Wednesday, April 27, 2016

If you say you are going to call, then call!

I heard a noise on my roof, and then saw leaves and twigs floating down. I hurried to the door and saw a ladder against my house. I knew who it was—a company I called last week to clean out my gutters and replace the old covers. They estimated a hefty price, but the gutters have been neglected since I became the sole decision maker around here. I agreed to the work on my house and the stand-alone garage. But my last words to the owner were: You will call me before you come, won’t you?

I distinctly remember him saying, “Of course. We’ll call you before we come over.”

So why were three men working on my roof before I even knew they were on my property? Three leaf blowers whirred like monster bees. It was 4:30 in the afternoon and I was on my way out for a 5:00 appointment. 

I had no time to prepare for this invasion. Had I known they were coming at this time, I’d have my little dog secured inside and I would have covered myself, especially my face before going outside. Dust flew like a tornado had wrapped my house in fury.

As I tried to go out to talk with the men, my dog slipped past me, and I didn’t even know it. I imagine she was curious to see what all this ruckus was about. I stood outside as far from the blowing dirt and dust as possible and screamed up to the men. No one heard me or maybe they were simply ignoring me.

I hurried back inside to put little Lexie in a safe place until I returned home around 8 p.m. That was when I found she was gone. I searched the house twice. I went outside and yelled above the leaf blower that now was blowing away the debris that had come off my roof.

“Did you see my dog?”


“My dog must have gotten out and I can’t find her. If you had called me like you said you were going to do, I’d have been ready for all this.”

Obviously he could not have cared less about my lost puppy. “What’s her name?” 

When I told him, he hollered a few times, Lexie, Lexie, and then went back to blowing the deck, the ramp, the steps and I went to my car.

I drove around our circle looking for my tiny little companion that I loved so much. No sign of her. She loves to ride with me and I knew if she saw the car, she would come running. Maybe she didn’t stay on the circle. Maybe she headed up the mountain through the woods. Would she come back? Would she know to come back?

It was after five now. I called to explain my no-show. I came home, wondering if I had locked her in a room without knowing it. She is so small and quick, I have done that before. When I miss her, I retrace my steps and open a door. There she is so happy to see me, wiggling her little body and white-tipped tail in total joy.

But, once again, I found the house was empty. Would I find her before dark? I went back to my car and started out again. This time I planned to stop at each house and ask if she had been there or had been seen. Just as I reached the bottom of my driveway I saw her, trotting happily down the street heading home. I don’t know where she had been, but I opened the car door and she popped right in. I hugged her and she gave me kisses on my nose.

I did not go back to my house. I was due at a writers’ meeting at six o’clock and it was five-thirty. I made the decision. Lexie would go with me. I’d feel far safer with her in my car than at my house with the crew working on my roof. Besides, I didn’t know what I might say to the business owner if I had to face him in the state I was in. I wanted to scream at him, and I wanted to tell him I would never hire him again.

I try to be as courteous as possible whether in a business situation or in personal contacts with people I know. If I tell you I will call before coming over, you will not be surprised to see me knocking on your door. Many of us have our pet peeves about repairmen showing up unexpected or not showing when expected. If I have to have the cable guy come out, I prepare to be home all that day, no matter what time I was given by a friendly voice two thousand miles away.

You might say that coming to my house without calling is my biggest pet peeve. I sometimes stay in my pajamas all day if I am writing or not planning to go out. I might not answer my door if someone shows up without calling first.  I like to know who is on my property and who is standing at my door before I open it.

Needless to say, the local gutter repairman will not be coming back to my house. When I came home tonight, I found his bill with the huge amount for his time tucked into my front door. I am tempted to deduct about a hundred dollars for the stress and discomfort he caused. My time is as important as his, even though I don’t make big bucks in my job.

What do you think, Readers? Do I have the right to charge him for what he put me through?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

An Angel Named Amos

Some years ago, I wrote a personal essay about Barry and a horse named Amos. I sent this essay to a company that published anthologies on various subjects. I hoped my story would make it into a book, The Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers edited by Colleen Sell.

When I received the acceptance letter, I was overjoyed. I knew this book would be widely read as were all the The Cup of Comfort books. It was published in 2008. Little did I know that my husband would die in 2009.

My story was about Barry and how he became deeply depressed after he had heart surgery. That was not unusual, I learned, but I could not find a way to bring back the man I knew and loved. While he was recuperating, trapped at home with nothing to do all day, I saw the sadness that slowly sapped his enjoyment of life.  

We had both had horses at one time and loved riding until Barry found he loved golf more. But he could not play golf while healing. I did not want him to do anything but take it easy and get well. Barry, however, had a different idea in mind. 

My story in Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers is inspiring and touching. In the book, the title was changed to An Angel Named Amos, and rightfully so. Barry was pleased to be the subject of a published story. 

