Reproduction

We all know, or should know, the danger of global warming to our futures, but most people are unaware of another very real danger. Did you know that sperm counts are dropping and women are having more problems with egg quality? There are more miscarriages today and more genital abnormalities in infant boys. Girls are reaching puberty at an earlier age. These problems are not just in humans, but also in animals, fish and amphibians. 

Shanna H. Swan, an epidemiologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, has sounded the alarm in her new book, “Count Down.” Swan states that from 1973 to 2011 sperm count fell by 59%. The question is why and Swan says that the problem is endocrine disruptors which are in chemicals that fool the body’s reproductive cells. This plays disaster on the sexual development of fetuses. These chemicals are in almost everything we touch, canned foods, cosmetics, even ATM receipts. Chemical companies lobby against safety testing of these endocrine disruptors and that leaves us unaware of the dangers we face.

There are those who have other theories about the reproductive changes seen over the past few years but the World Health Organization and other professional groups, such as the Endocrine Society warn about endocrine disruptors. Canada and some countries in Europe have regulated these chemicals but the United States has not. We need to let our representatives in the Congress know of our awareness and concern. 

What else can be done to protect against these chemicals? Swan suggests storing food in glass rather than plastic, not microwaving in plastic, buying organic produce and avoiding pesticides. 

Photos by Pixabay

Camp Grandmother’s

Life has been an adventure and I just realized that sounds like it is coming to an end. That isn’t what I mean, but after seventy-seven years on this orb, I have much to look back on. Education was fun and my career was satisfying, but pure joy only comes from sharing life with those you love. I am blessed by two wonderful daughters who brought sons into my life; even though they are called sons-in-law they are much more. Thirty years ago my first granddaughter was born followed seven years later by the second. It is hard to believe that it was so long ago because my memories of them as children seem so fresh.

From the beginning of their lives, they spent a lot of time with their Grandfather, who they called Pop, and me, Grandmother. As they grew our games became more complex but none were more fun than pretend. The oldest, Katie, was an actress and she loved getting into character and acting out elaborate roles. Her younger sister, Elizabeth, was fine with pretend too, but also loved being outdoors following her Pop around as he worked.

As they got older we went on short vacations each year before school started. One year we went to Kings Island in Cincinnati and another we spent a few days taking in the sights of Chicago. We shopped for back-to-school clothes and before we knew it grade school became high school and then college. Their days of staying at Camp Grandmother and Pop’s may be over, but the fun memories remain forever.

America’s First

Alyssa Smith was born with biliary atresia, a condition of the liver which would be incompatible with life by the time she was around three-years-old. She needed a liver transplant but chances of an infant donor becoming available were bleak.

In those days only a cadaveric donor liver transplant was possible in the United States. Partial livers had been transplanted in a few places and a handful of living donor liver transplants had been done in Germany, not all successfully. Fortunately for the Smith family the surgeon who had been performing these living donor transplants had moved to the U.S. He was currently on staff at the University of Chicago Hospital.

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Alyssa and her parents Teresa & John

At the age of twenty-one months Alyssa was the recipient of part of her mother’s liver in the first ever living donor liver transplant in the U.S. I was privileged to be on hand for this historic occasion. On the day after Thanksgiving, 1989, Teresa gave 40% of her liver to her infant daughter and although there were a couple of complications it was a successful transplant covered by the media all over the world.

Over the next several years I was able to follow Alyssa’s progress and then to meet her again in 2006 when she was graduating high school. Alyssa is now over thirty years old and has given birth to her own son. This family was special in so many ways and I am grateful to have known them and shared in their amazing journey.

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Alyssa Smith at Age 21

“Once you’ve given your heart it is easy to give a little bit of liver.” Teresa Smith

 

More of Alyssa’s story and extensive details of the procedure are available in this Chicago Tribune article:  https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1999-11-30-9911300225-story.html

 

 

 

 

Forgotten Cookies

I’ve been making these cookies since the 1980s and they are still a family favorite. The recipe was given to me by a sweet elderly neighbor, Helen Peters. I think of her each time that I make them which includes today. They are easy. Give this recipe a try!

Forgotten Cookies

2 egg whites at room temperature
3/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of chopped pecans
1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Beat egg whites until foamy. Slowly add sugar and continue beating until mixture is stiff. Mix in vanilla. Fold in nuts and chips. Drop by teaspoon onto prepared cookie sheet. Place in oven and immediately TURN OVEN OFF. Leave overnight. Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

Katie & The Bird

Katie, a seven-year-old felt maternal for the half-naked starling that fell out of the sky and into her life one Saturday afternoon. Twenty-four hours later the bond was solid. Every thirty minutes or so she cautiously poked a hamburger “worm” down his throat with a tiny stick. He chirped, Katie poked. When Katie’s parents arrived the next morning they knew church was out of the question. There was no point in going to Sunday School to learn about kindness and love if you were required to leave one of God’s helpless creatures alone and without food for hours. As Katie proudly demonstrated her ability as a surrogate everyone was impressed by her expertise, especially Aunt Dianne.

After the people lunch it was again time for Bird to eat. Katie went outside to the specially prepared box to find it empty. The whole family searched and searched the yard looking under every structure and bush. Katie, though very quiet, was picturing all the harm that could come to a weak little bird. Daddy said, “Well, it wasn’t a cat, there are no feathers around.” Pop said, “I bet Bird was adopted by a Robin. I’ve seen Robins take care of orphaned birds.” Aunt Dianne said, “You took such good care of him, Katie, he was probably strong enough to fly away.” Grandmother related a story of Mommy’s beagle which disappeared without a trace and how Grandmother had always thought pleasant thoughts of his maverick adventure.

Mommy walked silently beside Katie as they continued to search all around in the ninety-five-degree heat and all the while afraid of what they might find. Finally, all the places had been explored and the disappointed family returned inside to the chilly air-conditioned kitchen. The grown-ups went back to their places at the table to cool off with some iced tea. Katie silently walked up the stairs to her own private space in Grandmother and Pop’s house. She entered the special room with all her Beanie Babies and other favorite stuffed animals who didn’t require feeding and she lay on her bed thinking of Bird out in the hot sun. Where could he be? Just as tears began to run down her cheeks she felt someone else’s weight on the bed with her. Without opening her eyes, she knew exactly who it would be. Mommy began to rub Katie’s back with the same love and tenderness with which Katie had cared for Bird. Without many words, Mommy assured Katie she, too, felt sad for Bird and was very concerned about the real dangers the big world might hold for such a little creature. They lay quietly on the bed for a long time.

Although there was no answer to the mystery of where Bird was, Katie wanted to be brave so she and Mommy eventually went back down the stairs to rejoin Grandmother’s birthday party. Katie and Mommy went to their car together to get Grandmother’s present and walked gingerly back around the house, still very quiet. As Katie stepped onto the patio she heard “chirp, chirp, chirp!” and under the shade of one of Grandmother’s big herb pots stood Bird impatiently demanding food.

Written 6/29/98

BIRD

Before GPS

Years ago I was invited to my Aunt Jane’s ninetieth birthday. The celebration was taking place in her hometown which I had not visited in many years. When I asked a relative for directions to the venue I received something like this:

“Before you get to Lawrenceburg turn left. There used to be a REA building there. Go a little ways and turn again where the movie used to be. The building will be on your left. It is not very big.” 

Another time when lost in Tennessee I stopped to ask a friendly looking farmer for directions and I was told to “Turn right where the big green barn used to be.” 

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“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” William Gibson

 

Graphic & Photo by Pixabay

Kids 3

Kids Are Listening

Never doubt that kids are listening to what adults are saying. They may appear to be in their own little worlds, but they hear us. An example of this (based upon contemporaneous notes) goes way back to 1993 when I was visiting the cemetery at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church with my daughter and toddler granddaughter, Katie. 

As my grandmother had done before, https://crookedcreek.live/2019/05/14/kids-2/  I walked from grave to grave telling my daughter of the lives and deaths of those buried there. There were the graves of two generations of grandparents, many aunts, uncles, and cousins as well as my parents and a young brother. Katie played nearby running around and singing. 

At one point she interrupted my dissertation and was told by her Mom to wait her turn.  A few moments later we asked Katie what she had wanted and this is what transpired: Katie squatted down in front of a random tombstone and began, “See and when my uncle, he came to work and he had a wreck and see he died.” She was listening and learning and at a little over two-years-old, she was replicating my actions and words in this place of sad memories. 

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“Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” Charles Swindoll

Hollyhock Photo by Pixabay

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Kids

Kids and Grandmothers

When I was a little kid my maternal grandmother, “Mammy,” spent a lot of time with me. Not only did I learn practical lessons about life from her, I subconsciously learned what it was like to be a loving and giving person. While I haven’t always followed her example, I know she was a big influence on the adult I became. 

One of the things that I recall about Mammy is that she always offered visitors to her humble home, whether family or friends, something to eat. It might have only been a homemade biscuit and jam or perhaps a glass of iced tea, but something from the kitchen would be provided. 

She was also a good neighbor. My grandmother could be called upon to help deliver a baby or sit with a sick friend. She had no telephone but would be fetched in person by a knock on the door of her tiny little house.  

Many memories of Mammy include flowers. She raised various types and two kinds stand out in my memory. First were the hollyhocks:

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Hollyhock is an odd name for a flower, but oh the potential of these plants in Mammy’s hands. She spent hours with me making beautiful “girls” who we then used in all kinds of pretend stories and adventures. All it took was a toothpick for the backbone that held everything together and a stalk of hollyhocks. Different size blooms, inverted, made the attire and a head was fashioned from an unopened bud. Facial features could be made by piercing the bud with the toothpick. The puncture points then darkeded for eyes, nose and mouth. Each girl ended up looking like a southern belle ready for a plantation ball. I wish I had some hollyhocks so that I could create one for you, but this marked-up photo is the best I can do. I hope your imagination does the rest. 

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“I know what it is like to be brought up with unconditional love. In my life that came from my grandmother.” Andre Leon Talley

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Photos by Pixabay

Staying Alive 5 of 6

We read books, love our pets and have a female doctor to keep us out of the hospital, so what else do we need to do to stay alive? 

Prepare for Disaster!

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Disaster

Noun – a sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, that causes great damage or loss of life

A disaster may be caused by a flood, fire, storm, civil unrest, or many, many other things. It may be as simple as having no heat during the extreme cold or as complex as a nuclear explosion. Regardless there are things we can do to increase the chance of “Staying Alive” during a disaster. 

A disaster plan can be a few simple steps, but it can and should be much more detailed and a good resource is: https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan

This government website should be studied and a customized plan then devised for your home, involving each member of the family. Everyone should know the plan and regular drills should be carried out to ensure it remains the best plan for current circumstances and that each person remembers what actions to take.  

This can be a daunting endeavor, but your life can literally depend upon it. The best way to tackle the project is step by step starting with making sure that your home has working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries each spring and fall when the time changes relative to Daylight Saving Time.

“I beg you take courage; the brave soul can mend even disaster.”

Catherine the Great

 

Theme graphic and photo by Pixabay

Book Reviews – Under Fire & Becoming

I always have a wish list for Christmas which includes books. This past Christmas I received four. I just finished the second.

“Under Fire”

April Ryan is a White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Network. She is also a political analyst on CNN. Ryan has spent two decades in this correspondent position under three presidents. I’ve always admired her tenaciousness in getting her questions answered during White House press conferences. She is an intelligent source of information on cable news. Knowing these things about her I looked forward to reading her new book, “Under Fire.

The book was interesting as an inside, behind the scenes account of the past two years under the current POTUS. Two things about the book were disappointing, however. First, as a reporter, I expected Ryan to be an outstanding writer. In my opinion, she was not in this book, often repeating parts of her story. And, her story was truly HER STORY. Perhaps I should have expected that from the title and pre-publishing discussions. The message was a bit “poor me” but on the other hand, it seems she has legitimate grievances that result from being a black woman seeking answers for the African American community. 

The book is a quick read and worth the time to get a better view of the obstacles before people of color working in or around a very white government. 

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“Becoming”

Another book written by a well-known black woman, Michelle Obama, former FLOTUS, I would highly recommend. “Becoming” is a well written and very thorough autobiography of Obama’s life from early childhood in the South Side of Chicago through eight years of living in the White House as First Lady. Her life is impressive and the journey is thoroughly and honestly documented in this book. 

This is the first such thorough account I’ve read of what it is like to live in what the author calls the “bubble” of the Secret Service. Raising two young girls in this highly protected environment was very challenging and Obama is quite forthcoming about her concerns that her children grow up normally under such non-normal circumstances. 

This inside view of life in the White House includes accounts of foreign and domestic travel, campaigning, press coverage, pressures both small and colossal. The sheer size of the operation and number of staff to keep it operating was astonishing to me.

Michelle Obama is an intelligent and highly accomplished woman and I enjoyed reading about her life both as a professional and First Lady. 

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“Historically, black women have suffered tremendously, but today’s black women are the triumph. We have choices, and that’s what freedom is all about: having the power to choose.” Susan L. Taylor

Sleep Tight

Dianne Mattingly Bynum at five years of age.

As told to her Mom years later.

Bedtime was a mixture of feeling both happiness and dread. After our prayers, Mom or Dad and at times both, would tuck us in and give us a hug and kiss.

That felt so good. Then we heard those words I dreaded, “Sleep tight” and Dad would usually add “don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

Before they left the room I had already grabbed my little sister’s gown or pajamas and was holding as tightly as I could. I wasn’t worried about bedbugs. I had never seen a bedbug. I was worried about something much more significant, losing my sister! 

Ever since they put her in my bed and told me to take care of her, I’ve slept tight every night to be sure she doesn’t get lost. She’s such a little girl (I’m big) that she could get lost so easily.

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Sisters, Dianne & Allison, Today

 

“Childhood is a short season.” Helen Hayes

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Pappy’s Hat

Pappy’s Hat

My Grandfather’s hat was always at the ready. It was as though he was not decent, or a gentleman, without it. When dressed for church he would put it on his head as he left the house. That was his Sunday hat. 

When inside, whether at his little house or in his big store, his bare head showed. He was mostly bald with a few sprigs of white hair spread across the top. Upon leaving any building whether sunny or cold, a hat was placed squarely on that head. It was straw in summer and felt in winter. 

If he was working outside on a hot day the hat would be old and stained from sweat. That was not his primary function in life however, because he ran a general store and Post Office and he didn’t have to sweat much in those jobs. 

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His attire was simple, as was most men’s in those days. About all he needed was one suit and white shirt with tie for Sundays and funerals. Other days gray pants and a cotton shirt would do with a sweater added in winter. His shoes were black leather and tied neatly. He had rubber covers for those oxfords on rainy days. He called them “galoshers.” Top it all off with a hat and Pappy was good to go. 

“A person carries off the hat. Hats are about emotion.                                                      It is all about how it makes you feel.” Philip Treacy

 

Theme photo of hat in title by Pixabay

Behind the Scenes

Friends

Most of us, if not all, have friends. There are many kinds of friends and we need all kinds. Some we party with, with others we may share our deepest secrets. There are those who call and check on us if they have not heard from us in a while. Some help us fix things and if we are lucky there is at least one who provides us with a delicious meal now and then. All are needed. All are valuable and precious. We strive to be the kind of friend others need.

Recently I’ve had an opportunity to appreciate “behind the scenes” friends. They are precious people in our lives who may even be related to us and they give quietly with no thought of repayment. 

A few hours prior to an event recently I saw men and women working hard arranging tables, chairs, and decorations. I saw linen tablecloths being steamed and candles being lit. People were delivering food and drinks. It was hot. Each person was red-faced and sweaty, but it was an act of love. These are friends who should never be overlooked, working without fanfare, giving of themselves. 

Fred Rogers, a.k.a. Mr. Rogers said when he was scared his mother always told him to look for the helpers. That was good advice. Many times we must look behind the scenes to find them. 

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“I get by with a little help from my friends.” John Lennon

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

THE Binder

Several years ago I worked for a Fortune 500 company that had a binder for everything. I must have caught “binderitis” during my eighteen years there. I have binders all over the house. About seventy are filled with family photos and mementos and they are stored everywhere, some visible, many hidden. I feel sorry for my family when I die because they are going to have to figure out what to do with all these scrapbooks. 

There are other binders for various purposes. I find it easy to organize records in binders with dividers and color coding. OKAY! Maybe I am sicker than I thought, so if you are laughing it is fine. I’m hooked on binders and not likely to give up my habit. 

There is one binder however that I know my family will appreciate one day. I have two daughters and when I die they will know where to start to plan my memorial and to settle my estate. They will unlock the secret place and pull out THE BINDER.

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This particular one is over eight years old and has been revised several times as situations change. It had a smaller predecessor. Let me tell you what this binder contains in its seven sections. 

  1. End of Life – Copies of the Power of Attorney, Living Will, Healthcare Surrogate and Will. The originals are in a lockbox for which they have the keys.  
  2. Finance – Banking and Insurance account information including account/policy numbers and contact names and phone numbers. Inventory of lockboxes. Charts (containing photos) listing family heirlooms (and other valuables), their locations and their origin (from grandparents, etc.) 
  3. Funeral and Burial – Information on cemetery plot, gravestone contract regarding adding dates, suggestions and wishes for memorial service and data necessary for an obituary. 
  4. House and Property – Copy of Deed(s), photos showing locations of water shutoff valves and electrical circuitry. 
  5. Medical Information that may be needed by Healthcare Surrogate
  6. Historical Information as needed
  7. Miscellaneous and Resources 

You may not be happy working with a binder. That’s okay. A box will do or a drawer. It is simply important for everything to be in one place. It does not have to be meticulously organized (although that’s nice). The important thing is that it is all together and that the person(s) who will settle your estate knows where it is and has any keys necessary. It is also critical that the contents of the box, drawer, or binder be discussed ahead of the time it is needed. I call that THE TALKhttps://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/25/death-decisions/

 

“Expect the best and prepare for the worst.” Muhammad Ali Jinnah

On the Day I Die

A poem written by John Pavolitz

On the Day I Die

On the day I die a lot will happen.
A lot will change.
The world will be busy.

