Wednesday, June 20, 2018

There is a difference in growing older and growing older with limitations.

Just when I feel I have come to terms with ageing, it hits me in the face like a cold wet towel. I picture myself growing old but independent, driving where I want to go, spending time doing things I enjoy like writing and teaching. I see myself becoming my aunts who lived to be in their late 90s, but took care of themselves for the most part.

Having this pain that inhibits my walking has made me see things differently. I find it too difficult to stand in my kitchen and cook or clean up when I am done. I didn't expect to have this experience.

Being immobilized is more difficult than I thought it would be. I find myself mulling over whether it is necessary to go downstairs or if I can wait and make one trip serve all my purposes. When I take pain medicines, I become sleepy, and can't think straight. I certainly can't create anything new.

My older sister became disabled in her later years. She had to have help to stand, to go to the bathroom and needed help getting ready for bed and into bed each evening. I understand now how much she must have hated needing someone to push her in a wheelchair or having to ask someone to bring her a glass of water. I admire her more than ever because she never complained. She spoke as if she had hope that she would walk one day. Tears fill my eyes now as I think of her optimism. I think it wasn't until she fell and broke her hip that she realized she was not going to get well.

She was fortunate to have a husband who adored her. He waited on her and never seemed to resent it at all. Perhaps that would make it bearable, having that someone who would do anything for you. Her daughters and my sister, Gay, were also available most of the time to care for her and just to be with her.

I understand her saying to me that she was ready to go. She never said she wanted to die, but felt It was time she should pass on. She was more concerned about the ones she was leaving behind.  At 87, she felt she had lived a long life and the future was not going to get better and she did not want to linger in a nursing home. I understand now.

If I become dependent on others to take care of me all the time, I would not want to continue with life. Quality of life is more important than quantity, I believe. That is why I strongly believe in having the choice of when I want to die, to have my opinion respected if or when I have no more quality left in my future years.

From my library of books, I pulled out one that I have had a long time. When I am an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple, edited by Sandra Haldeman Martz, published by Paper Mache Press in 1981. My friend, Janice Townley Moore's poem, "I know the Mirrors" is in the book. Here is a small piece of the poem.

I know the mirrors that are friends,
the ones in semi-darkness that hide
the hard crease of jowl,
or the ones with the correct distance
to fade the barbed wire fence
above the lips....

The title of the book comes from this poem:
Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

The book is described as "a valuable anthology. It paints a rich picture of women as they age."
And "It is a touching tender collection of writings about being old and loving the old."

The late Bettie Sellers,  Poet Laureate of Georgia and professor at Young Harris College has a poem included: "A Letter From Elvira." This is a humorous poem.

You might think the book is all poetry, but it is not. The prose pieces are just as meaningful and interesting. I think I will go upstairs now and read some of them tonight.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day Memories - mine and Maria's

Today is Father's Day My father has been gone since 1987. He is buried in the Council Family Cemetery on the farm he bought in 1942.
I don't need a special day to remember him. I think of him almost every single day. I suppose I am still trying to understand our relationship, or lack there of, when I was growing up.

I do know that he was a decent, hardworking man who felt his purpose in life was to care for his family. I did not understand him, although I have spent a lifetime trying to, and I don't think he understood me when I lived in the same house with him. However, as we both grew older, the chasm between us seemed to shrink a little.

I subscribe to Maria Shriver's Sunday Papers. Today she writes about her father and what he taught her.

She has many good memories of her father and some great advice for fathers of today. I wish all men who are fathers to little girls, would read her words.

Girls need these things from their fathers:
love, approval and encouragement.

I am saddened when some men criticize their daughters and granddaughters and never say a positive word about them. It seems the girls never can live up to what these men think they should. In past generations having a boy called for celebration, while having a daughter was a disappointment. My father, like his father, had hoped for his first born to be a boy.

My sister, the first born to Coy and Lois Council felt that disappointment from our father all of her life. Later, after my parents had died, I found a letter from my father to my mother saying, "Tell that little girl she has a long legged daddy down in Florida who wants to see her." Although I showed that to my sister, she still felt his disappointment because she had heard him tell others.
Coy Lee Council as a young man

My grandfather, Tom Council,(1858-1911), held a chivaree when his first son was born. He ran around the house celebrating by beating on pots and pans and making a terrible racket just as some folks did after a wedding. Sadly, that baby boy died the next day. I never heard of Tom holding a celebration for the birth of any of his five girls.

With so many children growing up today without a father in the home or even in their lives, I am convinced that is the reason young men and girls develop low self esteem and turn to the wrong people often to lead them. A bad father may be worse than no father at all, and I know some who say they wanted their father to leave the house. A bad father can teach wrong values to his children, if he cheats on his wife and doesn't hold women in high esteem. It would be hard for a son to love a man and not follow in his footsteps.