The book is out of print now, but used copies of it are practically free on Amazon. It can be purchased for your Kindle. I think you can get a used paperback for just the cost of shipping. 

Click on the link above and get yourself a copy. All the stories in the book are uplifting and interesting, whether or not you love horses. I'd love for you to read how Amos changed our lives.

I'd appreciate your thoughts on my story and on the book.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Creativity is Exciting

We are all creative in some way. Housewives create ways to make their work easier, whether it is folding clothes or cooking. I find myself being creative in making my life easier now that my hands don’t work as well as they once did, and it is harder to climb stairs. Where once I could bound up and down steps with or without something in my arms, I now keep a basket at the head of the stairs. When I find something needs to go down, I put it in the basket. On my next trip down, I’ll hook the handle of the basket over one arm and go down while keeping one hand on the banister.

Creative cooking comes to me naturally as that was the way my mother cooked. She created her own recipes and dishes she made for her family. She read the daily newspapers and took note of ideas from columns by professionals. She found ways to use those ideas to make our lives better. I never knew anyone who was as creative as she when she had to stretch what was on hand to feed six people.

Fairmont Hotels have become creative in finding ways to sustain bees by having beekeepers set up hives on the hotel roof tops in big cities. What an ingenious way to save our bees and to provide honey for the hotel dining rooms and even their bars. For a number of years we have been warned that honey bees were going to become extinct. They are essential to our livelihood. Creative minds can find answers to most problems if given the opportunity or when given a challenge.

Wasted Creativity

What makes me sad is the waste of creative minds when they are turned to dishonest and criminal behavior. Every day we hear of people who create ways to steal our identities, to steal money and cause havoc with society. We have seen movies where crooks scheme and use their creativity to rob jewelry stores, hijack planes, and bring horrible disaster down on the world.

If only this creativity were used to bring about a better world. If those who use their minds to cause harm would turn that same effort to find a cure for diseases that kill our children and ruin our lives, to bring good into the world, to help rather than to hurt. I think children with limited education often  turn their creativity toward harmful pursuits. Better education and mentoring could turn the tide for them and  for us. 

Today I heard that some of the top people in Silicon Valley are thinking of putting their keen creative abilities to search for other beings out there in space. They are thought of as the top minds that solve problems in today’s world. Look what they have done in just a few years. I have no doubt they could find any alien beings if there are any.

Meanwhile, we ordinary folk go on day after day using our creative minds to write, to build, to repair, to expand, to invent, to make better, to care for, to protect, to teach, to make safe, and on and on. When I hear someone say to me, I’m not creative at all, I remind them they create when they make a sandwich. How many ways can we make a sandwich. Do we use lettuce? What kind? What condiments? Do we use cheese or something else?
My brothers. Rex Council is second from right.
I remind them they use their creativeness when they find a better way to do something in their work or at home. My brother, Rex, never went to college, but he invented a  number of products used on our farm and later at Hercules Bumpers, our family manufacturing plant. He was a  natural engineer, I think, and amazed us all with his ability to see ways to solve problems.

Do you think of yourself as creative?  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

An old friend at the Folk School

Years ago, I met a lovely young woman, Karen Hurtubise, a massage therapist at the time. As with many healers I've met, Karen's sweet, loving personality is evident in her smile when she greets you. I'm sure she is an Empath, one who feels deeply and is overly sensitive to the world around her. 

I met Karen in a writing class I taught. I found that she had not come to learn to write, but to bring an older lady, a friend of hers, who had arthritis in her hands, but was set on writing her life stories for her family. I think Karen did much of the writing for her. A very generous person, Karen drove this woman to class each week. I realized quickly that I liked and admired Karen Hurtubise.

Today I read on the folk school blog page that she is Nature Studies, Gardening, and Soap-making Resident Artist at the John C. Campbell Folk School. What a great position for her. She loves herbs, plants, flowers and all of nature. She and John, her husband, had a raspberry farm at one time. They grow turmeric now. I have to try this fresh herb and the seasoning paste she makes.

To read more about Karen's interesting story, click on this link.

Karen and John with their dogs and Karen in a class at JCCFS

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Big C - No matter what you call it, you finally have to own it.

Sharon Bray has written a powerful post on her blog: Writing Through Cancer 

I'll never forget the moment I heard the doctor tell Barry and me that my husband had cancer. I felt the young man was cavalier, uncaring, until he asked, didn't you already know? He thought, because I was there in the office with Barry, that we had already been told.

Barry Beall

In the post from the blog Writing Through Cancer, the blogger writes about how doctors feel when they must give that bad news. She also writes about the patient's feelings and suggests to us to write about when we first heard those words, you have cancer. 

Although I was not the patient when I heard those words, I was one half of the patient, the man I'd shared my life with for 45 years. Nothing can prepare you for those three words. The fear that rises inside you is unstoppable. Even if you are reassured, "This is the best kind of cancer you can have. It is treatable," you catch your breath and begin to worry about the outcome. 