On the day I die, all the important appointments I made will be left unattended.
The many plans I had yet to complete will remain forever undone.
The calendar that ruled so many of my days will now be irrelevant to me.
All the material things I so chased and guarded and treasured will be left in the hands of others to care for or to discard.
The words of my critics which so burdened me will cease to sting or capture anymore. They will be unable to touch me.
The arguments I believed I’d won here will not serve me or bring me any satisfaction or solace.  
All my noisy incoming notifications and texts and calls will go unanswered. Their great urgency will be quieted.
My many nagging regrets will all be resigned to the past, where they should have always been anyway.
Every superficial worry about my body that I ever labored over; about my waistline or hairline or frown lines, will fade away.
My carefully crafted image, the one I worked so hard to shape for others here, will be left to them to complete anyway.
The sterling reputation I once struggled so greatly to maintain will be of little concern for me anymore.
All the small and large anxieties that stole sleep from me each night will be rendered powerless.
The deep and towering mysteries about life and death that so consumed my mind will finally be clarified in a way that they could never be before while I lived.
These things will certainly all be true on the day that I die.
Yet for as much as will happen on that day, one more thing that will happen.
On the day I die, the few people who really know and truly love me will grieve deeply.
They will feel a void.
They will feel cheated.
They will not feel ready.
They will feel as though a part of them has died as well.
And on that day, more than anything in the world they will want more time with me.
I know this from those I love and grieve over.
And so knowing this, while I am still alive I’ll try to remember that my time with them is finite and fleeting and so very precious—and I’ll do my best not to waste a second of it.
I’ll try not to squander a priceless moment worrying about all the other things that will happen on the day I die, because many of those things are either not my concern or beyond my control.
Friends, those other things have an insidious way of keeping you from living even as you live; vying for your attention, competing for your affections.
They rob you of the joy of this unrepeatable, uncontainable, ever-evaporating Now with those who love you and want only to share it with you.
Don’t miss the chance to dance with them while you can.

 It’s easy to waste so much daylight in the days before you die.
Don’t let your life be stolen every day by all that you believe matters, because on the day you die, much of it simply won’t.
Yes, you and I will die one day.
But before that day comes: let us live.

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

CPR in the Hospital

CPR

Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) can be life-saving especially when performed in a hospital with all the talent, knowledge and equipment that is available. It has become routine for patients to be asked on admission to the hospital some form of the following question: “Do you want emergency measures to be performed if your heart stops?” 

That question can be daunting in myriad ways. If one is being admitted for a routine procedure it can be a bit of a shock. If the patient is critical and/or of advanced age then it might be even more upsetting. Three things can help at this point, #1. Expecting such a question, #2. Being an informed patient about just what “emergency measures” entails and the risks involved, and #3. Having already considered this question and having discussed it with your loved ones. https://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/25/death-decisions/

Expectations

The first thing we all need to acknowledge is that we will one day die. Sobering as that thought might be, it is essential to know that regardless of how we answer the question above we may not be saved by CPR or any of the extraordinary measures taken if our heart stops beating. Perhaps worse yet might be to survive and be dependent upon breathing machines, feeding tubes and narcotics for pain relief. Cardiac arrest can cause organ failure leaving such organs as the liver and kidneys unable to function. Neurological deficits as the result of brain damage from lack of oxygen can occur. Unrealistic expectations can cause physical and psychological pain for both the patient and their family.

An Informed and Prepared Patient

An informed patient will have realistic expectations, will ask questions and will be prepared to make an informed consent. When a patient decides that they do not want heroic measures they can have a DNR (do not resuscitate) order to alert staff that the patient does not want CPR performed. Some hospitals now use the less promising acronym DNAR (do not attempt resuscitation). Before making this decision it is imperative that a patient know what resuscitation is and is not. It does present a chance at survival but it is nowhere close to a guarantee. The average chance of successfully resuscitating a healthy young person, i.e., to be neurologically intact, is only 30 percent overall. 

Once you have researched these issues and are armed with scientific information the next step is to discuss your wishes with your loved ones. Finally, prepare the legal documents that leave no doubt if the time comes when you need to inform your healthcare provider of your decision.  https://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/19/death-intro-ii/

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In the end, what matters most, quantity or quality of time here on this planet? 

 

Graphics by Pixabay

CPR in the Field

CPR

Everyone knows what CPR means. It means saving a life with certain breathing techniques and chest compressions when one’s heart has stopped beating. Right?

Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation literally means heart lung revival. That puts it in a slightly different light but still sounds promising.

We’ve all seen it work over and over again on television, but is that a reflection of real life CPR? I can tell you that it is not whether in the hospital or on the street. Fewer than 20% of in-hospital recipients of CPR live to be discharged. And, this is with a team of highly skilled professionals, IV medications, and defibrillators to shock the heart.

Expectations

Many people today are trained in CPR, and that is a good thing. I’m sure that most take the training with the expectation of being able to save lives. It does happen, but the chances of being unsuccessful are high and this is often an extremely hard outcome to accept. If occurring in the clinical area there are several people involved, but if you are performing CPR as a layperson or even a professional in the field you are often alone and it is a formidable responsibility. It can be extremely difficult to overcome emotionally when one is unsuccessful.

My Experience

Many years ago I was an Emergency Department (ED) Registered Nurse (RN). I was used to “codes” which was the word we used when a patient went into cardiopulmonary arrest. Everyone worked together as a team. We started IVs,  did chest compressions, charged and used a defibrillator and we continued until the patient was either revived or pronounced dead. Needless to say with all the needed supplies and professionals working together we often were able to revive the patient and send them on to the Intensive Care Department. From there we lost track of their progress or lack thereof. We went on to the next emergency. I was used to “saves” in that environment.

When my own sixty-nine year-old father had a cardiac arrest at home it was a totally different world. My Mom wept nearby. A neighbor wrung her hands. There was no one to help as I did CPR alone for over twenty minutes while we awaited the ambulance and EMTs to arrive. I felt his sternum crack. Was I compressing his chest too hard? I became short of breath. Was I breathing the right ratio for him? My mouth bled. My father turned blue, first his ears and then his lips.

My father died that day and I have never stopped blaming myself. How could an ED RN not save her own father? My brain itemizes many factors to answer that question, but my heart keeps saying, “I’m so sorry Daddy, I’m so sorry.”

I’ve shared this to warn those of you who are so altruistically prepared to perform CPR that it might not work. It might not be possible. 

Please do be trained. Please do try if you are given the opportunity. But, please also know that it is not always in your power and be prepared to live with that possibility.

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Graphics by Pixabay

Wedding Dresses

Wedding 1927

In 1927 Samuel Baugh (1899-1982), my Uncle Sam married Thelma Kissel (1913-1975). They were married for forty-eight years and had no children. In 2009 I obtained Aunt Thelma’s wedding gown and kept it hanging in a closet with her rosary. I didn’t know what I would eventually do with the gown but knew it was too precious to not protect. 

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Katie

My granddaughter, Katherine Rae Puckett, graduated from IU Bloomington with a degree in Theater Arts. Her grandfather and I worried a little that she might have trouble finding work in her field. We should not have been concerned. After working at various costuming jobs, including with The Louisville Ballet, Shakespeare in the Park and Butler University she began to plan her wedding at age twenty-six. 

Imagine my surprise when she asked if she could use Aunt Thelma’s wedding dress in making her own! I knew intuitively that Aunt Thelma would approve and I gave the dress to Kate. After soaking and cutting and adding fabric Kate’s dress was ready for her big day at Locust Grove in Louisville, KY. https://crookedcreek.live/2018/04/19/soul-7/

 

The Process 

Wedding May 18, 2018

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Jolea Brown, Photographer

Mr. and Ms. Tom Elliott, Stroud, England

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Jolea Brown, Photographer

“A wedding dress is both an intimate and personal for a woman – it must reflect the personality and style of the bride.” Caroline Herrera

 

Theme graphic in title by Pixabay

Looking Back Again

Maybe it’s my recent milestone birthday, but I keep looking back. Please walk with me as I recall some things of years past. 

Do You Remember When?

  • Gas stations were Service Stations? The attendant checked your oil and cleaned your windshield as well as pumping your gas. I remember my Dad driving into the station and requesting “A dollar’s worth please!” That was approximately three gallons back then. 
  • There was one vehicle per family rather than per driver?
  • Funeral homes provided ambulance service?
  • Doctors made routine house calls?
  • Horses were used to farm?
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  • Babies were born at home?
  • The deceased were “laid out” at home? That was before the parlor became a “living” room. 
  • Farm homes had smokehouses? They were not for smokers of cigarettes and cigars. They were for preserving (smoking) and then storing meat for the table.
  • You didn’t own a computer? 
  • You learned to used email?
  • Your phone wasn’t in your pocket?
  • You didn’t know who was calling until they spoke? 

 

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. Marcus Garvey

Life is Short

There are things in life that just don’t seem worth it, especially when you consider that life is short. The older I get the more things I find not worth the effort, time or discomfort. I realize that this is in part due to simply being a senior, but I want more credit than that. Much of what I’ve decided life is too short for is due to experience and wisdom. 

Life’s Too Short

  • To wear a bra
  • To eat (or drink) kale
  • To not see the ocean as often as the opportunity presents itself

  • To not dig in the dirt
  • To not pause for nature

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  • To not “look up at the stars” as Stephen Hawking said
  • To spend it worrying about the past

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  • To waste time on Facebook
  • To not spend time with loved ones including friends at every opportunity 
  • To not laugh
  • Did I mention wearing a bra?

How about you? Are there things you would list?

 

“I find it delightful that the optimal way I can live my life from moment-to-moment is also the optimal way I can prepare for my death, and equally delightful that acknowledging our future death is a prerequisite for living a truly joyful life now.”  Ram Dass

 

Photos by Pixabay

Soul 7

I Believe

I believe my Mother’s essence is in many objects that I have in my home. Not so much in the antique dishes or her personal jewelry, but in the things she infused with her love. I believe that her soul speaks to me through the stitches she loving put into place over the years of her life. I feel her love in the baby quilt she embroidered for her children, the ring pillow she made for my wedding, in the yarn she transformed into beautiful pieces of art and the scraps of material from the clothes she made for her granddaughters and their dolls, later quilted together.

I believe that my Aunt Thelma’s essence is strong in items she left behind and that she must be happy we find both uses and joy in them today. They are things that were dear to her and I have the privilege now of calling them mine. I love them not for themselves but because I loved her so much and I feel her presence when I see them.

She was taught by her church that it was a duty to bear children and it was probably her greatest disappointment in life that she did not conceive. She loved me and other nieces and nephews, she loved my daughters, too. How sweet her smile must be as she watches my granddaughter, who Aunt Thelma never met, sew pieces of lace from her 91 year old wedding dress into the wedding dress that Kate will wear next month. I know her soul is happy today. 

I believe my husband’s essence is the flowers that grow in our courtyard where he planted them. In caring for them, I continue to learn from him about the effort it takes to give beauty its fullest potential. His soul lives on nourishing the plants, keeping me company and giving me purpose. 

I believe that my maternal Grandparents’ essences are present when I pick up one of their Bibles. I know how important these books were to them and not just as a place to record family records of births, marriages, and deaths. They also recorded other important information such as their Social Security Numbers and the date of their last tetanus shots!

Seriously, the Bible was holy to them. They each read from it daily and they carried it with them to their little country church, Mt. Vernon Baptist, twice each Sunday and usually at least once in the middle of the week. Their souls are close by those worn and precious books. 

 

Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye… it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.” Evard Munch

Part 7 of 7

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

SOUL 6

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THE ESSENCE OF EACH PERSON 

I believe the soul is the essence of a person. It is who they are at their core. This is not original, we’ve seen this word used by others in this series.

Since “soul” is such a difficult concept for me to imagine and since that word has connotations of both good and bad from my religious upbringing, I needed a different, more neutral word and “essence” works for me. It means a person’s intrinsic nature and immutable character. It is real, everlasting and never changing. Even after the person has died it is as recognizable as their face or their voice. 

My Recent Experiences

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My husband, who died in December of 2014, was a nature lover. He was wise in the ways of animals and birds. He was a master at growing beautiful things. He imparted his reverence for creatures and his appreciation for all living things to each of us who knew and loved him during his eighty-five years of life.  

When my two daughters and I visited their father’s gravesite for the first time we were driving along a country road on our return home. Suddenly, we all three, at the same time, saw a large group of cranes ahead of us flying in a V formation. In my entire life, I do not recall seeing more than one crane at a time and rarely in flight. I pulled my car to the side of the road and we watched this magnificent sight approach and then fly over our car in direct view of the sunroof and then behind us and off into the distance. 

We did not need to discuss or compare thoughts. Each of us knew that we had experienced our loved one communicating with us. Those strong birds in flight represented his essence.

We rarely go the thirty-plus miles to that quiet old cemetery without seeing a deer, a beautiful blue bird, or some other unexpected creature. One time there was even a box turtle on the road to be rescued and repositioned in the grass. It happens at other times, too. Just days ago I opened the front door to see a beautiful squirrel in front of my porch, sitting there to remind me of my husband’s nature and his love. This was the very first squirrel at our home in five years of living here and it was a gift. Let me be clear, I am not saying that any of these creatures are my deceased husband nor his soul. I’m saying they represent his essence. I believe they are there at his beckoning.

These instances happen less often now than in the first year or so after his death. I believe he knows we need them less now than early on. I believe he knows somehow that our family continues to think of him and cherish his memory, but that we have been comforted and are more at peace now with his absence. 

 

For more information I recommended this book: images

 

“Some cognitive scientists believe human response to music provides evidence that we are more than flesh and blood—— that we also have souls. “ Judy Picoult

Post 6 of 7

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

Soul 3

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David

Born one year ago to spend a few brief moments in the arms of his parents and then forever in our hearts.

He never smiled, never smelled the spring air, nor felt sunshine on his face.
He will never blow out birthday candles nor ride a trike, but he is loved, and
He never cried, never lived in earth’s pollution.
He never heard the word “no,” nor felt the sting of discipline.
He will never be sick, break an arm, nor scrape a knee.

David was, without reason or plan, transported from his mother’s safe, loving body to the arms of Jesus, who weeps for our sorrow. We hurt for our loss, but are comforted by the assurance of heaven.

 

David Tyler Clay Puckett Born April 9, 1987. Parents: Allison & Stan Puckett. Poem written by Grandmother 4/9/88                                              

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Part 3 of 7

Photos by Pixabay

Beauty 4

Beauty Four       

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 Fairy tales can come true? 

           It could happen to you. . .music-2570451_1280

Please don’t let it be true!

 

Beauty and the Beast

In spite of learning so much more about Beauty and the Beast, I still suspect that Beauty and many other females in fairy tales suffer from Stockholm syndrome.  I would prefer this story: 

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Fairy Tales

A close review of old stories for children, even nursery rhymes, and songs, contain thinly veiled topics that few would find healthy for young children. Some subject matter that comes to mind includes poverty, patriarchy, arranged marriages, cannibalism, incest, and beastiality. (I sure wish I had not used Google to find the correct spelling of that last word!)

The country of origin seems to have little influence on whether the tale is age appropriate. Beauty and the Beast was written in France as we learned in the last post, Aesop’s Fables are from Greece, Hans Christian Andersen was Danish and the Brothers Grimm were German.

Nursery Rhymes

Again I am guilty of jumping to conclusions without complete information because when I started reading full versions of many nursery rhymes I found that I was only familiar with part of the story. For instance, I had only heard the first verse of Baa Baa Black Sheep. Did you know that the last verse is about a zebra? There are workable theories that this rhyme is based on slavery or unfair taxing, but we won’t go there today. 

Again I had not read or heard all of Little Bow Peep. Did you know that when she found her sheep it “made her heart bleed” because of the loss of their tails? I’m not sure what it is about tails but The Three Blind Mice had theirs surgically removed by the farmer’s wife! 

Poor Humpty Dumpty is mortally crushed in a fall. Everyone knows I suppose that Peter held his wife captive in a pumpkin shell and Jack sustained a skull fracture which Jill tried to replicate as she came tumbling after.

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Courtesy of DLTK

Maybe it is the nurse in me, but I see emergency departments filled with these casualties. Perhaps you’re seeing it reported on cable news or from the viewpoint of law enforcement. 

Songs

I would be willing to bet that you have either sung “Rock-a-bye Baby” or had it sung to you. Did you, like me, picture that sweet fragile baby crashing to the ground when the windstorm breaks the limb upon which its cradle was hung? Could it be that the words really do not matter at all? Is it conceivable that the only thing that matters is that someone is lovingly singing a lullaby?

Final Thoughts

You may wonder what these four posts entitled Beauty are about and if so my job here is done. I want you to wonder, to question. I am interested in thoughts this series might have prompted. I would like to know your opinions, your favorite or least favorite children’s story, whether you reached any conclusions. Please share in the comments. Thank you.

My Favorite?

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes is brilliant. It seems much more like an adult tale than a child’s, but regardless there is such a valuable lesson contained in this story. It isn’t sing-song verse nor does it rhyme. It does not frighten but manages to carry a profound message. 

 

Part 4 of 4

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

Books 4

Reader Feedback

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First Book Memories, Favorite Books and Authors

So many of us remember our reader, Dick and Jane from first grade! Nancy Drew mysteries are another favorite among Crooked Creek readers. This chart lists your first memories and your favorites according to comments made regarding the past three posts: 

1st Book Memory

“A Tree for Peter”  by Kate Seredy

Dick & Jane (elementary school book)

Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene

“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

Favorite Books

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith

“The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck

Scriptures from the “Good Book”

Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross

Favorite Authors

Mary Higgins Clark

Harland Coban

Shakespeare

Nickolas Sparks

Jodi Picoult

James Patterson

Francine Rivers

Dean Koontz

Stephen King

Lisa Gardner

Access, Storage and Disposal

Most of you indicated that you love books today even though many of you did not have books readily available in your family growing up. Some obtained books from the library or a “Bookmobile” operated in rural areas. I, too, remember those visiting libraries, but I do not if they still exist. An interesting concept today for urban readers, according to one of you is the placement of small repositories where books may be borrowed or added.

