Saturday, December 26, 2009

Before and after: Poppy seed bread

I run across a lot of food bloggers out there. If I stuck strictly to food, I think it would be all about bread because it is so much fun to make.

Christmas pix

Everyone loves Uncle Bub.
The budding photographer?

What adorable cousins!

Friday, December 25, 2009

As the Prophet Isaiah Foretold

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

It doesn't matter where I am, what I am doing, or whom I am with, Christmas Eve retains its magic. It is the most special of times. The child in me can still feel the charge of anticipation in the air and see the atmospheric glow from Santa's sleigh.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Spirit

Santa made my day. Actually he was a younger, more fit version but white-bearded and with a similar spirit who thankfully had his Christmas tree lot open, selling off his last six trees. I asked, "How much?" He replied, "The price of a cup of coffee." He trimmed the bottom and the lowest branches of the loveliest, best smelling frasier fir I had even seen, wrapped it snugly in mesh, and loaded it in the trunk. I paid him $12, two more than his asking price. He said in the past few days he had been selling more to Germans (I did not know there were so many in our city!) who do not have "Thanksgiving trees" but actually wait til Christmas approaches to do their Tannenbaum. By tomorrow evening, my tree will be in its place of honor, lit and sparkling, and holding memories of Christmases past.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Too Late

You know you are late with your Christmas shopping when the shelves are cleared of all but Valentine's Day merchandise. I should have known better, but really, I did think I would be finding adorable little things like hand carved wooden manger scenes and beautiful woolen scarves in the markets of Germany. Had the current world economic situation and the shrinking of the American dollar totally eluded me? Apparently I have been in denial. I do not have a Christmas tree as yet either. In days of yore, before people put their trees up on Thanksgiving and took them down on Christmas Day, trees would still be for sale in cold, corner lots, and by the 22nd, there would be several Charlie Brown trees remaining whose prices would be cut in half. Not so today. The place where I have bought my Christmas trees for the past few years and was hoping to find one for 2009 has been swept clean, not even a balsam needle remaining. But as appointed, Christmas will come, with or without my full participation. I will have to live with it, and focus on the gifts of peace, joy and hope that the Christ Child still brings today.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rambling on . . .

During the past few years I have been able to venture out from my home and experience other lands, cultures, and people, and it has fulfilled a desire of mine since childhood. I don't know how it started but I used to write to the embassies of different countries and ask them to send brochures about their countries, then when they arrived, I would spend hours looking over them. I was also fascinated with my special dolls that were dressed in costumes from the lands they represented. Now it seems that this the world is closer or smaller as "they" say, we are more the same. Kathy was looking forward to having lunch at a nice little restaurant at the bahnhof in Salzburg that she had enjoyed before, but was unable to find it. Then she realized the spot it had occupied was now a Burger King. Sad but true. All of us out on the streets of Munich and Salzburg were dressed pretty much the same, but I think we were recognized as foreigners or maybe Americans more by our shoes than anything else. The only places I saw traditional or local dress was by the servers in some restaurants. In the nicer places they wore neat black attire covered with spotless, crisp, white aprons, and in the "beer hall" type places, some workers were wearing the famous lederhosen or dirndls. As far as language goes, one thing I noticed is that two words are universal, understood anywhere. They are coffee/cafe and toilet/toilette.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


They say it takes one day for every hour of time zone crossed for our bodies and brains to re-adjust, and since it hasn't yet been two days since I crossed westward into the USA, I am still a bit groggy and disoriented. I will recover. But I find it odd that I am still wanting to eat German food, even though I was there only a week. I was hearing the German language spoken all around me, seeing German signs, and reading from German menus, and it was natural to pick up bits of the language. At night the sounds and smells were going through my head. Yesterday, my first real day home, the only thing I cooked was kartoffelsuppe (potato soup), and I tried to make more like theirs. I had brought back some pancetta that I purchased at a grocery store in Austria, cut off some small pieces and fried them in a pan along with a little onion. I mashed a few of the cooked diced potatoes after they were dropped in the suppe, added parsley, and by darn, it was "sehr gut."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Conversations while traveling

Traveling is all about experiencing first hand, being in other cultures and learning, but seeing the sights and eating the local food is only a part of it. Talking to people we meet when traveling is even cooler as far as I am concerned. One conversation I had was with a young man from Afghanistan who is planning on going home soon to visit his family. He said there is a war going on there, as if I wasn't aware, but he believes he will be safe. He said the problem is not with the people of Afghanistan, that they really just want to live out their lives undisturbed. Isn't that the way it always is? And on the trolley a tall, pleasantly serious American woman who overheard our conversation spoke with us and offered advice on where to stop. As it turned out, she was on the 1984 USA Olympic volleyball team, is now married to a German man, and has lived in a small town near Munich for twenty years. Sitting next to me on the flight home was an anxious woman from Serbia who had come to NC, compliments of a church, as a refugee in 1991 during the war there. She had gone home to visit her family and was returning to her American life.

