Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zippidy Doo Dah!!

We made it! 'Tis the last day of the A to Z Challenge and we have crossed the finish line, hands held high, fists in the air, broad smile for all to see. The gauntlet was tossed and we proudly picked it up. We have completed something that may seem small, but is something to be proud of.

It is accomplishment.

It is fulfillment of a promise.

Click your heels together, sing on the rooftops, dance in the streets! It is now time to celebrate and heave a sigh of relief that after thirty days we have finished what we have started.

Pin a blue ribbon to your chest, put on your best outfit, and go celebrate!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Yawn

For those who do not keep up with time stamps on postings or on my Facebook, it may shock you to discover that I have clinical insomnia. Yes, I am afraid 'tis true. I stay wide awake unless I force myself to sleep...and that is not an easy thing to do. Ambien is my friend, and sometimes that does not even help.

I have tried warm milk...and promptly vomited.

Then I tried to cut out all caffeinated drinks completely. After the withdrawal wore off, I noticed that my sleep problems did not.

I tried the over-the-counter approach. I have to take so many of them at one time to get them to force me to become sleepy that I began to fear I would overdose in the quest for sleep.

If left alone, my body would go for three or four days without sleep. Then, finally then, I would fall asleep and sleep all day.

This, as you can see, is a problem.

I lay my head down and my mind simply races into all sorts of places. While this may be good for my writing muse, it is unproductive for the purpose of sleeping. I toss, I turn, my back hurts and aches. Every sound distracts.

Annoying, really...

So unless I force my mind to shut down, I do not sleep. My husband, not suffering from insomnia ever in his life, does not understand why I cannot simply just "lay down".

Oh, if it were only that simple!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for ...Well, I think I'm stretching this one...

Cross-stitch!! Also known as X-stitch, so I know for sure I am stretching this blog to fit my purposes, but it works!

I have always said that cross-stitch is an adult version of color-by-number. You have a color coded pattern to follow in order to create something beautiful. But like anything, you can cheat.

Embellished cross-stitch patterns have the background stamped onto it and all you have to worry about is finishing the details. In my opinion, humble as it is, this is cheating. Whenever I see embellished cross-stitch patterns I just want to take a strong flame to them! They are easier, less work to do, and cheating.

I much prefer the counted cross-stitch patterns. A blank canvas that calls to be given life with strings of color. Yes, it is much harder and if you miscount...well, just don't. Hm, if you do, then the cross-stitch definitely becomes an individual work of art. Which, if you think about it, each one is a work of art: hairs get caught in the thread, dirt rubs off of hands and slightly distorts the coloration of the string, and even some food and drink becomes spilled onto the material. Thank goodness it can be washed!

I have discovered that I am truly gifted at cross-stitch. Not only can I follow patterns to have elaborate works of art, but I can create my own! I can cross-stitch without a pattern (free-lance, if you will). Once I have finished, I frame them and either sell them or give them away as gifts.

In all my time of doing these projects I have learned a few things that I would like to share with others either starting out or merely interested:

~Wash the threads BEFORE you use them in your cross-stitch! The instructions say to do this and it is for a reason! I made the mistake of not doing this for a Civil War cross-stitch, and when I washed it after it was completed to get the dirt out the colors ran! That was several years ago and I am still embarrassed! My buyer still purchased the completed, framed work, but it took many painstaking hours of carefully taking gentle stain cleaners to reduce the damage. It is hard to see the mistake now unless you know exactly where to look--but I know!

~When washing the thread or the completed work, Woolite is your friend! Use cold water, a little Woolite, and hand a sink...with your own hands. The string will fray any other way, and the completed work might be damaged beyond repair if you are not gentle with it.

~Dry threads and completed cross-stitch by gently rolling it into individual towels. Rolling it keeps it from creasing and the towels not only absorb the water, but if the threads are determined to run their color, it will keep it from getting on the other threads.

~Be flexible! If you miscount, which will happen at one point, be able to flex with it and fix it on your own. If it does not completely, 100% match the structured pattern, who cares? Most of the time others cannot tell if you strayed, and the slight difference makes it uniquely your own.

If I can figure out how to do so, I will include some samples of what I have done with brief descriptions. The main thing to remember? Have fun!

