Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Snowstorm of 1967

Parents are always telling you about the "bad weather" back there on the farm when they were children. "I had to walk a mile to school in four foot of snow, every day, uphill both ways." We have all heard it. Now it's my turn.

In Gary, Indiana it can get really cold. I had to stand on the corner and wait for the bus in temperatures that were 24 degrees below zero, before the advent of wind chill indicators; and we had to wear skirts or dresses to school. There it is, my "how bad I had it with the weather as a child" story.

Except it brings to mind the year I was in 9th grade. In January of 1967 we were having some really unusual weather for northern Indiana. It had been unseasonably warm with temperatures in the upper 60's and 70's on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of that week. In fact when a strong front headed for the area we had severe thunderstorm warnings and even tornado watches with lightening and rain. The air behind the front was extremely cold and the area of low pressure was huge. The temperature dropped into the upper 20's and low 30's by Tuesday night and the rain turned to snow.

It was snowing when I took the bus to school on Wednesday, a wet snow with huge fluffy flakes and very heavy, "blizzard-like conditions". By noon eight inches or so had accumulated so they closed schools and took everyone home. My mother taught school in an area across town from the parsonage. By the time she got home mid-afternoon, there was over 12 inches on the ground, it was still snowing and she couldn't see the driveway. She just aimed her little car at the garage door and hoped for the best. It stuck in a drift that was already forming and there it stayed. At least it was off the road.

It continued to snow all day Wednesday, Wednesday night, all day Thursday, Thursday night and all day Friday. It finally quit sometime in the early hours of Saturday morning. They never were sure exactly how much snow fell as the gauges measured to 36 inches and they ran over. All I knew was that WE WERE OUT OF SCHOOL! Now it isn't that I didn't like school, I did. But in Gary, Indiana we hardly ever got out of school for snow. It just didn't happen. They have snow plows and salt and sand and they just know how to handle it. It isn't like Mississippi where they had a THREAT of snow and closed schools at noon; right before the sun came out that afternoon.

There are several problems with that kind of blizzard. First, you didn't expect the snow to be that bad so you didn't get to the store to get bread, milk and eggs before it became too bad to get to the store. So what you have in the freezer and fridge have to last.

Second, the snow was over 36 inches deep, the front stoop of the house was the highest elevation but not that high and all the doors of the house opened outward except the basement door. So, the doors were stuck. Shoveling didn't help because the wind was also blowing and as fast as you dug to the bottom in one area, another area would drift over. We had drifts as high as the roof line of the house. The garage door was drifted to the roof line and wouldn't budge.

Third, our dog Pepper, was outside in her warm, heated, insulated, two room doghouse. This is fine except we can't see the doghouse; it is buried under a snow drift that covered her house and the kitchen window. So, I had to go out through the only door that opened inward, climb the basement stairs and start digging in the general area of the dog house. I finally hit the roof and worked my way to the front. We were afraid she would suffocate in the house and she had not dug out on her own during the actual snowstorm. But when I got down to the front door, there she was, tail wagging, toasty and dry in her condo. We let her stay in the garage for a while until I got her area cleared a bit. Unfortunately, overnight the drifts again formed over the fence and she just trotted up the drift, over the fence and out of the yard. The next morning when we went looking for her and called her we saw this little black speck coming over the white snow. She had gone into the woods behind the house and came home dragging a prize; I think it was a shoe. She loved shoes. So until the meltdown, she had to stay inside. It was either dig her out from under a drift or have her get out over a drift. It was just easier to keep her inside.

The fourth problem is boredom. After two or three days it was just plain boring to be stuck, rationing food (not that bad as we did have a freezer), in a house with a 4 year old brother and parents. We were out of school of course the rest of the week it was snowing and four days the next week. You can only read so much. FM radio was just starting to be popular and AM was as static filled as it is today.

On Friday, a week after the storm stopped, the roads were deemed clear enough for school to open. I don't know why they bothered. Over half of the kids were absent as many of the more remote roads were still under drifts or worse the parents had cars covered with the snow plowed off the streets. But we had school that Friday. That weekend it snowed 12 more inches so we missed Monday but somehow, by Tuesday they finally had everything back together.

Mom had to drive the big car back to her school because her little one was still buried. When the snow finally melted and we saw where she ended up, we laughed. She missed the driveway by about a foot and was stuck in the shallow ditch beside the road. At least we found the car....for a while all you could see was a little bit of the black top.

Opera and Cats

My brother Stephen (he pronounces it like Stefan) had to rest his voice for several weeks. He has started to practice again with scales and other exercises I know nothing about. This has been interesting for us and for the cats.

Now the cats are used to music. Nyssa has played the piano since kindergarten and the cats loved to sit in chairs and on the sofa while she practiced. Her baby, Scarlett, would sit next to her on the piano bench; sometimes sitting in an upright Siamese tucked in position, staring straight up at the sheet music and other times curled up in a ball beside her. She loved to participate if possible, not by actually playing the keys but by performing acrobatic acts to the music. In middle school, Nyssa had the obligatory braces and glasses. She had long blonde hair that she wore most often in a ponytail or long braid. In this instance her hair was in the braid and she was intently preparing for the spring music recital. She can't sit still when playing, I think because she gets so involved in the music; not just the right notes but in the sounds and emotions that came from them. Sometimes, she sways when she is in this zone, and when she swayed her long braid swished from side to side. Now Scarlett can resist toys and catnip to some extent but the hair swaying was too much. She sat next to Nyssa on the bench with her back to the piano and batted at the braid each time it swung in her direction. I'm not even sure Nyssa knew what Scarlett was doing, such was her intensity, but then Scarlett in her own zone, stood up on her hind haunches and tried to get the braid with both front paws. She missed and being shaped like a bowling ball, lost her balance and fell off the bench. Also being shaped like the said bowling ball, she does not easily land on her feet but rather flops on her back...turning swiftly, jumping up and looking around as if to say, "I meant to do that."

She still loves music, at least the piano. The sounds of an operatic tenor practicing scales are another matter. Several of the cats spend their days in sweet repose in the living room. There so is the piano. Enter Stephen. Hear chords from piano. Then loud scales, up and down, over and over. Let's just say we hope his human audiences are not such severe critics...I have never seen a room empty so fast nor has the (far distant from singer) sunroom seen so many sleeping animals before the nightly shoo-shoo time!! The misquoted, "Music soothes the savage beast" was certainly not in play here. Today, the cats have found their places again, thankful that all is still silent.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging: Willowbean

Lady Wilhelmina Abigail, Willow for short, sister to Nickerdoodle; she is a hefty 18 pound blue mitted Ragdoll. She has always been her own cat, excuse me Wils, person. She has the longest attention span of any cat we have had; if she gets a notion in that little walnut sized brain it will never leave.

Ragdolls are supposed to be placid; if faced with attack they will flop down and become rather limp. Not Willow. Raised with four feisty Siamese she had to learn to defend herself and does so. She can sit up on her hind haunches and trade jabs and right crosses with the best the Siamese have to give. Never mind the fact that at her weight compared to theirs she could just flop on them and crush them to death.
Her favorite toy is a pipe cleaner, preferably a red one although any color will do. In Mississippi, we kept them in an endtable drawer in the den and she could hook her front paw under the pull, open the drawer and fish them out. Coil it up and she will meow until it is thrown. Then she plays with it a while, batting it around, stepping on one end and straightening it out. Before long she is heading out the cat door to the water fountain. There she drops it in, gets it good and wet, then fished it up with her paw into her mouth and drops it in the dry food bowl. She also does this with the thick hair bands.

