Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Valleys and Hilltops

My life could easily be compared to a hike in the mountains.  As a young woman I ADORED hiking in the Utah mountains.  The trails would be steep, uphill, labored breathing, and then suddenly, there was a valley, a lovely portion of the trail when I could trek along with no effort.

This analogy has always closely paralleled my life experience.  I was born severely allergic to pretty much every substance and food in this world.  I had no immune system to speak of.  There were no antihistamines, very few antibiotics.  We had frequent trips to good old Mount Baldy in Southern California.  For whatever reason up there my breathing would clear, stabilize.

Sometimes when I was seriously oxygen starved our neighbors would let me use their oxygen.  Oxygen was very expensive, and Mr. Bench needed it for his Emphysema.   Day or middle of the night they would willing, lovingly, offer me the breath of life.

Many times it was necessary to take me to the ER.  The chronic inflammation of my lungs triggered many bronchial infections.  A hospital was NOT a frightening place to me.  It was a place of sanctuary.  A place where I KNEW that they would give me oxygen.  Sometimes, when I had a really bad infection they would put me in an oxygen tent.  That was so soothing to me, the sound of the oxygen flowing, and my breathing leveling out.  There was no tortured, aching attempts just to draw breath in and out of my tiny body.

My medical expenses kept us in constant medical debt.  My parents constantly juggled and struggled with finances, and living with a child always on the edge of a long slide into death.

Mama told me about one hospital visit.  She was exhausted.  She had spent several nights by my side, watching over me.  I was never left alone in the hospital.  My medical condition was so fragile that Mama was terrified that I would become oxygen starved and die before anyone noticed.

Sleep deprived, worried sick about me, and frazzled from constant medical debt Mama drug her heels as she went into the financial office to make payment arrangements.  She simply could not imagine how they could squeeze one more payment plan into their harshly squeezed budget.

The clerk looked at my list of expenses and said, "Mrs. Cheney do you think you could afford to pay $10.00 a month?"

Mama, the lady who hates to show emotion in front of others broke down and cried.  She simply was overwhelmed with the kindness and understanding that this clerk showed.  $10.00 was worth a lot more in 1958 than it is now, but it still was do-able.

Most people would define this life experience as all hill, labored, tortured climbing.  These experiences were absolutely challenging to me, to my family who are friends, and my friends who are family.  It actually was a constant challenge and struggle.  Was it ALL hard, miserable climbing?

As an infant it was determined that any time I was put in a crib, or swaddled in a blanket tightly  it would trigger an asthma attack.  A few times I was so oxygen starved that my lips, and skin turned blue. 

On one visit to my doctor he wrapped me tightly in a receiving blanket.  Quickly I began to wheeze.  The doctor quickly unwrapped me and said, "If you leave her in a crib or bassinet she could develop a serious asthma attack.  She could become oxygen starved and die.  Or it could cause serious brain damage for her to be oxygen starved.  You need to hold her, all the time.  She can never be laid down...ever!"

Mama and Papa were overwhelmed.  How is it possible to live life while constantly holding a seriously ill baby?  Our Church Family rallied around us with love.  They set up a schedule for around the clock holding of one seriously ill baby, me.

Let's review our facts.  I was desperately ill.  My parents and I faced the almost certain knowledge that I would not live very long.  The Mayo Brother's came to Los Angela.  Mama and Papa took me to be evaluated.  The good brothers looked me over and told Mama and Papa, "Your daughter is the most seriously allergic/sensitive child that we've ever seen." 

Some of the many doctor's that my parents took me to said, "She won't live very long.  Don't get too attached, it will be too hard on you when she dies."  As a Mother I can attest that I simply would not be capable of caring 24/7 for a desperately ill child without becoming bonded, attached with love.

The Mayo brothers gave Mama a list that was three pages long, single spaced, things that she MUST do to keep me alive.  I have a brother 10 years older than I am, and a sister 6 years older than I am.  This "list" of "must do" also impacted them as they were conscripted into assisting my Mama and Papa.

