Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Reflections

Fortunately, blogging about my good December did not jinx my Christmas.

Christmas Eve was lovely. I did some holiday baking for the first time in many years. Sugar cookies, oatmeal cookies, and mini pecan pies were put on trays and in goodie bags to be given to friends and family. 

It was fun to be around some young great nieces and nephews who are new to the family this year. Seeing their excitement about Christmas made the holiday more jolly this year. 

Then, I went to Christmas Eve Communion with my friend Alex Brown and his family at Porter's Chapel UMC. Hermanville does not have a Christmas Eve service, and I have been looking for a place to "be" on Christmas Eve. The pianist playing in the foyer graciously allowed me to sing while people went in and out of the church. I am already planning to go back next year. 

This morning, I stuffed my eggs and went to Granna's house. Granna is my sister's mother in law, but she has adopted my entire family. I am grateful that she invites us all to dinner so that everyone can spend time together. Sharing the holiday with one of my niece and future nephew's friends from England was a joy. I came home to a lovely nap and rented movies from iTunes.

I can't remember when I have had a nicer Christmas. 

 

 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

December

I am almost afraid to write this post for fear I will "jinx" this (so far!) calm and peaceful December. But, I am counting my blessings today that neither I, nor anyone else in my family is seriously ill or dying. I am not having surgery and I do not have the flu. (Knock on wood!) 

The Memories page on Facebook reminded me that 7 years ago, I had surgery, 6 years ago, I was not doing well, and mired in doctor's appointments. Five years ago, my stepmom had hip surgery and ended up in ICU. Four years ago, I was helping care for my dying daddy and 3 years ago today, we laid my father-in-law to rest. Two years ago, I had a nasty case of flu that necessitated the delay of my hip replacement, and last year, I got hernia surgery for Christmas. 

Through all of this, I was blessed with encouragement and support from my friends. Meals were brought, prayers were offered, and one precious person even brought me a small, decorated Christmas tree when I was too exhausted from caring for loved ones to even try to put one up. 

This year, I have had time to put up my tree, go to some Christmas events, buy a few gifts, and send Christmas cards. I even have plans to bake some treats to send with my husband when he goes to spend Christmas with his brother and sister in Tennessee. All in all, what seems like a normal December. 

I know that life can turn on a dime. My loved ones and I might yet have our December disrupted. But, in this moment, I am thankful for what I have already had this month. 

Happy December!
 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fear

Some sources say that there are 365 Bible verses telling us not to fear. This is one of my favorites.

 "Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:31 KJV 

I think everyone has particular verses that resonate with him or her. This is one of mine. I grew up fearing many things. From the "Russians" to getting "out of step" in marching band, I spent many days and nights being just plain scared. 

Several years of therapy helped me to find the roots of my fears, and to overcome them. I wish I could say that I have absolutely no fears now, but I manage them pretty well, using the wisdom of Jesus and my own common sense. 

Don't get me wrong. I take reasonable precautions to ensure my safety. But, I simply refuse to live my life in fear. I think that is an ultimate insult to the God who consistently tells us not to be afraid. 

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. Joshua 1:9 KJV

In these troubled times, I am clinging to these verses, while living my life to the fullest!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hcqrVtXZT0 




 

Friday, November 06, 2015

Elections 2015: What I Learned

For the first time in quite a while, I found myself particularly involved in the election that was held last Tuesday. There were actually people running for office that I truly believed in, rather than simply choosing the lesser of two evils. 

I was disappointed in many of the results. It appears that a majority of Mississippians are quite content with being 50th in most categories. The things that matter to me, such as education and healthcare don't matter to everyone. And, God forbid that someone should get something to which we think he or she should not be entitled. I was also chagrined at the number of young people who told me that they did not bother to vote. Many were not even registered and had no idea where their polling places were.

But, there were good things that happened as well. I was privileged to meet the courageous Christen Hemmins, who, although not in my district, amazed me with her story and ability to overcome the stuff of nightmares. I was pleased to see that the ever capable Jan Daigre and Donna Hardy retained their positions in local government. 

The best part of the campaign process for me was meeting Joce Pritchett. A highly educated, successful owner of an engineering firm, she ran for the extremely important office of State Auditor. That she lost to the Caucasian, upper middle class, Republican male was no real surprise in this state. However, she ran a clean, honest campaign that will hopefully inspire other women to step up and do the same.

All I can do now is pray that the duly elected officials make choices that will benefit ALL the people of Mississippi, not just a select few. 
 

 

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Cubs





Tonight, I did something I have not done in many years. I sat and watched a Chicago Cubs game. 


I used to be a HUGE Cubs fan. Back when they were on almost every day on WGN, I had the TV on every time I was at home when they were playing. I can still name the players and their quirks from when I watched from the mid 1980's till about 1998. My husband and I took Amtrak to Chicago in 1993 to watch three games back in the day when Harry Carey, Steve Stone, and Thom Brenneman were announcing. We had seats just a few rows in front of the press box. Mark Grace was on first, Ryne Sandberg was on second, and Turk Wendell, relief pitcher,  was entertaining the crowd with his superstitious antics.

1998 was the summer of the (or, so I thought) great home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. I was in my last semester of graduate school, but I would go to restaurants in Monroe that had TVs tuned to baseball so I could keep up. 

