Tuesday, April 29, 2008


After the terrorist attack on America of September 11, 2001, and then the Interstate shootings in 2002, I became somewhat of a news junkie. I suppose many others in America did the same. It morphed into spending way too many hours hearing the same news stories - murders, missing persons, war - over and over, thinking a new angle or more information may be divulged. But now I can now proudly say I am almost free of my news addiction. I can personally thank Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for my changed lifestyle. At this point, I am not interested in who has endorsed either candidate. I don't want to see anyone giving an opinion about what the latest less than truthful statement was meant to say. Enough already. The good thing is that I am repelled enough by it all to turn off the television.

Monday, April 28, 2008


I am a paid listener. I have heard all sorts of stories in my work settings for many years. Though some have touched me, mostly I have demonstrated a momentary professional empathy and then left them behind. I could not do this work otherwise. Recently several people I know have suffered sorrow and loss, and I feel that I have grieved a tiny bit with them. It makes me think how I have been emotionally removed from the sad stories I heard from my patients because I really didn't know them. When you see tragedy from closer to the inside, it is more real. Once when I was visiting a terminally ill home health patient, a family member told me, "We weren't put here to stay." True. Earthly life is temporary. Still, it is all we know. Despair can overcome hope for a while. Tragedy leaves a scar.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Carolina Wren?

Daphne the cat was sitting below, puzzled. This panicked bird was trapped in the garage, beating its little wings against the glass in the door. Then I had to add to his frustration by taking his picture. After I got a clear shot, I opened the door and he flew away to what I swear were the welcoming chirps of his family.

The Summer Garden Begins

Last year my little garden lay fallow. I was not deliberately following an Old Testament teaching but a logical reason since I expected to be uprooted myself any day. But here I happily stay, and now the lovely weather calls the hoe, the shovel and me out to play. My mind gets lost as I garden, as I reverie about the analogies between people and plants. It had been seven years since my little garden has not been busy growing summertime pleasures and what a nice soil I have. The year of rest did it good, and I saw enough lovely, squiggling earthworms to prove it. I thank Jacob for his enjoyment of working outside and doing the first of the soil turning. Little by little I have done the rest. I thank the wild strawberries and violets for doing a great job keeping the soil intact, but now they now have been pruned back to make way for the invited summer guests, the ones that will bear luscious fruit. Soon a few tomato plants will find a home there and cucumber tendrils will wind around makeshift trellises. Those are must haves, but I will find a few other plants to strike my fancy that are sure to bring joy as I watch them grow. It is said, "One is closer to God in a garden than anywhere else on earth."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Soup Kitchen

I overused the word marvelous many times today as I was experiencing the Soup Kitchen in downtown Greenville. My students and I arrived about fifteen til eleven. Serving would start in fifteen minutes and the volunteer crew had been working since nine a.m., not very long to prepare a meal that would feed over 200 if you ask me. A huge pot of vegetable soup was being stirred and tested by the retired engineer who has prepared the soup every Thursday for over ten years. The different types of breads were being heated on trays in the big commercial oven, golden and buttery. A yummy salad of mixed lettuces picked that morning from the garden in the back was being tossed. There were roasted baked potato wedges that had been given by a local steak restaurant and barbecued chunks of chicken. (They don't know what they are going to fix until they get there and see what they have to work with, i.e. what has been donated.) Before the doors were opened, one of the regular volunteers gathered all of us workers together, and he prayed as we stood in a circle, hand in hand. I got a good job - scooping ice. Two of my students took tickets as the customers came in and the others worked the serving line. It was a marvelous experience. The diners were what one might think of as stereotypical people who would come to a soup kitchen, needy. Some were gracious and said thank you and others didn't. What was amazing was the ease in which the regular workers performed and all that they were able to accomplish in such a short time including a magical clean up. Presto! The kitchen is a big and really nice commercial kitchen, but one of the volunteers took us to an even finer kitchen behind it. This one is being used for education and training, not for paying students but for the unemployable or homeless who desire to work and want to learn a skill. In a twelve week program, a chef teaches the students about cooking and everything they need to know about restaurant equipment. There are many success stories. One cool thing about it is that it is only the fourth program of its kind in the US. The garden, I understand, was put in by some master gardeners. Isn't it lovely! It was a marvelous experience for the students and me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Drop Back and Punt