Her cousin, Maggie (my parent's Ragdoll), is or rather was an only child. She would visit and hide in the bedroom with her "special" food and water bowls in the guest bathroom. Willow would find them, do her "dip and plop" act with the pipe cleaner and Maggie would find it when she went to eat. This sends Maggie into a frenzy, whining, yeowing she finds my dad, makes him follow her and he has to remove the obstacle from her bowl. Placated, Maggie eats and hides. Not five minutes later, here comes Willow, looks over the bowl and begins her hunt for the now hidden pipe cleaner. She will search for half an hour but usually finds it in less than two minutes, redips in water and places it back into the food bowl. Our other cats just eat around it when it shows up in their food, but Maggie is spoiled, dependent and extremely helpless. She has her nervous breakdown each time. Unfortunately for the Maggot, all her cousins now live with her. Poor Maggie. "Sigh" I guess Willowbean gets the last laugh after all, and now to relax and sleep...perchance to dream....of pipe cleaners, hair bands, toy mice and (he-he) Maggie. They do know how to relax, don't they?

For other pictures and stories of cats and dogs and squirrels...oh no! Be sure to visit Friday's Ark and Sunday's Carnival of the Cats, this week hosted by Running Scared. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Thursday Challenge: Building

Cancer Center & Doctor's Pavilion, Mississippi.
I worked in the hospital adjacent to this building almost every day for fifteen years. This building in many ways represented my life there, uniform, orderly, predictable and reflecting events and people around me. I wonder how many there ever saw the real me, wondered what I did when I wasn't there, considered what I thought about outside, figured out how insecure I felt at times, alone and sole provider for a child. When I first started there I wasn't afraid, now fear almost paralyzes me. I had not been in a hospital for over a year. Recently, I went, not to work but to visit. I walked by the lab, the pathologist's offices and felt the familiar sensations of being where I belonged in one instant and in the next a wave of nausea as panic washed over me. Why do I associate this building with being a "basket case"?
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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Stephen Gould: Heldentenor

This is my baby brother. I have to say younger or baby instead of little as he is 6'5" tall and I am the shortest one in my family at 5'5". He is currently here visiting for a few weeks from Vienna where he lives now. He and my daughter are the "stars" of the family. The pictures above are from here at home on the left and a picture of him in "Tannehauser" on the right.

I had never heard an opera until we visited him in Linz, Austria in 2000. He was in Linz for three years as one of their fest tenors. Since then he has relocated to Vienna and is now singing as a free lance artist all over Europe. We saw "Fidelio" and "Rake's Progress" in Linz. In 2003, Nyssa and I went to Florence, Italy and stayed with him while he did "Othello". Most of the time he dies in the end, pretty predictable. It helps to know the story before you go. As a Heldentenor he sings the Wagner Operas and sang the title role in "Tannehauser" last summer at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany; a role he will repeat this summer as well. I don't know how they do it singing for three to four hours. We didn't get to hear "Peter Grimes" in Linz, and this was a shame as it was actually performed in English.

My parents are very proud of him. They heard him sing professionally when he toured with "Phantom of the Opera" but had never heard him in true opera. In January, he appeared with the Chicago Symphony in concert and we drove the trek from Virginia to Chicago to see him. I hope that their health will someday permit them to fly to Vienna and see him there.

He may be this big opera star, a favorite of Zubin Mehta, but I remember him as the baby brother who arrived weighing in at 10 lbs. 8 oz. and wearing 3-6 month sized clothes. He destroyed the hand-me-down crib in nine months and had lungs on him from the very beginning. He was a pest, nine years my junior. One of his favorite games was walking into a room where I was doing something and for no reason start yelling, "MOMMYYYYY, Sissy hit me!!!" At that point, I would get reprimanded or "stop hitting your brother" or grounded. Finally, I had enough. One day he came to the living room and sat in a big overstuffed chair. He did his, "MOMMYYYYY, Sissy hit me!!!" routine, but this time I walked calmly over to where he was sitting, balled up my fist, and hit him as hard as I could in the stomach. I looked him straight in the face and said, "If I am going to get the punishment, I am at least going to get the satisfaction." You know? He never pulled that again. I should have done it a lot sooner.

We finally became friends after I went to college. At that point, I guess he had no one to blame things on so he learned to appreciate me more. We get along fine now. He is a Type A+++++ personality and I am only an A- or B+ so I can sit back and laugh at his flustered rantings. Nyssa love her Uncle. He keeps everyone in stitches at the table, making it difficult to swallow without choking sometimes. This trip he will be here when she gets home from college so don't fret Nys, you will get to see him in two more weeks.
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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Happy Birthday, Nyssa!

Tomorrow my Nyssa will be 19 years old. It is hard to believe that she is all grown up, it seemed to happen so fast. So, Happy Birthday, sweet pea!

She was supposed to be born the first week in May, but Dr. Coggins was worried. He worried from the very beginning. His motto was, "You are a doctor too and if anything can go wrong it will." So, unlike normal patients I had to see him once a month from the start. He thought my blood pressure would go up and it did...only when he was in the room. I told him that I wanted to go to a medical meeting and that I would let him choose the one I would attend. There was one in Colorado in January and one in Utah in February. He chose the latter because he knew someone at Salt Lake City and he could send my medical records ahead of time in case anything happened. Nothing did.

As soon as I returned from Utah, he made me come in every week. I finally asked him if it wouldn't be easier for me just to put a cot in his exam room and live there. He talked to the group I worked with and made me take an hour in the morning and one in the afternoon to go and rest in Labor and Delivery. There they would take my blood pressure and call his office.

On tax day, April 15th, 1986 he made me quit work and go to bed rest because I gained seven fluid pounds in one week. I could be up for an hour and in bed for an hour. You can really get a lot done in bed.....put a drawer on the bed and sort it out....I got all the drawers in the bedroom cleaned out. After three days of this he made me go to "up for 30 minutes and down for an hour"....boring. At the end of the week on April 22nd, I had lost the seven pounds and I thought I would just go back to work for two more weeks. No.

That night he had me go to the hospital at 11 PM to be admitted for induction. A nurse was in charge on that shift that had been a midwife in England and he trusted her more than anyone. We did the induction thing, regular contractions and such for the whole day. It didn't hurt. He kept asking if I needed something for pain, and I said no it doesn't hurt. I wrote out checks for bills, read a couple of journal articles and basically was bored. Induction was stopped for the night and began again the next day, April 24th. Nothing seemed to be happening even with good contractions so Dr. Coggins and I had a discussion. "I think this could go on for the next two weeks and nothing is going to happen", I said. He agreed so I said, "Let's not do this for two weeks, let's go on and get it over." So Nyssa was born by C-section that evening after office hours.

I always thank God that he took care of us. Had we not decided to go ahead with the planned section, she would have required an emergency one as the umbilical cord was tightly wrapped around her neck twice. I shudder to think of the consequences. She was healthy, she was happy (once she got dry and warm), she even spent a couple of days as a naked beach bunny under the bili-lights (I often think that is where she developed her love of the sun), and she was and still is beautiful.

So, happy birthday, my kind, generous, talented, wonderful girl. I love you forever... and for always my baby you'll be.


Friday, April 22, 2005

Miss Dixie: 1986 - 2003

Dixie was a stray, one of the many pets dumped by the side of the road each day. She belonged somewhere, there was a dirty collar but no tags. She was looking for someone; she would start to run up to the cars or trucks as they pulled in the driveways, her tail wagging furiously but then she would stop as the door opened and it wasn't her person. Her ears dropped and her tail fell between her legs as she backed away. She was deathly afraid of men and could tell a small boy from a girl. I saw her for several days darting here and there through the subdivision before she finally came up to my truck and let me pick her up, too hungry to ignore the offer of food any longer.

