Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Betsy came to get her suitcase last night and brought the program from "Sisters, In the Name of Love," put on Thursday the 18th at St. Philip's. It was conceived by James and David and based loosely on Puccini's Sister Angelica, with selections from Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, Sister Act, The Sound of Music, & A Little Bit of Nunsense. For this they had a full audience, and, she claimed, it was hysterically funny. I hope someone taped it, or they plan to do it again. I'd love to see it.

Benji is back from Paris and loved it. Can't wait to read all about it. Hope he took lots of pictures. Tara wrote me a sweet note after reading the blog and was complimentary of Benji's photography. Ricky and Benji both have the "artist's eye" and have made some extraordinary pictures. It's been a while since I felt inspired enough to do anything with my own artistic talent, but while out walking the dogs yesterday, I wished several times for my camera to capture the beauty of all the flowers blooming around here. This is my favorite time of the year to enjoy the gifts of nature, blue jays and mockingbirds being the recent exception.

My neck and shoulders are back to normal, and I have more energy than I've had in days. Just wish I didn't have to spend most of it on housework.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

My dream this morning was about Al Gore. His wife gave birth to quadruplets. I was part of the hospital delivery team and had to bathe them and weigh them - 4 girls! He came to the hospital dressed in a black and white striped shirt, actually he was dressed as a referee or umpire, and I wondered why he waited until after the babies were born to show up. He couldn't leave the game? Wasn't this more important than the game?

I've studied dreams enough to know this was about me, not Al Gore, but with wishful thinking I can see encouraging signs:

Al Gore and the number 4 - 4 years of President Gore?
wife, daughters - embracing the feminine, a softer image?
babies - new life?
late to the delivery of new life - better late than never, stayed at the game until the end?
black & white - clear cut victory?
referee - someone who makes sure rules are followed?

Since I'm no prophet, I need to examine the symbolic elements of this dream on a more personal level - father, mother, babies, 4, girls, nurse, delivering, bathing, weighing, gore, bloody, referee, black & white, late. There's enough here to chew on for a while.

The alchemists thought in terms of three worlds: the black, the white, and the red world. Black is darkness, evil, despair, ruins, the crude unconscious taking over our minds... White is the eerie, uncertain light of the moon, the twilight zone of lunacy, irrational thoughts, things changing, slippery, some hope... Red is the bright light of the sun, new life, things in order, ability to see clearly, rational, willful control, morals, growth, laughter... Each section of a dream and each object comes from one of these worlds, supposedly.

Mike has an appointment with Dr. Tipton today to try to get more therapy authorized. He's convinced that no more progress is possible without help. His daily workouts help to maintain the progress he's made, but the therapists push him to go beyond his current limitations. Dr. Tipton is not usually encouraging where therapy is concerned. He comes from the old school that believes most recovery after stroke occurs in the first 6 months. Whether he has reviewed the therapists' records as we suggested, we still don't know. He's asked me to go with him for moral support, and I don't mind, so I guess that's how I'll spend part of my day.

The neck and shoulders feel better today, the glands don't look or feel as swollen. Maybe the bug is leaving.

2:40 pm. We've decided to modify our opinion about Dr. Tipton. He was more positive, upbeat, and optimistic than we've ever seen him. He agreed that Mike should stay in therapy and was very pleased to see the progress he's made. Mike was almost giddy with excitement as we were leaving his office. He had dreaded talking with him and was actually shocked that the old man was so encouraging. He's promised to do whatever is necessary to help with getting the insurance coverage.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day is no more a holiday for me than any other day. I never could get excited about celebrating anything that had to do with war, the military, the flag. John Philip Sousa music grates on my nerves as much as "Onward Christian Soldiers." I'm glad that Hitler was defeated, and I realize that war, at times, is necessary. It just seems to me that we get way too puffed up as a nation about where we've fought, who we've beat, how great we are. Glorifying war just leads to more war. I see the decline in interest among young people to join our all-volunteer military as an encouraging sign. And if that makes me unpatriotic in some peoples' eyes, so be it. When we have eradicated illiteracy, poverty, and disease in the world, then we will have a legitimate reason to celebrate.

The only red, white and blue I've seen today is the baby blue jay that Mick killed. Now we have the mockingbirds and the blue-jays mad at us. Open the front door and it sounds like a scene from the Hitchcock movie "Birds."
Glad I wasn't planning to fire up the grill and cook hamburgers today.

My throat is not as raw as it was, but the neck and shoulders still ache horribly and the cough won't go away. I take plenty of stretch breaks from the computer, so I don't think that's what caused it. I had a flu shot, so it's not that. The glands in my neck seem to be swollen, I probably should go to the doctor, but he's closed today. I've got a check-up scheduled for Thursday, I'll just wait until then. There's no fever, but a slight headache. The ibuprofin took out the headache, but the shoulders and neck are still hurting. I'm drinking plenty of my new favorite drink - Lipton's bottled diet green tea with citrus, keeps me hydrated and boosts the old immune system, too. Not much to do but suffer through it. I sure hope the kids didn't get whatever it is I got. It probably came from breathing all that recirculated air on the plane.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Why don't dogs like to be clean? I bathed mine today and they couldn't wait to find something nasty to roll in. I just realized that we've had Jay-Jay for a year. It was the 20th of May last year during a horrible thunderstorm when he came to our door, soaking wet, trembling, begging for shelter. He had been left outside a good bit by his former owner. We saw him frequently when we walked Gus through Harbor View, and had worried that he wasn't being cared for adequately.

He's a sweet-natured dog, not nearly as hyper and aggressive as Gus. He weighs about 2 pounds more than Gus and is about a year older. He was taken to the animal clinic on Old Fannin Rd. by his first owner. She had already named him Jay-Jay Focker, so that's what they had on their records. She ordered several services, which they performed, but she never came back to claim him or pay the bill. He stayed at the clinic for a couple of months before one of the employees decided to adopt him. When her marriage broke up, she moved away and took him with her.

The vet got a call from a motel in Missouri that he had been left out in a storm. He provided the owner's name, and they returned him to her. She left Missouri, headed for Florida, but decided to drop Jay-Jay off with the ex, since she could not keep him. He already had a Boston terrior Bandit, who hated Jay-Jay. So Bandit stayed indoors and Jay-Jay stayed out. The man gladly relinquished ownership of him when we inquired, and he's been here ever since.

He soon established himself as the alpha male, even though Gus sometimes challenges him on it. Due to previous neglect, he gets very nervous during thunderstorms, and we've got one predicted tonight. He seems to be able to sense it, and has been pacing the floor and panting loudly. Maybe the storm won't last long. The 5-day forecast calls for rain everyday.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Rather than read all about Ireland before I went, I tried to go with the blank canvas and just see what is painted on it while I was there. Then I can go back after it's painted and find out more about where I was and what I was seeing. The internet makes that so easy.