Maybe it just feeds my love of hearing people's life stories.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Missing Christmas Shopping

There are a lot of things a girl has to do to be ready to live far away from home for nine days, so today I have been finishing the packing and preparation. I am really looking forward to the adventure and plan to do some shopping while in cold, beautiful Bavaria. But over the past few days I have been out to my familiar old stores, and wow are they packed with all kinds of great stuff to buy. Sometime this spring I was looking for a jewelry box, but there were none to be found. When I asked why, I was told that they are "seasonal items." Well now is the season for jewelry boxes and any other items our little hearts could desire. However, by the time I come back from my trip and into an American store, the shelves will be picked over and the excitement will have faded. Maybe that's not so bad. It's easy to get caught up in the frenzy, and I often end up buying something I can't resist. It doesn't take too long for me to realize I should have resisted. This will be a different December for me. To see what I will be doing for the next week or so, check me out here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Church on Sunday

Back in the youth oriented, techno church service this morning I was thinking how great it was. I felt the energy, enjoyed the rockin’ band and good singers, sang some upbeat versions of Christmas songs, and felt the positive vibes from the different types of people who were there. But I also have enjoyed the quieter Presbyterian Church I have visited several times lately, where I was warmly welcomed by the members and where I had no trouble sitting and listening intently to the scholarly pastor. The year I spent attending the Episcopal Church was also good. I think I may be like my grandmother who simply loved going to church. As she was older, she spent time living with both her daughters. With one she went to a Baptist Church and with the other a Catholic Church, and she claimed she felt at home in each. I don’t really know if it is the corporate worship, the sacredness of time spent with other believers, the traditions, the freedom to attend whatever church we choose as American citizens, or the energy I get from being around other people, but it is all a happy experience for me.

Friday, December 4, 2009

We are all teachers

Yes I am glad I had the opportunity to teach. When I was a little girl, I remember lining up my dolls around the room facing toward the front, their still eyes staring back at me as I instructed them on whatever I had learned in school that day. I’m sure the inclination was in my genes as many relatives on my Daddy’s side are educators. But as an adjunct clinical instructor, I wasn’t in a regular classroom, and I was pretty much given free reign over what to say. When I went to my school for the last time this week, I picked up a stack of evaluations the students had done on me that reminded me why I was doing it. And I wondered if a student would take with them anything I ever said, if I would be remembered, if I helped in any way, if I made a positive difference. I know I learned a lot from them just as I do from my patients.

I imagine only a small percentage of actual learning actually comes in a formal setting or a place where it is expected. Teaching and learning experiences continue throughout our lives, beginning with the first and most important teachers, our parents. We listen and watch from the time we are born. But as we grow and age, we add to or take away and continue allowing others to teach us. Conversations with others are teachable moments as we share our experiences, ideas and opinions with others. Even brief encounters with strangers can make profound impacts on our lives if they expand our understanding.

Unfortunately, on the flip side, there is also erroneous teaching, bad relationships that lead to wrong conclusions, and we humans can learn stuff that does not enhance our lives. But that is another story . . .

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Showing Up

On my many hurried drives through the familiar route to work from my side of Greenville to the middle of town where the hospital sits, I often think about how showing up is the hardest thing. After I have clocked in, winded from the race, I can breathe easier. I made it! From then on, it feels like skiing a downhill slope. Sometimes I tell my students about how we first must show up. But physically showing up doesn’t just apply to getting to work or to appointments on time, it also applies to how we live our lives. Sometimes a student will be present but her mind will be elsewhere. An employee may have clocked in on time and be at work but may not be involved in more than the rudimentary expectations and counting the minutes til her shift is over. In personal relationships also there can be a lack of showing up as we neglect to engage with other people. For me, I will not be showing up to teach anymore. Though it has been great fun and truly an honor to be a teacher, sharing what I know and have experienced with my work, I have shown up for my last day. Yippee!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pix from Downtown GVL Today

It was cool and drizzly. Since we have not yet had our first frost the hydrangeas and some other flowers were blooming at Falls River Park. The picture of hot pink shutters that framed the Christmas wreath showed an interesting contrast.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dressing for Germany

In a little over a week I will be leaving for Germany, and I have done little to get myself ready. Ho hum . . . My anxiety level has been nil compared to my solo trip to France last year, but one of the benefits of anxiety is that it can prod me into being prepared. My traveling partner Kathy is an experienced traveler and has been to Munich and Salzburg several times, and I am relying on her. Still I am responsible for getting my own appropriate clothes. Expecting cold and slushy weather in Bavaria in the middle of December, I have known for some time I will at least need a new pair of boots and a down jacket, the recommended attire. Today I had some time to shop.

On this busy shopping day following Black Friday, I went to a locally owned Outfitter place that was abuzz with athletic young people who seemed to know all about hiking and cycling clothing. I had no idea what I was looking for, but I knew I had to get something warm and get it fast. The sales girl, the knowledgeable proprietor in fact, was wonderful and taught me many facts about fabrics, how close they need to be to my body, what to layer, how she hoped I wasn't taking anything cotton (all I wear), and how not to look like an American tourist, or "target," she explained further. I tried on a lightweight down jacket that wrapped me in warmth as soon as I put it on. She swore it was not too tight, in fact it was stunning and made me look eighteen again (so I made that up). It is an atypical look for me, which is a good thing, but mainly I hope it will keep me from freezing. It also squeezes into a tiny bundle and will be great in my luggage, making room for shopping purchases. I also bought a long underwear type top that fits like another layer of skin. Together they cost a pretty penny! Now I have only to get some traveling shoes, hopefully some really cool boots that I will love, and I will be ready to go.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stuffed and Filled

It was a lovely thing to have my sweet children around the table for Thanksgiving dinner. Dinner went well, and I did say I would have a picture of Trip’s famous pie that we look forward to each year. After fifteen years, I hope he isn’t getting tired of making them. I think he got the recipe from a Libby’s ad that year but we want to believe he invented it himself. It is rich and delicious.