We fear that word, that disease above almost any, because not only is it often terminal, the treatment practically destroys our bodies. 

I watched my brother, Ray, in his last year of suffering. His eyes spoke first of the sadness inside him. His eyes had shown the defeat from the the first. He did everything short of chemo to keep going and get well, but he had been told he only had three years. I think he believed that, so in three years, he died. 

Before his diagnosis. He was happy. Such a good and sweet man.

The day he came to my house with Gail, his wife, and told me he had something serious to talk about with me, I immediately felt a big heavy rock settle in my stomach. I had no idea he was sick until he said he had multiple myeloma, and then explained what it was and the prognosis. The doctor had told him he could expect to live three years if he did not take chemo.  

As we often do, I have tried to look back and find the good things that happened during those three years. Because he reused to take chemo, he was able to travel. He visited China. He didn't give up. He visited me on several occasions, alone, so we had opportunities to really talk with no interruptions. I treasure those times. I had always loved and enjoyed him, but he was next to oldest of the seven of us. I was next to youngest. I realized during those visits, he had confidence in me, believed in me and felt I would help hold the family together as he had done for many, many years. 

I have faced the fear of having cancer. More than once, I've had to have second mammograms to be sure there was no tumor. The morning I awoke to find a large bump on the side of my breast, I almost panicked. I was at the doctor's office before he opened his doors. It was a benign cyst, thankfully. Another time I found a small lump and doctors said it was so small we would just watch it.

Well, that is fine for the doctor to do - watch it. But after a month, I was in the hospital having it removed. It, too, was benign, but I slept much better knowing it was gone. 

Barry and I often referred to that awful illness as the Big C as if we could avoid it by not giving it a real name. You know, like not naming the stray cat so it would not really be your cat. I have a friend who feeds two stray cats, but doesn't claim them.

The Big C creeps in when we don't know it is there, and when it is found out, it seems to jump from behind the curtains dressed in the most fearsome costume, one that brings chills to our hearts, and ripples up and down our spines.

If you have never had to hear the words, you have cancer, I hope you never do. If you have heard those words, and I know some of my readers have, I pray that you overcome it, fight it as hard as you can, look for the best doctors, and hospitals for your kind of cancer. Strides have been made in the medical world today that can prolong life and even put cancer in remission. Some people, like my brother, Rex, who had a slow growing cancer, go on with life and die of another disease or illness.

The post by Sharon Bray made me pause and think about the doctors who give this diagnosis over and over and how they must feel when they do. It helps me feel empathy for the men and women in white coats who tried to help us during Barry's fight for his life. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

While I had time at the beginning  of this year, I am got back to doing genealogy research. I joined Ancestry again last year and find it frustrating as do many others. My friend, Mary Mike Keller, a genealogist who is amazing in all she knows about using the Internet for research, says they have not  made her work easier.

I have been looking for information on a cousin who was killed during World War II. I found his picture in a high school year book. I found him in the 1940 Census at home with his parents. He was seventeen years old.

I know that he was killed flying an airplane over the Gulf of Mexico by what is called “friendly fire” meaning his plane was shot down by American forces. How did that happen, no one knows. At the time he was killed, Henry Robison was married and his wife was pregnant.

Henry never saw his little boy. His son, named after his father, never knew his dad. He was raised by a good man, his stepfather, who was the only dad he knew.

I decided to see what I could find online about my young cousin Henry Robison, the son of Mother’s oldest brother Avon Robison. The young man serving in the Army Air Force, was killed and his body never found. Although his father walked the beach daily crying as the search for his son went on, he was never given any explanation as to what happened. For the rest of his life and that of his wife, Lela, their tiny house was a shell where sorrow’s shroud wrapped all who entered and permeated each thought and act of Avon and Lela.

I visited them with my mother when I was a child, and I still see the older couple with tears on their cheeks when they talked about their son.  Their sense of hopelessness was so profound that even a child like me felt the stabbing pain of their loss. Henry’s photographs wearing his uniform hung on every wall, and I remember how handsome he was.

Henry had a sister and I often wondered how she must have felt after her brother was killed. The mourning never ended in that house.  But I believe from what I have found in my research that the sister was married before young Henry was killed.

I asked Mary Mike where I might find more information about Henry. She sent me to a place online that had him listed as casualty not in a battle. He was a lieutenant. I thought that spoke well of the boy since he couldn’t have been in service very long. The information Mary Mike sent me reported his death in June 1946.

That little boy who was born after his father was shot down, is now a man in his seventies, retired professor with a PhD. He had a successful and outstanding career. His research has been published in many papers and books. He is highly regarded in his field of Science. He grew up with two half-brothers he loved and has a family of his own. But lately he has wanted to know more about his biological father’s family which is also my family.

