Monday, December 31, 2007

The Therapy Dog

Chloe the golden retriever is an employee of our hospital, ID badge and all. She lives and works on the adolescent unit, offering kindness to the kids with depression and calming others. She seems to know instinctively when someone is in need of a fuzzy nuzzling or an understanding look. Here she is with Julie, one of our MHTs. We all worked together today. I can tell Chloe, "Come here. You have some work to do," and she will reluctantly get up from her sprawled position in the middle of the activity, amble over to a new child and put him at ease. Chloe took classes to become a registered therapy dog when she was a pup. What a natural she has been! Sweet and sensitive. But when she sees a stranger coming to the front door, she will bark in her deepest and most fiercely protective voice. It that mild-mannered Chloe? She has a few favorite people - the ones who bring her treats - and gets excited when they come in to work. Since she is an employee of the entire hospital system and not just our area, she gets called upon to visit patients in other areas who are sad or lonely or maybe just missing their own dogs. Chloe is about seven years old now, and we can tell she too gets burned out on her job at times. But she has such good work ethic, and duty is always calling. She is probably our most faithful employee.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Taking Time to Listen Within

Topics to write about have not been coming easily lately, and I know why. Not enough consistent quiet time. It is hard to frame our thoughts when there are demands placed on our time or when there is a steady stream of unfiltered noise around us. That just makes us tend to react rather than reflect. In proportion of course, those aren't bad things at all. In fact they can be quite good and add structure and definition to our lives. However, a serious attempt at writing requires quiet or solitude. Since I am obviously not that serious, and if I had to choose one over the other, I would prefer the activity. But listening as the mental notes fall into place and then writing them is best done when there is quiet. Cold Mountain is a beautifully written novel and - I think - should be required reading for an American Literature class. What exquisite metaphors! I remember reading an interview Charles Frazier gave in which he said something like he forced solitude on himself in order to finish the book. I look at that sort of solitude as a sacrifice that real writers make in order to produce their best.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

All Is Calm

This may be my next favorite part of the Christmas season, right after being with family and the Christmas Eve service at church. These year end days following the activity feel calm and peaceful, restful and hushed. Now the Christmas tree can be enjoyed as it sparkles and gives the house a holiday glow. I find myself mesmerized by it. The ornaments that were earlier hung in haste are now subject to individual contemplation and admiration as they dance amid the lights. There are leftover goodies and edible gifts of the season to be savored. Anxiety is a thing of the past. Dark comes early. The nights are long and and sleep comes easier. There is a feeling of satisfaction, of making it through another Christmas and another year. The season of restorative lull has begun.

Friday, December 28, 2007

No Blog Today

There will be no blogging today. My brain is still on its post Christmas hiatus along with its companion, my body.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A One of a Kind Christmas Gift

Here is an original art Christmas gift from my creative, well-traveled brother. The photographs needed explanation since I had neither seen nor heard of them before. They are art deco styled lifeguard stations in Miami. I really like the entire picture, the interesting photos and the black frame, but most of all, I like the way he made something special that he knew I would enjoy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Come and Gone

Yesterday with sixteen of us here together, we had some jolly old Christmas fun. There's nothing greater than to be with the ones we love. The traditions, gifts, good food, and merriment provide a fine backdrop for keeping up with each other. Life is always changing and moving along. Not only are we grown ups a year older, but through attrition or addition, the composition of the family often changes from year to year. An addition this year is Chip whom Lisa brought for us to meet before their wedding next month. Chip has been serving the country in Iraq for the past year. Our youngest is adorable John who has so much enjoyment of life. "Mmmm...I like egg nog," he said enthusiastically when trying it for the first time. But...rather than struggle for the right words to say how much I love everyone who blessed my home yesterday and my life continually, and how much I appreciate each ones individuality and how wonderful they all are, I will just leave it at that. Another Christmas Day has come and gone, etched forever as a memory.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th' unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no peace on earth," I said
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, December 24, 2007

Almond Butter Cookies

These are the very best cookies. This recipe for Nut-Edged Butter Slices was ripped from a newspaper years ago and now it will forever be online. In the picture, they are the ones between the trail of fudge and the cookies with the sprinkled green sugar. And really, they are just fabulous.