After finishing in the kitchen I came upstairs for a relaxing round or two of Spider Solitaire that would force me to sit for a while. I found this note next to my computer, left there from a grandchild. It is the little things that make holidays and life worthwhile.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tradition Rules on Thanksgiving

I think I became a cook by default. Having four big boys to rear and feed, I had to. It was a bit hard at first, but I knew the basics thanks to my mother. She was a great teacher about kitchen necessities such as cleanliness, nutrition, portion sizes and making sure the plate looked pretty, but she was not one of those old fashioned Southern mamas who loved to be in the kitchen. It worked for her since she didn't have many mouths to feed, but that was not my lot. The first cookbook I owned was given to me probably more as a curiosity rather than a sensible usable reference. It's recipes seemed to be from the previous century in states further south than the Carolinas. I soon learned it wouldn't do. As I started buying semi-cooking stuff like Hamburger Helper and Rice A Roni, and by reading the list of ingredients on the back of the boxes, I slowly learned to cook. I was memorizing the New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook when my first baby was born, and I continued to read with my free hand as he was nursing. Eventually, through much trial and about forty pounds of error that never left my body, I got the hang of it all. Now after all these years I believe that cooking is over-rated, and that simple natural foods are really the best. But on Thanksgiving, it is back to tradition. For my family that means turkey and dressing, sweet potatoes with browned and crusty marshmallows, mashed potatoes and gravy, veggies of some sort (whole green beans amandine tomorrow), and probably my favorite, rich and cheesy squash casserole. The girls will bring salads, and Trip will bring his delicious pies. I must get out my camera for the meal this year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


My co-worker Mandy led a group with some of our patients one day recently while I was gone, and she had written their responses to the question of how they cope with problems on a big easel. I thought their answers were pretty good, kind of in an “out of the mouths of babes” way. Here they are.

Take care of myself.
Hang in there.
Big Lots is fun.
Take children to the park.
Pray for strength.
Laugh and have a good time.
I will pray for anybody.
Chill out.
The problem will take care of itself.
Learn to say no.
Take care of one thing at a time.

Monday, November 23, 2009


For the past few weeks my project has been my ailing husband, not my blog. Now that he is feeling a little better, even to the point of admitting it, I think I can go on with my life.

Western medicine has its place, but it is still young, and I am not so sure the practitioners know as much as they are credited with knowing. New and improved remedies are always coming and going. Though there are wonderful procedures in surgery, medicine is still and inexact blend of art and science. Hippocrates was wise when he said, “Let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food.” Herbs, teas, nuts, raw fruits and veggies do the body good. And they can heal.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Catching Up

Maria has been here this week and it has been nice to have her around. Hard to believe but I haven't seen her in about three years and that was when I went to visit her in the Philippines. We had some great Asian fare there, but by far the most delicious was a meticulously served, fine Sunday dinner at Krua Thai. On this visit to my town, I took her to my favorite Asian spot Doc Chey's, a small laid back chain. It is Jacob's favorite spot, also. When the two of us go, we look over the menu choices and then choose the same thing, Pad Thai noodles for me and Thai Coconut Red Curry for him. This trip with Maria I ordered something different, Japanese Teriyaki Udon, and she got Spicy Thai Basil, both really tasty noodle dishes. I have been wanting to learn how to prepare Asian noodles so may try something similar to them sometime.

I am glad to have some liveliness in the house tonight. My sweet Stuart and the precious children are here keeping us company. Paige is enjoying being a nurse but working night shift is not compatible with sleeping well. So Stu is keeping the house quiet for her this weekend by visiting me. How lucky I am!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Labradoodle Perhaps?

We Americans are like mongrel dogs my daddy used to say, mixed breeds from around the globe, and I am strictly a Euro mix. We have been told that our European ancestors came for freedom and to flee persecution. While that is probably true - I wasn’t there - I believe it is just the nature of man to be adventurous. How exciting it must have been for the early European settlers to have started life anew in what must have seemed like wild country. Did the young adventurers have any idea of the many people who would come from their seed?

Here I am, a child of the Carolinas in the United States, English speaking with a Southern accent, yet progeny of descendants of French and Dutch-German people who spoke unlike me and lived in a different culture. It is interesting to think how we have inherited many of the physical characteristics and behavioral traits of our ancestors though we are not even aware of what they all are. My Dutch-German ancestors arrived only four or five generations ago. I wonder what similarities I will have with the people I find in Germany when I am there. They will see me as an American tourist, but who knows? Maybe we in fact will be distant relatives!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A small education from a trick-or-treater

Thank goodness Halloween is over and my basket of treats is empty. Usually I wait until the day before to buy the candy as I cannot trust myself around it, but this year the ads for good prices on the snack sized Milky Ways and M&Ms made me forget. I am disciplined in many ways but not with chocolate and have overindulged once again. Even when I buy yucky old suckers or fruity candies, it seems there is always chocolate candy lying in wait somewhere for me. The last of Halloween visitors last night were two boys about twelve years old who were dressed in some sort of homemade pirate garb. After dropping the last of my candy in their sacks, I asked them how the night was going. The articulate young fellow said they were doing quite well, that they get a lot when they go late. In grandmotherly fashion I warned them against eating too much and getting sick. (I was feeling a bit queasy myself.) But - oh no. “This will last me for months. I only eat two a day.” After telling him several times how I admire his discipline, I slunk back in from the porch, vowing to remember him as a good example.

Here Kitty Kitty

Once again I am the victim of my impulsivity. It seems that the little yellow tabby may be here to stay, and that is OK. We both like her. A lot. And she seems to be quite fond of us. As I have been typing, she has been climbing on my shoulders, sometimes stopping to watch the images on the monitor as if she understands the process. What a smart, playful kitty. So far I am calling her Tennessee, which really isn't such a bad name for a girl when you put the emphasis on the first syllable. I considered the name Gabby because of her communication style or Velcro because those tiny sharp claws can really cling - ouch - but Tennessee seems to suit. She has been here four weeks now and is savvy about the household, knowing what to expect, where to get fed and go potty, and generally settling in comfortably. But she has no idea how unsettling she has been to the two older cats. However I think she will be able to win the old gals over just as she has us. I am noticing less and less hissing. But three cats! Egad! I am not particularly a cat person and I don't want to be a cat lady! But it isn't cats or dogs or plants or bugs that I love. I just like living things.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Best Part of the Ride to Work

I hope to get in a few more field trips during the next couple of months; it would be a shame not to see as much as I can of the area while I am still here. One view I have almost daily is on my drive into work. There is a little stretch on 385 that gives me a glimpse of the mountains. On the way in yesterday, I held my camera out and snapped a picture through the windshield. It is always pretty, whether barely visible through rain or in shades of blue as in this picture, and I wanted a reminder of it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Field Trip

There are a lot of pretty things to see here in the Upstate of SC and one is Campbell's covered bridge, the only covered bridge in the state. It was only about a forty-five minute drive from the house.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Do you have any chocolate?

