The Full and the Hollow

This poem by Sylvia (Mattingly, my niece) really touched a chord with me. During the past twelve months of pandemic many days have felt sorrowful, burdensome and hollow. I’m so grateful though, that there are days that which are full, full of love, caring, helping. Both kinds of days make up our lives for which we should be thankful. I hope your day if full of brightness and joy.


the full and the hollow

sometimes life leaves you hollow

and in that hollow,

sorrows fall and settle 

like snow…

burdensome

as they deepen…

blowing and drifting 

in empty silence 

across the icy landscape 

of a saddened heart

but…

sometimes life leaves you full

and in that fullness,

joys rise and radiate

like sunshine 

carefree 

as they uplift…

waltzing and fluttering 

to notes of music

across the melodic dance floor 

of a happy heart

and so… 

these opposing forces

abide in us…

completing us…

the yin and the yang…

the full and the hollow

Sylvia L.Mattingly, February 5, 2021

Photo by Pixabay

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The Great Conjunction

If you didn’t see it last night you may be in luck and still able to see Jupiter and Saturn close together in the sky. I expected a artistic “Star of Bethlehem” but it looked more like a very large and bright star. By blowing up a photo of the conjunction you could actually see two circles, i.e., planets. I know there were those who saw it clearly through telescopes and at planetariums but it was pretty cool with the naked eye, too.

The fact that these planets are only this close together every 800 or so years made the experience magical. I was overwhelmed by thoughts of the magnitude of this universe and of how little we really know about it. We are but a speck of dust on a tiny orb and yet at times we fuss and fret like we rule the world.

View, Contemplate, Enjoy.

A Rebooted Brain

Do you ever wish you could reboot and start over? I think that sometimes we do and yet maybe not really if you hear the story I want to share with you. I came across a tiny article about Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor that piqued my interest so I researched her and was fascinated by what I learned. Dr. Taylor’s profession was the study of the human brain when she had a severe stroke. She refers to it as a “stroke of insight.” She was 37 years old when this disaster struck and she spent the next eight years recovering.

She tells her fascinating story most entertainingly in her Ted Talk at https://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_my_stroke_of_insight

 

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Graphics by Pixabay

EPA

Please read this post from January 2019:         https://crookedcreek.live/2019/01/23/pollinators/

Here we are sixteen months later and the EPA has finally begun to acknowledge what research has shown for years: that neonic pesticides pose serious risks to bees, birds, other wildlife — and even human health. But, rather than taking sweeping measures to crack down on neonics, the EPA is pushing to continue allowing widespread neonic use all over the country, including on food crops.

Bees in particular, are necessary for successful food crops and their numbers have been reduced by over 90% in large part by the neonic products listed in the above referenced post. During the current corona virus pandemic many are worried about our food supply chain. We need to be more aware and concerned about how the lack of pollinators and neonic use will affect our agriculture in the future.

What Can We Do?

  • We can plant flowers for the pollinators
  • We can refrain from the use of insecticides
  • We can contact the EPA and complain about their lack meaningful action
  • We can call our US Representatives and Senators’ offices and express our concern about the EPA’s inaction

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Source: NRDC

 

 

Earth Day

Earth Day 2020

Earth Day began as a response to oil spills, smog, and polluted rivers. On April 22, 1970, over 20 million Americans protested the crisis and demanded changes to protect the environment. This first Earth Day launched The Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Other countries followed suit and eventually, the United Nations signed the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The theme for this 50th anniversary of Earth Day is climate action. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of life on planet Earth. We all can and must be involved to make a difference. Our children’s and grandchildren’s lives depend on us.

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“Earth Day 1970 was irrefutable evidence that the American people understood the environmental threat and wanted action to resolve it.” Barry Commoner

 

Photo by Pixabay

Coping

New Normal

These are unprecedented times. No one living has experienced such a pandemic in their adult lives. Restrictions depend upon where you live, but almost everyone is restricted in some way. Each country’s precautions are a little different and in the US it is up to each state to decide how much we must restrict our movements.

Regardless, we have all had to adjust to a new normal and there is nothing about it that feels, “Normal.” We must remember that physical distancing, masks, gloves and stay at home orders are designated to protect others as well as ourselves.

Coping

So-called social distancing is hard for me a hug loving, social being. I miss my friends. I miss my family. I miss going to the grocery and volunteering and driving and everything else that made up my daily life before COVID-19 dropped in on us.

  • I am trying to cope by taking one day at a time. This isolation is so open-ended at this point that it is depressing to think of the month or months stretching ahead. I try to have a goal (or two) for each day and when I achieve those I feel energized. The goals are too mundane to share, but of course, include such chores as reorganizing a closet.
  • This is also a wonderful opportunity to read. I have many books on my shelves that beg to be re-read and I have about fifty on my Kindle that I have not read. Reading is always informative and it swallows up a lot of free time.
  • This final coping mechanism should have been listed first because I think it is probably the most important. Here in Kentucky, I feel very fortunate that this pandemic has occurred in springtime. The sun shines bright almost every day and there are flowering trees and plants sprinkling color all around. Each day I go for a walk in the neighborhood and I am grateful that this virus did not visit in winter.
  • One last thought: Many people are making it possible for us to live during this trying time. Let’s remember those working in hospitals, grocery stores, law enforcement, and other essential capacities.

As our governor, Andy Beshear, reminds us each day, “We will get through this together.” 

How Are You coping?

 

“Think first of the action that is right to take, think later about coping with one’s fears.” Barbara Deming

Quarantine

John Pavlovitz is a blogger who I follow. His latest post (the link is below) says a lot that is important during this time of physical distancing. I’ve been thinking about blogging about the issues he discusses. He does it so well, please read. Thank You

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2020/04/01/dont-quarantine-yourself-from-life/

Human Trafficking

Here in Louisville every year around Derby time, we hear a lot about “Human Trafficking.” But, what is Human Trafficking exactly? According to the Department of Homeland Security, Human Trafficking is the exploitation of a person through coercion, force, or fraud in order to obtain sex, forced labor, or domestic servitude. Human Trafficking happens everywhere and involves any nationality, age, gender, or socioeconomic status. Simply put, it is modern-day slavery. You can spot possible Human Trafficking by knowing the indicators.

· The person may appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship.

· School attendance ceases.

· A sudden or dramatic change in behavior

· A juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts.

· Disorientation and confusion, or signs of mental or physical abuse.

· Bruises in various stages of healing.

· Fearful, timid, or submissive behavior.

· Signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care.

· The person is often in the company of someone who seems to be in control

· The person appears to be coached on what to say.

· The person is living in unsuitable conditions.

· The person lacks personal possessions and appears not to have a stable living situation.

· Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Does there appear to be unreasonable security measures?

The presence or absence of any of these indicators is not proof of a human trafficking situation, but many of these signs are a good reason to investigate further. Please refer to the Department of Homeland Security for more resources and information concerning human trafficking on their Blue Campaign website, https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign Keep your eyes open, stay sober and informed.

To report suspected human trafficking: 1-866-347-2423

To get help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733)

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Spring

Today I look at the flowering trees and think of you.

When we enjoyed them last spring we had no reason to think it would be our last dogwood season together. 

Now you lie in the cold ground with woods of redbud all around, but cannot see, or smell, or move to raise your eyes skyward. 

But, then I see an unexpected crane, a cardinal or a deer and I wonder if that is so. 

Sue Baugh Mattingly – April 15, 2015

 

 

Theme photo in title 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

A New Hope

A Poem by Mattie Stepanek – May 1999

A New Hope

I need a hope … a new hope.

A hope that reaches for the stars, and

That does not end in violence or war.

A hope that makes peace on our earth, and

That does not create evil in the world. 

A hope that finds cures for all diseases, and 

That does not make people hurt,

In their bodies, in their hearts,

Or most of all, in their spirits.

I need a hope . . . a new hope,

A hope that inspires me to live, and

To make all these things happen,

So that the whole world can have 

A new hope, too. 

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Mattie Stepanek

Grief

Stages of Grief

In 1969 Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published the book “On Death and Dying” outlining what came to be known as the Five Stages of Grief. Few understood that Kubler-Ross was describing what she had observed in her patients who were dying. It was about personal grief from one’s own approaching death but could be applied to the grief of any loss that might be experienced. The author published a second book decades later entitled “On Grief and Grieving” in which she explained the stages further.

With this background in mind, it serves us well to briefly look at the five stages which Dr. Kubler-Ross listed.

1.Denial
Denial is a natural reaction which briefly buffers one from the unthinkable reality of death or approaching death.

2. Anger
Anger is often directed at the unfairness of the loss one is experiencing.

3. Bargaining
Bargaining is a mechanism that is especially used by those who are anticipating their own death. Bargaining might be in the form of asking to just see a daughter’s wedding or a grandchild’s birth before death.

4. Depression
Depression sets in when one realizes that bargaining will not work and is a period of deep mourning.

5. Acceptance
Accepting the inevitability of death brings a measure of peace, but it does not erase grief. 

One should never expect grief to be packaged in a neat orderly group of these five steps. Instead, grieving is personal and these stages can occur in any order, can overlap, as well as come and go over time. Having a general idea of what one is experiencing in these terms can, however, be helpful in recognizing the normalcy of the process.

https://crookedcreek.live/2018/07/06/book-reviews/

Types of Loss

These stages, these feelings are not only connected with loss through death but can be from any type of significant loss. Some that quickly come to my mind are the loss of a job, a home or a pet. Other less obvious perhaps are the loss of self-image (through injury or surgery), loss of a partner through divorce or separation and even loss of status or a sense of self. Through all of these losses and more, we can expect to deny, be angry, bargain, experience depression and hopefully finally reach a degree of acceptance.

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How to Say Goodbye

One of the hardest things to do is to say goodbye to one who is dying. Knowing that these are likely the last words you will speak to someone you care about is a formidable responsibility. Beryl Schewe (Eden Prairie News) notes six things that should or could be said. They are: I love you, Thank you, I forgive you, Forgive me, I will be OK, and Goodbye. It seems to me that any of these six simple phrases said in love are appropriate. I believe they are enough. I believe they can bring peace to both the dying and the survivor.