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond flavoring
1 and 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds, toasted
3 tablespoons sugar
1 slightly beaten egg white

Cream butter and the 2/3 cup sugar. Beat in yolk, milk, and flavorings. Sift dry ingredients together and gradually add to creamed mixture. On wax paper, roll dough into a log (or two logs). Chill an hour. Combine almonds and the 3 tablespoons of sugar. Roll dough log in egg white and then in almond mixture. Cut in slices. Bake at 350 til done.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Savior Is Born

As I listen to the mix of Christmas songs playing on the radio, I think of the singers whose familiar voices are bringing the noels and tidings of joy. We know a little about some of them. The silky voice of Karen Carpenter is heard in her dreamy Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and other favorites. Tragically she deluded herself about her appearance and health and died while she was in her early thirties. There's Elvis. We can all sing at least the first lines of his Blue Christmas and can pick out his distinctive sexy voice on any song within a few notes. But Elvis had his problems, too, one of which was a prescription drug addiction that sadly destroyed him. And there is no one who tops Bing Crosby's original rendition of White Christmas, but after his death, he was accused of being a cold and abusive father. These gifted yet troubled famous people sort of represent us all. We are all deeply flawed. That is why we need the Savior whose birth we celebrate on Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Mama's Annual Christmas Visit

Mama was my mother's mother and my wonderful grandmother. I have always felt truly blessed to have been the granddaughter of this marvelous woman who radiated joy and left a legacy of abiding faith. She lived to be eighty-eight, passing away on Thanksgiving of 1978. A couple of weeks after her death, one of my children brought home an art project he made at school using a textile cone, paper mache, glue, paint, tinsel and cotton - an angel for the top of the Christmas tree. It was incredible! "That looks just like Mama!" I exclaimed. Ever since then, Mama, the tree topper angel, has presided over the snowmen, nutcrackers, glass balls, and the treasured ornaments on every tree we have had. She is a little worn yet still brings joy after almost thirty years and is my most beloved part of the tree. Here she is resting in the branches before being placed in her position of honor.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Upside and Downside of Christmas

During the year, friends and co-workers tell me how laid back and calm I am. And it's true - that is until December the first. Then I start thinking of all that I want to do and everything that must be accomplished - by me - and I get overwhelmed. My poor brain stops processing normally and takes on a life of its own and controls my rational mind. And my thinking affects my body. I overeat, my eyes twitch, and sometimes my heart pounds way too fast. But enough about me. There are always people worse off. Yesterday I worked as a nurse in the hospital. Many of the patients will be staying through Christmas. Some will be glad to stay there to have a warm shelter and people to be with. They do not have homes where they are loved or wanted. (Why that is is another story.) And some are too sick to leave. Many years ago, we kept a seemingly nice, attractive gray-haired male patient through the Christmas and New Year holidays, but he was quite paranoid and rarely spoke. Why did he need to be there? Safety. It was said that he wanted to kill himself and his wife. He went through the motions of being hospitalized as his intent must have continued to brew in his disturbed head. He stayed til mid-January. Within a few days after his discharge, he made the news for carrying out his plan. Some patients have experienced loss of loved ones during the year and feel guilty or angry or extreme grief or want to join the deceased. Another hospital story had a happier ending. There are times when things just work out well. Two depressed patients, one who used to play piano and one who used to sing were both patients on the unit where there was an old upright piano. With encouragement from staff (me), they got together and played and sang Christmas carols. As they did, they became happier as they remembered good times past when they participated in church choirs and such. There is so much emotion tied up in Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Redirected Greeting

Today I am not taking the time to blog. My creative juices are being directed elsewhere. as to have something posted on this day, I am going to plagiarize from a bulk Christmas greeting email I received from one of my favorite Christian singers, Kathy Troccoli. I was first introduced to her in the nineties via a song she wrote and sang called Go Light Your World. It began, "There is a candle in every soul, some brightly burning, some dark and cold..." And it proceeded to encourage us to take our candles and "seek out the hopeless..." and light the candles in others. Kathy has a nice alto voice and was a rock/pop singer at one time. Today I will quote from her Christmas email.
--- "I once bought my kids a set of batteries with a note on it that said toys not included." Bernard Manning
--- "God goes to those who have time to hear him, and so on this cloudless night, he went to simple shepherds." Max Lucado
--- "In the hustle and bustle of the season, let us remember that He longs for us to stop and listen. As God revealed himself to those shepherds, know that He still comes close to those open to seek Him and hear Him. He loves you so." Kathy Troccoli