At one time he pursued an effort to learn what the government had in their files pertaining to his father’s death. He was sent reports but most of the text was blacked out. He learned no more than what Avon had been told. Even after all these years, he was unable to get the true story of what happened that awful day.

I am told that with Henry’s serial number, which I now have, his son, Rob can write and perhaps get more information than he had before.
Aunt Mildred and Aunt Red (Earline) We miss them.

Rob has taken a keen interest in learning more about his Robison ancestors, and I plan to work with him and share all I have gathered over the years. When he comes down to Georgia to visit this spring, I plan to meet him and we will talk to all the people still living who knew his grandparents and perhaps even his father.

I am enjoying learning more and more about my mother’s side of the family. I am family historian and I want to write about the Robison history as I did the Council history in my book, Profiles and Pedigrees, Thomas Charles Council and his Descendants. Mary Mike said she has been reading my book and found the stories in the book extremely interesting. I was delighted that she liked it. She is writing her own family history which will include famous people from many countries and hundreds of years ago. Her descendants will have a book to treasure for generations to come.
We descendants of William Henry and Malula Jones Robison will gather in May in Albany, GA. If any of my readers are relatives, you can contact me for more information about the reunion.
Most  of our large family a few years ago down in south Georgia

Monday, April 4, 2016

I must apologize

I feel I should apologize to my readers. 
For the past month my posts have not been up to par, I’m afraid.  But neither have I.

On February 22, a hose, connecting my dishwasher to an outside drain under the sink, popped during the night while the dishwasher was running. My kitchen flooded ruining my floor and a section of my cabinets. 

That began a month of stress, illness, and sleeplessness for me. I am slowly getting back to normal.

I chose to stay downstairs in my basement  studio where I have a refrigerator and a microwave, a toaster but no sink or stove, while the mitigation took place in my kitchen. Looking back, I wish I had rented a cabin nearby. 

I had no time to prepare for what lay ahead. I was asked to remove everything on my kitchen counter tops right away while sheets of  plastic were hung around the kitchen to try to contain the dust, etc. that was already flying into the air from the huge blowers used to dry up the water.

Looking back, I know I should not have been upstairs at all while those fans were going, but I had no one to help me at that time. Breathing in the debris that was exposed when the floor was taken up and the cabinet was taken out sent me to bed in pain and with respiratory illness.

Three days went by while the blowers loudly did their work. I could not reach my pantry, my refrigerator or even my laundry room. 

The congestion in my head and chest was so bad a woman in the grocery store said she thought I should go to the emergency room. My doctor prescribed antibiotics when I was finally  able to get to her office.

“Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost."

I missed Barry more than I have in six years. How I wished he was here to help me make decisions, oversee the entire situation and just let me rest and get well.  But that was not the case.

First thing in the morning I am asked what I  want to do about my kitchen; repair the cabinets that were damaged, replace the section of cabinets where the damage was done, try to  match the ones already there, put in all new cabinets and new counter tops? I couldn’t think. I did not know how much my insurance would cover. I didn’t know if I could simply order cabinets and have them put in within a few days or if I had to have a cabinet company make new ones.

I have adjusted fairly well to living alone and keeping up a house and yard with a minimum of paid help. But it is not easy. I had a partner beside me for forty-five years, and he always took up the slack. When our well went dry, I went away for three days and he stayed in the house while a new well was drilled. Whatever problem occurred or new work that had to be done on the house, he was the one who hired the workmen. He and I would discuss any decisions that must be made. But now I must make decisions about things I don’t always understand.

I was fortunate that Paul who owns A-Perfect Clean took out the flooring and put in new, took out the old cabinets and removed counter tops so that, after three weeks, custom made cabinets, just on one section of the kitchen, could be installed.

My greatest fear from the flooding was mildew or mold behind the remaining cabinets, but I am assured that they are dry and have been painted with anti-mold chemicals.

With the paint, the flying debris from the blowers and stress of being displaced from my home, I could hardly manage my daily existence.

So that is the reason I must apologize for my blog posts in the past month.

I am grateful to a friend who helped me set up downstairs with necessary items, another friend who moved my computer downstairs and another friend who offered a dog-friendly house where I spent one night. During the first week, I drove to my sister’s house where she cared for me so well, I felt like facing the mess at home when I got back.

I hate being dependent on others, but am having to accept that I need help more than I did a few years ago. My doctor said this kind of change in our lifestyle often brings on illness. Our bodies don’t deal with this kind of stress so well.

Now that I am back to my stove, my pantry and my laundry room, I feel normal again. I also love the new drawers that house serving pieces and storage containers. I can see exactly what I have and I don’t have to stand on my head to reach it.