This is the one I am working on now. I am nearly done. I still have to finish the grass and all the detailing. Then I will start on my work of art: a huge cross-stitch that depicts ladies from the Civil War in their hoop skirts! (Very excited to start that one!)

I did this one for my best friend when she got married. This was the first cross-stitch I ever completed that it had alternate patterns included so you could make it even more suited for who you were doing it for!

Here is the Civil War cross-stitch I did, called 'Gettysburg'. I do not have any actual pictures of the completed one since it ran the colors:

This is what I did for my daughter when she was born. It was great fun to work on this as she grew inside me, knowing that I was creating something for her to keep!

I have many more projects completed and many more I have waiting to do. I love to cross-stitch!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for WoW

WoW is not an exclamation, but an acronym for World of Warcraft. Yes, I am hopelessly entangled in that world and have been for several years.

Where else can you have complete control and get to kill things without worrying about being arrested for it later? Actually, you are told by the local law enforcement to "take care of it" so you have permission to kill things. You get rewarded for it! Gold! New armor! Food!

Dying is a pain, but there is always resurrection!

I proudly state that I have a level 85 human mage (for those who are not aware, level 85 is the highest you can get ...before the next expansion is released, that is). She cooks, fishes, knows first aid, can tailor and knows enchanting to enhance armor.

Hm, she's more accomplished than I am!

No matter how much she eats, she stays a size 8. Her clothes always fit, and enhance her abilities. She doesn't say much but she's deadly and she has a reputation with many of the lands of Azeroth.

It is a land of fantasy that I can actively participate with more freedom than a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel. I have met several helpful people, none of whom I have actually met. The ones who became friends are actually allowed on my Facebook! They live in California, Utah, Europe...we might never meet face to face, but we are truly friends and care for each other.

The only thing that I wish I could change is that it costs each month to enter this land of play and achievements. Yet, when I cannot afford to go to Azeroth, that is what a good book is for!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Self Promotion!

I have resisted the urge to speak of my published work and now V blog offers the perfect opportunity! Why is this so? for vampires.

A summary of my work and then a blurb to hopefully leave you wanting more, or perhaps to purchase it? Oh, I can only hope!

Samantha is mysterious, beautiful, and a vampire. Chris Stanton is not sure what she wants with him, a mere human, but is shocked to discover that she wishes to train him in how to kill others of her kind. Yet before those lessons begin, he must understand how a vampire is created, and for that Samantha tells him her story.

Turned against her will, college student Samantha Edwards is thrust into a life of violence and blood. As she begins to learn of her new powers, she also uncovers information on how to keep a shred of her humanity. Balancing the two worlds is difficult in the extreme. While she plays the part of dutiful lover to the Master Vampire, she stalks the day to kill the others in the cadre. It's a dangerous part to play, for if the Master Vampire suspects her, her own life will be forfeit.

But for a vampire who is undead, what other risks could she take?

Can Samantha retain her humanity while flirting dangerously with desires she cannot fully control?

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Vampire's Apprentice:

Evening seemed to settle a little earlier than usual to Chris as he swiftly strolled to his house. It was located in the center of a city block surrounded by identical squat homes with tired shutters and fading paint. His eyes flicked constantly to every angle in order to catch any hint of movement near him. The hair on the back of his neck prickled and he could not decide if it was because of his nerves or if someone—something—was behind him, following his every move.

“I will guard you, as I said I would.”

Samantha’s words rang in his mind as the last rays of the sun dipped into the earth, leaving Chris alone on a street filled with menacing shadows in the glare from the streetlights that were sporadically positioned about the street. When he reached the alleyway that he normally walked down to his house as a shortcut, he hesitated. The alley was a mass of gathered darkness. Anything could be lurking there, waiting for him.

Oh, come on, he scolded himself sternly, trying to reassure himself. The light just faded. There can’t possibly be a vampire there yet; it’s too early. If you hurry and go now, you can get to your warm, cozy bed without any problems. He finally convinced himself that there could be no danger and shifted his weight to step into the alley.

A deathly cold, immensely strong hand shot out, latched onto his left arm, and yanked him backwards. A dark shape slammed him against the brick wall of a store and he found himself staring into Samantha’s cool, pale blue eyes.

“What?” He gasped, trying to recapture some of the air that had been forced out of his lungs by the hard impact of his body against brick.