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Memories

Christmas may be the most planned for and celebrated day of the year. There is the big build up, the festivities, the traditions, the special people, the feelings. So as a result, each year when another Christmas rolls around, we tend to remember other Christmases that we have had, and each one seems to have its own defining moment. "I remember the Christmas when" . . . Santa brought a special doll. Our first bike. The first Christmas for a new baby. Being an angel in the church play. Snow, rain or unseasonably warm weather. Unusual circumstances. A rare family gathering. Christmas can also serve as a milestone in our lives. As we take time to look, we can see the changes the previous 365 days have brought. And the year before, and as far back as our memories allow. Some recollections may be bittersweet or housed in an innocence that is found only in children, and others may be tied up in fun. of the joys of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Music

When Christmas music starts playing on the radio, I am first hit with twinges of anxiety. Oh no!! It only reminds me of all that I have to do! I change stations and try to avoid facing my daunting and undone tasks. But as I inch along, fa-la-las and glorias and melodies about sleighbells creep in to my head, and I find that I am catching the Christmas spirit. Not one to do things the 22nd, I will have all of my Christmas CDs out and playing my favorites over and over. I will want to satiate myself with the glorious and familiar songs of the season. I will listen to an assortment of songs that we all know, sung or played in various styles, and of course Messiah and Young Messiah. The tree, imparting a fresh evergreen scent to the living room but as yet undecorated, will be trimmed tomorrow while the music plays. In a few days while the cookies are baking, songs of Christmas will waft through the kitchen along with the bouquet of butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Ah yes...that is how it is every year once the anxiety has passed. Christmas music is a powerful motivator.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas the Holy Day

In Lenox Square in Atlanta this weekend, I don't think I saw a single store sign with the frightful word Christmas in it. Lots of "holidays" but no Christmas. There, secularism seems to have done away with the word Christmas, and along with it, Christmas spirit. Yes, Virginia, the spirit of kindness, consideration and good will toward others was not detectable on that busy Saturday evening so close to Christmas. I have always enjoyed that anticipatory time before Christmas when a greeting or a farewell of "Merry Christmas!" would warm my heart. It can't be said without an element of joy. The bland and generic "Happy Holidays" just doesn't have the same jingle to it. But hmmm... I thought about it. Holiday means Holy Day. I realized that it could be a good reminder for me and for all of us Christians, that Christmas, even though it has been secularized, minimized, and commercialized, is in fact a Holy Day for us as we remember the holy significance of the day Jesus was born. So when I see the word "holiday" as a substitute for Christmas, I will think of the Holy Family and the Holy Child. And when I am wished a happy holiday, I will wish back a Merry Christmas. Maybe it will do its small part toward contributing to some Christmas spirit.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

First Born Son

I wasn't too far past my twentieth birthday when my first son was born. He was loved way ahead of time and very wanted. But that year on December 15 when the doctor said he wanted to induce the next day, reality slapped me in the face and I exclaimed in fear, "I'm not mature enough to be a mother!" But my boy and and I survived together without too many mishaps. I often refer to his childhood as "when we were growing up." A child will do that to you. Make you grow up whether you think you are ready or not. Now he is more than 2/3 my age!
A couple of years ago I saw him in a different light, as a man I respected. Our family has Christmas Eve tradition. After opening family gifts, the youngest reader reads the Christmas story from Luke in a large old Bible. On that night, there were no children. We were a small group of adults, but Trip was the youngest among us and volunteered to follow tradition and read to us the story of the Mary, the swaddled babe, Bethlehem, the angels, the star, and the shepherds. How many years had it been since he had the honor! It was one of life's tender moments. This is his blogsite. He is passing along wisdom, too.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thumbprint Cookies

These are cookies that my mother made at Christmas. It is not an unusual recipe, but they are delicious and and rich and special to me. This picture does not do justice to my mother's perfect ones.