Sometimes things just don't work out as we plan. We fumble or get an unexpected tackle or sack. It has happened to me a couple of times recently and has given me cause to get myself in a huddle, at least for a few minutes. After that time out to process, I then have an opportunity to do something different. And just maybe the new position along life's playing field is where I needed to be all along. Though today it is a small frustration, of no lasting consequence, sometimes it is the big and hoped for plans, goals and expectations that don't work out. In either case, if we drop back and work at clarifying the various angles on the situation, we can develop a new perspective. Then we can punt, change direction, and try a new game plan. When we practice dropping back and punting in small things, when the bigger games come along, we will more likely be ready for them.

The Bloom

Lovely lady.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I liked this one...

Quote of the day:
"Now it's all about becoming rooted in the mundane, in the day-to-day stuff. Life is 70% maintenance. I think of myself as a shopkeeper or a beekeeper. I'm learning the business of building a life. Instead of getting instant gratification by getting high, I push my nose as far into the grindstone as I can. The honey, the reward, is the feeling of well-being, the continuity, the sense that I am walking toward a place I want to go." Robert Downey, Jr.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

No Fear

Did you hear the one about...Why do people read the Bible so much more as they get older? Because they are cramming for the finals.

This week my students turned in a paper, Older Adult Assessment, and with one particular person addressed such topics as physical description, lifestyle, health history, the impact of aging on the quality of their lives, relationships, and fears/concerns for the future. Like the old folks in the joke, these interviewees had by this time become people of faith. "I leave it to an all wise God," "I'm a Christian. I know where I'm going," "My faith will get me through anything," they were quoted in answer to the fears of the future question. It must be hard to be headed to the end of our time here on earth, that hidden expiration date, and not know the peace that faith brings.

Better to have crammed for the finals than never to have studied at all.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Greenville's Artisphere

Paris, eat your heart out.


I see in today's yahoo news that it is Record Store Day. Now that is something to celebrate! Records. Vinyls large and small. I can almost see myself standing at the popular record shop of my early teen years, reading the Billboard top one hundred and flipping through the racks of paper jacketed 45s. When I was lucky enough to have babysat and earned a dollar, that is where it would be spent, on a newly released record with a big hole in the middle. Even in the eighties I was still shopping for 45s at a certain record store because we had acquired a wonderful old jukebox, and I needed to add some current songs along with my oldies. Then in the early nineties, I bought a couple of records in a dusty old record shop in Nashville. After that, I could find no more record stores. We eventually sold the jukebox, and CDs, downloading songs, and iPods replaced the other record players. But with all of my paring down and discarding, I have never let go of my hundreds of 45s. They are a cultural treasure. Happy Record Store Day!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Little Iris,

you will be a beauty soon.
Posted by Picasa

Dainty Violets

Caterpillar Pic

It is amazing to be able to see with the macro lens things that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Hmmm...I wonder if I photographed this fella from the wrong end.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Main Street Today

I have enjoyed driving through downtown Greenville - sister city to Bergamo Italy - a couple of times a week lately and stopped today to take a few pictures. hmmm...what would be interesting if I were a tourist? Since I will be a visiting France for the first time before too long, I am training my eye. The door in the previous post was one sight. This street corner was another. And I could hear a good old American baseball game being played as I passed the Greenville Drive stadium on the way in. There is strong baseball tradition here especially since Greenville is the hometown of Shoeless Joe Jackson. This statue is close to the baseball field.

Photo 4-16

Provence, my May destination, has its photogenic doors but so does Greenville.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Azaleas, too

Nobody has complained because of the drought last year, but we have had lots of rain. We haven't complained too much about the cold weather either because it has been keeping the pollen at bay. Neither of those weather conditions kept the azaleas, often described as a "showy flower" in crossword clues, from looking their best this April.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sweet Potatoes