I want to mention a man who is one of the best fathers I know. He is the husband of my niece, Lee, and father to Will, a fine young man who was brought up with a solid foundation of faith and love. Hat's off to Dave Bruggeman, a hard working, intelligent man who puts his family first.

Happy Father's Day to all the men who have children in their lives.

 Be the man your dog thinks you are.😃
😃 And your children will love you!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Living Life on My Terms

I am a fan of Maria Shriver, daughter of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Eunice founded the Special Olympics and was a phenomenal woman as was most of the family of Rose and Joseph Kennedy. I, like many, thought that anyone who grew up as a Kennedy has it made and their life is like Utopia. But that family has suffered so many tragedies some say they are jinxed.

My life was always dictated by others, it seems, until I was middle aged. My authoritarian father and opinionated four brothers left little wiggle room for my own thoughts and ideas to be heard. My older sister learned early that she had to leave home to be her own person. So did my youngest sister.

Both of them lived in various locations and had adventures I only dreamed of. Gay moved to California and worked with Western Airlines. She traveled to any place Western flew. She often went alone and met interesting people. She wrote letters to me about her trips.

June, the oldest, met an Air Force Lieutenant and eventually left for California where they married.
She had a successful career herself, and helped her husband further his education at Emory University after his stint in the military. I enjoyed visiting them in places near enough I could drive or close enough they could take Gay and me home with them.
Meanwhile, I went to college, earned my BS in Education and came back home to teach. I hated being at the mercy of administrative men who had no idea what I needed in my classroom to help children who came to my fourth grade classroom  not knowing how to read.

I married a great guy who eventually went to work with my brothers. A huge mistake for me because I became caught in the middle between him and family when things went wrong. To make matters worse, we lived on the same farm where I grew up, where my parents and brothers called all the shots.

So how does this relate to Maria Shriver? Through following this extraordinary woman who has taken center stage in her own life, I see much of myself.

She was the only girl in a family of five. The boys were given opportunities she was not. She felt she never had a voice. (So much like me)  She lived a life trying to be the person her mother and father wanted her to be - a good daughter, a good wife, a good mother. When she tells of the rules she had to live by in her strict Catholic family, my heart goes out to her. She watched her mother develop the Special Olympics which debuted the same time that her brother, Robert Kennedy was assassinated and buried. Maria talks about this on a podcast that I have listened to more than once.

Who would think that a rich person who had all kinds of opportunities would grow up thinking she didn't matter, her opinions didn't matter. Now, as an older woman having endured the public humiliation of her husband's affair and divorce, she is writing books, holding meetings with people all over this country, important people who want to talk to her. 

She posts on Facebook and has a Sunday post that I subscribe to and read every week. She has created a powerful organization for Alzheimer's cure and is an advocate for that and many things.
She says we should never think our thoughts, our voices are not important. I agree.

When I moved away from home in my fifties, I found that my voice does matter. I found that the ideas and values I always had were appreciated. Although I had been a great worker in organizations I supported, I had no confidence that I could be a leader, a person who was sought out for my opinions or respected as a person of influence.

I urge my readers to follow and read the books and posts by Maria Shriver. She has overcome her lack of confidence in herself, her embarrassment by a failed marriage that she did not see coming, and the expectations of others who, because of her family name, want her to follow traditions and be like her cousins although she is her own person.

I admire that attitude. The first time I stood up for myself and my opinions against my brothers who expected me to appear and present a program about our family history caused a major upset. I was accused of being mean and selfish, but I was standing up for myself when one of my brothers told me that the family history book I spent 10 years compiling was inaccurate. I was hurt beyond words. I had my doubts that my book had been read, but was appalled when I was told that my research on my grandparents was all wrong.

Some family members will always remember that incident as my fault. But in some ways it was my last stand for myself.

This happened after I had moved away. Would I have been as determined if I had been near my brothers? I was accused of throwing one of my brothers under the bus because he had to give the presentation. He was forced to read my book to deliver the history he had promised to provide.

I grew up, like Maria, in the shadows of brothers and other family feeling I had no voice. But it is never too late to speak up. We don't have to let others, husbands, family or community stifle us.  As long as we are of sound mind, we can control our lives. I will not move out of my home because others think I should. But when I cannot take care of myself or afford to hire help, I will consider making a move. I will not stop teaching and helping writers who need me unless I feel that I have nothing to offer. I will not end my leadership of my writers' organization until I feel that I cannot make a difference.