In the next post, we will discuss what to say and not say to one who is grieving.

“Grief is the price we pay for love.” Queen Elizabeth II

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Thoughts & Prayers

Thoughts and Prayers are not enough. Thoughts and prayers come after the fact, after the loss. We as Americans, as citizens of the world must do more. We must be proactive. How?

Love and respect others, including those who are not exactly like us. We are all human beings, we worship the same supreme being by different names or no name, we all have families and we all have a place in this world that we share.

We must be engaged with others. We must be an active part of the solution. We must be involved with our political representatives to hold them accountable. We must lead by example.

We must stand up against hate. 

 

Pat

Blessed with Pats

One day my daughter said to me, “Mom you have so many friends named Pat!” And I realized she was right. I truly do have a lot of friends both present and past named Pat and each has been a blessing. 

My first Pat was a cousin born six weeks before me and we grew up more like sisters. When we were little I called her Patsy Lou (for Patricia Lucille), but later as a preteen, she became Pat. We both became nurses and we argued, agreed and mostly were just always there for each other until she died of leukemia.

Currently, there are Pats in my life who are more varied than their names might suggest. One is a brilliant writer, one a talented artist, another is a good neighbor and cat sitter, one lives several states away and still stays in touch. There are and have been others too numerous to count as they sometime say in lab results.

A Pat from the Past

 During part of the 1960s and 1970s, we lived in a small neighborhood in the suburbs. It was a great place to raise our two daughters. It was also an innocent time. Kids ran and played and rode bikes and stayed out after dark playing hide and seek. They knew they had parental eyes on them, but still, it was a time of freedom. Each child trusted their friends’ parents as they trusted their own. 

There was a neighbor named Pat who was not a great deal older than me, but she taught me so much, mostly by example. She was an RN and although not consciously I followed her into the nursing profession. It wasn’t that she talked about her job, but I knew she was good at it and I wanted to be like her.

One Sunday while my family was at church I stayed home to make chili for a neighbor who was injured in a wreck. The chili was really hot. It burned up our kitchen. The remarkable thing though was that Pat showed up after the firetruck had departed and began to help. Long after the insurance was settled and new appliances were installed Pat came back with her cleaning tools to help me rid the house of stains and odors. That is a real neighbor. 

When one of our daughters had an accident on Halloween night requiring a trip to the hospital, Pat took our other daughter trick-or-treating with her children. 

When I went into labor with our third pregnancy and subsequently miscarried, it was Pat who comforted me, instructed my husband and again took care of our daughters while we went to the hospital. 

There are few people like this woman and I wish you had known her too. I do not know how I became so fortunate to have Pat G. and so many other Pats in my life. 

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” Helen Keller

NOTE: There are many friends in my life today and I would not want to face life without any of them, no matter their names. You surely know who you are and I love you. 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

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

Race in America

A Tough Subject 

racism | ˈrāˌsizəm | noun       prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior: a program to combat racism. the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races: theories of racism.  Source: Webster’s Dictionary. 


White Privilege 

This is a subject I approach with much trepidation. I fear I will not state my opinions and thoughts clearly. Being misunderstood on such a sensitive topic is a real danger, but I feel this subject is important enough to take that chance. Reader opinions will vary just as our life experiences vary.

I, as a white person, know I have advantages and some I am not really cognizant of most of the time. The dominant race is always assured of unearned assets and privileges even though members may be poor or uneducated as was my early family.  This notwithstanding I know I am a recipient of white privilege and I desire to even the playing field when I can. It begins by acknowledging that advantage.   

Racism

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The sender of this Christmas card which I received as a child meant no harm but it clearly demonstrates racial prejudice as does the advertisement from an old catalog of the same era. I am aware each is offensive, but that is why I have included them, to demonstrate that racism is a part of our collective history. 

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I realize this delicate subject can bring about controversy but that is not my intent. I will talk about my own experiences and evolution and each reader can, and I hope will, examine their own feelings on this delicate, but vital, subject. 

Childhood

I was born into a rural white community. My first memory of encountering a person of color was when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I was with my parents when they stopped at a small store in Harrisonville, KY. I had never been there before and I was shocked to see the dark-skinned proprietor. Mr. Buesey smiled at me and extended his hand offering me a cookie. I did not take it, because I thought surely the black had rubbed off on the cookie. Although I remember nothing else about this experience, to this day I regret my childish reaction knowing I must have hurt this kind man’s feelings. 

The next such memory I have must have been at around the same age because I still had a curiosity about the permanence of that black color. I was shopping with my Mother and Aunt in the big town of Frankfort, the capital of KY. When I saw a little black girl about my age I apparently had the courage to attempt to solve my question because I reached out and touched her arm. Again, I know I was rude and regret it. I definitely was not raised in an environment where I came into contact with other than white people on any regular basis. 

Growing Up

All this changed when I moved to the small town of Taylorsville. While black children went to a separate school, I did see people of color around town and began to feel more comfortable. I hope I was also more polite. I was in High School before black students were allowed to integrate our “white” schools.

As an adult, I recall the busing era of the seventies when my own children were in school. I remember the demonstrations, the marches and the shouts at buses filled with black children being brought into the suburbs to integrate schools. I am ashamed to say when one of my daughters entering the ninth grade was assigned to an inner city High School we moved to another county. We were a part of white flight even though it was not the integration that concerned me but the fact that my child was being taken into an unknown community many miles from home. Regardless, I was part of the problem, not the solution. 

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Change

So much has changed in my lifetime and especially in my own mind and heart. I wish my journey had been different. I wish I had been brought up in an integrated community and that it had not been necessary to work to overcome a racial bias I did not even realize I had until later in adulthood. 

Our country has a long way to go to overcome racism and even further to achieve racial equality. This is my opinion.  

“It’s the people who don’t recognize the racism within themselves that can be the most damaging because they don’t see it.” Sterling K. Brown


Recommended reading about racism in America: the distant past “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriett Beecher Stowe and a contemporary account “White Rage” by Carol Anderson. 

 

Theme photo in title 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

Book Reviews – Stiff, Smoke Get In Your Eyes, & Confessions of a Funeral Director

So much has been written about the subject of death since Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s seminal work was published in 1969. Kubler-Ross was a Swiss psychiatrist who worked with the terminally ill at the University of Chicago. She wrote “On Death and Dying” which presented the “five stages of death,” more accurately the five stages of grief. Thus began an open dialogue on the subject of death in medical schools and other clinical settings and to some extent in social conversation. Nearly fifty years later we are much less reluctant to discuss the subject of death and dying.

That does not mean that everyone is terribly comfortable with all that has been written over this time span or even with the general discussion of the subject of death. I devour the subject as my modest library demonstrates. I have learned from each author, but my favorites to date are Mary Roach, Caitlin Doughty, and Caleb Wilde. fullsizeoutput_138b

“Stiff”

First I would like to recommend “Stiff” by Mary Roach. Published in 2003 it is far more interesting than “Spook” released two years later. “Stiff” is full of history as well as contemporary subjects surrounding death. Want to know a little about cannibalism? How about cannibalism in the name of medicine? Have any idea what can happen to the human body donated to science? Most people think anatomy lab for medical students, few think of crash dummy. 

Roach’s macabre sense of humor has resulted in “Stiff” chapters with names like “A Head is a Terrible Thing to Waste, The Cadaver Who Joined the Army, How to Know if You are Dead and Eat me,” just to name a few. Don’t let her way with words fool you, she does serious research and travels the world to gather information. 

 

“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”Other Lessons from the Crematory

 If you like both the subject of death and memoirs, this book is for you. Caitlin Doughty shares her experiences in the funeral business, but particularly in her job at a crematorium. Her gallows humor not only made me laugh frequently, it kept me grounded while I read about situations that were sometimes heartbreaking and disturbing.

Before we take that last journey into our own death shouldn’t we be as informed as possible about our options? Doughty will guide you through so much that you didn’t know you needed to know and she will do it with wit, charm, and compassion. Read it. Allow her to help you develop the “Art of Dying” which is appropriately the name of her last chapter. 

After reading this book you may want to check out her blog and other things this busy author is doing.  http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com

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“Confessions of a Funeral Director” How the Business of Death Saved My Life

Caleb Wilde is a very sensitive and honest writer whose blog I have followed for several years. His book like his blog contains humor, but the purpose of his writing is much more on the serious side. Published last year this book covers Wilde’s life growing up in the family business and the adjustments he had to make in his life to remain a funeral director. 

The book is true to its title and contains confessions especially regarding Wilde’s battle against chronic depression. His journey is instructive, interesting and enlightening.

I recommend both this book and the blog by the same name. https://www.calebwilde.com

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“From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.”    Edvard Munch

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

 

Saving Planet Earth

Straws Again  

https://crookedcreek.live/2018/07/02/waste/

After writing Wasting Planet Earth posted earlier today, I read a comprehensive article in the Courier Journal (7/1/18) about plastic straws. The movement to eliminate these devices is picking up steam. There was even a report on broadcast news last night about the subject (NBC). 

In the CJ I learned that there is only one manufacturer of paper straws in all the United States. That company, Aardvark Straws in Fort Wayne, IN, cannot meet the demand so now many paper straws used in the US are from China. Aardvark’s natural cellulose product is both compostable and biodegradable. 

We have been using plastic straws since 1970 and they are a part of the eight billion tons of plastic we dump into the oceans each year! By 2050 it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the planet’s oceans than fish. We must do better.

Challenge

If you still are not convinced that these small cylinders of plastic that we suck on so cavalierly are a problem, I challenge you to watch all eight minutes of this YouTube video. If you are sensitive to coarse language you should watch without sound. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=4wH878t78bw

Thank You

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“Small Acts, when multiplied by millions of people can transform the world.” Howard Zinn 

 

Theme photo in title and graphic by Pixabay

Wasting Planet Earth

Do We Need It?

Plastic Straws

Plastic drinking straws are taken for granted, but they should not be. The United States uses and disposes of over 500 million of these devices per day. Straws are unnecessary, but if one does not agree with that, how about this? “Plastic” straws are unnecessary. Paper straws are less hazardous to our environment and to wildlife. Reusable straws can easily be washed and reused for a lifetime. The next time you are in a restaurant, how about saying “No straw please.”