Since Benji has been signing his emails with "Sláinte!" (pronounced Slawn-cha), I had to find out what it means. Cheers/good health/bottoms up, those were a few of the definitions I found. He uses another phrase, "Bhi craic agus ceol againn," that I still haven't found. I did find a forum that will translate, but haven't heard back from them, yet. He said there was no English equivalent, but it's similar to "A good time was had by all." I'd like to know what the experts say.

I also came across some information on the lace curtains I admired while there. "Lace curtain Irish" is now a derogatory term for the middle class or lower class with middle class pretensions. Might have known it would be something that appealed to me. My taste usually runs in the direction of the underprivileged. The skill of lace-making actually saved some families from starvation during the famine of the mid 1800's. Only the wealthy could afford the crocheted items. Hand made items that have been preserved since that time are very valuable. Now that it is mass produced, however, it is not considered in good taste by the wealthy.

I tried to figure out the routes we took by bus, train, and car, so I would know all the counties we went through. I thought I might buy a clutch pin for each one, and I got several, but I missed a few that I need to ask Benji to get before he leaves. Our bus went through Limerick, Tipperary, Offaly, Laois, Kildare, and Dublin counties. The train went through Dublin, Kildare, Offaly, and Galway. Best I can tell, we drove through Counties Down and Antrim. Did we ever get as far to the west as Derry? I'm not sure, but I think we did. I remember crossing a county line in a place that was not far from where the Vances settled, and he told me it was up the river/county line, some on one side, some on the other. I remember thinking they did the same thing in Mississippi, settled right on the Scott-Newton Co. line. The countryside there didn't look very different from where they lived here.

Just heard back from the translation forum, the phrase "Bhi craic agus ceol againn" means "we had fun and music."

Ben sent a rundown on his trip. We were in Dublin, not far from each other, on the 17th. Then they went south and we went north. On Sunday, we weren't far from each other, he went to the Giant's Causeway that afternoon, we had been at our B&B in Ballintoy until 11:00, not very far from there, we probably passed each other on the road. His trip was geared much more for adults than ours, but I wouldn't take anything for the time I got to spend with Pip and Phin and Bella. What precious children.

I've been reading about George Bernard Shaw and Jonathan Swift. I knew Shaw wrote Pygmalion and Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels, but remembered nothing else about them. The Harcourt Hotel, where we stayed in Dublin, was home to Shaw at one time. Jonathan Swift was born on the 30th of November, same as me. And C.S. Lewis was Irish. I'd forgotten that, if I ever knew it. There is so much information available on the internet about these guys, it would take a lifetime to study it all, but it's nice to have material like this at the click of a mouse.

Friday, May 26, 2006

I'm getting a nasty sore throat, not unusual for me after spending time with grandbabies. It used to happen with Clay and Cooper a good bit, now with Pip. I probably kiss on them way too much. The shoulders and neck are aching, the sinuses are congested, and the throat is raw. I just hope Pip doesn't get sick, too. Babies carry treacherous germs in those open-mouthed kisses, but I've never been able to resist them.

I had an 11:00 appointment with Providence Hospice Care, but it was cancelled when they realized that Mother was getting all the post-operative care she needed from the nurses and Dr. Krooss. Their main services are pain management and family counseling. Unless someone stands on Mother's toe, she won't complain of pain. She's lucky, I guess, not to be more aware than she is of her condition. I don't think anyone in the family needs counseling about her condition. Everybody will pretty much be relieved when her ordeal is over.

Clay is going to summer camp next week, the first time he's been away from parents and on his own for that length of time, and first time Cooper will have parents all to himself. Can't wait to hear how that goes.

Benji and family have flown to Paris for the week-end. He's relieved not to be driving, he said. His computer was on the blink when we left. I hope he's able to get it repaired.

Mike and I ate lunch at Fire Mountain, a new restaurant in Flowood with homestyle food on a buffet. It was pretty good, but they didn't have any cornbread, and the apple pie was cold. I need a nap, just don't have the energy to do much.

I sent out links to this blog to those who have asked about my trip and to a couple who haven't. Still haven't heard from Skip, don't know if he's back from Greece or not, surely he is. I'd love to hear about Ben's trip, too. They probably saw more of the famous places than we did, but I saw all I could take in while I was there. If I had unlimited time and unlimited funds, I would like to live there for a year or two, do some painting, writing, photography, and genealogy.

Pat sent a link to her pictures, but I can't get the slideshow to go past the first 30. I really need to look into getting DSL.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pip catches some Zzz while we trek through the streets of Dublin, that's me with Benji.

This is the B&B where we stayed in Ballintoy, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It's called the Knocksoughy House.

Believe it or not, I'm on this bridge, the last one, behind Benji. Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, County Antrim, Northern Ireland My traveling companion Pat Abney, with Karen, Bella, Phin, and Pip in front of our hotel in Dublin.
Benji and Pip on the bar in D'Arcy's in Portrush
Dunluce Castle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
In the yard at our B&B, The Knocksoughy House, Ballintoy, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
All these pictures were made by Pat. So glad someone remembered to get their camera. My umbrella and my camera got left on the back seat of Mike's car at the airport. I still can't believe I went to this beautiful place without my camera.
My first day back at home was spent in pajamas, just like I intended. I've fallen asleep earlier and gotten up earlier due, I guess, to the time difference between here and Ireland, but I feel rested. Today I'm washing about 5 loads of laundry and feeling lucky to have a dryer. Most people in Ireland still use clotheslines for drying. They have automatic washers, but no dryers. They impress me as being a very frugal people, not spending on anything much but necessities. Why pay for electricity to dry clothes when the sunshine and air are free?

The houses there are very modest with lace curtains in most of the windows, just my style. They seem to be more ecologically minded than Americans. They recycle everything, waste very little; most cars have 4 cylinders, a few 6, no 8; and they walk, cycle, and use public transportation way more than we Americans do, except maybe in NYC. Most labor there is organized, so Irish people make a decent wage, which makes for a stronger middle class and much less disparity between the haves and the have-nots. There are B&B's everywhere, seems anyone with a spare suite (bedroom & bath) offers it for rent to visitors. There is much less suburban sprawl, and the downtowns are still thriving shopping centers. The crime rate is low, the people are friendly and helpful, the prices posted are what you pay, no tax added.

There were some American advantages I missed - wide interstates, rest stops along the highways, C-stores with restrooms. I would have really enjoyed biscuits with the Irish breakfast, but they think a biscuit is a cookie. There were no wash cloths, they use hand towels or their hands for bathing. The tv programming was awful, but they had very few commercials.

Temperance is not a virtue there, and their public language is sprinkled with words we censor here. Everyone there is addressed as "Love," Would you like more coffee, Love? Do you need a ride, Love? Lost are you, Love? One of their more endearing qualities, for sure.

One of the best things that resulted from this trip is that Mike learned to fend for himself. He is able to dress himself completely, socks, shoes and brace included. He's much more relaxed about the dogs and cats being outside. He made a new friend of our neighbor Art, and learned there are several others who care enough to help. He hasn't had the first tantrum since I've been home, his expectations seem to be more realistic, and his self-confidence has increased. He seems happier and more peaceful. He's even seen new movement in his left foot. He's been complimentary of all the arrangements I made for him while I was gone. It was a good experience for him.