Visit Maria Shriver here. Read her Sunday Paper by subscribing.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Importance of Friends

"In an earlier Blog I wrote that when I visit Senior Living Facilities, Nursing Homes, and the elderly in their homes and ask them what the one thing they would do if they could live their lives over again 90% of them respond “I would have spent more time making real friends."

This comes from a blog by Bernard Otis.

Recently I heard about a young woman who was dying from cancer. That is sad, of course, but sadder was the fact that she was estranged from her family and women from her church had to step in and become the family she needed. Someone organized a small group who took turns staying with the ill woman in her last days. She would not contact her family, so they did not know she was sick. Staying with the patient was hard for some because she became angry and bitter, and perhaps not all of those who were with her felt close enough to understand.

I know of others who have no communication with their siblings or parents and it is hard for me to fathom, but often step-brothers and sisters are not close. Divorces in families can separate the children and they grow up living on different sides of the country.

Without family, the importance of friends becomes even more vital in our lives. In today's fast-paced world, we pass and speak and say, "Let's have coffee sometime," but then we don't make the call or send the email.

How many real friends do you have? What is a real friend? To me, a real friend is one who knows my emotional scars, who has seen me at my worst and at my best. To me, a real friend is one who drops what she is doing and gets into her car to come and get me when I call because I am ill and I need someone to drive me home. She doesn't question my need. She doesn't make an excuse.

A real friend to me, is one I will think about and be concerned about when she is traveling alone or dealing with conflict in her family. I want to be there for my friend when she needs to talk about her grief or talk about the great time she had when her children, who I know by name, came to visit.

I feel fortunate that I am empathetic and can see when someone is in pain or just needs a shoulder to lean on. And I am fortunate that I have friends who are the same. All of us have those times when we are overwhelmed with despair or sadness, and we need that friend with whom we can pour out our heartfelt emotions and not be afraid they will turn away. I have that in my sister, Gay, but also in friends.

I think you would enjoy the short posts on Senior Moments with Bernard Otis. He offers us insights into ageing gracefully. I need all the help in that department that I can find.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Total Darkness

Imagine you are sitting at your computer at 2:30 AM in the basement of your house. Suddenly you hear a dreaded sound -- a tree is falling. You freeze but in an instant the crash comes and the lights go out. The computer goes black and there you sit. You take a minute to realize that you are safe, you have not been hit by the tree, but now you must find your way up to light.

Total blackness can totally disorient a person. This all happened to me last Wednesday night or early morning on Thursday. I slowly felt my way toward what I hoped was the stairwell, knocking papers off a table and hitting my foot on something hard.

When my hand touched the printer, I knew I was going in the right direction. Next, the door facing and then nothing. Should I go right or left? I calmed my mind enough to visualize the area in front of the stairs. Inching along, I felt the folding door at the bottom of the stairs and knew I had to get down on my hands and knees to find the stair steps.

I crawled, one step at the time, ignoring a  torn meniscus in my knee and my painful hip. I knew it would be dangerous to try to climb the stairs upright. I did not want to fall.

After four steps I felt the landing and crept along until I came to the next set of stairs. At the top I found the same blackness as below. No outside lights, no inside lights to guide me. Around the coffee table and into an open space. How far to the hallway where I could place my hands on either side and feel secure that I was going to make it to my bedroom? I turned right and hit the railing of the top of the stairs.

I remembered the awful night in the hospital when I closed the door to the bathroom on my father suffering from pneumonia. I was trying to protect his dignity. He said when I closed the door, there was no light, and he was in total blackness. He fell on the cold hard tile. Later that night he died, not from the fall, I was told, but from an overdose of a drug to calm his hallucinations.

Holding to the wall on either side of me, I found my bedroom door, and headed to where I hoped I'd reach my bed. Never have I been so happy to find one of my "devices." Although I boast that I am not attached to a cell phone or IPad, I wished I had one of them downstairs. When my fingers found the IPad, I opened it for the light. With that dim glow, I found my flashlight and my lantern that I'd bought just for this purpose - having light when the power went out.

I called the power company. It was three o'clock in the morning, but I was told someone would be there in a little bit. Relieved, I tried to see where the tree hit the ground, but my flashlight was not strong enough to penetrate the darkness. I wondered if it had hit my stand-alone garage or if it had taken out my fence around the yard where Lexie plays.

The lantern had only two AA batteries taped to the side and I needed three. I searched my battery box but had no AAs, only AAAs. Where could I find another battery for the lantern, I wondered, and then it hit me. My blood pressure monitor rested on the dresser in front of me. I borrowed one from it and my lantern lit up the room.  Shaken and wide awake, I sat in bed with my IPad open. I could not listen to a book on Audible. My WiFi did not work now. The television set at the end of my bed looked like a black hole.