It's all sounding dire and grim don't you think?  Yet you would be wrong.  The daily, nightly battle to keep me oxygenated and alive pulled us together as a family.  It was necessary for us to work together to work through my health challenges. 

I remember fond memories of my brother sitting in our recliner holding me when I was struggling to breath.  I remember him reading to me when I was bed bound.

My sister was not too thrilled initially when I joined the family.  She had the spotlight for six wonderful years and she was loathe to give it up to a sick small sister.  In spite of that she held me, sang to me, and shared an awful version of chicken pox with me.  This form turns the pox water blisters into boils....ever so painful....ever so hard to get rid of!  Yet my beloved sis was loving towards me even when she herself was so sick and miserable.

One day I walked into the kitchen (I was about 3 at the time) and there on the table was the most amazing cake.  It was a lamb, completely with fluffy wool.  (The fluffy was flakes of coconut).  A couple were there to bring the cake.  I did not realize in that brief meet and greet experience that these two beloved people, "The St. Charles," would become my second Mom and Dad.

Mary...she had sons, no daughters.  So she adopted me, and adopted our family.  Mary had a secret life that she did NOT like to share.  Her husband was a mean drunk.  He seemed to be a charming, loving person when he was not drunk.  Mary lived with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for a very long time.  In spite of these trials (I remember noticing once that she had lots of bruises all over her arms and legs, but didn't understand why) she blessed our lives with laughter, and endless quantities of love.

Mama made certain that my life was not ALL about doctors, ER's, shots, pills, and other medical scenarios.  If I had an appointment that involved tough things like shots, blood tests, or other medical unpleasantries afterwards we went to a cafeteria for lunch, or window shopping, or to the park. 

Papa would come home from work exhausted.  He always made time for me.  I would sit on his lap and comb his hair.  We would have a snack together and he would tell me about his day. 

I knew that our lives were HARD!  We were not in denial, ignoring the hard, and living in a happy bubble.  Aware of the hard we made the conscious choice, over, and over, to THRIVE, not merely to SURVIVE.  Is that even possible?  Is it possible that life can hold great joy, and cherished experiences in the middle of sorrow, and struggle? 

To be clear, I'm not speaking about abnormal sorts of behavior like sadism, or masochism.  It is NEVER healthy to learn to ENJOY either your own pain and sorrow or someone else's.  That is NOT what I'm referring to. 

I'm speaking of becoming aware and grateful for joy and blessing in the middle of rough and challenging.  Blessings such as the friends that became family as they moved forward to serve us.  Feelings of closeness as a family as we pulled together continued to bless our family unit when my health became less critical due to the discovery of modern medicines.

"Thrive, Don't Just Survive," is a book that I am writing.  I will explore the idea of finding joy even in the middle of life's foxholes, and battle fields.  I am selfish in my writing.  After my beloved husband of 27 years passed away at 54, I NEEDED to remember the joy, to carry me through the hardest loss of my life.  So I started writing my book to review and relive memories.  In the process I began to look forward to the future.

I look forward to sharing more stories and ideas about Thriving ESPECIALLY in the hardest of times that life can offer.  I hope that you will also look forward to these stories!


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Just Who Was Rescued...You Decide

She was a teeny, tiny, ragmuffin of a kitten.  My Mama fed the neighborhood feral cats on her back porch.  One cat had adopted Mama.  She found ways and means of giving birth to  kittens in Mama's cellar, back porch, and everywhere around the exterior of the house. Mama named the ever so fertile cat, Mamacita, for obvious reasons.  This kitten was one of the many from Mamacita.

My 8 year old and 11 year old daughters were with me.  My husband was back in Portland, Oregon blessing the quiet of our home as he studied the law.  Keeping two small children quiet in a humble cottage was simply impossible for any length of time.  So off to Utah we went to see our beloved Mom and Grandma.