I suppose it is because I am a Southern girl that I love sweet potatoes. My grandmother, mother, and subsequently I primarily served them baked until some sugary goodness popped out and they were soft and ready to be pressed open enough to house a nice dollop of butter. We always tried to bake a few extra to have with breakfast the next day. We sliced them, sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar, and fried them in some sizzling butter til there was a sticky brown crust on the edges. But back when I was a home health nurse and visiting a patient who was having dinner cooked for her, I learned another way to prepare them that is easy and traditional Southern cuisine. This is now how I usually cook them, except during Thanksgiving and Christmas where they have an important traditional place in the dinners. Slice the raw sweet potatoes thinly. Heat butter in a pan and then put in the potatoes. In about five minutes sprinkle in some sugar (white) and cinnamon. Let them cook over a low heat til soft and ready, stirring/turning frequently, approximately twenty minutes. Sweet as candy! If I had known they would be starring in their own post, I would have cut the slices more evenly.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Art of Conversation

The French Way is a useful little paperback published in 1995 that I have been looking over. It is a dated on some things - naming the franc and centime as the units of currency - but France is an old culture, and most of this book will hold true, I believe. One chapter tells that the French place special importance on conversation and "consider it a skill that can be learned and developed to an art." Mais certainment. Mama, my grandmother of French heritage, rather have engaged in conversation than anything. I remember her saying to me, "Let's just talk." We didn't play board games or shop; we didn't dig, plant seeds, or tend the yard.(Papa did that.) After her morning duties were finished, we sat and talked, often while sipping on little green bottles of Coca-Cola. Those tete-a-tetes became the bedrock of why I work in psychiatry. I feel perfectly comfortable sitting and talking with any patient anywhere about anything. Though I do love chatting away about my opinions and experiences, I really do enjoy hearing other people talking about theirs. On a professional level I have learned to listen, but on a personal level, I too often must remind myself to hush and do more listening. But I can thank Mama for being my first teacher on conversation, possibly the French way.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bee Photograph

I thought it was a bumblebee at first, but it matched an online picture of a Japanese carpenter bee. Not a desirable insect at all. Still...I am getting hooked on this macro photography and he was a cooperative subject.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Babies in the Yard

When it is spring and pretty outside, I get in a picture taking mood. I walk around my unintentionally naturalized backyard looking for photo ops. As I was scouting about today and figuring there must be snakes in the ivy and honeysuckle, a big brown cottontail rabbit hopped out of its hiding place and into my view, and sat quietly for a moment as if he were appraising his situation. I often see rabbits scurrying across the lawn at night as my headlights hit the driveway, but never have I seen one in the day and so up close! I imagined a nest of little bunnies in a hollow in the base of a tree, a home my unkempt yard is providing. There are plant babies, too, and perennials such as this youthful hosta vigorously popping up to add beauty to the world for another season.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Beautiful Dandelions

The closer, the more exquisite.

The Tulips Are in Bloom!

The outside and inside of the same tulip.

Another Side of the Workplace

Last year I was part of a survey that looked at why we women keep working, besides the obvious of course. It was determined that we enjoy the camaraderie as much as anything. My co-workers are not my best friends. Chances are if one left, we would not follow up on our relationship. But they are work friends and that is good just as it is. I like keeping up with these mostly women of various ages and backgrounds and we learn from and support each other. Today we had a shower for a nurse whose baby girl is due next month. My contribution to the party food was this healthy vegetable platter. We enjoyed the celebration, and the baby will have lots of pretty things when she comes into the world.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Papa and the Dogwood

Maybe it is because we are loved by them that we pay attention to what grandparents have to teach us. We do not know them when they are sowing wild oats or even as they are struggling to raise their young familes. Grandchildren don't come along until people have have aged and ripened and have become aquainted with life's joys and sorrows and have learned what is of real and lasting value. Papa, my mother's daddy, was a proper, genteel man who in his later and quieter years, the ones of which I was a part, would place his straight-brimmed straw hat on his bald head and go outside and be among his trees. He loved and respected them all but had a particular sense of reverence toward the dogwood. I remember how he would gently hold a branch and gaze at the flowers as if they were sacred. I watched and absorbed his example; I listened as he told me not to break off a flower and felt that if I did, I would cause the tree pain. I did not understand why the dogwood was the most honored of trees but knew it was. Much later, as I myself ripened and learned about life, I heard the legend of the dogwood, how the pinkish-brown marks on the outside center of the petals represent the nail marks in the hands and feet of Jesus as He hung and died on the cross and how the cluster in the middle of the flower cross is a reminder of the crown of thorns. I think that is reason enough to respect this lovely tree. And every spring when the dogwoods are in bloom, I remember my Papa and what he passed along to me.