“Silence.” Samantha’s answer was clipped and harsh, her eyes distant, her head cocked to the side as if listening. Gradually, Chris quivering in unknown fear, she let go of him to stand slightly ahead of him. Very slowly and almost inaudibly, she cautioned, “Do not continue toward your house, Mr. Stanton. They do not know that this is where you dwell, yet I can hear them waiting to catch sight of you. We will silently back away and retreat to my home instead. I need to give you something of importance. Come quickly.”

Briefly, he wondered how he would be able to follow her if she, in the gloom of early night, became a shadow again. He knew that she was aware of his limitations of sight. His mind was further put at ease when, encountering their first obstacle of darkness, she guided him through the deepest pockets of shadows lying against walls, crates, and anything else large enough to hide two people behind.

On this second journey to Samantha’s house, conscious and alert, Chris noted the winding path that Samantha took through the mostly deserted streets. They glided through cramped alleyways between rows of more low-income houses with almost every window in the houses dark as exhausted workers dropped into an innocent, deep sleep to forget the mindless tedium of their existence. Then they traveled three streets north of his residence and two west. Samantha directed him into an alley and pointed to a large, dark green dumpster at the mouth of the alley.

“Stay here, still and quiet,” she growled softly to him.

“You’re…” Chris heard his whispered voice squeak and tried again. “You’re leaving me here?”

Before she turned her back on him to gaze out of the alley, he saw in the nearest streetlamp’s glow an expression of amusement flit briefly across her face. “You will be fine. I will only be gone a moment. Keep a low profile, Mr. Stanton.”

He shook his head as Samantha smoothly began walking toward a house lit by only a single streetlight.

Oh, yeah, he thought sarcastically as he slinked closer to the dumpster, trying to ignore the smell of rotting food. As if a big, still mass of warm blood isn’t going to attract your precious little bloodsuckers right over here.
With a sigh he realized he ought to be watching the street, so he turned his head to determine where Samantha had gone. By the light of the lone streetlamp, he saw what he surmised to be her house by the neglected appearance of the outside structure. The shutters were hanging on to the side of the windows by sheer will alone. The paneling was rotted and sagging while the bricks of the chimney were crumbling, leaving gaping holes in the unsteady structure. The house’s exterior lacked all of the dignity of its interior with Samantha’s old furniture and graceful touches that gave the inside of the house its character. He frowned as he looked at the startling contrast of the house with his memory of the inside. Was the dilapidated appearance to keep others away and not know the secrets within, perhaps? He was sure of one thing: if he saw this house under any other circumstances, he would definitely not even walk on the same side of the street just in case it decided to collapse on him while he was hurrying by.

His eyes caught a faint movement near the bushes that overran the side of the house and soon he could make out Samantha’s form as she crossed the street and charged straight at him. He stayed crouched down low as she swiftly entered the alley and dropped something into his lap, hissing in pain. She leaned heavily against the dumpster, shifting it slightly, and croaked out, “Put it on.”

He could tell that he was taking longer than she would like, but the chill air and darkness was causing him to fumble with what she had dropped into his lap. She peered up and down the street and growled, “Now. I did not hurt myself just to amuse you.”

Finally, his fingers found the clasp on the necklace that she had given to him, and he fastened it behind his neck. “Care to tell me what this is all about?” he asked her as he stood to flex his sore muscles from squatting so long.

Not looking at him as she continued to watch the dark street, she explained, “It is silver. It will protect your neck from them. It does not have such a strong reaction on me, though it still burns if I hold it too long. Keep it. I received it too late to help me. I will not make that mistake with you.”

Chris found that he had no reply, or at least none that would not reinforce his ignorance of her history. He sighed quietly, feeling the cold of the silver around his neck. Abruptly he realized that just because his neck was protected did not mean that he was entirely safe from the other vampires.

“Why does she wait?” she changed topics.

It was the first time that Chris had heard Samantha use a singular pronoun when talking about their pursuers and it caught him off-guard. “She?”

Samantha glanced at him quickly, and then returned her observant gaze to the street. “The fledgling who challenged me, my prize. The one I thought I could convince to help me is the ‘she’ I speak of. Her name is Chloe. Learn it well, for she wants you dead at all costs.”