Benji has posted the pictures we took on his website:

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

On Holiday in Ireland

Nothing shakes you out of the doldrums like taking a vacation; taking a vacation abroad is even more stimulating. All senses are required to navigate the foreign surroundings. Samuel Johnson said, “The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” No description, photo, or movie can do justice to the beauty of Ireland. It has to be experienced for full appreciation.

I felt at home there from the moment we landed at Shannon airport. The rain and the chill were a momentary discouragement, but I soon came to accept it as the perfect conditions for the 40 lush shades of green growing all around.

Our first order of business was to exchange dollars for euro, then spend some euro for a bus ride to Dublin. Music on the bus was mostly 50’s and 60’s American pop tunes, which we heard a lot during our week’s stay. Was it for the benefit of the tourists, or do they really like it that well? It did provide an element of the familiar, which had a strangely comforting effect on me.

The narrow roads alarmed me, especially being aboard a wide bus. We passed vehicles without leaving more than a pencil’s width between us. Our first meal in Ireland was a lunch of ham and cheese sandwich from a vending machine at a bus stop somewhere along the way. It was that or stay hungry.

Once we got to Dublin, we had no trouble getting a taxi and making our way to the Harcourt Hotel. Benji and Pip were there to meet us, while Karen, Bella and Phin were on a Viking Splash tour of the city.

After they came in and rested for a bit, we walked downtown to Grafton Street for shopping and supper at Café Bar Deli. This restaurant had beautiful stained glass windows, which made me wish I hadn’t forgot my camera. We also stopped in a Dunnes, where I bought an umbrella and a nylon wind breaker with hood. They proved to be lifesavers.

The children wanted to stop at the playground in St. Stephen’s Green, so I elected to walk back to the hotel alone to indulge in a long, warm soak in the bathtub. By the time they returned, I was in the bed, ready to sleep. It was then we learned that it doesn’t get dark there until “half ten,” or 10:30 pm. I was glad no one wanted to wait until dark to turn in. I was not the only one yearning for a long night’s rest.

Unfortunately, the party crowd downstairs at the bar didn’t care whether we slept or not. At some point, I woke up and realized they were directly under our 2nd floor window having a helluva good time. Pat said the noise kept her awake. I went right back to sleep. Phin, Pip and I slept through all of it.

On Thursday morning, we had breakfast in the hotel dining room. I wanted the full Irish breakfast complete with baked beans, black pudding, grilled tomatoes, and brown bread. The coffee was not the best I’ve had, but not too bad. There is no artificial sweetner to be had, they only use pure cane sugar, raw sugar, or brown sugar, and the milk is not pasteurized, but it was good in the coffee and cereal.

After breakfast, we walked back to Grafton Street, then made our way over to Christchurch Cathedral and the Dublinia museum, passing St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the way, which was not open to the public due to a fast being held for/by(?) Afghanis. According to a sign on the fence, Jonathan Swift is buried there and his epitaph reads,

Here is laid the body of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Divinity, Dean of this Cathedral Church, where fierce indignation can no longer rend the heart. Go, traveller, and imitate if you can this earnest and dedicated champion of liberty. He died on the 19th day of October 1745 AD. Aged 78 years.

I could have spent all day at Christchurch, but we had to get back and start our move toward Northern Ireland. The weather changed from mild temperature and sunny that morning to cold and rainy by noon.

Benji rented a Ford Galaxy mini-van, which, to my astonishment, held all 7 of us and our luggage. His ability to drive on the left side of the street and shift with his left hand was impressive. Getting out of the city, though, was a real challenge. That was the most tedious part of the trip.

We got to Belfast in time to eat supper at a mall, which closed at 6pm. It was after 10 when we reached our B&B, the Knocksoughy House, located directly across from the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge. From here we had a million dollar view of the coast and Raithlin Island, even Scotland can be seen on a clear day from our hosts’ dining room. Benji and Karen could not have picked a prettier place for us to stay. Pat and I shared a bedroom in the main part of the house, while the rest were in a self-catering apartment that had been added on. It was dark by the time we retired on Thursday night.

On Friday, we enjoyed another full Irish breakfast minus the beans and black pudding. Then we walked across the street to the rope bridge. There was a misty rain when we started out, and we hoped it would stop. Instead, it got harder and the wind picked up. After a 45 minute hike to the site, we had gale-force wind. Pat and Bella chose to wait on the safe side while the rest of us precariously picked our way between two cliffs over an 18m wide chasm that was 24m deep, not sure what that is in feet; meters or feet, it was scary. The bridge was built by salmon fishermen to gain access to a fishery located on the far cliff. Had the weather been clear, we could have seen Scotland very easily. The park attendant awarded me a certificate for crossing the bridge.

Our next adventure was to the town of Ballycastle, where we ate lunch and shopped. Pat was on a quest for authentic Irish fabric and wool yarn, I wanted a Celtic cross necklace. Neither of us found the prize we sought. Everybody but me went to the beach where they waded in ice cold water. I stayed in the van and listened to the Christchurch choir CD I’d bought the day before.

Then we set out for Cushendall. Our next stop was described like this by one visitor:

At the very north-eastern tip of Ireland sits Torr Head – a scene of absolute elemental beauty and drama. Flanked on either side by the crumbling cliffs of the County Antrim coast, Torr Head protrudes like an arrow towards Scotland – a mere 12 miles away.

The view from Torr Head was indeed breathtaking; it was the crumbling cliffs of the County Antrim coast, though, that took our breath away. Rather than heed the warning of the “Road Closed” signs, Benji decided to go as far down the closed road as he could. We had passed 5 or 6 warning signs before we came to the part of the very narrow road that was missing. Thankfully, large machines made further passage impossible. Luckily, there was a wide enough space for him to turn around. Continuing on to Cushendun and Cushendall was not practical by this time, even though there was an optional route. We decided to return to Ballycastle to forage for food.

Most shops in Ireland close by 6pm. There were 2 restaurants in town that were open, one looked fancy and expensive, the other had pizza. We had pizza.

Before returning to the B&B, we went to the Larrybane beach located next to the rope bridge. The sun was out, the temperature was warmer, the wind calmer than when we were crossing the bridge. Benji went with Bella and Phin all the way down the beach to a cave. The sunset that night was spectacular.

On Saturday, we went to the Giant’s Causeway, another AONB, area of outstanding natural beauty. It was here we learned the legend of Finn MacCool, along with some geology regarding the origin of the magnificent rock formations. I took the bus to and from the site, while the others walked down. Everyone but Benji, took the bus back to the visitor’s center.

From there we went to Portrush for lunch at D’Arcy’s, shopping, and the amusement park called “Barry’s.” We hoped to take in the Dunluce Castle afterward, but got there just as it was closing. From there we went to White Park Bay beach. Only Benji, Bella and Phin went all the way to the beach itself.