Have you ever gone through a sudden emergency situation like this? I’d like to  hear about it. Hope you managed better than I did.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Why we southerners sound like we do

A writer friend, Don Long, sent me a link to the most interesting post about southern accents. I say accents because we don't all speak with the same voice. We are the only part of the United States that sound anything like our Mother tongue, the accent of the Old Country.

Once a friend of my sister's came to visit from Chicago. When he heard my niece's southern accent, which is hardly an accent at all, he automatically assumed she was dumb, ignorant or uneducated. But after speaking with her for a few minutes he was impressed that she was an English major and had earned a PhD. 

A classmate at the John C. Campbell Folk School said he had to make a confession and at the end of our weekend together, he apologized for his past thinking. His teacher in the Midwest had told him that southern people talked slowly because they all went barefoot, got worms in their feet and that affected the way they spoke.

My college roommate, an educated daughter of a colonial in the army, told me she was surprised when she came to Georgia to go to college. She expected us to all be wearing overalls and going barefoot.

This is not old ways of thinking, I am afraid. Today's Television shows about southern people portray us all as dumb, slovenly, and ignorant. I can't imagine why any person from the south would watch those kinds of shows and help build their ratings. They simply add to the stereotype that brands all of us to the rest of the world. 

Just as all homeless people are assumed to be drunks and addicts, those of us who open our eyes, educate ourselves by reading and listening to experts, know that families with small children are living in cars and shelters. Men who work every day at jobs that pay so little they cannot save enough to pay rent sleep in shelters, and single mothers with small children who can't afford child care therefore can't work -- all fall into the homeless sector. Most homeless families are single mothers with children and most of the children are under the age of six.

I am told by someone who works with a homeless shelter in Atlanta, that the majority of the residents work every day. Their job pays such low wages, they can't get ahead to pay the first and last month on a room or an apartment. At ten dollars an hour, one can barely live. 

I wondered from my subject of southern accents, but I think the larger point here is judging without knowing the facts. How many times do we look at someone and develop an opinion about them before we know anything about who they really are? 

Whether it is the way they talk, how they dress or where they live, I try to withhold my judgement until I know the person and their character. I have been judged because of my southern accent. A man who is now a friend, once said he didn't like me because of my accent. He assumed I was not too smart. That was what he had been taught. He grew up in Pennsylvania. To me he has a heavy brogue himself, but I enjoyed hearing him talk even though he sounded far different from me.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Do you love to watch the sunset at the beach? You will love this.

I love to watch the waves wash up on the sand. But I haven't been to a beach in a number of years. I especially love to watch the sunset over the water with nothing but the sounds of the waves in my ears.

Tonight I found on Joan Gage's blog, this video and I am listening to it as I write. Watching the video from You Tube is mesmerizing just like being on Panama City Beach when I was younger and lived nearer the ocean. 

I grew up in Albany, GA, just about three hours from the Gulf of Mexico. My sister and I, and our friends, often drove to the beach on a Saturday and came home the same day. We enjoyed dancing at the pavilion and meeting kids from other places. 
When I was older, two of my brothers owned condos on the beach, and when they had vacancies, they generously allowed my husband and me to stay there on weekends.

I am not a typical beach person. I never liked the hot sun and getting sand all over me. I don't like the salt water. It makes me itch and, I admit, I was always a little afraid of it. But I love to sit on a balcony overlooking the water and letting all my cares wash away with the tide. 

My favorite time to go to the shore is in winter when I have to wear a jacket if I go for a walk. Of course, all the good restaurants and places to go are closed in winter, but still, that is my favorite time to go. As temperatures rise, I would rather sit inside with the AC than sit out in the sun. I like the mountains, where I live now, in summer. 

I had my share of sunburns and dark tans when I was a teenager. I had no idea that I was ruining my skin and daring nature to give me cancer. Now I shun the sun except in small doses and at special times of the day.

These waves are about to put me to sleep so I'd better go to bed. Check out this video and let me know how it makes you feel. 

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Baby, beware - scented laundry detergent can trigger asthma.

For Joyce Miller, a 57-year-old professor of library science in upstate New York, one sniff of scented laundry detergent can trigger an asthma attack. "I feel like someone is standing on my chest," she says. "It's almost like a choking feeling—pressure and choking. And then the coughing starts."

I can understand what Joyce is feeling. At home where I breath fresh unpolluted air and can control my environment, I am fine. But when I am out where people are near me, their scented products start me coughing or bring on symptoms of asthma. 

A lovely young woman helps me in my home and tries her best to remember not to wear fragrance when she comes to work. What she doesn't realize is that her clothes reek of the scent in fabric softener.  Fabric softeners are one of the worst products for those of us with respiratory problems. 

The manufacturers will not divulge what chemicals they use to make the smell in their fabric softeners. All that the government requires of them is that they list "fragrance" or "scented" or "parfum." This lets us know there is something added to make it smell, but we have no idea what. The chemicals might contain formaldehyde or another cancer-causing petroleum-based product. The public has not yet made our voices clear about this. 