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Thank you to “The Last Plastic Straw” for this illustration. 

Plastic, Plastic, Plastic

Starting out with straws is easy. It’s a little thing that each of us can give up without any pain. Plastic, in general, is a different challenge. Take a minute and look around where you are at the moment. How much plastic do you see? Are you touching it? I am, both the keyboard and the protective cover over the top of it are plastic. There’s my phone case, my TV remote and on and on. I know we cannot eliminate plastic completely, but that does not mean we cannot reduce it. I’ve been trying but barely making a dent. I can do better. 

First, we must care. Then it helps to be informed. I’ve done some research today and the statistics are sickening. Here are just a few provided by EcoWatch.  

  1. The average American discards 185 pounds of plastic per year.
  2. Americans throw away 35 billion water bottles per year.
  3. Worldwide, one million plastic bags are used per minute!
  4. By age six years 93% of all Americans’ blood tests positive for BPA, a plastic chemical.                                                       

Read more of these alarming statistics at https://www.ecowatch.com/22-facts-about-plastic-pollution-and-10-things-we-can-do-about-it-1881885971.html

We cannot do without many things that are plastic, perhaps, but what about the things we can eliminate? What about the things that we can use over and over again before tossing?

There are many who do better than I. My cloth grocery bags are often forgotten in the back seat of my car, only to be remembered after I have filled my grocery cart. I carry a nylon bag in my purse to carry smaller purchases in other stores and forget to use it as well. Today I put the cloth grocery bags in the front seat where I can see them more easily. I plan to say, “No bag please” for more purchases in other stores. I can do better.

I know someone who has completely eliminated non-recycle materials from her life. It began during March of this year, her birthday month, when she eliminated all plastic of any kind for thirty-one days. I couldn’t believe what she was able to accomplish, buying food in bulk and placing it in paper or nylon bags, for instance. That was an inspiration to me to do better.

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Ideas? 

Are there ways that you eliminate waste and especially plastic that you’d like to share?

“Pollution is a serious one. Water pollution, air pollution, and then solid hazardous waste pollution. And then beyond that, we also have the resources issue. Not just water resources but other natural resources, the mining resources being consumed, and the destruction of our ecosystem.” Ma Jun

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Photos and graphics by Pixabay

Birthdays

Birthdays

Today’s approaching birthday has been causing me much consternation. To my dismay, this day points out that I have been present on this planet for three-quarters of a century. On my thirtieth I cried all day, on my fiftieth I laughed a  lot at all the teasing I received from co-workers, friends, and family. On my seventieth, I enjoyed a nice weekend at French Lick, IN with my daughters. But, this one is different, in fact, I was thinking it might be lethal, until I learned something significant in USA Today on June 24th.

Superman is 80 this month! 

This news helped so much. If he can keep on flying faster than the speed of bullets surely I can continue to walk, blog and enjoy each day for a while longer. So, my daughters and I are going to have a slumber party to celebrate my big 75 and I look forward to adding to this three-quarters of a century! 

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“You are as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fears;                                                      as young as your hope, as old as your despair.” Unknown

 

Theme photo in title and graphic by Pixabay

Tip Re’ Tires

Confession

I know nothing about tires, other than they need to be kept inflated. My tip is more about what to do to prepare for car trouble which came about for me recently because of tires. After more years of driving than I care to calculate I had my first blowout a couple of weeks ago. Oh, I’ve had flats, they are not that dramatic, but a blowout, now that is pure drama! I’m happy to say that I maneuvered my car safely to a stop in an emergency lane. After collecting my thoughts and calming my nerves for a minute I called AAA, grateful as I looked at my card to note I’ve been a member for 29 years. I was sure help would be on the way in no time flat (pun intended). That’s where the tip comes in. 

The Tip:

For one hour I sat waiting for help to arrive to place my spare on my wheel so that I could be on my way. One hour! It was 91 degrees so I was thankful to have adequate fuel to use the A/C intermittently. I read everything on my phone and had to resist calling anyone to chat because I didn’t want folks to be concerned about me. But I had nothing to do, nothing to read . . . wait that is not exactly true. 

I opened the glove box and rooted around finding the vehicle registration, an owner’s manual and insurance verification. BORING! Then I spotted two white envelops which I had forgotten having in the car. One contained a copy of my Living Will and the other a copy of my Health Care Surrogate document.  https://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/25/death-decisions/  Realizing that I had not updated these papers in over a year, I spent that long wait reading, initialing and dating each page so that my time was productive after all. This is not what I recommend but it was a good alternative to having something more interesting to read.

Yeah, back to the tip: I now have good reading material in my car. I’m ready for any emergency. Don’t leave home without something to read in case of an emergency! 

“I had to stop driving my car for a while… the tires got dizzy.” Steven Wright

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

Year of the Woman 2018

Since the “Year of the Woman” 1992, 1993, 1994, etc., at least one woman has remained in a position of power, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. We owe tribute to her. She deserves all the recognition and honor that has been bestowed upon her to this point and more. This eighty-one year old may look frail, but I see her as strong as steel. Ginsberg is not the only woman who has served on the Supreme Court or even the first. She is not the longest serving Justice, either, but she was appointed in 1993, almost twenty-five years ago and she serves with strength and dignity. 26219909_10159808716480297_2166951116171513033_n

#Me Too

Is it possible that the so-called “me too” movement currently sweeping the US will be the turning point for women? Is it likely that women will finally be treated with equity? I want to be optimistic, but I am not, at this point, even hopeful. What will it take? I do not know, but I do know what is at stake. 

At stake is every inch of progress made to date. At stake are healthcare and childcare and the overall economic stability of women and their families. In 2016 the pay gap for women was 20%! According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research if progress continues at the rate of the past fifty years it will be 2059 before there is pay equity between women and men. For women of color, it will be well into the next century. https://iwpr.org/issue/employment-education-economic-change/pay-equity-discrimination/

What is the answer? If only it were that simple, but there are many changes that must be made and while men are important to this cause and their support is essential, it is women who must step up. 

Step Up

  • Run for office
  • Vote in each election
  • Expect (demand) more
  • Educate girls
    • We might begin by recognizing their strength and intellect ahead of their appearance
  • Support other women politically, in business and personally. 

These are a few things that come to mind at the moment but there are many more. Let’s not be afraid of the fight. The suffragettes endured real physical pain for the right to vote and if you aren’t sure about that, I challenge  you to see the 2004 movie, “Iron Jawed Angels” now available free on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOrD0tH_WaM fullsizeoutput_18b5

If you have not seen this movie, please watch it, show it to your daughters and your granddaughters. While we’re at it, let’s include the men and boys. We all need to know this history. 

“Paradoxically, the most constructive thing women can do is to write, for in the act of writing we deny our muteness and begin to eliminate some of the difficulties that have been put upon us.” Dale Spender

Whether we write, speak or teach . . . . No matter how we lead, the important thing is that we be not mute! 

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

Frogs 2

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Frogs Are Valuable

Frogs are precious and, not as dinner. Did you know that according to the Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project* (Panama) between 1996 and 2006, over 100,000 tons of frog legs worth almost half a billion dollars were consumed by human diners? 

Frogs are valuable and not just as pest control. We would certainly suffer without frogs eating flying pests. Considering the diseases carried by mosquitoes I cannot imagine a world without frogs and other amphibians to keep them under control yet, since 1980, we have lost over 120 species of amphibians!

“So what?” some may say, but the value of frogs goes way beyond pest control and culinary uses. Frog skin is a virtual bonanza for medical research and treatment. Frogs have been found to carry cures and controls for some of humankind’s most threatening conditions*.  

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 It is True

Someone has said: “Frogs have it made, they get to eat what bugs them.” Anonymous and it is true. We once had a koi pond with frogs and lily pads and it was great entertainment until one very large frog became “bugged” by a bird. The bird just wanted a drink from the pond, but that hungry frog rose up and gulped the bird into its mouth! Only the tail and wing tips were not swallowed. I would never have believed it possible had I not seen it in my own backyard. And, you might not believe it either except in addition to a couple of (frightened) witnesses I have pictures.

Warning, it is not pleasant. 

 

Like people, they may not all be sociable but we need frogs and they need us to preserve them for the value they add to our world. 

Part 2 of 2

Frogs

I Love Frogs

All my life I have been fascinated by frogs. Sometimes I wish they were not so slimy and there are poisonous ones I would not want to encounter, but overall frogs are intriguing creatures. Once as a child, I was climbing a tree and put my hand on a big piece of bark to steady myself and that bark scurried away from my hand! It was a perfectly camouflaged tree frog. 

Have you heard a tree frog’s voice? They are amazing. If you think all frogs make the same sound, you are so wrong. Only the male bullfrog can “croak” using his throat pouch that enlarges and vibrates to make that familiar sound. Other frogs have individual sounds and you can experience some of them, including American and Canadian frogs here: http://www.naturenorth.com/spring/sound/shfrsnd.html There are several other sites on the internet which present the sounds that various frogs make and a favorite of mine is: http://allaboutfrogs.org/weird/general/songs.html

I cannot help but smile as I listen to the recorded frog sounds. I hope that you enjoy them too. Frogs whistle, peep, grunt, ribbit, and bark to name just a few of their distinctive sounds. Please tune in to the links above and listen to their serenades. Even as a frog lover, I was not aware of spring peeps until my daughter pointed them out a few years ago. 

Frogs Are Vital

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Frogs are more than fun. They are sentinels that warn us of crucial information regarding our environment. Amphibians, including salamanders and toads as well as frogs,  are sensitive to gases like oxygen because of their very porous and sensitive skin.  This means they are also very sensitive to pollution even from their egg stage because the shell is soft, unlike eggs of birds and snakes. 

Amphibians have been declining with some species disappearing completely. Other signs of environmental compromise include extra or missing legs on frogs. They are compared by many scientists to the canary in the coal mine. We must respect and pay attention to frogs and their cousins. 