We already had a dog, a Beagle named Barney, but when no one claimed her she became Dixie. She and Barney became fast friends. I took her to the vet to be spayed and he discovered that she had heartworms, so she endured the treatment twice before being given a clean bill of health. She and Barney would dig out of the yard even though Oklahoma clay was hard to dig through. One night I came home and Dixie was at the back door crying, but Barney was gone. She led me to the back fence and there was his collar by the tunnel under the fence. We looked and posted flyers but to no avail. Three days later we found him in the ditch behind the house three doors down. Even though we lived along a lightly traveled road at the edge of farmland, he had been hit by a car; he probably had his nose down like all Beagles do. Dixie cried and cried. I let her stay in the house for several nights and although we had not house trained her, she knew what to do. She stayed on the bed with me, got as close as possible and never moved the entire night.

I went to retrieve Barney's picture from the ASPCA and while there we found a small female beagle puppy who was scheduled to be euthanized at the end of the day. I couldn't take that so Dottie came home with us. Thus began a long relationship spanning fifteen years; a love/hate type at times, but that is a story in itself. Dixie and Dottie moved from Oklahoma to Mississippi with Nyssa and I. They found it easier to dig out in Mississippi and did so many times. They had woods to run in and always stayed together....when we found one we found the other. Dottie learned to open the gate to the yard requiring a lock and Dixie learned to climb the fence. They chased squirrels and cornered possums on the woodpile together. They survived the storm of 2001 that felled trees and moved their dog house six inches; and this is a dog house that would require a crane to move. They were part of the funerals for our three old Siamese cats who made the trek from OKC to MS with them.

All too soon, it seemed, Dixie began to slow down, she lost her hearing, then developed cataracts and arthritis. I thought she would be the first to leave us. We knew she was at least 16 years old but weren't sure. Then in early 2003, Dottie became ill, fluid was collecting in her abdomen and a lung malignancy was diagnosed. She was in pain, couldn't breath and I had to put her down in January of 2003.

Dixie knew. She was inconsolable; the spotted beagle had been her eyes, she followed her from the dog house to the porch and all around the yard. She curled up with her in the heated/air conditioned dog house and had been her companion forever. Dixie quickly deteriorated. It became difficult for her to stand on her feet, walk around and balance. She had to be coaxed to eat. Finally in March, she stumbled into her dishpan of water and couldn't get all the way out by herself. She stood there crying and I just knew it was time. As the vet gave her the sedative, she looked at us through her clouded eyes, we rubbed her ears and told her we loved her; then she licked my hand and I held her as she quietly went to sleep for the last time.
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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging: Computing Cat

This is Miss Clover. Technically she belongs to my daughter, Nyssa, but in reality she "belongs" to no one. She allows us to feed her, water her and be in her presence. She was born in a litter of seven and was the darkest kitten from the beginning. She ignores you when called but when she wants attention she demands it, persistently. She is typically Siamese in temperament; does not warm up easily to strangers with whom she puts on her most "touch-me-not" look. She often gets up on the wrong side of the sleep bowl and complains bitterly if you pet her or pick her up. I tell her, "Me thinks thou doest protest too much", and she doesn't appreciate my tone at all. She is our feline opera singer (we have a human one in the family as well), but only in the bathroom or a dark closet and only if no one is watching. Then she will let out theses loud, mournful "wowwwwwwww's", over and over.

Clover loves to be hot, not warm mind you, really hot. In summer when the Mississippi temps would climb to the upper 90's and low 100's she would jump up on boxes in the garage, make a bed on a soft rug and sleep...all day....occasionally rising to stretch, look out the garage window and reposition herself in a tight ball. Often the garage was 10 degrees hotter than outside. In winter she stays inside, usually curled up with her sister Chloe asleep. She particularly loves to burrow under covers and sleep by your legs. (Bottom picture) We have been making up the bed several times and found a big "bump" at the bottom. This is especially great when another cat is outside the "bump" in the covers and the "bump" moves.

Most of the time she is prim and proper, every whisker in place, paws together, the tail tightly tucked in, the eyes partially closed but fully aware. She doesn't usually sit ON things, doesn't bother you when you are doing paper work or reading a book, but here she decided to enjoy the laptop. Probably because it was warm and there was a bouncing ball screen saver on. But you never know...she may be designing her own blog.

To see other pictures of cats and dogs and squirrels....Oh! No!.... be sure to visit Friday's Ark, a posting of Friday Animal Blogging. And remember to visit this Sunday's Carnival of the Animals, hosted by The Oubliette. Posted by Hello

Tornado Season

It's here, the spring tornado season. I always make note of this, having lived in Gary, Indiana and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma....both in "tornado alley" I have seen a thin funnel cloud come out of the sky in Dallas, Texas and the night of my baby shower in Oklahoma City, the sirens went off eight times in three hours. But the tornado that made the biggest impression on me as a child was actually an August tornado.

We always had tornado warnings in Indiana. I remember the time before the "tornado watch" system, we just had the warnings. It was so commonplace I usually didn't take notice. My dad grew up in southern Illinois and he had lived through several tornadoes including one that took the chicken house up(with the chickens inside) and over the main house and set it down where it still is today. He would tell the stories, then go out and look at the sky and say, "I believe we're ok, doesn't look like a tornado sky." I felt safe. I had no idea what a tornado sky was supposed to look like but if he said it was ok, then it was.

It was early August, time for the district church camp and business meetings. We were building a new church building on three acres of land. The parsonage was finished and we had moved in. The walls and roof of the educational wing of the church were up and the side walls of the sanctuary were up. It was L-shaped and they were getting ready to put on the sanctuary roof. Dad realized that they had not insured the building yet, so he called the State Farm man and had him write up the policy. Dad needed to go by and sign the papers but he had to wait until the following week because of the camp.

Thursday evening both parents went to a preacher's dinner and meeting leaving me with my brother. I was about 12 or 13 years old and Stephen was 3 or 4 years old. I remember that it was hot, very hot, stifling hot, even after least 85 degrees. The television weather would break in to tell of tornadoes in Illinois or south of Gary. It was quiet, really quiet, not just the ordinary still night. The rustling of leaves was absent; there was no breeze. But more significant, the usual night sounds of birds and insects was gone. The house was next to an empty field; the crickets and songbirds usually kept up a symphony of sound all night, sometimes making it hard to sleep with open windows. That night it was totally quiet. I noted it but didn't recognize the significance.

The folks came home around 11 PM and I told them about the weather in Illinois. Then I went on to bed. Maybe the stillness bothered my dad, because he decided to stay up and listen to the radio and television. Around 2 AM he got us all up and told us we had to get down to the basement quickly. It was still really quiet. We had a large basement where they were having church until the new building was finished. We had a laundry room in the back. There were two small windows at the top of two walls there, right at the foundation level of the first floor. Mom got between the dryer and the wall and held Stephen and dad put me under the big wash tub. Then we waited.

Dad told us that a tornado was reported on the ground in our area and the street name given was very close. We still had a radio plugged in and were listening to the reports. About five minutes later, the electricity went off. We were in the dark. Suddenly, we started to see lightening through the small windows and heard thunder, but more than that, a sound louder than thunder, more like a train. We could see the grass near the windows blowing when the lightening flashed. Then the rain and hail started and my ears started to pop. Stephen's eyes were big, and he was quiet. I don't think he had ever been that quiet for that length of time before or since.

I don't know how long it lasted but it seemed like hours. Surely it was over in a few minutes at most. The lightening continued and the rain and hail. I think we stayed down there for at least one hour. Dad went up first and found the battery radio. It was over.