Her news disturbed him and yet, oddly, it caused him to grow calm. This was a dangerous time for both him and Samantha; he knew that without doubt. If events unfolded to become the worse-case scenario, it would be two against—how many? He crept up to the edge of the alley and glanced down the side of the street that Samantha was not currently looking. “So,” he tried to ask nonchalantly. “When is this Chloe going to make her move? Is she going to wait all night? I’d like to get some sleep. I’d also like it if I could be ready to fight, since I’m going to be your target from now on.”

Samantha sighed, exasperation welling up in her. “You do not need to do anything. You need to act innocent, if you know how.”

He stopped looking up and down the street to study her. “Do you have a plan that you haven’t told me?”

She never once took her searching gaze off of the street. “The longer they think that you are not with me, the more likely it is that you will be spared.”

Chris swallowed and tried to ignore a slightly odd feeling that was crawling its way up his spine to the back of his neck. “And…what will you do when they come for me?”

This time she did turn to face him and her eyes flashed with a dangerous gleam that suddenly frightened him beyond words, making him remember who and what she was. “Leave that to me.”

After a moment, her eyes softened. “Now I suggest that you walk as casually as you can and perhaps you will reach the other side of the street alive. They are there, waiting. I cannot feel their exact locations…but I know that they are there.”

He could not see anything in the deep pools of darkness where the streetlights did not reach. “How did you know, back at my house, that there was anyone there if you can’t sense them? Were you expecting some sort of ambush tonight?”

“Yes,” she informed him, slinking back into the shadows as she thought she saw an almost imperceptible movement near one of the buildings. “When you left your work building tonight I could feel that something was not right. I saw shadows detach from the walls and follow you, so I came as well.”

Chris studied her for a moment, trying to see past her unbreakable shell of this impassive facade to the one who had decided to ensure his safety at all costs. For some odd reason, he smiled. “Thanks for the warning.”

Frowning at his smile and not understanding what lay behind its meaning, Samantha did not return it. “You are only fortunate that I got to you before they did. You will have to be brave for what I am going to ask you to do, tonight and all the nights after.”

Flippantly, he responded, “I doubt that I have had a choice but to act with courage since I met you, what with vampires and death and all that.”

A reluctant smile appeared fleetingly on her face before she resumed watching out of their hiding place. “True, Mr. Stanton. But this may cost your life.”

Chris peeked out at the street again and said casually, “Well, you could refer to me by my first name or my nickname if you want so much from me. I don’t want someone calling me ‘Mr. Stanton’ as I die. It’s kindof impersonal, you know.”

“Should you live through this, I will call you whatever you wish,” she shot back.

“Well,” he mused, stretching out his arms and legs. “As long as you’re not asking me to submit myself to being tortured or killed, I’ll do it. I have little choice anyway. There’s no way I can return now to my normal life, knowing things as they are now. Nothing I can do now but trust you.” Trusting her did not seem to be a bad choice on his part, since she was the only one who was keeping him from the other vampires at the moment.

“True,” he heard Samantha say softly. “You have no choice. You will only be killed or captured if caught, which I will do my best to prevent. And I must trust you, Mr. Stanton, do not forget that. It is the way of things.”

“Is it just me,” Chris abruptly changed the subject, suddenly anxious to have this done with, “or do all vampires have difficulty getting to the point?” He smiled wryly.

Samantha brought her head around, trying to decide if he was insulting her or being funny, and decided it was humor at his smile. “If you were as old as I am, you would have all the time you need to ‘get to the point’. Now, we must act, before they do.”

“Samantha,” he grabbed her arm fiercely. “Is your own life in danger?”

Softly, she told him, “My life was forfeit long ago.”


Interested? I surely hope so!! If you want more, you can go to and search for Vampire's Apprentice. You will see my true name, but I think that you will enjoy the book!

And....I'm working on a sequel!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I have recently come to understand a few things about myself and my family:

That love comes with heartache, but can be regained once lost.

Parental love should be continual, unquestioned in sincerity, and not requiring a grandchild as a price of admission for acceptance.

That my Grandmother was the wisest, sweetest woman I ever knew.

May 14th will be the hardest day of this year to overcome with grief and sorrow as my Grandmother's one year passing is finalized.

That a person's sense of self-worth is most often fashioned from how others perceive them and value them.