“Don’t be a fish; be a frog. Swim in the water and jump when you hit ground.”                    Kim Young-ha

 

Part 1 of 2

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

Scenes from Russia

Matryoshka  (Stacking) Dolls

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White Nights

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Peter the Great’s Bridge and Smolny Cathedral  (during white nights)

Beginning in May and lasting into July it never gets completely dark in St. Petersburg due to its geographical location as the Northern most city in the world. This period of time is referred to as “White Nights.” It was an eerie feeling and messed with my circadian rhythm. This was not the biggest deterrent to sleep, however. Never have I see such big and persistent mosquitos. They buzzed loudly and got in my face belligerently each evening in the hotel. They seemed partial to the face and hands for their nightly feast. I counted 20 bites on one hand and 10 on the other as well as enough on my face to look like I had chicken pox! 

Goodwill Games

The Goodwill Games were started in Moscow in 1986 by Ted Turner as a response to political difficulties surrounding the Olympic Games at the time. While I was in St. Petersburg the country was hosting the games for the second time. It was exciting to see the enthusiasm the games inspired and I knew the city was presenting its best face for the onslaught of tourists.
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Hotel

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The hotel I stayed in was the Rusky as I recall. It had a lot of marble, but not the beautiful expensive type that I was used to seeing working in the magnificent Humana headquarters in Louisville, KY. This marble was lifeless and the rooms were little more than one would expect in a hostel or at camp. Although clean the beds were cots, the bathroom’s plumbing was exposed and the mosquitos had free access to guests. 

This view outside the back of the hotel is more representative of what the city was like in 1994.fullsizeoutput_1695

Cemetery

Cemeteries are one of my favorite sites to visit. Those in Russia were certainly not a disappointment. By tradition, they are divided into three sections. There is a section reserved for Communists, usually signified by the hammer and sickle. fullsizeoutput_169d

There is a section for those involved in the Arts and another for regular people. 

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Tombstone of a “regular” person

Things We Take for Granted 

This I saved for last. One thing that we take for granted here in the US and in much of the world, I suppose, is toilet paper. We load our grocery carts with no thought to what life would be without this commodity. In Russia in 1994 that was not the case. Many public restrooms had no T.P. at all. Others had attendants who presented you with a couple of squares as an allotment as you enter. Some places had a sheet torn from books (see the example from “church” below.) Here is the collection that I preserved:fullsizeoutput_16b0

Part 6 of 6

Note: Thank you to Lula Reynolds for giving us a break from St. Petersburg and sharing her visit to Moscow (2012) in the last post. 

 

Theme graphic in title by Pixabay

 

Moscow, Russia

Welcome Guest Writer: Lula Reynolds traveled to Russia 18 years after my trip to St. Petersburg. She has graciously shared the post below about the city of Moscow. Thank you Lula! 

My one-day visit to Moscow in 2012 was interesting but left me with lots of questions.  I had visited Communist China so knew a little about what to expect.  However, Moscow was different from China and even from St. Petersburg.  In St. Petersburg, the people and guides were open and friendly and were willing to answer our questions.  The museums were beautiful and ornate. 

For our trip to Moscow, we could go by plane or high-speed train.  We chose the 4-hour train trip to see some of the countryside.  As we rode farther away from St. Petersburg, there were fewer buildings and those that we saw were very small, almost like huts, and crowded together in villages.  We were told that these were country homes.  The landscape reminded me of the movie, Dr. Zhivago, without the snow. 

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Moscow Metro by Pixabay

When we arrived in Moscow, we were introduced to our guide, a lady probably in her 50’s, dressed much like what I thought of as a typical Russian. Our first experience was a ride through the city to a Metro train station where we rode the subway for a short distance. The station was spotlessly clean and was exquisitely decorated with sculptures, chandeliers, mosaics and marble walls and ceilings.  It was a work of art, leaving us to wonder if all the stations were like this or if this was their showpiece. 

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Kremlin Tower by Pixabay

Our tour for the day included a visit to the Kremlin and Red Square. Our guide kept a swift pace and throughout the day a couple of men would appear to walk beside her and check off her schedule. She kept us in tight control, asking us often not to wander from the group. At one point a couple wanted to stop at a restroom they spotted but she said no, that a restroom break was scheduled later.  When we were allowed to ask questions, she would not answer political questions. 

I had always thought of the Kremlin as government buildings. We were not able to tour the government portion of the Kremlin, which is an old fortress and the seat of the President.  The part of the Kremlin we visited was the Armory Chamber which was a museum of Russian history.  It was beautiful and very crowded and we were guided through to see the armor, coronation dresses, jewelry, golden carriages, and Faberge eggs.  There was much use of jewels and gold in these items. 

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Museum: Gallery of Painting by Pixabay

We had been told not to touch anything, lean against anything or take pictures.   Near the wall in several places were older ladies (with their purses on their arms) seated in chairs.  If someone accidentally touched or leaned against a wall, they would come over and remind us not to touch.   

Our guide walked swiftly all day. She was off the bus and on her way before the last person exited the bus.  At one point when we were going up some stairs to a restaurant for a Russian dinner (beef Stroganoff), one of the tourists remarked that she walked so fast that we couldn’t keep up. Her response was, “Russian women are tough.” 

The Kremlin included Cathedral Square, surrounded by 3 cathedrals. Important Russian ceremonies take place in the beautiful gardens.

Red Square has been the place of numerous historical and political events in the life of Russia.  As we walked in Red Square there were many people hustling about, young and old.  We noticed that the police or military would not make eye contact. 

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GUM Department Store by Pixabay

Red Square is made up of the Kremlin, the Lenin Mausoleum, the Church of St. Basil the Blessed, the State History Museum and GUM, the largest department store in Russia. 

We were given an opportunity to wander shortly in the department store which is like a mall. The shops looked very similar to US shops and were brightly decorated. 

Our day in Moscow was packed with sights, but I came away feeling very confined and not really learning a lot of information about the people and its culture.  I admired the exquisite and lavish beauty of the museums and churches but left wondering what daily life is like for the people in Moscow. 

Scenes from Moscow and title graphic by Pixabay

 

 

Part 5 of 6

 

Russian People

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Women 

While in Russia I met many interesting people. There were men who were bus drivers and pastors and volunteers, but it was some of the women who I really felt that I got to know. The interpreter, Natasha (yes, really, Natasha) was a beautiful young woman in her early twenties. She never lost patience with my questions and never seemed to tire of explaining what it was like to be Russian. She was proud of her country and especially that unlike when she was young, now she has the opportunity to meet travelers from all over the world.

Then there was Maria who was about thirty or so, it was very hard to tell because she wore a scarf that appeared to cover a shaved head. Her five-year-old son, Eugenia, was with her. He was wearing undershorts and a soiled button up shirt. After talking with her through Natasha for a couple of days, I learned of her sad history.

She said that she had been born and raised in the Islamic tradition, but was no longer sure of that status. Her mother died when she was a child and her husband and father were both recently deceased and she had no “papers” to prove that she was a citizen. The government had taken her father’s apartment and she was left without a home or income. She and Eugenia had been living in a cemetery for weeks at this point with some food provided by a friend. She was looking for work and offered to clean the church (Central Baptist of St. Petersburg, membership of 1,200) for food for her son.

There were many older women who dutifully cleaned the church, so there was no work there for Maria. They were caring, giving women who had little to give, but soon though, Maria and her son had clothes and food and a few other necessities. There were those who offered to help her in trying to obtain the papers necessary for livelihood. I had no way of knowing the outcome for Maria and Eugenia. I look at their photos and wonder what their lives are like today.

Unfortunately, there was another group of women in Russia who worked in what some call the “oldest profession,” prostitution. Apparently many women were all over the country trying to live by selling intimate services. Below is one of the cards left throughout the hotel where I stayed. This is not a profession. And, it is not a choice many women make other than out of necessity. Based upon recent news from Moscow, the situation has not changed for this population of Russian women. 

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Apartments/Schools

In St. Petersburg it seemed that everyone lived in an apartment. I saw no private homes, although I am sure there were some grand ones for those high up in the government, mafia members and others with access to wealth. 

I walked through an apartment complex that must have housed at least a thousand residences. There were no sidewalks, simply paths through the knee-high grass. There was a school that could only be identified by a couple of crude pieces of playground equipment, otherwise, the school looked like another apartment building. 

I visited a couple from Kentucky who lived in a ninth floor apartment and the elevator was out of service. I was rewarded by seeing a mama cat and her kittens living on the seventh-floor landing, making the climb work the effort. 

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Pushkin stock-vector-vector-portrait-alexander-pushkin-471393209

Alexander Pushkin was a poet and playwright who lived from 1799-1837 in St. Petersburg. There was a little town named after him and I was fortunate enough to be able to visit not only the park-like village but also a small hospital there. The facility looked more like a US nursing home of years ago. The beds were small and uncomfortable looking. Many of the patients who chatted away in Russian with clueless visitors looked old but it may have been due more to life conditions than chronological age.

One thing that I will never forget in that hospital was a very large printed, framed portrait of our then current US President, William J. Clinton.

Part 4 of 6

Theme graphic in title 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 5

 

Questions? Questions!

More questions than answers, perhaps nowhere is this more the case than in discussing the soul. We speculate, imagine, believe, or believe in, a certain idea but we have no facts to back up that concept. One may have had experiences that reinforce personal beliefs, but is that proof? No.

Or perhaps you do not believe there is a soul at all? Many do not. Although said in jest, the statement made by a friend sums up that philosophy. She once referred to death as the “long dirt sleep.” Believing there is no soul, is no fun! How boring that would be. I would much rather speculate, study and discuss possibilities. As one reader/follower commented earlier, that means being “not a doubter, but a questioner.”

So, for the sake of discussion, we will go with the thought that there is a soul. I hope you are not offended as I sometimes refer to “it.” We all know that soul is the subject.  

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When does the soul begin? At conception? At birth? At death? 
Does it come as a vacuum or filled with wisdom to dispense? 
Does it belong to us or us to it?
Can it travel? Can it be in one location while one’s body is somewhere else?
How does the soul communicate?
Is it a generic template or are all souls individualized?
Does it direct? Correct? Control? Comfort?
Does it stay with the body after death, i.e. in the crematoria, in the grave or tomb?
Does it make choices or is it programmed?
Do only humans have souls? What about pets? Other animals?
Can a tree or body of water have a soul?

OK! OK! 