Shortly after I graduated, I began working a full time, very demanding job. I did not have much time for baseball anymore. Evidence of illegal steroid use by both Sosa and McGwire broke my heart and the hearts of pure baseball fans everywhere. Two friends, with whom I loved to discuss Cubs baseball, passed away. Constant trades and free agency made it difficult to keep up with the constantly changing rosters of players.  It just was not as much fun anymore. I kept up with the Cubs, but it was only sporadic, lacking in my previous enthusiasm. 

Tonight, some of that former joy returned. The game was fun again. I plan to watch as much as I can of the   playoffs between the Cubs and the Cards. 

Who knows? I might just get hooked again. 

 

Monday, October 05, 2015

Just a Nurse...Practitioner

Over the past few weeks, I have heard several people complain about "only" getting to see a nurse practitioner. They feel shortchanged when they do not see an MD. Granted, I have met one or two nurse practitioners that I have not seen eye to eye with. I have also had doctors with whom I did not get along. 

Personally, I LOVE my nurse practitioners. I have gotten great care from the ones I see. Molly, at Jackson Pulmonary, has been wonderful at helping me keep my asthma under control and working with me on my sleep apnea. She has more time to see me than my actual pulmonary doctor, who stays swamped with patients who have much more serious problems than I do. 

I have also received great care at University of Mississippi Medical Center from my nurse practitioners. The neurology department stays incredibly busy there, but Leigh took the time to listen and help me come to terms with my neuromuscular disorder. When she left, the very capable nurse practitioner, Carolyn, took over. Carolyn has been able to help me get answers to questions about whether or not I have anything that could be passed on to my niece or nephew (I don't, thank goodness), and making peace with my limitations. 

Nurse practitioners work under the supervision of medical doctors. The ones I have known are quick to consult with or have me see my MD if the need should arise. To me, they are not "just" nurse practitioners. They are key to my healthcare circle. 

So, give nurse practitioners a chance. You might be very glad you did. 

 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Drawing

When I was a kid, I used to draw ALL the time. A new package of typing paper and some colored pencils made me happy as a clam. I drew ladies in my own designer dresses, I drew flowers, I doodled letters, and it was fun. 

This pretty much came to an end when a junior high art teacher appeared to dislike everything I did. My "store window" of high fashion boots rated only a C-. My sketchbook only garnered a C, and my painting was given a large, red, F. 

After that, I put the pencils down. I stopped trying to draw. I had other talents to develop. But, deep down, I think something in me wanted to draw even if I had no real talent.

I have joined a Facebook sketch group to try and recapture the joy of just doodling and drawing in a journal setting. I may never get really good at it, but that doesn't matter. I'm having fun. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lettering

I don't have to tell anyone south of the Mason-Dixon line how hot it has been this summer. Records have been set for the number of 95+ degree days in a row with heat indices well over 100. 

I do not do heat. It does not work and play well with my illnesses. This summer has been especially difficult health-wise.

Stuck in the house for most of these summer days, it hit me how much time I had been spending on the internet. Between Facebook, news sites, Pinterest, and email, I was not getting much of anything accomplished. It was too hot to get much done in the house. Without a place to hang my art, I had trouble getting into my painting. I couldn't seem to concentrate to read. I needed something that did not take a lot of physical energy to do, but would engage me. 

I have wanted to learn how to do some and have been following the blog of Lori Vliegen (Elvie Studio at http://elviestudio.blogspot.com/) for about a year. After buying some books that were hard to follow, I bit the bullet and paid the $40.00 for Lori's online course, found here: http://elviestudio.blogspot.com/p/letterlab-class.html. It took about a week of practice to learn the basics, but now, I am hooked. I can't wait to take her next course "Doodle Page" to learn more. She has a lighter, more spare style than many who do art journaling.

At least I can say that I learned something this summer and put it to use. 



 


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Apples

Last Sunday, I did something that I have not done in over 10 years. I ate an apple. A Fuji apple, to be specific. 

I have a history of multiple, sometimes severe, food allergies. I had eliminated all the foods that elicited an adverse reaction, of any kind, from my diet years ago. Apples used to make me start itching and exacerbated asthma symptoms. 

When I went to the allergist in Jackson last week, he tested me for my existing food allergies and some suspected new ones. There were a few things that I tested positive for (the last time I underwent tests) that did not come back as positive this time. 

One of these things was apples. Since my reaction to these was not life threatening, my allergist gave me permission to try them again. I bought the apple pictured, washed it well, and sliced off a piece. It was sheer Heaven. 

Two other things I will be allowed to try again are oats and things in the cucumber/pumpkin family. I can't wait to bite into a juicy dill pickle and maybe an oatmeal raisin cookie soon. I have to do them one at a time, with some days in between. 

Having these three things back in my diet will allow much more variety than I have had for many years. I am already dreaming of apple bread and apple pie. But, for now, a plain apple is hard to beat. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Hot

I know that this is not the hottest summer that I have ever experienced. But, for some reason, this one is really getting to me. Maybe it is the 29 straight days with temps over 95 degrees??

Because heat is the enemy of many neuromuscular disorders, I have to stay in when it gets this hot. Just getting in and out of the car to run errands is too much. This morning, I was having trouble catching my breath when I left home at 8:15. Even when I know what the problem is, it is still a little scary. 

Even at home, I don't get much done. In order to be comfortable with a temperature compromise to accommodate my cold-natured husband, I have to be pretty still. It is almost like my brain is running in slow motion. I have no energy or motivation to create, read, cook, or even think some days. 

