Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Sad Ending

Boohoo...My favorite month is coming to a close. The sun's energy is forcing more light on us pushing back the loveliness of the subdued winter evenings. I will miss wonderful dark January, the month I use as an excuse to myself for not doing more that is necessary. I aim to be like a dormant rose bush, alive underneath but not in bloom. Now I ask...did I loll enough, appreciating the quietude. That is not easy to do as the year rolls along and evening is lit by the late sun. But life being what it is, I will soon put January behind and move on enjoying the good things the other months bring. Soon I must rev up for the remaining of the year. I will be eager to bloom or at least show up a little bit more.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Medical Dilemmas

Being in the medical field has its rewards. There is generally work for anyone who wants it, the pay is decent and sometimes we get a warm fuzzy feeling from helping others. But sometimes I feel as if I, a nurse, am part of the problem, a pusher of sorts. In America today, we have preventive treatments, corrective procedures, testing for multiple possible physical complaints, take meds for all sorts of problems real or perceived, and listen to commercials that tell us what to order from the doctor. (Do you really want to trade your restless legs for an uncontrollable urge to gamble?) Just this week, I have talked to a young man who was hit with a severe and permanent neurological disorder as a result of a flu shot and a woman who is alive today in spite of suffering pulmonary emboli after an invasive medical procedure. Another woman had an incompetent cervix that caused her to have very premature babies because her mother had taken the drug DES during her pregnancy. A large percentage of visits to the ER are because of adverse reactions to medications or their not being taken properly. The severely depressed see overdosing on prescription medications as a way to suicide. Lortab and Xanax are prescribed and filled, and then sold on the street for five to ten bucks a pop. Oxycontin is mixed with tap water and shot up. Over the counter cough remedies are now not recommended for children under six after parents have been using them for years. We don't know if there will there be any identifiable long term effects from their use. Tests are given routinely with little discussion of the hidden dangers. We have become so dependent on and perhaps fascinated with medication and medical treatments that we tend to overlook the negatives almost as if we expect them. We may be too forgiving of the harms that ensue. I believe most of the practitioners of medical care have their hearts in the right places. I believe there is a place for medications and medical testing and treatment. But something is horribly askew.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Precarious Alliance

It is different every time I leave work. Even though my work is in a psychiatric hospital, my time there can go smoothly and is often pleasant and enjoyable. I can leave feeling satisfied that I did what I was supposed to do. Sometimes I will mainly have enjoyed the camaraderie with my co-workers. Other times I may be physically tired from being on my feet too long or my brain may remain hyped up for a few hours as if it still wants to perform in high gear. Sometimes I will feel disturbed over situations. This morning I have been processing a few of those situations. Confidentiality is a big deal in a psych facility and prevents me from being specific. You would think we deal with government secrets instead of hurt people, but I understand. Nobody wants their "dirty laundry" spread all around, and some individuals deal with shame. But suffice it to say, there were some difficulties this weekend. There is an interplay between staff and patients. It is called a brief therapeutic alliance or some such thing. Still patients can become out of control through memories of past experiences, psychotic thought processes or other mental distress. And sometimes staff people make mistakes in judgment. Three of the don'ts I have learned in the past twenty-some years are 1) don't put more into the therapy than the patient, 2) don't get into power struggles with a mentally ill person, and 3) don't provoke a redneck. The second two together can create an explosive environment.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Back to the Kitchen

One of the benefits of the sweet church we have been a part of for over a year is that it has brought me back to an old love - cooking. And baking. For the past twenty years, we were in churches that hired caterers for events and various dinners. Just my opinion, but I always thought the old custom of sharing of home cooking was missing in them. (Maybe it is because I grew up Baptist.) After all the children left and my family responsibilities changed, I felt relieved that I didn't have to be in the kitchen so much. I even fooled myself into thinking that I didn't care if I ever baked another cookie or put together another casserole, that I was tired of it, and that all my enthusiasm for cooking and baking had been solely out of necessity. But I realize now, it isn't so. When I have music playing, an apron on, am chopping, slicing, peeling, dicing, and aromas are mixing about in the warm kitchen air, I feel grounded. So if the church has a food need, I am more than happy to do it. I also feel as if I am making a small contribution to another family, a church family.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Do We Need All Those Drugs?

