Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"A long December and there's reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last..." *

May the coming year bring newfound peace to our hearts, our homes, our small towns and big cities, our nations and our planet. Best wishes to all of you in 2015.

Photo shot from my backyard in late afternoon sun - 12/31/2014.
Don't you love it when Mother Nature paints with her palette of pastels?

* From the lyrics of "A Long December" by Counting Crows.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Get Me Through December

The picture below shows the small-town hospital that is nearest to all my Louisiana family members. I took this shot last year, passing by, because I thought the tree at the center of the photo looked pretty. A few days ago my younger daughter suggested that we rent a school bus, pile the whole family into it, and park it right outside this hospital for as long as necessary.

The first in a recent spate of hospital visits came a week before Christmas when my older daughter had carpal tunnel release surgery and trigger thumb surgery. She's done a good job of getting along with one functional hand and is recovering nicely.

An hour after we brought her home, my grandson checked in at the emergency room with severe abdominal pain, where tests were administered that led to an emergency appendectomy. According to doctors, the surgery itself was routine, but my grandson turned out to be the one person in five thousand whose body lacks the enzyme that rapidly metabolizes the drug used to paralyze the patient during intubation. He was left paralyzed and unable to breathe on his own for hours after the surgery. A respirator kept him alive until the drug eventually wore off; only then did the panic endured by his family members subside. He, too, is recovering nicely and was well enough three days post-surgery to get out of bed and cook a gumbo for a family get-together.

When I texted my sister in East Texas to let her know about those two hospitalizations, she told me that her husband had been in the hospital for several days with dangerously high blood pressure and severely swollen legs. I know he made it home in time for Christmas, and, not having heard otherwise, I'm assuming he's doing better now.

On the day after the carpal tunnel surgery and appendectomy, both of my great-grandbabies had illnesses requiring doctor visits. Both kids were much better a day later.

This past Friday my daughters got word that their father was having surgery to relieve pressure on his brain after suffering a blow to the head when he fell off a horse. On Saturday they made the 300-mile round-trip to visit him in the ICU. According to the latest report, he is doing well and expects to go home in a couple of days.

My daughters called while they were traveling back from that trip, and I told them I was glad they were on their way home. I felt fine but was concerned that my blood pressure readings were higher than they'd ever been--some of them in the dark-red range on this chart, indicating that I needed emergency care. I felt well enough that I hadn't wanted to go to the emergency room, and I thought I could bring those readings down by doubling the usual dosage of my blood pressure medications. By the time the girls got home, the readings were lower, though not yet in the normal range. After a lengthy discussion, I promised I would go to the ER if the numbers climbed high again, which they did later that night. Back to the hospital we went. The ER doc assured us that I wasn't in danger since I had no symptoms except a very slight headache. He prescribed double doses of my current medications (just as I had done on my own) and a consultation with my regular doctor after the holidays. I left there feeling slightly silly but reassured. My BP numbers today are right where they should be.

Early this morning my younger daughter was back at the same facility undergoing a previously scheduled colonoscopy. She's home now, she's fine, and she's getting some much-needed rest, the last of us to reach that precious period of relaxation.

Our Christmas celebration together was wonderful, but we won't remember this year's holidays for the lights and laughter, the gifts and good food. I hope we'll be able to laugh when we look back on this season as the one that couldn't be over soon enough.

And, just as I typed that last sentence, one of the dogs threw up. It was Levi, so we'll keep an eye on him.

Come on 2015!


The song is "Get Me Through December" by Alison Krauss.
Thanks to Tiffany Woolridge for posting this video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Lullaby, Peace on Earth

It's been sixty-six years since my first-grade classmates and I gathered with children from other classrooms to sit around a huge, brightly decorated Christmas tree in the school hall and sing Christmas carols. The memory is as strong as ever. If I close my eyes and listen to children's voices singing one of the first carols I ever learned, I can almost recapture the magic I felt as a six-year-old back in Missouri.

I hope you have a store of happy memories from your own past Christmases, that each year you take them out and hold them lovingly, the same way you revere the fragile tree ornaments that have been in your family for years. Even more, I hope this Christmas will bring you the opportunity to create some new magical moments with the people you love.

"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."


The song is Bethlehem Lullaby, performed by the AJ Choir.
Thanks to klingen 75 for posting the video on YouTube.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A Gift of Christmas Spirit

Once again, just like last year and most years before that, I've made it this far into December without having made a dent in my Christmas shopping. Yesterday I went to the local outlet mall to see what I could find, but in just a couple of hours my head was spinning in confusion about what to get for whom, and my knees were screaming, "Give us a break, lady!"

Today I tried a different approach. I got up early and went straight to the computer, telling myself there's still time to shop online if I do it right away. By early afternoon I had ordered exactly one thing: a pair of pants for myself. I hadn't found a single gift item that seemed right for anyone on my short Christmas list.

By mid-afternoon I was feeling discouraged, as I always do when time is short and I want so much to buy meaningful gifts for the people I love. So I gave up and took a nap. Then I read for a while. After that, I fed the dogs, then warmed up leftovers for my own supper and ate it while I watched the local and national news.

About that time it occurred to me that tonight's the night the garbage can has to be rolled out to the curb, but there I was--still in my bathrobe. I hadn't dressed all day and wasn't inclined to bother with it when there were only a few hours left until bedtime. Instead, I watched this week's results show on The Voice and waited for it to get fully dark outside.