The first day we arrived I couldn't seem to tear my eyes away from the kitten on the porch.  She could not stand.  It seemed as though she might have a broken leg.  When Mama would put food on the porch she would wait until all the other cats had eaten their fill, and then slowly, painfully, she would drag herself to what was left.

My daughters could not bear the sight of another creature suffering.  My husband and I had been rescuing cats since we first married.  The girls had seen that example. 

The oldest came to me, "Mama, we have our vacation money that we earned.  We'll give you all of the money if you will take the kitten to the vet." 

I tried to argue but it was halfhearted at best.  How could I ignore this creature's need?  So to the vet we went.  The little feral kitten was so sick that she didn't even resist when we put her in a carrier to go to the vet. 

The vet told us that she had been in a fight.  Her right front leg had become abcessed (an infection that usually is limited to the site of the wound).  In her case (for we found out that the little creature was a girl) the infection had spread to her entire system.  She was deathly ill.  Left untreated she would have died.

I asked my Mother permission to let me bring the kitten into the house.  I knew that if I started to give her antibiotics, and she started to feel better, our feral kitten would be gone.  She would relapse, die, and the entire attempt at rescue would be for nothing.

Mama did not believe in having indoor pets, but graciously she agreed to let the kitty stay in our bathroom.  We gave the kitten food, water, and a kitty box.  We gave her a soft blanket to sleep on, and Katty Kaliko (our oldest daughter named her) went from feral to family.

The first night I stumbled into the dark bathroom.  I didn't even turn the light on, (I had lived in that house for many years).  Sleep clumsy I stumbled into the bathroom cat existence completely forgotten.  Suddenly I was greeted by the warmest, loveliest purring that I had ever heard.  It was vibrant, and every couple of minutes a chirping was part of the purr.  

Her grateful purring started when anyone walked into the bathroom.  It was amazing to me.  She was FERAL, meaning wild, and wanting NOTHING to do with humanity.  How did she know that we were trying to save her life?

Giving her bitter, gag awful antibiotics didn't seem to cause her a minute's resistance.  She would suck the nasty stuff up like it was catnip.  Even when her health improved she didn't become vicious.  She never clawed us, or bit us.

When our vacation was done we were flying home to Portland.  We could not afford to purchase a seat for our kitty.  The airline policy was that if you took an animal in a carrier under the seat, you had to pay the price of a seat.  I understand the rule.  Imagine a nervous cat in a noisy airplane urinating or defecating.  The plane would become nasty quickly.

As life would have it, my sister was traveling to the Oregon Coast the following weekend.  So she brought Katty Kaliko to us.  Quickly, the tiny kitten adapted to our life.  Nyle, my husband, used a motorized scooter due to mobility issues.  We would plop her in the basket, and off we would go for a walk (me), ride (Katty and Nyle).

Our youngest girl began using Katty as a doll.  She dressed her in all the most elegant of doll clothes.  Then she would put her in a stroller made for dollies and wheel her about the house, and up and down the street in front of our house.  This continued for about a year.  Finally one day Katty was finished with playing house.  She fussed and growled when Sarah tried to dress her, and then she ran away.  That was it...KATTY WAS DONE!

For sixteen years she faithfully acted as family confidant (she's excellent at keeping secrets), guru of chill, (nobody can teach you how to chill effectively better than a cat), and filled our home with unlimited quantities of her musical purr.

We were very surprised to learn that this little kitty with the magnificent purring capabilities meowed like the worst scratchy, rusty, door hinge you can imagine.  She had the purr of Heaven and the meow from Hades!  lol

When my husband died at 54 and I moved into an apartment, living alone for the first time in my life, our little kitty slept faithfully by my side.  When I would awaken crying in the middle of the night, Katty would purr, and then lovingly wash my face with her teeny, tiny, tongue.  (That felt like I was being sanded by the smallest sandpaper imaginable). 