1 and 1/4 stick of butter
1/2 cup of sugar
1 egg, separated
1 and 2/3 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
jam or jelly

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolk and mix well. Blend in flour and lemon rind. Form the dough in a long roll about the diameter of a fifty cent piece. The dough at this point may need to chill a bit. Cut into slices. Make a thumbprint in the center of each cookie. Brush with the unbeaten egg white and dip in sugar. Put a dab of jam in the thumbprint. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. Makes about thirty cookies. Also can freeze the roll and take it out to slice and bake when ready.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Writing and Wellness

Tomorrow I will be attending a writing conference in Atlanta. It is a terrible time of year to have such a thing, but since it is right up my alley, I decided to go. This is the web address for it.
It is not geared toward making me a better writer, something I could use, but it should help me to help others. I have written off and on during my life, but for the past ten years, it has been almost daily. Sometimes there is a moment I want to capture. Other times I want to write about a meaningful event to leave as history for my grandchildren. And then sometimes writing is a way to identify what I am experiencing. That, I agree, can lead to wellness, body and mind working together. It helps that I love to play with words and combine the ones that distinctly and succinctly express my thoughts. Words are like puzzle pieces that when arranged in certain ways invoke tears, laughter, awareness, the whole realm of emotion and wonder. Many years ago when I was going through a difficult time, I felt the need to write. I knew there was a poem that lay somewhere inside that must come out. I worked and worked on it. Finally it was birthed - six lines - but they said what I felt. What a relief. Often patients share a poem with me. However it is written, I know it expresses something deep to them, just like mine did to me.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Diverse Brains

In our pre-conference yesterday, the students and I got into a conversation about different types of learning. I guess it started by something I often say...that just as we are all different on the outside and recognizable by our various appearances, we are also different on the inside. That includes the way our brains work. One of the students said she has dyslexia and can't spell well, and though she can work math problems, she often comes up with the wrong answer. One thinks in pictures and gets frustrated by writing, feeling that she cannot say everything she sees. Another is an auditory learner. As a child she couldn't do homework, and now at thirty-two does not take notes but makes high grades on tests. These differences are considered a "handicap" even though all of them went through much testing that ultimately determined that they are intelligent and actually "gifted." But they had difficult years within rigid school systems until they figured out for themselves how they can learn best. It is a mystery to me why a civilized America cannot implement more diverse and creative ways of educating children. In a perfect world . . .

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Group Behaviors

Today was my last day of being with students until a couple of weeks into the next year. I teach students who are close to finishing their Associate Degree in Nursing in the clinical setting, i.e. usually a hospital. My job is to reinforce classroom teaching with the real thing. I hope too that they will expand their ability to be compassionate as their knowledge of the human experience broadens. I have five to seven students at a time, and they are with me only from two to six days. Yes, it sounds kind of confusing and crazy, but nursing is a crazy field. They might as well learn early on! But it is interesting how each group of students takes on its own personality. They may be involved, talkative, shy, or can't wait to get the heck out of there. I have taken several sociology courses, but only one teaching course during my "formal education," but I guess this is what a real teacher might find to be true, also. Recently I had a group of students who seemed not to care if they learned anything or not. But on the day when the least interested of them called in sick, I noticed the dynamics of the group changed a bit for the good. I also had a group who was able to attend something that I considered to be an interesting learning opportunity. When it was over and the patients had all left, the "leader" who must have been a teacher at heart asked them if they had any questions. Nope. None. No questions. Apparently they got it all. (I will have to make a point of studying how and why the groups vary.) The young women I had today should turn out to be fine nurses. They were bright and curious. A teacher's delight.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Return on Helping

Today I remembered a benevolent Christmas gesture a co-worker and I did a few years ago while we were working in the psych part of the ER. I don't know why this guy was with us but it doesn't really matter. He was there and in need. He kept calling family members and trying to get someone to come pick him up, but they were all impoverished. Even a twenty dollar bus ticket was out of the question. So my co-worker and I combined what money we had with us, and not surprisingly, it was enough for the ride to Columbia for Christmas. I had already brought him a jacket and pair of my husband's unworn shoes because he needed them, and he was - with gratitude - on his way. We were pleased with ourselves. Our helping him helped us. When I was a new nurse I learned this truism from one of the doctors. "When we nurture others, we nurture ourselves." At what I call "my day job," we have a clothes closet. Granted, not all patients come in needy but many do. Psychiatric illnesses seem to hit the poor and uneducated the most. They have had more tragedies and do not have the mental skills to cope. We, the staff, keep the closet stocked with our no longer needed clothes, and then we have them when a patient is in need. We just bypass Goodwill and give directly. Then when I see a patient proudly walking around in one of my husband's shirts, the ones with one stain that he won't wear anymore, I am entertained, but I also have a sense of pleasure. Being a nurse provides opportunities to make observable differences in people's lives in ways besides what we have been trained to do. And we are nurtured as a byproduct.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Goat Cheese Pizza