My daughter is already an accomplished actress at the age of two.

And that the rocky gravel one has traveled upon to reach this point in life helps pave the way for someone else to understand their own path.

Most of these understandings have come at great personal cost. I hope to the depths of my heart that no one else know some of what I have experienced. No one should have to know that their parents value their progeny more than themselves, or that they feel worthless based solely upon everyone else's opinion of them.

I reach out through the medium of the internet to seek an understanding soul--and not to be discouraged. I take great personal risk to reveal even what little I have said.

Please do not think little of me in my darker hours.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Triggered

For those of us cursed with mental illnesses, it can be sometimes difficult to explain the inner workings of our minds to others. Even more so when you have a disorder that renders you unable to talk or communicate in any way once you are triggered. A trigger could be anything: a sight, a smell, a touch, a memory, etc. For those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or dissociative identity disorder (DID) a trigger causes more trauma and pain by rendering yourself helpless to stop what your mind subjects you to. Brief science here: in your brain, you have what is called the lymbic system. I do not claim to be an expert on this, but I have learned more about this "storage area" of the brain that I ever wanted to once I was diagnosed PTSD with DID.

Think of your brain as a filing cabinet. Something happens and the memory goes to be filed away in the cabinet. On a normal day, this is done quickly and with no problems. But if something that the mind perceives as traumatic occurred, the file becomes fractured and gets filed away wrongly. It doesn't even get filed together....some parts go here, some parts go there, and others over here. The brain does this to try to protect you from something it thinks you cannot handle at that moment. If the memory file is in slices and filed in different places, then it is harder to become triggered to the memory that caused the pain.

Yet the body adapts. As humans we have amazing regenerative powers, and none more astonishing than in our own brain. As we grow older, more mature, add more experiences to our lives--the likelihood of becoming triggered in some way increases. And happens. Something you saw brought a flashback to your mind. You are helpless as the flashback takes control and can do nothing until it is finished. Then you regain yourself once more.

In time, these disturbances become more frequent and more intrusive. It gradually gets to the point where you feel yourself sliding away into your own mind. You can hear what is being said to you, you can see most of what is around you, and yet you cannot respond. You no longer have control over yourself. No one else does either (which is why DID is not always a multiple personality disorder--with personality disorders those unfortunates DO have Someone Else take over...but that's a whole different discussion). Time passes, but you do not know how much. You can lose hours at a time, stuck inside your mind. You shout inside your head, but no one can hear you since you have no control over your mouth. You are fighting, fighting for control again. And again, you will have it. In time.

I write things such as this better in prose form. Here is my attempt to explain it from my own point of view:


Whirlpool pulling me under
Hand outstretched reaching for salvation
Going down
Into oblivion
A place I know well
A hell of my own making
Scenes play around me
Aware of what is surrounding me
Screaming but my mouth does not move
Pleading for rescue
Demanding to be released
Imprisoned by my own mind
Beating on the walls around me
Invisible yet unbreakable
Code phrase pulls me up
Out of the gloom
Different each time
Shaking stops
Twitching stops
Sound returns
Heart returns to normal beating
Breathing evens and calms
I open my Eyes
In Control once more

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Awareness

April is Sjogren's Syndrome Awareness month, so how could I not blog about it on 'S' day?

What is Sjogren's Syndrome? Sjogren's (show-grins) is an auto-immune disease that is chronic and has the person's white blood cells attacking their own moisture producing glands. Most people experiencing this have dry eyes and dry mouth, though there are several other symptoms.

I was diagnosed with Sjogren's when I became pregnant with my daughter (now two years old). Suddenly, the world made sense to me as the doctor explained this disease to me. I am always thirsty, my mouth is always so dry that I have to constantly drink something, my eyes dry out even with the super-hydrated contacts. No matter what I do, no matter how much I drink, I am always dry and wanting more.

I have what is called Primary Sjogren's--meaning it does not occur (yet) with any other disease, such as Lupus. There is no cure, although there is a medication that can help alleviate some of the symptoms. This medication is over a hundred dollars a month--not feasible for someone unemployed or on a fixed income. Secondary Sjogren's comes along with another autoimmune disease (mostly Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis).


Muscle pain.

Back pain.

Difficulty concentrating.

Dry skin.