It was after this that we had a disagreement about whether to eat supper or not, and where to eat. Our lunch at Portrush had been late and large. After some heated discussion among very tired people, we decided to try Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy, recommended to us by our B&B hostess. The staff there were so rude to us that we walked out after placing our order. “May your bottom line sink in a sea of red ink!” It was the only instance of boorishness we experienced on our whole trip. They didn’t want to seat us all in their empty dining room because two in our party only ordered wine, no entrée. If they had been crowded and needed the space for people who were eating, their tacky attitude would not have been quite as offensive, but they had 2 customers in a dining room with space for at least 100. That should have been a red flag to us before we ever ordered.

Benji took us back to the B&B, then drove to Ballycastle for the only thing available - pizza. He also got us a couple of bottles of wine, so we ate supper in their apartment. A fine supper it was, too.

An early breakfast was ordered for Sunday morning, because Benji wanted to be on the road by 9 am. He was supposed to return the van in Dublin that afternoon, but wanted to replace a cracked mirror on the driver’s side before returning it. It had been clipped by an oncoming car on that narrow road to Torr Head. It was 11:00 before we left.

Patience was in short supply that morning, all of us were road weary and not looking forward to the 6 hour trip back to Dublin in cramped quarters. Benji and I wanted to drive through the part of the country where the Vance family settled. Naturally, we were the only ones who thought that was a good idea. We did go through some of it, but not the part he’d planned to show me. Before we reached Belfast, it began to rain. Rather than get too far off the main highway, we stopped at a KFC for chicken. Most of our dining experiences were nothing to write home about.

The car rental place called to tell us they were closing for the day and the van would have to be returned to the airport office. Benji and Karen decided to keep it until Monday. That relieved some of the pressure we were under.

After checking in at the Harcourt and resting for a couple of hours, we walked downtown in the rain to the Maple Leaf Chinese Restaurant and had a good meal. I was ready for another long soak in the tub when we got back. After that, I slept like a baby.

Monday morning was hectic. We had breakfast in the dining room, checked out, stored our luggage, then took off on foot in the cold rain looking for a yarn store for Pat. Since it was on the opposite side of the river, we eventually caught a bus, then had to walk several more blocks, only to find out that the darn thing had closed a year ago. We caught a bus back to Grafton Street, where I bought most of my souvenirs. By this time, I was very tired and hungry, but couldn’t get Pat interested in eating. We were to meet up with Benji et al at 1:30 in the hotel lobby, collect our luggage, call taxis to take us to the train station, rush, rush, rush, not my favorite thing to do.

The Irish have a saying that I like - When God made time, he made plenty of it. I wish we had not tried to cram so much into the time we had. I would have been much better satisfied to have taken a bus tour around the whole city of Dublin on Monday, but I was too tired to oppose the plans being made by the others. When will I ever learn to stick up for what I want, and not just go along with the others while resenting it?

While waiting for the taxis, I copied down the George Bernard Shaw quote that was stenciled on the crown molding in one of the hotel’s dining rooms. “Ireland is like no other place under heaven and no man can touch its sod or breathe its air without becoming better or worse.” In less than 24 hours, I would be gone from the Emerald Isle. Had Ireland made me better or worse? It was up to me.

Our train ride from Dublin to Galway was very relaxing to me. Pat and I shared a chicken sandwich from the concession stand. The children played sweetly, laughed frequently, enjoyed the moment. I tried to absorb as much of their innocent joy as I could. Karen wanted to cook supper for us, we would have been just as happy to eat out, but she was tired of eating out, she said.

We got to Galway around 5 pm. Karen caught a cab and took the kids and the luggage home. Benji took Pat and me to see as much of the town they’ve called home since January as we could see. Each of us found what we’d been looking for all week and wished we had more time to shop there, but their shops close at 6:00 also. He took us to the St. Nicholas Church, but they were closing, too, so we only got to see a little of it. From there we went down to the river, which was higher than it’s been in a while, he said. We caught a taxi back to their house by way of Salthill, famous for its promenade.

Benji and Karen live in a modern 4 bedroom apartment owned by 2 sisters who travel a good bit. Hardly anyone in Ireland lives in a single family dwelling, it’s all “semi-detached housing,” what we Americans call apartments or condos. It looks like an ideal place for them, plenty of kids in the neighborhood for Bella and Phin to play with, close enough to town to walk or ride bikes to. The grocery stores there deliver so they have no trouble getting groceries.

Karen apologetically served pizza for our dinner, but it was homemade pizza, which made it the best we’d had all week. The sherry I drank made me so sleepy, I turned in before the others. At 5:30 am, our taxi arrived and carried us to the bus station. Our bus driver had classical music playing. I told him when we got to the airport that he had the best taste in music of any of our drivers all week. He shyly thanked me.

Our plane trips were smooth and uneventful, just like I like them. We did have pizza for the 4th time in a week, but for airline food it was really good. In fact, all the food that Delta served was better than most of the airline food I’ve had.

I was met at the airport by Mike and the dogs. Gus and Jay-Jay licked me all the way home. I think they may have missed me almost as much as I missed them.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Our neighbor Art usually gets up around 4:30, same as Mike. He has agreed to come help Mike while I'm gone. He has 2 dogs, too, Paden and Sophie. Paden drank some cleaning solution this weekend and almost died, but the vet was able to save him. He was back to normal this morning. I just hope Mike and Gus and Jay-Jay don't expect me to be getting up before 7 when I return. They did get me up at 6:05 this morning. Gus let me know with a very urgent sounding whine that he needed to go out.

I'm packed and ready to go, just have laundry to do today and a couple of other little chores, then Mike will be set for the week, too. I'm leaving a couple of my unwashed tee shirts for the dogs so they will have my scent to snuggle with. That always helps when I board them. There are no thunderstorms predicted for the next 10 days, so they should be fine.

Mother has a doctor's appointment this morning that I need to cancel. Since she can't get in my car and the nursing home will not take her, she will not be seeing the surgeon for her follow-up visit unless he comes to her. Dr. Krooss makes regular rounds at the nursing home and can make sure her wound is healing ok. I also need to let them know to call Paul while I'm out of town, in case of another emergency.

Pat and I are meeting at the airport tomorrow afternoon around 2:00. I still have not talked to her on the phone, but email works so much better for me. I don't have to try to remember what was said, just re-read the messages.

I was reminded by one of my Bible readings this morning of a discussion I had recently with a friend about a mutual friend of ours. Matthew 7:16-20 says

16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Our friend's fruit was consistently good and plentiful, we, therefore, have no reason to believe he would produce evil fruit. No one is perfect, that's true, but look at the fruit, how much there was of it, and how very good it was. I'm sorry I ever considered ill of him. Judge the tree by the fruit, Cathy, I have to remember this.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, especially Mom, Mary Ann, Karen, Betsy, Judy, Laura, Sara, Tara, and Bethany, and ME! I hope all mothers are happy to be mothers today and feel as blessed by their children as I do mine. Wearing red roses on Mother's Day to honor living mothers and white roses in memory of deceased mothers was a popular custom when I was a child. I guess some still practice it. Betsy wanted a red corsage to wear today because she felt like it may be the last year she could wear a red one. I'll honor her some other way. I've never had many sentimental feelings for my mother. Choosing a card for her on this occasion was always tough because they're way too mushy, reading them just reminds me of what I didn't have. So I usually just go with the generic "hope this day brings you special blessings" card.