I’ll stop with the questions because we could go on forever. Also, many of you have previously shared some personal thoughts and beliefs about what a soul is like, including the following characteristics: spirit, eternal, underlying part, essence, oneness with others, capable of regeneration. 

Essence

For several years “essence” has been the word I use or think of in relation to the soul. When we meet people and form a close relationship we get to know them on a deep level and develop a sense of who they are at the very core. We get to know them well enough to evaluate their fundamental qualities and we remember that essence long after they have left us whether in distance or death. I also believe this “knowing” lives on in many ways in our hearts and minds, consciously and subconsciously as we continue to live life without that person, that relationship physically present. 

Approaching my seventy-fifth birthday, I have by this time, naturally lost many persons in my life who I loved and who I continue to miss. That’s life, it includes death. If we have one we have the other. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that people do live on in many, many different ways and in the next blog I will explain further, but in the meantime here are a few hints in photos.

 

“The true nature of soul is right knowledge, right faith and right conduct. The Soul, so long as it is subject to transmigration, is undergoing evolution and involution.”                      Virchand Gandhi

Part 5 of 7

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

 

Soul 4

Oprah’s Guests

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Oprah – Photo by Google

Those referenced in Soul 2 who were interviewed by Oprah https://crookedcreek.live/2018/04/07/soul-2/  are often called upon for their opinions in spiritual matters. Her guests include many who are well prepared via their education and experience and perhaps some who are self-proclaimed experts on the topic of the soul. Let’s look at some of the characteristics they used to describe the human soul to see how they agree or differ.

 

Authors

The one distinction the following group has in common is that they are all published. 

NAME

BACKGROUND

SOME WORDS USED

Dyer, Wayne Motivational Speaker birthless, deathless, changeless
Franklin, Devon Spiritual Success Coach where the Holy Spirit resides, connection with God
Pink, Daniel Behavioral Scientist purpose
Singer, Michael Founder of The Temple of the Universe indwelling consciousness, center of being
Vanzant, Lyania Spiritual Life Coach fingerprint of God that becomes the body
Vaughan-Lee, Llewellyn Sufi Mystic our divine nature, belongs to God
Williamson, Marrianne Spiritual Teacher truth of who we are

Eternal?

These interviewees have been grouped together because they each indicate that the soul has no beginning nor end. It surprises me that of the thirteen interviewed only three indicated that the soul is eternal and two of them did not use that word but did indicate that was their belief.

NAME

WORK / BACKGROUND

WORDS USED

Chopra, Deepak Medical Professor, New Age Movement, Alternative Medicine Eternal, core, internal reference point
Ford, Debbie Self Help Coach Core, never dies, contains all lessons learned
Zukav, Gary Seat of the Soul Institute Present before and after birth

Essence

This last group is made up of those who used the word I repeatedly come back to when trying to describe the soul. That word is “essence” and in our next post of this series, I will try to explain why.

NAME

WORK / BACKGROUND

WORDS USED

Breathnach, Sarah Ban Philanthropist Essence
Houston, Jean Human Potential Movement Essence, innermost being, beyond form or consciousness
Tolle, Eckhart Wrote “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” Essence, transcends our leaving this mortal coil

How do these all of these professional descriptions agree with what you have always thought or now think about the soul?

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“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” George Bernard Shaw

 

Part 4 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

Soul 2

Soul Discussion

Not surprisingly this subject struck a chord with readers. We will not answer the questions posed in the last post. That is not the purpose of this series, but regardless it would be impossible. There is no way that we can know what the soul is or where it resides if it does exist. We can believe, but like the experience of death, there is no proof. We will surely die and if there is a soul, then we will know. This fact does not dissuade us from our beliefs or our interest in the opinion of others. https://crookedcreek.live/2017/03/27/what-i-know-for-sure/

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Oprah Winfrey – Photo from Google

Even our friend Oprah wonders, asks questions and broadcasts about this subject. In 2012 on her series “Super Soul Sunday” she discussed this very question with over a dozen of her guests. HuffPost published this information and you may read the responses or watch excerpts from the interviews in a short video at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/25/what-is-the-soul-eckhart-tolle-wayne-dyer_n_2333335.html

Soul Opinions

The group Oprah assembled is made up of individuals from interesting and varied backgrounds. A few were religious but more perhaps were spiritual. Some work as life coaches, do public speaking and/or found institutions offering self-improvement programs. One, a medical professor with extensive name recognition in the US is Deepak Chopra who is known for his New Age and alternative medicine beliefs. Of the baker’s dozen personalities, at least twelve are authors. 

We’ll look at their comments and opinions in the next posts, but Chopra’s soul description is a good start for today.  He calls the soul an “internal reference point” and I wonder how that differs from having a conscious. He also refers to the “core” of an individual that is “eternal”. Two others in the group also intimated that the soul is eternal without using that word. 

 

What is a soul? It’s like electricity – we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light a room. Ray Charles

Part 2 of 7

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

Soul?

Soul Food, Soul Music, Soul Mate

Since we often reference souls we must know what a soul is, correct? Is it a soul or the soul? Do we have one? Does every person have one? Can you sell it? Can you bare it? Can you bless it, as in “Well, bless my soul!”?

I used to believe I had the full answer to these and more profound questions from my faith tradition. As I have lived longer, had more experiences and opportunities for learning, I have less confidence in what I used to believe with little question. 

This is not intended to be a religious discussion nor debate. On this blog, I eschew that subject with almost as much determination as to the subject of politics.  https://crookedcreek.live/2016/09/03/declaration/

That being said it is worth mentioning that the word soul appears in most holy books. For example “soul” can be counted 55 times in the Christian *New Testament, 224 times in the Quo’ran and a whopping 443 times in the Hebrew *Old Testament.      

*King James Version


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What is Soul? 

I feel that each of us has a theory and of course, we can easily check the dictionary for a formal definition but I am more interested in your personal beliefs. At the least, I hope to stimulate thought on this subject. I will be sharing my thoughts and those of some of our contemporaries in the next several posts.

The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.”   Harriet Ann Jacobs

 

Part 1 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

 

Beauty

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Painting from Beauty and the Beast                                                                                                  Courtesy of Pixabay

Fairy Tales

As a parent, I have often felt quite guilty about not watching cartoons and other animated children’s programs with my daughters while they were growing up. A few were acceptable, but those based on fairy tales definitely were not. A reader recently commented here that fairy tales are often very dark and I agree, however my main objection has always been that females are portrayed as weak and submissive and their value equated with their physical beauty.

Snow White wasn’t even alive until a male came along and brought her to life with a kiss. At least I think that’s what it was about. Sometimes I take a quick look or hear a few words and then establish my emphatic opinion. I’ve recently learned that is often the wrong approach. Regardless, I am sure that black and brown little girls find it difficult to identify with Snow White

When our daughters were small their Father watched cartoons and children’s stories with them on TV. I don’t think I ever watched even Bambi all the way through, but I remember the word “twitterpated” and was surprised when I looked it up just now and learned it did not have the sexual connotation that I had always believed.

I did not have patience with musicals either. A couple of years ago my grown-up granddaughter asked me to watch the animated movie, Frozen, with her. It was not her first time to see it and I felt she wanted to see if I’d softened up any over the years so I agreed. Perhaps it is because our family is not musically inclined but I’ve just never heard any of us break out in song. It is unnatural! The main characters, Elsa and Anna were undeniable beauties, of course. 

Beauty and the Beast

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Photos courtesy of Disneyclips.com

That brings me to the story Beauty and the Beast which I detested long before the smash hit Disney movie was released last year.  I loathe the very name. Why would a beautiful young girl fall in love with an ugly hairy monster? Each time I heard the title I would think, “How could they in this day and age? Aren’t we even trying to encourage little girls to be strong and independent?” Of course, I have not seen the movie. Aware that it was an age-old children’s book I even felt a little superior that, as a parent, I had not read this book and others like it to my daughters. 

For many years I have fantasized about writing my own children’s book and it would definitely have a different theme than those relying on beauty to determine a girl’s worth. I’ve had the title for so long that if I even begin to talk about it my granddaughters chime in with it before I can get it out.

My children’s book idea coming up in the next post! Stick around. 


“Beauty and the Beast” Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmWBIxbn7Nk

Number 1 of 4

Books 5

“So many books, so little time.” Frank Zappa 

Do you have a book inside yourself?

Many, if not most, readers feel they could write a book. I bet that you have considered it or attempted it. One of my daughters has encouraged me to write for so many years that I am surprised that she hasn’t given up. She has provided many texts for guidance and even a little sign that hangs in my office which says “Award Winning Author at Work.” In spite of all the encouragement, I haven’t made an attempt as an adult. 

Do you journal?

If not, you should probably consider it now. I have never been very faithful in writing daily in a journal, but when I traveled for work, I often wrote down thoughts along the way and they have been one source of material for this blog. Many of the scribblings I still run across are valuable to jog my memory and prompt smiles or sometimes tears. 

Poetry               

https://crookedcreek.live/2017/07/29/challenge/  

We discussed poetry and some of you took the challenge to write a poem a long time ago. I also happen to know that more than one of the readers of Crooked Creek are very talented poets with years of work to their credit. You know who you are and you should definitely publish! I am not a poet by any stretch as my lines below will demonstrate. Had it not been for my attempt at journaling, however, I would not have these lines from 1993.

Waves of Time

Time, like waves upon the sea, though predictable, may catch one unaware. 

The same, be it waves of time or tide, possess the power to generate joy or pain.    

A rare and special friendship, though far away, burns steadily through time like a lighthouse glowing through the tide.                                                         

Good Reads 

https://www.goodreads.com

Although I admit that I have not kept my Good Reads account up to date I still believe that it is a useful website for readers. Even if you do not want to catalog your books in one of the many ways provided it is an excellent source of book reviews.  If you have not already check it out and see if it would be worthwhile. If any of you readers are active in Good Reads and would like to share the advantages that would be great!

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”                          Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

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Confessions:

  1. When in the eight grade I naively started a book, entitled “Tennessee Ten” and completed about 10 handwritten pages! It was awful of course.
  2. I have a few books by authors who I greatly respected until some current event, such as the #MeToo movement, changed my mind. 
  3. One of my blog readers has told me privately that I should concentrate on writing humor, but honestly, sometimes things just aren’t that funny, at least not on a regular basis.