Heath Ledger's death has been in the news this week. I did not see the movies he was in and knew only his name. I believe he must have been a tormented young man who suicided, but I don't know. I am more familiar with the prescribed medications that were found in his room, the scene of his death. We often think street drugs - some prescribed drugs are also sold on the street and are desired like heroin - are the "bad" ones. However, any prescription an MD writes, has the potential to be just as bad. Drug reactions are somewhere around the fifth leading cause of death in America today. Taking prescribed medications, especially several without being knowledgeable about them, is like playing with a loaded gun. Ambien, found in Ledger's room, is a widely prescribed drug for sleep and is also a hypnotic. It made the news last year for causing sleepwalking and other nighttime activities that the person did not remember the next day. I have personally witnessed patients hallucinate after taking a dose that was higher than they needed. How drugs work on the body and brain is an interesting study. They extend lives and provide comfort. But there is a definite dark side to them that is kept hidden in our pharmaceutical inspired culture.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Soups of Winter

Making soup is one of the things I can do well. Good thing. I think I could enjoy a steamy bowl of it every day during the winter months. Today I will be fixing minestrone ala Southern USA. "Ala" because...if I had access to the vegetables and fresh herbs that are grown in Italian soil and under its sun, and made my own pasta and soaked my own cannellini, I would call it the real thing. Ingredients are the gene pool of cooking. I finally learned from a pastry chef the reason my breads weren't like European breads. It's the flour that I cannot get here! How basic is that! However there are some American ingredients available to us all, such as good old potatoes. Last night I made some creamy potato soup and it was soothing and yummy. At least annually I will cook a pot of my daddy's favorite, bean soup, which is basically navy beans and ham. I have a butternut squash on the counter waiting to be the main ingredient in a soup to be cooked within the next couple of days. Here in South Carolina, many people like cornbread with their soups. Some prefer crackers. For me, I don't like to spoil the character of a good soup and take it straight. The potato soup I fixed last night is bedtime fare. The warm milky base calms and relaxes. Here is somewhat of a recipe. For some reason, I had never used onions before yesterday's pot but really liked it. And of course any veggie can be added along with the potatoes.

Potato Soup
Boil about a cup or cup and a half of cut up potatoes til barely done and still holding their shape. (I used red potatoes, left about half of the skin on, and they were perfect.) In the pot you will be making the soup in, saute a few thin slices of white onion in a mixture of butter and olive oil (about 3-4 tablespoons total) over med low heat til soft. Add same amount of flour as you did butter and whisk around over same heat til frothy. Add about one cup (or more) of chicken broth or bouillon (I currently prefer the Wyler's bouillon) and keep stirring. It can come to a soft boil. Add about a cup (or less) of half and half or milk. (I had the cream so I used it, but I often use powdered milk.) Don't let it boil. Add potatoes. I often add some frozen peas or parsley and freshly ground pepper. Keep it over a low heat for a few minutes, stirring often. Stir in parmesan cheese and let it melt. Nice and warm for a January night.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Living Well by Doing Good

Winter is a good time to enjoy a good book or two. One book I checked out of the library yesterday is "Why Good Things Happen to Good People, the exciting new research that proves the link between doing good and living a longer, healthier, happier life." The authors are Stephen Post and Jill Neimark. There are chapters on celebration, generativity, forgiveness, courage, humor, respect, compassion, loyalty, listening, and creativity, all positive traits and ways considered to be acts of generous love that lead to a good life. Regarding humor, the book says that "humor requires the ability to be flexible, to frame life anew." Re forgiveness, that it alleviates depression, reduces anger and lowers stress hormones. Another small quote, "...a life well lived is really the sum of thousands of small, ordinary acts of kindness." It is a familiar theme. Haven't we heard that a merry heart does good like medicine? And to love one another? I love it when scientific research validates Biblical truths as this book does!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Perception, Part II