The Future Is Now

It is 2008. My grandparents have been dead for many years. Both of my parents have died as well as some of my friends, and I realize that I now live in a time that was once thought of as the future. In years past, but especially when I was a little girl, there was much speculation about the future, the twenty-first century. I remember magazines and newspapers that depicted futuristic transportation with imaginative drawings of sleek low cars without tires that got around by some sort of air power. I was in awe over the way they would lift up over each other and ease back down. Skinny women with severe haircuts and facial expressions to match were pictured in tight silver outfits walking along stark streets. People took pills for their nourishment instead of wasting their time preparing meals. Humanoid robots were did the daily chores while we enjoyed leisure time. Maybe we would even be communicating with beings from outer space! Alas...fifty years later, life is pretty much the same. Cars may be faster and sportier but they still have tires. People haven't changed much except for getting fatter, and cooking has made a comeback. Robots really haven't panned out. And women do not have it easier. Matter of fact, aside from new technologies, I don't see the big magazine spreads about what the future may be like. With all the potential for harm to the earth and its inhabitants one to another, I think many of us just hope there will be a future to speculate about.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Benefits of Humor

Laughter itself provides relief from uncomfortable emotions and creates biological changes in our body by letting off chemicals that fight disease. There is a natural increase in the number and activity of natural killer cells that attack viral infected cells and some types of cancer and tumor cells. No joke!

"The simple truth is that happy people generally don't get sick."
Bernie Siegel, MD

Stress hormones that constrict blood vessels and suppress immunity decrease when exposed to humor. Therefore . . . laughter strengthens the immune system! Belly laughing even cleans your lungs and reduces your blood pressure!

A sense of humor allows us to perceive and appreciate the incongruities of life and provides us with joy and delight, great positive emotions.

"A merry heart does good like a medicine,
but a broken spirit dries the bones." Proverbs 17:22

Friday, April 4, 2008


Shame on me. I have been a psych nurse for many years but I had never been to a mental health center before this week. I will be taking a group of nursing students to the one here for three more weeks, and it will be a learning experience not only for them but for me as well. I had no idea of all the services they provide and the good staff there. Working in a certain field predisposes us to networking within that area, and I ran into several people I have known in the past including one respected nurse whom I had not seen in twenty years.

When a hospitalized patient is discharged, follow up is needed. Some psych patients have follow up with a private psychiatrist but many go to a mental health center. Conversely MHC patients come to the hospital when they are in crisis for one reason or another. I have heard patients grouse about the Mental Health Center complaining it does no good or that they can't see the doctor, but I realize these are the patients who are not agreeable or able to do their part in treatment or who want to call all the shots regarding their care. The services are there for the willing and sometimes for the unwilling. Staff will see to it that many chronic patients get their meds.

The area we went to was for people who have a chronic mental illness, mostly schizophrenia, and who are disabled because of it. The MHC provides transportation to and from, groups, support, a warm place, and lunch. Other services - and I know only a few at this time - are for teenagers with drug or emotional problems, a telephone service for people who call in and need to talk or get information, medication assistance and management, and childcare education for young single mothers. The MHC was much better and had more to offer than I had imagined.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

At The Pump Today

The Greenville-Spartanburg area always has the best gas prices, but we probably won't be seeing it for under $3 much longer.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Beauty Secret

Women's magazines often have articles with famous women divulging their beauty secrets or their favorite beauty products. Here is one of mine, St. Ives Collagen Elastin moisturizer. I almost went into a panic last year when I couldn't find on any shelf anywhere the familiar peachy colored jar filled with the creamy white stuff that I had smeared on my face day and night for twenty years. When I looked it up on line I found that it had been repackaged. Now it looks like this but was still hard to locate this week. We women do not need to go to the nice department stores for a better moisturizer. And it is really cheap. Sometimes I wonder if it has ingredients that I do not want seeping through to my insides like a topical medicine, but I can't care because I am too smitten with it.