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Reader Feedback

Another reader weighed in with their earliest book memories: Clifford the Big Red Dog”, “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Ferdinand the Bull.” 

Part 5 of 5

Thanks

Thank You Readers

As of today Crooked Creek has 120 followers! While I am happy about the numbers, I am a little skeptical. It seems likely that some (or many) of these “followers” signed up but do not actually read many posts. I suppose my doubt comes from the dearth of feedback. Regardless, I appreciate each follower/reader, each comment and “like.”

A couple of folks have told me that they cannot “like” a post without signing up for WordPress. This is up to you of course, but I don’t believe that it would be obligatory in any way to do so. Many “likes” now come from other bloggers because they are already a part of WordPress. If you have questions, please communicate them to me and I will try to find the answers.    suebmattingly@gmail.com 

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Thank You Donors

While concentrating on gratitude, I want to also thank all the people in the US and around the globe who donate blood and plasma. We are all very familiar with the Red Cross and the crucial need for blood during times of disaster and war. What many do not realize unless personally impacted is that very vital components of plasma also play a role in saving or sustaining life.

If you will pardon the very personal account of some of my medical history I want to share with you how donated antibodies withdrawn from donor plasma have kept me safe for almost seven years. In 2011 I was hospitalized and very ill. At that time I learned that I had some serious hematological issues. There is no need to go into a lot of detail and I won’t bore you with the long names of two significant diagnoses that resulted. It is enough to say that I have a primary immune deficiency because I am no longer able to manufacture my own antibodies to fight off infections. That’s where the gratitude comes in.

The immunologist immediately began a treatment with IV antibodies (immunoglobulin) available through donated blood plasma. I responded fairly well to continued monthly treatment as evidenced by a rise in antibodies in my blood but soon these treatments had to be terminated because of serious reactions. For the following year and a half, I was at risk of and sick with infections due to the lack of antibodies. In the spring of 2013 before my 70th birthday, I was put on weekly self-administered subcutaneous (as opposed to IV) infusions of the same type of human antibodies. My antibody level immediately began to rise and it has been in the normal range for a long time now, allowing me to live with much less risk.

#250

This is on my mind because tonight as I began to document the required infusion information in my log I noted that this is infusion number 250. These years passed quickly and easily for me. All I have to do to maintain the ability to fight infection is invest a couple of hours weekly and endure 3 needle sticks in my abdomen or upper thighs. A piece of cake!

This would not be possible without the altruism of thousands upon thousands of plasma donors. Many of you are already blood and/or plasma donors, as are many of my friends and family and I appreciate each of you so very much. Some of you, perhaps, may not have been aware of all the other crucial needs for blood components. Lives are not only being saved in emergencies, but lives are being preserved for patients from birth (remember the so-called “bubble boy?”) through older adults. Immune deficiency is only one of those conditions, but I hope that my account of this diagnosis has been informative and might lead to more donors.

Sometimes we hear so much of inhumanity and selfishness that it would be easy to forget that there are altruistic people who give not only their time and money to help others through charities but some give even their blood, tissue and organs. Each Thursday evening when I assemble the supplies for my infusion, I am mindful of those who made it possible.

 


If you are interested in further information on this particular subject you may reference:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26174901

or

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2935641/

 

Theme photo in title & graphic by Pixabay

She

Sharing Time

For well over forty years I have been in possession of a poem handwritten by a patient when I was a nursing student. I have never shared it because I do not know whether it is original or if he simply copied someone else’s poem. My guess has always been that it was not the latter. Today I have again made serious efforts to find the poem on the Internet. I’ve Googled keywords and even whole stanzas without finding it. I’ve researched poetry sites as well without results. 

Another concern I’ve had is patient confidentiality, but since I will not be revealing anything about the patient and I don’t even remember his name, I believe that it is safe to post the poem. 

Over the years I have read these pages several times, trying to understand the poem better, trying hard to remember what the person looked like who gave it to me or what he said at that moment. I cannot recapture that scene. I remember that I was assigned to his care for at least several days. I recall a few things of interest that surrounded his hospital stay and certainly his diagnosis. Always, I have felt that I was entrusted with something beautiful and that it needed to be shared. 

That is why I am posting it here for you. I believe that it needs to be heard. I look forward to what you think of the poem, “She.”


Note: Unfortunately this WordPress platform will not allow the four line stanza formatting used by the poet. The poet’s words have been transcribed exactly as written except one word which I was unable to make out and have marked by “????”. Where there is an apparent misspelling or wrong use of a word these have been noted by “sic”. Punctuation is also transcribed exactly as handwritten. 


 

She 

Sometimes I see her for you see

She’s the part of reality

Walking in twilight she’s so fair

With shinning eyes, the stars her hair

Sometimes I see her walking there

In starry tiered imaginings

Where dreams are born & if you care,

Go find the one with stars for hair. 

For those who care, theres (sic) an easy way

One takes the road mid night & day

To places lying everywhere

That just exist for those who care

From there they go inside their soul

To see themselves & others whole

To find themselves & if they do

They may even find her too

For she’s as real as she can be

Yet not for every eye to see

Just how to meet one so acclaimed

Just find her first then ask her name

II

I met her, was it yesterday?

Between the mountains & the see (sic)

Traveling for to find a place

Where I could bad thoughts erase

The Timeless plane of many lands

A place that held no grasping hands

I came upon a city fair

And there she was beyond compare

I told her we could travel far

To lands beyond the farthest star

To places ever springtime fair

Where even I would have no cares

But she said, “No, why can’t you see?”

“That all there is lies here with me

“And seeker, through (sic) you have no fame

“You have to do but ask my name”

I looked at her then softly left

For then I knew she placed me free

In a quiet grove I softly wept

For starry eyed seekers who were like me

That woeful day I left that place

Last saw the sunshine on her face

But under the starry midnight sky

I often stop to wonder why

And then with smiling face I stare

And see the starlight of her hair. 

Yet now I see her everyday

On every walk, in every way

But now she turns her face from me

Why? I know yet cannot say

For if I stopped then she would come

Thus giving all of what she is

Yet I cannot for I can see

I’ve gone too far to stop just yet

What do you say seeker, isn’t it sweet

to see the sun rise in the sky

to the right of where the shadows lie?

To close your mouth and blind your eyes?

Yes, try to climb that mountain where 

You were born & had no cares

You’ll see the walls & hateful stares

of the ones above you left behind

You’ll dream about the sunlit skies

Your own little world you once held dear

Your place is lost, you’ve wondered why

And so you learn that which I fear

Your place in life I’ve never known

To step to mine you’ve never tried

And so I thread my path above 

And, now and then, say this to you

Just find a place & sleep in the sun

And tell yourself you’re (sic) seeking’s done

She doesn’t exist for eye to see

Just a dream that never could be

So part of her is just called life

And part of that is sweet and fair

And that you find with much to spare

Yes, you can see it everywhere

Yet part of her cries all the time

It’s exploited, raped and bind (sic)

To racks where greed can find the time

To twist out life & leave just sins

And lastly she is partly love

A part of her most never known

The part of her that’s most abused

A part of her most vilely used

Look seeker see her raked (sic) with pain 

Which (????) braid her starlit hair

to make a rope to hang us with

They hate us for they know she cares

And then she smiles and so is free

For she is all that can ever be

Now as then in Babylon

The spirit of eternity

And so existing around the bend

Kept out of sight from those obsessed

She’s there for those who seek her out

Who want the curse of happiness

For they must share her loveliness

And they must bear her loneliness

And for the sake of living yet

Must die a little to forget

 

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Author unknown by blogger.

Crooked Creek makes no claims to ownership of this poem.  

 

Medicine 4

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Childbirth

Most mothers since the beginning of time had given birth at home with midwives or other women in attendance. It was a long, painful and exhausting experience. Finally in the 1850s wealthy women were offered some relief from ether after it was used for Queen Victoria during her labor. Following the Queen’s lead ether, chloroform, and even laughing gas in the United States, were administered for decades to women able to afford delivery in a hospital. Because some doctors were better trained than others babies being born at home were likely to have had safer births without the effects of these gases.

Painless Childbirth

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Page 1106 in our 1910 manuscript states that a method of “painless childbirth” had been developed by doctors, Bernard Kronig and Carl Gause, in Germany. Hallelujah! Just what every woman in the world had been hoping for. It sounded wonderful, even the name “Twilight Sleep” (Dämmerschlaf in German) was promising. Doctors from the US went to Germany to learn to use this new miracle combination of drugs that would herald childbirth without pain. Soon gas was out of favor and powerful drugs were in. 

Twilight sleep was said to be “especially suited to the requirement of nervous women.” I find it interesting that men were so sure what women needed in view of the fact that not one of them had passed a bowling-ball-sized human through their loins. To this day many men are inclined to have very strong opinions about a woman’s body and what she should be allowed to do with it, but back to the topic at hand. 

Twilight Sleep

Twilight Sleep was made up of a combination of morphine and scopolamine. Morphine is derived from opium and acts on the central nervous system, causing pain relief. Scopolamine comes from a mixture of nightshade plants. It causes patients to fall into a semi-conscious state resulting in amnesia.

Both drugs are still in use today, but not routinely with labor patients. Morphine is a powerful and useful pain reliever that can lead to opioid dependence in some situations. Scopolamine is used orally or by a transdermal patch to treat nausea, vomiting and motion sickness. You may have used or seen fellow passengers use these patches to prevent or combat seasickness.

Possible side effects from scopolamine listed today include the following:  drowsiness, disorientation, dry mouth, blurred vision, dilated pupils, confusion, hallucinations, difficulty urinating and rash.    https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682509.html

What is wrong with this picture? In retrospect, it does not seem a chemistry degree is necessary to foresee problems with this combination of drugs. The pain relief of morphine was a big plus for the laboring mother, however, it could depress respiration in the newborn leading to a life-threatening emergency. The scopolamine rendered the mother semiconscious during the painful childbirth experience, however, it caused amnesia. The mother usually remembered nothing of the experience including seeing her newborn for the first time nor hearing the first cries. The effects of this drug had significant potential to defer or even diminish bonding between mother and child. 