Finally, I gathered up the trash, threw my very long, dark winter coat over my robe, peeked through the window to make sure no neighbors were outside, then lugged the trash bags to the garbage can. I'd just started rolling the can down the hilly driveway when I began to hear loud music and short blasts of sirens and horns. I stopped to look for the source of the sounds and was surprised to see a fire engine rounding a nearby corner. The big red truck was all decked out for Christmas. Recorded carols blasted out of loudspeakers as it passed slowly along the road in front of my house, its multitude of lights flashing in celebration of the season.

I, who had sneaked outside under cover of darkness, was caught right there,  alone on the hill, in streams of colored lights. And you know what? All of a sudden it no longer mattered that they could see me dressed in my oversized coat and incongruous summer sandals or see my hair that hadn't had a brush run through it in hours. What did matter was to let them know that I could see them, to let them know they had touched me.

Thank God for our firefighters. I'm sure they've seen much scarier sights than the apparition of an unkempt old woman emerging from the darkness, waving her arms wildly, traces of sentimentality glimmering in the corners of her eyes, and a smile on her lips almost as bright as their emergency lights.

 Fire Department - Gonzales, Louisiana
Photo dated December 18, 2006

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Game Time: My Move

Today I did something I'm not proud of. I voted in a congressional runoff election for Edwin Edwards, Louisiana's 87-year-old, four-term former governor, four-term former congressman, convicted felon. I voted for him in the general election on November 4th, too, with just as many reservations, and was surprised to see him get as many votes as he did.

There were a number of Republicans on the ballot in November, and votes were split among them, resulting in Edwards getting more votes than any other candidate by a narrow margin. Things are different in today's runoff election. This time Edwards has only one opponent, Republican Garret Graves, whom I expect to beat him soundly in this red state.

I voted for Edwards both times as a protest. There was no candidate I wanted to support in this election. Garret Graves might be a decent guy, I don't know, but he seems to be toeing the party line every step of the way, and I expect Washington's puppet masters to keep him reined in tightly if he's elected. I hope Edwards gets enough votes that Graves will remember that there are plenty of people in Louisiana who didn't choose him, plenty who expect more of a U.S. congressman than to do what was the overwhelming theme of his political ads: stop Barack Obama. There's already been too much stoppage in congress; now I'd like to see them get a few things done.

If I've gambled wrong, and Edwards somehow pulls out a win, I'll be shocked. In that unlikely event, I'm counting on the fact that he got little if any support from the Democratic party and, therefore, may not feel as obligated as he might otherwise have been to political party movers and shakers. He might welcome an opportunity to buff some of the tarnish off his image by representing his constituents rather than the powerful one-percenters. At his age he can take a stand without having to worry that unpopular congressional votes might generate repercussions that negatively affect his long-term political future. Plus, he did say this, which I'm pretty sure is true, about his decision to run for congress: "I can't make it any worse."

It is now a few minutes past eight o'clock, the time the polls closed. I'll watch the returns and then sleep comfortably in the knowledge that in the days ahead there will be no more political ads, no more robocalls, no more glossy mailouts that twist the words and deeds of both parties' candidates, no more lies, no more games.


It's Saturday--time for a Saturday Song Selection--and it's kind of sad yet kind of reassuring that the lyrics of a song made popular in 1969 still apply today. Sad that we haven't made more progress, reassuring that the game playing has been going on for so long without causing total destruction.

The Song is "Games People Play" by Joe South.
Click here to read the lyrics.
Thanks to murpicus for posting the video on YouTube.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Home is Where the People Aren't

The quieter it is in my house, the harder it is for me to leave it. Right now I need to go grocery shopping, but the dogs are all sleeping. How can I bear to leave this peacefulness and head out into the busy marketplace?

Sometimes I think I have a case of agoraphobia-lite. It's similar to real agoraphobia, except that the fear is removed, the anxiety reduced by half, and a fair amount of self-indulgence and antisocial tendencies are added to the equation. I suppose that makes it exactly like garden-variety introversion. I don't panic at the idea of going out among crowds; I just generally prefer not to do so. There are certain things so good they would overcome my reluctance to leave home--a must-see movie based on a favorite book, a James Taylor concert in an intimate setting, a figure-skating exhibition--but shopping isn't one of them.

I have never and can't imagine that I will ever insert myself into the "fun" of Black Friday shopping; no bargain is that good. And you would be surprised at what I'll eat for dinner if it means I can postpone grocery shopping one more day. Today, when there are actually two viable dinner choices in the freezer, staying home is a no-brainer.

Grocery shopping is hardly the worst thing, of course. Yeah, it requires bathing, dressing, doing hair and applying minimal makeup, but at least it doesn't involve a lot of talking to people. Parties are much more difficult unless I know all the people there and they all know me well enough not to be offended when I leave early. Family parties, in fact, are wonderfully comfortable. I look forward to them.

On the other hand, the pressure at parties full of strangers is almost insurmountable. I skipped a toddler's birthday party two years in a row, intending to show up both times, then bailing at the last minute. I rationalized that the toddler, whom I love dearly, would be too excited about her gifts to notice whether or not I was there and that her immediate family members (who are also mine) would be too busy for me to hang onto their coattails while pretending to be invisible to the other guests. Lingering guilt is the price I pay for skipping the parties.

So here I am today, home alone with four sleeping dogs, happy as a pig in you-know-what, even if I know it means I must get an early start tomorrow or suffer the consequences of an empty pantry. The good news is, if I make a good shopping list and do a thorough job tomorrow, I won't have to go again for a week.