So imagine our families sorrow at learning that sixteen year old Katty has a tumor in her bladder. If she were a human they would remove the tumorous bladder and give her a urostomy.  She would then have a teeny, tiny, little bag on her side where the urine would travel instead of her bladder.  Katty is NOT a human, she's much nicer than many, many humans.

Modern science can clone animals...why don't they learn how to make our pets live longer instead!!  At 16 our kitty is the equivalent of a 98 year old human.  We all know that death is an inevitable part of life.  That realization does not seem to make it easier when our loved ones both human and animal die.
Especially when we have to make the excruciating decision to euthanize our pet rather than letting their suffering go on, and on, and on.

TOMORROW!  We are taking Katty to the Vet.  They will do an ultrasound of her bladder and tell us exactly what they are able to visualize.  Then it will be our turn to make a decision.  At least I have the comfort of knowing that when it IS Katty's time to pass away, there will be Nyle's loving arms waiting to welcome her.  Yet oh how we will miss her!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Let's Do a Study On It???

I read recently in a magazine that a study had established that hopping, skipping, and jumping, helped produce serotonin and endorphins.  REALLY?  They wrote a grant proposal, sent said grant proposal to an investor who accepted the proposal, sent them money and said, "Go!"

What a wonderful idea!  Let's write a study on something that we already KNOW  by common sense is the case.  What a delightful method of earning money.  We send out a grant proposal to the investor (which may actually take 1 or 2 hours to compose).  Then the investor accepts our proposal, HURRAH, HURRAH, HURRAH!  Then we actually put in a few hours or not, proving something that again has been known by most people for the entirety of their lives, and probably for a generation or two before us.

Here's another such study idea: Positive affirmations must be given at a ratio of 4 positives to 1 negative.  Really?  Someone paid an organization money to prove that it makes us feel better to hear positive affirmations than negative ones?

What is the overall benefit of these studies to our society at large?  I imagine that in Europe if anyone read some of the study subjects that we pay money to prove they would laugh.  Actually lol, or even lmbo (that's laugh my bum off to give deference to the UK folks way of referring to their bottoms) would be an excellent explanation of their reactions.

I am fascinated by studies that actually provide new information that can improve the human lot.  For example, a dear neighborhood friend's aunt (who I loved very much) died of breast cancer in the early 1970's.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991, and had two lumpectomies, 25 radiation treatments and have been in remission for the following 23 years!  We have come a long way in the treatment of breast cancer.  The largest reason for that is money that has been pumped into the cause by groups like the Susan Komen Foundation.

Instead of studying things like, (Here's another study that blew MY mind) do dolphins really smile?  Honestly, does that matter to you?  I have zero interaction with these lovely mammals that spend their lives in the ocean.  In addition, I don't think that a study that says that their smiles are created by reflex reactions is the more sure word on the subject.  How do you chat with a dolphin and see their responses to stimuli?  Instead let's spend that grant money on studying the mechanism of cancer.  Or let's put that grant money into education for our world.  How about feeding the children in our very own country that are starving in poverty?

I personally feel that spending the funds in this world, and in our very own country to make the world a healthier, better place might just put a REAL smile on a dolphin, and I know would put a huge smile on my face!  But wait, LET'S DO A STUDY ON IT!  Would someone like to give me some grant money?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

My Father

The 4th child in a family of 10 children.  My Papa adored his family.  They had almost nothing that the world at large would consider worthwhile.  Their clothes were rough, and handed down multiple times.  They had no electricity or indoor plumbing.

What they did have was unlimited in  scope.  They shared an incredible amount of love.  In their home love was not a word that was spoken frequently.  Instead it was shown by acts of kindness, and works of duty.  Yes, I said it, duty, a word that is seldom heard today.