Natural smells like most flowers do not irritate my lungs, but scents used in personal care products are manufactured from petroleum products. They are harmful.

Are you as concerned about what you wear next to your skin all day and all night as you are about what you ingest through your mouth?

Have you considered that the rash or skin problem you fight with lotions could be caused by your clothes that have been contaminated in your dryer or in your washing machine? The same house keeper washed a mattress cover for me in her washer. She said to me with pride, "I didn't use scented laundry detergent." She knows I use 7th 7th Generation Free and Clear or I make my own detergent with hand soap and washing powder, and I clean with only vinegar and water. 

However, she put the mattress cover into her dryer where fabric softener sheets have been used. Those sheets not only permeated her clothes but her dryer as well, and she will likely never get that smell out. I can't use my mattress cover now. 

If you know someone with a new baby, please tell them about the dangers of using dryer sheets and scented laundry products on a baby who doesn't yet have a strong enough immune system to handle these strong chemicals. Could the air freshener in the room, the scented baby lotion, the baby clothes washed with scented laundry detergent and dried with dryer sheets cause that baby to have an asthma attack in the night? Would the parents be aware? What damage is being done, silently, to an infant in his own bed?

Many are wondering if autism, early asthma and many of the illnesses of infants are caused by the chemicals they are bombarded with when they come home from the hospital. Some doctors have told mothers to try leaving off their perfume when with the baby or throw out all the air fresheners in the house and they find the child's breathing problems go away.

Older people, people weakened by illness, and young children seem to be most easily harmed by these chemicals used in almost all of our household and personal care products today. Babies are born with over 100 harmful chemicals in their bodies. Some of those chemicals have been banned for 30 years, but there they are, in a baby born today.

 I urge you to read your labels and even though you can't find out exactly what is in the bottle or box, if it has the word fragrance listed, leave it on the shelf. Read more about what you can do now to help prevent polluting ourselves and our children in a later blog post. 

For more information on this subject:

Monday, February 29, 2016

Diversity is needed in local government

I really don't understand why a local community should have their school board or their county commissioners listed by political affiliation  on the ballot.

The people on the school board should be concerned about all the children in the county and the way to use the money allotted to them. They should represent all  people in the county, not a  particular party. I don't need to  know if a candidate is a Democrat or a Republican. I  need to  know what they feel is important and what they plan to do when elected.

Our county moved up from a three member commission to a five member commission. We are the smallest county in North Carolina. We should have some diversity of opinions and ideas with  more people involved. But Clay County has all Republican white men on our commission. 

Knowing this, I feel my needs are not going to be considered. We need at least one woman representing us. We have a  hard-working woman, who does so much for our community as a volunteer, running for  commissioner this year. If Sandy Zimmerman is elected, I will feel that I have someone on the commission who cares about what I care about.

In the past, I had very poor results when I approached my county commissioners. When my neighbor up on the mountain behind me built his house, every time it rained, the mud from his lot washed down over my driveway, my flower beds and on into Lake Chatuge, polluting the  water. The man who sold him that lot was dismayed that he did so little to stop the erosion onto our property.

No one in our county leadership could or would do anything to help me. I called and wrote letters and was finally told that I should contact the North Carolina Environmental agency, but was also told that no one would ever call me back. I had no recourse. We have no protection from those who build on the mountains above us.

We hired someone to come and shovel the mud, which was three or four inches deep, off our driveway and haul it away. That was expensive. The rest of the damage we had to  repair ourselves. The man who was responsible for this didn't offer to pay us anything. He is a man of the cloth, by the way.

I think a woman commissioner would have empathy for situations such as this and would help me if she possibly could. I know I  would. I hope our county will vote for Sandy Zimmerman this time around. She is a tireless worker for Hayesville and Clay County, and she feels she could do even more if she were a commissioner. 

When you  do the same old thing with the same old people, you get the same old results. 

Diversity is so  important in leadership. Women often don't  support other women who strive for leadership  positions. I am afraid  that many women are still hung  up on the old idea that only men should be leaders in our society. They believe that men have the ideas and women do the work to  implement them. I am afraid that is especially true in the rural south. I think it comes from what  is taught in some local churches. Women are taught to be submissive to men. Women are taught to take care of  men who then will take care of women. 

I have seen so many women make important changes in our culture. When most women get the opportunity to serve, they  do it with their conscious and with their heart. Sadly, many capable women will not run for office because of the meanness of the public and the unfair attacks on them such as those Trump has thrown out in his speeches. 

It is harder for  women to move into places of leadership, to become doctors, or be accepted in other professions that  are conventionally held by men. I  know some women doctors who had a hard time getting into medical school, not because of poor grades, but because no one wanted to believe in them or invest in their education. Even after they are working, treating people, I sense the defensive attitude they developed and the prejudice they continue to feel. 

