting impatient or upset with me, no matter how long it took me to decide whether I wanted a Hershey Bar with Almonds or a Zero Bar that day. If I wanted a Coke, he would tell me where to reach in the refrigerator case to get the coldest one. Sometimes I could even coax him into cutting me a sliver of hoop cheese to nibble on before he wrapped up the rest.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Junior. You will be missed.


Friday, May 03, 2013

Vacation Top 10

Too tired for a lengthy travelogue, I decided to just list and picture my top 10 things about the great road trip of 2013.

10. Breakfast with Teresa's cousins in North Carolina, including these amazing homemade scones!
 9. Seeing where Superman lives! Metropolis, Illinois.
 

 8. Tulips! My favorite flower was blooming everywhere. 

 7.  The Jefferson Memorial. This place still takes my breath away. 
  
 6. The Vietnam Memorial and this statue in particular.
 5. Christ Church, Philadelphia, PA, where Benjamin Franklin and George Washington attended services.
 4. Cherry trees! Especially with loved ones posed underneath them. 

 3.  Arlington. Breathtaking and absolutely humbling.
 2. Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
1. Spending time with family and dear friends. Priceless!





Monday, April 15, 2013

Karen & Teresa’s (hopefully!) Excellent Adventure

On Friday, April 19th, my college roommate and long time friend, Teresa, and I will be setting off on an adventure. We are taking a two week driving trip that will take us from Nashville, to Asheville, to DC, to Philadelphia, Akron, and Pittsburgh PA, then to Cleveland Ohio and Metropolis, Illinois.

We know at the outset that we will not be able to do EVERYTHING we would like to do. We would need a LOT more time and a LOT more money for that. But, we are prioritizing, and hope to see the things that are most important to us. Teresa, whose father was shot down in Vietnam when she was four, wants to see the memorial finally created for those killed in this conflict. I want to visit with my sister-in-law and her family who live in Akron, near the Amish country we hope to explore.

I would never be able to make a trip like this if it were not for Teresa. She does the “heavy lifting.” Calling herself the “Master Packer”, she totes the luggage from van to hotel room and back, somehow making sure everything fits. She does much of the driving, allowing me to take re-energizing naps on the road. She lets me off at doors and chases down my walker if the wind catches it and it goes careening across a parking lot.

When I asked for prayer for our journey Sunday morning in church,a comment was made by someone (the preacher!) hoping that Washington DC will still be the same when we leave it. With two crazy, middle-aged women out for adventure, there is just no telling!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Chick-fil-A

I think I may be one of the only people in Vicksburg who is not particularly looking forward to the opening of the new Chick-fil-A. Their restaurants are usually clean and their employees are more professional than most I have encountered in the fast food business. I will probably go to this one if my husband or a friend really wants to eat there. My feelings about Chick-fil-A are definitely mixed for a number of reasons, not all of which I will go into in this post.

One of my main beefs (pardon the pun) with this Chick-fil-A is the location. I have seen the way traffic backs up into the street at the ones in Clinton and Jackson during rush times or special promotions. Hall's Ferry is already a busy street and getting out of businesses that don't have a traffic light is difficult enough already. I am wondering if I will be able to get in and out of the parking lot to see my financial adviser at Edward Jones. Another concern I have is wondering if the parking allotted for Chick-fil-A will be adequate or will they have to spill over and take parking area away from Caffe Paradiso, Yanni's, and Orange Leaf Yogurt. As a frequent visitor to some of these establishments, will my handicapped parking spaces be taken up by the overflow generated by Chick-fil-A?

I am hoping that the city has some ideas for dealing with potential issues that come up, but I have to admit, I am not holding my breath. At any rate, I will probably be in another part of town supporting our locally owned places by eating at Martin's, Toney's, Goldie's, and Billy's. 

For the most part, I'll let other folks "Eat more Chikin."






Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hermanville Squirrel Revival

Easter was just about to get underway at Hermanville United Methodist Church. The preacher, Charles Pope, was robed and ready, and church pianist, Daphne Bruce, was about to begin the prelude. Then, she noticed what looked like wood shavings on the keys of the highest octave. Karen Sanders, the music director, went to find something to clean the offending substance from the keys and signaled to Charles that there was a 
piano emergency.

Suddenly, Daphne gave a squeal and out from under the piano darted a squirrel! Karen soon echoed that squeal as the rodent ran past her sandaled feet doing laps around the piano. Soon, others came over to see what could be done about getting rid of our uninvited guest. Unable to find a way out near the piano, our squirrel ran down the aisle as if his tail was on fire. He ran to a front window, and unable to exit, he headed back towards the piano!