Fall is coming.

Right?



 

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Oxford

Last week, I went to Oxford. On purpose. I have been through Oxford to get to other places, but I have not actually been TO Oxford since 1977. 

There were two reasons for making the trip. One was my friend, Beverly, pictured here. She has plans to move from California to Water Valley in the future. I felt it my duty as a Mississippian to begin her "Redneck Training" with a trip to Sonic, encouraging bare feet, and eating at the Huddle House. I can already tell that she is going to be a natural at Mississippi living. 

The second reason for going to Oxford was to see another friend who became quite dear to me during her sojourn at St. Alban's Episcopal Church here in Vicksburg. I enjoyed singing for services there during Holy Week and Christmas Eve. She allowed this Methodist to participate in Bible studies with her parishioners. We were also in a prayer shawl group together. I have been wanting to visit her and participate in a service at her new church, St. Peter's. 

I must admit, despite Oxford being the home of "that school", I was quite impressed with what I experienced. I loved both Square Books and Off the Square Books, the local restaurants were quite good, especially the Bottle Tree Bakery, and I even found a great little indie art store called Paint and Pen

What impressed me the most, however, were the people. They were friendly, welcoming, and very open minded. There is a strong sense of community in Oxford. 

I won't wait nearly so long to go back this time. 

 
 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Post Traumatic Growth

I can't believe that I had never heard this term until today. Back when I was in school, we used the term resilience. This is not quite the same thing. I see resilience as being more of a returning to a previous norm after a traumatic event. PTG appears to take it a step further, suggesting that there can be not only a return to *normal*, but a progression to *better*.

It is probably a blessing in some ways that I was not familiar with the term "post traumatic stress" in my younger years. I really did not recognize any option after traumatic events except to just keep going. Breaking down simply was not an option. I had a education to get. I had a chronically ill mama. I had jobs to do that made me less dependent on my parents, who had medical bills and 3 in college at the same time. I kept going, but I never really returned to my previous normal. I certainly did not experience growth out of the circumstances. 

Then, on Christmas morning, 1990, my mama did not wake up. She died that night in the ICU of the Vicksburg Hospital. My grief was absolutely crippling, complex, and I spiraled into a severe depression. As usual, I was prepared to just muscle on through. Thankfully, my truly concerned and savvy friends talked me into getting counseling. I didn't have to do it alone. Not this time.

With help, I was able to finally work through, not just my grief over my mother's death, but through multiple previous traumas as well. I got back to a semblance of normal, then a growth and joy beyond what I had ever really known. I took a huge chance and my first student loan, and, at 35, went back to school to get a second Master's Degree in counseling. I learned to stand up for myself against even well-meaning bullies. I got myself out of relationships that became one-sided and unhealthy. Later, I began to dabble in art, something I loved as a child, but was discouraged from as a teen. 

Anything I go through now I consider a normal reaction to events that would cause anyone sadness or anger. Deaths, health issues, being wounded by loved ones are going to cause some understandable distress. As long as this is not prolonged or complicated, I consider this normal. I worked hard to learn how to feel my feelings, deal with my issues...

And keep growing. 







Saturday, July 18, 2015

Healed

After 6 months that involved long periods of not talking and even longer periods of not singing, my vocal cords have finally healed. I must admit, this has seemed like an eternity to me at times. 

Due to multiple health issues and medications that have the potential to cause problems in the future, I do have to use some degree of caution. I am working on getting my confidence in my singing voice back. I know that I cannot adequately express the relief I felt when I saw my vocal cords on the doctor's screen, coming beautifully together exactly as they are designed to.

Thanks be to God. 

 




 

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Peace

As fireworks continually punctured the peace of the past few evenings, I was once again reminded of just how crucial a certain degree of peace and quiet is to me. The older I get, the more true this becomes. 

Although I am outgoing and social by nature, I do need my quiet time. I need my time to tune the world out to some extent. I need moments away from loud noises and loud voices (whether in real life, or on TV and social media). 

I also find that I seek out more peaceful people to be with. People who don't have to be the loudest voice in the room. People who have found peace with the circumstances they are currently in, while working to change them if possible and necessary. People who don't have to constantly "one-up" other people. People who are able and willing to both nurture and be nurtured. These folks are balm to me in a world of constant and unremitting noise. 

Don't get me wrong. I do love periodic lively discussions on a number of topics. I will sacrifice my peace at times for causes I believe in. I struggle with spiritual issues that rightfully disturb my peace when the need arises. But, I continue to seek and crave peace whenever and wherever possible. 

May all who seek peace find it today. 

 





 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Fitbit


A couple of weeks ago, I stepped off the scale, extremely unhappy with the number I saw. I had regained seven of the 44 pounds l had lost last year. Increased steroids, an extremely restrictive diet (by necessity), and months of illness had taken their toll. I needed to find some way to beat the odds against me and halt the slide. 


I have usually had success with plain old calorie counting. I needed something to help me keep track of my food and make me aware enough not to just eat mindlessly. I had heard people talk about the fitbit. Being generally fond of gadgets, I thought this $99.00 investment in a fitbit flex might just help do the trick of getting me back on track.


I had to work with it a bit to get realistic goals for my particular body and health issues. I am doing really good to get 3,500 steps, 30 active minutes, and drink 40 ounces of water. I set up a modest weight loss goal of 1/2 pound a week, although I am losing faster than that at this point. I have yet to actually be able to walk 2 miles, even with a lot of starts and stops. 