Taking the bright lantern in hand I went back to the front of the house and saw the EMC crew at the foot of my driveway. Their strobe lights swept over my house, my woods and my yard. I could not see what they saw, but I put my trust in them. Those people have never failed me. I went to bed and fell asleep. Lexie followed my lead and did not bark at the crew that worked so hard down below our house. She slept, too.

During the night, the power came back and the lights upstairs and down burned brightly when I got up around 9:00 AM. That was when I could see from my window the huge tree that had fallen at the end of my fenced yard right down my driveway. I was trapped at home. No way to get my car out.

Suffice it to say, I was stressed out, upset and feeling helpless. I called the one person I was sure could help me, but I knew he stayed busy. His name is Cameron Miller and I have seen him take down trees and cut low growth on the empty lot next to me. I'm sure he heard the pleading in my voice when I told him I needed to go to my physical therapy session, but could not get out of my driveway. He said he would be right over.

Within an hour he and his people were chain sawing and dragging limbs to clear my asphalt drive. It took them all day to remove the heavy trunk of the tree which was cut into three long sections, lifted and loaded on a log truck, then hauled away. It will take several more days to completely remove all the debris.

This is what is left of the root ball after cutting some of it away and moving it.
It is over five feet high, but the roots were not deep.

This shows how close to my fence was the tree and now there is a hole.

Some of the debris left after moving away the trunk of the tree. Those big pieces are limbs.

I was lucky the tree fell to the right on my driveway and not to the left on my garage.

I hate to think of the cost, but I am extremely relieved that Cameron came and released me from the trap caused by that humongous tree. I am grateful for the power company and those dedicated men who came out in the dark, cut and removed the limbs from the street, laid a temporary cable so I now have electricity, and who will come back one day and make it all as it was.

So what did I learn from this experience?
  • First, keep flashlights and lanterns throughout my house, not just in my bedroom.
  • Second, hire someone to prune and cut back limbs from the big trees that hover over my yard. The tree that fell was diseased, we found, and the sodden earth from all the rain here in western NC, would not hold up the weight anymore. The root system was rotten as well as the trunk of the tree.
  • The third thing I learned is how fortunate I am to live in this small rural area where kind people will put aside their plans to help someone in need. Cameron said I had an emergency. So he dropped everything and came to my rescue.
I didn't just learn this. For the past nine years, since Barry died, so many good people have stepped up to help me when I needed them.

I have so much for which to be thankful, and I am.

Friday, May 25, 2018

When health issues change our lives

In our lives we have good times and difficult times. We have worries and we have joy.

Recently my dear brother-in-law had to have emergency surgery for a heart attack. My sister called to tell me he was having a stent put in for a 100 percent blocked artery. He is doing fine, she said. I said I wished I could be there with her and she said, "You are. I am talking to you on the phone." He is home now and they are doing fine.

Strange, but I was reading my essay about Barry's bypass surgery recovery many years ago, at the time she called. His surgery changed our lives forever. He was only 52 years old. Like I did, Gay will now learn all she can about how to cook for him and what her husband can and should not eat that will help him prevent another heart attack. She said the doctor said he would need to change his lifestyle. I'm sure Stu will get on an exercise program and will be careful of his diet. He doesn't smoke and, I think, lives a healthy lifestyle. He has been a runner ever since I first met him, but I think he has cut down on that because of knee problems.

Barry did not have a healthy lifestyle. He smoked heavily until his surgery, but he quit and never smoked another cigarette. He began to walk every day and then he began jogging. He was under the care of good cardiologists and he lived twenty-two years after his heart surgery. That made a real believer of me that smoking is the worst thing you can do to your heart. Ironically, Barry died from complications of cancer. The chemo killed his heart.

Another family member will have surgery on the 24th, and my thoughts are with her. It sounds like a difficult recovery ahead. A few weeks ago a dear cousin underwent heart surgery and is recovering now. He is dealing with the aftermath including depression and other issues that he was not expecting to face.

How can I even thing of complaining of my aches and pains when people I care about are suffering? I am happy that physical therapy is helping me recover my mobility.  

Lexie always makes me smile and cuddles with me. She makes bad times better.
I have completed the writing course I taught for ICL and I am preparing for a new writing course I will teach for the next six weeks. My class has made and I look forward to working with the students at my studio. Joy is coming to compete with the worry and concern.

That is what life is all about--good times and bad--and how we handle each.
I've known my share of both. I know for sure, that having loving family and friends who are there in person or by phone or email, makes a world of difference. I hope I am never too busy with my life to reach out to someone who needs to hear from me. And I hope if I am the one who needs someone, that my family and friends will be there for me. I hope you have the same.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Love in the air this weekend. No bad news for me.