“If that squirrel runs up my pant leg like in the Mississippi Squirrel Revival, I am out the door!” declared Daphne who was shaking like the last leaf on an  Autumn tree. Karen agreed that she would not be far behind. Much to the church’s chagrin, the squirrel ran BACK into the piano. Some of our braver church members opened the piano and there was another squirrel, obviously deceased, laid out over the strings. One of our stalwart gentlemen, Harald, graciously disposed of the poor thing, while we tried to get the other squirrel to come back out.  We had probably scared the poor thing with our squealing and carrying on, so he was not budging.

 It looked as if our squirrel guest was determined to stay for the service, so it was decided that the Easter hymns would be sung a cappella. Karen, gingerly, with one eye always on the piano, made her way to her chair on the platform. Daphne took a seat in the back of the church, far away from the piano. Charles took his position behind the pulpit.

And, without further ado, the Easter 2013 service at Hermanville United Methodist Church was ready to begin.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Birthday

My Daddy and my Father-in-Law had several things in common. One of these was a March 28th birthday. 

After Daddy bought his place on Thompson Lake, the birthday was celebrated there unless the weather was really awful. Daddy had built a pavilion, picnic tables, and a pier. It was the perfect place to have a party.

My father-in-law was on the shy side and did not often attend social gatherings, unless they were hosted and attended by his immediate family. Birthdays at the lake were an exception. I think Mr. Sanders liked the fact that there was no need for a lot of conversation. Many guests were happy just to sit and watch the water, or walk out on the pier and enjoy the fresh air. 

Today will be the first "birthday" without either Dad. I have to admit, it still does not seem quite "real." The lake place has been sold. I am not making the "bunny" cake, crafted from two round layers, decorated with icing, coconut, jelly bean eyes, and licorice whiskers. No hamburgers are cooking on Daddy's grill, tantalizing us with their aroma, as we put fixings on the table. I would be lying if I said that I was not sad today. But, I am thankful for memories of the good times I was able to share with both of my Dads on their special day. 



Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dragnet

When I was a child, one of my favorite TV shows was Dragnet. I thought Joe Friday was the coolest thing on legs. I loved his slick monologues and the one-line "zingers" he was able to pull off without batting an eye. Joe Friday never cracked under pressure, never had a hair out of place, and never, ever, lost his cool. 

I also became a fan of his later series, Adam 12, with the adorable Kent McCord and  Emergency!. I particularly found it fascinating that he was on such good terms with ex-wife, torch singer Julie London, that he not only hired her for Emergency!, but her second husband, jazz musician, Bobby Troup, as well.

Watching these three series, I noticed that Jack Webb used many of his actors in all three series, as well as in the 1950's incarnation of Dragnet that I recently found on Netflix and hope to watch soon. Once an actor was on Webb's good list, he or she was set with regular guest roles for years. Sometimes a guest star from Dragnet, would be tapped for a regular or starring role in another Webb series. I admire Webb's loyalty.

My husband and I are re-watching all 98 color episodes of Dragnet. Even after all these years, Joe Friday is still the coolest thing on legs.

And that's a fact.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Progress

Yesterday, I took a shopping trip over to Catherine's Plus Sizes store. I have been recording everything I eat and trying to be more mindful of my food intake over the past couple of months. I have not been weighing, just paying attention to what I put in my mouth and how my clothes feel. And, I have held my own pretty well,  despite the two steroid tapers that made me extremely hungry for a couple of weeks. 

Last time I went to Catherine's in February, I wore a 3X shirt and a 2X pant. I decided to be optimistic and try on 2X blouses with my 2X pants this time. I was shocked to find them both too large! I ended up with a 1X top and a 1X pant! Needless to say, this made me quite happy. 

So, I continue on this path. When I look in my mirror, I honestly don't see much progress. But, according to the tags, I must be making some. I just have to keep it up. 






Saturday, March 16, 2013

Creative Lull

I am in a bit of a creative lull right now, as far as art goes. I just can't seem to get inspired on a regular basis. I have flashes here and there, but nothing steady like in the past. 

I still hesitate to really call myself an "artist." I do OK for someone only in it since 2009. I will never be a Walter Anderson or Wyatt Waters. But, I do enjoy what I do and make enough to (almost!) support my habit and give something to charities. 