Our house was ok. Nothing damaged, no glass broken. But when dad looked out the garage window at the church, he could see with the lightening flashes that it was gone. Flattened. Totally lost. He was sick. He had not signed the papers for the insurance.

The next morning he called the State Farm man expecting him to say there was no insurance. Instead he told dad that he had already put the policy in and it was in effect; he would come over with adjusters that morning and get it checked out. Dad signed the papers for the policy and State Farm issued the check the same day. Dad had his miracle.

Later, I asked my dad the question I should have left alone, "Have you ever seen an actual tornado?" He said, "No." I was shattered, then how could he know what a tornado sky was? Well, from that day on, if there was any news of any tornado within a hundred miles or if a tornado watch was out (they started them after that storm), I would get the dog and head for the basement with a book. If they were out, I would leave a note that read...TORNADO WATCH....DOG & I ARE IN THE BASEMENT.....WILL ONLY COME UP AFTER WATCH IS CANCELLED....Love r.

Thursday Challenge: Shapes

A dome in St. Peter's Cathedral, Rome. Arcs, ovals, round, rectangles...these multiple and varied shapes together producing an absolutely breathtaking scene. This is submitted to Thursday's Challenge. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Where Were You?

A news commentator remarked, in reference to the naming of the new pope, that historical moments like this would be burned in your mind such that in years to come you would remember where you were and what you were doing on this day. He compared it to other moments in our history, specifically the day Kennedy was shot and September 11th.

I was in sixth grade in 1963, living in Gary, Indiana. Friday, November 22nd was just another day. We had Thanksgiving coming up the next week and we always looked forward to the time off. We were on the playground at recess that afternoon, not doing much of anything. The boys were running, pestering the girls, and some were on the swings while others jumped rope. There was an outdoor public address system they used for fire drills. Suddenly, the principal was saying, "Attention, Attention...Teachers get your classes together and back in the building." There was a sound of urgency in her voice. Recess time wasn't over but we lined up and went back in. When we got into class, the principal came on the intercom again and announced that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas and that we would be dismissed early. I think she was frightened, confused and sad, it came across in her voice. You must remember that this was at the height of the cold war and we had been through the tension with Cuba and nuclear warheads pointed at the US. We had learned about bomb shelters and having to have provisions to stay there for at least a year. The civil defense testing had started on television. We were scared. Maybe the Cubans killed him and were attacking our country. Maybe missiles were coming, maybe that was why we were to go home early. What did we know? We were just little kids.

It was right that they sent us home early and right for them to call school off until after Thanksgiving. As children we felt safer with our parents, although in the event of a nuclear attack we weren't. There was no CNN or cable, just black and white television, Walter Kronkite and nothing but news on all channels for two weeks. We saw Jack Ruby murder Oswald, live. We saw John-John salute his father's casket. The images were forever burned in our memory but more than that the feeling of shock, disbelief and then fear.

Who could have known that years later I would live in Dallas for eight years, walk the halls of Parkland hospital as a medical student, hear the myths that "Kennedy wasn't really dead, they just kept him on life support in the basement of Parkland" (basement avoided by med students), see the memorial at the book depository and be chief resident in Pathology at Baylor Hospital the year they exhumed Oswald's body to put to rest a rumor that someone else was buried in his grave. My response as a sixth grader would have been..."NO WAY!"

Fast forward to Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. I had to do a frozen section in Starkville at 8 AM Central time that morning. As I walked in the lobby of the hospital, I paused and saw a group of people looking up at the television screen in the waiting area. There were the twin towers with a little wisp of smoke coming out near the top of one of them. The announcer was saying that something had crashed in to the tower, no one was sure what it was. Witnesses thought it was an airplane, but the announcers, probably thinking this was impossible, were saying it might be a single engine plane. I went upstairs and the frozen was delayed so I made my way back down to the lobby. I saw the cameras on the towers. The announcers were still talking when I noted a black object coming in from the right behind the towers. I thought it might be a news helicopter but then there was a large explosion and a big ball of flame came from the other tower. The news people seemed to be in shock, they couldn't comprehend what they saw. It took several moments for them to even acknowledge that something else had just slammed into the building. Then they broke in and said that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon and no one had to tell us, we all knew that we had been attacked.

Still, I never considered that the towers would fall. I went back to the lab, did the frozen, told the techs and nurses what was going on and prepared to leave. As I walked down and through the lobby on my way out, I saw the first tower fall; it seemed like slow motion and reminded me of the demolition of stadiums or casinos I had seen on the news before. People in the lobby groaned, many of us just stood there with our mouths open in disbelief. I knew that if the first tower fell, the other would not be far behind. On the drive back to Columbus, I only wanted to talk to my daughter. This would be the event for her, similar to the Kennedy assassination was for me. She was in school, the country was attacked, what would happen next? Now there was CNN, MSNBC and FOX along with over 100 cable channels....all showing the airplanes crashing into buildings, the burning, the terror, the falling towers, the frantic relatives, the brave firefighters, the loss.

The schools did not close, the kids weren't sent home early. Only the military kids were picked up early. The airbase in town was on alert and all families living on base had to be back in as it went to highest alert and shutdown. But the silence. No airplanes overhead for several days, no commuter planes from Atlanta and no military planes doing flight training. Nyssa was horrified, sad, a little scared. Not as frightened as I was in 1963 but then we did not get the news so fast, it was not as "instantaneous", the unknown seemed to loom larger.

Other things concerned us though, different things. My brother had friends in Brooklyn, he thought one was to have had a job interview at a company near or in the towers. He called from Europe, couldn't reach them by phone, would I try. I couldn't reach them either. I couldn't reach my parents in Virginia Beach, not that far from Washington DC, a huge navy presence, a perfect target. Phone lines were jammed and it took over eight hours to get a line through to them. Stephen's friends were safe, although they had to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to get back to their apartment. My folks were fine. The naval base went through the same procedure of alert and shutdown to the public. I'm sure the stillness of the skies in the absence of air traffic were more noticeable here than in Mississippi. Once immediate concerns were taken care of I settled in to that time of contemplation. We had pictures from our New York trip, at the Statue of Liberty with the towers in the background. We had friends who had honeymooned in New York, the year before and had pictures taken at the top of the towers on September 11th 2000. was then, it is still now.

Both events are burned into the memory of the whole nation. I can't personally equate them with the naming of a new pope. It's a point in history that will be remembered for a while but not branded or seared into memory like the events above or others such as Pearl Harbor, D-Day, or the first landing on the moon.

Wouldn't it be interesting though to have a book written, a collection of the memories people had of significant events....Where were you the day Kennedy was shot?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Moody Monday: Raw

January in Chicago. Snow, fog, 40 mph wind down Michigan Avenue, 15 degree temperature without windchill. RAW! This is my entry for this week's Moody Monday theme. Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Steinway

Music is the art of thinking with sounds - Jules Combarieu

A nine foot long, Steinway Concert Grand Piano, a full-sized pipe organ and two extraordinary keyboard artists provided two hours of joy and a rest from the ordinary. It was unbelievable. The arrangements of hymns, spirituals, patriotic hymns, camp songs, and classical pieces were amazing.

I have always believed that great music is the same as classical art. The painter can mix the colors and shapes to create a symphony or an opera that tells the story of a scene. So too, the musician can interpret a piece of music in such a way that you can "see" a picture in the sounds of the notes.