Like many Americans I watched most of the Royal Wedding this weekend. How nice to watch love instead of hate, to watch crowds without worrying if someone would be shot, and once again the civility of the people in the UK impressed me. They don't allow guns in England. Maybe that is why everyone seemed so relaxed and happy.

I did not spend all weekend watching TV and finally got tired of seeing the same scenes repeated. I felt like I was watching a movie with two lovely main characters who would live happily ever after. I hope that is true because they seem like genuinely good people. Refreshing. Too much of what we see on TV today is angry, mean-spirited men and women who widen the chasm between us. While Americans for the most part are simply going to work and trying to raise their children and keep them safe, even in small towns like mine, the rhetoric goes one.

I decided to skip the Sunday news shows and, instead, I went out for breakfast. Back home, I continued my ongoing de-cluttering by emptying a box of papers, sorting the recyclables and the trash.

Although it is difficult to stand in the kitchen for long, I cooked citrus salmon for my dinner. It
is easy to fix and I don't need much with it.

Having not watched the bad news today, I am more relaxed than I've been in a while. I am sure I will sleep well and that is very important to healing.

Stress is bad for us so I am taking breaks to rest and breathe. I can't fix the nation's problems. I can only vote to voice my opinion now. If I were middle aged, I expect I'd be more vocal. For now, I think I will concentrate on things I enjoy doing and some things I must do for my health.

I just talked for an hour with my brother. We always laugh together. He is amazing. Nearly 90 years old and still walks 2 miles every day. I think he handles stress very well.

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

What do you do for a torn miniscus?

The past week was jam-packed for me. I went down to Roswell, GA on Monday and on the way, had to stop at ER in Blairsville for pain shot so I could make the drive. I am so tired of the pain in back, hip and leg.
I am impressed with how well Union General Hospital has improved and especially impressed that there is no hospital odor, chemical odor that used to hit me in the face when I entered. No cleaning products smell assailed me when I walked through the door. In fact, there were no scents at all. Just clean atmosphere inside the ER and in the waiting room. I applaud the folks at Union General.

In Roswell my sister, Gay, pampered me, massaged my back, and let me sleep and rest all I wanted. We went out to dinner one evening with old friends visiting from Texas. That was fun.

Before I came home I made a stop in Canton, GA to discuss stem cell therapy with staff in a clinic where they said they do 2,000 a month. This clinic only gives injections for joints, not for the many other things stem cell is used for these days. It is so quick and easy they could have done mine that afternoon, but I don't make decisions like that without careful research and lots of thought.

The cost is out of sight and of course, no insurance will pay for treatment, but just two injections in my knee would begin the healing and within three months I'd have no pain. No surgery and no long recovery from surgery. This therapy uses umbilical cord and placenta from C-Section births to harvest stem cells which are injected into the patient's injured joint. There are no moral issues here as the mothers donate the needed tissue. Blood is taken from the patient also to separate certain platelets that are mixed with the stem cells before injection.   

Meredith Vieira and her husband Richard Cohen who has MS have appeared on several talk shows discussing their visit to the Vatican recently for a symposium on stem cell therapy. They say this is a breakthrough in medicine and will heal so many diseases, including MS and other auto immune illnesses.

Meanwhile, I shall try physical therapy for awhile. I see an orthopedic doctor on Monday and am anxious for him to read my MRI and explain it to me. 

Have any of my readers had a torn minescus and how did you treat it?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Old newspaper clippings about my family made for interesting reading today.

Going through some boxes and folders today, I opened a manila envelope and found faded clippings from my hometown newspaper, the Albany Herald. The articles were clipped by my mother, me and  my sister June over the past forty years. I enjoyed seeing a big write up  when the family sold the  manufacturing business, Hercules Bumpers, located in Pelham, Georgia. There were some errors but  the reporter gave lots of details about our clan. Everyone was mentioned except for Mother who was the most important one of us.

I was surprised when I saw my little nephew, Sam Farkas, in his first business venture. His father had set him up with a cart  at the Albany Mall where nine year old Sam sold holographs. It was a big business for a kid and he made a sizable profit, so large it made the news. Today he can be seen on television when he announces the Power Ball numbers. His day job, however, is working as a successful attorney.

I read an article about my sister Gay marrying her young navy man, Lieutenant Stu Moring, at our home in Albany, Georgia. In those days every detail of the clothing and the food was described in the Society Page of the newspaper. Stu's family came down from Chicago and Gay's friends came from far away.  It was a good day at our house on Fleming Road. I had forgotten that after the wedding and short wedding trip, Stu had to go back to Guantanamo and Gay went back to college in Valdosta, GA where she was earning her masters degree.