You are a generous group, mostly passing your books on to others or donating them. Some of you resale at Half-Price Bookstores. And, it seems that there are always books with which we cannot part. Only one person shared how their books are arranged and that was by alphabetical order. Readers were about 50 to 50% in preference of paper books versus electronic or audio books.

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Pixabay Photo

Genre

Whether you are reading for self-improvement, to learn new skills, to broaden your mind with history or poetry or simply to be entertained or thrilled you are engaging in an activity that will forever be a part of your life. Even if, like one reader, we need to keep a list of the books read so that we don’t buy them a second time, there are passages that affect us in ways of which we are unaware. 

Thank You Pat, Lula, Rose, Kay, Sylvia and Others

I am honored that this blog is one of the things that you read!  

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“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.”  Louisa May Alcott

Part 4 of 5

Books 3

Favorite Book and Favorite Author

For the avid reader, this can be a difficult question to answer. This asks one to consider everything from the classics to beach reading, fiction, and non-fiction, history, poetry, and prose. Rather than doing a detailed evaluation of your reading over the past, let’s make this easy. Which author comes to mind at this moment? Which book?

Fine. That is asking too much, so please share with us your top three favorite books. Likewise, your three favorite authors. That should be easier and the books and authors should coincide, right?

My Favorites

You know I would never ask you to do something that I am unwilling to do, right? You also know I love sharing with you, the readers, so here goes in no particular order.

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The first book that comes to my mind is A Prayer for Owen Meany. I read this book by John Irving many years ago and it has remained a favorite of mine to this day. In fact, after a few years, I simply remembered that it was a fun read and recalled only a few parts of the storyline, so I read it again and then later again. Naturally, the author became a favorite and I have read many of his books and now that I write this wonder why I have not read all of them.

It may be that I especially enjoy Irving’s writing because he is my contemporary. If you are not familiar with his work, you may recall some of the movies based on his writings. The first is The World According to Garp (1982) and another very popular one is Cider House Rules (1999). Do either of these ring a bell?

Irving’s mind and imagination are astounding. They might also be described as bizarre. In my opinion, he is more imaginative than Stephen King another favorite of mine. Warning, if you are offended by sexual content, Irving is not the writer for you.

“Imagining something is better than remembering something.” John Irving in The World According to Garp.


 

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Another writer that I have great admiration for is William Styron who died in 2006 at the age of 81. Styron wrote many award-winning novels and essays. Most are familiar with the movie Sophie’s Choice which is based on Styron’s book of the same name. Being born during WWII, I have always been interested in reading about that era and particularly the Holocaust. Styron received a fair amount of criticism because the main character in his book was not Jewish, but Catholic. I can understand some being sensitive to that since over 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, however, there were others who were targeted, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Romas (then referred to as Gypsies) and the handicapped to name a few. That controversy aside, Sophie’s Choice is a spellbinding and at the same time heart-rending book.

The Confessions of Nat Turner, which won the author a Pulitzer Prize is another of Styron’s that I particularly liked. This historical novel tells in first person the narrative Turner’s leadership of a slave revolt in VA in 1831. 

Styron was a prolific writer and his works included accounts of his own challenges living with depression.

“A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.”  William Clark Styron


 

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John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, CA in 1902 and was known for both humor and a strong social conscious. Four years before his death at age 66 he won a Nobel Prize in Literature. Two of my favorite Steinbeck books are described briefly below. 

East of Eden, my favorite book by Steinbeck, was published in1952 and set in his homeland, the Salinas Valley of Central California. It was originally written for his two young sons so that they might know the valley he loved in detail. The writer tells about the entangled lives of two families one of which is believed to have been his maternal ancestors. Steinbeck is reported to have considered East of Eden to have been his masterpiece stating “I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.” 

The Grapes of Wrath published in 1939 won Steinbeck both a Pulitzer for fiction and the National Book Award. It is about a family of tenant farmers living in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. Because of both their financial distress and the years of drought hundreds of families fled their homes to look for a future in California. 

One year after this historical novel was published a movie was made by the same name, starring Henry Fonda.

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”  John Ernst Steinbeck


It was not until I started writing this post, that I realized all these favorites are all American writers. There are others who I love to read, but they are predominately American, too. As mentioned earlier I enjoy Stephen King, but also Tony Morrison, Maya Angelo, Rebecca Wells, and poet Niki Giovanni. 

Before wrapping this post up I must add Gabriel Jose’ Garcia Marquez, a Columbian journalist who became a prolific novelist. He too has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. There is so much more I want to say about Garcia Marquez but will stop by recommending these two books, Life in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude. 


 

Part 3 of 5

 

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Reader Feedback to Follow in Next Post!

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Books 2

First Book Memory? 

What is the first book that you remember? For this exercise, the Holy Books such as the Bible or Qur’an do not count. Many children are read these sacred books at home and/or in religious classes. Such books contain many stories suitable for young children and they may actually be the first memories of a storybook. Let’s think outside that genre looking at books that are a few centuries more current.

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It was a long, long time ago when living on Crooked Creek that I remember https://crookedcreek.live/2016/08/30/first-blog-is-coming-soon/ my Mother reading a book to my older brother, Norman, and me. The book that I can see her holding had a soft cover and was very worn. It looked nothing like the copy I bought a few years ago (pictured above). I wish that as an adult I had discussed Toby Tyler with Mom or my brother, but I don’t recall that I did and it is now too late. I vaguely remembered that Toby was a little boy who ran away with the circus, but that is all that I could recall.

Buying and reading the new copy in 2003 was upsetting in so many ways. First of all, it is one of the saddest books I have read. I just cried again today re-reading it all the way through in a few hours. It seems cruel if it was intended as a children’s book, which it seems to be. Funny, though that I do not remember being traumatized hearing it read as a child. Perhaps my Mom didn’t finish it or made up happy parts to cover the cruel events in Toby’s life. Minnie was fully capable of doing that.  https://crookedcreek.live/2016/12/10/minnie-ii/  

Regardless, I have a feeling that many times memories are simply better than the event itself. Perhaps it was that time of closeness, hearing my Mother read that made it so special.  

Do You Have a Bookshelf?

Where do you keep the books you’ve read or plan to read? Do you have bookshelves and if so how do you organize them? I often see books organized by similar color, especially in magazines and home furnishing stores. It does look nice, but unless I remembered the color of a particular book, I might have trouble finding it easily. I think that arrangement is more for decor than utility. I hang my clothes in the closet by color, but my books are organized by genre, more or less. This works for me, a person often accused of being obsessively organized. 

My bookshelves (above) are very traditional but apparently there are more creative ways to store your books. By coincidence our local newspaper advertised bookshelves the day after this was written. Here are some other options.

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How do you feel about Coffee Table Books?

I have to admit that is not a question I would have thought of presenting, except that I heard someone say recently that they were not that into coffee table books. I won’t say who it was (my firstborn), but it caused me to pause. After some thought, I realized that I might love the book and appreciate its wonderful photography and still not want it to live on my coffee table for long. You? 

Confession

  1. I feel it necessary to tell you that my therapist daughter says my organizational skill is all an “illusion” but what does she know? 

Coming Up: Your Favorite Book/Author

Part 2 of 5

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Reader Feedback

After the first post on February 19, I was amazed by the immediate feedback from two book lovers! They shared many of their family memories, favorite books, and reading habits. I was especially touched by one sharing that she was reading to two separate family members when their lives came to an end.

Please read the comments of Pat and Lula in the last post. (Note: the only two at the time of this writing, certainly more may be added later.)

Medicine 3

Sexology Continued

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Conceiving a “Babe”

There is little doubt why there were very large families at the beginning of the 20th Century. The Complete Guide to Prevention and Cure of Disease, which was no doubt the prevalent thinking of the time, provided a very long and detailed chart outlining fertile and barren periods in a woman’s menstrual cycle. Unfortunately, it was dead wrong. The chart lists the days at the beginning and end of the cycle as “probable fertile” and the middle of the cycle which is we now know when ovulation occurs as “probable barren.”  By accident, a couple of the “probable fertile” days may have been in fact fertile. 

Birth control is not a subject of these chapters on Sexology and I am glad. No way would I care to describe here the method most common at that time. We’ll just move on to determining whether the “babe” will be a boy or a girl. This book seems very confident in opinions regarding choosing the sex of a child. 

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Will the “Babe” be a boy or a girl?

We know today that the male sperm determines the sex of a baby. We’ve had more than a   century to study and learn, so it is unfair, I suppose, to make fun of the 1910 thinking. But hey, that’s up to you. Here’s what the manuscript says in direct quote or paraphrase:

  • “The ovary is undoubtedly the predominant factor.” 
  • “Nutritional disturbances” such as diabetes are more likely to lead to the birth of a girl. 
  • “Emotion” is a factor in sex determination and the soul pervades every element of our bodies with either pleasure or pain.
  • To conceive the desired sex, during intercourse (or coitus as Sheldon of “Big Band Theory” would say) ones’ mental recollections should be pleasant and calm. 
  • Experiments were made using cows and horses resulting in eight (8) different conditions that influenced the sex of a calf or colt, including the age, strength, health and work history of each animal parent. 
  • These animal observations were then applied to human parents.

 

 

 

Want a Boy?

The husband must partake of “substantial food, exercise in open air and indulge in light literature.” He should also not “indulge” himself for a few days prior to intercourse. The wife should eat a vegetarian diet, exercise daily to almost fatigue and spend some time with older women. She should also take certain extracts which are listed. 

Want a Girl? 

Do the opposite! The wife should eat animal food, not “indulge her passions” and keep all her “vigor for the desired time.”  The husband should do “exercise to fatigue,” and take a “sitz bath of cold rock-salt water” morning and night. 

Final Sexology Warning 

Above all take “Care of the Passions.” The book cautions that those who are reckless in this respect will “Produce disorders of the nervous system. Messengers of evil or of good are ever passing” through the reflex centers of the brain, stomach, and genitals and “to touch one is to touch all.”  

 

 

 

https://crookedcreek.live/2018/01/23/medicine/

Part 3 of 4

 

 

Cats

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Photo by Kate Puckett Elliott – Australia

 

Advice 

Never go to a place where rescued animals are up for adoption unless you are planning to adopt. It can be heartbreaking. It can lead to a dysfunctional relationship. 

2006

Several months after the unexpected death of our beloved cat, eight-year-old Annie, we felt we were ready to adopt another cat. We went to Shamrock Foundation http://shamrockpets.com to select another cat who would hopefully be as loving as Annie. We did not find that cat on our first visit but we filled out adoption papers listing personal references and our veterinarian and agreeing to a home visit if requested. We wanted to be ready when “our” cat appeared.  

In a few days, we received a call that a nice young “tortie” was available. We had no idea what that term meant, but soon learned it is short for tortoiseshell. These cats are usually a combination of two dark colors with little or no white and the pattern is somewhat like that of the shell of a tortoise. Fun fact, they are almost always female, because the few males born are usually sterile. 

We went in to see this “tortie” who had been brought to the shelter because her owner had too many cats to care for. We watched as she played with balls and string and after about an hour decided to adopt this little girl who still had stitches intact from her recent spaying. 

Meet Zoe

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2008

While shopping for supplies for Zoe at a pet store we accidentally stumbled into a nest of large cages containing cats for adoption. The Humane Society of Kentucky https://www.kyhumane.org from an adjoining county had about a dozen cats there. I tried to ignore them, but it was impossible. While standing by one cage a large caramel and white cat stretched out his paw through the grid and gently touched me. I instinctively stuck one finger inside the cage to rub the top of his head. That was an action that sealed our future as a family. 

After much deep consideration and discussion with my husband and friends, I knew I had to return for that cat. Long story short, (I know, too late!) We became a two cat household. Twice as much litter to scoop, hairballs to clean up and vet bills to pay.

Unfortunately, I did not consult Zoe. She would have clearly said “NO!” Little did I know that male and female cats (especially those who have been “fixed”) are not going to get along well. 

Meet Elliott 

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Part 1 of 4 

Infinity Suit

Autumn

Yesterday I was overcome by the beauty of autumn colors. Red fire bushes, yellow poplar trees and the varying shades of sugar maples made our neighborhood its most attractive. Setting out to walk and take photos of the trees I stumbled upon some unexpected gems of nature. Mushrooms have always mystified me for several reasons. First I like the surprise as they pop out of their dark origins unannounced. Second is the variety of shapes and range of drab colors from white to black. I also like the taste of mushrooms whether raw or cooked, but I have never dared to eat any found in the wild. I recall a family who gathered mushrooms out west somewhere many years ago and one or more of them ended up needing liver transplants, but that’s not a story for today.

When I saw these especially interesting mushrooms yesterday it reminded me of a film I saw a few weeks ago. As part of a several week discussion of death sponsored by The Center for Interfaith Relations, I was at the Main Louisville Library attending screenings of two films concerning end of life decisions. One was entitled “Suiting Dennis” and I had expected it to perhaps be about a family dressing their deceased loved one. I mean, what would you have expected? I could not have been more wrong and since we are now discussing mushrooms, I want to share this intriguing true story with you.

As some of you will recall we discussed death here extensively early this year. One of the posts was entitled “To Bury or Not” and several traditions and options were mentioned. https://crookedcreek.live/2017/02/19/death-to-bury-or-not/  The “Suiting Dennis” option is one new to me and I’m betting to most of you. I find it fascinating and look forward to both your reactions and your opinions.

Please watch as terminal patient, Dennis Wright and his family, make an unprecedented decision for the disposal of his remains. https://vimeo.com/145882693 This film is almost 27 minutes long and introduces you to Wright and his family offering glimpses into their lives together before making this some might say radical decision. 

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More Information

A trailer for the film is available at https://vimeo.com/149319345 and lasts only about one minute if you would prefer a peek before committing more time.

And for those of you who find this subject as captivating as I do, I recommend the following TED talk (7 min) by Jae Rhim Lee: https://www.ted.com/talks/jae_rhim_lee

WALK

 

Out of Darkness

Yesterday when my alarm blared, the morning was cool and extremely foggy. As I lifted my sore body off the warm bed it was impossible to decide which of its parts was more painful. Two days ago I took a hard fall and was lucky to find nothing broken as two nice folks helped me to my feet. Brisk walking two to three miles or more a day has been my main exercise for the past few years. I generally avoid sidewalks, keeping to the nature trails in the nearby Parklands. https://www.theparklands.org/Parks/Pope-Lick-Park  I should have stuck to that plan because once again my walk had been rudely interrupted by concrete here in my neighborhood. 

During the past two painful days, I had tried to decide whether I would be able to keep my commitment to participate in the “Out of Darkness” walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention* (AFSP).  I was pre-registered and looking forward to walking with the group I had recently joined, so I decided to give it a try and I am so glad that I did, even though I did not quite make the entire course. 

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Almost 600 people were gathered at the Waterfront Park here in Louisville to raise funds for suicide prevention and to promote education about suicide awareness. Tens of thousands more walked across this country. It was humbling to be in the company of so people who had been touched by suicide. We walked in remembrance. We walked in unity with survivors. We walked simply to give support, both emotional and financial.

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Walking is good exercise, even for the clumsy, but walking in collaboration with others for an important cause was worth the extra effort it took yesterday. 

Earlier this year I wrote several blog posts on the subject of death and on March 1, specifically about suicide. It is a tough subject to discuss and I will always be grateful for the person who allowed me to post the eulogy that she gave for her mother who died in December of 2014 as the result of suicide. I hope that you will read or re-read that post, https://crookedcreek.live/2017/03/01/death-suicide/ because the words written by Laurie Lamb Ray more clearly express the need for suicide awareness than I ever could. Her heartbreakingly candid account of her Mom’s depression provides a window on this subject we scarcely encounter. Yesterday I walked for Laurie’s Mom, Marilyn, and for my cousin David, both of whom I sincerely miss.

 

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Our Team

 

 

https://afsp.org

 

 

2017

Tonight’s Halloween Party

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Our hosts – Dianne and Floyd, Allison with her Papa’s guitar, Kate surprised us by #1 driving down from Indianapolis & #2 red hair rather than her recent blue, and there were many cute kids of all ages including “Michael Jackson.”  We missed Charlotte and Elizabeth and several of our other regulars tonight. 

OK, that’s it, no more Halloween talk. . . . at least not for a long, long, time. All I had to do was put on that lame tee shirt and I’m still tired! 

Hope you all had a fun and safe Halloween, too. 

NOW

Halloween 21st Century Upgrade

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In 1999 Dianne married Floyd Bynum and soon after they began to host a Halloween party each year.  They sensationally exceed anything we did back back in the day.        

Their Open House is always decorated inside and out with lights, color, frightful moving objects and sounds. They create original costumes and outdo themselves with festive and sometimes scary food. 

Since the party is always on Halloween night regardless of the day that falls on, we get to enjoy Trick or Treaters who come to the door in droves. I love to see the kids of all ages with creative costumes ranging from preschoolers dressed as their favorite cartoon characters to teens, sometimes dressed as TV personalities or political figures.

This annual party is for friends, neighbors, and relatives of all ages. When October begins I start looking forward to what imaginative invitation will be received. These are a few of my favorites. 

Some of my costumes over the years have included a bag lady, “cereal” killer, camouflaged hunter and the wolf who ate Grandma, but these days I make do with a Halloween tee.  Speaking of costumes here are just a few: 

 

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If there was a prize it would have to go to Kate as Garden Statue from “Dr. Who”          Photo by Allison Puckett

 

 

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Kate as Corpse Bride                              Photo by Allison Puckett

 

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Photo by Allison Puckett

 

 

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Elizabeth as Cleopatra

 

It’s a little late to plan a big party this year, but if you are not tired of Halloween you have through Sunday, November 5 this year to take in the Louisville Jack O Lantern Spectacular at Iroquois Park. I promise you that it is worth the effort. The display of artistic pumpkin carving must be seen to be believed. Check it out! http://www.jackolanternlouisville.com

                             Jack O Lantern Photos by Allison Puckett

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE ! ! !