I worked in a man's world when I was younger, and I know that prejudice. Successful men often want only beautiful women on their team. The women are like possessions the men can flaunt to the world to show their own importance. While improvements have been made over the years, change comes slowly and inequality is alive and well.

We need more women in leadership positions in the nation and in our local politics. We need the fresh view of a  mother or a sister or daughter when matters of great importance are on the table. We need someone who  will not let ego get in the way of diplomacy or negotiation. 

I plan to vote for two women running for office in our county. One is listed as a Republican and one is a Democrat. Their party affiliation makes no difference to me. Reba Beck  taught in our schools for many, many years. She volunteers her time to our community in vairous ways. She and Nancy Simpson created the Arts and Poetry competition in the local schools some years ago. We need her on our local school board along with all  those men who also serve.

We need Sandy Zimmerman  on our county commission to help bring in businesses and tourists to our mountain town. We have one of the most beautiful counties in Western NC , and we have less tourists than any of them. All who know her says she is a tireless worker for the CCCRA and the Historical and Arts Council in an effort to make our community a better place. I think Sandy can make a difference. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Assisted Suicide or Aid in Dying and Why

Barry Beall, strong and athletic
Aid in Dying  is not assisted suicide.

Every time I see a discussion or article on the subject of human beings having a choice in how they die, I think of two people: My husband and my aunt.

I remember standing beside my aunt along with my sisters and my sister in law, holding the hand of my 98 year old favorite aunt. She had developed pneumonia and was admitted to the hospital. When her breathing became difficult, she was placed on a respirator. After a day or two, doctors declared it was time to remove the respirator. It wasn't long before the elderly lady began laboring to breathe again. She  was asked if she wanted to go back on the respirator and she said no. I don't think she had any fear of dying and said to me that she had lived out her life span. But she didn't choose to die struggling in panic with every breath. I will never forget her pleading eyes and her whisper. "Help me. Help me." 

I am sure she was begging for someone to put her out of her misery. I could not look her in the eye and I couldn't speak because of the tears and the lump in my throat. I prayed that she would die soon. She didn't deserve to suffer, this kind and beautiful soul, but she laid on that white pristine bed as her lungs filled. If she had been in a river and begging for help, someone would have come to her rescue. But no one helped her in that hospital. 

If we had an animal on the farm that was injured and in pain and if that animal could not be put back on his feet, he was "put down." He was put out of his pain because the kind thing was to stop his suffering. My aunt had no choice in how she was to die. She drowned in her own fluids, slowly, as her loved ones watched the monitor hoping each breath would be her last.

There are things worse than death and only if you watch someone suffer unceasingly, or if you are the one suffering, can you really understand how important it is to have the choice of dying with dignity and have aid in dying peacefully.  

My husband of 45 years had lived a good and fulfilling life when he was diagnosed with B-Cell Stage 4 Lymphoma. It was found when his  leg became so painful his doctor did an MRI and found a tumor just above his knee. A biopsy at Emory Hospital in Atlanta led to a diagnosis. He handled radiation and chemo like a champ. He drove himself to his treatments and believed his oncologist who said if you have to have cancer, this is the best kind to have.

After six months of treatment and enduring constant pain, he was told he did not have to come back to  see his doctor for three months. The PET scan showed the tumor 98 percent gone. We were told the cancer had not spread. But something was not right. The swelling in the leg was severe, and the pain grew worse and worse. The oncologist prescribed Oxycodone which barely knocked the edge off the pain. After our pharmacist called his office and said Barry needed better pain management, the doctor prescribed morphine. Still, he was not  told to come in and no one in the office seemed to think his condition was unusual.

Thinking  his cancer  was gone, we searched for other causes for the pain and swelling. We found a lymphedema therapist who said she could help reduce the swelling. She had a good track record. His pain grew worse and his leg soon broke out in huge sores that looked like bad burns. 

Barry was in bed more than he was out of  it and said sleep brought him the only respite. One day he told me he wished he could just go to sleep and not wake up. Watching him suffer and having no way to stop it broke my heart. He had to make the pain medicine last so he could not take it more often than prescribed. 

When we finally saw his doctor, the man was horrified when he saw Barry's leg. "My God, Man, what has happened to you?"

I wanted to scream and say, "I thought you  were going to 'manage' this 

From that day until two months later, my husband suffered the worst kind of pain. 
I had to beg doctors at Emory to admit him. He had to have some pain relief. Our local doctor was not affiliated with Emory so he and the doctors there didn't communicate with each other.

That was when I learned of the competition between medical companies. The patient doesn't matter. Emory doctors would not call the local doctor who was with Georgia Cancer Center to discuss Barry's past treatment. I called his local doctor who said, "If they want to call me, I'll talk to them."