Lately I have been working on getting pizza dough, hence crust, right. An inspiration was a new cast iron griddle that makes a great pizza pan. Here is one of my current faves. I do not measure so the amounts are a guess. This makes a 10" pizza.
But first, a note about the ingredients: I use a vacuumed packed instant yeast that I bought at Sam's and keep wrapped in the freezer. The flour needs to be a good bread flour. Just like any other recipe, the finished product is only as good as the ingredients.
Pizza Crust: In a bowl place about 1-2 cups of flour, about a scant teaspoon of yeast, a good shake of salt (Kosher seems to give the best results), and a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Mix. Add about a half cup or so of very warm tap water. Stir with a spoon til you can feel the yeast at work. Add some more flour til the dough comes together and isn't sticky. The you can pour it onto a floured surface and knead while adding in a little more flour. This will take 3-5 minutes. Ball it up. Pour a little olive oil in the bowl and swish it aroung so it will cover the sides. Place the ball of dough in the bowl so the oil covers the bottom and then turn it over, oily side up. Cover and let rise in a warm place til double. About an hour.
Meanwhile: You can chop or slice what you want to put on it. Definitely thinly sliced roma tomatoes, red onion, maybe some peppers and mushrooms of your choice, and set aside. Tonight I used some finely sliced zucchini and it did well. I have found that less is better. It is a more delicate pizza and tastes better with fewer seasonings and toppings. Preheat the oven to a high setting, say 425.
Finishing: When the dough has risen, punch it down and let it rest a couple of minutes. Then take it out and start spreading the dough on a greased sheet or a great little cast iron griddle (can't toss and do the Italian thing) giving it an edge. Then I spread on a little olive oil and sprinkle on some Italian seasoning or any mixture thereof and some Parmesan cheese. Tonight I baked it about 5 minutes before putting the toppings on. (Still experimenting.) After the veggie toppings, crumble some good goat cheese on top. Bake til the golden brown shade of your choice.
Enjoying: Slice. Tonight I made some traditional pizza dipping sauce, too. Serve with the adult beverage of your choice. It was all quite deliziosa.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Spaghetti Day

It was spaghetti day at my house in remembrance of my daddy's birthday and his life. Daddy was always complimentary about any meal, but he especially loved spaghetti and could eat a whopping amount at one sitting. That and mashed potatoes. Lucky Daddy. He got the thin genes to go along with his good appetite. If a dinner didn't turn out well he would still eat with gusto, but with his signature broad smile and good humor, we might hear him comment, "It'll keep a man alive." When the meal was a really good one, and with his built in sense of comedic timing, he might jest, "I wonder what the poor people are eating tonight." The family still rarely eats together without a chuckle provoking quote from Daddy. I guess it is a way of still having him with us. The image I carry of him now is more from my childhood than my adulthood, a young and handsome, fun-loving daddy who made a buddy of his only daughter by reading long stories to me, riding to the beach in his convertible, sharing a crossword puzzle, painting, or horseback riding. After I became a nurse, he would inquire, "Tell me about your most interesting patient." He was accepting and gentle of heart. He showed interest in me and what I did, but really, he was interested in all people. When he died, it was his distinctive innate wit that people remembered the most. It was not in telling a boring or bawdy joke or a laugh at someone else's expense. Instead Daddy had a light-hearted take on life, and his curious observations came through in his conversations and comments. I will always miss my daddy, my best buddy, but I think he would be pleased that we still honor him every December ninth with a nice dish of spaghetti.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Christmas Online Fun