It also seems to be pretty good at tracking my sleep. It can tell when I am awake or restless. Having multiples of both is a fair sign that my BiPap mask is not working properly. I am hoping to work on resolving that next week, if it is possible.

Sometimes I feel like my fitbit is nagging me. It will be 10:00 PM and I will be realistically within my step goal, so I pace around the house till I get them. It will let me know that if I put ONE more thing in my mouth, I will be over my calories in vs calories out. I don't want that crossed knife and fork icon to show up on my dashboard, telling me that I have overeaten! 
I crave those little green smiley faces that tell me I have made my goals. 

Enduring weight loss and better fitness don't happen without hard work from me. But, my fitbit makes the journey a little more fun. 

 




Sunday, June 14, 2015

Kidney Stones

Fortunately, they were not mine. Unfortunately, they belonged to my husband. 

I have heard that kidney stones cause some of the worst pain in the world. After this past 11 days, I believe it. Two lithotripsies, one ER visit, and a surgery to insert a stent later, the pain is finally gone. However, the weakness and fatigue caused by over a week of not sleeping or eating properly still remain.

My normally even tempered husband, became a seemingly different person while dealing with this pain. This man will not grace a headache with an aspirin. But, two days after lithotripsy #1, this man was in so much pain that my neighbor, Ross, took him to the ER, while I raced back from Annual Conference of the Methodist Church to get to him as quickly as possible. It took Dilaudid to finally ease the pain at the ER. Then they shipped us home, knowing that the urologist was set to leave for the weekend and following week. 

Fortunately for us, this doc ended up not leaving town and we were to see him on Wednesday. By Thursday, the second lithotripsy was done and a stent placed.  This all appears to have finally done the trick.

My husband said that this bout of kidney stones made his lung cancer surgery seem like a piece of cake. 

As for me, aside from praying I never get kidney stones and that he doesn't get any more, I am going to find out what is causing my husband to get these. Then, I am going to try to keep him from eating and drinking things that might cause them to form again. Notice, I said *try*.  People tend to have short memories when it comes to things like this. 

But I certainly won't soon forget this week.  


 


Saturday, June 06, 2015

Closing the Box

After almost 5 years, the wonderful owners are putting the lid on The Cricket Box. Judy and Debbie are ready to retire "for real this time" in order to spend more time with family, pursue other interests, and have the kind of free time that owning a small business simply does not allow. 

The Cricket Box set an amazing example of how a successful business is run. Judy and Debbie dealt with their vendors and consignees fairly, keeping everything completely above board. They went above and beyond the call of duty if a member of the Cricket Box family had an illness or injury, either personal, or in the family, often providing meals, visiting, and even attending funerals.

The Cricket Box gave me a local opportunity to show and sell my art and I am forever grateful. It gave me an opportunity to make new friends and raise money for the charities I support. Most of all, it gave me two precious forever friends, Judy Wooley and Debbie Tate. 

The "Box" may be gone, but the memories and the friendships will never be. 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

A Gift

I received a wonderful gift today. A gift of unexpected and badly needed time. 

I took my husband to the hospital today to have lithotripsy for a kidney stone. Almost every time one of us goes in for a procedure of any kind, we are told to get there early. Then, we usually end up being bumped to last case. That means we may get to there at 6:30 AM and not leave until as late as 9:00 PM. That makes for a very long day in a cold, tiny room. Especially if I am the one waiting. 

Today, we got there at 6:30 and we were home by 10:30. I consider this nothing short of a miracle. This week was already packed with an unscheduled trip to Jackson yesterday,  watercolor classes and three trips to Jackson coming up for Annual (United Methodist) Conference Thursday-Saturday. This probably does not sound like much to a healthy person, but is absolutely exhausting to me. 

So, I am especially thankful for this time gift today. Time to take a nap. Time to get errands run that would have had to be done in my already overcrowded tomorrow. Time to return emails and phone calls. Blessed time that leaves me with a little more energy for the rest of the week. Time. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Released

Two years ago, my non-smoking husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. Thankfully, it was found early, during a CT scan for kidney stones. It was a small spot, and surgery was done to remove the middle lobe of his right lung. 

Today, Dr. Newcomb released Bill from his care. Bill is now considered cancer-free. I admit that I tended to almost hold my breath in the days before these cancer checkups without even realizing it. My feeling of relief today is absolutely overwhelming. 

Despite my relief at my husband's happy prognosis, my heart still aches for all the cancer patients, especially the young ones, who fought valiantly, but did not ultimately survive their disease. Cancer doesn't "discriminate" on the basis of age, gender, race, religion, or anything else. It is past time to get priorities straight and increase funding for cancer research. Looking at the high cost of treating cancer, wouldn't it make more sense to spend the time and money on prevention, early detection, and less expensive, more effective cures?





  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Curly!

I once thought that the hair I was born with would be the hair I would have most of my life, changing only when I became gray. I was wrong. 

My hair always had a slight wave to it, even when it was almost down to my hips in high school. But, it was never what one would call curly. 

It is now. I don't know if it is the effect of anesthesia, age, hormones, or going on thyroid medication, but now I have curls. My bangs are now ringlets. This is definitely new to me. 

Due to a strained rotator cuff, I decided to stop trying to dry my hair straight for a while to help my injury heal. I just shook my head, put in a little leave-in conditioner, and walked out the door.