I cried in frustration and felt like a lamb being led to slaughter. So much for our wonderful medical system, the so-called best in the world. Capitalism at its worst. These two medical businesses were no different than Ford Motor Company and General Motors in competition with each other. 

It was apparent to me that the doctors at Emory considered him hopeless and were cold and as impersonal as they could possibly be. One even sneered at me when I pulled out my daily journal of Barry's care and treatment that I had kept meticulously trying to be sure we didn't miss anything or forget anything important.

Once in the hospital at Crawford-Long, a hospital owned by the Emory conglomerate, the  nurses were fantastic, but doctors spent two weeks trying to diagnose what was going on with Barry's leg. At first Infectious Disease was called in. He was bombarded with antibiotics for every disease they could imagine. I knew  it was the cancer. Why didn't they  know? Finally a dermatologist made the diagnosis. It was B-Cell Lymphoma. 

Meantime, wound care came in and began treating his leg as if he had third degree burns. Sadly, only they really knew how to clean, medicate and bandage his leg from knee to ankle. The nurses on the floor had no experience and found it hard to do. Some were heavy-handed and some could not bear to hurt him while they pulled off skin and flesh, spread a white cream over the raw muscles and tendons, and wrapped his leg again. Eventually, he asked the nurses to  let me take care of  his leg, and then the nurses watched as I carefully removed the bandage and cleaned his leg. They stood by and handed me what I needed. 

Days turned into weeks. Doctors came and went and I didn't like any of them. Only one woman physician seemed to have a heart. She apologized one evening because Barry had been in so much pain that day. She said it was her fault and it wouldn't happen again. But it did. 

All during these sessions, twice a day, he suffered. But he was a trouper and sang hymns to keep himself from screaming or crying.  

He was on heavy morphine every four hours, but it seemed the cleaning and dressing period came just before he got his injection or just as the medication was wearing off, the break through pain that all cancer patients know so well.

For more than a month, Barry stayed doped up and tried not to complain. 
He didn't want me to know how much he hurt. His condition only got worse and when it was clear to  the doctors that our choice was either more chemo that would likely cause heart failure, I was told it might be best to check into hospice. He had one twenty-four-hour chemo treatment that greatly weakened his heart. That resulted in his having two battles to fight - heart disease and cancer.

At that point, I knew what he wanted. We had talked about this possibility, and he wanted  me to make the  decision. If there had been an Aid in Dying Act in Georgia, I would have brought him home where he wanted to be, where he could see his dog and lie in his own bed. He would have had the choice of taking prescription medicines that would help him go to sleep and not wake up - just as he had wanted.

We  did not have that choice. We could not stop his suffering because the doctors in the hospital would not or could not prescribe enough of what was needed to stop his pain. By this time his dignity had been lost. My proud husband could not bathe himself, he could not walk or stand without help. He could not go into the bathroom. This was a man who had always been athletic. He played tennis when he was younger and played golf until cancer struck him down like a blow to the head. When we first married he taught me to ride dirt bikes and I taught him to ride horses. He was  physically strong until this disease took everything from him.

He hated losing his  quality of life, being cared for like he was a baby, and he knew he was not going to  get well. But he was left to  suffer. I chose a Hospice center near the hospital. I insisted to the doctor that they do everything possible to stop his pain. That was my only request. They stopped dressing the leg. He developed a fever which meant he had an infection. If he continued to live, the doctor said he would suffer more from the infection, probably MRSA, which attacks the most vulnerable. Barry was certainly vulnerable and a likely candidate for this disease that is resistant to antibiotics. 

I could not bear for him to feel even more pain. I wanted him pain free even if it meant complete sedation. I just wanted him to have peace. The staff did what I asked. I will always be grateful to them.

When you go through something like this and see that death is not to be feared, but welcomed, you advocate for Aid in Dying. It is not assisted suicide. The patient would rather live. Aid in dying is for a terminally ill person to hasten the end instead of suffering a long drawn-out dying process. It relieves the  patient and the family from traumatic suffering. 

When I talk with older people about death, they almost all say, "It is not the dying I fear, but the process of dying." I understand. 

That process and the suffering that often goes with it, like that of my dear aunt, is what we all fear. If palliative care is the best alternative, I haven't seen it. Even hospice care at home is not the answer for a suffering patient and his family. The suffering continues day and night when the  pain medicine no longer works. Family members often don't know what to do. They give the oral drugs as they are told. They are not trained in pain management, and the nurses only come when they are needed. 

Some private care hospice workers are good and some are not so good. A friend of mine had home hospice care for her husband who had an inoperable brain tumor. His pain became so intense she could not keep him in bed. But the local hospice doctor would not increase his pain medicine. One day she sat on the floor with him after he fell and she could not get him up. She said she pulled a blanket over them both and she held him as hours passed before anyone came to help her.