I have had a hysterically fun time with thanks to OfficeMax and my lifelong friend Marthanna who sent it to me. I clicked and after it loaded, Marthanna and John, dressed in little elf costumes, were wiggling away to the sounds of Jingle Bells. I watched several times with much laughter! If I hadn't known them, I wouldn't have seen such humor in it. So the better you know the elves, the funnier it is. Of course, I had to try it, too. Since we just had our Thanksgiving get together, I had new pictures of my four sons, the right number of elves, and plugged their faces into the program. With only the company of my dog and cats late at night, I cracked up at the dancing elves brothers. I don't remember this program from last year, but apparently elfyourself has been wildly successful getting 200 unique visitors per second. Even did it myself! Have a little fun this Christmas! And yes...I really am that small.

Friday, December 7, 2007


How wonderful to be able to celebrate! How wonderful to have people who care enough about you to feel that you, your accomplishments or milestones are worth celebrating. Congratulations! You have done a lot of right things! It is no small matter coming to these celebratory transitional places in our lives. We must prepare well to arrive at each new beginning. Every day requires doing our best and keeping up loving relationships. Otherwise, who will want to honor us when the time comes? I have been to two celebrations this week for people who are successfully moving from one stage to another along their life journeys. A fortieth birthday - about halfway through life is a big milestone. A retirement party - the celebration of a co-worker who has put his heart and soul into helping others and is very loved. A graduation. A fiftieth wedding anniversary. The birth of a new baby. All reasons to celebrate. We will soon be celebrating the birth of our Savior who lived his life in preparation and service, and then gave his life for us. Gifts and joy will be a part of the worldwide Christmas celebrations, and we are all invited! At the point where I am now with my family, beautiful grandchildren, some blessedly quiet times, friends both gold and silver, I feel that each day is one I can celebrate by myself in my own heart. But I hope I can also manage to live and love well enough so that others can feel that I have lived a life worth celebrating.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Cows I Mentioned

One facility where I teach clinicals is away from the noise and bustle of the big city of Greenville and across the street from a small farm where young cattle graze and socialize with each other. What a pretty scene on a misty morning, and I always wish for my camera and a good shot. As I near the parking lot, I look for them on the left. Some mornings their heads are down nibbling at the grass but other times, like yesterday, they are not out. Maybe it is too cold and their owner keeps them in somewhere. I don't know. I don't know a thing about cows except they have expressive eyes and seem to just take life as it comes. But I did pack my camera yesterday and when I got off mid-afternoon, they were out. I walked up to take some pictures. I have pulled my car over to take pictures of cows before, and have been amused. They will stop what they are doing and edge up to greet me in a curious but friendly manner. "And how can I help you?" their behavior seems to say. These black ones were a little standoffish or maybe feigning indifference, and seemed less interested in least when I was using my camera. But when I walked off, they mooed loudly among themselves. "Mooo...whooo was that?" Here is a picture of two that reminded me of Ferdinand, one of my favorite books from childhood. These two seem just as content with their big tree as Ferdinand the bull did with his.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Community of Bloggers

For over a month I have challenged myself to blog daily and have met my far. I think one thing it is doing is sharpening my observational powers. Days are filled with experiences, achievements, interactions, responsibilities, and so forth, and having this blog makes me more aware of the limitless topics to comment on and write about. I see cows grazing in the morning mist, a disinterested student, an anxious patient, a political debate, my chipper half blind dog, a leftover turkey carcass and envision some sort of story. If only I had the capacity - time and knowledge - to find it and tell it well! Another enjoyment is being a part of the blogging community. There are a million or so others out there who feel compelled to share a part of their lives with anyone in the world who happens to land on their blog! Whatever we are saying, it is definite that we, a group of hack writers, amateur photographers and philosophers, all want a voice. I signed up for one of the services that shows who in the world happened to land on my blog, and was excited to know there was a visitor from faraway Turkey. Now that was cool... It is almost inspirational to read other people's blogs, no matter the content, and I have enjoyed regularly working on my own. Now if only I could be as committed to a diet.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Simply Splendid Seasons