For example, today the artists played a series of variations on He's Got the Whole World in His Hands. Variation 1: The Tiny, Little Baby - Soft notes in the higher register with a smooth, soothing sound of a lullaby mixed with high tinkling sounds of a baby's musical rattle. Variation 2: All the Busy, Busy People - A faster tempo portraying the hustle and bustle of a city street, the organ sounds of taxi cab horns and rumbling trucks. Variation 3: The Thunder and the Lightening - Loud rolling and boiling crescendos in the bass mixed with the lightening staccato of chords in the higher range gave the feeling of a raging storm. Variation 4: The Little "Bitty" Creatures - The organ alone played in the mid to high range with light trills and triplet notes drew the picture of ladybugs, butterflies and small inch worms with a background of songbirds and the suggestion in one measure of a scurrying mouse. Variation 5: All My Joy - Moderately fast tempo with light airy tones and a little bit of a ragtime beat thrown in. This made you want to tap your toes and dance with happiness. Variation 6: All Our Sorrow - A switch to minor key, somber tone and inflection, and a slower meter drew the picture of a deep south funeral procession with the horse drawn black glassed in carriage followed by mourners on foot. Variation 7: The Whole Wide World - The finale, a mixture of upbeat tempo and reverberating notes to bring it all together, a bit of jazz tempo thrown in. Amazing!!!! It was genius! It felt like I had watched a Caravaggio or Botticelli work being created. They painted a picture in my mind with notes, sounds and tempo and this work of art produced in me emotions of joy, sadness, nostalgia, fear, and contentment, if only for a little while.

Bach gave us God's Word. Mozart gave us God's laughter. Beethoven gave us God's fire. God gave us Music that we might pray without words....Unknown

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Buster & Friends

At the top, Buster asleep with Stoney (picture by Michele S.) and above, Buster with his "baby".

Buster S. hereafter known as "Budder" is an elderly Boston terrier living in Mississippi with his "momma" Michele and her family. Budder is excessively overweight and twice as large as a normal BT. He knows he is human, just stuck in the body of a dog. This gives rise to many of his insecurities and unusual behavior.

Take his "baby", a soft doll toy that he sits and sucks on for hours. He has to know where it is at all times and will search without tiring if it is hidden or put in the wash. He gets as anxious for it to reappear as a kid does when his favorite blankie is washing. He loves cats. When Stoney came to live at his house (another story), Michele didn't know how Budder would take it. You can see above how he takes it...a new sleeping buddy. The cat attacks, Budder just accepts it...happy to have someone to play with.

Budder also calmly surrenders to McKenzie, his little girl, who dresses him up in doll clothes, tiaras, necklaces and then plays house. At those times he looks at Michele with a pleading face that says, "How embarrassing! Couldn't we send her to fashion school? Really, mixing a sequined jacket with this night gown is just not working for me."

The elderly gentleman can't run as fast as he used to and spends much of his time sleeping with his baby, but he can still clear a room when he "breaks wind." He's had a long and good life and although we think he might be a little touched in the head....he is much loved by his family.
Posted by Hello

Friday, April 15, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging: Stick 'em up!!!!

I admit to being a crazy cat lady. There are six cats in our household and my parents have one, making our total seven. Currently, we have only one dog, Max; he's outnumbered. Our six are in pairs: Miss Chloe & Miss Clover (sisters), Mr. Rhett & Miss Scarlett (brother & sister), and Lady Willow & Sir Nicholas (brother & sister). Then there is the Maggot...or Magnolia Blossom (Maggie for short). She owns the parental units.

Mr. Rhett (above) has used up at least two of his nine lives. The current look on his face is similar to what he had one Christmas after an altercation with an Old Navy bag.

The setting is Mississippi in a two story English Tudor house. The Maggot is visiting with her charges (my parents) and as usual is hiding in her sleep bowl in the bedroom downstairs just across from the stairway. Upstairs in the loft there sits an empty and open Old Navy shopping bag, heavy paper with twine handles, lime green and menopausal blue in color. The humans are downstairs in the den, in full view of the stairway and the upper walkway by the loft. The rest of the cats were meandering around in the upstairs room. It is quiet, the fire is crackling, all is well with the world.

Mr. Rhett loves paper bags. He decides to check this one out. He hops in. This is fine but the rustling draws the attention of the rest of the felines in the vicinity. They all run over to see who is in the bag. One paws at the outside and Rhett paws back. He is easily freaked out and decides to vacate the bag. This is where life gets interesting. Jumping out of the bag he misjudges where he is and ends up with his head and front legs through the twine handle, stuck. This activity leads to more excitement in the watching group, more pawing and Rhett just cannot handle it. He bolts running the length of the upstairs attached to a lime green and blue Old Navy bag, only his paws visible to the others. They make chase.

Rhett feels cornered in the back room and gallops back down the hall, down the stairs and into the master bedroom where Maggie is sleeping peacefully, with a line of cats running behind. If you know how a small animal between 10 - 15 pounds can sound like a herd of elephants when he runs, you can imagine how six of them sound.

Rhett runs up and stops directly in front of the sleeping Maggie, she wakes, sees six wide-eyed felines up close and personal, lets out a high pitched yowlllll and takes off running out of the master bedroom with Rhett (or more precisely the blurred lime and blue bag) right behind and the wild five behind him. She runs straight to the kitchen, the others follow Rhett back up the stairs, down the hall to the back bedroom.

By this time, the humans are rolling hysterically, wishing they had a video camera so they could make $100,000 on Americas Funniest Videos. There is much hissing, spitting, growling, yowling and other commotion going on upstairs. Enough is enough. I sent Nyssa to get Rhett. He is still stuck, we cannot get him out, he is hyperventilating, his eyes are big and he has now attached himself to Nyssa's chest with the bag as an accessory. I had to cut the twine handle to get him out.

He was scared. He made himself as small and flat as possible. I took him down to the den and sat with him. His eyes never left the stairway. After a half an hour he finally got off the ottoman, slithering down the side and across the floor like a snake. Always with his eyes on the upstairs loft like he was trying to see what was hiding there waiting for him in the dark. Another bag? A demon? It took him a week to recover but I don't think he ever trusted the shadows in the loft again.

To see other pictures of cats and dogs and squirrels....Oh! No!.... be sure to visit Friday's Ark, a posting of Friday Animal Blogging. And be sure to stop by Carnival of the Animals this Sunday evening, hosted this week by Watermark.
Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 14, 2005


The demon side of Nicholas. The wide shiny eyes. He really looks like he is in attack mode. Not his usual low-key side...hmm...maybe his sister was antagonizing him. Very scary.

This is a Thursday Challenge entry. Be sure to visit the linked site for more "shiny" expressions. Posted by Hello

Story Time

Have you ever been to the "Story Time" at your local library? You know, the one for all the little children. In Mississippi it was "Mother Goose's Story Time" and the lady who ran it took her job seriously. Most of the people didn't know her real name, but everyone knew Mother Goose. She dressed the part. She wore an old fashioned long dress with many crinolines, opaque stockings, granny shoes, wire rimmed glasses and a wide brimmed hat that she tied securely under her chin. She carried her goose in her arms in the library. Her persona extended into the community, daily. She would show up at the Front Door during lunch and talk to all the customers, I even saw her one day in full attire at a more upscale restaurant, Harvey's. All the children in town loved her and she them.

I haven't seen a "Mother Goose" here in Virginia but our branch of the library has Story Time. Today I was doing some reading there and it seemed that as time went on there were more and more little kids....ages 3 to 5 in the building. Then I heard her....their leader....."Is everyone ready for Story Time? Let's get lined up and go in to sit on the carpet." The carpet is of course multicolored blocks with pictures, everything a curious child could love. Mothers begin herding the little ones together and there is a general hubbub. The Story Lady is getting them grouped, trying to get all their short little attentions spans going in one direction when I hear loudly above all the commotion a little boy's voice say, " Story Lady you sure smell good." Now, what can you say to that. Another little girl tittered and giggled. The Story Lady just looked at him and quietly said, "Thank you."