I think my blow dryer is retired for good. I love not having to fuss with my hair. I like the fact that even if I sweat, or get caught in the rain, my hair dries and looks fine. I love not using hair spray (unless I want to) and I love not having to constantly worry about how my hair looks.

Not Your Mother's Kinky Moves Curl Defining Shampoo  $4.99
Not Your Mother's Way to Grow Leave in Conditioner      $7.99

Hair Freedom                                                                Priceless


 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

It's Coming Back!

It's coming back. My voice, that is. I have been allowed to do some limited vocalizing and light singing over the past two weeks. I have to stop immediately if anything feels strained or uncomfortable. At this point, I can vocalize for 3-4 minutes without this happening. 

When I first tried to vocalize in my speech therapist's office, I only had about 5 notes and a wobble wide enough to drive a truck through. I was concerned that the voice I regained might not be "my" voice. I might not have a sound that would be pleasing to the ear. My speech therapist encouraged to keep at it, a little at a time, every day.

Today, I got to church early and vocalized a little using our keyboard. Recording my effort on my iPhone, I was very happy to realize that I have most of my notes back and that the wobble is much improved. I am not yet back to "solo" quality, but, after 4 months, I am thankful for what I have regained.

My voice still tires easily and there are slightly husky spots. I am not going to push it. I do not want to set myself back. But, it was a joyful experience today to be able to sing a verse or two of the hymns and join in on the Doxology and Gloria Patri.  

Thanks to all of you who have endured my unhappiness during my silent period. I have really appreciated the support and encouragement. I continue to ask for healing prayers until I get my full voice back and can do what I love to do most. 



 

Saturday, May 09, 2015

BroomStick Betty

This moniker was hung on my mother by my brother-in-law, Barry. when he was a teenager dating my sister. Of course, to be fair, she started calling HIM Barry Bird first! 

The nickname stuck and became the genesis of a new hobby for mama. She began to collect witches. This was the era of the Kitchen Witch, and she had several of those. She had witches brought to her from all over the US and even from other countries. When she passed away in 1990, most of her friends chose one of her witches to remember her by. I still have one hanging in my office, a stuffed one with white hair, striped stockings, and pointed black shoes. 

If I was out with her and we saw a witch of some kind in a store or holiday display, I would shout MAMA! I think mom got a kick out of it. I remember mama expressing her disappointment when she found out the Good Witch of the North in The Wizard of Oz was Billie Burke, more known as a comedienne than the elegant, beautiful, Glinda. 

Even after almost 25 years, I still miss BroomStick Betty. I miss her singing. I miss watching her cooking in her witch filled kitchen. I miss her encouragement and her belief that I could do most anything I set my mind to. 

So, this Mother's Day, I will raise a glass of sweet tea and remember the best of my mama, BroomStick Betty, a true original.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Amy Graduates From College!

Today, my niece, Amy, graduates from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in English Licensure. I am quite proud of her and her choice to be a force in (hopefully!) saving the English language by teaching it to the next generations.

Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday she was the baby who made me literally jump for joy the day she was born. The toddler who tried to get into the refrigerator to get more cherries for her fruit cocktail. The little girl who would sing the songs from Anastasia with me. The teen who would go with me to Tinseltown to see operas filmed at the Met. 

Amy has always done life on her own terms. No one is forcing her into any molds. She is dramatic, witty, smart, and enthusiastic. Someone posted a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that made me think of Amy on this graduation day. 

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else 
is the greatest accomplishment. 

Congratulations, Amy. Your Aunt KK and Uncle Bill are proud of you. 

Now reach for the stars.    

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Graduation

Yesterday, I officially *graduated* from speech therapy. I don't have my full singing voice back yet, but my *new* speaking voice is working to take the stress off of my vocal cords. I was truly surprised to hear the difference between my voice when I first walked into Lisa Lamb's office in Dominican Plaza, and the voice I had at my last visit yesterday. 

My new voice is slightly higher pitched than my old one. It is a little softer, but I can increase the volume when I really need to. As I work to regain my singing voice, I find myself extremely protective of what I have worked so hard to regain. Now, I put more thought into what things are worth using my voice for. At this point, I am not able or willing to try to spend time arguing over any but the most important things. I am not going to stress my new voice to speak over loud voices or noises. It is just too precious to risk. 

I am finding that this affects the way I interact in group situations. Thankfully, I usually have a good book on hand and can be quiet and enjoy gatherings from a distance. I want to save my voice for teaching, ministering, and encouraging. I want to continue to rest it enough to heal my singing voice completely. 

Today, I will raise a glass of sweet tea and toast the therapist who helped me speak again. 

Thanks, Lisa!

 

 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Discouraging words

I visited a surgeon today to discuss the possibility of surgery to help manage my severe reflux. I had surgery 10 years ago for this issue, but they sometimes need to be redone after about this length of time. I was hoping this might be a simple fix.

I was wrong.

Due to scar tissue from the first surgery, a second one would likely require a large, open incision. This, along with the possibility of rupturing the esophagus, makes it considerably more risky than the first was.

Before any decisions are made, there will be more tests and more waiting.

Meanwhile, the reflux is making it more difficult for my vocal cords to heal. I am in constant pain. My diet, already severely restricted by allergies, is even more limited.  Add no milk, yogurt, or ice cream, no citrus, no soy, no tomato, nothing fried, and almost no caffeine. I am living on carbs with small amounts of low fat cheese, some chicken and occasionally ground beef.  Even with supplements, I am simply not getting enough nutrients to keep my levels up. I am anemic, low in protein, potassium, and vitamin D. This makes me tired and lethargic, as well as slow to heal.