THEN

Halloween Then

Country in the 40s

The earliest memory I have of Halloween was when we still lived on Crooked Creek. Trick or Treating had not been heard of back then, or at least not in rural Anderson County. I am surprised to recall going to a Halloween Party at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. I have no idea whether this was a regular event because I only remember that one. Even some adults were dressed in costumes or “false faces” which is what we called masks. I told my mother that I wanted to dress up as Nancy, a little girl in the daily comics. I always looked for Nancy in my grandfather’s paper, but only after he had finished all the sections. I learned very young that nobody messed with Pappy’s Courier-Journal which he read each day from the front page to the back.

 

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Nancy By Ernie Bushmiller 

 

My mom agreed and I have no idea what we came up with for a costume. All I remember is, and this part is hauntingly vivid, she hung a sign around my neck that read simply “Nancy.”

Town in the 50s

We moved to Taylorsville when I was around seven years old, and I’m not sure Mom was any more creative by then, but I certainly recall being introduced to the Trick or Treat tradition by my new friends. What a dream come true that a bunch of kids could put on false faces and go from house to house for hours collecting free candy! This town life was proving to be incredible! Such innocence.

The Burbs During the 60s

As we all know, time passes swiftly and soon I was the mother of kids to dress up for Halloween. Raymond and I lived in a new subdivision in Jeffersontown and it was the perfect place for our two young daughters to go out begging for treats. What fun we all had! In our family, Halloween became a time almost as celebrated as Christmas. We planned ahead, decorated, stocked up on candy to hand out and of course let our girls decide who or what they wanted to be on that scary night. Their dad and I would take turns going out with the Trick or Treaters or staying at home to hand out treats to the many children who rang our doorbell.

After a very long search today I was able to locate and scan pictures of Dianne and Allison on two of those years when they were still quite young. It is interesting to note that the oldest, Dianne, dressed up as a princess both years. Do we see a pattern here?

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Amid all these happy memories one particular Halloween stands out that went awry. Our youngest, Allison, who was always quite . . . we’ll say, “active”, ran toward a neighbor’s door, tripped over a bike and ended we up at the old Kosair Children’s hospital where she received a few stitches in her chin. For years she showed off the scar as a badge of her fierceness.

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In a few years, innocence gave way to suspicion and worry, after reports began to surface regarding all kinds of perverted “tricks” being played by adults. The TV news warned of poisons and sharp objects being imbedded into candy and other treats. At that point, parents began to ban eating anything collected until they had carefully examined each item. It even came to the point where local hospitals were x-raying the treat bags as a free service. In spite of this Halloween has survived and is still a fun time for most families with small children.

The truth is, we like to scare and be scared. We like a time to pretend we are someone or something else, maybe someone daring like a superhero or frightening such as a vampire or serial killer.

Did you Trick or Treat as a child? If so, what was your favorite costume or memory?

WINDS of CHANGE

“Change is going to happen, just as the wind is going to blow.” 

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How to live in The Winds of Change 

When I was a kid I could make a phone call on a rotary pay phone for a dime. As I got older it went up to a quarter. Long distance phone calls whether from home or a phone booth were very expensive and required the help of an operator. For you younger readers an operator was a person, nearly always female, who physically plugged in connections to your party. 

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Do you have a rain barrel at your home? I don’t expect many, if any at all, will respond “yes” to that question, but I have seen one or two in recent years as homeowners become more green. When I was a little girl we had rain barrels to collect water used for washing clothes. That water was filled with “wiggle-tails”  (insects) which swam around jerkily near the top of the water. Looking back I strongly suspect they metamorphosed, i.e., changed, into mosquitoes. I also vaguely remember having a baby duck which I let swim round and round in a rain barrel until it grew too big. 

One day I was upset that my older brother and his friends were swimming in one of our farm ponds and I wasn’t allowed to join them. I don’t remember being given a reason but would bet it had to do with being too young or more likely, being a girl. So, my Mom’s answer to my unhappiness was to lift me over into a rain barrel and order me to “Play and have fun” while she watched to be sure I didn’t drown. Is it any wonder that I remain a non-swimmer to this day? 

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Pixabay

 

Please bear with me for one more example of change from my childhood. My maternal grandmothers cooked everything from scratch. My paternal grandmother (Grandmother) milked her own cow morning and night and made butter from part of the milk. My maternal grandmother (Mammy) even picked the nut meat for baking out of walnuts and hickory nuts that she gathered from her yard. I recall hearing her sharing a recipe once and the only part that I remember is that she said to “Add lard about the size of a hen egg.” I wish I had been inquisitive enough to ask whether other of her recipes, which were never written down, might have required a different size egg, e.g., a goose egg or perhaps a bantam egg?

SUMMARY: Over the past few weeks, we have looked at change in various ways.

  1. Is change good?
  2. Is it inevitable?
  3. Do we basically stay the same in spite of the changes we experience around us?

Several readers have commented about the aspects of change you find either uncomfortable or reassuring. 

THE ANSWER: is blowing in the wind, my friend. It is blowing in the wind. Please listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G58XWF6B3AA

And, what does this mean to you? Are we part of the answer? Are we helpless, buffeted endlessly by the winds of change? Bob Dylan, one of my favorite musicians, by the way, is ambivalent therefore the interpretation is up to each of us.

Katherine Whitehorn* made this significant point worth remembering: “The wind of change, whatever it is, blows most freely through an open mind …”

 

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“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”  William Arthur Ward

 

*British journalist, writer, and columnist born in 1928. She was known to be a keen observer of the changing role of women.

Part 4 of 4

Theme photo by Pixabay

 

CHANGE

Change Happens

Depending on our age we may have seen tremendous changes in our lifetime. I doubt that change is as evident to younger adults or that they have time to give it much consideration in their busy lives. As a retired person though, I have time to contemplate such trivial topics. This subject came to me yesterday as I walked past a soccer game and observed young parents dividing their attention between their kids playing on the field and the screens of their smartphones. I thought back many years to when I watched my children playing and while my mind may have wandered (ok, it did wander) I would not have been distracted by an electronic device as we are today. As I continued walking it dawned on me that because of these ubiquitous phones we no longer need to wear a watch, although we are likely to be wearing an activity tracker that includes the time along with our number of steps, miles, heart rate and other data. The same is true of alarm clocks, maps, calculators, newspapers, cameras and so much more made redundant by this one small gadget.

I might have first genuinely appreciated the changes that a lifetime can hold while talking to my stepfather when I was fifty or so and he was in his eighties. We were in the milking barn at his dairy farm and he was sitting comfortably in a leather recliner watching an automatic feeding system advance food to each cow patiently waiting in her stanchion. As the conveyor belt moved food and hay down the length of his modern barn I recalled my childhood seeing my father in his small barn where he did everything by hand including milking each cow twice a day. This was change, this was progress, but it still made me a little sad.

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Is change Good?

Overall, change is good though, right? For the most part, I believe that it is, but we cannot deny that with progress has come loss. In my own lifetime, certain things come to mind that I wish I could experience again, for example not only being with Dad as he worked the farm, but wading in Crooked Creek with its sandy bottom and creepy crawfish, swinging with my cousin, Pat, on our grandparents front porch, riding my bike all over town with my best friend, Jeanie. Those years of innocence and discovery are the ones I miss most from my youth. I also miss the simplicity of my daughters’ childhoods growing up in a subdivision filled with other young families where they played outdoors with friends and each day held new experiences. We cannot go back, but I am grateful for memories of each phase of life. I may be through making scrapbooks, but I’m not through making memories even though they are peppered with jokes about age, lamenting the loss of height and trying to keep up with medical appointments.

I refuse to be intimidated by change, by technology or by the things that have been lost over time. Change may not always be welcome, but it is inevitable.

How about you? What are your thoughts about change? Again, more to come!

“The secret of change is to focus all of yor energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”  Socrates

 

Part 1 of 4

 

Photos by Pixabay

Seasons

“The coming and going of the seasons give us more than the springtimes, summers, autumns, and winters of our lives. It reflects the coming and going of the circumstances of our lives like the glassy surface of a pond that shows our faces radiant with joy or contorted with pain.” Gary Zukav

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Inertia

When I ended the last post I stated “more to come!” with an exclamation point no less. I was excited to go forward and begin our second year in Crooked Creek, but that was three weeks ago. There are times that no inspiration comes. I want to write but cannot seem to start, much less complete anything meaningful. It is not that I do not have ideas or opinions (you know I have opinions), but that I am overcome by inertia. That is the best way I know to describe my chronic depression. It is a bit like I imagine being stuck in quicksand would be, wanting desperately to move, but not being able. Something very powerful holds me back with arms of steel. I know I need to act, to move but it is extremely difficult to do and so much easier to sleep instead. During these past few weeks, I have not taken my daily walks at the park that I enjoyed all summer. It is not possible to explain the reason, or whether there is a reason. Every single act takes all the power I possess, whether it is to prepare food, interact with friends or show up for appointments. Daily life is fatiguing during these times as is the effort of trying to appear as though nothing is wrong. 

A few close friends and of course, family members are aware of this lifelong struggle. I share it with you (readers) today in the hope that it will benefit you or someone you know. If you live with clinical depression please know that you are not alone. If someone you care about is depressed perhaps this will help you to understand their actions or lack thereof. Their lethargy, their cancellations, their lifelessness when you feel they should be excited has nothing to do with you. If they see their doctors and counselors and take prescribed medication then they are trying and likely to get better. Depression cycles, sometimes triggered by external events, but often without obvious reason. 

Seasons

Speaking of cycles, I find it hard to believe that it is October! Can you believe summer is over and we are well into autumn? The past couple of days I did some walking in my neighborhood but found it not worth the effort. Today I returned to my beloved Pope Lick in the Parklands and what a difference it made. Since I was last there flowers have changed, grasses have dried and leaves have fallen. I glimpsed only a couple of very small butterflies. A tiny squirrel was the only animal to show its face and I don’t think that was on purpose, but because of the necessity of gathering for the coming winter. The golden finches seem to be gone. Walnuts are ripe and thumping to the ground below. 

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The cool breeze and temperatures in the 60s made walking in the sunshine so easy. Before I knew it I had walked almost 3.5 miles and I was not particularly tired. It is important for me to remember today’s walk and the inspiration that being in nature provided. For me, it was more invigorating than a massage or one of those healthy kale smoothies or even church. Winter is coming, but the sky is still blue, the air is refreshing and there are weeks of majesty ahead before the next season which will have its own splendor. 

Finally, I must remember with Tom Brokaw, “In the seasons of life, I have had more than my share of summers.”

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“Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again.”                                        Sarah Ban Breathnach

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If you desire more information about depression you may want to read this blog post by John Pavlovitz: http://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/05/10/one-reason-to-keep-living-fighting-depression/

Year One

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Year One on Crooked Creek

On August 30, 2016, Crooked Creek, the blog, was first published. At that time I invited some friends and family to check it out. Good friends and family members did just that and I am so grateful for each one. In addition, readers who I did not and still, do not know are reading as a result of referrals or by chance. I am so honored to have each of you onboard and I thought you might be interested in some of the statistics that have been collected over the past year. 

Statistics

WordPress, the foundation I use (rent) for Crooked Creek, provides very detailed stats and I find these helpful as I write and post, but I will provide just a few here because they are probably less important to you. 

    • As of this date last year I had posted six times and had received 24 comments on those posts 
    • The most popular day was August 24 with 17 visitors and 49 views
    • July was the month with the most likes (35)
    • People from 28 different countries have read the blog
    • As of today there are 73 followers

Since this is my first blog, I do not know if these statistics are good or average or poor, but I am pleased nevertheless. I like to write, I love to share ideas, thoughts, questions, and stories and there would be little satisfaction without you, the reader. Another aspect of blogging that the stats do not reflect is the hard work and frustration involved. There are things the platform will not allow, changes that need to be made that are impossible and elements that I still do not understand. Some of the mishaps and mistakes are obvious to you and some are not, perhaps, e.g., I accidentally lost the photos of the last twenty or so posts. Some could be replaced and some were deleted permanently from my photo files so that revision of the posts was required. 

Obviously, it is worth the effort for me since we are now over one year in existence and this is post #51. I appreciate each of you and take seriously the time you take to read and comment on Crooked Creek. There is more to come!

 

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Thank You, Dear Readers!

 

 

Challenge Accepted 2

Challenge Accepted 2

The Crooked Creek Poem Challenge was an idea born over four months ago on Facebook when Cindi Carman used George Ella Lyon’s poem as a template to write her own “Where I’m From” poem. Cindi, an original follower of this blog, has graciously agreed to share that poem here. 

Version 2

Where I’m From by Cindi Carman

I am from black crushed pepper,
from Irish butter and Yukon potatoes.
I am from sunshine mixed with blue skies and silver linings,
from lightening and fierce winds.
I am from the pines, red oaks and sugar maples
from trees that whisper in the night.
I am from family dinners and traveling casseroles,
from Bessie Viola and Mary Leona.
I am from never give up and be thankful for everything,
from help others who are less fortunate.
I am from hold your shoulders back and sit up straight
and you are owned by the company you keep.
I am from roller coasters at Kings Island
and swimming at Otter Creek.
I am from city streets and safe neighborhoods,
from the bluegrass distilleries and rich farmlands.
I am from Jam cake and fried green tomatoes,
from Mom’s fried pork chops and Dad’s Army soup.
I am from Barbie dolls, record players and Captain Kangaroo,
a big white basket on the front of my bicycle,
from cookies hidden under my Mrs. Beasley doll.
I am from the laughter of cousins chasing after lightning bugs.
I am from diaries, scrapbooks and antenna T.V.,
from family and laughter and love, I am.


You are still invited to share your own story of origin by using Lyons’ poem as a template. See the Poem Challenge post (July 29) or click on link for more information: https://www.sausd.us/cms/lib/CA01000471/Centricity/Domain/3043/I%20Am%20From%20Poem.pdf

You may add your poem to the Comments Section (remember that + bubble at lower right of your screen) as did another reader, Gerri Nelson who is from the Pacific Coast.

Thanks for your participation Dear Readers!

Solar Eclipse

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Dianne and Allison 

Totality

It is now two days post total eclipse of the sun across the entire United States. It had been ninety-nine years (June 28, 1918) since the last such event, so it is no wonder this was a very big deal! Everyone, citizen or visitor, who experienced this event has their own story to tell. Each location, group composition, and degree of totality was different, but the one aspect of the narrative that has been consistent is positivity. I have talked with friends and strangers and have seen or read many interviews with the media and I have not heard the first complaint. Even those of us who averaged less than 17 miles per hour getting home after the eclipse have stated we would do it all over again. There was something extraordinary about this occurrence that seemed to bring people together and to make us comprehend our finiteness in the universe. I’ll leave the astrology to the scientists, the solar/lunar photos to the real photographers and the spiritual interpretation to the theologians and just tell you about our experience and my thoughts and recollections.

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Dianne & Floyd Bynum

Preparations started months ago when my daughter, Dianne, and her husband, Floyd, traveled to Hopkinsville to scope out a place to witness the coming eclipse. They made reservations at Tie Breaker Park which provided a parking permit and a 15-foot square place to camp for the day, or as they like to call it “tailgating.” We expected the space to be crowded, but upon arrival Monday at around 4:30 a.m. the place was pretty quiet. Over the next few hours, folks arrived from many different locations, some as far away as California, Texas, New York and even Quebec, Canada. At daybreak, we selected a nearby site with a shade tree and set up our camp with Dianne and Floyd’s canopy and table that were quickly assembled.

 

 

My daughter, Allison, had borrowed Stan’s (her husband) extended cab diesel truck to haul us and all our gear. She and her daughter, Kate, had packed it with everything we could possibly need and then loaded up Dianne and Floyd’s cargo and mine. The two and one half hour trip down was uneventful except perhaps for the number of donuts that can be consumed by five travelers. It was a good thing at the time that Allison did not know she would be holding down that clutch and shifting those 6 gears for about ten straight hours to get us back home. 

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Allison & Stan Puckett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pre-eclipse hours were spent discussing an upcoming wedding, 

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Kate Puckett & Tom Elliott          Photographer: Ashley Hatton, England

playing games, listening to a special playlist, meeting our “neighbors,” and eating.

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Playlist by Kate with Allison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a lot of eating. Dianne, whose enthusiasm was contagious from the early planning stages, brought creative food and snacks which included Planets, Meteorites, Space Junk, Moon Pies and Eclipse cookies. In fact we had two kinds of eclipse cookies since the Matriarch (guess who) had also baked them as a surprise. 

We had plenty of room to spread out, go for walks, visit nearby vendors and enjoy watching children play. A large group of dancers was spotted a little distance away in an open field. Their colorful costumes and dancing style made me think they might be Native Americans. When we joined others to watch the dancing we saw they were a group of men and women who appeared to be of Polynesian descent dancing and singing Christian songs and celebrating the day. When asked about their activity they replied: “The angels in heaven are dancing and so are we.” This communal spirit permeated the crowd that included a diverse group of fellow eclipse enthusiasts.

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Photo by Kate Puckett

The actual eclipse, the event we had come to witness is the most difficult to describe. You have seen the photos and videos. Many of you, using special glasses, watched the phenomenon transpire. We understand the mechanics of this rare occurrence, but the emotions are more complex and really need to be experienced first hand*. As the moon’s shadow gradually overtook the light of the sun, dusk arrived in the middle of the day. Shadows took on different shapes. 

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Shadows became crescent shaped.                                       See the contrast on the white board vs. concrete.

The horizon gave an appearance of the setting (or rising?) sun in every direction, encircling us. Cicadas, which I had not been aware of before, were now droning shrilly and loudly as in the middle of the night.

Suddenly, with totality, a brief hush came over the crowd who up to now had been laughing and loudly exclaiming with excitement. As I looked around it was nighttime, but not as dark as midnight.

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TOTALITY

 

It was a unique kind of darkness that was slightly opaque, grayish and almost otherworldly. It was simultaneously familiar and peculiar. For two minutes and 40 seconds, we were able to look at the total eclipse of the sun without protective eyewear. That brief time was adequate for considering important questions about beliefs, hopes, memories, about this life and the possibility of an afterlife. No, I did not come to groundbreaking conclusions about any of these things, but I did feel a deep sense of peace and hope for humankind.