Then the kids marched in the room, the sliding panels shut and presently off key strains of...
The more we get together, together, together
The more we get together,
The happier we'll be.
...could be heard. And don't you know little voice could be heard more loudly above all the rest....a little boy.... exuberant.... lively.... completely immersed in the joy of singing that song. I wondered who that little fellow bet is on the "smeller".

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


My daughter thinks I'm a clutz. Actually she knows I'm a clutz. I prove it over and over. I may have always been one or it may have started with my bicycle. I don't remember who taught me to ride, probably my dad, but I remember having a 26 inch bike, a big one, blue, no gears or anything like that..just a big blue girls bike. It was my horse, some days I pretended it was a big black stallion and other days it was a palamino. I did some of my best pretending on that bike.

I loved that bike. But when I pretended too hard and rode too fast, it didn't like me. One day I came speeding down the street by the house, hit some gravel and slid. I knocked a big hole out of my knee. Mom is a type A personality and was hysterical; the blood the hole in the front of my knee, but most of all she worried about what it would look like under my Easter dress...go figure. The scabs came, they started drying looked like the scab would fall off before Easter.

Then one Saturday we went to work in her room at school. We took my bike and while they worked inside, I rode the bike outside on the parking lot. It was a blacktop and was nice and smooth and empty. I rode round and round and soon was lost in my make believe world of horses weaving imaginary stories in my head. I didn't see how close to the blacktop edge I was getting. Finally, I went too fast, too far and the wheels slipped off the blacktop onto the ground and I went flying off. I got up to find blood streaming down my leg...yes, I knocked the scabs off, one week before Easter.

I went inside crying and they patched me up. So, I went back out to the bike. That was a mistake. I hadn't been riding more than fifteen more minutes when I did the exact same thing. You would think that with a large empty parking lot, I could stay away from the edge, but no, not me. This time I knocked the bandage off and my parents were so put out that they confiscated the bike and put it up until the knee was totally healed. Alas, I was relegated to a broom as my horse for the duration.

So, a "clutz" is born.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Nicholas, can't sit still, so often I only get the edge of his head and body. I thought it was actually pretty cool after I cropped it. It has been submitted to as an example of the "word of the week." Let me know what you think of this "edgy" ragdoll. Posted by Hello


"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."
- Martin Luther King Jr

Yesterday my child received a "waitlist" letter from the college of her dreams. Another one. She had this same situation last year as a high school senior and now again as a transfer applicant. Last year she ran to the mail box every day from April to August, hoping to get that acceptance letter. And now again.

She is intelligent, motivated, creative, friendly, well-rounded, and has a work ethic much greater than most college students. Her teachers want her to stay, her boss at the library will be sad to lose her and of course no university wants students to transfer...loss of revenue and it really does a number on the retention stats. She loves the beauty of the campus; she loves her library job and her boss; she loves most of her teachers and classes but she is also miserable there. Why? Many reasons.

It's a "primo party" school....recycling boxes in the dorms are proudly stuffed to the brim with gallon wine jugs, beer bottles and cans, wine bottles, and whiskey bottles. I have seen them...oh yes...they have an "alcohol policy". Right. It is a joke, might as well not have one. What administration is going to alienate the big money backers of the school by kicking their kids out for drinking? Especially when the parents encourage the children by their own actions.....they drink in front of and with them.

Many of the students have the "spoiled rich brat" mentality. They want to party hearty not study. Most don't even know what they want from college....I guess the Barbie doll girls there (the Ann's) want to find a rich husband and get married. They disrupt things for those who do want to study and no one in authority does anything about it....but warn them...warn them...over and over. No actual consequences....take that back....they might be put on "social probation" and not get to be in a sorority. Oh! No! How tragic!

College involves more than study and work. The "fun" element at this university is "getting drunk before, during, and after events." It's disgusting that students do it, that administration tolerate it and that parents have condoned it by their own actions. Parents can't say "don't drink" if they do it themselves. All this makes for loud nights, people wandering into your room and not remembering it because they were drunk, total obliteration of any so-called "honor code", and an overall obnoxious place to live and study. Of course this is only for those students who count their time at a university of higher learning as a privilege and a responsibility. Unfortunately, the majority of kids have the "I'm entitled" or "It's not my job description" mentality and this ruins an otherwise lovely experience for the real students.

The "Honor Code" might as well be a menu from McDonalds. People have entered her room without permission and have taken food, toiletries, and clothes without permission. I asked if they had ever stolen her books....but then they would have to actually read wouldn't they. They have no respect for other persons belongings or their time.

She fits into this university academically, but not socially. She has more moral values in one finger than the majority of students there have in their whole being. I am proud of her for standing by her convictions, and I ache for her because she belongs somewhere else.

Does she just whine and complain? No. She has a plan. To transfer. She knows what she needs to do to get into her dream university and sets out to do it. So, what happened? The dream university wants a 3.5 GPA and she has a 3.0. Yes, she took the very difficult courses, and that could have been taken into account. But there was one course that made all the difference in a negative way.

Beware parents of entering freshmen.......check carefully into the FYP (First Year Program) courses. The idea is great....have an FYP course based on where they live, what dorm.....have groups of students meet with a professor, get to know him, get to know the others and have this professor be their advisor. Sounds good you say, eases them into college? Wrong! The courses are feeble at best...vague philosophy, religion, nature courses....involving a meeting and e-mails to the professor. No syllabus, no indication of what to do for an A, no tests....field trips to Jack Daniels distillery (there's a good one for the drinking problem on campus)....completely worthless for transfer to another college. This rinky dink course garnished 4 hours....Yes! A FOUR HOUR COURSE OF NOTHING! (At best this only deserved 2 hours) And what does the ignorant professor do at the end......HE GIVES EVERYONE A B!!! Does he not know what four hours of a B will do to the overall GPA. In Nyssa's case it meant the difference between being waitlisted at William and Mary and being accepted there. She did everything he told them to do. Never did he give them any indication of what their final grade would midterm nothing. In this type of course everyone should have gotten an A. Such arrogance on the part of a professor that he should think his FYP deserved to be such a force in student's grade averages. Oh, but the saddest part is that FYP was not a requirement....they made it sound like it was, but it wasn't if you actually read the fine print. She could have lived in the dorm and not participated in any of the FYP's; and instead could have taken a legitimate history course that would transfer.

Take note Sewanee, University of the will drive away all your serious students if you continue to cater to the wealthy, socialite airheads because of the big donations. You will start dropping down on the list because of your party school status. In the span of one year I have gone from having never heard of the university, to marveling in its setting and the beauty of the campus, to being disappointed in the student life atmosphere of Greek life and drunken parties, to being livid at the method for assigning rooms and advisors (FYP), to wishing I had never even heard of Sewanee.

We will wait, we will hope for that acceptance letter from her dream school.....and I still believe she will end up where she can fit in and learn and grow and be spite of Sewanee rather than with the help of them.

Finally at the end of a mother's rantings, this is for you Nyssa "Illegitimis non carborundum." I'm sure you'll have no trouble translating this.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Garden in Florence, Italy.

This entry was posted at Moody Monday depicting today's mood word.Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Role Reversal

My mother is 76 years old, educated with a master's degree in early childhood education, a teacher for over thirty five years and an accomplished pianist. She has raised two children, a physician and a professional opera singer, and took care of her mother during her battle with Alzheimer's. So what makes this straight forward, smart woman turn into a skulking, deceptive, pilfering sneak at the sight of chocolate cake, pie or candy?