I had been fully planning to cover perception again, but the more I mull it over, the more I perceive that it is a bigger concept than anything I am able to wrap my head around. It can be looked at from way too many angles, and I do not have the time, intellect, or the education to handle it. Maybe if I were writing a thesis . . . When I saw and listened to three floridly psychotic patients today, I realized that my idea of perception was going to cover only the roughly eighty-five percent of us who fall into the "normal" range and not people such as these who have gross misperceptions. Schizophrenia is a brain disease that affects about one half of one percent of people worldwide. The skewed perceptions in these schizophrenic men are based on brain chemistry and not choice. The only way for them to possibly come closer to the "real world" is by correcting their brain chemistry via antipsychotic medications, not by therapy or an act of the will. I believe that perception in the "normal" person is mostly influenced by experiences and values, and that the majority of us can work at changing our perceptions if we decide the ones we have do not lead to happiness. Milton wrote, "The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven." Things are what we think they are. As a man thinks, so he is. Yet thoughts can be changed and the mind renewed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Big Game

I didn't see much of the exciting football game between the Giants and the Packers in frigid Green Bay on Sunday, but every time I walked by the television I felt a chill. The intensity of the cold was way beyond anything I could imagine yet the players and the most of the fans in the stadium toughed it out. I can't say that I know how a man thinks, but I do believe that since I am the mother of sons, I have a bit of insight. When I saw those young men playing their little hearts out in the polar temperatures, I thought they must be loving it. I believe that there were many men sitting in the warmth of their homes who were living vicariously that day. Warriors battling it out for victory in horribly adverse conditions. Such a manly thing to do! My sons invited me to play in their fantasy football league the past two years. Any interest I'd had in football had waned over the years, so I had to update my little bit of knowledge and learn about and follow some of the players. Plaxico Burress, a standout in Sunday's game, was on my fantasy team this year, and I felt like a proud mama. On to the Super Bowl! At least the weather should be better in Arizona.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Perception, Part I

Last week, after hearing so many sad stories in the clinical setting, one of my students made the comment, "We really can't help them, can we." Sometimes it appears that way to me, too. Life has been too overwhelming for many individuals, and they want to get out. I have heard thousands of horror stories over the years and wonder how these human beings have survived long enough to sit before me and be able to speak about their lives. These are the times when I lift a silent prayer or feel that I want to cry with them. But there are others who admittedly are irritating. These unfortunate people have learned behaviors and attitudes such as blaming others for whatever goes "wrong" in their lives or thinking the world owes them a living. Beliefs such as those will interfere with relationships as well prevent them from progressing naturally through the stages of life. And they will wonder why and be unwilling to accept their misdeeds and impaired judgments. We cannot go back and change the lives of anyone. We cannot alter a persons DNA. What is done is done. But there is one thing we can do. Romans includes a few words that read," transformed by the renewal of your mind." (And of course there are other ways that idea can be stated.) We can help them change the perspectives that have worn them down and lead them to develop perspectives that may give them hope.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What's Left When All Is Gone?

A co-worker whom I also consider a friend had a devastating experience Tuesday. The apartment building that she had just moved into the week before caught fire from a malfunctioning furnace. Hers was one of the few apartments in which everything was totally destroyed. I repeat - everything she owned was burned up in the blaze. Ann is one of those people I felt an immediate connection with and who also has touched my heart. She has a radiant smile and attitude to match. She has been working hard - sacrificing - to get her masters in counseling and also doing various patient care duties in the hospital. Last year I gave her a colorful lab coat that was too bright for me but looked great against her brown skin. The "pretty jacket" was burned in the fire she lamented, but she was so grateful that neither she nor her daughter or grandson were hurt. While life is by far the main thing, it is hard to imagine the powerless feeling she must have had as the things she treasured and the commonplace stuff that she used everyday were quickly consumed in flames. I am sure she is still stunned by the tragedy, but her character is more focused on what she has than on what she lost. And all any of us would have left after such a horrible loss is who we are. (The picture is from the web.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Vive le difference

It is weather like we have been having that makes me appreciate men. A couple of years ago when we had several days of icy roads and leftover snow, I noticed it was the men who who were navigating the roads well. I think the ability was born into my yankee husband who can be chivalrous at a time like this, and I don't believe it is all because of the thrill factor. He puts aside his behind the wheel aggression and changes into a cautious driver, able to avoid slips and twists on the ice, and drives me where I need to go. I know that we women can rise to any occasion and do whatever we have to, but sometimes it is really nice to let men do their thing. Especially for us southern belles.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Whose health is it anyway?