As I observed people over the next several hours, I believe most had similar feelings. On the way home there was much laughter and love among loved ones and strangers. While waiting in line for about 30 minutes to use the restroom on the way home at a McDonald’s in Central City I heard not one complaint. Those in line were sharing about the great eclipse experience. The workers in the restaurant were ceaselessly filling orders with a smile and were receiving from customers gratitude for their work.

Back on the interstate we saw a group of people standing on an overpass and wondered what might be happening. As we approached bumper to bumper with other vehicles the young folks standing along the bridge railing were smiling, waving and making signs of peace and love to us as we slowly passed underneath them. Travelers were responding with horns blowing as we received what was an obvious “Welcome” demonstration above. As our family slowly progressed toward home we laughed, compared feelings and thoughts and of course texted Stan who was working in Jeffersonville and Elizabeth, my other granddaughter, who was attending the first day of classes at IUPUI, in Indianapolis. While we missed them all day, each had experienced a partial eclipse in their respective locations and can begin to make plans for the next total eclipse to hit the US when Indiana will be the spot for prime viewing.  

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Elizabeth Puckett

For now, my goal is to maintain the positive attitude I experienced on August 21, 2017, near Hopkinsville, KY. Recalling the hours of laughter, family interaction and unfathomable solar system display was a good diversion from current world crises. Somehow though I must meld that sense of peace with continued action. It is not enough to silently hope for the greater good of all of humankind. Promoting love and mutual respect, helping those who need it and resisting hate require movement, not simply “thoughts and prayers.”

*Start planning! You can experience this (or repeat it) on April 8, 2024. There is no excuse for not arranging to take the day off, obtaining needed reservations, composing your group and getting protective eyewear. You have seven years so start the groundwork now. 

Please share your recent eclipse experience with us in the comments. If you are planning for the next one tell us your strategy. Let’s keep the sharing going! Thank you.


Dianne’s email on behalf of our family yesterday to Eclipseville, a.k.a. Hopkinsville: 

“My family and I wanted to thank you for a wonderful time in Hopkinsville.  Your town was wonderfully represented by everyone we met.  They were all helpful and polite. We rented an area in the Tiebreaker Park. The event was well planned in that everyone was helpful and courteous and we knew what to do and where to go.  The park was clean and the restroom facilities were clean and adequate.  I’m not sure how you pulled this off with so many people arriving at once! Your emails before the event were helpful and fun.  The eclipse itself was awesome and we’ll never forget it!  We wanted you to know that we appreciate your efforts to make this event so memorable.” 

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Photo by Kate Puckett

 


Dianne prepared a Time Capsule for us to forward to our younger family members. We were so busy and involved that we hardly got it started, but will continue to add our momentoes, written thoughts, memories and pictures to the eclipse glasses and armbands and other items waiting for a total eclipse sometime in the future when the time capsule will be opened. It will hold memories and no doubt some comparisons of how things were in 2017 versus whatever year the star spangled box is opened. 

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Note: unless otherwise stated photos by my iPhone.      

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Allison Puckett, our official photographer will possibly add some good photos in another post. 

August 23, 2017

 

 

Poem Challenge

Where Are You From?

Some time ago a Facebook friend*, who is also a follower of this blog, challenged us to write about where we are from. She suggested that we use as a template a poem written by Kentucky’s 2015-2016 poet laureate, George Ella Lyon. 

Where I’m From by George Ella Lyon

I am from clothespins, 

from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride. 

I am from the dirt under the back porch.

(Black, glistening, 

it tasted like beets.) 

I am from the forsythia bush

the Dutch elm

whose long-gone limbs I remember

as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses, 

          from Imogene and Alafair. 

I’m from the know-it-alls

          and the pass-it-ons, 

from Perk up! and Pipe down! 

I’m from He restoreth my soul

          with a cottonball lamb

          and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch, 

fried corn and strong coffee. 

From the finger my grandfather lost 

          to the auger, 

the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box

spilling old pictures, 

a sift of lost faces

to drift beneath my dreams. 

I am from those moments–

snapped before I budded —

leaf-fall from the family tree.

 

I took the challenge and in a few short moments had no difficulty writing about where I’m from. I’m not a poet, but it was a wonderful exercise in turning memories over in one’s mind. It can also make us contemplate the impact our beginnings had on where we are today. 

Where I’m From by Sue Mattingly

I am from creek bottoms, 

crawfish, and chiggers. 

I am from an old apple tree,

Under which my rope swing hung.

I am from the hollyhocks 

in my Grandmother’s yard

from which she helped me to 

fashion fancy dolls.

I’m from biscuits and jam, 

      and from a galvanized tub for Saturday baths. 

I’m from water bucket and dipper

          and from the milking parlor down the road, 

from spunk and playing April Fool’s 

Jokes on my Grandfather! 

I’m from “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

          sung with Pat on the front porch swing

          and Vacation Bible School every summer.

I’m from Crooked Creek and Anderson County

From the front yard so carefully mown by my Dad

using a push mower without a motor

and the four room house Mother kept spic and span.

Against the front fence leaned my brother’s bike

which I sat on and pretended I could ride

when I heard a car coming down the gravel road.

I am from those times —

and yet feel like a foreigner —

when I try to return.

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I challenge you to write your own and I would love it if you shared your poem with us in the comments section here. I look forward to reading and to learning more about your beginnings. Thank you and a special thank you to *Cindi Carmen. 

If you are interested in reading more about Lyon see: http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html

Chicago 1

Recollections of Travel 

The first time I traveled to Chicago I remember spotting the city abruptly rising up from the surface of the earth like a majestic metropolis among white clouds stationary in the sky. As I looked down, I was in awe of the biggest city I seen to date. After landing I could not wait to look around before I had to go to work the next day on Michigan Ave. 

I was born in the country and became a woman in a tiny town. I had traveled, but Chicago seemed more sophisticated than any city I had experienced thus far. I was so glad that I had brought my camera, something I had never done on a business trip. With my new Canon AE 1 in hand, I stopped worrying about looking like a tourist and started taking pictures of the tall buildings, beautiful parks and the Chicago River running through the city. Before long I felt so comfortable I imagined being a reporter for the Tribune or Sun-Times and by the time I returned to my hotel not only my feet hurt, but also my neck from looking up at the buildings reaching for the sky. What a great day, but alas I needed to prepare for work the next few days. 

Due to my company’s large presence in the area, over the next couple of years, I traveled to Chicago and its suburbs many times and it quickly became my favorite city. I still feel this way even after spending time in New York City and several European cities. Not even the fact that I had zero photographs from that momentous first trip dimmed my enthusiasm. You see, this was during the time when cameras were loaded with film and I had failed to properly engage said film in my fancy new camera so the roll that should have contained 36 newspaper worthy photos was completely blank! I learned to properly load the film and thereafter saved my fancy camera for vacations. 

My Really Bad Idea

My husband had not been to Chicago and I wanted him to experience the city, so we planned for him to accompany me on one of my trips. Having always flown into O’Hare or Midway, I was a little apprehensive about driving my pretty red sports car in the city, but I didn’t really give it a lot of thought until IT happened. 

After five hours or so on the road, discussing our plans and enjoying the trip we were in the heart of the city heading to my favorite hotel, The Knickerbocker. It was a beautiful summer day and I felt lucky we could drive leisurely with the windows down. I was enjoying Raymond’s reaction to the city I had grown to love when someone loudly blew their horn behind us. 

At the next stoplight an apparently full can of Sprite came hurtling through the open window and hit my sweet, innocent husband on the side of his face and the liquid spilled over him and sprayed the car. He looked at me incredulously and I was immediately overcome with guilt and fear. Fear is understandable as the car chased us for a couple of blocks with the driver yelling obscenities, right? But, why did I feel responsible for this terrible assault? IT happened because when the horn blew behind us I had immediately given a reflexive response. I had flipped the driver the bird. 

I now had a serious choice to make. I could allow Raymond to think the people of Chicago were jerks (and this one clearly was) and that he could anticipate being accosted on every corner. Or, I could confess and let him know his wife had precipitated the attack. I chose the latter. 

The trip was only beginning.

 

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Photos by Pixabay

 

What I Know for Sure 4

The Last Seven

As you may have noticed, this subject has been difficult for me. Quite honestly I am surprised, because I’ve been nothing in life if not sure of my opinions, but therein lies the problem, I believe. Opinions are easy to come by, easy to hold, easy to change. Knowing something for sure is utterly different. Knowing means possessing proof, irrefutable facts, it is a reality, the unwavering truth. This reality is harder to come by. In previous posts, I came up with thirteen (13), if you allow me to include those I threw in facetiously. In order to meet the high bar set by Oprah, in number only, I was determined to come up with seven (7) more things of which I am sure. After much contemplation, here they are:

14. The love of an animal is pure. They give physical comfort, make no demands, don’t pout and are quick to forgive. 

15. Death comes to all living creatures. No matter how we try to avoid this fact it is a reality. 

16. There are no perfect marriages. Some are happier than others, some have more trials, but regardless of the effort put into a marriage, it is not possible to live with another human being without some rough spots and adjustments along the way.

17. White privilege is real. The greatest advantage I’ve been given in life, I have done nothing to earn. It was provided to me at birth simply as a result of having two white parents. 

18. Time spent in nature is rewarding. The sounds of birds, crickets, and water flowing, the feel of breezes that touch one’s face, the glimpse of a small furry animal scurrying along the ground, even the faint fragrance of a wildflower are healing and rejuvenating to the spirit of who we are or were meant to be. 

19. I cannot turn over a new leaf. No matter how many times I try, simply acknowledging that I need to make a change is not incentive enough. For me to make a change, it must involve serious consequences.

20. High heels are detrimental to a woman’s health. Created in Persia (Iran today) to be worn by men riding horses, a raised heel served the practical purpose of keeping the feet within the stirrup. High heels today serve no purpose except to hobble women, making them more vulnerable not only to assault, but to back pain, falls, and injuries to the foot and ankle. Yes, I am aware that they can be beautiful and that women who are strong and agile, can look stunning wearing them, but I maintain that they are not worth the risks involved. 


We have explored and exhausted this subject for now at least. You, the readers, have contributed many things that you know to be true and they are listed below. Please feel free to comment, adding more things you have decided are true over the past month. I believe that something can be true to one of us, yet not all of us. We are individuals and we do not think, feel or believe the same. Thank you so much for sharing with me and with each other. 

What Readers Know for Sure:

I am but a microscopic speck in the great macrocosm of the universe.  
My existence has had a purpose
Life IS worth living
I am a morning person  
I know God is real
A true friend lifts you when you’re down, listens to your problems, is caring and encouraging.
Columbus Day marks the beginning of recorded history in America.
Millions of European migrants came here bringing their music, art, science, medicine and religious principles that shaped the United States.
A leopard can’t change its spots.   
You can’t go back, only forward.
You can’t change the past.
One hand washes the other hand.
You can’t change a person’s thinking when it comes to religion or politics.
What I believe for sure, you may not.
My mother, brothers, and sister have loved me unconditionally.
I have the inner faith and strength to get through very difficult times.
Teachers can change a student for a lifetime.  
Seasons follow each other.
Spring starts from the ground up.
The moon and stars follow the sun. 
Full moons cause strange behavior in people.
Everyone is either predator or prey.
Every action has a reaction.
The human body is the most incredible organism.
Every person has a story.
Every person can choose how to react to their story.
We move through seasons and chapters of our lives individually.
Some decisions are more difficult than others.
When inflated, balloons float up.  
We all die alone, even when others are around us.
We are on this earth as we know it today, only once.

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What I Know for Sure:

I love my family with all my heart.      
Having time alone is a necessity for me.
Native Americans should not be called Indians.
Dish towels should be laundered separately.
April is not delivering in March.   
Love, at first sight, is a real phenomenon. 
Depression should be renamed. 
April had a baby.
Alot is not a word.
I am no Oprah.
CPR does not always work. 
Grandparents are not infallible.   
Adventure Animal Park will continue to make money on April through May. 
The love of an animal is pure.
Death comes to all living creatures.
There are no perfect marriages.
White privilege is real.
Time spent in nature is rewarding.    
I cannot turn over a new leaf.
High heels are detrimental to a woman’s health.   

The flowers bloom, then wither . . . the stars shine and one day become extinct . . . This earth, the sun, the galaxies and even the big universe someday will be destroyed . . . Compared with that, the human life is only a blink, just a little time . . .  In that short time, the people are born, laugh, cry, fight, are injured, feel joy, sadness, hate someone, love someone. All in just a moment. And then, are embraced by the eternal sleep called death.     Virgo Shaka

Part 4 of 4

Theme photo by Akiko Kobayashi (Japan)

What I Know for Sure 2

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” Hal Borland

It has been over two weeks since we began discussing “What I Know for Sure.” To me, this absence of posts is no surprise. After all, there are so few things we know for sure, or perhaps I should say, that “I” know for sure. Your comments after that first installment of this subject were thought provoking and I look forward to you sharing more as we go forward.

Sometimes during the night, when revelations so often materialize, I think, “I must remember this for the blog,” but when morning arrives the thought has vanished. If I am so sure, why did that certainty evaporate with dawn? To me it is further verification we know so little for sure.  Or, perhaps it is that what we know isn’t of great consequence.

Listed below are the four (4) things which I declared, initially, I know for sure. Thank you for not asking me to explain #4! It is one which I feel strongly about and I wonder if you have things which you think too few people know for sure, but should be obvious.

  1. There are few things of which I am 100% sure, but one of those certainties is the fact that I love my family with all my heart.
  2. Having time alone is a necessity for me, but I sometimes forget how much I need to be with people.
  3. Native Americans should not be called Indians.
  4. Dish towels and dish cloths should be laundered separately and not with bath towels or underwear.

What I know for Sure Today

5. April is not delivering in March. That giraffe! Have you been watching? I have, since sometime toward the end of February, and somedays I feel so sorry for her and other days I am mad . . . at her, at the Animal Adventure Park, at her Baby Daddy, Oliver. It is irrational, I know. Nature cannot be rushed. It will happen when the time is right, etc., etc. Last week, on April 8, the park’s veterinarian said that was going to be the day, “April is showing signs of early labor.” NOT! Thousands watched the live cam in anticipation, but no baby. Poor April, gestation for giraffes is fifteen months and the offspring will weigh around 150 pounds. April has gone through this three (3) times before. She knows what she is doing. It’s the caregivers who apparently do not. 

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6. Love at first sight is a real phenomenon. Not romantic love, I don’t know about that, but a Mother’s love for her newborn. No matter how red, skinny or fat. No matter how covered with toothpaste-looking vernix caseosa, bald or not, a Mom is going to experience pure love the moment she looks at her newborn’s face.

7. Depression should be renamed.  Depression is a word from the late Middle ages meaning to “press down”. It evokes a slump or perhaps an indentation, nothing too significant. The word may refer to the economy (recession), weather (tropical) or to geography (relative to the horizon). It also is a medical diagnosis and this is what should change in order to more adequately portray the condition. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders there are several diagnostic codes listed for variations of this disorder. It is not my intent to delve into the nuances of this diagnosis which can be complex and even terminal, but to encourage thought and perhaps dialog.

Too often, this diagnosis is considered to be a temporary “down” feeling which will pass, but in fact it is more likely to be a permanent condition that varies in intensity. If you struggle to understand friends or family members who you know to be depressed, please read this short account by John Pavolvitz, one of my favorite bloggers. I had been following Pavolvitz’s posts for over a year without knowing he suffers from depression, until reading this one:  http://johnpavlovitz.com/2016/07/05/the-privilege-of-mental-health/

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Photo Credit: Missy Cornish

As Borland’s quote at the beginning of this post, some things are a surety and they bring comfort. It is reassuring to know spring never misses its turn and no night lasts forever. As one of our readers has stated, “. . . . . the Sun always rises. Light transforms the darkness.” And, while this is true there are those who suffer from “clinical depression” who cannot know this for sure, everyday. No matter what we call depression, it is a diagnosis to be taken seriously, to be treated and to be better understood. That understanding brings light to sufferers.

Part 2 of 4

Theme photo by Akiko Kobayashi (Japan)

What I Know for Sure

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Thank you to Akiko Kobayashi (Japan) for this photograph.

Oprah

This title will sound familiar to fans of Oprah Winfrey. I admire Oprah, but have not followed her closely over the past several years, so when one of our readers suggested this topic, I admit that I had to do a little research. Cindi, a loyal follower of Crooked Creek, has added valuable feedback and encouragement, so I knew that I should take her suggestion seriously. 

Oprah has written a book on this subject and it was a success as just about everything is which she attempts. You can read the top 20 things she “knows” at: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/the-top-20-things-oprah-knows-for-sure

A book of things I know for sure would be a very short one, but I will attempt to come up with my top twenty. Rest assured, I do not consider myself anything like this famous and successful woman known the world over, but I do believe that this is a subject worthy our consideration, yours and mine. As we explore together, please share with us what you know for sure. 

More Gray than I Realized

When I was much younger there were so many things I was sure were true. As someone has said, “Often wrong, but never in doubt.”  That was me. Either black or white! I knew things. Things I had been taught, things I read in the Bible, things I felt in my bones. Looking back I can see how that was not only naive, but arrogant. Education, both formal and day-to-day experiences, prove repeatedly how little I know for sure. Some of my strongest opinions have bitten the dust, because they were just that, opinions. 

I remember taking a required philosophy course at The University of Louisville back in the 1970s and experiencing a major revelation during the first days. The professor, speaking from his wheel-chair, in front of about fifty students would present topic after topic from various angles. About the time I became convinced of one of his assertions he would quietly say, “But on the other hand” and then convince me of just the opposite. It wasn’t that I was easy, it was that he was good. After a few weeks of exposure to his fairness and uncomplicated brilliance I clearly saw how little I knew for sure. This does not mean that we do not have things we believe and believe in, but to me at least, it does mean that most subjects and opinions can be debated and looked at from other points of view. Our real truths will not be diluted by serious scrutiny, but we may be able to better understand another’s position. 