Let's back up here. She also has a lot of physical problems. She has had a stent put in for coronary artery disease and still has occasional angina. She suffers with arthritis and fibromyalgia. She has had a hip replaced and a shoulder redone because of degenerative changes and probably some secondary effects of a car accident and a fall. She has had type II diabetes for some years, we really don't know how long but once when she was on prednisone for her fibromyalgia her blood glucose was almost 500. She has hypertension and last year discovered that the combination of high blood pressure, diabetes, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication had worked a number on her kidneys. Further deterioration in kidney function could lead to dialysis.

I moved in with them in June and watched for about three weeks. She only checked her blood glucose once a day, didn't eat the right things and was trying to lose weight with no luck. She barely did anything, was too weak to stand and walk across the room, rarely got out of bed before noon and did not go out of the house for weeks at a time, except to go to the doctor. Finally, after compiling all this observational data, I read more about the treatment for diabetes and the diet and decided it was time to take over from my dad. I am after all a medical doctor; true, a pathologist so all of the bodies I see are already dead and I haven't had to keep up with the treatment side of things, but in medical school I trained under Leonard Madison MD, the "silver fox" and all-knowing guru of diabetes so I can treat a diabetic ketoacidosis in my sleep.

First I made her start checking her glucose four times a day...."But the strips are expensive and the doctor only wrote the prescription for enough for once a day!" This was not true. Mom had enough strips put up to check four times a day, the doctor actually wanted her to check that often and Medicare will pay for them. As I told her, it is cheaper for Medicare to pay for diabetes testing strips than for the dialysis that will result due to the kidney damage in uncontrolled diabetes. Testing four times a day, what did we find? WIDE UNCONTROLLED SWINGS in blood sugar....fasting 85, 2 hrs post breakfast 250, 2 hours after supper 320. Some mornings (if you can call noon morning) fasting of 75, next morning fasting 125. All over the chart. Chart....I love charts...I love Excel.....therefore....spreadsheet with charts for daily blood sugars....YES!!!!

Plan of action:
1. Get up in morning before noon.....this is easier said than done, requires badgering at first.
2. Choose a food plan. I usually don't say anything about other doctors and thank goodness the endocrinologist she went to for "diabetes control" had discharged her before I got here so that I never had to meet him at one of her visits, because he did absolutely squat about her diabetes. He didn't make it clear how often she should check, he sent her to a dietitian who went over the standard substitution diabetic diet (I don't see how anyone can follow that, very confusing, not practical), took one hemaglobin A1c test and pronounced that she was in control. NOT!!!!! I read and decided the easiest to adhere to is the "glycemic index" tool. I started choosing low glycemic index foods for her, completely omitted high glycemic index foods and cooked them appropriately.
3. I will cook the food, choose the food, and put the portions on the plate. Dad tries very hard but he can't get the proportions down. He gave her too much. Bless his heart, he gives in. Smaller meals, more often with a sensible snack in between. Choices based on what the previous 2 hour postprandial sugar was.
4. No rice, potatoes, bread, cakes, candy, cookies, breaded meats, watermelon, bananas, corn, none, at all.
5. I will make the rounds of, kidney, heart... to see what is really going on.

OK...plan in hand. At first she complained not that she didn't have enough to eat but that she was too weak to hold her head up to eat and felt nauseous. She was anemic, the kind you get with kidney disease and diabetes and she was on so much blood pressure medicine that her pressure was often too low, thus the weakness, feeling faint, nauseous, etc.

I made the rounds, talked to all the doctors, asked about Procrit for her anemia and decreasing a few of the blood pressure meds. I cooked for her, fed her, reminded her to check her sugar, charted the results and showed her the graphs. We set goals for a week...."This week we will try and keep the glucose under 180", "This week we are trying for a limit of 160."

It was slow. But as she got up earlier, ate smaller meals, ate more often than twice a day, rode her recumbent bike for fifteen minutes (slowly) a few times a week, and checked her glucose closely the wide swings began to lessen. Amazingly, at least to her, she began to lose weight. As the weight came off we decreased the blood pressure medication and when we started to see morning fasting glucoses that were too low (she sees spots when it is too low) we started decreasing the diabetic medication too.

Positives of the last ten months:
1. Blood sugars rarely below 80 and rarely above 140.
2. Cut one diabetic medication from 12 mg per day down to 2 mg per day.
3. Cut one blood pressure medication from three times a day to once a day.
4. Split medications so that the blood pressure stays more even with fewer low blood pressure moments.
5. Started and titrated Procrit so that anemia is under control and energy level is higher.
6. BUN and Creatinine have decreased significantly indicating better kidney function...less on the edge of dialysis.
7. Gets up earlier
8. Rides recumbent bike several times a week.
9. Started knitting again.
10. Started her Bible study again.
11. Started going back to church again.
12. Just has more interest in life.
13. Has lost just under 60 pounds.

So why do I call her a sneak? Because in spite of all of my best efforts and in spite of the good results she has had by following what I told her....she still stoops to sneaking forbidden food. Then when I catch her, and I ALWAYS catch her, she out and out lies about it.

Take today. She made a chocolate cake for us. We didn't want it, didn't ask for it, she just made it. Then she cut two pieces and iced them for us. When we were cleaning up after lunch, she started icing the other part of the cake. I went into the dining room after putting the last of the dishes in and saw her with a thin strip of chocolate cake in her hand. She had her lips tightly closed, but I saw a very tiny bit of white icing on her lower lip. I asked her if she had eaten a piece of the cake and icing and she shook her head "NO", didn't open her mouth. "You were going to eat that piece in your had weren't you?", I asked. She forgot herself and opened her mouth to say "NO" and I saw the cake she was trying to swallow in her mouth. She had already eaten a piece and she was planning to eat the other piece in her hand. In fact, after I left the room pretty disgusted she DID EAT the cake. Then I heard myself saying a phrase I used to use on my daughter when she was little..."If your two hour blood sugar is high you are GOING TO BE IN BIG TIME TROUBLE!!!!!!!" Dad asked the obvious question, "What are you going to do to her?" I am at a loss. I can't spank her or send her to her room (she would just go to bed and like that) nor can I make her stand in a corner. I'm not sure my threat of "if you lose any more kidney function because you can't control your diabetes you will have to start dialysis" will even work at this point. "I don't know what I'll do but it will be BIG TIME", I replied.

OK Nyssa, go ahead and say it......Mom, you have become your mother.

Friday, April 08, 2005


Sir Nicholas Alexander of Brevard, aka Nicky or Nickerdoodle, is a blue mitted lynx Ragdoll. He and his sister, Lady Wilhelmina Abigail of Brevard (Willow or Willowbean), were Christmas gifts from my parents.

We were told that as a baby Nicky was usually too busy at mealtime; he was often lounging while his siblings ate. He would saunter up late to the table and sometimes mom was finished handing out the meals. He was smaller than his sister because of this. The first night at our house, Willow explored and ate and climbed up a rattan bookshelf in the middle of the night. Nicky hid under the bed, propped up against the baseboard. He wouldn't eat or drink water.

After a day and a half of this, I knew he would soon get in trouble and could die if he didn't start eating. So we bought some kitten formula and tried to feed him with a syringe. That was the magic pill! He lay on his back like a baby, both front paws around the syringe and sucked all the formula down in less than a minute. Then he started eating his dry food.

Today his is grown up, although still smaller at 14 pounds than most male Ragdoll cats. He is loving, sleeps on his back, snores, rolls over for tummy rubs and still things his main duty is to prop up the walls of the house. He knows he is gorgeous with his darkly outlined pink nose and his almond shaped blue eyes rimmed with white "eyeliner". He is in love with his "cousin" Maggie (another Ragdoll) and follows her around the house like a puppy dog. But, alas! She just hisses, spits, growls and runs away.