Got healthcare? I have trouble with the language we use that is deliberately oppositional and deceitful in nature. "Healthcare" is something each individual is responsible for. I do not hold the government or my doctor responsible for my health. I am. But if - and surely when - I fail to care for my body as a result of neglect, stupidity, ignorance, or time, I will ask the doctor who knows more than I about medical problems to assist me in allowing my body to heal. I don't know if the word "healthcare" has been labeled as a euphemism. If not, let me be the first to do so. Let's see...What would a better word or phrase be to accurately describe what "healthcare" really is? Sickness treatment? Health restoration? Actually the "healthcare system" is not health care but a reaction to a lack of health care in the individual. Yes, we all need the help of a doctor (and nurses) at times. But as a nurse, I see wasteful spending on people who consistently fail to take care of their own health and then expect someone else to. The American "healthcare" system is a huge mess, but I believe that we as individuals should first be encouraged to take care of our own health.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snow in the Carolinas

When it snows in the Carolinas, it is not life as usual. Everything stops. I like it this way. When snow is predicted, people head to the grocery stores for chili fixings and stock up on bread, milk and eggs. Necessities. Although we are almost assured of being able to go back out the next day or two when the temperature rises a bit and the sun shines brightly melting the snow, we fool ourselves into thinking we have no idea how long we will be cooped up in a cozy, snow covered house and prepare for the worst. The kids are excited when school gets canceled, and moms bundle up the little ones to play in the snow. It was adventurous when I was out in it last night, but this morning it is dripping like rain, slowly melting. Soon life will become usual once again for us Carolina folks. (The snowman was visiting in the neighborhood. The trees are in my back yard.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

First Snow

When I left the hospital tonight, fluffy flakes were falling and there was a lovely white coating on the ground and trees. I didn't anticipate any problems driving home until I went down a small hill that I usually take, and my car spun. Yikes! I cautiously turned around and started to creep the rest of the ten mile trip home. The snowflakes kept increasing in number and size and started coming faster and faster. The roads were getting more icy and slick. I had to keep the speed under twenty miles an hour or else, I found, I would slide. I must concentrate and do the right thing every second. In some places my Chevy was the only vehicle on the road. A couple of trucks passed me but the few other cars crept along at the same pace. In time, I made it all the way home and pulled into my driveway. My car that had been in a parking garage all day was now covered with about three inches of snow. Yet it was all so beautiful, the white trees, and the moon casting light all around off of the white snow, looking more like evening than almost midnight. In spite of my awe, I am so very thankful to have made it home. This picture is one I took with my handy little camera of the hospital grounds as I was leaving.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Solzhenitsyn's Prayer

About thirty-some years ago, I was a volunteer in an art gallery where this prayer was artfully scripted, matted and framed. I copied the words onto a piece of paper and as you can tell, I still have them. I have searched to see if it is anywhere in cyberspace and have not found it. I thought it needed to be.

How easy for me to live with you, O Lord.
How easy to believe in you.
When in confusion, my soul bares itself or bends, when the most wise can see no further than this night and do not know what the morrow brings, you fill me with the certainty that you exist, and that you watch to see that all the paths of righteousness be not closed.
From the heights of worldly glory, I am astonished by the path through despair you have provided me, this path from which I have been worthy enough to reflect your radiance to man.
All that I will yet reflect, you will grant me. And for that which I will not succeed in reflecting, you have appointed others.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Primary

This Saturday in South Carolina, we will be having a primary election. It is a big deal and has been talked about for months. This American two party system has worked out pretty well so far. Since we are called upon to align ourselves with one party or the other, I choose the Republican party. I watched some of the Republican debate on television last week. It seemed civil and generally pleasant - whatever the media called it - as the candidates opined about their issues. There were things I liked about each. I doubt Ron Paul will be our next president, but I applaud his passion for the need to change our out of control budget. Giuliani has an impressive history of leadership. I like the old warrior McCain and believe he is a patriot. I was lifted by the way Huckabee knocked it out of the park with his answer on wifely submission. Mitt Romney is smooth and attractive. And Fred Thompson? Well, he plays himself as man's best friend. I am not a politician, a military strategist, an economist, a soldier, nor an expert on the Mid-East, Washington, the federal government or the state government. I admit it. However most of us aren't, yet sometimes it seems the least knowledgeable among us are the most vociferously opinionated. That is not the case with me. However I do hope to come up with an opinion by Saturday.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Splitting off and Merging