Numbness in fingers and toes.

Difficulty swallowing.

Recurrent nose bleeds.

These are just a few of the problems someone with Sjogren's suffers from. Not necessarily all at the same time, thank goodness.

What do I suffer from the most? Severe dry mouth which shut down my glands to the point where I did not produce saliva. Why is that such a problem? Saliva helps to wash germs from the mouth, decreasing gingivitis. Without this ability to produce saliva the gingivitis reigned supreme and eventually rotted all of my teeth. Two or three at a time, starting at the left side of my mouth and traveling to the right, would expose nerves and abscess. Then they had to be removed.

At the age of 27 every tooth in my mouth had been removed. I have bottom dentures, but am waiting to afford the top dentures. I am finally without the tooth pain, finally able to eat (soft) sweets and some candy again, where I had not been able to eat candy or chocolate for nearly ten years. I still have dry mouth and have to take frequent drinks. I have a spray that produces saliva in my mouth for me for those times I can't drink anything (like during church or preparing for surgery), and I have a mouthwash that does the same while making me minty fresh.

I have to use special eye drops to moisten my eyes on a regular basis. I was told I need surgery to plug the tear ducts in my eyes so that my eyes will keep more moisture. I have not yet had the money to do this.

I have chronic back pain that I was told by one doctor required surgery. I went to a specialist for a second (and better) opinion, and he informed me that surgery would not fix my problem since the pain stems from my Sjogren's. I am currently undergoing physical therapy for my back--if it works, I will have to do physical therapy the rest of my life.

My Sjogren's needs to be frequently monitored to ensure it does not also develop into Lupus or cause liver problems. This requires blood work every six months (which I do not have the money for either).

Most of the people affected by Sjogren's are women in their post-menopausal years. I am one of the rare (but increasingly not becoming so) women who have it so advanced at so young an age.

Awareness of this disease needs to be spread. There is so much more to this, and I am still learning new aspects of it every week! Please check out the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation website for information and become more aware of this disease that plagues more than four million Americans!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Reality Check

As we become adults, we learn to let go of those things that we keep in childhood idealism. Our parents try to warn us of many of these, but one thing that is never spoken of until experienced is fantasy love.

"Happily ever after". It's at the end of every Disney movie and every fairy tale with a happy ending. The prince and princess fall madly in love, share a romantic (and chaste) kiss, then ride off into the sunset.

What happens the next day?

In our world today, we are inundated with stories and movies having a continuing story. Yet, even in these sequels hardly do we ever see that true love does not beat all odds, that the hero saves the day, that the villains get their comeuppance.

Surrounded by these ideals, I grew up as any big-eyed dreamer. I saw myself being saved by a "white knight", being swept off of my feet, and living happily ever after. I knew the Little Mermaid songs by heart, saw myself twirling on a hillside like Belle, and always knew I would be forever happy once I found that someone special.

...Can you feel the 'but' coming on?...

I had a wonderful, romantic relationship. I was blissfully happy. Blindly happy. Stupidly, naively happy. And it all ended a week after our one year anniversary.

I will not state so publicly what caused the destruction of my dreams--it is not particularly important at this time. What is relevant is that I received the harshest reality check of my entire life. I admit I became a bit bitter, a tad angry, and slightly resentful toward my spouse. I left him a couple of times to try to settle my head and my heart, and when I became pregnant things only complicated tenfold. If not for my daughter, I probably would not be with him today. I would have given up long ago.

How many times can your heart break before it shatters completely?

How many ways can you be run through by deceit and lies?

Please believe me when I say unequivocally that I still love my husband--yet I have learned that witless love does not exist in the real world. Love comes with heartache, suffering, bruising, and healing. Healing is the part which takes the longest and is the hardest to do. A scab begins to form and then it is ripped off to become twice as sore as the original. I am trying to heal, to forgive--but I find it hard to do so when every time I try, he repeats that which broke my heart the first time nearly five years ago.

I love him, yet without trust, is it enough?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Quirky Questions

We all have questions as we move throughout this life. Why is the sky blue? What does 'intangible' really mean? Do I look like a celebrity?...But the really important, philosophical questions are often pushed to the wayside. It is my job to force you to consider what you would otherwise ignore!

Why do we park on a driveway, and drive on a parkway?