Submitted to Friday's Ark Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 07, 2005


The cross on top of the altar at St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. The sun was shining through a small round window over the entrance to the Cathedral. The rays of light illuminated the cross and nothing else. It didn't matter that I'm not Catholic; I am a Christian and for me this was God's house and at this shining point in time, He was there.

Submitted to Thursday Challenge. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Mohawk Max

This is Max. He came into our lives in May of 2003 about three months after the death of our dog Dixie. I didn't want another dog. But I have a tendency to pick up hopeless creatures. I went to pick up some of my daughter's things at the Math & Science school and this mop was sitting on the porch of her dorm. One of the girls was feeding him some bread. He was so furry it was hard to tell which end was which. I hadn't seen him hanging around before. The lady in charge of the dorm said that the college kids fed the strays, but when they left school for vacation or summer break the animals were left to fend for themselves. Since MSMS was still in session, they sought out the kids for food. I moved more stuff out and tried to ignore him but kept thinking about "the mop".

Finally, I said to myself "If he is still there this last trip down and if he follows us to the van, he can come home." He was still there. He came when called. He hopped up into the van and sat on an old beach towel. We took him home. He seemed used to people, not too scared and liked to have his head petted, but he wouldn't let his tummy be touched or his paws. He was matted terribly. I managed to cut three large ones off the top of his head but I could tell he had a huge matted area on his belly. So I knew it was the vet for him.

He was so badly matted and scared that they had to put him under anesthesia to cut away all the mats. His claws had grown so long they grew around and into his paw pads. No wonder he wouldn't dig, his paws were sore. After the shaving, they bathed him. He had a skin infection with huge patches of hair missing. They checked him and he had heart worms as well. So, he stayed another two nights for the treatment. Our vet said that he was about five years old and had been someone's pet because he had been neutered. No collar, no tags. He came through his treatment fine and is now heartworm free.

He looks like a blonde cocker, with a lighter and finer blond patch of hair on the top of his head that stands straight up, like a mohawk. We named him Maxwell. He doesn't like to get wet, probably because he had to be out in the weather so much, the wet fur mats causing his skin irritation. He still won't dig. He loves to show off, play with toys, chew on rawhide chews, and sleep. Now he has an insulated dog house with a covered front porch, a dog door, a linoleum floor, a light for heat in winter and a fan for summer. (The dog house he had in Mississippi had an air conditioner.) He loves to sleep in the sun on his big dog mattress and his hammock.

Max is possessive of his food and his toys. He still doesn't let you rub his tummy or touch his paws. He's hard to work with if you have to put eye drops or ear drops in and he will snap and growl at the vet. Grooming has to be done under anesthesia, he gets so hysterical. Something about the sound of fire engines sets him off and he yowls and howls like he is dying. We still love him. He is the funniest dog I have ever known. He's smart and loves to be the center of attention. Hopefully he will someday learn to relax and know that he won't have to be out in the cold and wet, or sleep on the hard ground, or walk on infected paw pads, or scrounge for his next meal. I want him to know that he's safe now; he's home.Posted by Hello

Monday, April 04, 2005


Transition- a change from one place or state or subject or stage to another.

Life is transition, from the beginning to the end.
Bob Dylan said "He who is not busy being born is busy dying." When you really think about it, every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year of our lives is transition and change. Some transitions are more dramatic than others yet all are important in developing who we are. The reactions to and the emotions associated with transition are individual; every person sees the change in a different way. Transitions difficult for some are easier for others.

When I was growing up as a preacher's kid, we moved a lot. Not every year but often enough. The first major move I remember was from Roanoke, VA to Gary, Indiana. I was nine and my brother was only nine months old. We had lived in Roanoke for seven years. My mother's parents lived there until they temporarily moved to Pennsylvania for their work. I had just started the fifth grade, one week in to be exact. It wasn't the change of school, teachers, house, town, or other people that made it so painful; it was the loss of one person and one person only...Mary, my best friend. She was two months older than me and we had been best friends since we were three. I went home with her after church on Sunday most weeks and if not, she came home with me. We didn't live near enough to each other to play each day and we didn't go to the same school, but she was the closest childhood friend I ever had.

The last evening there we ate at her house before we left town. I remember sitting in the back seat of the car looking out the back window, sobbing, tears flowing freely, trying to wave good-bye. I thought I would die. I cried until we stopped for the night. I cried softly through the night and all the next day. I cried all the way to Indiana. We promised to write, but we were so young, we didn't. We've seen each other occasionally through the years but we both transitioned. We have the fond memories and both of us cherish them, but we have never had the opportunity to revive the close relationship. Perhaps the pain of that first move caused me to build a small shell, transparent but always present because the moves after that were not as heart wrenching for me. Of course I never had another friend like Mary.

If you don't count the year my folks spent as evangelists and we lived in an Air Stream trailer and changed locations every two weeks, I moved five times in nine years. Nyssa on the other hand lived in Mississippi for fifteen years, from the time she was three until last year. She doesn't remember her move from Oklahoma so this has been her "I'm leaving all my friends" moment. Everyone has them. It's hard. She will probably feel that Mississippi is her "home" but she will survive, just like I did.

Death is a also transition. Dealing with death is difficult for everyone, but the death of someone young with their entire life ahead of them is hard to understand. Last week marked the fourth anniversary of Scoop Sunderworth's death. He was a sophomore in high school, an athlete, good-looking, popular, and although he lived at Palmer Children's Home he had a support group there of kids and house parents that adored him. On April 1st of 2001 he hanged himself. There was no sign of depression, none of the changes anyone would look for. It was April Fool's Day and Scoop was a jokester, so I can only think and hope that this was somehow an April Fool's prank gone terribly wrong.

If he could have known or seen the aftermath of his death, perhaps he would have decided on a different course or a safer prank. His classmates and friends were devastated and the smaller kids in his cottage and his house parents were crushed. Everyone wondered if there was something they could have done or said to make a difference. Those who knew him best put together a picture video of their memories; in this way they grieved and tried to make sense of a senseless loss. In this life there will be no answer, but for his friends, for my Nyssa the memories of Scoop will remain and the first of April is now forever changed.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


From the Latin - asphodelus (asphodel): Middle English - affodil: Modern - daffodil. In the Language of Flowers, daffodil means respect, regard, unrequited love, and deceit. Asphodel is linked with the saying, "My regrets follow you to the grave." I noticed in the thesaurus that "daffodil" is a synonym for axiom, proverb and aphorism although I have never heard it used in this manner.

The yellow flower of spring with many varieties; frilly flowers, plain petals, varying shades of yellow to yellow orange and my personal favorite...the cream colored petal with the pinkish orange trumpet. Some grow only where planted and others spread to cover a hillside. How these came to grow on the eroding bank of a drainage ditch in Virginia Beach I will never know, but while all the surrounding brush and debris are still bare and dead from winter, they have pushed their heads through the cold earth to reach the sun and in turn brighten my day.

I looked for sites about asphodel and daffodils and these were my favorites.

From Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone - Professor Snape: "For your information, Potter, asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion so powerful it is known as the Draught of Living Death.

Oscar Wilde in The Burden of Stys - There is a tiny yellow daffodil. The butterfly can see it from afar, although one summer evening's dew could fill its little cup twice over, ere the star had called the lazy shepherd to his fold, and be no prodigal.

Agnes Repplier - Sleep sweetly in the fields of asphodel, and waken, as of old, to stretch thy languid length, and purr thy soft contentment to the skies.

I also found this site about "The Daffodil Garden" in California. Great story. Amazing. Posted by Hello