I am doing everything by the letter. I am not drinking anything carbonated. I am sleeping on a very high bed wedge. I am taking the strongest meds on the market. I am chugging $72.00 a bottle GI cocktail.  But, nothing is working. There is also a possibility that this is related to my neuromuscular issues and that there is no fix available.

This is one of those days that staying upbeat and hopeful is difficult. But, tomorrow is another day. Hopefully, it will be a better one.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Progress

I am continuing to make progress in speech therapy. I am now able to speak as long as I don't try to raise my voice or allow my voice to get fatigued. I am still encouraged not to speak on the phone any more than I have to, but I can live with that until my healing is more complete. 

Even more exciting is that I was allowed to vocalize briefly today! I don't have but a few low notes, but we are hoping that this will eventually improve. Compared to 3 weeks ago, when I had absolutely nothing, this is major. It has been 3 months since I have been able to sing anything. 

Interestingly, my speech therapist has identified some problems with my swallowing that appear to be connected with my congenital myopathy and we are working on ways to help me swallow more effectively and not choke as much. 

Monday, the doctor is supposed to have another look at my vocal cords.  I am anxious to see how the healing is going and how it corresponds to my progress in speech therapy.

Keep the prayers coming! Please.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Anger Management?

Last night, I made the mistake of posting a comment for the first time on the Dancing With the Stars voting page. I have been both agreed with and roundly criticized for my opinion.

I have never watched The Bachelor, but apparently, one of the contestants is this year's model, Chris. I know he is not a dancer, and I can't even imagine how hard DWTS must be for him.

However, last night, they showed an interaction with his very young partner, Witney, that really disturbed me. He became angry with her and spoke to her in a rude, arrogant, and disrespectful manner. It sent chills up my spine. I have been married to my husband for almost 32 years, and we have had our arguments. But, he has NEVER spoken to me the way that Chris spoke to Witney last night.

I hope his fiance´ was watching. I hope she does not allow herself to be spoken to in this way. If so, I hope she gets some counseling and insists that he go with her. How someone handles frustration can be a deal maker or breaker in a relationship.

Personally, if I was his fiance´, I would run.




Friday, April 10, 2015

Take Me as I Am?

I am always seeing some variation of this saying on social media. I must admit that I am not sure exactly what it means and I am not sure that this is sound "advice." I am sure that most of us long for someone who will accept everything we are. I am not sure that this is a realistic concept. 

There are things that I cannot change. I am a middle aged, Caucasian, Southern-born woman. That is cast in stone.

There are things I won't change. I won't renounce my belief in Jesus Christ. I am not going to cheat or steal for anyone. I am not voluntarily going to give up art or music. I am not going to start drinking. I am not going to stop supporting the causes I feel passionately about. I am not going to compromise myself to death. I am not going to stop smiling, laughing, and enjoying life.

However, what if there are things about ourselves that NEED changing? I have heard this expression (or variations thereof) said by alcoholic or abusive spouses many times. Or even possessive or emotionally abusive friends and family members. I have a feeling that this attitude is shared by many a lonely person. 

I am me. But, is the spirit of compromise, the ability to agree to disagree, and the ability to refrain from habits or practices that might distress friends or loved ones when I am with them, changing my inner being? I am not talking about the things I absolutely won't change, but things like knowing that my husband loathes politics and had a very low tolerance for the talking heads on any of the news channels, I choose to get my news online so he doesn't have to be bothered by it blaring through the house. I choose to find a way to compromise so that we both get essentially what we want. I don't think any of this is changing my core being.

 I don't call this changing myself. I call this respect. 

 




Saturday, April 04, 2015

Communication

When I was in grad school, the second time around, one of my courses was Research. Unlike many of my classmates, I actually enjoyed that class. 

Since I have been under orders to rest my voice, I have had to get creative with ways to make myself "heard." It has almost become a mini research project to see how different people react and interact with my different forms of communication. 

I have a text to speech program that works if there is not too much background noise. It can be configured to speak at different speeds, pitches, and accents. It sounds like a GPS voice. Some friends have been able to interact with it quite nicely, while others have difficulty hearing it. The makers of this program really need to add "Southern Drawl" as a choice of accent. 

I also have Ink Artist, a program that I use to draw things out that I might want to paint. Right now, it is doing double duty as a notepad that I can write messages on, and then erase them, saving reams of paper. Some of my friends prefer this one. This is also handy for writing my order on at a restaurant, or when I need to "talk" to a doctor. 

Friends and family who know me well can pretty much follow my gestures. I was always fairly good at charades and this skill is coming in handy.  I wonder how many calories frantic gesturing burns? 

Of course, there are a couple who simply don't want to be with me until I can actually speak. That is OK, too. It takes patience to have lunch with someone who can't communicate freely. It stings a bit, but I do get it. 

I think about people I know and know of who no longer have the power of speech. Some of them are able to use technology. Some are not. I honestly cannot imagine how I would feel if this were to be forever and these things became my only voice. 

Meanwhile, if anyone wants to have lunch with me and my electronic voice, let me know.
 