We've got thunderstorms this morning, so my resolve to go to church is quickly dissolving. The rain should be gone by 2pm, and I can go to the nursing home then. One thing I really appreciate about the Episcopal church is that they never ask members to account for their absence. Every once in a while, one of the recovering Baptists will say, "I've missed you," which I always appreciate, but I've never heard, "where were you?" or "why weren't you here?" Among choir members we usually ask David, "what has happened to so-and-so?" And he tells us. Ben is part of the pastoral care team and has checked on me a couple of times to see if I need anything. Mother's name is on the prayer list, and I'm sure some of them are praying for me, too, but otherwise, it's up to me to let them know what's going on. And if I choose not to, that's ok, too.

I stopped by the church on Monday to pick up a devotional book. Tom, David, and Lisa were in the courtyard chatting. They asked about Mother. Then when I told them she still had not complained of any pain, Tom said some people just have a higher threshold for pain. David teased, "Especially mothers who raised very difficult children." Surely he was not talking about my mother's little angels.

I've been saving William Byrd's "Gradualia, The Marian Masses," to listen to for a special occasion. Music honoring Mary, mother of God, sounds perfect for Mother's Day.

Ave Maria gratia plena, Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedictus fructus ventris tui. Allelulia. (Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Allelulia.)

2pm. Mike and I went to the nursing home around 12:30, after eating an Italian lunch at Sicily's. Mother was dressed and in her wheelchair. We took her roses and a card, and she seemed glad to see us. I got her electronic keyboard from the closet and played a few tunes, then gave it to her and she played 4 songs, with both right and left hands! She hasn't done that in over a year. Betsy and Richard were coming in as we were leaving.

I found out what the problem has been with my blood pressure. When I took it today, it was 147/84, but when I took off my sweater and did it on my bare arm, it was well within the normal range. I had no idea that would make so much difference.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I'm almost ready for my trip, and getting more excited every day. I've been shopping for new walking shoes. There's nothing wrong with the ones I have and I couldn't find any I like any better, so I'll just take the old ones. At least they're broken in. Why can't somebody design comfortable shoes that aren't so plain and ugly? Betsy is lending me her luggage, mine no longer rolls, too old. Glad I didn't have to buy new.

She also told me that Brian and girlfriend Jordan were here this week on their way to California. They somehow acquired an old Volvo station wagon and were camping in that at May's Lake. He called me on Weds. night wanting me to go across the street to see if his mom and dad were at home, they weren't answering the phone. I told him I'd already gone to bed. I did get up and make sure all my doors were locked. Unless Brian is in town, I don't worry about that much, but he wouldn't think twice about breaking into my house or hers and taking whatever he thought he could pawn. If he had to pick the lock, the dogs would hear him. I really hoped this nephew would have grown up by now, but he still seems to be expecting others to pay his way. Usually when he leaves Maine and comes South, he's trying to outrun a warrant for his arrest.

I saw my other nephew on Thursday. Vance, Bethany and baby Harlee were going into Target as I was coming out. I told them I was painting a rocker for Harlee. Maybe by the time she's old enough to use it, I'll be finished with it. Their nursery is decorated in a "Song of the South" theme. I'm planning to put "Zippity-Do-Dah, Zippity-Aye, my, oh my, what a wonderful day" across the back of it. I'd like to find a little blue bird to attach to the back also. The baby's hair looks like she stuck her finger in a light socket. She's so tiny and sooooooo cute.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Since I don’t have time to write my own blog today, I’ll borrow this one from by Dr. Stephen Ruppenthal.

We live in a world that is obsessed with looking young and beautiful. Faced with loss of youth, many of us feel profound fear, loneliness, and regret—which leads to the depressing idea that the best years of our lives are behind us.What if you could change your entire perspective on aging? What if you could bring back the joy that you felt in your youth? What if you could see your life as something that continued to be full of possibilities, opportunities, and adventure?

Often our preoccupation with the loss of our youth prevents us from welcoming the changes and mystery the journey ahead presents. But you can make a radical shift toward embracing the gifts of aging. Here are eight ways to create a positive and wonderful aging process.

1. Cultivate Your Relationships The older we get, the more crucial it is that we matter to someone and feel a sense of connection to at least one important person in our life. Whether they are family or friends, if you stay in regular contact with those you are close with, calling them regularly and hanging with them in tough times, they will relate not to how you look, which of course will change, but what you are deep inside. Harsh experience will always hurt, but friends who stand by us shield us from the impact. In their company, we find a place full of peace and love.

2. Connect With Your Spirituality We need to be in touch with more than just our day-to-day routines and reality. As the poet Gerald Manley Hopkins says, “There lives the deepest freshness in deep down things.” We very much need constant contact with that freshness and life. Whether it is through meditation, prayer, or humbling personal experiences that show us how human we are, we can all find that sense of meaning in life that goes beyond ourselves and gives us an inner refuge and home.

3. Make a Difference As Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say, “The world is hungry for our help and our love.” Animals, people, and the earth all need our service. Choosing the field we can best help in, we tap into our inner power and act to make a difference in life.

4. Protect Your Health We all know that eating a healthy diet from all the food groups strengthens our body and helps prevent disease. And appropriate, natural exercise renews us both mentally and physically. But try not to be obsessed with perfect health or fear of sickness. Do what you need to do, and then relax into a vastness deeper than yourself, the well-being fostered by your connection to the universe.

5. Exercise Your Intellect As we read widely and listen well, we will continue to relate widely to diverse peoples and opinions. Our inner life will be richer as we better understand our past and, with curiosity and discipline, learn, accept, and build on new things.

6. Nurture Your Creativity Nourishing a sense of connection to the beauty and goodness of the universe, we test our own powers of making new things and finding new solutions. Whether it is in art, gardening, writing, crafting, or in our relationships, we feel that something greater fills us, passes through our minds, and makes the universe—and ourselves—richer and more beautiful.

7. Rejoice in Nature As you walk, hike, or relax at the seashore, take the time to breathe deeply and take the beauty of forests, mountains, and lakes into your heart. As the years pass, such connection with nature will give us all a sense of being grounded in something stable and yet magical, relaxing into nourishment and support from the greater universe

8. Build Your Legacy When I think of how best to spend my time, I give greatest value to what will be there when I am gone. That’s why with parents, I urge you to spend maximum time with your kids and give, give, and give more. That way, the good in you will take root in them and live on. What else will? Well, all of us have to work to make a living; but with every other minute available, try to channel your actions into what will outlast you and build your legacy. It may be the trees you plant; or the art you paint, sculpt, write, or build, or the minds you enrich. Age matters less when we pour ourselves into people and things that will in their own way continue us. It is our job to search this out and put our efforts there. If we do this, we may not even realize we are growing old.