Duty meant so much to my Father.  It meant that he served a mission for two years to serve his God, and his fellowman.  Then it meant that right after returning from his mission he enlisted to serve his country.  This was a conflict of interest.  He taught Christ's peace beyond understanding, and then daily was shooting at his fellowman.  These people were total strangers to him, but he was charged with wounding and killing them.

Papa prayed constantly that he would never see anyone that he had wounded or killed.  This was a very difficult thing because Papa was in the Infantry of the Army.  He participated in brutal hand to hand fighting.  He also was a Paratrooper, parachuting from a plane down to the ground, sometimes invading enemy territory to scout out the area.

Writing to his beloved parents he said, "So, I have seen war now.  It is nothing that I wish to discuss.  Next topic."  He rarely spoke to me, his youngest daughter about the horrors that he witnessed.

He did tell me about one man in his platoon that had been brutalized by war.  He took and kept pictures of his "kills."  Proudly, this man would share the pictures and explain how the "kill" happened.  Threaded through the images of death and dying were pictures of small children.  Small children were sometimes forced into assisting the opposing sides troops.  They made excellent scouts, and American's were less likely to shoot them.

Papa could not understand that anyone could glory so completely in violence and hatred.  It was one of the few glimpses that he gave me into his experiences as a soldier.

When Papa came home, he married his fiancĂ©.  She had stood ferociously in support of him at home.  Their wedding picture never fails to draw tears to my eyes.  Papa is so thin...the result of poor food, and illness as he fought in the foxholes of the Phillipine's and then stood as an Occupation Troop member in Japan.  The joy in his face is easy to see, and joyous to witness.  Mama...oh my dear beloved Mama that HATED, LOATHED, DESPISED having her picture taken...is completely giddy and natural in front of that camera.  You can tell easily that she is rejoicing in their reunion, and now their new life beginning together.

My Mom and my Papa worked hard together, and pulled joy from every possible moment. 

Papa suffered with post traumatic stress disorder, manifested mainly by night terrors.  (There was a vague, nebulous name for this condition, it was called "Battle fatigue."  It was not spoken about in general, it was considered a weakness.  In spite of it, he attended college graduating first with his Bachelor's and then almost immediately returning to earn his Master's degree. 

Today is the anniversary of Papa's death, 23 years ago.  There is a joy in the final reunion of my 95 years old Mother with my beloved Papa.  I rejoice in their renewed connection, but oh how I miss them!  It will take awhile for me to get to the point where my intense grief in the current separation is eased by the sweetness of memory!

Tomorrow is my first Easter since Mama passed.  Mama was the embodiment of Spring, Resurrection, and Renewal.  For ninety-five years she was battered about by the complications and struggles of earth life, the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnamese War, the death of all those closest to her, except her children, and acting as second Mama to her brothers and sisters as they faced challenges.  Her health was ALWAYS a challenge but somehow she found ways to press forward IN SPITE OF it. 

So...tomorrow I will honor both of my beloved parents.  They are reunited.  I will also think of my very own sweetheart.  I will celebrate my faith filled belief that we do not cease to exist when our heart quits beating, and our life seems to end.

I will challenge myself (and it WILL be hard) to focus on their renewal, and reunion, and look forward to my own reunion (according to my daughters in about 100 years...lol) with these dear ones.  I will give thanks to God for the idea that they continue, and that they are even now, as close as my heart and mind. 

Mama had a cherished ritual.  Each and every Easter morn the first thing that she would say to us was "Jesus has risen."  We responded, "Risen Indeed."  So tomorrow if I happen to say to you, "Jesus is Risen," please give the correct response...it will keep Papa, Mama, and Nyle close to me, and remind me what Easter is all about!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mother, My Shero

I held her frail ninety-five year old life ravaged body as she began to breath slower and slower with longer pauses in between.  How odd it felt to just let her die.  For ninety-five years she had fought hard to stay alive, so that she could give and love all that were blessed enough to be in her sphere of influence.