 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tea Kettle

One of the first things that my speech therapist recommended to me was to drink Vocal Coat Throat Tea. I am not much of a hot beverage drinker, but, desperate to do anything and everything to regain my voice, I promptly bought the tea. 

I have read all the horror stories of heating water in the microwave and having cups explode. It has always made me a bit nervous. Unlike Captain Picard on Star Trek: TNG, I do not have access to a replicator to instantly make my cup of tea appear. I decided to purchase my very first whistling tea kettle.

I was quite surprised to find quite a lovely selection at our local kitchen outlet. I did not think that many people used tea kettles anymore. I promptly nabbed a cute, bright green number that promised to whistle at me ensuring I don't forget that I put it on to boil. Come now! I am quite sure that I am NOT the only person who puts things on the stove and then remembers something I must do in another room!

My tea kettle is more than just a tea kettle. It is tangible evidence that I am doing all I can to regain my lost voice. 



 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Once Upon a Time

I am not a huge TV watcher. Quite frankly, there has not been that much on that I have been interested in for years. I like Downton Abbey Glee Perception, The Middle, and Who Do You Think You Are?. I watch half an hour of local news, primarily to get the weather report. I do watch college football, and pro football when Peyton is playing. I become a champion couch potato when the Olympics are on.  My guilty pleasure is Dancing With The Stars. Having been born with two left feet, I have great admiration for non dancers who are brave enough to attempt to dance on national TV.

Because my husband likes to watch old movies, I subscribed to Netflix. While scrolling through the offerings one night, I came across Once Upon a Time. I have watched almost all of the first three seasons and I admit that I am hooked. I am a sucker for great costumes, scenery, cool effects, and fairytales. I love how the series goes back and forth between Storybrook and The Enchanted Forest. 

I have to admit that I did not recognize Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold. I had not seen him since he played Gaz in The Full Monty. I had no idea of the range of his talent until now. Another revelation is Jennifer Morrison. Her role as Cameron, in House, didn't fully utilize her acting abilities. Colin O'Donoghue, as Captain Hook, is new to me, but quite talented and quite easy on the eyes. 

I have heard that the fourth season "jumped the shark" somewhat, but, I am probably going to have to watch anyway. 

I'm "Hooked."



Saturday, March 14, 2015

Seven Weeks

Tomorrow marks seven weeks since I have been able to sing. It feels like forever. 

I  added two days of complete vocal rest to the doctor's order. I am being conservative with my speaking voice. No talking on the phone or straining. 

I think I see a bit of improvement in my speaking voice, but progress is excruciatingly slow. I am not sure if it is real or just wishful thinking.

I know that losing my voice, perhaps permanently, is not much compared to what many people are going through. I get that. I really do. On the surface, I am trying to be positive, support my friends who are struggling, and put on a happy face. But, when I am alone, I cry. I question. I despair. There is music I can't bear to listen to. Movies I can't bear to watch. Even worship brings the pain of not being able to sing the hymns that I love so dearly. 

I see my throat doctor on Tuesday. He will take a light and illuminate my vocal cords. 

I will find out if any healing has occurred. 

Please, God, let there be healing.



Monday, March 09, 2015

Dont Judge?

I see this a lot on Facebook. I'm watching _______ (insert reality show). Don't judge me! I'm eating _______ (insert unhealthy food). Don't judge me! I'm back with my abusive ex. Don't judge me!

I try very hard not to judge people I don't know. I certainly don't believe in judging people with disabilities, people of different races, people who are overweight or underweight, of a different faith, etc. 

I think it is normal to have those first impressions. To me, this is not judging. It is just an automatic thing. Of course, I am going to notice the color of a person's skin, what he or she is wearing, etc. Does she make eye contact? Does he shake my hand? Yes, these are things I am going to notice. 

However, I see judging as refusing to see past those initial things. Assuming everyone of a certain race or religion is automatically "bad." Assuming that an overweight person eats non-stop or that every thin person has an eating disorder, etc. 

But, is being disappointed in poor manners (in someone who has been taught better), judging? Is being concerned for that friend, who went back to a man who might very well kill her, judging? Is cringing at the thought of that brittle diabetic, (who has been in a coma) eating a large sized ice cream sundae with the works, judging? Is being sad at seeing your alcoholic relative enter a bar and start drinking, judging? 

I don't really have the answers.  




  

Monday, March 02, 2015

I Want to Live!

I first watched this movie 40 years ago with my mama when it came on TV late one night. With the amazing portrayal of convicted murderer, Barbara Graham, by Susan Hayward, the wrenching scenes where appeals were denied, and finally, the excruciatingly detailed final scene in the gas chamber, this movie burned itself into my brain. 

Recently, this movie came on TCM and I saw it for the first time since I was 15. I have a very good memory for detail, but even I was surprised at how accurate my 40 year old memory was of this movie. 

I have been following the case of Kelly Gissendaner in Georgia. She has been sentenced to death for conspiring to murder her husband. A horrible crime and certainly one she must pay for. Life in prison without hope of parole, for sure.

But, this woman, while on Death Row, has become a Christian, completed a certificate of theological studies program, and has truly transformed her life. She ministers to women who will get out of prison and is an example for the transformation that they can experience if they allow it. She has helped prevent women from committing suicide in prison. It just seems like she is much more valuable to the prison if she is allowed to live, to continue ministering and mentoring, and helping others turn their lives around. 

Kelly is proof of the transforming and redemptive grace of Jesus Christ. 

Let her live. 