We had a mini celebrity in the family in the late seventies and early eighties. I found several photos of my brother's granddaughter, Carrie, who was singing from the time she could talk, I believe. She used that talent and her pretty face to win a number of beauty pageants while she was in middle school and high school. Today she is married with a show stopper of her own. Her little boy is not the singer she was, but he is just as pretty and is quite a talker.

I hope to preserve those clippings and the many others, but will have to research how to do it. The ink fades badly on newsprint, so I will be careful.

I will tell my memoir writing class about this experience. Each clipping is a prompt for a story. All one has to do to find something to write about is look through scrapbooks and photo albums. The ideas and memories will bubble up like a mountain spring.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Selling Memories for Nickels and Dimes

Last weekend strangers entered my garage and carried away bits and pieces of my life with Barry, husband for forty-five years.

Golf clubs and a bag of practice balls, a thing to pick up balls, sold for pocket change because that is what we do at garage sales. Of course I could not put a price on those things. To me they were priceless because they had been his, because I pictured him swinging the clubs and hitting the balls. I saw a green course on a quiet summer eve and heard the crack when the club met the ball. I saw it soar over the grass, the hills, and I saw the smile on his face. He loved to play golf. Barry had many hobbies, but golf and music were there right up to the end.

Someone walked out with my rod and reel, the one thing I had kept when I sold our boat in 2010. That man did not know what stories he would hear if only that fishing pole could talk to him. It talked to me. It reminded me of the happy hours spent on the Majors Pond or the Magic Pond we came to call it. That little rod pulled in a twelve pound catfish on a cold, windy day when we fished from the bank. The fish wrapped my line around a branch in the water and Barry had to pull the limb out to reach the catfish. With that little rod and reel, I caught  many fine bream that made fine eating. It was the perfect weight and had the perfect feel in my hand.

When Barry and I fell in love with fishing, it was hook, line and sinker. In summer as the days grew longer, we headed to the pond as soon as Barry came home. We stayed until the moon came up and threw shadows on the pasture where the soft sound of horses' muffled grazing carried over the still water. A quiet I have not known since.

Barry and Glenda fishing on Majors Pond
Rocky, an unexpected gift

All of my large dog paraphernalia is gone now. I will not have another dog, certainly not a Kodi or Rocky. The large wire crate where the Samoyed puppy learned to live alone at night. The same crate where Rocky made his home until he quickly learned to use the pet door. The first rate ramp we bought for Kodi when, at thirteen, he could no longer jump into the car. They all left home along with two large beds for big dogs. Rocky often gave up his bed to our cat, Tiger or Smokie, the small Schnauzer pup who visited with my sister. Rock was the gentle fellow who never put up a fight. His food bowls are gone, too. He was generous to those he loved and he loved Tiger and Smokie. If they wanted his food, he let them have it. We don't need big dog food bowls now. Lexie has her own petite ones in the kitchen.

Smokie. Who could resist this face? Not Rocky.

My garage is much cleaner, more empty and open for me to find things I really need now. I can finally reach the boxes we put on the high shelves when we moved here in 1995. What will I find in them? Mostly papers that need to be shredded. I don't want to read what is on the papers, in the files and folders. They will just provoke more memories of when we were a unit, when we were a family, Barry and me and our beloved pets.

Clearing out and discarding the past is like picking at a healing sore. We uncover the raw and red beneath the scab. It hurts.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Will we someday have to live in a Bubble?

Once again I write about the chemicals in our environment that are destroying our health.

Some we cannot avoid, that is true, but some we use deliberately and don't realize how much harm they are doing to us and those around us.

I am talking about scented candles and oil diffusers.
In the past week, I have been exposed to both and both of them caused me to become ill for several days.
Tests have proven that the scented candles emit toxic chemicals that are harmful for people with respiratory problems and can cause cancer and other diseases in anyone. Prolonged breathing of these chemicals can bring on serious health problems later on. Many people cannot even go into a candle shop. The problem is the hundreds of chemicals used to make the fragrance. We fool ourselves when we smell cinnamon and spices, and we don't realize that the odor does not come from spices but from petroleum based chemicals.
Before WWII fragrances were not made from petroleum. Since the 1950s we have been bombarded with products filled with unsafe elements that we don't even know about. Our laws for this type of thing have not been updated for 80 years! We have become complacent and believe it would not be on the shelf of a retailer if it were not safe. Not!!
The only word on the label to indicate the use of chemicals for fragrance is Parfum or fragrance. Nothing tells the buyer what is used to make the parfum or fragrance. It is not flowers or herbs. It is not green and pretty.
The following is a quote from a Health Nut blogger.