At the age of twenty the doctors told her that she had severe kidney disease.  The year was 1939.  There were no kidney transplants.  Surgery was not advanced enough to repair the congenital abnormality of her kidney tube.

They told her that she would spend her life as an invalid.  She would need to rest the greater part of everyday.  She should NEVER marry, and certainly she should NEVER attempt to have children.  She would die young because of the ravages of her kidney disease.

She called a beloved friend sobbing.  Somehow her friend managed to understand Mama's sob infused words.  The friend's reaction?  She began to laugh.

Mama said for years afterwards, "I thought she had gone crazy.  This was certainly not a circumstance that would inspire laughter!"

The friend finally said, "Oh Sarah, you're going to learn to take such good care of yourself that you'll outlive the rest of us."

Mama remembered thinking, "You can DO THAT?  That's a possibility?"

Thus began an intense research program.  Mama found all the books that she could and studied kidney disease.  Some of the ideas that were encased in books old and new did NOT work.  Many of the ideas DID work...obviously, because she DID outlive most of her friends, and most of her family.  (Her sister, younger by 13 years is the only living member of the family.  Even spouses are all gone).

Her beloved friend who told her, "You'll out live all of us."  Has been out lived by many, many year

Mama had many health problems throughout her 95 years.  Yet she seemed indestructible.  She still babysat for her grandchildren, and then great grandchildren until she was 90.  She made almost 80 quilts in her 80s and sent them to her grandson who was deployed to Iraq.  He gave them to Iraqi children in need, and to soldiers that were struggling. 

At ninety-five she was in a care center, unable to do much of anything for herself.  That was the ultimate blow for Mama, losing her independence.  I used to remind her, "Mama many of the people in this world NEVER get to be independent.  I reminded her of the multiple times in MY life when I have needed help with toileting, walking, clothing, etc. etc.  Still, it was hard to the day that she died to have others doing these things for her.

What is the point of this post?  The point is that many would think of my Mama as an ordinary, average, woman.  She was never in a political position.  She was certainly never wealthy in earthly ways.  Most people on this planet have never heard of her.  Yet Mama was my Shero.  (You know Hero, Shero...Heroine may be spelled differently but it's pronounced the same as Heroin.  That is a drug).  The amazing women that I know are SHERO'S!

Mother held her sister's head so that a doctor could swab and expose the wound.  (Aunt Della had two skull fractures as a child, bucked off a horse both times).  The doctor was amazed that Mama could be such a calm practical nurse at such a young age.

Mama was the woman that you wanted around in a crisis.  She learned early in her life to face the hardest things that life can hand you the need arises.  Is there such a thing as an "ordinary" woman?  I think that the phrase ORDINARY WOMAN is an oxymoron.  I have seldom met an ORDINARY woman, and my Mother was not one.  She spent her life serving and loving others.  That to my mind is truly EXTRAORDINARY!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Modern Times???

1919 was the year of my Mother's birth. The year seems about as far removed to her great-great grand daughter as dinosaurs, and cave men.  Even to those of us who have lived beyond pre-school, spanning a great portion of two centuries seems astonishing.  When Mother was born there were only three automotive vehicles in all of Bountiful, Utah.  Most of the citizenship still were using horse and buggy for transportation.

Her Father owned one of the three autos.  After Grandma Hatch helped to deliver Sarah (my Mom), her Dad, David Howard, got Grandma Hatch in the car and drove her to Farmington to deliver another Grand baby, Jane Wilcox, Sarah's "twin" cousin.  There were NO paved roads.  There was a two lane track in the earth.  It was probably snowing that day, February 15, 1919.

There was no electricity in their home.  At night they retired early, and when they were awake in the time of darkness they used coal oil lamps.  Their lovely brick home was warmed with a fireplace.  Their was no source of heat in the back bedroom where Mom spent her first years.  She and her sister Della shared a bed.  They would pretty much shiver themselves to sleep.