 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Vocal Rest

 On Thursday, my throat doctor put me on vocal rest so that my severely inflamed right vocal cord can heal. I am not to speak AT ALL until at least Tuesday. If my voice is still raspy, or my throat hurts when I speak, I am to stay silent longer. 

Thanks to texting, social media, and email, it is actually not that difficult not to speak for a relatively short time. (Quit laughing!) But, after several days, this people person feels isolated and alone.  

Silence does make doing business in "real life" a bit challenging. Imagine the initial reaction if I slid a note to my bank teller! I can't order through a drive in window or at a counter. I have been going to places where I know the staff and can write down my order. I have a fairly complicated call from a doctor's office to return that, hopefully, can wait. I am supposed to pick up a compounded prescription from a local pharmacy. But, again, I am reluctant to hand them a note. 

Yes, I have a sweet husband who will do what he can for me, but I don't like being any more dependent than absolutely necessary. However, if I have to stay silent indefinitely in order to sing again, so be it. 

For now, cyber communication will have to do. 

 

 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Who Am I?

This is a question that I have been asking myself for the past 5 weeks. Acute bronchitis has robbed me of the thing I love most to do. It has been several years since I have been unable to sing for this long. 

Perhaps too much of my identity is wrapped up in my voice. As a teenager, my identity in my group of friends was that I was the singer. Donna was the artist, Becky, the brain, etc. I was the singer.

In college there was no doubt at all what my major would be. It was music, all the way. I soon found out that, although I had talent, I did not have the competitive fire needed to be a professional singer. Competitions involved some degree of sabotage, mind games, and some pure meanness that I just couldn't stomach. 

I married, came home to Vicksburg, and used my voice in church and community theater. I sing everywhere but in the shower. I sing in the car. I sing doing chores around the house. I sing to the radio at The Mosaic Shop while putting pieces of glass together. Best of all, I get to sing every Sunday at Hermanville United Methodist Church.

Now that I have been unable to do that for the past 5 weeks, I feel so bereft. Something vital is missing. I know that I have other talents and skills, but without singing, they lose much of their luster, being part of an incomplete package.

I have an appointment with an otolaryngologist (throat specialist) tomorrow in Jackson. I am hoping and praying that whatever is continuing to be wrong with my voice will heal. At this point, I can't even wrap my mind around anything else.



 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Wiping the Cup

I can sort fast food workers into 2 categories. Those that wipe off the cup, and those who don't. As a person who stops somewhere almost daily in search of a cold beverage, I always appreciate that person who takes an extra 3 seconds to present me with a drink that doesn't get all over my hands, clothes, or car. 

I usually get my drinks at the drive-thru window, so I don't always know my server. There are a few I recognize and I try to thank them for the extra effort. I like to think that they put extra effort into other areas of their lives as well. Those that are content to hand me a sloppy cup, with the lid not all the way on and dripping, make me wonder if this lack of attention to detail spills (pardon the pun) over to other areas of their lives as well. 

Over time, I have noticed that people who do their jobs well seem to be happier than those who don't seem to care about theirs. To some extent, doing a good job seems to be its own reward. I am not downplaying the importance of a proper paycheck, but doing good work gives a personal satisfaction that cannot really be bought. 

Just wipe the cup. 

You might be glad you did. 
 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Makeup!

I remember once, not too long after I married, my husband wanted to go somewhere on the spur of the moment. For some reason, I had not yet put on my makeup that day, but I gathered my purse and headed for the door. 

My husband looked at me in disbelief. "Are you going to go without MAKEUP??" I honestly didn't think he really noticed makeup, as I did not wear a whole lot and what I wore was pretty subtle. 

I was wrong.

There was a time when men would claim to want their wives, sisters, daughters, or girlfriends not to wear makeup. They would claim that we were 'pretty enough already', 'we didn't need that stuff', etc. 

But, propose to actually go out (WITH THEM) without makeup, and it was another story. Many men want us to look natural. They just have no idea how much time, effort, and money it takes to achieve that 'natural' look! 

There are women who are so gorgeous that they honestly don't need the tiniest bit of artifice. There are women who can go without makeup and feel totally comfortable. I am not either of these women. As I get older, getting a natural look becomes harder and harder. And more and more expensive! 

I find my ideal makeup at Sephora and Ulta. 

My husband pays the bills without a word. 

And I don't leave home without it. 

 


Monday, January 26, 2015

"Shall I Bring My Skates?"

Years before the likes of Christopher Bowman, Evgeny Plushenko, and Johnny Weir, there was Toller Cranston. The six time Canadian figure skating champion, 1974 world bronze medalist and 1976 Olympic bronze medalist passed away on January 24th at the age of 65.

Toller Cranston was way ahead of his figure skating time. Although not good at compulsory figures, he absolutely lit up the ice when it came time to perform. Toller was the first man to really break the 'mold' that was men's figure skating in the 70's. With his long hair, flamboyant costumes, lean, expressive body, and amazing Russian split jumps, he won the audience, if not always the competition. 

Toller was also quite a prolific artist and managed to pay for his skating (before sponsorships were allowed) with his art. He was also a writer and the title of this blog is taken from his book "When Hell Freezes Over, Shall I Bring My Skates?

Below is a clip of Toller Cranston being Toller and doing it quite brilliantly!

Rest in Peace you amazingly talented man. I have a feeling there is ice in Heaven as well.




Toller Cranston -"The Firebird" - 1983