What is it about the sweet smooth taste of chocolate that makes us desire it?

How often at work have I heard, "Do you have any chocolate?" or "I need some chocolate" during or after a stressful time. Not surprisingly, I have craved it too many times, but I have learned that taking a break to savor even a bite of chocolate can be curative. In fact . . . chocolate releases endorphins and certain neurotransmitters that make us feel good, and I think it must happen immediately, even with the first whiff as we open a candy package.

A web site said that chocolate also has these chemicals: theobromine and caffeine to provide a mental boost, phenylethylamine, which increases your nervous system and can make us feel like "standing next to your latest crush," and something called anandamide, a built-in flavor enhancer that some consider similar to a drug. (But what kind?)

Thank goodness for chocolate.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


This common field grasshopper was sunning on the windshield today.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

State Fair Time

One of the most anticipated yearly events in Columbia is the State Fair, and each year since I have lived away, I have seen October come and go and regretted missing it. Not this year though. On Friday I met Peter, Sally and Caroline near entrance and under the darkening sky we did much of the Fair together. (No rides for us though.) Fair food is great! Sausage dogs in buns piled with grilled onions and peppers, elephant ears, fried mushrooms, fresh lemonade and corn dogs, and the best French fries with Cajun seasoning I have ever eaten. We walked in the crowd and in the big building that housed the art and agriculture exhibits. After the girls left for the concert, Peter and I went to see the animals, all kinds of beautiful fowl, cattle, and even an elephant for the kids to ride. There was more to see and do but I left quite satisfied and happy. Caroline enjoying Fair food.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kitten Update

Finding a home for the kitten has been harder than I thought it would be. Though I haven’t had to give one away lately, I have in the past, and honestly, it was no trouble. But that was then and this is now. I have asked everyone I know. People have allergies, or their husbands don’t like cats, or they will claw the furniture, or their dogs would attack them, and no they don’t even know anyone who is looking for a cat. I posted signs in the neighborhood, even shamelessly left one where the school bus stops, but no calls came. What to do! On this gray and drizzly day, I packed up the kitty in the cat carrier and drove to a pet store where Jessica and I took some homeless stray kittens about six years ago. At that time they gladly took them, and before we left, one was being sold for $25. Today I was told, “We don’t do that anymore.” But seeing my predicament, the kid in the store said I could hang around for a little while and see if anyone would be coming in looking for a cat. One woman customer asked, “Is there really something in there?” as kitty was in the back of the carrier under the covers. I took the little yellow bundle out to show her. “Aww . . . wish I could take her but I can’t,” she offered. I held kitty’s little quivering body and her big trusting eyes looked back at me. What was I thinking? A big knot, the kind that keeps you from swallowing, was forming in my throat. My eyes were welling with tears. I had to get out of there before I cried. It was a bonding moment. I stuffed her in the carrier, and we walked back into the rain. Is it time to name her?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

...and often unwelcome

"In a world of universal deceit, telling the truth is revolutionary."
George Orwell

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ending the Blooming Season

There are still a few photographable sights in the yard as flowers go to seed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reflections from work

Last week was pretty busy work week for me, and I wanted to pass along a couple of observations. (I still agree to do more than I should. When will I ever learn!)

For the past few months I have mostly been taking care of some truly mentally ill people, those who have a hard time distinguishing between what is real and what is not. One of the women patients became physically weak for a few days, and what was so heartwarming was how the other women, in spite of their own handicaps, showed concern for her and tried to nurture her. It is instinctive in most of us women to caretake when the need is there, and for women to understand other women.

Another situation happened Friday in the day program. We noticed that one of the patients was going to have a birthday the next day. Before the group left, we quickly announced it and started singing Happy Birthday before he got a chance to protest too much. When the song ended, he said that was more of a birthday celebration than he had had in twenty years. And we wondered why the depression has been so long lasting. Recognizing birthdays and milestones is validating to all of us, making us feel a little special for a while.

Some mental problems just happen but others can be prevented.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Keeping Grandmommy Current

It looks like Jacob is on a skateboard, but no. It's a Ripstik and is more fun, he says, and works in a different way. I appreciate the way he keeps me up on things, and I hope he learns as much from me as I do from him.

Gathering pollen?

There were several types of bees on the pineapple sage. This was the tiniest of them, barely visible with my presbyopic eyes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Desiring Power

Something I have noticed over the twenty-five years that I have been working is that often people want positions of power even though they are not qualified for it. And once that power is established, leaders can push whatever agenda they have - right or wrong, ignorant or wise, selfish or selfless - and it is hard to stop them. “They say” that power corrupts, but maybe corruptible people are the ones who often seek the power. It is quite intoxicating whether in a small arena or on the national stage.

Last week a co-worker commented on something he would do differently if he were the president of our country. He said he would not be out flagrantly spending our money, just because he could, during these economically challenging times but instead would set an example of wise money management. That sounded like a good leadership quality. In a perfect world, leaders would possess knowledge and wisdom and be responsible to the people they serve.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Free to Good Home

The lively little Tennessee kitten with personality plus was hard to photograph, but I had to give it a try. Still no takers. I haven't really tried.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Family Tradition

It seems that when I visit my children, we somehow find a farmer's market to go to. I think I know where it all started.

When I was a curly haired little girl of maybe five or six and Wilmington was home, my grandfather would take me with him on some Saturday mornings to the Farmer's Market and the Fish Market downtown. Before leaving the house, Papa would always take the time to look in the mirror and position his straight brimmed straw hat securely on his balding head. It was a ritual and once accomplished, we were free to go. Since Papa never drove, we took the city bus up to Front Street.

As I remember, a lot of people were crowded into these busy, colorful, happy places. I was too small to see everything and stretched to see the tasseled corn and dark green collards on the tables. Mama was known for cooking a big breakfast, and I remember that Papa looked for double yolk eggs and big homemade sausage links to bring home. He probably also bought some okra and green beans too, since Mama used to cook them pretty regularly.

The markets were filled with robust smells, and what wonderful aromas they were, especially in the fish market. Several years ago we stopped in the place where it had been a half century ago. It is now full of small shops and artist studios, but as I breathed in deeply, I smelled that old fishy fragrance. I suppose it has lingered in every pore of the old bricks, giving away secrets of its past.

Papa was a quiet man and we didn't spend much time together just the two of us time. I guess it was because I am a girl. But now that I am a grandmother, I know how much delight he felt in having me with him on these Saturdays and also sharing something he loved to do with me. It is a piece of his legacy to me, his granddaughter, and to the great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren he would never know.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

No. We are not going to keep her.

On Saturday morning, Stuart, Paige, Ashley, John and I went to the small but impressive Dandridge Farmer’s Market. As we were pulling up, Stuart said, “Uh oh,” and spelled out what was on the sign, “F-R-E-E-K-I-T-T-E-N-S.” It didn’t matter. Ashley spotted them right away. She picked out one to hold, the tiniest, with soft blonde fur. The teenaged girls who were responsible for them told us they would have to take them to the animal shelter if they couldn’t give them away that day. Maybe it was a scam, but I fell for it. The kitty did not end up with Ashley but with me. I figured with all the people I work with someone would love to have her. She made the trip down the mountain, not a peep from her box the whole way.

For the night, I settled her into the bathroom, a small safe area. With my still finely tuned mother's ears, I knew I would hear her if she gave a hungry cry. About 0530 I was awakened by a desperate, high pitched “Meow!” Prepared to give the baby some milk and a spoonful of canned food, I opened the door and went in the bathroom. She was nowhere to be seen. Then I realized the meow was not coming from where I had expected. I looked in the toilet bowl and saw two huge, frightened black eyes looking back at me. I reached in and pulled her out by the scruff of the neck. She was soaked and dripping. How she got in I don’t know. She is too small to be able to jump that high. I held her under warm, running tap water and rinsed her off. (So much for the safe place.) Then I gently toweled her fur, feeling her delicate bones underneath. I kept her warm and held her for over an hour until she purred, letting me know she was going to be all right.

She has already used one of her nine lives

Black Beans

Saturday, October 3, 2009


In Stuart's garden.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bad Kitties

What an expensive mess two little girl cats can make!

Jessica got a precious bundle of kitty love for her fifteenth birthday, a soft yellow, pale gray and white calico. She named her Daphne. A few years later she found a lost black kitten, so tiny she probable hadn’t been weaned yet. “May I bring her home?” Of course. We would find someone to take her, I felt sure. Nora was so young and skittish, possibly feral, that I had to hold and love on her often. Needless to say, that created a bond between us, and I admit it was I who wanted to keep her. Jessica moved on and out and away, and had babies and other pets, and the cats she left behind have been mine for quite a while. I love them and they are part of my family, but . . .

Our garage has a small, “secret” opening that goes to the crawl space under the house that must be just big enough for a cat to get through. But not only has it been a good hideout for the kitties when they are outside, they have been using it for their litter box, too. That is not a good thing. I had picked up on the unmistakable odor at times, and my suspicions were confirmed last year when the termite inspector came. I had to do something. Today two middle aged men crawled under the house, pulled up the dirty moisture barrier, sprayed some sickeningly sweet odor remover that is still wafting through the house, and replaced the heavy black plastic over the moist earth. I now hear the whir of a saw as they are constructing a barrier for the awkward place where the entrance to the crawl space is. Will those cats be in for a surprise!

I love my kitties, but I could take a nice trip for what I am having to pay for their damages.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Through Other Eyes

After twenty something years in psychiatry, it has become like that line from the Pina Colada song, “the same old dull routine.” I do my job and then I go home, usually leaving it behind. But when it was all new, and for years after, I was totally fascinated. The first patient room I entered as a graduate nurse was that of a catatonic black female. I had never seen catatonia before; what could I do for her? Then it was trauma and dissociation, eating disorders, and the list goes straight through the various versions of the DSM. Eventually I came to wonder if I had seen it all, but in fact, new and awful stories present themselves daily, and there is no way I could possibly ever see it all. At this point I am occasionally privy to seeing the work of psychiatry through a new pair of eyes that remind me of my own before it all became commonplace. Yesterday a resident was excitedly telling a story of how an elderly female was handling her dementia. He doesn’t yet see the pattern but he soon will. And in another situation a security guard remarked, “Wow!” after a wildly psychotic young person did some really bizarre talking. “I am so glad I got to see that.” Their interest and fascination refreshes my own. I realize that my work is anything but a dull routine.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Compost Happens

I am such a simple person. Nothing makes me happier than to compost! I don't have one of those fancy tumbling things but still use the wire cage that Ned built for me one Mother's Day. Eventually everything that's tossed in returns to the earth but not as fast. No need to hurry Mother Nature. Today was such a beautiful between seasons day, nice for hanging around outside. In the compost pile I noticed watermelons sprouting, probably progeny from Bogue Sound. But they won't make it too far along in life. The first frost will come along and get 'em.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Handwashing is a big deal. When I was in nursing school twenty-five or so years ago, we were taught how to wash our hands properly, but it is oh so much more than that now. We are still inserviced about it yearly, have the potential to receive an award if we demonstrate good handwashing, and constantly use pumps on the wall that conveniently administer a puff or glob of an alcohol based rub. Outside of the medical world bottles of hand sanitizers are in every woman’s purse, and canisters with hand wipes are offered when we enter a grocery store. I wonder if it is too much sometimes, and then I remember Dr. Semmelweis, a young Hungarian physician who was the first to link handwashing and disease. It seems that the practice during the mid 1800s when he was delivering babies was for the doctors to go from cadavers to one laboring mother to the next without washing their hands, and the women were dying at an alarming rate. There is an interesting story, maybe legend, about all this, but the sad part is his discovery was so ridiculed by his peers that he eventually went “mad” and was hospitalized in an asylum where he later died. It seems absurd that this was a new idea at one time. If Dr. Semmelweis could see how obsessed we are with clean hands now!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pretty Puddles

The rain fell so hard most of the day resulting not only in some puddling but also some minor flooding. I think the amazing thing about weather, especially when you think of this globe we live on that spins in space, is how consistent it is. Soon the water will be absorbed and the lakes will be filled, the drought once again over.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Time was

and not so long ago, that I was scribbling down whatever I was seeing or experiencing, whether it was a detail in a person's expression, the way a fan ruffled my hair, or the essence of a moment. Time was I couldn't wait to get home to record my latest thoughts before they took flight and were no more. Time was I would sit in front of the monitor and wonder where my fingers would take me, what stories or insights might come through them. It has been a gradual change but I fell less and less into writing. (You may have noticed.) I miss it really.

My one comment for today is how education is changing and how new courses are being offered to keep up with the culture. My co-worker this evening is taking a course on the psychology of terrorism and also doing a research project on how the mentally ill should get the same treatment as "normal" people when disaster strikes. The topics seem a little chilling, but I suppose they are a product of our difficult age.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How nice to have some rain

This summer was one of the driest on record for my part of the country, but we were blessed with several days of slow drenching rains over the past week, and life outdoors has resumed. I am always amazed at the resilience in the plant kingdom. Dandelions are popping up in the grass that will soon need cutting again, and the wilted leaves of the fall blooming flowers stand happily. The fall gardenias are blossoming, and the green is back in Greenville. Hallelujah!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Our Senator Says:

Today I had an opportunity to hear our Senator, Jim DeMint speak. He spoke directly and clearly and I was more impressed with his knowledge and insight than I even thought I would be. I am going to try to decipher some of the notes I took and pass them along.

- "Appropriators" are running Congress.
- For less debt, have less government takeovers.
- The level of spending over the past six months has never been seen before and is unsustainable. We are at the edge of the cliff.
- The principles of freedom come from a desire to be free from the oppression of big government.
- Freedom demands that individuals can succeed in a free society.
- We know how to trade wealth but have forgotten how to create it. Remember the story of the goose that laid the golden egg.
- Every government dime came from successful business. Capitalism is the key to America.
- The healthcare bill is a Waterloo.
- The healthcare bill means that the federal government wants to interfere in the most private areas of our lives.
- If citizens watch only ABC, NBC, etc, they do not know what the issues are.
- It is OK to have a secular government but not a secular country.
- America is no longer a stabilizing force in the world.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Good Bye Old Car

Over nine years ago I fell in love with a new Impala. The moment my eyes met its smooth camel colored leather I was a goner. The decision to "sleep on it" was not a good one. Would someone more impulsive beat me to it? It was there the next morning, destined to be mine. My other cars had been of the four cylinder economical type, and I was in for a learning experience. Though I proudly zipped onto the interstate, I was not too pleased with the speeding tickets I got during the first three years of our relationship. So I learned not only to love but to respect it, this beauty of mine. I took care of my Impala and it took care of me, but things weren't always perfect. We had our crazy times like when the water pump went out and I had to leave it in the shop. And it had its flaws like the air bag light that always left me wondering, but I learned to overlook them. But we can't hold onto anything forever, and I knew the day would come when we would have to part. Yesterday another family paid a pittance of its worth to make it theirs. I had hoped to have it until the end but it was not to be. So I must let go gracefully and remember the good times we shared. So long. There will never be another like you.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bead Therapy

I can't remember what inspired me, but several years ago I started bringing beads and string to work on the weekends to give the patients something to do. I mostly brought in the colorful pony beads, the kind kids use at camp, and a sturdy elastic cord so they could easily make their projects - mostly bracelets. I found pretty beads at Michael's and on line and probably had more fun choosing them than my patients had making things. Now a variety of beads are provided by other staff, and what I call "bead therapy" has become a regular and favorite activity. I think that focusing on something besides their problems, working with their fingers, making decisions, and completing small projects has been healing. Besides, there is something really soothing about running your fingers through a big pile of smooth plastic beads. One of our patients was discharged today, recovered from her depression. In her chart was a quote from her that said, "The beads helped me the most." I liked that.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


It has been nice to have a day off, but even when I am not working for a living, I am living to work - around the house that is. Isn't that what we women do! I gave the kitchen floor a rare good cleaning this afternoon. If it were not one of those floors that camouflages dirt so well, it wouldn't have needed it so badly. I remember "back in the good old days" my mother would mop the floor once a week, then she lay newspapers down on it until it was dry. We weren't allowed to walk into the kitchen until they were picked up. I wonder if the newspaper trick was the trend back then. I didn't use newspapers today, but I did insist my dog be outside during the whole procedure. . . . Sometimes it is a slow news day.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Finding the Right Fit

One of my students today commented, "I just want to let you know this isn't my thing," referring to being in a psych/substance abuse facility. "What is your thing?" I asked. She answered, "Pus and blood. I love it." I am used to hearing the students say they love labor and delivery or the ER or want to be a flight nurse. But pus? There is always a first for everything! But that is one of the cool things about nursing, the diversity. There is something for everyone. One of my other students said she will be looking for an "easy job" when she gets her license. I wanted to offer a sarcastic good luck. Easy and nursing are two words that don't go together. But as we talked, we decided that what she is looking for is hours that suit her family, and maybe being a school nurse is the answer. I hope they can all find jobs somewhere that they love, whether it is birthing babies, cleaning playground scrapes or lancing boils.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Tradition

Shocking even me, I recently realized I could be the oldest person in the church we have been members of for about three years. Maybe it was the praise songs ala rock style with zinging guitar and heavy drums that kept the grown ups away. Whatever...I have enjoyed it, but I have also missed the traditions. So today I decided to try to find a service where hymnals are used and the preacher shows up live, and where I am not referred to as a "guy." I went to the eleven o'clock service at a small Presbyterian church that I have driven by at least twice a week for the past twelve years. I always enjoyed reading the messages on the sign in the front and saw that the pastor's name was Stuart. I figured I couldn't go wrong. It was quite lovely and comfortable inside and had a huge vase of sunflowers. The older pastor was folksy enough and also delivered a good sermon on a verse from the 23rd Psalm. We sang two grand old songs, "Praise Him, Praise Him" and "When I survey the Wondrous Cross" and it was a nice hour, reminiscent of old times.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Invasion of the Small Screens

The ubiquitous television. It seems that it is hard to go to dinner, the bank, the dentist's office or anywhere without the noise from at least one TV. Does the person who chooses the channel decide that out of the hundreds of channels available that all of their customers have the same taste? Once I was standing in line of diverse, serious people in the post office, all on a mission to reach the desk with their packages, and in an upper corner a steamy bedroom scene from a soap opera was playing. Along with the others I tried to ignore it. And there was the time I was having some work done on my car and was in the waiting area with a young fella of about ten. The Animal Planet was on, seemingly harmless, but in a matter of minutes, it was showing how a male animal in the wild (can't remember what kind) mounted the female as the hushed voice of the witness graphically described the situation. "So what grade are you in? Where do you go to school?" I started with a barrage of questions. I guess TV is so ingrained in our culture, and many people have lost a sense of propriety, that it will sadly remain in inappropriate public places.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Big Box Problem

Yesterday I made a trip to Sam's to look at tires, which I wanted for my newish car but really did not need. While there I decided not to purchase any, but I did wander around the store for a while to see if there was anything I couldn't live without. The fruit seemed to be a good price, and I bought raspberries and blueberries, both in cartons that held more than two of us could quickly consume. That is what happens at those places! I washed some blueberries, took them to work, and offered them to co-workers. This morning I made some blueberry muffins that were less than perfect even though I tried following a Sara Moulton recipe to a T. So much for recipes. Maybe tomorrow morning I will fix some dependable ol' blueberry pancakes. The sweet raspberries are more delicate and must be enjoyed without anything but a quick rinse. They are both delicious, but I need to buy in smaller quantities.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Not leftover food but leftover pictures. Chili relleno and shrimp stuffed with jalapeno and wrapped with bacon. I love a spicy Mexican meal.

Counting Sheep

People with ADDled brains such as mine often have trouble falling asleep, especially at the end of an overstimulating day. Our minds do not switch to the down mode easily; our thoughts, plans and ideas keep rolling along, often in fragments, preventing the pleasant drifting off into the Land of Nod.

Back when we moved to Lexington, to the new house that I often described as a box surrounded by sand, the job of transforming the barren outdoors to something resembling a yard fell on me. So I challenged myself to learn as much as I could about gardening, flowers, grasses and plants, and before long, among that mountain of info I acquired, I had many botanical names both common and scientific down pat. I loved the sound as I rolled them off my tongue. And I began to use them in a non-gardening way.

Back then if I was having trouble falling asleep, I went through the alphabet naming flowers - Ageratum, Black eyed Susan, Coneflower, Dahlia. Sometimes I would go through the alphabetic list three or four times as there are so many flowers with interesting names, and that would excite me. Purpose defeated. Eventually I found the more specific I made it, the more focused I got . . . and sleepier, too. Lately I have been thinking of Bible verses or attributes of God that begin with each letter. I find that to be peaceful and reassuring, and I fall asleep early, before I get to Eternal for example. Last night I tried naming places I want to go, but got stuck and realized I am geographically challenged or at least do not care about going everywhere. Of course it doesn't work all the time, but occasionally I snooze off between letters. I know because I have waked up thinking Tuscany.

I suppose it is a way of counting sheep for us wordies.

Monday, September 7, 2009

One of my faves

The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Studio

A photography magazine I was reading said to think of your yard or garden as your studio. Though I had not used those words, that's exactly how I have thought of it for the past couple of years. Though I often come back inside having been bitten by some unphotogenic bugs, I enjoy watching how nature changes in my little earthly spot. It is different every day. Various plants sprout, grow, flower and wither and different types of insects come to do to what Nature has intended. Sunlight and dew, rain and wind play their roles in the changing scene. Now that we are into September, the spent tomato plants are dry and scraggly and need to be tossed into the compost, their usefulness past. But it is time for the sedum to bloom, for the morning glories to color the faded fence, and new bugs to photograph. Nature gives us many lessons and delights.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thank you

Thank you, Rob and Susan, for a lovely birthday celebration.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This is what clinicals are for

I have started back with my teaching duties and though it can be exhausting, it is also rewarding. My students this week were six women of ages twenty to fifty. It is rare to have a student without some anxiety as they start their first day in a psychiatric hospital. (Anxiety in this situation is in fact a good thing as long as it doesn't get the upper hand. It can keep us watchful and on our toes.) The cute twenty year old student visibly and admittedly had the most, so I assigned her to a patient I knew would be cooperative and talkative. After a good chat with him the first day she said, "I feel like I have run a marathon." She was pumped. All the students went on to interact with other patients and attend activities with them. On the start of second day she appeared as if her fears were behind her, and by the end she had some positive words to say. Though I can't quote verbatim, the essence was that she had learned to look at patients in a whole new way. Not just as a body part that needed fixing, but as a whole human being with a life story and feelings. That is what I hope students will learn in this rotation, especially the young ones. I praised her for her insight and developing maturity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Beautiful eggs!

One of my students brought me these eggs today. They are from her farm and she hand feeds the chickens herself. I was so glad to get them.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Beaten Path

I never thought highly of routine or people who seemed to be pleased that they had one. The word itself could be defined as "a stifling trap" in my dictionary and was something to be avoided. Now it seems that I have one, and it is OK, even comfortable. Since returning from my relaxing birthday vacation, that is where I fell, into a routine. My two jobs provide the framework of my routine and are keeping me more than busy. My goals are the glue that hold the framework together. It's not so bad.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Deserted Island?

Not having much to say today, I decided to post another vacation picture.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Changing Through the Decades

  • When I was a child, I thought grown ups knew everything. They made all the big decisions, elected presidents, and had all the answers. Or so I thought.
  • As a new bride of nineteen, obviously an adult since I was married, I mistakenly thought I would be granted the wisdom I would need to step into their shoes, but it did not come.
  • Then in my twenties when my babies were calling to me for knowledge and guidance, I was overwhelmed, and tired from the joy and labors of the days. My ways went more with the culture of the times, an anything goes liberalism, rather than common sense.
  • In my thirties as I was beginning to feel like an adult woman, and after wearing out my poor brain with introspection and philosophising, I began to figure out a few things.
  • In my forties as my life changed, I grew from experience, observation, and many insightful moments.
  • By my fifties, after many troubles, toils and snares, I finally got a good head on my shoulders.
  • Now that I am fully grown and settled comfortably in my sixties (some of us are slow), I get it. I am ready to take on the mantle of responsible, mature adult. If anyone cares.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not an impulse buy

There were several produce stands that advertised "Delicious Sweet Bogue Sound Watermelons" while we were vacationing. Naturally I wanted to get one and see for myself, so we stopped to shop on the way out. And yes it - an old fashioned oval one with black seeds - is delicious. There were other items for sale there too, locally grown veggies, homemade jams and baked items, and a stack of dishcloths that someone had crocheted that sparked a connection back to my childhood. I bought the blue and green one on the right side in the middle. I had to. When I was nine or so, I had a small square pot holder loom and lots of those colorful loops. That summer I entertained myself by making potholders, one after another. Fortunately there was a small grocery store up the street that kindly agreed to sell some for me. I was thrilled when I knew that someone had actually paid a quarter for my work of art! Not that I was dying to have a crocheted dishcloth on Monday, but I wondered if the fingers that made these were a little girl's and if she would be as happy as I was long ago when I got paid for a potholder.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thought for the Day

"Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness, the civilization of which is now fearfully neglected."

George McDonald

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bear Island

After the rain passed today we went to Hammock's Beach State Park to check it out. I figured one of the world's most beautiful beaches would be a good place to spend my birthday. We took a ferry from the visitor's center, and after a ride under a magnificent sky, through the waterway, and around islands of marsh, we were dropped off at pristine Bear Island. After a half mile walk, we saw the ocean, and "camped" for a few hours. Everything - for 360 degrees - was too beautiful to capture in a few little photographs, but I am going to try.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hummingbird Sighting

Yesterday as we were walking around one of the towns, Raymond stopped and said, "Look!" He saw this hummingbird and quickly took out his camera to snap this picture while I was still trying to see what it was that he spotted. I thought it was pretty exciting since it was only the second one I had ever seen.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse

We drove to Harker's Island to catch a ferry, a small flat bottomed boat whose captain, blond and bronzed by summers under the sun, sped us over Back Sound to the Cape Lookout National Seashore. The lighthouse was the main attraction for us, but many of the locals were attracted by something else. Today Hurricane Bill had spawned some big waves even on on these Southern Outer Banks, and surfers were waiting for the right time to catch them.

Eating today

Traveling with Raymond means there is a big emphasis on food. Thankfully we didn't have to make a decision about breakfast. This is what we had here at the B & B, peach French toast.But of course after a busy day around water, what would the next meal be? We decided to follow a recommendation and go to Yana's in Swansboro - a fifties style, local place - for hamburgers. It was filled with pictures and memorabilia from that era, including a life-sized, talking Elvis in the women's bathroom. Good dinner, too.

Friday, August 21, 2009


We were walking around and admiring the docked boats when three pirates appeared, passing us on the walkway. That was a surprise! Apparently this area was frequented by the notorious Blackbeard and other pirates in the 1700s and now there is local entertainment that celebrates them in some way. There were other pirates, too, one of them looking just like the Johnny Depp character.

Another night, another dinner

We left Wilmington and drove north toward what is called the Crystal Coast of NC, but it will be tomorrow before we see the sparkling ocean. So far today it has been rivers, the sound, and the intracoastal waterway where our nice guest house/B & B is located. We arrived about two, settled in and then went exploring. We had checked out historical Swansboro on the way up, so we went to Morehead City and Beaufort. All these pretty and quaint towns reminded me so much of the New England coastal towns that I had visited last summer and before, and - gee - I realized I was more familiar with York, Maine and Gloucester, Mass than I was with my own part of the US. We stopped for seafood at an oddly named, landmark restaurant in Morehead City, The Sanitary. The dinner was pretty good, but mostly the place was interesting with walls filled with photos of famous people and locals who had visited since it opened in 1938. We got back "home" before the sun had fully set and I took pix. Here is one.