Why is black considered a color when it is actually the absorption of all colors?

How do we know that chicken tastes like chicken? Who decided what tasted like what? How do we know that chicken isn't actually tuna?

Why do we consider the night sky 'black' when if it were truly black, we would not be able to see a single thing in the sky--not stars, not the moon, nothing?

How many lights are in a lightspeed?

Why are they called the dog days of summer? Do they bark? Do they shed? Do they poop on your lawn? Do they eat your shoes?

Why is the Lone Ranger called 'lone' when he always has his friend, Tonto, with him?8

Why are hot dogs sold in packages of 8 and hot dog buns sold in packages of 10?

Why is sandwhich bread square and sandwhich meat round?*

Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?

What do people in China call their good plates?*

On Gilligan's Island, where did Ginger get all of her changes of clothing when it was only a "3 hour tour"?*

Why do blondes have more fun?

Why do some people have horse sense? Do they whinny and snort?

Where did we get the phrase 'speed demon'? Did someone actually see one zipping along the street?

Just a few philosophical points to ponder!

*Creative license for these questions go to my good friend Cayla, who helps me waste an ridiculous amount of time each day coming up with some of these!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Baby!!

Motherhood has been the most wonderous (and frustrating) experience for me. I have learned how to look at my world with new eyes and re-discover the joys of childhood. But getting to this point was a difficult journey. Worth it, but very difficult.

It was a May morning and I did not have to go into work until much later that afternoon. For the past month I had been feeling a no outright vomiting or body tenderness to indicate anything major had occurred. On a whim, not really thinking of positive results, I decided to take a pregnancy test. Since I had been trying for nearly two years to have a baby and had been met with a miscarriage and only disappointment, I was not going to get my hopes up this time. I urinated on the impossible stick for the appropriate amount of time, then set it aside to ferment as I finished preparing for work.

I had nearly forgotten about the test! I peeked in the bathroom to sneak up on the stick...and my knees went out on me. I landed heavily on the (thankfully closed) toilet lid and stared at the readout.

Pregnant. I was finally pregnant.

This was such an important moment to me that I cried. I had been told for seven years that I could never have children. I had envied others with children, hated them, and wistfully wished for my own. Now, finally, I was to realize my dream.

But how to tell my husband? It had to be quirky; it had to be memorable. So I kidnapped him from his place of work, took him to Ruby Tuesday, and anxiously waited for the main course to arrive. For the following to make sense, you must understand something about my husband: he loves villians. More specifically, Darth Vader, but he roots for the villian like most people root for the superhero. He has always said that he wants to rule the world (with me at his side in a slinky red dress--ha!).

So I faced him across the table and folded my arms. "You know how you're always saying you want to rule the world, and you need minions to do so?" I asked him.

He gave me an apprehensive look but nodded.

I passed the (wrapped up and sterilized) positive pregnancy test to him. "Now it begins."

I thought he was going to pass out.

To make nearly nine months go by quickly, I will now hit the highlights. Through my initial pregnancy bloodwork, it was discovered that I have an auto-immune disease called Sjogren's Syndrome (and April is Sjogren's Awareness Month, in case you did not know--see here:

How does this affect an unborn baby? The potential risks are extreme: heart defects, undeveloped lungs or other major organs, infant lupis--these are the major risks to the baby. Risks to the mother? Almost as bad: blood clots in the lungs or legs (which could lead to death), the mother's body attacking the baby as a foreign object and harming it, kidney failure, liver failure, difficulty breathing, heart problems, and more. To put it into a summary: I was now classified as a high-risk pregnancy.

I am sure my insurance company hated me by the end. Due to my high-risk status, I had to have ultrasounds every six weeks to check on the progress of the baby and the development of the baby's organs. (Due to the frequency of the visits, not knowing the baby's sex would have been next to impossible--good thing I am impatient and did not want to wait anyway!)

And I did have problems. At one point half of my amniotic fluid disappeared. It just...vanished. Thank you, wonderful Sjogren's which causes horrible dryness... So I had to massively increase my fluids intake (we are talking at least one glass of water every hour) and go back in a week to monitor the fluid. Thankfully, it went back to just about where it needed to be, and stayed that way.

Then there was a problem with the development of my (by now we knew the baby was a girl) daughter's bladder. Two weeks later, it corrected itself and she was fine.