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Both of these drugs crossed the placenta and depressed the fetus’s central nervous system. For decades babies would be born drugged, and unable to breathe normally. It is no wonder they were held upside-down and spanked to start them breathing. After over sixty years of Twilight Sleep administration, the practice was abandoned in the 1970s due to the harmful side effects. Unfortunately, this was after the birth of my two daughters and I am sure after many of you or your children were born. 

Lakshmipati G. (Care of the Medical Outpatient, (Preface) 1st ed. 2003. pp. vii–vii. Nama publication, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu) has said:  

“Half of what is true today will be proven to be incorrect in the next five years. Unfortunately we don’t know which half that is going to be.” 

Sadly, this is true even today. One only hopes that such truth will be proven in only a few years rather than the centuries or decades it has taken in the past. 

 An Art or a Science?

Whether the practice of medicine is an art or a science has been debated for centuries. Many, if not most, feel that it must include both. For a comprehensive discussion of this subject read Dr. Sadhu Charan Panda’s research. He is Editor, Journal of Community Medicine.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3190445/

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Change, does it occur too fast or too slowly? 

https://wordpress.com/post/crookedcreek.live/2578


 The Complete Guide to Prevention and Cure of Disease is still in print. If you are interested in reading all 20 medical books in one volume written over 100 years ago see: https://www.amazon.com/Library-Health-Twenty-Books-One-Scholl/dp/B007GNBQB6/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1516977599&sr=1-10&keywords=library+of+health+by+Scholl

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Part 4 of 4

Tip

Tip of the Day

OK, one does not have to be an expert to give advice. Experience gives one lessons worth passing along. I have lots of experience, 74+ years of it. Here’s my advice from an experience early this morning: If it’s 11 degrees out, you’re in heavy traffic and the morning sun is shining brightly onto your very dirty windshield THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO USE YOUR WINDSHIELD WASHER!

I have lots of experience and you would think that in 74 years I would know better. The first thing I thought of (once the solid ice melted) was to pass along this to you.

You’re welcome. 

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Picture Courtesy of Pixabay

Have a safe day!

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

November

Winding Down

November was not a favorite month for many years, but I have learned to appreciate it more. In the past, I thought of it as rather colorless and simply a time to be traversed to reach December’s cold, snow and Christmas. 

This year somehow I have learned to appreciate this bridge month between autumn and winter. The neighborhood trees have been beautiful and one especially has brightened each of my days. I see it, perfectly framed, through my office windows subtly changing colors day by day. Only over the past 48 hours has it lost its bright glow as seen below, as the leaves have dried and withered, many falling to the ground.

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After a several week hiatus, today I returned to one of my favorite places, Pope Lick Park. As I walked listening to the rustle of crisp leaves blowing along the way, I realized that I would miss this month, November. It has been generous with its nature, colors and warm sunshine. It has been much more than I could have anticipated or earned, filled with love and affirmation. 

There were a few birds along the trail today including a noisy flock of crows fussing as I passed. Yes, I know the proper term is “murder” of crows, but they didn’t seem mad enough to warrant using that word! I saw one squirrel who I hoped found the nuts I had strategically placed under some trees. With most of the leaves now carpeting the ground the trees looked stark, especially the sycomores reaching their chalky limbs up to the sky. 

 

So, in a few days, we say, “Goodbye November.” You have been a good month and I look forward to your return in following years. 

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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

 

 

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 TRIVIA

“Things don’t have to change the world to be important.” Steve Jobs

It doesn’t take an investigative mind to prove that change happens regularly before our very eyes and ears. Some changes are significant but many are trivial. I suppose my mind today is on the latter, but I really want to share with you some observations. I’m curious whether you have observed the same changes. 

Here are some questions for you:

1. Have you noticed that many celebrities when introduced on TV programs now walk onto the stage applauding, apparently, for themselves? Surely that is a fairly recent habit. 

2. What about the experts interviewed on news or talk shows who when asked their opinion begin their response with “so” and then proceed? So, when did this trend begin and does anyone think it adds to the information provided?

Words are inanimate so they do not have the power to change, but we at times change their pronunciation for no obvious reason. The first time I noticed this was during the Vietnam War. Out of the blue, that country was pronounced differently for a while. 

Let me make clear that I am not talking about the mispronunciation of words. I have the utmost empathy in such circumstances since it has never been a personal strong suit. I don’t know if teachers still have students read aloud in class, but back (way back) in my day it was expected. Like it was yesterday, I recall my humiliation standing in front of the class and reading in Ms. Miller’s fourth grade. Suddenly I came to a big word that I had not encountered before but I forged ahead and read, “She was deter-mind-ed to succeed.” 

3. Have you noticed the different pronunciation of any of these words over time? Is there a big authority somewhere who arbitrarily one day simply proclaims, “We will henceforth pronounce __________ differently!”?

WORD

ORIGINAL

CHANGE

Vietnam

vee-et-nahm vee-et-nam

harassment

huh-ras-ment har-uhs-ment

divisive

dih-vagy-siv di-vis-iv

Appalachia

ap-uh-ley-chee-uh ap-uh-lach-ee-uh

Chili

Chil-lee Chil-lay

Please share some of your own observations with us. 

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Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.

For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.    

Margaret Mead

Part 3 of 4

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/

Paths

Paths, Poems, and Plans

We have had some fun with poems lately.   Poem Challenge

I’ve never been a poet in any sense of the word, but once in a while, I do write something that I call poetry. I’m sure that you do as well. It can be a few simple lines but it means something to you and you write it down to preserve and to perhaps share with others. I also like to read poetry blogs and there are a few that I follow.  One is sentimental, another is harsh revealing pain and turmoil. Each is a glimpse into someone’s life and if you are interested, let me know and I’ll provide links. 

Sometimes we make things harder than they need to be. Poems don’t have to rhyme for our purposes. Just write and don’t think about those terms you learned in school such as “couplet” or “stanza” that may keep us mute. If you insist on being a proper poet, i.e. being further intimidated, go ahead and check out this site with 37 poetry terms such as “hendecasyllable.” http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/common-poetry-terms.

Recently a friend gave me a book containing poems written by Matthew J.T. Stepanek, a big name for a small boy called “Mattie.” I vaguely remembered hearing of this child several years ago, but I had no idea of the extent of his talent and his insight. Perhaps you are familiar but if not you may learn about his amazing life here (or just Google his name).  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mattie_Stepanek

In the book given to me, Hope through Heartsongs written by Mattie, my favorite poem is entitled “Hope for Life’s Journey.” 

Someday.
I'd like to see what's down every road.
I'd like to travel across
Every highway and every byway.
I'd like to explore
Every mountain pass and every sandy trail.
I'd like to follow
Every straight route and every winding path.
Someday.
I'd like to understand
From where all things come,
And to what all things are destined.
Someday.
Even though I am sure of my lesson-
That we are all hoping to the same place-
I'd like to take the time
To travel and explore and follow,
So that I can really see and understand
What's down every road. 

Hope for Life’s Journey written by Matthew J. T. Stepanek (1990-2004) in August 2001

Do you have Mattie’s curiosity for what is down every road, every path? If so please don’t wait. Plans are important, dreams are great . . . but without action, they remain just that. To make them reality we must exert an effort, we must act, we must step out. Who knows where those roads and paths will take us until we travel them? As Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Frost had two choices. We live in a world with many more options. We have access to superhighways, shipping channels, airlines and global destinations. There are far more than we can ever choose, but would it not be a shame if we took the same ones day after day and then finally one day left behind feeble plans and faded dreams that went nowhere?

Some of the paths I’ve chosen to follow and explore recently. 

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

 

 

To Shoot or Not

Shooting

The topic of guns can bring out very strong feelings. I have strong feelings about the issue at the same time that I support the Second Amendment in the way I believe it was intended. That, however, is not the purpose of this post, since I pledged to not write about political topics and I believe “to have or not have guns” enters that realm.

I want to tell you about the two times that I shot something and about how very sorry I am when I recall each instance. I wonder how many of you watch Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show.” He has a frequent segment where he goes into a confessional box and confesses to the audience things he “feels bad about.” I suppose that is what I am doing today.

Hunting

As I was growing up my father, as well as probably every male we knew, had guns. They were long guns used for hunting, usually for food. My Dad hunted, not so much because he enjoyed it, but to provide needed meat for the table. We had rabbit frequently and I remember as a child crying and not wanting to eat it. I especially detested the milk gravy that Mom made after frying the poor bunny. I protested that it tasted “fuzzy,” to no avail. I was made to eat it. We occasionally had a squirrel and once, even a goat, but that’s another story.

Long guns were also a part of our home after I married. I was very relieved when my husband gave up hunting after he realized he would much rather observe nature than to shoot it. It was his decision gradually made over time at about mid-life. I remember the one and only time he went deer hunting. He came home soaking wet after spending a few hours in a tree in the pouring rain. He did see a deer, the doe came right under his tree stand and stood peacefully as he admired her until she trotted off. He loved to tell about that one day of deer hunting. His guns were displayed on a rack in the den for years and once in a while he would take them down and clean them. Those guns remain today.

My First Kill

As a young teen, I learned to shoot a 22 rifle. I loved the challenge of holding the gun steady and aligning up the little bead thingy on the end with the target. I shot cans with my older brother and my future husband and loved to show off my girl skill. One day I was at home alone on the farm my Dad had bought when I was about 14 or 15. We often saw snakes around and especially in an old tree growing in the yard fence line. It gave me the creeps to know they were hanging around up there. On the ground, I felt we had a fighting chance of not being bothered, but I always had the feeling they were going to intentionally drop on top of me from above. On this particular day, I spotted a very big, long snake on the yard fence. He was wrapped around the wire with his head hanging down and without any hesitation, I went into the house and grabbed Dad’s rifle. I walked out into the yard, sighted carefully and shot that poor snake in the head. At the time I felt pretty good about ridding the yard of this snake. Looking back years later, I felt nothing but disgust that I could so easily kill an innocent creature that was not bothering me at all. I never aimed at a living thing again and in fact soon lost interest in my skill with the rifle.