Dr. Stephen Ruppenthal is the author of 'The Path of Direct Awakening: Passages for Meditation,' among other books. He is an international workshop leader in passage meditation and in courses for those looking for end-of-life spiritual care and for the spiritual step component of 12-step programs. Learn more about Dr. Ruppenthal's work at Direct Awakenings.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Is this one of the outfits I sent for his birthday? It's really cute, and the yellow one, too. So glad you're having some short sleeve weather.
If every morning were like this, I would pull out my hair. Mike's first demand for the day was that I write a letter for an attorney to BC/BS about their denying benefits. Rather than follow procedure plainly outlined on the back of every claim report that comes in, he has already talked to a lawyer about suing.

All it took was a phone call to an 800 number to find out why the claim was denied. The doctor authorizing more therapy has not seen him in over a year, that's why.

"Go see Dr. Tipton," I told him, "then they will reconsider his orders, otherwise, they don't think his knowledge of your condition is up-to-date. Whether you think he does you any good or not, he holds the key to your getting more therapy, so make an appointment. And don't complain to me about these people who think the solution to every problem is to sue. You're doing the same thing. Read the reports, go through the steps, and if you still need a lawyer, we'll talk, but I am not going to be a party to a frivolous lawsuit."

So then he has the unmitigated gall to say terrible things about me, after all I've done for him. And Blue Cross has paid out tens of thousands of dollars on his medical expense. Without them and me, he would have been dead years ago. Talk about creating bad karma!

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I turned on "Debussy for Daydreaming," to calm my frayed nerves. I wish I didn't let him get under my skin like he does. I need a vacation.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

On my Bellsouth homepage, I get 5 weather reports - Galway, Ireland, Tampa, Makanda, Folsom, Brandon. Tuesday was the first day there has been rain in all 5 places, a wide variation in temperatures - 61, 90, 76, 89, 86 predicted highs, but wet in all 5 locations. Benji says I’m going to Ireland in the best Spring weather, 60’s and 70’s in the daytime, 40’s & 50’s at night. Sounds perfect.

The passport was mailed on Monday from the Charleston processing center by priority mail. Surely it will be here today or tomorrow. So many loose ends around here to tie up before I leave, at least, Mother is settled back in the nursing home. That's a relief.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mick has incurred the wrath of Mother Mockingbird. He killed one of her babies yesterday. She was waiting for him when he went outside this morning. It was hard to tell between the two of them which squawk was the bird’s and which the cat’s. I found him cowered under the glider, while she, perched on the handrail, threatened to peck out his eyeballs if he came near her nest again. Maybe we should have named him Diablo, like we started to. He and Gus tossed the injured baby around until it finally died. It was not pretty.

Mike took his bath and dressed himself this morning, all except the socks and shoes. It made me feel so much better about leaving him to fend for himself. He’s gone to the gym and will be gone for a couple of hours running errands. Dressing himself gave him a new boost of confidence, even though he refused to admit it.

The Blog site is bogging down this morning, or is it just my slow computer? I really need to spring for DSL. Ricky sent pictures of Clay and Cooper that took way too long to download. Norton detected and blocked an attempted worm intrusion, maybe that’s what has slowed things down. I tried downloading a couple of Rick's pictures to the blog, but they were too blurry.

My passport still has not come. I checked it on the website, and they said to expect delivery by 5/6/06. If it’s not in today’s mail, I’ll have to call them. This is making me nervous.

I’ve only heard from the nursing home once this morning. They were checking to see if they should change the DNR directive to full code. I explained that St. Dominic’s is very hesitant to assign the DNR to anyone’s record, and that they should keep the DNR on her record at the nursing home. Mother’s roommate Miss Bessie seemed very glad to have her back from the hospital. She hugged and kissed her and said, “I’ve missed you so much.” Mother just looked at her, no smile, no response; she had no idea who the woman was. The man who transported her had no trouble getting her from the wheelchair to the bed, unlike when she was admitted to the hospital. It took the female nurses almost an hour to get her in the hospital bed, because she refused to cooperate. But this was a man, and he spoke to her in a very authoritative tone, so she complied. No protests, no excuses, just ok, and it was done. She’s always been like that, taking men seriously, but not women.

Monday, May 08, 2006

We got Mother moved back to the nursing home tonight. She still has not complained of pain. They put her back in the same room she was in. Hospice care provides a private room with an all-electric bed, from what I understood last week when they told me about it. Maybe tomorrow they will get her re-situated. It was almost 9 pm when we got home, and I'm very tired. More tomorrow.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Is that all there is to downloading photos? Why did I think this was so hard?

This is Benji and Pip in Ireland, March 2006.

Pagans, Ancient and Modern, the Speaking of Faith program on Mar. 30 is what I chose to listen to this morning, rather than go to church. Here's the link:

I especially liked the song "The Christians and the Pagans" from Mortal City, performed by Dar Williams. (Clicking on Particulars, I found the lyrics, and other program details.) It reminds me of some of the estrangement that has occurred in our family.

Adrian Ivakhiv describes the global homesickness that I've felt, and that I've observed in Benji, that desire to find our sense of place and belonging, to connect with the ancestors, to practice ancient traditions. Maybe that's one of the things we like about the Episcopal church - the chants, the incense, the rituals. And if Karen ever gets interested in church again, I think she will feel "at home" there. I was hoping we could baptize Pip at St. Philip's, but so far, I haven't felt led to propose that to her.

When my father became a Methodist preacher, he told his District Superintendent that he would do everything but baptize babies. To me, that is one of the most beautiful and meaningful rituals the Episcopal church celebrates. I've never been to a Methodist baptismal service for infants, but I've heard it's similar to ours.

The Baptists practice a dedication of babies on Mother's Day. It's a rather modern service that evolved from a need to formalize the gratitude and intentions of the parents. Full membership rights are not bestowed on the child until they have made a personal decision to embrace the religion of their parents. Of course, that is not what is professed when they make that terrifying walk down the aisle. Most 6 year old children who say they accept Christ as their Savior, may as well say, I don't want to be left out when the Lord's Supper is celebrated. It used to be they were afraid they would go to hell if they died before making that all-important decision. Thank goodness, preachers don't use the fear tactic much anymore.

My "profession of faith" occurred when I was 6, as I listened intently to a sermon my father preached on Rev. 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." It can only be opened from the inside, he said. I walked the short distance from my spot on the front row to my father, and he asked me, "Do you love Jesus with all your heart?" I love him this much, I told him, while spreading my arms out as far as they would go. It was a gesture he and I had used to describe how much father loved daughter, and vice versa. It had not been discussed or planned, it was a very spontaneous act on my part. So the deed was done.

(There was no baptistry in our church at that time, he "borrowed" the one at East Tupelo Baptist for the baptismal services on Sunday afternoons. One of his most satisfying achievements as pastor of Plantersville Baptist Church was when he got the deacons to approve funding for the installing of the baptistry.)