Not being able to really see a pencil sketch both limits and frees me. I see lovely flowers painted from detailed sketches. I don't particularly want to do these. But, painting totally freehand flowers does present other challenges. Alas, even the most beautiful flowers are not much inspiration these days.

I don't want to do what everyone else is doing. I don't want to do what is trendy. I want to create my own art, primarily from my own imagination. But, sometimes, that imagination fails me. I am hoping that this is just a result of still grieving, having been ill for several weeks, and just being tired.  I post to groups on Flickr for feedback, but even this can be somewhat stressful as I tend to want to do what "pleases" my peers, instead of following my heart. 

I am sure that inspiration will, once again, return. 

I wish it would get a move on. 


Friday, March 15, 2013

Grace

No one would ever accuse Grace of being a beauty queen. Prematurely gray, with cat eye glasses, a chubby build, and a no-nonsense attitude, she was often the subject of unkind mocking. The kind of cruelty that teenagers are often known for. But, I loved her. She was a combination of teacher, mentor, surrogate mom, and friend to me. 

Grace was the second person to really recognize that I could sing. The first was Barbara Weaver, who heard me singing with the radio, and who promptly marched me into Miss Reno's room to try out for her choir. I liked to sing, but did not realize I had a gift until Grace told me I did. Grace pushed me to sing solos, to try out for honor choirs, and to consider making music my major in college. She taught a music theory class when I was a high school senior.  That class made my first semester of college theory a relative breeze. 

When I graduated with my master's degree in vocal performance, married, and moved back to Vicksburg, I became Grace's substitute teacher. I gave voice lessons after school, helped chaperone choir trips, and began to see a different side of "Miss Reno." As a peer and friend, I saw how much she really cared about her students. She worried about a student in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend. The one who came from a "very broken" home. The boy who was so talented, but had no money to go to college. 

After a few hellish years of having to keep large study halls full of extremely difficult kids, Grace retired from public school teaching. She also taught piano and was the choir director for her church, so music continued to be part of her life. Then she got a job that turned out to be perfect for her. 

Grace became a travel agent. I don't remember every seeing her as happy as she was when she was helping someone plan a trip, or better yet, returning from one of her own. She was like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. After her last, difficult years at school, it did my heart good to see her so happy. 

Several months ago, my husband was out taking photographs in Cedar Hill Cemetery for findagrave.com. He happened upon the spot where Grace was buried, but there was no permanent marker there. We made plans to remedy that situation, and Mr. Cockrell at Vicksburg Monument helped us match her stone to the ones of her parents. Simple, but elegant. 

I think Grace would like it. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Cookie Time!

You all know what kind of cookies I am talking about. 

GIRL SCOUT COOKIES! 

Mine were delivered yesterday by my own personal Girl Scout. Right into my sugar starved (one would think!) hands. 

I have done pretty well with my more mindful eating this year. Even on the large dose steroids I have been taking on and off for almost a month, I have still lost a few pounds. But, I gave myself permission to enjoy this "once a year" treat. For me, this is the "guilt-free" eating of a WHOLE sleeve of Thin Mints. I grab the whole sleeve, my Diet Coke (Oh the irony!) and sit down in front of some mindless TV. Then, after gobbling the first two or three, I slowly savor the rest. 

The rest have been portioned out into small amounts and put in the freezer for more sensible consumption later. But, there is nothing quite like that very first taste of Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies every year. 


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Congenital Myopathy

After many months of waiting, I finally received a diagnosis (hopefully the right one this time!) today. The verdict? Congenital Myopathy. Apparently, I have had some of this since birth, or maybe even before. There are several variations of this, but most insurances will not cover more specific tests unless one plans to have children. 

I can remember being the smallest, weakest, and most uncoordinated child on the playground. But, I was able to march in the band when I got older. I did some swimming and aerobics when I was in my 20s and 30s, but I was never able to keep up with others in the class. By my 40s I had multiple other problems (ruptured discs, asthma, sleep apnea, severe anemia)  that cropped up and apparently exacerbated the problems I already had. 

This is one of those bad news/good news things. The bad news is that there is no cure for this. Muscle abnormality is muscle abnormality. The good news is that it is relatively non-progressive. There is something called Coenzyme Q10 that may help a bit and I have been given permission to do some gentle stretching. Stimulants may help the severe fatigue if my heart checks out OK. I am continuing my more mindful eating and less of me to move around would certainly help. 

For the most part, my fears have been relieved. I am not on a path to become completely helpless or a burden to my loved ones. I just keep on keeping on, doing the best I can with what I have to work with. 

And I don't think that is too shabby.