Say what you want about South Carolina, but Greenville has some fine weather. First of all, the seasons are well-defined but not extreme. We ease into winter after a colorful, crisp fall. Some tenacious leaves are still hanging on today.* Then cold weather visits for a spell usually blessing us with a couple of nice fluffy snows that know not to stick around too long. Before you know it, daffodils signal for spring that gracefully dances in bringing its lush greens and beautiful blooming things. And summer has just the right amount of hot southern days. When I think of what I like best about Greenville, I first say...the clean air and the weather. Late this afternoon, the only time I could go today, I headed out to shop. While slowly moving along in the heavy traffic, I was treated to a breathtaking evening sky as it headed toward sunset. A panorama of blue colors streaked with shades of pinks and and sprinkled with a few tufts of cream and silver clouds. A camera couldn't have captured it. Later as I left with my bags, the merry little lights that trimmed the stores helped light the dark night as I walked to my car in the December chill. And a nice warm sweater was all I needed. What a nice evening to be in Greenville, South Carolina.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Rush to Christmas

This perfect and elegant Christmas tree was already up in the ice skating rink at the Galleria in Houston when I was there before Thanksgiving. Typical. We Americans have gotten used to rushing Christmas. The old traditions had Santa Claus bringing the tree on Christmas Eve after the children were asleep and leaving stockings filled with goodies. The twelve days of Christmas that we sing about began on Christmas Eve and lasted til January sixth. Not that we have to hold on to the old ways, but the commercial ones have entrenched into our culture, and have changed many family traditions. It now seems to be the norm to put a tree up around Thanksgiving. I don't get it. A whole month or more of Christmas in the house sounds a little too stimulating to me. And besides, the first couple of weeks of December have their own charm as winter settles in. However, I suppose I don't have to get it. If a month of Christmas decorations in the home really brings the joy and peace that Christmas celebrates, so be it. As usual my tree will not be up until the calendar has crossed off many more days, but it will be enjoyed as much.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Seacoast Church

I made it back today...finally.
We were members of a nice church here for several years and visited many churches of different denominations, but none seemed to be a good fit. Then in October 06, enticed by an 11 o'clock service - so many churches start early now - we visited Seacoast. I immediately picked up a comfortable arty vibe. The busy corner "cafe" that served coffee and doughnuts sported a well-written welcome sign. I just knew that this was a place where I could be my fidgety self, and it would be OK. The message came to us via a huge screen. The band had a happy rock and roll sound and was loud. Just the way I like it! The male singer had a marvelous soulful voice with a good range. I turned to my husband and said, "He's really good." A few weeks later, our pastor made the announcement that this good singer was headed for Hollywood. He was Chris Sligh of AI fame. Music has always been my favorite part of church, and I have at times missed the old hymns, though not as much as I would have thought. Seacoast is a non-traditional concept and has campuses in different locations. Ours does not have its own building at present - it shares its spot with a school - but when the body gathers, it feels like church. I see Seacoast as bringing church into the 21st century. I very much love the old churches, but time moves along like an everflowing river and brings about the need for change.
A couple of months ago my husband asked, "Do you realize we are the oldest people there?"
I said, "I hadn't noticed."
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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Work Is Not Life

Most of us are getting paid to know and perform a fairly specific job probably for a company or large business - that is unless we are living off of other people's income or the government or are successful, daring entrepreneurs ourselves. Some workers perform repetitive tasks, make decisions about money or spend the bulk of their time in some form of communication. The occupation - some prefer to call it a profession - of nursing requires its own set of knowledge and skills with each practice area adding its own specific requirements. And so it should be with psychiatric nursing...but that is another blog. However, when I clock out and walk through the hospital door, my brain puts aside my "for pay" persona and duties. I am not a psych nurse twenty-four hours a day. Just as an accountant may have his or her spouse handle the family finances and the chef may have a bowl of cold cereal for supper, my relationships with family and friends are not the same as with my co-workers or my patients. At least I hope not! I am not involved with discussions on psychotropic medications or pathological behaviors, and I don't use the metric system either! It took a few career years for experience to be the best teacher, but now I am hardwired to be a psych nurse. I guess that is just how the brain works. The wiring turns on when I arrive at work. Long before I became a nurse, if I met a psychiatrist or a therapist, I wondered...can he tell what I'm thinking? Now I can say no to that question, unless they are getting paid to figure you out or listen and help. However if there is some glaring psychiatric problem, they (we) can't help but notice. But unless it's work, they (we) keep it to ourselves.