What I Know for Sure

The fact that I have a blog and that I like to share my thoughts and experiences must mean that I think I know something, right? No doubt it comes across that way and those who know me personally will quickly add that I am opinionated. So there, I’ve outed myself before anyone else has the chance. Before we go out too far on a serious path like Oprah though, I want to say that some of the things I know for sure are not earth shattering, but trivial. I’m going to share them anyway. Feel free to do the same. Collectively, I am sure we know many things, big and small. I’m going to start with the number one thing I know for sure and see how far we get today after that.

  1. There are few things of which I am 100% sure, but one of those certainties is the fact that I love my family with all my heart. My guess is that you love yours in that way, too. Many, if not most, things change over our lifetimes. This has not. 
  2. Having time alone is a necessity for me, but I sometimes forget how much I need to be with people. There are those who renew their energy by being with people, by talking and laughing and playing games. Those folks would simply dry up if they had to be alone for long. Others of us need time of quiet and calm at regular intervals or we become anxious and distracted. There are tests that show which type of person we are and each is labeled as some type of introvert or extrovert, but we don’t really need a Myers-Briggs or other personality test to know our personal requirements. Still, if interested here is one of those quizzes to reveal more than you probably want to know:  http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp
  3. Native Americans should not be called Indians. Columbus was mistaken. He did not land in India. If Native Americans want to use the term “Indian” they have that right, we do not. Why do we even celebrate Columbus Day? After all the suffering of this country’s indigenous people perhaps we should have a “First Peoples Day” instead.
  4. Dish towels and dish cloths should not be laundered with bath towels, underwear or other laundry. Please don’t ask me to explain. 

This is where I need to leave it for today. Perhaps I should apologize, because I have been thinking of this post for weeks and weeks and this is as far as I’ve gotten. These are the few things I know for sure as of today. I’m thinking as hard as I can and I know there are others to add to this list, I’m just not sure of them yet. 

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.

(Author unknown)

Part 1 of 4

Death – Suicide

“Suicide occurs, not because the deceased was selfish or because their loved ones failed them. Suicide occurs when one’s pain outweighs their resources of strength.” 

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Suicide

After our first discussion of Death back in mid-January, one reader stated: “Perhaps it is the way a person dies (long illness, accident, suicide, etc. ) that shakes our world more than the actual act of death itself? ” I agree with that assessment. While permanently saying goodbye to a person we love is always unbearably painful, it seems some losses are harder to accept than others. One of those circumstances is suicide. 

The very word “suicide” brings on so many questions; the first, of course, is “why”. There are many factors that contribute to the act of suicide, but rarely is it one event or situation resulting in an individual ending their own life. There may be a trigger, but the reason is much more complicated than one incident. Seldom is suicide chosen without being preceded by a long struggle, often accompanied by chronic depression. For some the desire to die is such a strong compulsion there reaches a point where it can no longer be denied. 

When I worked as a RN in an Emergency Department many years ago I witnessed firsthand the victims of suicide, some successful and others who were not. I saw the shock, confusion and heartbreak of families and regretfully at least one doctor who could not understand nor empathize with such a patient. I recall the horror of working on self-inflicted gunshot wounds, pumping stomachs to remove poisons and overdoses and witnessing myriad other ways in which people took their own lives. I never doubted that they were serious, although there were one or two who I thought might have been too immature to fully understand their actions. Many patients were saved, some were not. I recall one man who had shot himself and survived who wept and confided, “I can’t do anything right.” I will never forget his sorrow at being unsuccessful. I’m sharing these few details of that hospital environment to demonstrate that suicide is not an act for attention, but an act of desperation. 

Incidence

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) suicide occurs globally every 40 seconds. This translates, tragically, to the loss of 2,160 lives each day. In the US in 2014 (the last year for which there are complete statistics) suicide was the tenth leading cause of death and claimed the lives of over 42,000 people according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Perhaps more disturbing, the suicide rate over the past fifteen years has increased by 24%. 

Eulogy for a Mom

There is so much that can be said on this subject. Sadly most of us have some experience with the heartbreak associated with a friend or loved one ending their own life. Perhaps you have undergone a close or recent loss due to suicide. Aside from listing some resources at the end of this post I feel the most helpful thing to do is to share with you a eulogy I was honored to hear at a memorial service in December of 2014. 

This eulogy was given by the daughter of my neighbor and friend, Marilyn Lamb. Marilyn’s daughter, Laurie Lamb Ray, has graciously given her permission for this tribute to her Mom to be reproduced here. Laurie’s words lovingly and sensitively state what we need to hear and understand when one dies as the result of suicide. I believe you will find it enlightening and that it will be helpful if you have the opportunity to comfort someone who has lost a loved one under these circumstances. 


Here are Laurie’s words:

I know you expect me to talk about mom tonight, maybe share funny foibles, touching tributes. And, I could. I have hundreds to share. But, I’ll leave that to others. Today, I’m going to talk about the elephant in the room. And, the elephant in the room is suicide. And now that you know I’m going to talk about suicide, I know that you are terribly uncomfortable and would like nothing better than to get up, jump in your car and go home. But you are a captive audience so, in honor of my mom, I’m going to ask you to stay and I’m going use this opportunity to try and help you understand my mom and her suicide.

Yes, my mom committed suicide. And we are all horrified and shocked and so very sad. And, let’s face it, even if we try really hard not to, we all tend to judge her just a little bit. Even the words we use seem a little damning, don’t they? She committed suicide. As if it is a crime akin to murder. We say, How could she do this? To me, to all of us? How selfish. How awful. How could she? And we are puzzled. She looked fine to me. She seemed fine when I saw her at the party just the night before. Well, don’t feel bad, she seemed fine at the party to me too.

But, you see she wasn’t fine; hadn’t been fine for my entire life. My mom had severe chronic depression. I don’t know how many of you know someone with severe chronic depression, but I know all of you have known someone who died of cancer…they fought it, they wanted desperately to live, they took medicine, sought help, people prayed for them and “yes” sometimes they even seemed fine. Yet, at some point they could no longer fight – they had become too weary, too weak and they just could not continue to live. And, that you see is exactly what happened to my mom. 

My mom died from a chemical imbalance in her brain. Not a weakness, not selfishness, not a sin against God. A very real, physical imbalance that left her unable to cope and unable to hope for things to get better.

So many of you have asked what you can do to help during this time. I’ll tell you what you can do. In memory of my mom, I ask that you re-file “suicide” from that place in your brain that judges and is horrified, to a place where there is nothing, but compassion and understanding. 

Your mom died of cancer? Well, my mom died of chronic depression. And, today she is no longer hopeless. She is with my dad and, even in the midst of my sadness, THAT has to make me smile.

Mom, I understand and I love you.


Thank you Laurie for sharing with us. We are grateful for your kindness and generosity. I would also like to thank Laurie’s Aunt Janet, who graciously agreed to share this message concerning her sister’s death. 


 

The following signs, symptoms and risk factors are from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

Signs & Symptoms

The behaviors listed below may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide.

1.  Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves

2.  Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live

3.  Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun

4.  Talking about great guilt or shame

5.  Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions

6.  Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)

7.  Talking about being a burden to others

8.  Using alcohol or drugs more often

9.  Acting anxious or agitated

10. Withdrawing from family and friends

11. Changing eating and/or sleeping habits

12. Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

13. Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast

14. Talking or thinking about death often

15. Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy

16. Giving away important possessions

17. Saying goodbye to friends and family

18. Putting affairs in order, making a will

(Blogger’s note: It is conceivable there are some victims who do not display outward signs prior to suicide.)

Risk Factors 

Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk. Suicidal behavior is complex and there is no single cause. In fact, many different factors contribute to someone making a suicide attempt. But people most at risk tend to share certain characteristics. The main risk factors for suicide are:

1.  Depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse disorder

2.  Certain medical conditions

3.  Chronic pain

4.  A prior suicide attempt

5.  Family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse

6.  Family history of suicide

7.  Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse

8.  Having guns or other firearms in the home

9.  Having recently been released from prison or jail

10. Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities

Many people have some of these risk factors, but do not attempt suicide. It is important to note that suicide is not a normal response to stress. Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress, not a harmless bid for attention, and should not be ignored.


If you need help:

Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Available 24 Hours a day, 7 days a week.
The service is free, confidential and available to anyone.
All calls are confidential.
You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.

Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or
Use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

For more information, Visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

(the source of this contact information)

 

 

Death – Funerals

Funerals

Funerals are not high on anyone’s list of favorite social events. Well, there may be a few exceptions. One of my sweet aunts, who will not be named here, lived a block or two from the funeral home in her small town. When she saw activity indicating visitation or a pending funeral service at the establishment, she would dress in her Sunday clothes and walk to join the mourners. She was not being nosy, there was every reason to expect she would know the deceased. She had lived in this rural Kentucky County her whole life and knew just about everyone. She especially liked the young funeral director who always welcomed her with a hug. 

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The funeral home industry and its traditions have changed greatly over the years. There was a time when the deceased was embalmed at home and “laid out” in the parlor for the wake which usually lasted three days and nights. Just as the wake was transferred to a formal “funeral parlor” the venue of the funeral itself has moved, in most cases, from houses of worship. Today an abbreviated period of “visitation and viewing” has become the norm and funerals are “celebrations of life”. When visiting a funeral home today one likely encounters videos of the deceased on flat screens strategically placed throughout the parlor. Often there are photos and collages and posters honoring the life that has passed. So called “theme” funerals may focus on the deceased’s favorite sports team, hobby or profession. The coffin is often closed or not present at all or there may be an urn containing ashes. The memorial service can be planned for a time in the future that is more suitable to the family’s circumstances as it is no longer necessary to have all this occur immediately after the death. This delay allows the family to be passed the initial shock of the loss and to more fully receive offerings of support and sympathy. 

So, there are traditions, there are religious cannons, local laws and there are one’s personal preferences. Your preference, what would you like your final event on this earth to be like? While you are reading this, still capable of making important decisions is the time to communicate your wishes. This can be part of the discussion when you have “the talk” https://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/25/death-decisions/ with your family. It is also helpful to have a few things written down, such as favorite poems, music, speakers. If there are things you feel strongly about clearly document those and if you have reason to doubt your wishes will be honored, they should be included in your Will, which is binding. 

Many people complete their plans formally and even pay for their funerals in advance of need. Whether planning your own funeral or a loved one’s it is critical that you ask questions of the funeral home staff and have concrete information. One common misconception is embalming is required by law. It is not and electing to not have embalming can save a significant amount of money. Embalming is a mysterious process to most of us and because of our reluctance to think about death, we often do not want to know what actually takes place in order to preserve the appearance of a corpse for just a little extra time. Further, the impact upon the environment by use of toxic chemicals can be significant. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) embalming provides no public health benefit. It also has no roots in most religions, including Christianity. For more information on the actual process you may reference http://www.fcasocal.org/embalming-facts.html

The funeral or memorial service, besides reflecting the life that has ended, should be a comfort for survivors. Those who are part of a religious community are comforted by common beliefs and the expectation of an afterlife. Music can be heartbreaking or inspiring. November 18, 2016, The New York Times asked readers what their deathbed playlist preferences would be. The range, not surprisingly varied from hard rock to classics. Probably the same music we would enjoy hearing in our last days or hours of life, would be appropriate for our service, too, as long as it would not be offensive or hurtful in some way to others.  Most of us recall fondly at least one song from each of our loved ones’ funerals. Poems are frequently read that reflect the deceased’s philosophy or special interests. A eulogy may be provided by a close friend or family member. Such a tribute should be written out so if the person delivering the words becomes too emotional to proceed, the minister or other person officiating can be prepared to read it. 

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Eulogy

This is the eulogy I delivered at my stepfather’s funeral. I was pleased to be able to honor his memory and after all these many years I still feel his life can be a lesson for those of us living today. 

We are here to honor Leroy’s memory. Each of us knew him on a different plane. He may have been your neighbor, your customer or friend, a relative, by birth or by choice. 

Whether you knew him for eighty years or eight, you no doubt, knew him to be a good person, an honest man to be trusted and one who loved the land and took pride in his profession of dairy farmer.

He was many other things too. SECURE IN WHO HE WAS, holding no old fashioned gender roles – the same hands that worked the farm washed dishes and cooked a mean casserole.

GENTLE – he watched birds, fed kittens, loved to see magnolias bloom. Small children were given his full attention, whether playing a silly game or observing an earthworm on the sidewalk after a rain.

TOLERANT – he had convictions, but allowed us ours.

A ROMANTIC – taking his bride to Niagara Falls and each anniversary giving her one red rose for each year of their marriage.

FAITHFUL – to his church and more importantly to his Lord. 

And he was, of course, many other things, but there is one last attribute I want to share with you. I learned this about Leroy after the death of his only son, Bobby.

He was a very PRACTICAL person. Even though he grieved his losses, he did not allow those losses to steal the happiness he was offered by each new day of life. He did not deplete his energies agonizing about things he could not change. I think he would remind us of that today. 

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Next time we will look at one more remaining decision, disposal of remains. This will not conclude the list of things that must be decided upon at the time of one’s death, but will have covered the most crucial ones. 

Death – Obituaries

Your Obituary

In our last post I asked you to consider writing your own obituary. I realize this exercise may be daunting for some. I recall teaching a class on “Death and Dying” in the community many years ago when one man, a church deacon in his 60s, was visibly upset by the prospect of writing about his own death. We become accustomed to employing diversionary tactics when thinking about dying. We talk about “passing away,” “going to sleep,” (which can frighten young children), “gone,” and of course that favorite one “if something happens.”  Acknowledging death is inevitable is not obsessing, but accepting it as part of the landscape, just as the seasons of the calendar, so are the seasons of life. It is my hope we will experience life more fully when we realize it is fleeting. 

I have not heard from anyone who worked on the suggested assignment, but if you did you may have looked for help on the Internet. There are countless sites offering advice or even templates so that you can just fill in the blanks. I am sure many are good sources, but one that impressed me with its variety of obituary types was https://www.obituaryhelp.net.  Some prefer to leave this task to funeral home personnel who have training and experience in the proper structure of obituaries. If a formal format is preferred, then providing the names, dates and personal information to the funeral home will be all that is required of the family when you die. Since obituaries should honor and reflect the life of the deceased, writing one’s own ahead of time might be more personal. This can be detailed or perhaps just a theme, special quotes or anecdotes you want included.

Some general guidelines for writing your own obituary include:

  • Write in the third person. 
  • Keep it short. Some obituaries are so long they are not likely to be read in their   entirety, if at all. Another reason to trim it down, is cost. Newspaper charges for this service are expensive.
  • The cause of death may or may not be included.
  • Keep your draft updated. It may be a good idea to add notes for your family as you think of things over time. 

Some Favorites

I have read obituaries for years and often been teased about this routine, long before I reached my current age, which is well within the obituary reading range. It isn’t so much I am looking for names I recognize, although that is part of it. I find obituaries to be interesting reading. It is true there are accounts of tragedies, infants and children, those who died without any “next of kin,” but there are also the ones that are inspiring or entertaining. At one time I had a collection of hundreds that were keepers and somewhere along the way they became lost or perhaps I became embarrassed, but now I only have a few dozen. One I no longer have referred to the deceased as having “Slipped the surly bonds of earth” and that line fascinated me so I did an Internet search and found it was from the poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr, “High Flight.”

Another newspaper page that I recall, but no longer have in my collection listed two separate obituaries that could only happen in Kentucky: both “Bubba” and “Buford” died the same day. A favorite from November 2016, has verses of songs interspersed throughout. These included the music of The Beatles, The Spinners, Poco and Steely Dan. The obituary itself is full of fun, travels and adventures of a 68-year-old.

Nicknames are sometimes fun to read while imagining their origins. Some I recall include:  Baldy, Tooter, Snuffy, Catfish, Peanut, Honest Frank, Blood and finally, Poboy & Buster for the same man. Curiously, of these clippings only two females had nicknames, Mu and Big Mama.

Looking Ahead

As you continue to work on your obituary please also think about your preferences for a memorial service or funeral considering music, speakers and perhaps who you would like to deliver a eulogy. Following those topics we will discuss disposal of remains and suicide in future posts. 

Eventually, grief will be discussed comprehensively, but we may decide to hold off and move on to lighter subjects for a while. Feel free to provide feedback on this, as well as, anything you have to share. 

 “High Flight” John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, —and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of —Wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air . . . Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace where never lark or even eagle flew – and, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod the high un-trespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God.  

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Follow Up

To follow up on important topics from the last post in this series, please read the comments left by “Lula.” Remember that little black bubble at the end of each post?  fullsizeoutput_9edJust click the bubble on Death Decisions (Jan. 25, 2017) to read the important information she has shared with us. 

Lula shared interesting information about a service which sounds like a good idea for anyone, but especially those who travel often. I am not familiar with Living Will Registry, but you can read about Lula’s own experience as a frequent traveler (in her comments) as well as reviewing the service Online.*

One issue that Lula mentioned is Emergency Medical Services (EMS), when called to a home, will likely begin CardioPulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), even if one has a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order on a Living Will. I have always heard the same thing, but an official form** in this state (KY) is meant to address this problem. You should check with your own state, city and/or county for the law where you live. Regardless of one’s current health status it would be helpful to fully understand the guidelines before a need arises. It is understandable this is a potential for problems. The very fact EMS is called indicates an emergency and they come prepared to do what is necessary to save lives. If one has a terminal condition CPR is not likely an appropriate response, but it is unfair to expect emergency personnel to make that distinction or take that responsibility. 

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Hospice

Having Hospice involved in end-of-life care can often prevent such situations from occurring. Hospice is a national organization with local offices across the US, providing palliative care to patients facing advanced illnesses and to their families. Palliative care involves relieving pain and enhancing quality of life (as opposed to addressing a cause and/or cure) and may be provided in the home, special centers, extended care facilities or special units within an acute care hospital.

When Hospice care began gradually in the US, during the second half of the Twentieth Century,  there were specific parameters regarding how long a patient was expected to live in order to be admitted into palliative care. Although this is no longer the case, it is a lingering belief and can make it hard for families to approach the subject. I personally feel Hospice is extremely valuable in providing clinical, pastoral and grief support as well as practical assistance with medical supplies, equipment and even volunteer and respite care. Extensive information is available from National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization*** (NHPCO).