Scented Candles and Air Fresheners Pose Dangerous Health Risks

"I used to love candles, especially in the autumn and winter. If I wasn’t making cookies that day to make the house smell good, lighting a candle was so easy. I even went to and purchased warmers and candle holders from one of those home party companies. However, the more research I did the more I realized that what was being burned off and was then lingering in my home, wasn’t good for me. Researchers are now finding that too.
And it’s not just the candles but those plug-ins, as well. Oh, and don’t forget the aerosol scented cans. Throw them all away- now."
Sadly, this blogger went on to recommend using essential oil diffusers instead.

Essential Oils seem to be helpful to some and dangerous to others.

A woman came out of her office to speak to me in another room. Immediately I reacted to an odor that emanated from this friend. 
"What kind of perfume is she wearing?" I thought. I didn't recognize the scent.
She left the room and I sat down for the class I was taking. Within a few minutes my head hurt, my eyes itched and would not focus, I felt pressure in my neck, face, sinuses and ears. I knew these symptoms. I was getting sick from the scent that came from the woman I had been talking with.

My friend, Mary Mike, who sat beside me had begun having sneezing episodes. She said to me, "You are having trouble, aren't you?"
"Yes," I said. "I think it was the fragrance that Linda was wearing."
"She has an oil diffuser going in her office all the time."
"That is it! She has that odor of the oil diffuser in her clothes, her hair and on her skin. No wonder I feel bad." That was why I didn't recognize the scent. My reaction lasted for the entire two hours of class. Even after I reached home and was able to breathe clean air, I still suffered the next day.

Linda had just been complaining about her sinuses hurting all the time. I would bet that her sinus problems are from breathing that oily air filled with toxic chemicals she ingests all day long. When sellers of these products tell people that the oils are "good for you" they don't tell the whole story.
My niece informs me she uses a lavender essential oil at night to help her sleep. But she says some oils turn her off immediately. I wish everyone who uses the oils would consider that others might not react favorably to a certain oil. One person loves the eucalyptus oil, and I am highly allergic to eucalyptus.
If people only used these oils in their own homes, perhaps people like me and many others would not have to leave offices or public buildings to prevent becoming very  ill.  They have become trendy it seems and the public is falling for them hook, line and sinker.
If those who use the diffusers all day in an office knew that they carried that oil on their person wherever they go, they might rethink how they use essential oils. Massage therapists who use the oils often smell of those oils for a long time. Like perfume, the oils are ingested through your skin.

A grandmother was keeping her grandson and when she put him to bed at night, he began having a serious asthma attack. He had to go to the hospital and several days later he was sent back to the grandmother. She had cleaned the house and done everything she thought to prevent her grandson from having another asthma attack. But when the boy went to bed, he had another very serious attack and had to go to the emergency room. After much questioning, the grandmother finally told the doctors that before her grandson climbed into bed, she sprayed his sheets and pillows with Febreze. That is what many hotels spray in their rooms to make them "smell better." I have to call ahead and ask hotels not to use these products in the room where I will stay.

Read what a medical doctor said about using essential oils and the oils used in Febreze. 
"it’s not necessarily about an allergic reaction. People with asthma can have airway sensitivity caused by a variety of substances, and a common known trigger is volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are simply carbon-based molecules that diffuse into the air. This is a broad category of chemical that includes many compounds from industrial solvents to plant-based oils, any of which has a potential to trigger asthma.
While it’s true that Febreze has other chemicals in it, their toxic effects are disputable, and far less likely to trigger an asthma exacerbation. My money is on the fragrance."   (italics and bolding  are mine)

When researching for this post, I saw where many people said essential oils triggered asthma attacks rather than helped their asthma. Because of this, I wish more medical offices would not use essential oils where they could affect the general public. And other businesses open to the public should not use the diffusers just because some people like them. About 1/3 of all the people in the United States have serious reactions to synthetic fragrance. The folks selling the oils don't tell that fact.
Just because someone says the oils are natural does not mean they are safe for everyone. Due to poor regulations (protections) by the government we are exposed to thousands of chemicals that are not on labels. In many cases it could be the carrier oils or other chemicals used to create the formula you buy off the shelf. No matter how expensive the oils, there are other chemicals in these products that can be unhealthy.
It is not recommended that children be exposed to essential oils even though someone on the Internet has suggested parents forego the medications that are proven by long time studies and use the oils that have little if any oversight on their manufacturing and no studies on the use of them for children.
I am an advocate for clean indoor air, and I speak out on this subject because if we ignore the health issues caused by the pollution of our environment, if we don't make the effort to learn about what we ingest, what we breathe and put on our skin, our children and our elderly will endure symptoms of illnesses we can't cure or manage. No one wants his/her child to have to live in a "bubble" or have to be homeschooled because of the unclean air in the classroom. That is happening, and I have talked with parents who had to make this decision.
Please speak up if you are exposed to use of scented candles, oil diffusers or "air fresheners" in public places.  Our voices are the best tools  we have to make others aware of these dangers.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Are we happy? Make today count.