In the 53 years since then, I have worked with God on learning how to love Him as much as I professed to love Him as a 6 year old. It's a progressive process, I believe, not an either/or, saved/unsaved condition we have, the "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" process, "for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure."
And it occurs over a lifetime, not in a magical instant when we say the right words. That is only the first step. We have to grow into the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, living into our Baptism, the Episcopalians call it, due to the Baptismal vows we take.

I especially like the prayer by the priest following the baptism:

Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water
and the Holy Spirit
you have bestowed upon these your servants
the forgiveness of sin,
and have raised them to the new life of grace.
Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit.
Give them an inquiring and discerning heart,
the courage to will and to persevere,
a spirit to know and to love you,
and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Jack, as a school girl, was a spelling bee champion. This skill served her well when she began to play Scrabble. She was a champion at that, too, and a fierce competitor. After dementia began to set in, she was genuinely surprised if one of us happened to make a higher score than she did, and somewhat offended. And she would cheat. Drawing letters from the pile, we often caught her looking for certain letters, rather than taking the first ones she chose. Her decline at the Scrabble board corresponded with her general decline. She played very few Scrabble games after we moved her to Jackson in 1998.

We’ve noticed since she’s been in the hospital, that she is stuck in spelling mode. Today it was S-T-A-I-S-T. I tried guessing the word she was working on, but she just repeated the same nonsensical string of letters. Was she enjoying the sound of the letters, was she remembering a spelling bee? Maybe she was imagining a rack of Scrabble letters and trying to make a word of them. Who knows?

We’ve also noticed that the t.v. stations she pays the most attention to are the ones with news copy on the screen that she can read aloud. I turned on the captions on an old movie, and she read lines aloud for about 10 minutes. That seemed to make her very tired, so she closed her eyes and went to sleep. That’s when we slipped out of the room and came home.

Dr. Krooss came by while we were there, said he would never have predicted so little pain with the kind of surgery she had. She still has not admitted to any pain except when the nurse changed her bandage, and that was about the tape. I tried to keep her distracted by giving her words to spell, N-U-R-S-E, H-O-S-P-I-T-A-L, M-I-K-E, V-A-N-C-E, B-A-B-Y. And I told her again about her brand new great granddaughter. That made her S-M-I-L-E.

Friday, May 05, 2006

There is a terrifying vulnerability that comes with thinking out loud, as I’ve done on this blog. It’s why I’ve kept it in a private status, rather than a public one. Benji, Ricky, Mike, Skip, and Betsy were initially invited to access it, since they were mentioned in it. Benji was the most interested, Betsy and Skip read it every once in a while, Ricky said it’s too opinionated, and Mike never opened it. Then I invited my friend Ben to view it, and immediately regretted it. I did the same with George Kelly. Who really wants to wander through the vast wasteland of my mind?

As much as I claim a desire to be transparent, there is a terrible price to pay for throwing the doors and windows open. Until I did this, I thought it didn’t much matter to me whether anyone agreed with me, approved, appreciated, admired me, but I’ve found out it matters a great deal. I guess we never outgrow that. I’ve also found out that critical censure, dubious skepticism, outright disapproval and rejection can be tolerated and accepted. Some days, when I’m tired and blue, it bothers me. I listen, I learn, I move on.

John Lee says in Writing from the Body: For Writers, Artists, and Dreamers Who Long to Free Your Voice, If we are to answer this call [to create], we have to feel every part of our lives - the grammar of the gut, the syntax of the sinews, the language of the legs. This undertaking means facing the Eight Great Fears - the fear
  1. of being left alone
  2. of offending
  3. of revealing yourself
  4. of your shadow
  5. of the mud and the blood
  6. of success
  7. of failure
  8. of trust.

George told me something the other day that made a lasting impression on me. His father died when he was only 2 yrs old, he has no memories of him. “When my family talked about my Dad, he was never a flesh and blood being, but Cecil told me about him warts and all.”

That, I believe, is important. I’m not proud of my warts, and I would certainly not expect anyone to admire them, but they are a part of who I am. Being introverted as I am, I don’t get much exposure to a lot of people. I don’t want a lot of exposure. But I also don’t want to leave behind a blank canvas for someone else to call Cathy. The thoughts, opinions, and memories that are recorded here are an expression of who I am. It’s the picture I’m painting until my artistic muse puts a paintbrush back in my hand.

Maybe I will get to the point where my father was when he made his last public statement in the Baptist church at Plantersville. The occasion was the 125th (?) church anniversary celebration, with him and a couple of other former pastors attending. Feebly, he mounted the platform to speak at the microphone. “There’s a lot I could say today, and a lot I probably should say today. So whatever you think I ought to say, just pretend I said it, and we’ll all be happy.”

Thankfully, I’m not there, yet.

Mike got a new e-stim device yesterday to use on his left arm. I went through hellacious abuse with the first one he had, so I've warned him not to expect any help from me with this one. I did get it out of his car and bring it into the house for him. The rest is up to him, the recharging, the pad placements, the setting of time and power, getting BC/BS to pay for it, it's all his responsibility. We'll see how this goes.

George got The Plantersville Connection up and running. Here's the link
I hope it gets wide circulation and participation. There's a sweet letter of appreciation from Larry Mims to Judy Borden. We should all take the time to write thank-yous to those who meant a lot to us in our growing up years, even if they are posthumous. I wrote a similar letter to Guilene (Kelly) Berryman years ago. She and Joan Edwards were my favorite role models in the Baptist church.

The nurse said Mother had a restful night and still has not complained of pain. I've got to do some laundry before I leave this house today.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Paul is a Papaw! Harlee Brighton Johnson born May 3, 2006 to Vance and Bethany Johnson, 7 lbs, 9 oz, 20" long. What will her nickname be? Mo-Ped, Sunshine, Scooter?
Welcome to the world of Cutie Pies, Brother!

My mother is made of sturdy stuff. She sailed thru surgery without any trouble, came back to the room wide awake, complaining about the oxygen tube in her nose and the compression stockings on her legs. She claims to have no pain and has no idea what happened to her today. Her right breast tissue was removed and the skin was grafted back in place. The mass in her back is pressing on her spinal cord and if it gets much bigger may paralyze her. She may be bedridden from now on, but she may get back to her wheelchair after she recovers from the surgery. The oncologist Dr. Patel finally admitted that if she were his mother, he would put her in hospice and try to make her comfortable in the time she has left. Paul came in time to get his assessment, so I didn't have to remember everything he said. Betsy called and said she would be there later. Paul agreed to stay and let me come home.

I took fresh flowers for her when I went in this morning. When I asked if she liked them, she said she didn't. "What's that hanging over the side there?" she demanded. "It's baby's breath," I told her. "Baby's bread, hrmph!" she groused. We went through this 3 or 4 times. When the nurse brought medicine mixed in applesauce, she acted so rude I was almost embarrassed.