Possibly many of you used Hospice services for your family or maybe a close friend and I invite you to share your experience with us if you are comfortable doing so. I will share that in my experience with loved ones the service was not instituted soon enough. In one case, incredulously, it was not possible to get the physician to admit the patient was dying and by the time a referral was made the patient only lived a few hours. The other personal case was just the opposite. The physician recommended, even urged, Hospice service, but the patient wanted to wait a little longer, not realizing the time would approach as quickly as it, in fact, did. In each case the patient did not receive care that would have perhaps eased their passing. I painfully share this hoping it might prevent others from waiting too long. 


Websites referenced:

*Living Will Registry http://www.alwr.com

**KY DNR Form http://manuals.sp.chfs.ky.gov/Resources/sopFormsLibrary/Do%20Not%20Resuscitate%20Form.pdf

***NHPCO http://www.nhpco.org


Coming Up

We will look at Funeral and Burial Planning in the next post. I realize this may be a bit too pushy, but if you are so inclined how about working on writing your own Obituary before then? Then we will work together. Your participation is great and makes our experience together so much richer. Thank you!


“I find it delightful that the optimal way I can live my life from moment-to-moment is also the optimal way I can prepare for my death, and equally delightful that acknowledging our future death is a prerequisite for living a truly joyful life now.”  Ram Dass, Still Here

Death – Decisions

Decisions

It is understood that family units are all different and may be made up of biological or chosen family, spouses or partners, relatives or close friends. We will use the term “family” for those closest to you. These differences may dictate what, exactly, you need to do to from a practical standpoint to prepare for your death, but regardless, the first step should be honest family discussion. We’ll call it “The Talk.”

The Talk

It doesn’t have to be a formal meeting. If you and your family are open to the discussion of death “The Talk” can be in increments and flow from normal conversations. When discussing the death of an acquaintance it is a natural time to say, “When I die, I prefer . .” Since such discussions may not include everyone who needs to hear, having your wishes in writing, leaves no doubt or confusion. So, what do you need to talk about and how will you document it?

Living Will

Legal agreements can be our guides. Let’s start with those things usually addressed in a Living Will. If you are diagnosed as terminal and are no longer able to make your own decisions, because you are permanently unconscious or otherwise unable to express your wishes:

  1. Do you want treatment withdrawn except for pain control?
  2. Does that include withdrawal of food, water?
  3. What about a DNR (do not resuscitate) order?
  4. Do you wish to participate in anatomical donation?

Decisions for #1-#3 can be very difficult for a family member. You may have no doubt that these life prolonging actions are inappropriate or undesirable for you, but to your loved one it is not that clear. To them it may feel as they are hastening your death, while you are more likely to feel that such measures would prolong suffering. If this has been discussed and documented ahead of time, there is less anxiety when the decisions must be put into practice. Physicians, emergency personnel and hospitals must provide every means available to save a life if they have not been given the legal right to withhold those interventions. Resuscitation (CPR) will be initiated, regardless of the patient’s prognosis, unless there is an order in place for DNR.

Number four (#4) involves whether you would like to donate organs for transplantation or all of your body to science. If donating the entire body is your desire, besides documenting, it is best to make logistical arrangements in advance. Most such donations are made through a university or medical school.

Organ donation decisions are often made long before formal end of life planning. In most states one can designate the wish to be an organ donor while obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. Organ donation more specifically is addressed in the Living Will. If you have explicit wishes, maybe you are willing to donate corneas, but not hands for example, this needs to be legally documented. On this subject people often think first of heart or kidney, organs which dramatically save lives. In fact, donations may be made of tissues such as skin which is used as dressings for severely burned patients or bone for spinal surgery. There may be personal or practical reasons for specifying exactly which organs/tissues you are willing to donate and these can be itemized in your Living Will.

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Consider Donation of Organs or Tissue

Transplantation is a subject that I feel strongly about, having worked in that field for many years. I find it unfortunate that after over sixty years of successful transplantation, only 52% in the US choose to donate. If you have not already made your decision, please give some consideration to it now. There is no lack of information available to answer any questions you may have. I recommend calling your local/state donor affiliate or researching Online.

The United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the national organization which governs transplant facilities and Organ Procurement Organizations (OPO) in the United States. Their website probably contains more information than you would ever need: https://www.unos.org

Cornea transplantation differs in some ways from other donation and a good site for more information is https://www.donatelife.net/types-of-donation/cornea-donation/

Bone marrow and stem cell transplantation is still in the experimental phase for cadaveric donation, but is showing promise. If you are interested you may find information at the National Marrow Donor Program: https://bethematch.org

Your Surrogate

A Living Will allows one to record legally, exactly what one wants and does not want. Or, with this document you can authorize a HEALTH CARE SURROGATE, sometime referred to as a proxy or Medical Power of Attorney (POA), to make these determinations for you at the time of need.

Choosing a Health Care Surrogate is a very critical decision. First, of course, is that it be a person you trust. Your designated surrogate should be geographically close if at all possible and should know your wishes before accepting this responsibility. A few of the subjects included in a legal Surrogate Designation are:

  1. Access to your medical record
  2. Right to choose your health care providers and long term facilities
  3. Withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment

This legal document names your surrogate and an alternate surrogate in the event the first person designated is unable or unwilling to serve at the time she/he is needed.

Update and Storage of Documents

Sometimes we change our minds about the directions we’ve given and the Living Will and/or Surrogate Designation may require legal revision. These documents need to be reviewed on a regular basis. If our wishes remain the same, it is probably advisable to initial and date each page to show that they remain current. Having your Living Will on file at your hospital can make it difficult to keep current. I would trust a photocopy carried by my surrogate (and in my car’s glove box) more than the hospital’s computer system. It goes without saying that original documents need to be stored in a locked fireproof box and that your surrogate and/or POA has access.


“It seems to me most strange that men should fear; Seeing that death, a necessary end,  Will come when it will come”  Shakespeare in Julius Caesar

Death – Intro II

Introduction II

As we move forward discussing the topic of death and end of life decisions, in particular, I refer you back to this blog’s first page, HOME. At the bottom is a disclaimer and it is important that you review it at now, particularly this:

The content of this blog is not intended as advice . . . . Information contained herein is not presented as medical, legal or clinical recommendation . . . .”

And, I would add:

  1. It is extremely advisable to seek legal counsel from an attorney for estate/end of life planning.
  2. Forms are available Online for your review (or printing), but I caution you to use either the US Government (https://www.usa.gov/federal-agencies/a) or (https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs), your State Government (state laws differ) or the American Bar Association (http://www.americanbar.org/groups/real_  property_trust_estate/resources/estate_planning/living_wills_health_care_proxiesadvance_health_care_directives.html) Websites. Using these sites one can avoid ads and scams.

The kind of end of life decisions we will focus on are sometimes included during estate planning which deals with financial issues. Money management is not part of our discussion.


Future Posts

In the next few posts we will discuss the following topics, some more in depth than others:

  • Power of Attorney (POA)
  • Living Wills
  • Health Care Surrogate/Proxy
  • Organ Donation
  • DNR (do not resuscitate) orders

Other topics in the future will include: Funerals, Obituaries, Grief and Suicide.

In the last post I asked you to say the words: “When I die” and to acknowledge we are born terminal. Some of you responded with your thoughts and experiences and I appreciate your honesty and willingness to share. It is not surprising there are those who are not ready to talk about such personal feelings. Discussing death is difficult in varying degrees based upon our past experiences and other factors, e.g., religion, age, health status. It was reassuring some of you have already taken formal steps to inform others of your wishes at the time of your death.

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Reader Feedback

Marybeth, while sharing that her parents were very organized in having preparations in place for death, also stated, “Perhaps it is the way a person dies (long illness, accident, suicide, etc. ) that shakes our world more than the actual act of death itself? ” This is a valid observation, because while losing a person one loves will always be painful, there are many variables which affect how we react and how we grieve.

Rita discussed the awe of her own conception which is the beginning of the brief interlude we have on this planet. We often hear “cradle to grave,” which sums it up.

Finally, Lula shared the preparation she has made for her own death having had that responsibility for deceased loved ones. Such experiences in dealing with the estates and last wishes of others certainly point out the value of thinking ahead and making the decisions we are about to discuss.

Thank you to each of you who shared.

With the next post we will begin discussing the person (proxy) who makes medical decisions for you when you are unable to express your wishes. That person may be designated in a Medical POA, a Living Will and/or Designation of Health Care Surrogate.

“Life cannot exist without death; neither can death exist with life.” Osho Rajnish


Past Problems with the COMMENT Section

Some have expressed frustration with trying to comment on posts. I understand and I admit it isn’t easy to figure out and I’ve made some changes AND mistakes along the way. To comment on any post click the little bubble below and right on this page. If yours is the first comment that little black bubble will have a + sign on it. If others have already commented there will be a number in the bubble. Either way, all you have to do is click the bubble and a space will be provided on which to write.

Here is a screen shot from my phone that shows the illusive “bubble.”

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Thanks again!

Death – Intro

Introduction

How many times have you heard someone say, “If something happens to me?” Have you said this? Often, perhaps? I know this may not be what you want to hear, but I must tell you, it is not “if,” but “when.” And, it is not “something,” but it is “death.” Practice with me, say, “When I die.” Did you say it aloud? How did it make you feel? My purpose in this exercise is not to make you uncomfortable, but to help you acknowledge you will die. Of course, you know it intellectually, we all do, but we live and speak as though it is not certain. I am not referring to religious beliefs about the hereafter, but about the here and now. Once we accept the fact we are all born terminal, it is easier to make certain practical decisions. It is more likely we will have important family discussions.

In future posts I plan to examine this subject in more depth. The goal is that, as a result, you will take positive steps to help yourself and your family face this most difficult day that will come to each of us. I also hope you will trust me that this topic can be brought into the light in a way that alleviates some of the dread often associated with the word “death”.

We will examine some of the decisions that need to be made through legal documents and family discussion. We will look at funeral planning and resources available. We will definitely discuss ways to comfort those who grieve, e.g., what to say, not say. If there is adequate interest and feedback, this series can encompass topics such as suicide, CPR, hospice and more.

Thank you for beginning this discussion with me. Soon, we will look at Living Wills and other documents that each of us needs to have in place. Meanwhile, I would like to hear your initial reaction/thoughts regarding our approaching this subject together.

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“Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true story teller who would keep that from you.” Ernest Hemingway

Holidays

Several things are on my mind to write about in 2017. One subject is grief, which I hope to treat extensively. It is a topic many find difficult, but few people escape life without experiencing it, usually more than once. Since this is true it seems it would be helpful to give some time to exploring what it is like, what we can do to help others through it and how we can prepare for it personally.

As readers of Crooked Creek, I’d like to ask you to consider participation as we go forward into new year. I would love to have your thoughts on my posts. I’m not asking for a “like” as on Facebook or a compliment on the writing (although I admit I do enjoy that). On any subject, I really would appreciate your sharing your thoughts, personal experiences or disagreement. I want this blog to be not a pulpit, but rather a forum.

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We can start now by sharing our childhood experiences for this time of year. While I’m sure there are many holiday similarities, I have no doubt there are also great differences. For one thing, we don’t all celebrate the same holidays. Some are made of legend, some are cultural or ethnic, others a mixture of fantasy and religion while still others are High Holy Days. My tradition is celebrating Christmas. I’ll go first and look forward to hearing from you about some of your early holiday memories (in the Comment space).


 

Christmas Memories

From my preschool years I have few memories. I have heard very intelligent people have memories from a young age, so I suppose that lets me out of the Mensa crowd. My memories before going to first grade are fragmentary and I am sometime unsure whether they are true memories, tales told to me over the years or perhaps just what I think I remember, because of old photographs. I will share two Christmas memories I have from this early childhood period.

🌟   The Star

When it was time to put up a Christmas tree my Dad and older brother would take an ax and go out to find a suitable cedar. While they were scouting the tree and nailing cross boards on the bottom to make it stand, Mom and I would drag out an old cardboard box filled with decorations. The only object I can remember lifting from the box was a star my brother had, some previous year, cut out and covered with tinfoil. I thought it was so beautiful and couldn’t wait for it to be in place on top signifying the tree was complete and ready for Santa Claus.

jingle-bells-clipart-clipart-best-j8isoi-clipart The Bells

The one other memory from that time was a regular Christmas celebration at our small country church, Mt. Vernon Baptist. It was usually at night and sometimes there was a play with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. At other times a rather suspicious Santa would show up confusing kids who didn’t quite grasp where he fit in with the shepherds and Wise Men. Regardless of whether he made it, there would always be a paper bag filled with hard candy for each child. I liked the candy, because we didn’t often have it around our house, especially with the war going on and sugar being scarce. The year I clearly remember coming home from the church program it happened to be Christmas Eve. Maybe because I was full of sugar, or more likely as Mammy said, I had “spunk,” I wasn’t interested in getting into bed as I was instructed. I ran around our little house in my coat, hat and mittens trying my mother’s patience until suddenly I heard bells ringing out in the yard! I ran screaming to my bed and covered up, coat and all, waiting to see if the ringing would stop or if the sleigh would go away, on down Crooked Creek Road without stopping.

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It was many years before I was told about Mom sending Daddy outside to ring those bells.

Theme photo and graphics by Pixabay

Minnie II

 Before Women’s Suffrage

My Mother, Minnie Alice Sea, was born on June 19, 1917. She was named after “Miss Minnie Murphy” a school teacher who was admired by my Grandmother, Lillie Alice Thompson Sea. When my mother was born, women were not yet allowed to vote. That came about while she was a toddler and even then, many women were denied that right, because they had no way to get to the polls unless their husbands, or some other male, allowed them to ride along to the voting place. According to stories from that time, men were concerned a wife, for instance, might vote differently from them and thereby “cancel out” the man’s vote. So, unless a man could be certain the woman he was transporting would vote the same as he, that woman was not likely to have the opportunity to vote at all.

My Mom, as most women of that era, lived in a patriarchal society. She revered her father who was Postmaster, a deacon in the Baptist church and a small business owner. He ran the Gee General Store where the US Post Office for Gee, KY was located and he sold gas as well as groceries, farming supplies and even medicinals like paregoric, camphor and Carter’s Liver Pills. In that store located on a gravel, rural road my grandfather, E. M. Sea, was sought after by people of the community who respected his opinion on such topics as religion, politics, war and the economy. It is no wonder Minnie and his other seven children never questioned his authority nor his wisdom.

Marriage

As was the custom in those days, my Mom finished school after the eight grade. She worked with her father in the store and post office and, surprisingly, she learned to drive before many women were allowed that privilege. She married Richard Baugh, my Dad, when she was sixteen and he was twenty-five. She gave birth to their first of four children a few years later. The baby boy was born at home with the help of a doctor who my Dad fetched from Lawrenceburg, KY in his old Model T Ford in the middle of the night. He loved telling about how the doctor’s medical bag was in the window behind his head and while my Dad was driving way too fast, downhill, to their house in the “holler” the bag bounced out and hit the Doc in the back of his head. He thought it was a funny story judging by how many times I heard it retold.

For a woman who began life under circumstances that might have made her dependent and timid, Minnie surprised many, including herself, I’m sure. Beside her roles as wife and mother she learned many others in her eighty-one years, leaving her mark on this world in small, but lasting ways.

Work History

For several years she raised turkeys and chickens and grew a summer garden and canned its yield to cook for the family throughout the winter. After moving from the farm, she worked in a large factory on an assembly line for several years. Having experience in the family store while growing up made jobs at a small grocery and a dry cleaning store easy for her. She was good with people, always smiling and usually laughing.

The highlight of her long work history came when she was hired by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the Revenue Department where she remained until she was sixty-seven years old. I will always remember a day when I visited her at the Capital Annex in Frankfort, KY. She beamed as she introduced her friends around the big office. Then she proudly showed off her desk complete with an adding machine and file drawers and even pointed out her very own stapler! My Mom, from Gee, KY had arrived in her dream job. And, to make the situation nearly perfect, the Governor of KY was a woman named Martha Layne Collins.

My Mom (Minnie)

Minnie I

Minnie at Church

Deciding to rush from work to join Minnie tonight and not wanting to make her late, I had actually arrived early. I knew how much it meant to her to attend the meetings just as she had attended church regularly for her eighty-plus years of life. Too late I learn she is disappointed, because when I am not here the Preacher stops by and brings her to the service. She feels special, I supposed, arriving with the Preacher. As I look around for familiar faces arriving in all manner of garb, I made a mental note to be late next time so she could be escorted the way she preferred.

Attendees 

There is Dr. Lee, as reticent as ever. It is my opinion she is not stuck up, but rather, she has difficulty in social situations. Her athletic shoes look strangely out of place, not for the venue, but for her. Charles enters looking troubled and carrying the dogeared spiral notebook in which he writes throughout each service. I used to think he was a serious Bible scholar critiquing the message, but today I overheard him saying something about bills as he flipped madly through the pages. Strangely, he seemed concerned about NOT receiving bills as he queried others about the status of their bills. Mr. and Mrs. Harvey arrive together and she looks more frail than in the past. Minnie had told me “Mrs. Harvey is on the verge of dialysis, but she is resisting.” I didn’t know dialysis was an optional treatment.

There’s Lena walking straight to a seat which will accommodate her should she care to lie down during the service.  Some people are extremely bothered by her habit of reclining at any time and in any setting, but others hardly seem to notice. There’s a lady coming this way who I do not know. Carefully groomed, she has small delicate hands with perfectly polished nails. She doesn’t look left or right as she gets settled in the seat next to Minnie who pointedly doesn’t look at her either.  Instead, she is looking enviously at the woman being escorted into the service by the Preacher.

The room is almost full now. Some faces are less familiar, but just as interesting. The piano player is getting out song books for the worshipers to share.  Finally, when all are quiet and poised for the singing to begin, my favorite makes her entrance. Esther truly is an aristocratic sight as she makes her way first to greet the musician. She is wearing a navy blue blazer, oxford shirt, neatly creased trousers and low heeled pumps.  Her navy purse is perfectly balanced hanging from one stately squared shoulder. She stops by each person, graciously offering her hand as she bends down ever so slightly, so she can look them directly in the eyes. As she comes closer I can hear each greeting, “So glad you came,” “Thank you for coming,” “It is so good to see you!”  As she completes the circle, addressing the last person, she regally exits the room to be seen no more this evening.