“There are times in the lives of most of us when we would have given all the world to be as we were but yesterday, though that yesterday had passed over us unappreciated and unenjoyed.” --- William Edward Hartpole Lecky

Everyone wants to be happy. What makes us happy? Are we happy?
Were we happier in the past or are we happier now? Do we need to be happy? Can we live a good life without happiness?
When my husband died, I wondered if I would ever again be happy. My sadness, sorrow and grief dragged me to the deepest darkness where I could see no light anywhere. I know many people feel this way. Loss of a loved one--mother, father, child, husband, wife, siblings and even our pets can drain all joy from us.

Guilt, anger and need for revenge can steal our happiness. Jealousy is a major thief of happiness. People are killed by loved ones because of jealousy.

Lives can be ruined by all these things. For most of my life, I blamed my moods on people around me. I worried about everything that had any effect on me. My family had a huge amount of control over my life and that of my husband's when we lived so near them. Anger ruled me for years, and the anger came from my lack of or my assumption that I had no control over my life. When I gave in to my anger and erupted like a volcano my husband or one of my brothers usually felt the fire, the words that spewed like lava from my mouth. That brought on my guilt, my shame for being irrational or paranoid.

At times I wished to disappear and be invisible. How could those I loved look at me with love when I had such loathing for myself? Looking back on these times in my life, I find a deep empathy for my father. He was well-known for his bad temper, his anger that turned to rage and brought out the worst in him. Mother said he always felt such remorse when he calmed down.

"Depressed people remember sad memories better and happy people remember the happy times better." *

I often wonder if my older brothers had the same father as my younger sister and I. They remembered Daddy with love and respect. I remembered his unreasonable anger for many years even after he died at the age of 88. Was it depression that brought back those bad memories or was it anger and need for revenge that goaded me as an adult?

"Depressed people have as many good events in their lives as other people, but they only remember the bad ones." *

At one time I only remembered my bad feelings, anxiety and anger, at family gatherings. My sister remembered those gatherings with fondness and joy.

For the past few months, Gay and I emailed each other, every day, three things for which we were grateful. I think that is a wonderful exercise, and I urge you to do it with someone you like or love.
  • Today I am grateful I woke up with no pain.
  • I am grateful that I have heat in my house and I am warm.
  • I am grateful for my little dog who brings me such joy every day.
I might just take all those things for granted if I didn't write them down.

Expressing our gratefulness at the moment grounds us and makes us recognize what good we have in our lives. When we do this, we don't let the day go past unappreciated or un-enjoyed.

No one knows what tomorrow will bring. We live in a very uncertain world. But we know what we have this minute, this hour, today. I try to be grateful for today and what it brings. Write down those special moments in a journal or on your computer. I believe writing our thoughts embeds them in our minds so we can pull them up when we want to experience joy again.

Today I talked on the phone for a long time with my sister. We laughed and wondered how we got this old without even realizing it. We talked about our plans for the future, we discussed our loved ones and how we want to help them. I will list this phone call on my gratitude list.  

For those who have children, record with photos or words, those delightful things they say and do. One day you can share them and laugh about the happy times. From my brother's recordings I watched recently, emotions spilled over and I laughed as well as cried. I only remember the good things about the family get-togethers now. I am different. I am happy and at peace. I see faces of family that are gone now and wish I had the chance to speak to them again, to tell them how much I appreciated them. But those days were unappreciated at the time because we always thought we had tomorrow. We often let petty anger or jealousy stand in the way of being who we want to be.

And then there were six, taken after the death of Ray the oldest brother
I only remember the happy times with my husband. We certainly had disagreements and arguments, awful times when we hardly spoke, but I don't want to remember those times. Why should I? The happy times bring me joy and there were far more of them than the bad times.

Family photo at Easter before I was married

With age comes wisdom, and looking back with the wisdom of my years, I see so many ways I brought on my unhappiness, times I brought unhappiness to others.

If you could go back to yesteryear, what would you do differently? Could you have been a happier person or been a kinder person to those around you? Could you have saved a relationship with a sibling or friend?

If only we could pass our wisdom on to younger ones today. But will youth listen or must they learn these things from their own experience? What do you think?

Take control of your life. Be the hero in your life story. Don't let today go by unappreciated.

* From The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin