Friday, December 31, 2010

Hope for a Wonderful New year

I love to see an old year end - even if it has heavily tipped the scale on the good side - because the new year brings with it hope for better things to come. Hope sustains us, and we cannot live without it. In my field, I have seen the sad outcomes of what happens to people when they lose all hope.

It is one of the big three, up there close to love, in that beautiful Biblical passage. "But now faith, hope, and love abide (remain, continue), these three; but the greatest of these is love."
I Corinthians 13:3.

Hope for the day. Hope for the future. Hope for a great 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Last Night's Cold Adventure

Last night about nine thirty as I was letting the cats in for the last time, the house, in a split second, went totally dark. I could see nothing. Nothing at all! My cozy, familiar home instantly became a black and scary place. What was happening?

Feeling my way, I made it to the living room and looked out the front window at the neighbor’s house. Their usual display of Christmas lights was off; it looked as if nobody was home. In fact none of the nine houses in our cul-de-sac had any light. Aha…It was an electrical outage of some sort.

Thankfully I knew where the new flashlight was, so I groped along the walls and furniture until I found it. Then I located the Christmas candles that had been used for decoration, and I lit all six of them with the long matches. What a lovely warm light those candles made - actually enough to allow me to read. It is hard to place a value on the light of one little candle until you are in a pitch black place.

The house was not just dark but silent, too. The familiar hum of the refrigerator had stopped, and worse, there was no sound of warm air blowing in through the vents. It was getting colder by the minute. Yikes. What would we do!

But it wasn’t all bad. It gave me time to think and wonder how the many generations before us survived without electricity, and it allowed me to see a sky filled with stars that aren’t visible when manmade lights cover the surface of the Earth.

When the outage happened, we called Duke Power to report it. The message said it would be back on by one a.m. That seemed like a long time to wait, but we had no choice but to be patient. We eventually gave up and got in bed under many covers, but the strange, coldness made it hard to sleep. At one a.m. no electricity. At four a.m. no electricity. Finally at eight thirty this morning, a light popped on, as quickly as it had gone off. And I heard a wonderful small roar from the furnace.

I felt like a pioneer woman for a few hours.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Working on Resolutions

This afternoon I have been engaged in two of my New Year's resolutions - several days ahead of the game. My perpetual top of the list is to be more organized. (How I wish.) While I have been organizing - more like plundering through piles and rearranging the messes - I have been listening to music, another resolution. Sometime during the past couple of years, my love for music has slid into a has been place in my heart. Maybe it was crowded out by talk radio, rejected by gross contemporary lyrics, or not singing in a choir, but it slowly became a small part of my life. Music is wonderful and so filled with passion, and I need it. So listening to music more, a lot more, is on my list for 2011. Pandora, a great web site, is filling the air with The Electric Light Orchestra station this afternoon. It has played a lot of Beatles tunes (what depressing lyrics), and other songs from the sizzling seventies. Right now I am listening to Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen, which reminds me of another resolution I need to make. Now where is that list?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A New List Every Year

As we head into the home stretch that will complete the year 2010, we are getting lists of various things that were newsworthy or of interest during the year. None are more interesting to me than the lists of those accomplished people who have died during the year, those who for better or worse made their mark on our planet. Sometimes the focus is on individuals who have entertained the rest of us, but others who have died were famous for a single accomplishment, or wrote phrases that are in common usage today, or were politicians who changed the direction of a nation, scientists with brilliant ideas, and so on. What is really fascinating is what people can do with their lives and, like millions of radii on a circle, all the different directions a life can take.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

As the Prophet Isaiah Foretold

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

Isaiah 9:6

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Brotherly Love

We are leaping toward Christmas Day, and my head gets filled with many things. Some are memories and this one from close to thirty years ago is a sweet one.

Ned was maybe eight and Peter twelve. Money was in short supply and the amount allocated for Santa to spread among the four boys meant there would not be a lot under the tree, and Ned needed a bicycle, the year's big ticket item.

I was tucking Peter in his bed one night, and from the tenderness I saw in his big blue eyes, I could tell he had been thinking. Knowing enough about the situation, he then made a sacrificial offer. Lying there looking up at me and in his most quiet voice, he told me to take any money we would spend on him and use it instead toward the bicycle for his little brother.

On Christmas morning, Ned got his bicycle and Santa came to see Peter, too, but what I remember most from that year is the loving heart of the selfless big brother.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Today's Visit

While I was “retired” I started visiting an elderly couple in a nursing home. I heard that the woman was not doing well and decided I must see her today. She and her husband had shared a room since coming there, but his dementia had gotten so bad that he had to be moved to the Alzheimer’s area. When I arrived, Betsy was in her room being tended to by staff and was eventually transferred from bed to wheelchair. Then I sat on a chair across from her and tried to talk. On previous visits she was able to slowly but accurately converse with me, and told such things as how she and her husband met and fell in love, and she shed tears over having to leave her beloved dog. (I used to do a life review with my home health patients.) In my line of work, when people get old and have certain symptoms, it can be hard to tell if they have depression or dementia, but this woman to me clearly had depression. When I saw her today, I could tell how profound it has become. She asked how my family was and then shut down except for saying how she missed her husband. He had gotten to the point he was not able to give anything in the relationship, but she knew he was around, and women need to have someone to care for and care about. The staff person went to get him ready for supper and eventually pushed him into Betsy’s room so they could eat together. She lit up when she saw him and offered, “Hi Sweetheart," and he looked at her with a momentary smile as if it were an old reflex. There were no words in him to come out, and he soon started to tug on the big wheel on her wheelchair as if he wanted to fix something. I have noticed that when men get dementia they often want to work with their hands. I waited with them for what seemed like a long time as they sat with wheelchairs touching and no more speaking, and I thought about them as young lovers, and busy successful adults, and parents rearing their sons, and how we never know how our lives will turn out. Our lives begin with hope and sometimes end in despair.

Monday, December 20, 2010

All Heart

The moon was spectacular this evening as I was driving home from work. It was big and round and bright with rust colored and deep gray shadows that swayed across it. The awesome, eerie appearance seemed to presage the rare eclipse that will come in the wee small hours of the night. I dug my camera out of my pocketbook and snapped a few pics through the windshield. They captured the idea, but this one, taken as I took off from a red light, puts the moon in a heartfelt pose.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ornaments are special

Never one to rush Christmas, I decorated my newly purchased North Carolina Fraser fir today. The ornaments are all seasoned and loved. Though I have none from my childhood - I wish I did - I have lived long enough to have quite a collection beginning with those aquired in turbulent sixties. There are newer ones also, the most recent coming from an outdoor German market that I visited last year in December. Some are done by the hands of children, or my own, and others - like this pretty glass car that is showing wear - were purchased. No matter how they came to my tree, each one is a story unto itself. I go over those stories annually. I take time to remember important people and events and am grateful.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Non-Christmas Duty

Sometimes I make bad decisions. Last week the guys who did my kitchen and other helpful things called to say they didn't have any work to do. Would I like for them to do the next project we discussed, the master bedroom closet redo? My common sense side whispered no, but my charitable side voiced, " . . . uh . . . OK." Those poor guys with no work at Christmas time.

The night before they came we emptied the closet, no small task. It was as if all the clothes were vacuumed packed in there because they seem to fluff up and multiply as we spread them around the bedroom and layered them on the couch and chairs in the living room. Not exactly what I call decorating for Christmas. After my pointing out to the guys yesterday that this is Christmas week, that I am always stressed during Christmas anyway, and please do not take your sweet time, they are working furiously today painting, measuring, sawing, and hammering. I am not distracting them, but they don't do shabby work and are not going to compromise on quality, even for a closet nobody will see. When they finish, my job of refilling begins, well into Christmas week.

January would have been a better time to do this.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lots of Candles Today

Happy birthday to my first born son who thrived in spite of his young and inexperienced mother. It must have been the love that did it. It took me a while to get the hang of handling this slippery little human, but in a matter of months as Trip grew in size and personality, I became pretty comfortable with the whole motherhood assignment. He gets more precious to me each year - if that is possible.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

That's Entertainment!

On these cold nights, it is fun to have a television show to look forward to watching like my current favorite, The Sing Off. Between working and then some home duties and watching those good acapella singers, I didn't have time to post a thought here!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's in a name?

Today as I walked into my favorite big box store, the one where if you time it right you can graze from the buffet for lunch, the guy who checks the membership card was waving a sleeve of papers at me imploring, “Don’t forget your holiday stamps.” I replied, “I already have my Christmas stamps,” emphasis on Christmas. Where was that coming from, I wondered. I sounded just like my mother when she, to my embarrassment, would get irritated in public places. As if that weren’t enough, when I got to the counter to pick up my photographs, the girl asked, “Are you here for holiday cards or just prints?” Correcting her I answered, “I’m not here for Christmas cards.” Realizing I spoke too softly, a more confident tone with “I am not here for CHRISTMAS cards,” erupted from my mouth. There she was again. My mother’s voice. Not the words but the definite tone.

The word holiday is being forced upon us everywhere. In some ways I don’t mind the substitution since many traditions around this time of year seem to dishonor Christmas. After all what does Grandma getting run over by a reindeer really have to do with Christmas? (For that matter, what does it have to do with any holiday except maybe a day off from school or work to attend the funeral.) And though sleigh bells, roasting chestnuts, and Frosty the Snowman are linked with the big season, they really just celebrate winter. But when we get to angels, good will among men, bells, joy and peace, the giving of gifts, and those twelve days, then I suggest we stick with calling it what it is, Christmas, a day and a season that most people around the world celebrate in one way or another

Monday, December 13, 2010

O Holy Night

One Christmas song I never tire of hearing is O Holy Night. I love it best sung by a superb soprano with a huge range, like Sandi Patty, who can thrill me with those perfectly pitched ultra high notes, but there are many wonderful renditions. This week a ten year old prodigy sang it like a pro at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. Who is your favorite singer of this beautiful carol?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chore or Pleasure?

I have a love-hate feeling about wrapping presents. It started when I was sixteen and worked at Penney's in the back of the store wrapping presents for the week or two before Christmas. I was taught how to make the packages pretty with tight, symmetrical corners on their nice paper, properly placed tape, and a lovely bow. I took pride in my dollar an hour job, but as I saw the lines of waiting shoppers with purchases getting longer and longer, I had to hustle. Behavior being mostly learned, over the years my wrapping has become much more hustle than neat and pretty. To my shame . . .

Presents can be beautifully wrapped in many ways, from silver paper tied with shimmering silver bows to a child's special homemade paper. My grandmother had her own identifiable style of wrapping that - looking back - must have been in vogue then. She used white tissue paper with red or green curling ribbon and often placed a sticker or two somewhere on the top. Each year I wrap a few the same way (without the sticker) as I remember her. Christmas is a time of carrying on traditions, is it not? Those bags that are so commonly used to hold presents now are practical especially for odd shaped or bulky items, but I don't think they hold a glowing votive to any kind of paper with ribbon. And a present without ribbon? Like sending it off in its underwear!

Off to finish my wrapping. I will try to do a better job on the ones remaining just in case my grandchildren will carry a memory of if into the future.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Any Cookie Can Be a Christmas Cookie

Since Christmas time is also cookie time, I thought I would post one of my favorite recipes. It is a basic cookie, but the baker can add whatever she wants to the finished dough, and I do. Tidbits like Heath bar crunch, coconut, any kind of chips or nuts, dried fruits like raisins or cranberries, as much as you like, just make a more delicious cookie.

Cowboy Cookies

one cup white sugar
one cup brown sugar
one cup Crisco (or 1/2 cup Crisco and 1/2 cup butter)
two eggs
one teaspoon vanilla
two cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
one teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
two cups old fashioned - not quick cooking - oats
Chips, nuts, fruit, the more the merrier, whatever you heart desires.

Bake small or large spoonfuls at 350 til delicately puffed and golden.

A tip for keeping cookies fresh in the can: Put a slice of bread in it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Christmas Thought

I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays--let them overtake me unexpectedly--waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: 'Why this is Christmas Day!'

Ray Stannard Baker, pseud. David Grayson (1870-1946), American author, journalist

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ringing Those Bells

It is Christmastime and the Salvation Army bell ringers are out in force. I think it's a great idea. Kids can drop change in the red kettles or generous grown ups can put folded bills through the slot. Little by little maybe they get enough money to fund some of their good causes during the year. When I pass the ringers, I try to notice what they are like. Some are quiet and just stand and swing the bell. Others greet the public and make conversation as if they love what they are doing. Today I had to go to the Kmart across from the hospital, and its ringer was an cherubic, old black woman who sang Winter Wonderland as the shoppers passed by on this bitingly cold afternoon. As I started singing along under my breath that old Christmas spirit welled up in me. Christmas is a good time for giving.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Old Soldiers

Today marks the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack that brought America into World War II. Remembrances of that war are slipping deeper into history, and as the people who remember it die, their stories die with them. However as I was thinking about that this morning, I remembered some stories my daddy wrote about his experiences in the war. I got them out and decided to post one today.

Discharge

I remember very well my last month in the Army. It was at the Naval Base in Norfolk, Va, and at that time of year it was very cold. We were assigned to a one story barracks. We were furnished an Army cot, two woolen blankets and a bucket for coal to be used in the potbellied stove, which was at the end of the barracks. The shingles on the roof were withered and shrunken as were the walls of the barracks. It seemed we had snow most of the night and during the day. The snow blew into the barracks and in the morning someone was detailed to sweep it out.
I remembered a tip that veterans of the Battle of the Bulge gave me: newspaper is good insulation. I got some and put a sheet between the cot and under the blanket I slept on and a newspaper over my body and under the blanket on top of me. I got a little chilly but not as near as cold as before I learned my little trick.
I spent only a week and a half there but it seemed much longer. All we did day after day was sit on the bunks and play casino, poker, bridge, or black jack.
I was put aboard a train at Norfolk and was sent to Camp Grant, Ill to get discharged. I remember seeing a lot of "Kilroy was here" signs. It was hard for me to sleep at Camp Grant. What was civilian life like? I was a professional soldier. Could I get a job after discharge? Would I join the Mafia or the 52-20 club? Goodbye U.S. Army. You gave me many interesting experiences.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Messiah

Yesterday the church choir sang several selections from Handel's Messiah. I wish I could have been up there with them. Messiah has many wonderful memories for me beginning when I first heard it in church when I was perhaps thirteen. I was squirmy then and found the solos much too long and boring, but when the loud and lively choruses began I managed to take notice. Pretty soon I was singing along in the alto section with my sweet daddy behind me in the bass section. I'm so glad I was influenced by Daddy's infectious enthusiasm for "The Messiah" and that it became a part of my Christmases. In late fall of those long ago years, we started practicing our parts at home, especially the runs in "For Unto Us" which I really didn't fully get until I was in my forties. I doubt that my rhythmically challenged daddy ever got them at all. The real practices were so disciplined that even yesterday I stood totally still until the final orchestral flourish of each chorus. Messiah was something Daddy and I looked forward to doing together wherever we could, and every Christmas I seek someplace to hear it. I am glad I caught a performance during this - his birthday - week. He would have liked that.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

today's pic(k)

This photo of Ashley's shadow was left in the camera from last weekend. I tweaked it a bit and thought it was sort of cute.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

TSO

Here is a half minute from the spectacular show/concert. video

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanks, Uncle Rob

Christmas presents can be hard to choose, but for a few recent years Rob and Susan have given me some really thoughtful and useful gifts with the grandchildren in mind. After Mom and Dad left on Thanksgiving, Ashley and John immediately wanted to play with the hand puppets, a well worn and well loved present from a few Christmases ago. They get behind the big ottoman, the makeshift stage, make up all sorts of cute stories and dialogue and are entertained for hours. Sometimes I am more than the audience and create my own hippo or monkey character, too. Ol' Million face, a block face changing game that was around when I was little, is another favorite. Surprisingly we still have all the pieces. And I used the tin plates this visit, and we looked through the big classic toy book, and I thought how I wanted to tell Rob thank you! Before long his grandson will be big enough to visit and play. Maybe this Christmas I can find some cool stuff for them to enjoy together.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

silly school boys

My car was iced over when I got in it this morning, and I was dressed for winter including gloves to grip the cold steering wheel. As I was leaving my neighborhood I saw a teenage boy waiting for the school bus wearing only jeans and a tee shirt. brrr... I wanted to stop and ask...where is your jacket, young man? He must have left home without the watchful eye of a mother and would surely freeze to death before the bus arrived. Then I wondered what Jacob was wearing to school today. I hoped he was warm. I have yet to understand why boys do this. Maybe they think they are tough, brave or invincible and a coat makes them look wimpy. Or maybe it's just seems too darned much trouble for the short time they must wear it. Eventually they will appreciate the need to dress for cold weather. A few years and some episodes of hypothermia. That'll teach 'em!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day of rest

I took yesterday off - from work and from everything else. Thanksgiving week is happy but busy, and I decided I needed a good break before the Christmas season starts. When I realized I was the only one who would care if my self imposed duties were done or not, I put everything on hold and let myself do some vegging out. I lay in bed until I felt all my muscles relax, listened to Christmas music on my new Bose radio, and drank no stimulating beverages that could interfere with my relaxation. It was a totally lovely day.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Big Church

Yesterday I took the grandchildren to First Pres with me for the eleven o'clock service. I thought they would enjoy the pretty stained glass windows, the big pipe organ and maybe a few other aspects of church. While there I thought of ways a traditional church can benefit children as a part of character development. They learn about following protocol in the order of worship. They learn self discipline as they sit quietly during the sermon and to be respectful of other people. They experience group singing and how to follow stanzas of hymns. Socially, manners can be honed in church as they observe the adults greeting each other and are encouraged to practice polite behaviors themselves. And it feels good to have something to dress nicely for. Sometimes church seems like a lot of work with kids, at least that is how it was for me, but it is worth it in many ways.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving's Grand Finale

I am home from driving the three precious siblings who are my "grands" (as they say) up the mountain to meet their daddy who will carry them the rest of the way to their Tennessee home. My quiet drive back was under a magnificent setting sun that artistically streaked the sky with colors found only from the Master's unlimited collection of paints. It was beautiful, but I find each drive up or down to be beautiful in a different way. The ridges of the foothills may be in muted shades of blues and greens, or deep yellows and oranges in a vibrant fall flurry. The sky may be gray and stark, misty and alive, or a lovely blue background to big fluffy clouds. It is always a wondrous way to celebrate the beginning or end of a happy occasion like spending time with grandchildren. It's wondrous too that they carry a little piece of me with them. Now I shall get some rest!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

On this uniquely American day, the 2nd and 3rd verses of America the Beautiful:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It really takes more than an hour

I am in high gear preparing for the biggest eating day of the year. My dinner is going to be traditional American fare with a big turkey, not like the new Iron Chef's winning courses that were modeled on the Pilgrim's meal that very first Thanksgiving. I have watched that show so much that I should be inspired to get all my creative dishes done in one hour flat, but I don't think that is going to be the case. There is the planning and the shopping, the thawing and the roasting, the peeling and chopping, the mixing and baking, the table setting and the drinks, and my sous chefs won't turn up until close to buzzer time. But however long it takes, it will get done. And if not? I will still have a wonderful time gathering with many of the ones I love.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Sad Way to Live

In one way or another, at work I often help take care of drug addicts. I used to feel bad for them, but over the years I have developed less and less sympathy for them. Not only do they ruin their own lives, but others as well. An addiction is a terrible thing, but these unfortunate people seem to want other people to find a magic cure to transform their lives or else they want to substitute one substance for another. They do not want to endure the pain of getting clean. Often I ask them if they have seen the movie "Ray," especially the great scene in there in which Ray kicked heroin cold turkey. It can be done, I tell them, if they want to do it.

But what do I really know. I have not walked in their shoes. Even though some addictions began from that one hit or pill when they did not say no to what they hoped would be good time or good feeling, or when they desperately desired to be accepted, others have had terrible lives from the start. They want to numb their awful feelings. Or else the drug lifestyle is all they have ever known and they fear life without it. I have not experienced the depths of their pain. I have to remember not to let my mind pass judgment on them.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More than taste

Gluten is one of the new culprits in today's diets. This protein found in many grains has been hard to avoid through most of history. It was in our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and in Mama's biscuits and, except for those rare children who had celiac disease, we innocently grew up on it. As a yeast bread baker, I always preferred to use high gluten flour as it gave bread a better texture. Now however many adults have discovered their bodies do not tolerate it well, and it has become a no-no. Jessica said that in Austin giving your child something with gluten is like the most neglectful thing a mother can do. And today in the church bulletin was notice of a gluten free communion. What's next . . .

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Health Tip

I have finished my shower and am ready to take on the day. I love a shower and getting all nice and clean.

Back in the seventies I learned something that changed the way I shower. I was interested then as now in health and diet and bought a book titled "How to Get well." It had a recipe for a mixture of natural oils for your skin, recommendations to treat various annoying physical problems, and talked about the benefits of teas, herbs, and juice fasting. I tried several things, but the one that I have continued all these years is to finish my shower with cold water, as cold as I can take it, for as long as I can take it. Sometimes I can do cold and sometimes it is just cooler and for just a few seconds. I don't know how beneficial it has been, but so far, so good. I have been a pretty healthy girl.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Today's Crafty Thing

Today I went to a class to make a pair of Christmas earrings. The small work made it challenging to my presbyopic eyes, and I had to wear a pair of strong reading glasses to get the beads on the little wire and do the tiny twisting. But it was fun and worth the cute end product.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Survival Lesson

I learned some valuable life lessons after I became a nurse. Prior to that I had spent my time with people who were like me, people I understood. Then I went to work in a large hospital, a very heterogeneous place. Patients were rarely a problem, but co-workers were. That first year I got my feelings hurt many times. I managed never to cry at work but shed many tears on my drive home. I couldn’t tell you when the light bulb went off in my head. I was taking things personally that were not intended to be. It wasn't about me. “They” had learned a different style of being - of interacting and communicating - from what I had learned and believed to be right. I figured if I was going to succeed at work, I would have to adapt and accept the diverse ways of my co-workers. While I am still me, I changed my way of thinking and challenged myself to understand and get along with everyone. I accepted to the point of being quietly entertained at all the different personalities and backgrounds of the people I have worked with. Sometimes I think I have carried not taking things personally a bit too far, but it has helped me survive and thrive in the workplace.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Baby Brings Change

As we go along through life we have many roles - and names and titles. First I was a daughter, a granddaughter, niece and cousin. Then I became a proud sister. Later a wife and mother, aunt, mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Like the rest of us I have been a student, a friend, an employee, and a neighbor. I have been called by my first name and occasionally pet names like Susie Q, and names that describe my role such as Mom and Grandmommy. Today, November 16, 2010, with the birth of my niece's baby boy, I became a great aunt. Congratulations to my little brother as he steps into the brand new role of Grandfather, and of course I wish happiness always to new mommy Kelly and all the rest of the wonderful family as they adapt to their new roles in this ever changing life.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Keep Praying for America

This week is the last of Charles Stanley’s 140 days of prayer for our country. When I saw that he, the well respected pastor of a huge church, was initiating this I signed up. I was glad to see a church encouraging prayer for our country. I wanted to be a part of this group of many thousands of praying Americans. Prayer is powerful. The Bible encourages us to pray, to praise and say thank you and to make our requests known to God, but we sometimes use it as our last resort. I have lived long enough to see the downward slide, and I don’t like where it could ultimately end. Prayer is America’s best hope.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Redo Done

When the house was on the market, the biggest complaint about it was the kitchen. Though it was OK with me, I took the hint and had it renovated. Now it is updated, not dated, and I think a potential buyer would love it. (Too bad. It is not available.) There is a big learning curve when you do something for the first time, and this first kitchen redo was a learning experience for me. I could do better if I had to do it again. Though I made some decent choices, I also made some goofs. Like ordering too much of the expensive glass tiles that I used for the backsplash and not knowing how fragile those pricey travertine tiles can be. But it is done, complete, fini, and all my stuff has a place. I hope it looks pretty.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Art and Math