Have you ever looked under a microscope and watched cells divide? I think of weddings as human cell divisions. Why not! It is a similar concept. Variation on a theme. Families, like cells, get to a mature point, and pieces split off and join split off pieces of another cell forming their own cell/family. In a human body, the parent cells must be healthy for the new cell to be healthy and for the rest of the organism to function normally. Diseases of different origins and types can come insidiously or quickly with trauma destroying the cell and then the organism, just as difficult times or weakness can destroy the individual and then the family. So it is better to maintain a healthy cell than to try to repair it later when the problem is recognized. Likewise, we need to work at keeping ourselves and our families healthy. Also, I see cells as being the fabric of the body, and families as the fabric of society. Just as there are different types of cells that go into the various systems within the organism, there are different types of families within society. They can be different but necessary and healthy. It is no wonder that when our homes (families) suffer or are destroyed, our society suffers. My socio-biological ramblings arrive at this conclusion. It is good to see children who have grown up loved and valued merge with each other, and it is good overall for the health and fabric of our society.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Wedding Day

Among the ceremonies of life, I suppose weddings are some of the most emotional. Honestly I choked up a time or two, but I doubt I was the only one. Why didn't I bring Kleenex! It was sweet from the beginning. The bridesmaids and groomsmen were at the front, the strings began playing Pachelbel's Canon, and as the groom's expression moved from eagerness to an unspoken Wow! I knew that his beautiful bride had made her appearance in the back of the church. It ended festively at the reception. Sparklers held by wedding guests who lined the outside steps of the Palmer Building lit the night and sent them on their way. ~ Five year old cousin Ashley was the flower girl. In her parents wedding, Lisa was the flower girl. Here is Ashley dancing with her daddy at the reception.
Where love is, tenderness and hope find rest.
May it always be for Lisa and Chip.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Reading Through the Bible

I have just started reading once again the Book of Revelation. When I finish, it means that I will have had three complete readings of the Bible. This is not to brag. Far from it. I have never been a hugely avid reader, one who always has to have a book going, but I have spent plenty of time reading novels, biographies, self-help books and such. Somewhere in the previous century, while I was wasting my time with a contemporary novel, I thought...when I get to Heaven, will God ask me if I read His book? At first it seemed like a daunting undertaking, but I began, reading at my own pace. I didn't plow through it wanting to see what happened at the end nor did I set up any particular expectations for myself except to do it. Sometimes I read daily, but other times I did not resume my self-assigned reading for weeks. Another good thing about having an individual pursuit was that if there was a part that was really speaking to me, or a passage I was particularly awed by, I could spend time with it and let it soak in without rushing on. I have found that the more I read the Bible, the more pertinent and fresh it seems. After I finish this third round, I am sure I will delve into another fascinating reading before too long.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Sense of Style

My niece's wedding is Saturday. Lisa will be a beautiful bride. She has a perfect figure, great hair, and a lovely smile. She also has an inherent sense of style that she may have inherited from my mother. It is one that bypassed me. There are some women who seem to have it all together as far as appearance goes, and I admire them. I really do. They know what looks good on them and they accessorize well to boot. Maybe if I had had different experiences from the beginning, if my feet hadn't been so big, my wrists too large for pretty bracelets, or arms that no long sleeves would fully cover, I could be like them, too. Maybe then the love of clothes would have come easier to me, and I would have found my style. But nothing ever seemed to fit quite right, the way it did on my mother whose model thin size and shape just naturally never changed. One of my most consistently repeated New Year's resolutions has been to find and define my style, but I dropped it a couple of years ago when I realized that whether I liked it or not, I already did have my own style. It just wasn't one that I wanted. I would call it more of a shabby-chic with less emphasis on the chic. But an aunt must look nice for the wedding festivities, so shopping for the right dress I went. I found one, longish and graceful, a deep red with thin black lines whirled about in some sort of pattern that reminds me of classical music. Today I walked around in it in the hopes that I will adapt to it and it to me. I tried on various pieces of jewelry and settled on an old (antique) necklace, an odd piece that I inherited from my grandmother. This is the first time those twisted links of black celluloid have looked good with anything, and it is a sweet way of taking a piece of Mama to her great-granddaughter's wedding. And I must find something of Mother's to wear also. No matter...the older we get, the less likely people are to assess our looks. And there will be plenty of youthful beauty and style to be admired on Saturday.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Words of Wisdom From Mother

Today would be my mother's eighty-sixth birthday. Her life ended October 2006 in the hospital where my brother's life began. Within the week following her death, he and I discovered that she had been more of a diarist, writer, and collector of writings than we knew. Quotations, childhood memories, feelings, poetry, Bible verses, dreams, and snippets of her life were written randomly in her pretty calligraphic style throughout her many journals. She passionately loved the arts, referring often to them. This is one of her entries that we read at the memorial service. I, the apple, know that she, the tree, would be glad for me to share it. After first quoting from Longfellow, I hold the remaining words to be her own.