Plumbing, including running water, and a bathroom were not a part of those years.  There was a very well built outhouse just far enough away from the house to keep from making the house smell.  Yet it was not so far that it was unbearable to make that trip in the dead of night in the winter.

"Modern" technology from that era was far...so very far from today's ideas.

The telephone was even extremely different then.  There were not enough phone lines for everyone to have a private line, especially in the country.  The protocol was this.  You would lift the phone and listen.  If there was no one speaking you would connect to an operator who would dial a number for you.  The operators back then in the tiny towns knew pretty much everything, and anything, that people shared on the phone. 

Mama's Grandma Hatch had a Victorola.  That was a device that would play music.  You would wind it, and it had a long arm with a needle in the end.  You would place that needle on a spinning surface.  The needle and spinning created sounds.  The music would start so quickly...distorting the music, making it sound a great deal like a music box with lots and lots of cracking, staticky, ambient noise.  Then as the machine wound down the music would become slow, slower, and then eventually stop until again you again wound the device.

Laundry was a back breaking process.  You would scrub the clothing with soap, often lye, sometimes made by hand.  The lye was not too partial about whether it was cleansing soil out of clothes, or skin off hands.  Then came the wringer.  You would push the soaked, dripping clothing through two long pieces that clamped together to squeeze as much liquid as possible from the clothing.  Sometimes the clothing would take multiple trips through the wringer.  Unfortunately, if your hand got caught in the wringer it would also try to squeeze any liquid from there.

Now if you've survived the scrubbing and squeezing part of the process you will now carry the incredibly heavy batch of laundry outside.  There you will meticulously pin each item on to a clothes line to let the clothes dry...sometimes it would take all day long.  In the cold winters of Utah you either put your clothes outside and let them freeze dry, or you hung your clothing in your house.

It was a good thing that most people only had 2 or 3 outfits each.  If I tried to wash my laundry in that method, it would take me 2 or three 3 DAYS just to wash my own clothing!  When did we decided that we needed at least one DIFFERENT outfit every single day, and many times 2 or 3 outfits in ONE DAY?

Most medical maladies could be treated with"plasters."  Plasters consisted of some sort of paste, spread on a rag.  For example milk and bread were boiled together, then spread on a large rag to make splinters fester and come out.  (I actually saw my Grandma Cheney use this method.  After 5 days a large nasty splinter that would not come out entirely by tweezing had was all gone.  The splinters that had been inside her arm were now on the plaster.  Mustard plasters, I'm still not quite certain how that was made but I believe that was when you took the herb mustard, mixed it with water created a paste, then heated it.  Next you put the mess on a rag, and then put the mess on the suffering person's chest for chest colds. Or onion plasters...I think the best thing about bread and milk poultices, or onion plasters was that you could eat them if you were hungry!  lol 

Many maladies were treated with alcoholic spirits of some type.  My Mama was given whiskey or rum for many health complaints.   I'm pretty certain that the alcoholic spirits did NOT do much to cure or treat the physical malady.  However, I AM quite certain that they made you "feel" better, if you get my drift?

Here are some positive things about that era that we don't always remember.  There were NO power lines to clutter up the horizon.  There were only a few phone lines.  There was no bathroom, or indoor toilet to scrub.  We didn't NEED the television or the internet...we had the "Party Line," on the telephone, and THAT was actually much more "real," than REALITY Television is today!  The nights were really, truly dark, and ever so quiet.
Air pollution?  I don't think those two words had even been linked.

I wish that we could all take a safe trip to and from the past.  I would love to just be the "fly on the wall," watching my Grandparents, Mother, and Father just go about their everyday lives.

We quite obviously have NOT achieved the time travel type of technology yet.   I am grateful that people from the past left stories behind to teach us.  I hope that we NEVER become so arrogant about our "Modern" times that we think that those people who lived in a very different time were inferior to us in any way.  Let us never forget that the internet, smart phones, and all the miracles of technology in this era would not, and probably could not exist had it not been for all the inventions of the past.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


I have heard that there ARE people who never cry, never struggle, never feel like life is caving in on them.  My response would be either, "They are delusional and in a rubber room, right?  Or, what mood stabilizers and anti-depressants are they taking...I want some!