Singing

Hymn books are passed, the song leader takes her place and the piano begins a cadence not unlike a funeral dirge. The hymns are old and familiar Protestant fare, including Rock of Ages, On Jordan’s Stormy Banks and The Old Rugged Cross. Charles scribbles in his book, Lena starts to ease toward a recumbent position, Dr. Lee’s face is immobile as she holds her head and song book erect. Minnie and the two Harveys are each on a different note and none are the same as the one the song leader is singing. The Preacher grins goofily at his congregation while singing loudly in the note the leader was determined to maintain.

Praying

Prayer request and praise time is next in the order of service and the Preacher begins this portion by sharing how thankful he is that he is “healthy and able to do the Lord’s work,” while looking around the room at blank faces and ailing bodies. Next, he invites the congregation to share prayer needs and praises. A small black lady in the front row said she would like prayer that she could “walk good again.”  The Preacher responds, “Yes, Mrs. Long.”  Another woman tearfully asks prayer for her great nephew who was paralyzed in a recent football accident.  The Preacher was visibly moved and replied, “We will certainly pray for him.  How hard it must be on the whole family. You know, it is so tragic for this to happen to a young man. Girls can just take this sort of thing better, but a boy knows he needs to get out into the world and work, provide for a family.” The worshippers nod in agreement. The prayer requests continue ranging from paltry to profound amid sounds of hymnals hitting the floor and people coughing and muttering. Finally, the Preacher closes prayer time with a long prayer imploring God to hear, to have mercy and “If it was in His will” to grant the requests just made.  He didn’t mention the gentleman who had just shared that his “ass hurt.”

Preaching

The Preacher resumed his goofy grin and began the meat of the service. He started by telling some personal anecdotes, his eyes sweeping the room for reaction. The lady with the nephew didn’t disappoint. She kept her smiling eyes glued to his face and her hearing aid tuned to his every word. Charles kept reviewing his notebook. Lena was quietly supine. Dr. Lee stared straight ahead. Just as the Preacher began to read from his text for his main event, Minnie turned to the woman beside her with the nice manicure and suddenly shook her roughly by the shoulder shouting, “Wake up! Don’t you know you are not supposed to sleep in church!” The pretty woman’s head bobbed back and forth with the shaking making me wonder whether she was asleep or deceased. Either way, I was embarrassed. The Preacher didn’t miss a beat. Dr. Lee’s expression didn’t change. Charles didn’t take his eyes off the notebook. Mr. Harvey smiled broadly. As the Preacher’s words piled higher and deeper, I let my mind wonder like many in the room had done from the beginning.

Finally the service was over and I took Minnie by the hand, leading my Mother back to her room as the attendants, one by one, escorted the other nursing home residents to their rooms.

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Written 7/1/98      Revised December 2016

Transition

Gee to Spot

As shared in an earlier post, I was born in 1943, in a four room house, on Crooked Creek Rd. in Anderson County, KY.  It was before zip codes were introduced and the mailing address was simply “Gee, KY”. My maternal Grandfather ran a general store in Gee, not far from our house. In addition to selling groceries, chicken feed, nails and gas from the one pump out front, he was also the Post Master of the Gee Post Office located in one corner of the store. Later, when he retired, the Post Office was moved down the road a few miles to Spot. Yes, that is right, “Spot, KY” was the new address for folks living on Crooked Creek Rd.

Our house had no plumbing or electricity, but before I was one year old, electricity was installed. This feature lead me to believe that I had super powers, because for the first few months my Dad would hold me up to the dark, bare bulb hanging in the middle of the ceiling. I was too young to understand that it was my father pulling a string that made the bright light appear, rather than the touch of my hand.

War

As I grew, however, I soon learned that mine was not a magical life, after all. I heard a lot about the “war going on over there” and I thought that meant the enemies were right over the hill in front of our house. As I sat on our front porch swing I kept waiting for Japanese helmets to appear on the horizon. Gas and sugar were rationed, but there was enough love to go around. I received a doll for one of my first Christmases. She didn’t hold up well. Her hair fell off and her “skin” deteriorated and I was told it was because all the good materials had to be used in the war. I kept Mary Rose with me throughout many decades, but finally let her go in 2013 and I still regret that decision. 

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Mary Rose

Family

In addition to my parents I was fortunate that my grandparents lived nearby and they were very influential in my early life. My older brother fulfilled his role by doing all the tormenting things that big brothers do so well, such as on occasion hanging me by my feet from a tree in the front yard. My baby brother was born with an intestinal malformation that would have been easily corrected today, but which proved fatal before his second birthday. A few years later, I had a second cherished younger brother who I protected fiercely.

Town

When I was in second grade we moved from Gee, leaving my beloved grandparents behind. It felt like a different world living in town, the big city of Taylorsville, KY.  The transition from a two room school holding grades one through eight to a large school system which included a High School and cafeteria did not start off pleasantly. My first day was in February and it was cold and the wind was whipping my carefully brushed hair every which way. Mom was guiding me through a short-cut to the school when suddenly our feet were plunged into ice cold water. Our short-cut had been concealed thin ice.  This awaking was just the beginning of my new school experience.

Our new house was big with two stories and a bathroom. It took some time getting accustomed to using the toilet inside that nice house. I still see my Dad mowing the big yard with pride and can smell the fresh mown grass which seemed to make his smile wider.  That was a good thing, because my father suffered from what was then called “involutional melancholia,” now known as chronic depression. Electric shock treatments took away much of his personality along with his smiles for many years.

Words Matter – II

If a child is told often, from a very young age, that he or she is limited (slow or weak) in some way, do you think the child will become an adult who believes he or she can accomplish anything of which it dreams? Or, will the child become an adult who is restricted and unsure of their capabilities? I believe what a child hears over and over has a significant impact on what the child sees as its potential.

When I was a nursing student I remember hearing that nurses and other caregivers talked to male and female newborns differently.  I didn’t have enough time as a student to fully appreciate this truth. Later though, when I began to teach OB (obstetrics) to nursing students, I rotated classes into and out of labor and delivery, newborn nursery and postpartum care. During three years of observation I indeed saw that what I had heard was true. It began as soon as the child slipped from their mother’s body and into the cold, bright and noisy delivery room.

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From Day One

When a boy was delivered there was congratulatory talk, often booming loudly and as the boy infant began to cry everyone talked about his strong lusty voice. As he was wrapped in a blue blanket there were predictions of his first touchdown, layup or hole-in-one, whatever might please the proud father. When genitalia appeared without the external apparatus it was likely to result in hushed “ahhhhhs” as a pink blanket was held out to swaddle a baby girl. The remark most often heard was regarding her appearance using words like beautiful, dainty, maybe even predictions of her being a little “heartbreaker.” The love and gratefulness for a healthy newborn was not unequal, one not valued more than the other, but the words used were different.

Without a doubt the newborn would be referred to as “big” or “little” not according to the actual measurement of weight and length, but according to gender. There were exceptions, to be sure, if the child was a great deal smaller or larger than average, but nearly always a boy was referred to as “big bouncing” baby. A girl, even when over eight or nine pounds, was a “sweet little” girl.

This trend continued in the nursery while the newborn was bathed and examined and then transported back and forth to the mother’s room for feeding and bonding over the next hours of hospitalization. If you doubt this, I challenge you to listen carefully as your friends and family members discuss the babies in their lives. Observe the words that are used when the infant is spoken to and sung to and handled. It may seem insignificant at the time since the baby does not yet understand words, but the truth we need to remember is that this is just the beginning of a persistent message. Day after day a child is reminded that she is the “weaker sex,” to use an outdated term, and unable to do or be anything in the world to which she aspires. This is not intentional, not sinister, not done out of unequal love, but these facts do not dilute the message. Words matter, especially when repeated through years of developing a sense of who we are and what we are capable of achieving in life.

Theme photo by Pixabay

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Art by Pat Brooks

Words Matter – I

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Newspaper & Portrait Photography

It may sound trite, but there are words I do not like.  It is not necessarily that they do not sound pleasant, although that may be part of it. And, have you noticed words do not sound the same to everyone? For instance, “coin” is one of those for me. When I say it one of my daughters chuckles quietly. I think I pronounce it normally, but obviously I do not say the simple four letter word correctly. My Mom had a similar problem with the word “oxygen,” however I find that more forgivable. But, I am getting sidetracked before I actually begin.

Depression

What I intended to discuss are words that either do not sound like what they mean or that have meanings with which I disagree. Let me start with depression, which sounds like a lower surface, a dip or swag. A road uncared for might have a depression. An old floor may be depressed in spots. This versatile word may be applied to the economy or even a weather pattern. You get it, but what if this word is used regarding another human? Many people immediately think of a person in a bad mood, sad probably and maybe even lazy. Too often the person suffering from depression is told to “snap out of it” or “get over” themselves. Even if not said in actual words that is likely the message they receive, whether intentional or not. I believe it may be time for a new word for this complex diagnosis which covers an entire spectrum of symptoms from mild and transient to suicide.

“Domestic” Violence?

Another word, or term rather, is not only inadequate, like depression, but is also inaccurate.  “Domestic violence” describes a range of situations from emotional and physical threats to injury or even murder. There is nothing “domestic” about “violence!” This terminology should never have been used to begin with and it serves an injustice to victims of violence, whether in the home or elsewhere. Recently, the term “Relationship Violence” is sometimes used in media reporting and I strongly support this more accurate terminology. Some prefer “intimate partner violence,” but in my opinion this comes up short. First, it obviously leaves out victims whose abuser is someone other than a partner. The abuser could be any relative or friend with whom one has a relationship. Statistics indicate one in three women will be the victim of intimate partner violence, but including other types of relationships would most certainly increase the statistic greatly and there is no reason to limit attention to a particular type of relationship or gender.

Pink & Purple

For many years October has been Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we have been encouraged to wear pink to bring attention to this illness which effects over 124 women per 100,000 population (1.3 men/100,000). Wear pink if you choose, it isn’t my favorite color and reminds me of

milek9giagirl babies more than women, but I would suggest pink ribbons do little to combat this deadly disease which has touched most of us either directly or indirectly. More helpful is knowing the signs of breast cancer, performing self exams and having regular mammography.

Someone in all sincerity I’m sure, has designated today as Purple Thursday and we are asked to “Wear a little purple with our pink” today. I must admit purple is one of my favorite colors, but rather than looking for something special to wear today I am writing this post. I wish to bring attention to Relationship Violence and encourage each of you, regardless of gender, to take action against this devastating situation which, like cancer, effects so many. Relationship Violence may take various forms other than physical abuse, including emotional, sexual, financial or verbal mistreatment. The signs and symptoms can be reviewed Online, including such sites as this National Hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/

  • Let’s be better informed.
  • Let’s be brave enough to report, whether it is personal or is suspected in another.
  • Let’s refuse to say, “domestic” violence from this day forward.

 

Theme photo and graphic by Pixabay

Phillip

Like a Little Blue Bird

He ran from room to room, a blur of blue, little legs bouncing in small jerky steps, sliding on the linoleum and sucking butter from his finger tips that had so swiftly dipped into the bowl. He kept looking back over his shoulder, his pale blue eyes both joyful and afraid. As young as I was I knew this was a triumph for him, something much more significant than it appeared. Was it Mother’s look of fear that told me? Yes, it must be that, or was she more sad than afraid? Finally her hand roughly caught hold of his blue jumpsuit and his forward momentum was halted like a tiny bird flying into a window. My heart pounded as I waited for her to spank him for running away from her and for stealing the forbidden butter. I wanted to cry out, “He’s just a baby, he just wanted to taste it.” As I held my breath, remembering the sting of her hand, I was amazed to see her start to cry holding him close while he wiggled to free the buttered hand and get it to his mouth.

Christmas is Coming!

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Not wanting to see any more, I returned to looking at the toys in the Montgomery Ward Catalog. As a first grader I had little understanding of calendars like the one hanging on the wall in front of me. But, I did know that it was December and December meant Christmas which reminded me that I had a letter to write to Santa. Mother said my baby brother, Phillip, wanted a teddy bear and I should tell Santa, since Phillip was too little to write. I guess she hadn’t noticed that I couldn’t really write either.  It seemed a better plan for our big brother to do the letter for both Phillip and me, but maybe at twelve he was too big, because he sure didn’t seem interested in Santa Claus. So, I guessed it was up to me. The days passed and when we were almost half-way through December according to my teacher, I could think of nothing but Christmas. It didn’t look like Christmas or even feel like it at our house, but I knew it would come, because nothing can stop Christmas.  It was there near the bottom of the calendar and each day brought us closer to that magical morning. On the day that the calendar said thirteen (13), for the first time, that I could remember, my Mother sent me to bed without tucking me in. It was okay, because I knew Phillip had been crying a lot and I believed that his stomach hurt. He needed Mother more and anyway, I was a big girl.

Dad

The next thing that I remember was a big rough hand shaking my arm. “Wake up, wake up, now,” my Daddy said. I must be dreaming, my father never woke me up and besides I could see through the slits of my eyes that it was still dark. The covers were warm and I sank farther into the featherbed hoping the bad dream would stop. There it was again, “Wake up, now,” and then the covers were drawn back and I was assaulted by blinding light, cold air and the acrid smell of burning wood. Even sleepy and confused, I understood, suddenly, that this was no dream. My father’s face was not familiar. His eyes, usually smiling for me, were solid black and his mouth, under his large humped nose, was drawn down tightly. I was afraid when he started to push my arms into my coat. What was he doing? Where was Mama?

Before I could figure out any answers he did the strangest thing.  He wrapped the bed covers around me and even partly over my head and he began carrying me through the house. It was then that I saw where my mother was. She was holding Phillip and washing his little naked body. Surely he was cold, even in front of the glowing wood stove. Why was she bathing him when it was still dark outside? He didn’t seem to mind. He was just lying across her lap, not kicking or even looking around as she stroked him with tfullsizeoutput_819he wet washcloth. Before I could say a word my daddy walked right out the back door, still carrying me. The covers fell from my head and I felt ice cold wind hit my face and my bare feet, which by now were dangling out of the bottom of the mound of quilts. My daddy pulled me tighter and I was comforted by the smell of stale tobacco and fresh soap which I knew so well. As he carried me through the yard, the grass crunched under his feet and he was holding me too tightly. With one eye and my nose buried in his neck, the other eye could see the stars. Smoke was curling from the chimney in the center of our little house and the smell of the burning wood, from out here, was more pleasant. I felt him bend forward and heard the car door open and then felt my quilt-wrapped body touch the car seat. I wanted to ask where we were going and why we were alone, but I could not make words hook onto the questions and even if I could have, my mouth would not have spoken them. I was shaking hard and the smell of gasoline from our old car made my throat burn. Then I glimpsed huge snowflakes swirling in the two white trails of light coming from the front of the car. Snow! Could it be Christmas?

Grandparents

Finally, Daddy told me, “I’m taking you to Miz Sea’s” and I felt a little bit warm. The car sped over the gravel. I bounced on the seat because I could not move my arms pinned deep inside the covers. We didn’t have far to go and soon we were turning from the gravel of Crooked Creek Rd. onto the gravel of my grandparents’ road. Before we reached the top of that short winding road, the porch light came on and showed against the brown siding of the tiny house.  As my Dad set me inside the front door, he said to Mammy, my grandmother, “His fever won’t come down. We’re leaving for St. Joseph’s.” Without a word she put me in bed beside my grandfather, who didn’t say anything, although I knew that he was awake. Mammy tucked me in and I watched her kneel beside the couch where she slept, close enough that I could reach out and touch her. She began to pray. As I went to sleep she was saying, “Not our will, but yours’ be done.”

School

At Marlow School later that day, the snow stopped for a while and we children were allowed to go out for recess. I stayed on the porch and watched the kids who had boots playing in the schoolyard. A girl who was just getting there was walking straight toward me.  This was unusual, because the kids from the big room, grades five through eight, never paid attention to first graders. She stopped, looked at me for a moment and said the two words that punched me in the stomach and sent me falling. I fell back and back with my arms held wide as though I was trying to fly in reverse. All the time I floated my feet somehow stayed in contact with the concrete floor. As my back touched the clapboard of the building I melted and ran down the cold boards, my warmth causing steam to sizzle and then rise when it encountered the icy floor.  The cold seeped into my body then, freezing it solid so that her words could no longer penetrate.  Now, the only thing that could pierce me for the rest of the school day was the stares from dozens of eyes.  The eyes belonged to the students who had witnessed the words that knocked me down, her words that caused me to freeze into a block of ice.

An icicle was stuck in my throat, causing my brain to hurt like it did when eating homemade ice cream that my mother made in the summer. I thought about Mother and wondered if she knew that girl would say those words to me. I wondered if my big brother had heard them, too. Then, I remembered that he had not been on the bus that morning. Where was he? I had always felt safe knowing that he was in the schoolroom right next to mine, the one with the other big kids. They had a man teacher with an arm that didn’t move and I was glad that I was not old enough to be in that room.  Both my teacher’s arms could move and once today she used them both to hug me. Mrs. Morgan was pretty and she was kind, but why had she let that big girl say those hateful words? Why didn’t she make her take them back?

The bus ride home was much quieter than usual and I missed my big brother being there with me. Even though kids were all around me, I was alone and still frozen solid. Most of the children were staring but not in a mean way. I think that a girl offered me gum, but I am not sure. I sat, cold and hard, and watched the scenes passing the frosty window of the bus. The farms along Crooked Creek Road, where we lived, had turned to a thick blanket of white since I rode the bus from my Grandparents’ home that morning. The hills, trees and barns looked as though they had been covered with vanilla ice cream. I felt my heart begin to soften and to thaw a little, as the snow reminded me that nothing could stop Christmas.

Home

When the bus stopped in front of our house I saw that the snow in our yard was not smooth, but messy with footprints going off in all directions and there were cars that I did not recognize parked next to the road. Strangest though were the tire tracks that went right up to the front porch. That didn’t make any sense. Neither did the little white coffin that stood in our living room when my Mother met me at the door.

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