Last year I came to the conclusion that the universe is all based on math. It was my close up photography that did it. The more I looked deeply into a God made object like a flower, the more I saw the geometric - or what I decided must be a mathematical - design. And I saw the design often repeated in other natural objects. Without looking at a flower mathematically, we may just conclude that it is beautiful, a work of art. For art to be visually pleasing, it should be mathematically correct, and that correlates with arcs, ratios, intersections, spirals, patterns, sequences. When we listen to music, we hear math at work. We are limited by our language, but today I have been thinking that whether or not we are aware of it, art is math, or at least it's a part of the spectrum of what we call math.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'll Take It

At one time I felt like an artist. It was not because I created any grand works but it was because of the way I viewed the world around me. Art was everywhere, I saw it in color and shape and design and symmetry. I noticed the way light, dark, and shadows played off each other, for example, and I divided people into those who could see the art and those who couldn't. Though I had this emotional connection with art, in reality it never was a very big part of my life. And as the years rolled along, I settled into feeling mostly like a mother and a nurse, and rarely did anything arty, until this summer when I had some of my photos nicely framed. Since some of them were invited to hang in that frame shop under the heading of my name in bold black letters, the shop considers me one of their "artists" now. I am flattered, but I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "I am really a nurse." Tonight there was a reception, and all of us who have designated spots with our names above our artwork got to mingle and share tips with each other as well as visit with guests who came to meet us. One person wanted a picture with me! (Hilarious, I know.) I am going to have to work on feeling like an artist again.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Slow change

Back when I was a new nurse at the tender age of forty, I could get up at 6:15 am and be at work at 6:45, ready to clock in. It took me less than fifteen minutes to get ready, shower and all, and the drive to town consumed the rest of the half hour. Amazing compared to the length of time it takes today. I suppose I moved faster then and had a less challenging paint job for the ol' face. Now, twenty-five years later, I need much more than fifteen minutes before I hit the highway. From doing the hair, to greasing up the dry skin, and often packing a lunch, I can take...well I will just say it takes much longer. Just one of those little changes as we move along life's highway.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

finally . . .

I have not been a committed blogger lately. Today I had too much to opine about and didn't have the time to get around to it. One load off my mind is that I finally decided on the paint color for the kitchen eating area. I hope when I come home from work tomorrow and see all that green on the wall, I won't freak out. Yikes! I wish it had a prettier name than olive. Laura Ashley Olive 3 from Lowe's. Somehow it seemed to be the perfect match for all the other components in the room. As soon as I can, I will post pictures of the finished project.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

a wedding today

Anyone can be a photographer now, including me. It's so much fun to take pictures digitally and see them minutes later on the screen of a computer. Once in a while I accidentally take a picture that I think is actually pretty good, so I put it on my blog or show it to someone. That led to my getting a wedding photographer gig today. After going to an early church service, I arrived about noon at a pretty garden in Greenville's big city park to take pictures of a simple ceremony, a beautiful bride and her groom. It was cold and the sun was shining brightly overhead, not good for great pictures in my opinion but many turned out well. I used my pocket camera for only a few shots. The others I took with the camera that belongs to the mother of the bride. I hope there are a few good ones that they will enjoy forever.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Artists at Work

A pretty cool thing is going on in Greenville this weekend, Open Studios. Over a hundred local artists are letting the public in to see where and how they work. Today I visited four interesting studios. One was in the home of the collage artist I took the class with this summer. I love her whimsical work! One outside studio was so picturesque as it sat in a beautiful garden with two water features and winding brick patios. Another belonged to a young man who did mostly black and white wood block prints. I think how wonderful it would be to have a designated place to play!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Fall Day

We are four days into November in the year 2010. The sky is overcast after the morning rain, and the air is almost cold. Here in Greenville, leaves of many colors are slowly billowing from trees and will soon leave them bare. I have been keeping busy with my interesting work most days but twice this week have stayed at home while the men were here to finish the kitchen. My lack of decisiveness has delayed the job. No rush to return to those old kitchen habits! Today I have been mulling over the paint color for the walls in the eating area. I am thankful to have these skilled workers to do what I cannot. I have tried to do things myself without much success. I have learned that I need to do what I do well, so I can pay somebody else to do what they do well. It is less messy that way. Such is life . . .

Monday, November 1, 2010

Basil

It is always interesting to me to see what is still standing at the end of my gardening season. This year it is basil, and I have discovered its versatility. Not only is it good in a tomato sauce for pasta, but the whole leaves are good on top of pizza. Yesterday I made some ratatouille and added fresh basil when the veggies were done. I've put it in meat loaf and cold pasta salad, and if I cooked more, I would have found more uses for it. I may try to dry some to use for winter.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thoughts on the Election

Official Election Day is Tuesday. Many have already voted early. In 2008 I voted early and had to stand in line then to do so. Not this year. I will stop by my polling place before I go to work.

Much info is out there by way of radio and television to help us make a decision or to validate our decisions. The way I see it is that CNN and the big three networks were biased toward the left, so the entertainment giant Fox saw an opportunity for profit to bias news to the right. That's business. Spending money to be elected is business also. I heard that three billion dollars has been spent on television campaigning alone so far this year. All that money for the approximately 225 million Americans eligible to vote! And probably half that many who will.

We have choices. Some of us align with the Libertarian, Green, Constitution, or The Rent Is Too Damn High party. Some folks don't really care. However most of us agree enough with one the two major parties to accept their thinking as we understand it. So here we are, individuals with different life experiences and education joining in with one of two huge groups. No wonder there are different voices within the parties. As there should be.

One thing I liked from the Restore Sanity rally this weekend was the mention that in spite of what the various news feeds may lead us to believe, we do get along. Television news invites and suggests strong discord among us and pits us against one another (ratings - follow the money), but differing opinions don't have to lead to hostility. In my hospital for example, like any other microcosm of society, there are all different kinds of people. Whatever the political party and whether nurse, housekeeper or physician, we work together peacefully, help each other, and actually like each other.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Creepy Opinion

I am usually glad when Halloween is over. Passing out candy is as far as I go with it. Creepy stuff is creepy. Today I passed a house with an overturned old car in the front yard with what looked like bloody bodies hanging out. That is more than bad taste even for Halloween. How traumatizing for someone who has lost a loved one in a wreck. I don't love to see faces with blood seeping from the corners of the mouth, witches hats, fangs, rotten teeth, tombstones rising eerily out of the ground, cobwebby decorations, grotesque expressions, or hairy werewolf faces. Even though there are some fun parts like changing a plain pumpkin into a jack o'lantern or dressing in cute costumes and pretending, the annual October creep show isn't all that funny to me.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Newt yesterday

When I heard yesterday that Newt Gingrich was in town and was to speak at 7 pm, I decided to go hear him. I think he has an intelligent, common sense take on what's happening politically in America. I got there early and took a seat - all by myself - and pretty soon it was full of people of all ages. Newt has been to - I think - eleven states talking primarily about people's need to work. Jobs. I suppose he talked twenty or thirty minutes. He also touched on things he learned during the filming of some documentaries, what the authors of the Declaration of Independence meant when they wrote "they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights" and how government is to protect those rights, how America's political system differed from any other. I liked what he had to say and was so glad to be able to hear him.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Today's Interesting Story

It was about five forty-five in the evening one day last week on my way home from work. Traffic was heavy, and I had just inched onto the short overpass that from my direction leads downtown. As my speed picked up, I caught a glimpse of a young woman sitting on the raised area on the side of the bridge, very close to the hundreds of passing cars who probably would not see her. I quickly passed by, but my split second spotting was enough to see blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, a gray jacket on a soon to be chilly night, and an empty expression on a pretty face. I tend to watch for people’s safety – it’s my job – and I figured I must do something. Who knows what is in someone else’s mind. I called 911. What did she look like? What was she wearing? My mind snapped a decent picture.

The next morning I told my co-workers about it, and we wondered if she would show up where we work. Since she didn't on that day, it slipped my mind. We hear many sad stories. But today there was a patient in the ER with a story that reminded me of the girl on the bridge. I wanted to find out, went to interview her, and soon I determined she was the one. I spent some time talking with her as she squirmed, sat, and lay on the gurney, and after enough conversation, I told her I had seen her sitting on the bridge last week and that I called for help. Her face brightened and she replied, “Thank you. I was so scared.” The cops picked her up that night and took her to the ER. Several hours later, after finding someone to take her home and feeling that she was OK, they discharged her. I understand. An Emergency Room cannot keep everyone who comes in. Needy and desperate once again, she found her way back this week. With her nutty family and her own mental illness, unfortunately she does not have many options. The ER is not just for medical crises. I was really glad to learn the outcome of my call that evening. Now it is our turn to try to help her.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall Leaves

The entrance to my hospital was so pretty this drizzly morning.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dancing

Another Monday night of watching Dancing with the Stars. When I was working at night, I rarely got to see a television show regularly, and now I can. What fun! Dancing is entertaining and happy - usually. It was always a special part of my small family when I was growing up. My mother loved pop music and was always dancing around the house. In our living room, she taught me the samba and the chacha and how to be led by a male partner. Daddy often joined us. I went to ballroom classes where I learned the fox trot, the waltz and even the Charleston. I was no better than average, but my lack of greatness did not prevent me from enjoying it. (I eventually figured out that my brain does not configure instructions very well.) The shag became the dance of my generation and from eighth grade on we had school dances that included sock hops. In college, weekend fraternity parties often had bands playing either as the main event or in a corner somewhere, and I loved them as I was a dancer, not a drinker. Dancing is such good exercise and I am sure it must release a lot of those good feeling endorphins, even when we watch others in motion on the small screen.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Vote for Reading!

The election that will determine about a third of the Senate seats, many governors, and an assortment of other positions across our land is only ten days away. It's a crazy time! This year was a first for me as I contributed to the campaign of the Republican who is running for the State Superintendent of Education. It is something I believe in. South Carolina hovers embarrassingly around the bottom in most things educational. While there are some good schools, fine teachers, and committed students, there must be something amiss. Our people are as capable as any, but I believe there is not enough focus on teaching all about language and reading. (I was appalled at the local adult nursing students I have taught who were poor readers and writers.) It is the most basic educational need in my opinion. If people can read well, they are more likely to succeed in other areas. Let's go for emphasizing that most basic skill. I hope SC does it right and makes a change for better education on election day.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sharing Stories

I must say a few words about my Aunt Margaret, too. At eighty-four and a half, she is remarkable. (Do you notice that as we get older, those half years start counting like they did when we were children?) Her quick mind could put any forty year old to shame, and she still seems to love life. Using the computer, Margaret has written a historical and humorous synopsis of her life and has turned it into neat books for her children and grandchildren. I received a copy, too. It's really a good thing for us to tell our stories - good for us as we review our lives and informative to those who come along after us. Everybody has a story to tell. It seems that my family seems to be blessed with the need or desire to share ours. hmmm . . . I think I will introduce blogging to her next time I am there.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Living Long and Well

If I had asked my ninety-five year old Uncle Marty the secret of his longevity, I doubt he would have identified anything special. He hasn't necessarily tried to live this long. It's just that he has naturally done many right things. Among my observations of him are that he has been a person of moderation, even temperament, and common sense. He is interested in others and directs conversations toward them/us and not toward himself. He is slim and straight, and as to his diet, he eats regular, balanced meals and has stayed away from those loathsome dairy products. In the evening, he enjoys a beer or a glass of red wine. Over sixty-five years ago, he married his one true love, and through the years, they have been lovingly committed to each other. He has also kept good relationships with his children and grandchildren, friends, and extended family. I see Marty smiling most of the time as if he has a deep yet light-hearted understanding of whatever is going on. He does not appear to live with much regret, because I think he has probably tried to live each day the best he could. At dinner this weekend he offered the dinner blessing in a strong voice, and I believed it was not just a rote habit but from the heart. I think it is pretty cool to have this great guy in my family.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Blue Sky over Wrightsville

At the beach this morning the wind was still and the air warm; the water was glistening and the sky a brilliant blue. Women were sunning in their bathing suits, and plenty of people were walking, shelling, fishing, and socializing. It was glorious. Here is my pic of the day, birds on power lines where I parked the car.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

...then the afternoon

Last August we ate at a great little French restaurant here in Wilmington, and though my flounder was fine, I wished I had gotten the beautiful salad that I saw being served at other tables. Since I have been lusting for one since that evening, I put it on my must do list for this short visit. I was glad I did not weaken and go for the triggerfish special, as the salad was even more delicious that I imagined. It worked like this: On the tables in the restaurant is a small metal cylinder with a pencil and pieces of paper on which is a list of potential ingredients for a salad. The diner makes checks next to ten of the items, and the waiter takes it to the kitchen. Then...voila! Dinner is served. Topped on my baby spinach and mixed greens, three of my other ingredients were the creamiest Roquefort cheese, haricots vert, and pears poached in red wine with a lemon vinaigrette dressing. Yummm... Then on to downtown to walk along the waterfront. It was bright and clear this fall day, and memories from childhood floated about my head . . . the drugstore where we would stop for a nickel Coke, the old tugboat faithfully docked, and the market where my Papa took me on some Saturdays. A coupla pix of the afternoon.

An October Morning at the Beach

Wrightsville Beach was beautiful this morning. The cloudless sky was of a pure blue hue and the sun was brilliant. Migrating monarch butterflies were flitting around the sea oats, and the sea predictably ebbed and flowed. At the south end fishermen were trying their luck off the pier or surf, and I drank in my only day at the beach this year. I do love it in October. Here is my paparazzi snapshot of the morning. Now off to enjoy the rest of the day.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Little Lesson from the Garden

Sometimes those things that appear weak and delicate are actually strong and tough. These sheer blooms survived beautifully during the rains.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Trapped

If I had been home today, I would have been glued to the miner rescue on television. Now that's amazing! I can't imagine what it would have been like to have been trapped so far underground in so small a space for so long a time. Today - however - I did get accidentally locked in a small room in the ER with a psychiatric patient, and for a few seconds I was panicky. Though I wanted to beat on the small window and yell get me out of here, I nicely tapped...three times with increasing anxiety. I was rescued by a nurse friend. My hero - on a small scale. On a huge scale, there are many heroes in this thrilling, miraculous rescue of thirty-three Chilean miners. I look forward to learning more about the heroes, the brave miners, and the country of Chile as the stories are told.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Junk Mail

Another Monday evening. Another night to push the trash can to the road. How is it that two adults can create so much trash in spite of recycling as much as I can. No wonder our landfills are overflowing. One mess maker is mail, all that unsolicited stuff that arrives in the mail box daily. Much of it is intended to make me part with my money through lust, greed or guilt. Those glossy ads are easy enough to place with the recyclable papers or in the trash, but there are also sensitive papers with my name and numbers that I need to take time to shred. And what's with the bar codes on everything? In case they also include info about me such as a credit card number that I would prefer to keep private, I take time to rip that part of the paper up. And since I have started retirement income, I receive papers that say I will be getting a dollar more or less on my next deposit, as well as invitations for retirement planning and ads for burial plots. Today we got a reprieve from the mail since it is the Columbus Day holiday, but tomorrow I imagine the mailbox will once again be full with unneeded, messy paper stuff.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10-10-10

Once in a while a date with consecutive or repeating numbers rolls around, and today is one of those numerically cool days. All tens, if we shorten the year. Ten is a "big" number. We rate from one to ten, ten being the best. We have the Ten Commandments as well as less important lists of ten. The metric system is based on the number ten. We have the Powers of Ten. Here is the little movie if you haven't seen it. We remember history in decades. I don't know if there is something special about this day with three tens, unless of course, it is someones birthday, but it is a novelty date for sure.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Today while the blossoms....

On the way home from Kelly's baby shower today, I had a "God wink." It came in the form of the unexpected playing of a very special song that touched a memory from when I was at the same place in my life as she is now. It was 1964 and the awful morning sickness stage of my first pregnancy was consuming me. One of the popular songs of the time was the beautiful Today sung by The New Christy Minstrels. The words and the lullaby tempo seemed to express the joy and gratitude I was feeling, in spite of the constant sickness, and I claimed it as "our song," mine and the beloved little person growing inside of me. It was still being played on the radio after Trip was born, and each time I heard it, I would hold him close and sing along to him. On this day it was being played seemingly out of the blue! Kelly's baby boy will be here in about a month. I'll bet she has a special song for him.

Some of the lyrics as I remember them. Still pertinent.

I can't be contented with yesterday's glory.
I can't live on promises winter to spring.
Today is my moment and now is my story,
I'll laugh and I'll cry and I'll sing.

Today while the blossom still clings to the vine,
I'll taste your strawberries, I'll drink your sweet wine.
A million tomorrows shall all pass away,
Ere I forget all the joys that are mine today.


What lovely poetry.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

People Business

Being back at work has been a very good thing. I had reached a point in my "sabbatical" that felt like the end of the line, and I didn't like it. So I was quite pleased to go back, and even better, to a role I always enjoyed. I used to help patients once they came to the hospital, now I help them get into the hospital. I like seeing the change in a patient from, for example, helpless and sad to hopeful and cheerful. Most people really do improve dramatically.

Any person who comes to a hospital for a stay or a procedure must sign several papers. One of ours, and it must be the same in any psych facility, may be considered a disclaimer. It says something like, and I paraphrase, this is an inexact science but we will do the best we can. In fact, this is true. Even the most knowledgeable practitioner does not know it all. A career in a people field, is not like the pure science of math. It is on the other end of the science spectrum.
We work with often unpredictable variables. Just as we all are different on the outside, making us recognizable to each other, we are different on the inside. We can predict outcomes, but we do not know. People are endlessly interesting.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Excellent Pineapple

I tend not to buy pineapples because they are so messy, but they are worth the trouble. The one I cut up this morning is delicious, but it's not just the taste that makes it worthwhile. Like all fruits, they have a lot of health benefits. But pineapples especially are a good source of manganese, which is important for bones, and they also have bromelain, which helps to fight inflammatory diseases and helps with digestion. They have Vitamins C, B1, B6, and copper all of which our bodies need for multiple reasons. And that messy tough outer skin that protects the inner goodness? It enriches the compost.

Monday, October 4, 2010

She determined her course early

People who have a dream and then make it happen are fascinating to me. Jessica was starting eighth grade in a new state, with a new family, and in a new school, and a more well behaved classmate,Traci, admired Jessica's seemingly rebellious nature. They quickly became good friends. Traci was a happy girl but sort of disadvantaged, and we were always the drivers when the two went somewhere. At age thirteen or fourteen, I remember the serious tone her voice changed to when she stated, "I'm going to be a doctor." I probably said something like "how nice" while thinking "how will that happen." I didn't see her as particularly studious, and I knew that even if she were an excellent student, the education would be grueling and expensive. Both girls moved away from Lexington and lost touch with each other, but through facebook they have now reconnected and talked. Traci did become a doctor, an internist to be exact. She also married a doctor. She did not have the traditional advantages, only a goal, a vision of what she wanted, and obviously enough determination to make it happen. How do people do that!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Lovely Little Art Show

When it became obvious the house was not going to sell, I decided to get involved in the life of Greenville. After all it really is a great place to live. Yesterday afternoon I attended a neat thing. Four local women artists had a show in the backyard garden of one of their homes. Easels holding paintings - oils, watercolors, sumi-E - were set up along a curving, brick lined walk, and guests were admiring and buying, too. The weather looked precipitous, and I thought at any moment the nice art was going to be gathered up and taken in, but the rain stayed away, and it was all fun.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nothing like a good night's sleep

In an in between season such as now, when there is no distracting off and on hum from either heating or air conditioning, sleeping - for me - is so much better. Then when the cool of the morning comes and I am covered by the right weight of blankets, I just want to peacefully stay in bed. Sleeping well is one of those essentials for a healthy life. This week I talked with a patient whose main problem was, "I ain't sleeping." In fact a study (polysomnography) showed that he had true insomnia, and it was causing him all sorts of problems. Aging changes the way we sleep. Teenagers sleep hard and long, but apparently the body-brain-sleep connection changes through the years. When I worked night shift on a geriatric unit, the old folks would get up and down during the night several times, and by the time they woke up at the crack of dawn, to my surprise they would say how well they slept. As for me, even though it has been many years since my teenaged brain determined my sleep, I really look forward to bedtime in the early fall.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Yet another . . .

grasshopper!
They are such cool creatures. This one is eating a tiny purple flower from a coleus. I watched it put its front legs around the flower and munch. By the way, he was perpendicular on the stem so I changed the orientation of the pic for a better look.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Using the Apples

Following a crock pot recipe, I have made a batch of apple butter, my first, and it is really quite good. I also cooked some applesauce and used it (to replace most of the oil) in two loaves of apple bread along with fresh grated apples. Some thick slices are going in the freezer to be enjoyed later with the morning coffee. And I baked a small apple pie. Now I have only these apples left in the half bushel bag. Store bought apples can stay good for a long time, but freshly picked apples need to be used right away. I suppose I should have shared, but it was rainy, and my kitchen partially works, so just baked away. I wonder what Stuart and Paige are doing with their half.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Innersprings Church

Not every Sunday finds me in a real church pew. Sometimes it is - as I have heard it called - the Church of the Innersprings that I attend. This was one of those stay at home mornings. Church starts with Charles Stanley who is a wonderful teacher of the Bible. When he finishes, I switch to the channel that carries the church I attended in Spartanburg for seven years. I enjoy the good music and look for familiar faces in the choir, and then I settle in for the message from the Australian pastor. Sometimes I feel a little lazy doing church this way, especially when I remember from somewhere in my distant past, one reason to go to church is to show which side you are on. But there are many who are not physically able to get out and go to church, and these televised services mean Sunday church to them. Just as it does to me when I am lazy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Apple Farm Field Trip

On this hot and sunny afternoon, I met Stuart and children up the road at Nivens Apple Farm. It was bustling with activity, people walking through the sorghum maze, picknickers under shady areas, and boys and girls bouncing on big inner tubes. The open air market was offering samples of apple cider, and big boxes held interesting vegetables or pumpkins that went from enormous down to tiny. We walked through the orchard and picked Fuji and pink lady apples, a full bushel to be exact, and Jacob bit into a few to give his opinion on which were the best. Stuart lifted John on his shoulders so he could pick some up high. It was all fun, but now I am going to have to figure out what to do with all those apples!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Friendly Arms for Climbing

In my front yard is an ordinary dogwood tree, but it seems to be popular with my grandchildren. Once Ashley showed me some of the stories she had written for school, and among them was one titled "My Favorite Tree." I was surprised that it happened to be Grandmommy's dogwood. Ruby and Wyatt like it, too, and when they came yesterday, they were soon climbing in the slender but strong, wide spreading limbs. This morning they were back in it so of course I took some pictures.

Monday, September 20, 2010

As the World Turns

Last week CBS killed off one of its stalwarts, the old soap opera As the World Turns. I was one who watched it, but it was long ago. I was there in the sixties when Lisa was a bad girl and when she married Bob and then John and then the next guy. I watched the babies go from birth to troubled teens in mysteriously few years. Soaps were addictive. They were planned to be. The end of one show would have us viewers anxiously awaiting the next day's episode. Then that show would just add to its complex and distorted human stories so we would have to hang on til the following day, and on and on and on it went. At some point in the early seventies, I got a grip and realized the soaps were playing too large a role in my life and stopped cold turkey, but while I watched, I was into them. I suppose I started with the CBS soaps because of my grandmother. The midday ones of Guiding Light and Search for Tomorrow were never missed, but when The Edge of Night started, that became her favorite, and mine, too of course. When I visited we couldn't wait until 4 o'clock when the drama came on. It did not have the longevity that ATWT did and its demise came early. Several years after I gave up soaps, I became a nurse, and then I heard stories that would make any fictional story pale in comparison. And I remember a co-worker from the eighties who would mutter under her breath "...as the world turns" when we were in the middle of a lot of craziness. I suppose it is a decent phrase that implies the consternation and acceptance of life on earth.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Next year...

...I will have a butterfly bush of my own. Lots of these tiger swallowtail butterflies have flitted through my yard, but apparently I don't have anything that makes them want to stay. However my neighbor does - a huge butterfly bush filled with purple flowers. I stole a picture. No macro lens needed for these giant beauties.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Kitchen Progress

It's been over three weeks since the kitchen renovation began, and even though not having a kitchen has its benefits, it will get finished. Two of the three biggies have been done. The new white cabinets are hung and filled back up, and the beautiful floor is down and sealed. I just love the feel of it under my bare feet. Today I went to choose the countertop. I followed the advice of many and decided on granite. Here are some of the slabs at the place. Mother Nature does some gorgeous work, but you have to see it up close. I chose a black.I will have to wait til it gets in to see what to do next, which will probably be selecting the backsplash. I'm sure that some people can plan ahead better than I, but doing it a step at a time seems to be the way my brain works. One of these days I will be slaving away in a pretty new kitchen, my nice no-cooking days behind me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

lunch and such

Like the kids tops that read "My grandma went to Florida and all she brought me was this T shirt," all I have to show for my busy few days is this picture of some veggie pad Thai noodles. However I do love them, and this dish at an Asheville restaurant was delicious. It's been fun to have company. I enjoyed the liveliness around the house. And I admit that not having a fully functioning kitchen has made it easier on me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One activity on a busy day

Raymond's sister and brother-in-law from Massachusetts are here now. I always enjoy being with them. Today we went to the BMW plant, one of the cool things to do in the Greenville area. We took the three o'clock tour around the facility today and saw the X3, X5, and X6s being assembled start to finish. Very interesting.....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Verse


How many are your works O Lord. In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Psalm 104:24

Saturday, September 11, 2010

remembering

On this day nine years ago, we were leaving Orlando and heard from Sally on the phone about the first attack. We tuned into the radio and kept up with the news for the long drive back. The words I kept repeating were, "This is the worst thing that has happened to America in my lifetime." I wondered if we would make it home and if there would be other attacks. Raymond, the soldier, knew instinctively what was going on. At each place we stopped, numbed people were gathered around small televisions watching the news over and over in disbelief. We knew someone terribly hated us. That is part of my memory of the day. We all remember and have a story to tell about it. But what have we - the 200 million of us who can vote - learned? On that day in 2001 and for weeks afterward, we were comforted by the strength and leadership of our American president and the American mayor. We were united for a while against a common enemy. We know the enemy is still out there, but now I wonder...are we on the verge of handing them the keys to the city?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Don't postpone the inevitable

Going back to work after of a long four months of retirement has been good...and different. There are no more long hours of standing or maintaining safety on a unit. Now it is more about seeing that the people who need the help we offer get it. There are a lot of tragic stories out there, and I feel bad for the people who have lived the stories, but it is not depressing to me. I just try to see what I can do to help them in the moment, and then I try to get them to what will help them in the longer run. Sometimes, today for example, I will see a person who has kept her grief or anger within her for many years. I guess people mistakenly think it is good to "be strong" or not to bother others with their problems, but for the most part, it ends up like a handicap. The healthier way is to take the time and pass through the deep emotional waters as soon as possible. Life works better that way.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Life around a Hospital

It is no wonder so many television dramas (and a few comedies) have been centered around hospitals. They are full of interesting stories. On this sunny day as I walked out through the dining room and lobby of the main hospital and up the sidewalk that goes to my smaller building, I passed worried faces, intense looking physicians in white coats, a patient in a hospital gown pushing his IV pole, an old tan sedan dropping off a tired visitor, and employees with purposeful quick steps greeting one another. And I thought of all that takes place on a medical center campus. Life begins and ends here. There is healing and helping. It is filled with strong emotions such as grief, frustration, anger, relief, gratitude, helplessness and happiness.

It is no wonder that family members of the patients settle in well. The grounds are nicely maintained with mature shade trees. Common areas inside are clean, organized and well decorated, a respite from the dwellings of the poorer patients. Peaceful art hangs on the walls, and in our hospital lobby quiet yet familiar tunes come from a player piano, a grand piano no less. Around the clock prepared food is easily available for anyone who is willing to pay the small fee.

It is no wonder that someone, especially a people person, would like to work in a hospital. It is stimulating and challenging giving us an opportunity to flex our mental muscles and sometimes the physical ones, too. It is an opportunity to be part of teams that lend themselves to supportive friendships. Employees from various socio-cultural and educational levels work at their own distinct jobs to make it all happen. (No wonder medical care is expensive.) And to top it off, we get paid to be a part of the drama.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Like Raising Children

I have just come in from planting two perennials - a penstamon and a hyssop - that bees were enjoying at Lowe's. There is never a time when I dig in the dirt that I fail to think of how plants are so much like people. This time I was reminded of rearing children, how we must provide the kind of home in which their roots can develop and in which they can grow strong. The gardener must have some knowledge as to what the plants need. Then we prepare the soil - the environment - by digging deep and loosening the soil that will go around them. We must water the new plant frequently at first, but then we start to watch over the plant and see when watering is needed. We don't over water (over nurture) because if we do they become soft and their roots will not learn to go deep and they will rot, and if we water too little (under nurture) the plant will soon perish. When they get bigger, we may have to prune them or correct the way they are going. And if we take care of them well, they reward us by their nice blooms or fruit. My two new plants probably weren't planted in the best season, but if I watch over them, water as needed, keep the weeds away, and cover them with some mulch (a warm blanket or prayers), they may be healthy plants next summer and attract some pretty bees and butterflies to my yard.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Verse

God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars.

Martin Luther


Saturday, September 4, 2010

The End

Finally I have come to the end of Pillars of the Earth. It was not so spellbinding that I had to hurry through, so I took my time, reading every word of the almost thousand page saga. There were a lot of important characters, both good and evil, and toward the end every person's story was resolved and complete so the reader wasn’t left hanging. I appreciated that. It took place during a lawless time in twelfth century England and was no doubt impeccably researched by Mr. Follett and company. I made it a learning experience and frequently used Wikipedia to look up unfamiliar words such as plinth, Whitsun, and oriel. I saw how English names such as Mason, Merchant, Mercer, Baker, Butler and Tanner originated from trades and Jackson from Jack’s son. I read about life in monasteries, the influence of the church, and the vision and passion of a few men who were dedicated to designing and building a beautiful cathedral, no matter how long it would take. At the end I learned about Thomas Becket’s awful death. Now this historical novel, paperback edition, is ready to be passed on to another reader. Peter, that's you.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tiny butterfly

Its tail was all aflutter, but that's about all I could tell until the macro lens revealed its cuteness. I think it is a red banded hairstreak.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Healing Thing

About once a year I go for a massage. Today was that day, and I spent an hour and a half on Fritz's massage table while he rubbed and pushed and pressed and just about killed me at times, but I knew it was for my own good. I am not an expert but I don't believe there could be a better massage therapist anywhere in the world. He is so knowlegeable about the human body and loves what he does, and I feel fortunate that I can be one of his clients. The positive results stay with me for months. Today I left feeling looser and lighter, and I promised myself to go more often. Now I am relaxed, maybe a little too much. He said that this evening he and some other massage therapists are going to Clemson to work on the football players. I hope for a win this weekend.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Welcome, Bee.

I am always glad to see bees, the great pollinators, in my yard. Without them, many plant species could perish including those we eat.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cute Little Bugs

A colorful skipper and a shy mantis were out early this morning.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Venus Fly Trap

These are a couple of the leaves from an interesting little carnivorous plant that Rob and Susan brought to me this week. So far it hasn't caught a fly, but I think it could be useful during the kitchen renovation as the workers go in and out. Venus Fly Traps are indigenous to the small area that halfmoons around Wilmington's boggy, sandy soil, and when I was younger I saw them in an unpopulated area that over the past fifty years has become a hubbub of business and college life. It would be hard to find one there now, but apparently botanists have taken an interest and cultivated them so people can see what they are like.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Good Business

This past week I have made some big purchases that may not have been made if it weren't for some knowledgeable and helpful sales people. I had been looking for cars for a while and finally decided on a Volvo V50 or V70. One of those was sure to be the one. A couple of weeks ago when I went to the dealership, most of the salesmen were busy, and I was handed off to a young man who did not communicate well with me. I told him I wanted him to tell me about the Volvo and why I should buy one, and he was unable to do that. I was disappointed and postponed my decision. On Tuesday when I went to the VW/Audi dealership, I was impressed right off the bat with the place, and the salesman was exactly the one I needed. He was knowledgeable and enthusiastic, fully answered my questions, and provided all kinds of helpful additional information. As it turned out, it was a Passat wagon I was wanting all along! Yesterday when I went looking for flooring at the last minute, a nice salesgirl named Amy patiently educated me about tile, especially the travertine that I knew nothing about except that it was lovely. This evening Amy showed up on our doorstop with the two bags of grout that were left off the tile delivery earlier in the day. What customer service! For me, both were sizable purchases, and they made me think about what is important to a customer. I don't always go into a store intending to buy something, but just being there should indicate to whoever is working that the customer has gone to the trouble of coming in and a sale is possible. Like we nurses do with our patients by establishing some sort of connection or rapport - eye contact and a supportive voice for instance - salespeople should do the same. Being available and informative, neither pushy nor indifferent, can make for good business.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First day of the kitchen renovation

There is an empty room in my house where the kitchen used to be. It seems very strange. Having a counter to make sandwiches on and a sink nearby to wash the knife are part of the basic things we take for granted. The guys started the work today. They banged and ripped, and it didn't take long before everything was off the walls. At the end of the day they hauled the old cabinets to a landfill somewhere. They moved the dishwasher, stove, sink, and countertops to the garage, and now the most used room of the house stands empty except for a few tools that await the carpenter's hands tomorrow.

The kitchen is small - I am now thinking that is a good thing - but the job is going to be bigger than I planned. I am not going to be able to get away with a simple change of cabinets. Ohh no... It is going to need to be a total redo. In its bareness, one thing I realized is that I cannot have pretty new cabinets without a pretty new floor to put them on. This evening I went out looking at possibilities and chose some beautiful eighteen inch travertine tiles. I wanted to keep running my hands across the sample and admire all of its ancient beauty marks. What a shame to have it underfoot. It will be delivered tomorrow, and I think they will be able to start to lay it in the afternoon. Because of that darned economy, these guys do not mind how much I tack on to the job. And I think I am quite lucky that I have such skilled available workers who can do anything around the house.

It will take a few weeks before the job is complete, but I don't mind. In many ways, it is nice not to have a kitchen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Old Tradition, New Car

My daddy brought home a curious looking little rounded gray car back about 1959. It was the first Volkswagen most of us had seen back then and it was quite a conversation starter. A subsequent yellow beetle convertible was what I learned to drive in, and I loved it. As an adult I had one beetle and a white squareback then sadly...no more. Today I made a big decision and bought another Volkswagen, this time a Passat, a roomier one with a smoother ride. I think I will love it, too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

Sixty-six years ago World War II was still raging across the sea. America was united in facing its enemy, and though the tide was turning in our favor, the times were unsure. My mother had been sure of one thing however, that she loved her soldier husband and wanted a baby, whatever the future held. That summer my daddy was on a ship somewhere in the Mediterranean, and during her sixth month, my twenty-two year old mother went back to her spacious childhood home on the corner of Fifth and Chestnut Streets in Wilmington to await my birth. I can picture happy Mama and Papa on the big front porch, young Margaret and Marty, and Mother's many childhood friends stopping to visit. She was loved, and so was I as I entered the world that Wednesday afternoon. Of the generation that welcomed me and taught me that life is good, only my aunt and uncle remain. Now I have other, newer family members to love and to love me. But the world has become a different place. America is engaged in political battles on other soils, we the people are fragmented, not united in a common goal, and the future is again unsure. Life is faster and people are more self absorbed. But one thing I know for sure is that I have carried the love and security of the summer of forty-four with me all my years.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday quote

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

Oscar Wilde

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Reading and Writing

This afternoon I went back to help with the huge book sale fundraiser. After checking in I was assigned a post in Biography. I was to keep the tables as neat as possible and answer questions that the shoppers may ask. My knowledge was small, but I did please one young woman who asked if we had anything on Abigail Adams. I had to tell her that I hadn't seen anything, but my recommendation of Those Who Love, one of my all time faves, seemed to be a hit. However my most common reply to a question was, "I'm sorry but I don't know where the restroom is."

By the time I arrived at the Biography tables many people had already come through the old mall for this yearly event. But there was still plenty of enthusiasm among the polite crowd. Book lovers were milling around, carrying stacks or bags of books. Some stopped to read and got engrossed. I got familiar with all the titles in my section as I walked around and straightened the volumes. I saw that books that were hot hits when they came out were hoping to be being sold for a dollar. Kennedy titles languished, and Joined by the Heart by Al and Tipper Gore got a lot of quiet laughs. One thing was for sure in the non-fiction section. There are a whole lot of people want to voice their opinions via the written word.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Fun Volunteer Job

I made it back up the road from Columbia through several cloudbursts that alternated with bright majestic skies to arrive on time at the Greenville mall where the huge book sale was getting set up. Back in June when I realized that I didn't have enough to do, I asked if I could please help with it and was kindly given two slots, today and then on Saturday when the sale will actually be going on. After I signed in I got my instructions, to unpack books in the philosophy section and place them on tables. Philosophy, nature, astronomy, cats...all the subjects seemed to run together as the two other women and I unpacked and swapped and perused the many interesting subjects that ranged from chipmunks to Stephen Hawkings Theory of Everything to hundreds of James Herriot book's to the softcover By Nature's Design, which I bought early for a dollar. On Saturday morning the place will as busy as WalMart on Black Friday. People will be coming with carts and back packs to get their literary treasures. At least that how it was last time I volunteered there.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Family is good

It has been another nice day with Caroline. Spending time with my grandmother was always a special thing for me, and I hope it is for my grandchildren, too. I think that it is comforting/validating to know that there are people outside of your own four walls, your nuclear family, who love you and value time spent together. It holds true on both ends. I appreciate Caroline's parents for letting us have these few days. Morning and early afternoon were rainy, but about three this afternoon we left for a little shopping and an early dinner at one of my favorite places, Mimi's Cafe. I thought she would like it and by her smiles, I know she did. We even ordered key lime cheesecake bars to split for dessert. Tomorrow she will be leaving and on Thursday will start back to school. Thanks Sally and Peter for sharing your sweet daughter!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dear Mom and Dad,

It's not so bad being at Grandmommy's house. Today we stayed in and did some things like play games. Grandmommy got bored playing Cadoo and then I got bored playing Scrabble. We went outside to find bugs to take pictures of but there were so many mosquitoes we had to come back in. Then we made some delicious pepperoni pizza. Grandmommy let me make my own and then I got to eat it in front of the television so I could watch iCarly. See you on Wednesday.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A good afternoon

This afternoon Caroline drew cartoons and did painting/collaging.
Then after getting some peaches we went downtown to the Children's Museum, and I think we both had a good time. It has been open only a year and is wonderful, all hands on experiences. One of the exhibits is like a cultural exchange with a city in Japan. It shows five Japanese children and what their school is like and what the rooms in their homes are like. The kimonos were hanging in a model bedroom for the visitors to try on. The other picture is of Caroline being silly in a bubble that water is pouring over.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Time with Caroline

I am so happy to have my nine year old granddaughter Caroline here. Tonight we drove through the rain to Red Robin, one of our favorite places. Since I found out how many calories there are in one of their delicious fancy burgers, we did without all the extras and got the healthier "natural burger." Here is Caroline enjoying her freckled lemonade.