Of course, I would be grimly joking about both of those responses...well sort of.

It's about to get, really, really, real in this post so if dark reality offends you...RUN AWAY NOW!  Before I climb into that dark reality may I just share a short story?  Of course I can...THIS IS MY BLOG!  I can do whatever I want!   (Of course you can also chose NOT to read it...)

When times were awfully, darkly, dark for Nyle and I we would do our best imitation of Sir Robin in "Monte Python's, Holy Grail."  "Run away, run away!"  This was "brave" Sir Robin's response to any part of life that got just a little bit TOO real.

Nyle and I ran away into music, thrifting (visiting thrift shops and garage sales), books, but mostly movies.  Nyle earned his undergraduate degree in Film and Theater Directing.  An irony in his college education, he quit attending college for many years, for many reasons.  One of the reasons was that he would often HIRE his professors when he was working professionally.  He had to humble himself to take classes from men who he had sometimes taught the material that he was now learning from them.  (If you find the previous statement confusing, think about Nyle)?  He finished his diploma because he had the most credits from this college, AND my job earned him free tuition.

Well I am now facing another one of the hardest challenges of my life.  My beloved Mother is 95 and dying slowly, by inches, of kidney disease.  The cursed illness has chased her all of her life.  NOW it decides to eat her alive?  I guess I should feel gratitude that she has been able to live an incredibly full, selfLESS life.  I am...it just seems that with all the good that she has done in this world God should graciously let her go to sleep and just wake up in a better place, instead of letting her come apart in teeny, tiny, little inches.

Far be it from me to understand why one house is destroyed with the people inside in a mud slide, and the house next door is completely intact, with the people inside?  Why do
 people decide to kill their neighbors over nothing, or everything? Why did my precious baby boy die inside me at 4 months of pregnancy, and my beloved Mama lives to be 95?

I DO believe that asking WHY is an exercise in futility.  On the other hand, asking HOW?  Now that is a power question.  HOW, do I face this?  HOW do I cope with the loss of my Mother, Husband, Father, and health, and still find ways to find joy?  How do I keep getting up in the morning and living when there is so much and so many types of pain in my universe?

I ask this HOW question as a rhetorical question.  I DO have some answers in my life.  Today I had a rip, snorting pity party.  It was attended by a party of ONE...after all that is who I will be for the next however long I stay on this planet, which if I follow after my Mother, Grandmother, and Great-Grandmother will be a ridiculously long time.

There were times in my married life that I adored, loved, my brilliant, creative husband.  There were also times that I loved him, but I wanted to strangle him!  In other words I loved him but didn't LIKE him from time to time.

So, why would I believe that I would ALWAYS enjoy my own company?  The worst part is that when I didn't like my husband, or the many, many roommates I've had in my life, I could LEAVE...and do something else for awhile, and then I was usually pleased to return to whatever relationship we're referring to.

When is the last time that you tried to leave YOURSELF?  If I go in another room, I follow.  If I go to a movie, I come with me.  I just can't seem to chase myself away!  I can't even run away into a movie like I did with Nyle because it just makes me miss HIM EVEN MORE, and I'M still there with myself

This post is not intended to inspire, uplift, or anything particularly positive.  Except for one last idea.  I am NOT quitting.  Tomorrow morning will come, and I WILL go back to living the best that I know how.  Maybe that in the end is the true answer to HOW.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other...or if those feet are no longer capable of standing, keep living...whether you are in bed, a walker, crutches or a wheelchair...and I have done some of my best singing and dancing from a wheelchair.   Just keep doing your best...and allow yourself to throw a brilliant pity party once in awhile!