"Art is long
and time is fleeting"
We stay on earth
our appointed time
but the pictures we painted
the poems we write

We may move on
but we leave our love
Our genes, our traits
will carry on in
those we've loved and left

The words we've said
may linger long
and get passed down
by pieces and bits
and we are never really gone
as scraps of us are found.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

January, I love you!

January has become my favorite month. Time has done it to me. Once when I was a cute leggy thing, I welcomed summer. Now January seems the best month to cover it all up. But more than the vanity, I find that as the new year settles in, so do I. Except for high power bills, January is a minimal pressure, low maintenance month, and I can deal with that. The longer period of dark has a calming effect on hyper ol' me, and I would choose to hibernate like the bears for a while if only I could. But I mustn't let myself fall into that quite yet. On this gray, overcast, cool - maybe some would call it blah - morning, I took a nice walk around the block. I have been reading about the importance of Vitamin D, and I hope some was able to get through. All seasons are lovely. Today the deciduous trees were strikingly disrobed, showing only where the squirrels nest, but the magnolias, pines, a few live oaks and Savannah hollies splashed the neighborhood with shades of deep green. The Bradford pears already have tiny buds, and in a couple of months their sweet fragrance will be causing all sorts of respiratory problems. Underneath their lack of vibrancy, they are all busily alive. Blah? I don't think so. I call it renewal and comfort. January. I thought you would never come!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Tending to Home

Today I am not away working and am quietly at home alone. It is good and will help to balance my head and therefore my life - for life is in the head. (And you may quote me.) I will be cleaning, doing laundry, putting things back where they belong, and finding places for new stuff. What a wonderful day it will be. When I was embarking on adulthood and eager to have my own home to tend to, I kept a little poem that I read often - it must still be in my archives somewhere - that reflected on the joys of sweeping and of keeping a house. It had a positive effect on me throughout the years. Even though I can't quote the exact lines today, its essence instilled in my psyche so that when I do housework, I feel happy to be able to take care of the home that takes care of me. I know that something is built into us females that socio-cultural trends cannot extinguish, though it seems as if it has been tried. We like to nest and we like our nests. It is instinctual, grounding us.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Just Can't Wait

There are times when anticipation for a big life change makes the days seem to pass slowly. Like when you just can't wait to become a teenager. Then you can't wait to be old enough to get your driver's license. Aahhh...the freedom of the wheels! Then I just couldn't wait to get married and have a baby. All of my can't waits eventually turned into reality and life happened. It has been many years, but I am having an old familiar thrill churning inside that I recognize as that can't wait feeling. Now I can't wait to be old enough to get social security! Some people seem to know that one day they will reach a certain age and they plan for it. Not me. I guess I believed the future - if it was really going to come - would take care of itself. Maybe it will. I will find out soon enough. And I have enjoyed the work I began mid-life and didn't see any reason to leave it in the dust. But slowly I have become ready. Once again I see a new life ahead that is marked with freedom. (I have worked with the aging populations enough to know the bad things so don't spoil my dream.) For now I am just trying to be patient even though I just can't wait.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Winter Travel

Jacob has to start back to school Monday so it was time for him to return home to the small town in East Tennessee where he and his family have been living for the past year. We made made the trek today. For Jacob - anything. On the interstates, we passed the outskirts of Hendersonville and Asheville, drove up Saluda Grade and a few miles into the Volunteer State and then back down. Saluda Grade is generally not a desirable road to travel if like me you don't like heights, except for today. Nature's winter beauty superceded my fears. The sky, everchanging and always gorgeous, was a pretty blue and filled with mixed varieties of white clouds, and there was plenty of awesome entertainment as we whizzed by trees that were silhouetted against it. The temperature was in the mid forties, but snow still dappled the more shaded ground and long icicles hung from the walls of stone that line portions of the highway. I love the drab shades of green, brown, gray, and blue of winter in their time. Here are a couple of photos that I took out of the car window.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Music and Hair

Jacob and I have been exchanging cultural-generational information today. I listened to his generation's music as he tried to load some tunes in his new Zune. He likes for me to marvel at Mythbusters with him, something that I would not watch if he weren't here. He agreeably listened to Young Messiah, and I told him how Messiah was a part of my heritage, singing in it first with my daddy, his great-grandfather. Yesterday I took him for a haircut and we talked about the styles he likes. He made a decent choice, now looking like he could be in High School Musical. I think it is good to have these exchanges with children and teenagers even if they are not our grandchildren. They keep us fresh and updated. And we teach them recent history and pass along our culture. How sad it would be for kids not to connect with anyone past their own or their parent's generation or see life through a more experienced lens. After retirement, my daddy, a character of the best kind, participated in a volunteer grandparent program at a nearby elementary school. I am sure there is a young adult somewhere whose life was made better because he was there. At this point in Jacob's life, getting the right haircut and knowing the cool music is imperative. But if I want to wear a bouffant hairdo and listen to the Everly Brothers or iron my hair flat and sing along with Sonny and Cher, who cares! I think it is probably good for him to know that one day he may be past all that, too.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Chilly Morning

It was bound to happen on the coldest night of the year. The gas heat went out downstairs causing the indoor temperature to fall to forty-eight degrees this morning. Brrr... My poor little dog looked at me pitifully with his one good eye as if to say, "I'm freezing." Thankfully the trusty HVAC repairman was here within two hours of my early call, fixed the problem, and soon the vents were blowing out warm air. Until then, Jacob and I warmed ourselves with some hot tea and cider that had been waiting since Christmas to be opened. It was a bit of an adventure, but it made me wonder how people survived a hundred or so years ago. I think they struggled more for their very existence. We are a spoiled people. I thought this morning of those past luxuries that have become common necessities. And I was also quite appreciative of the scientists, engineers and inventors who brought central heat to homes and families.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

My Playmate

On this cold January night, one of my most favorite people in the world is here warming the house, and warming his Grandmommy's heart. Jacob is thirteen now and a little taller I am. He has been remembering some of the things we used to do when he was little. Tomorrow we will be taking the tree down. (Two people I worked with said in their cultures - Scottish and Muslim - the tree must be out by New Years Eve and the house must be totally cleaned. Thank goodness my "culture" gives me until Epiphany.) But Jacob says he remembered once at my house when he "set up the tree all by myself." A proud accomplishment for such a little fellow! Another memory is sitting on my lap and eating ice cream together. He says that ice cream has been our "thing." We used to have a cute little dark-haired girl his age living next door. When Jacob was five, he tried to impress her with his manliness by proving, "I can lift this bicycle," and did, over his head. He actually learned to ride that small bike here and circled the cul-de-sac what seemed like hundreds of times. We have made a bird house and pulled ivy off trees and trimmed whatever needed it. We have laughed over stupid and misusing the photo red eye remover to make green blotches on people's skin. Last year we tie-dyed tee shirts til the wee small hours. We have made goat cheese pizzas, fettuccini alfredo and fresh grape juice. Tonight we played an American Idol game and now we are writing this blog. I love it when Jacob comes to play with me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Years Old and New

Today I practiced writing our new year, 2008. We nurses must write our names and dates a thousand times a day at least, and I want to get the new year in my head. In the previous century, 1999, I wondered what we would be calling the years in the the two thousands that wouldn't sound like something out of a sci-fi movie. Changing centuries sounded both awkward and futuristic. But the first years of the previous century were referred to as "o two" as I remember from elementary school jokes, and that is the nomenclature we have settled on now. "O six, o seven," seem to work just fine. And now it is 08. A new year is a natural time to evaluate. For the past few year ends, I have taken time to list the best and worst happenings of my life during that year. A wrap up. I find that it has helped me to resolve a few things as well as propel me toward the future. Resolutions - or long term goals - often come at the end of a frenzied finish to the year (i.e. "holidays") and can help to get us back on track. Matter of fact, I think I will go work on mine right now.