My Second Kill

There was one other incident with a gun that I regret almost as much but for different reasons. I was older and married at the time. It was winter and while the men had been out hunting, I had been playing in the snow with my younger brother. When the guys came back and started to put away the guns I realized that I had never shot a shotgun. I really didn’t know anything about them, but for some unknown reason I felt it necessary to experience shooting one, so I asked my husband to show me how. He carefully explained that unlike rifles, shotguns “kick” but I don’t think I knew what that meant. After repeatedly explaining that I had to hold the “butt” tightly against my shoulder because of the kick, I said, “Yeah, I got it” and looked around for a safe target. I aimed, I held the stock tightly against my shoulder, I pulled the trigger. Once I was able to open my eyes after the blinding pain from the gunstock recoiling, a.k.a. kicking, against my shoulder like a wild stallion I looked at my target. The poor snowman I had aimed at was full of round holes and looked back at me with dead eyes of coal. Again, I had shot an innocent and that was the last time I fired any kind of gun.

 

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The Ritz

Recollections of Travel 

One of my favorite places to stay during my travels was the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City in Arlington, VA just outside Washington, DC. It was right on the Metro (subway) line and even attached to a first rate shopping mall, not that I had much time to shop while working. I was supposed to be at this venue on 9/11/2001, but two days before I canceled my plans for reasons I do not recall. Others who attended that meeting spent several days getting home because all flights were grounded for days. One of my associates got back home to Florida via train. While I would have been in no danger, I am glad I was not so close to the horrendous disasters of that day.

Before you think I’m bragging about staying at the Ritz-Carlton, I will hasten to add I also stayed at Holiday Inns, La Quinta Suites and once at what must have been a truck stop motel in Bluefield, WV. So West Virginians don’t become offended, let me clarify it was many years ago and I know from a current Google search Bluefield has many nice hotels today. I was in Bluefield briefly to observe an eye operation at the Ophthalmic Center of Excellence. Back to the Ritz story. I was attending a conference, I believe it was sponsored by the North American Transplant Coordinators Organization (NATCO), a group to which I belonged. In the middle of the night before the conference was to begin the next day the fire alarm jolted me out of bed. I grabbed my robe and room key and followed the emergency exit lights. Down many flights of stairs, as the alarm continued to scream, I finally arrived at a door that surprisingly led me straight into the kitchen. Several people who appeared to be employees did not seem in a hurry to evacuate, but the sight that will always remain in my mind is chicken and a few other food items scattered about the floor. Pieces of fried chicken and I distinctly remember kicking a piece aside as I made my way to another door opening into the main lobby.

As I looked about the lobby I saw people looking dazed, some women were wearing fur coats, others were tightly clutching purses and a couple of men had brought their luggage down with them. I felt a bit underdressed, but I was proud of the fact I had followed emergency procedures and left valuables in the room, exiting quickly. Never mind I was wearing terry cloth, had a severely broken nail from the stair rail and no shoes. I wish I could tell you what was on fire, but I do not recall. Obviously, it was nothing significant because the firefighters soon allowed us to return to our rooms. I will never know why I did not encounter other guests on all those flights of stairs or why I ended up in the kitchen with the chicken.

Winding Up

It is time to wind up my recollections of business travel. If only I could remember more details, i.e., dates and exact locations, I don’t think I would ever run out of true stories to share. Of course some, because of confidentiality or intellectual property rights cannot be told. During those twenty-plus years, I visited over one-half of the states in the US and went to Canada three or four times.

The Transplant World

In those many cities, I worked with a diverse collection of people. There were transplant professionals, contract specialists, hospital administrators, lawyers, government and military officials and on very rare occasions a patient or family member. It was a humbling experience because each person had personal gifts, amazing intellect, and made contributions that helped to build not only a strong transplant network but a better and safer approach to life-saving procedures.

When I began my own journey in the transplant world, after a few years developing the immediate care centers, I found each day intriguing whether in the office in Louisville or in some distant city. When the first living liver donor transplant was done in the US, I was present at the hospital where the baby girl received part of her Mom’s liver. Years later, they looked me up and I was so privileged to see this young woman, healthy and ready to enter college. Her donor, (mother), was equally as healthy. Contracts were a challenge, but real people were the inspiration.

Kidney transplants from living donors were first performed in the 1950s and it was about eight years before kidneys from deceased (cadaveric) donors were viable. I became involved at the time heart transplants were first reimbursed by Medicare in the 1980s and one by one other solid organs and even double organs, e.g. heart-lung, were successful particularly after the development of anti-rejection drugs. Bone marrow and stem cell transplantation as better matching has been developed between donor and recipient have developed rapidly as well. I will always find transplantation fascinating. I was never in a clinical transplant role, my expertise in this field was administering benefits , contracting for services and third party reimbursement.

If you would like to know more about solid organ transplantation or becoming an organ donor see the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) at https://www.unos.org

Information regarding bone marrow transplants can be obtained through the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) at https://bethematch.org which matches patients and donors internationally.

And, here’s a bonus site for those who love technology. The so-called “heart in a box” is a development by TransMedics, Inc. Check it out here to see a video (<3min.) of the device with a cadaveric heart actually beating prior to being transplanted into the recipient. http://www.transmedics.com/wt/page/ocsheart-improve-tx_med

The company has also developed a similar device for lungs and livers which can allow donor organs to be transported further as well as tested and treated prior to transplantation. There is little doubt that these technologies will extend and improve life for many.    http://www.transmedics.com/wt/page/organ_care

The future is truly now. 

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Thank you for following along with me in my Recollections of Travel. 

 

Photos by Pixabay

 

Deep South

Recollections of Travel 

Traveling in the South was a real treat for many reasons including the soft accents and colloquialisms. I will never forget being in an elevator in Montgomery, AL when a smartly dressed woman walked through the door and requested I “mash 6” for her. I’m sure my mouth was agape while I figured out she wanted me to push the button for the sixth floor! 

Being a Kentuckian, I’ve always wondered why we are considered “southern.” We are far from Montgomery, New Orleans and other southern towns where honeyed accents prevail. In fact, we are squarely in the middle of the Eastern one-third of the US. I know I have an accent, but in my opinion, it is not Southern, but country. I hear it, I’ve been reminded of it and even teased when traveling to cities to the North or out West. I must admit when I was teased I often became, even more country, sprinkling “Y’all” liberally throughout the dialogue. Accents are intriguing.

Charleston, SC

A long time ago a business colleague and I spent a week in Charleston, SC, training staff at one of the ambulatory care centers slated soon to open. It was going to be a demanding schedule which was a shame because by all accounts Charleston was a beautiful historic city. We knew we would have little time for anything other than work but two things were obvious. We had to have a place to stay and we had to eat, so we optimized both requirements. We chose an extra nice hotel situated on the beach and planned to sample the local cuisine at the finest places. 

While I don’t remember every detail of that week, some things do stand out. One was sleeping with the sliding glass doors open to the balcony so I could hear the ocean. The pounding of the waves was magically relaxing after long days of teaching and orienting nurses, doctors, radiology and lab technicians as well as clerical staff. They were experienced professionals but needed to learn the policies and procedures established by our company. 

Seafood

Our treat for the week became the wonderful restaurants, especially those specializing in seafood. Each evening we would choose a different place and linger over dinner while reviewing the events of the day. We were never disappointed in the meals nor the southern hospitality. We tried many types of food, but I kept going back to my favorite, shrimp. I ate shrimp as appetizers and in main courses prepared in various ways. I did not tire of these plump, juicy crustaceans night after night. Clip-art-shrimp

On Thursday night sleep came quickly while I listened to the sounds from the beach. Approximately an hour later, I awoke to severe abdominal pain. It was intense as I sat up and turned on the bedside lamp. Within seconds I was aware of itching of my arms and trunk. The itching intensified to the point that the abdominal pain was almost forgotten. As I called my colleague, Gale, whose room was just down the hall, I saw I had red hives, some as big as my hand, quickly advancing over my trunk and limbs. By the time she got to my room, I was tearing at my skin, unable to control the itching or accompanying panic. Thank goodness, Gale was not only intelligent, she was a “take charge” type who also had Benadryl in her room. I probably owe her my life. She forced me to swallow two capsules of 25 mg. each while she shouted demanding I stop scratching. That was impossible for me as the more vascular areas swelled and throbbed with an itch I didn’t know was possible. 

Hospital

In the city hospital emergency department (ED) those accents I had been enjoying all week, became so pronounced I could barely make out was being said to me. Perhaps it was my state of fear and agitation, but the only person I could understand was the doctor who was from Vietnam! As my lips, tongue, and throat continued to swell I could not believe how chatty he became. He did all the right things obviously because I survived anaphylactic shock, but when he had learned the company I worked for and that I was from Louisville he found those facts far more remarkable than my precarious medical situation. 

You see, this was during the time that the Jarvik 7, an artificial heart engineered to replace an ailing human heart, was being implanted in Louisville, KY.  The surgeon who performed the first such procedure in Utah had moved to Louisville to perform his second and subsequent surgeries at one of the hospitals owned by my employer. The Vietnamese ED physician kept asking questions about that famous surgeon. Did I know him? What was he like? What did the Louisville medical community think of this procedure? If he had known I was recently a nurse manager at the same hospital where this device was being implanted, I doubt he would have been able to focus on his patient at all, i.e., ME! 

Thanks to quick thinking on the part of my colleague and in spite of the ED doctor’s infatuation with the artificial heart surgeon I survived to work another day in Charleston even though it was without sleep. After returning to Louisville tests confirmed I was allergic to crustaceans, e.g. shrimp, lobster, and crabs. I have not eaten shrimp, or any other crustacean, since that trip to lovely South Carolina.shrimp-2393818_1280

For years I grieved the loss of shrimp and lobster. I also went through a stage of blaming myself (called “personalization” by Sheryl Sandberg in her book Option B) for overindulging and thereby becoming sensitized. Finally, I was able to not only accept, but be a little grateful as my research revealed a close kinship between shrimp and certain bugs (arthropods.)


 

NOTE: Allergy to crustaceans is not the same as a shellfish allergy. Oysters, clams, and mussels, for instance, are not crustaceans. For simplification I refer to crustaceans as the ones with antennae.