Paul said Bethany's doctor got tired of waiting for contractions and talked her into a C-section. Little Harlee was born about 7:30 last night at 7 lbs+, with a headfull of black hair and olive complexion. Bethany's sister insulted all the Johnson redheads with, "Thank God she doesn't have red hair!" Maybe she learned manners at the same place Mother did. I think she may be jealous of Deanne who is a lot prettier than she is, red hair and all.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I've given the ok for the surgeon to remove the tumors in the morning. It's a matter of preventing infection and undue discomfort and pain. It will improve the quality of the time she has left. Still not sure what they want or can do about the cancer in her spine. It will eventually paralyze her if she lives long enough. Lord, be merciful, and cut short her days of suffering.

The nursing home can hold Mother's room for 14 days. She's been out of it for 8 days. They also offer hospice care there, so she may be changed to that when she goes back. They're still saying she owes more than I think she does. Medicaid should go back and pay that balance from '05, because every cent Mother had has been given to them already. My horoscope today said, "There's another mess to get through, pertaining to who will pay for what. Don't get too riled up by material things, and stall for as long as you can."

Harlee Brighton Johnson is supposed to celebrate her birthday this evening. Paul says he's going to call her either Mo-Ped or Sunshine. I'm so glad he's finally a grandpa! And he will be a good one, I know. Clay and Cooper fell in love with him last summer when he took them fishing. Their picture from that outing is in the May issue of Mississippi Woods and Waters, he said. I need to get 2 copies and send one to Tampa.

I talked to Ricky and Cooper this afternoon. Cooper played his recital piece for me, The Entertainer, and did it really well. I had sent Ricky an article about a little league baseball team of handicapped kids in Calif. He wants to look at the possibilities of starting one in the North Tampa Little League. The normal kids pair up with the challenged children to help, so it's a win-win for everybody. Cooper pitched 58 strike outs for the season. Very impressive for a 9 yr old. Clay's band has their concert tomorrow night. Neither Ricky nor Mary Ann can be there, but a friend is videotaping it for them. I'm so glad he's playing the sax. It's one of my favorite instruments. I wish I could be there.

Benji sent a movie of Pip's first haircut. He was very good throughout the whole ordeal, and looked so handsome when they finished. I can't wait to kiss those chubby little cheeks.

My BP was still higher than it should be when I checked it today, 143/80. Guess I should call Dr. LaGarde. He may want to change my Rx. I'm taking a break from choir until this situation with Mother is stabilized. My fortitude just ain't what it used to be. David said to take as long a break as I need to.

My major stressor is still my husband. After I told him I'd given consent for the surgery, he launched into a lecture about how they will wear me down, make me feel guilty, and eventually persuade me to do everything I said I didn't want to do. And he was the one who told me at lunch that we couldn't just do nothing. How many times has he made me feel "damned if I do, and damned if I don't?" This can't be good for the hypertension.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sitting in a hospital room, watching the patient sleep, waiting for the doctor to come by at his convenience seems like an unnecessary waste of time to me. I didn't go to help Mother with lunch today, too much other stuff to do. I hope the nurses got her to eat something, it seems to be the only thing left that she halfway enjoys. I am keeping the cell phone closer than usual, so that the nurse or Dr. Krooss can get me if they need to.

I hate this state of limbo we're in, nobody knowing what to expect, what to do next, it's really unsettling. My BP was elevated the last couple of times I checked it, which tells me to slow down and take care of me. I always take my Avalide and Zoloft with my 10 am Dr. Pepper. 10, 2, and 4, the old advertising used to say, the friendly pepper upper. Was it the caffeine or the sugar they were promoting as the pepper upper?

I need to report Mother's hospitalization to Medicaid. From what I read of their policies, they have some oversight of treatment. I also need to run by the nursing home and take a payment, find out about holding her room, and whether or not they provide hospice care.

George and I are enjoying frequent emails, sharing stories and memories, considering reunions, community blogs, etc. It's so good to be in contact with someone from the same hometown and interested in writing about it. I've been totally unsuccessful at getting any of my Pville friends to even email me. Dave and Mary usually have to fill me in on a year's worth of news when I see them. I talked to Steve and Gloria a couple of months ago, and thought seriously about pitching the community blog idea to Gloria, but didn't. As mayor, she probably has enough to keep her very busy. Georgia hasn't answered any of the 3 emails I've sent her. I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one who uses their computer.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Dr. Krooss came back to see Mother today, said they will run an MRI to see if the cancer has spread to her back. He agreed with my assessment about the other doctors trying to pass Mother's treatment back and forth. No one has a good grasp on what might be helpful.

Too bad I can't call my vet in. He has no qualms about putting suffering creatures out of their misery. It's a dirty rotten shame that we can terminate a pet's life so easily, yet not be able to do anything legally to terminate a patient's life who has no hope or desire for recovery. I hope by the time I get to that stage, we have more compassionate laws regarding euthanasia, or that I have Aunt Margaret's herbal formula from the Hemlock Society.

It's just not right to hold her here in her drugged, degraded, despondant, despairing condition. The hospitals, the nursing homes, the funeral homes perform wonderful services, but I've always felt they exploit the general population's fear of death by doing way more than is necessary. As Christians we have so much more awaiting us in the next life. To slow a person's natural progression toward Glory is like tripping a ballplayer's run from third base to home plate after he knocked a homerun. Who would do that? The race is run, the battle's done, cheer them on!

Betsy told me on Saturday that Mother refused to give consent for Papaw's leg to be amputated when it turned gangrenous. He died soon afterward. Since she has no living will, we could look to her example to determine what she thought about prolonging a terminally ill person's life. I know many people would judge me harshly for saying these things, but I cannot, in good conscience, agree that we should try heroic measures to save her. My Grandfather Johnson made sure her soul was saved 75 years ago, I'm not so sure the decaying flesh is worth saving.

She ate her lunch fairly well after they replaced the chicken breast with some ground chicken and gravy. Her diet has been changed to soft food, but what they sent didn't look different from regular food. I mashed up the carrots, mixed them in with the chicken, poured some of her potato soup over that and she ate most of it. I had to alternate bites of chicken mush with pie to keep her interested. Somehow, we ran out of pie before the other food was gone. Mike said she would sneak pie when I wasn't looking.

Mary Ann called while I was feeding her. She asked about hospice care, and whether it had been discussed. She and Lori had been talking about it. Jeanette had emailed me a sweet note of concern this morning. She told me that Ricky Bishop is planning to retire from his band director's job at NEMJC and become a preacher. I was pleased to learn that because Mother told me she wanted Ricky Bishop to preach her funeral. Maybe she knew something about his plans that the rest of us didn't.

I also got an email from George Morris Kelly, originally of Pville. His grandmother Ms. Sarchie Kelly was one of my daddy's favorite people. He is working on his family tree and found my websites. It was good to hear from another Pvillian. He's kept up with people much better than I have.
He taught English at Hinds Com Col for years and has retired. He got acquainted with Benji at Ole Miss, he said.