The main issue? Shortness of breath. This problem caused numerous emergency trips to the hospital at all hours of the day or night. (The third shift crew members at the local IHOP grew to know us by name...) My doctor was mostly concerned that I had blood clots in the lungs. Several Cat-scans and MRIs later, a breathing specialist determined that my healthy, breach baby girl was comfortably resting on my lungs. Add this to my pre-existing asthma and you get a mother who literally cannot take five steps without passing out.

Third trimester came after a huge struggle. I was cautioned to rest, but with a job as a social worker, there is no such thing as 'rest', so my doctor forced me to do so with bed rest. The days crawled by. Finally, around the end of October, I began having so many problems breathing that my doctor worried about my safety in carrying the baby. Not only this, but (being a petite woman) I was very nearly running out of skin to stretch. To this day, I have stretch marks past my knees and into my arms--I was very near to running out of room. My doctor gave me two steriod shots to boost not only myself, but the baby, in preparation for an early delivery. Any week now and my doctor knew she might have to take the baby out early to keep me alive.

We went from one tense week to another. October became November. Thanksgiving slowly passed...and then the doctor took one more look at me--huge, miserable, in pain, could not breathe--and decided to do a C-section on December 10th, almost three weeks before my daughter's due date of Christmas Eve.

I was relieved. I had enjoyed having my daughter grow inside me, but after eight months of nearly constant worry about her and myself, it would be nice to finally meet the sweet little face that I had suffered for.

The morning of the C-section dawned and my daughter was determined to enter the world feet-first. Her staying breech only confirmed my doctor's decision to slice me open across the stomach. I was prepped and extremely nervous. I was wheeled into the operating room and instructed to sit on the edge of the cold metal table, my backside exposed to every person in the room. A young man probed at my spine in order to give me the epideral. The problem with this? My spine is out of alignment and so my nerves are not where they should be. This poor guy poked for fifteen minutes to find the magic nerve and had just voiced to my doctor that he was going to get his superior when all of a sudden my right knee went numb. When I told him this, he poked again and it went numb a second time. Finally, he had figured out where my nerves were!

Right before he stuck me with the epideral, my doctor said, "Okay, now as soon as we do this, swing your feet over the side of the table and scoot down."

Okay. I could do that. Piece of chocolate cake. I was injected, my spine started going numb, I swung my legs over...and flopped onto the table like a dead fish.

"Now, scoot down," a nurse said.

I started laughing. There was no way in this world I was going to be able to move my heavily pregnant self down that table now! As it was, the entire team had to pick me up and move me. HA!

The blue sheet went up to block my view, my husband was told for the fourth time to sit down, and the C-section began. I developed an epideral headache, but worse than that the ceiling dome lights were brand new! Why is that bad?

Brand new=shiny.

Shiny= reflective.

Reflective=I can see everything that the doctor is doing. Actually it was rather fascinating, in a disguisting kind of way.

Okay, if you have read up to this point, let me give you a few funny stories that are now legends in the family.

1) When the baby comes out of your body, the baby's skin is blue since the baby has not been around oxygen much yet. When the doctor showed me my daughter, I thought, "Oh Lord! I gave birth to a Smurf!"

2) The baby is also covered with this whitish stuff that is called something technical, but nicknamed "cheese". They had not cleaned off the cheese from my daughter's skin when I saw her. My doctor said, "Here is your daughter. Don't worry about her being covered in cheese--we'll clean it off." I thought, Cheese? What kind of cheese? Swiss cheese? American cheese? Chedder cheese?....What kind of cheese?

3) After I was wheeled (and drugged heavily with morphine) into the recovery room, I still could not feel my legs or feet. For some odd reason, I began to cry. My husband asked me what was wrong, and I asked "Did they cut off my feet?" (My stupid husband answered that yes, they cut off my feet, but that was okay since I did not need feet. His mother nearly killed him for that since in that drugged state I believed him.)

It was a long road, but it was worth it. My daughter is beautiful and strong...and very, very two right now. She has a name that means something ("She who has honor"), and I hope she grows to appreciate that one day. She might hate how unique her first name is, but I think that she will learn to love it. I cannot wait to see the young woman she becomes!

Honoria* Elizabeth was born by C-section December 10, 2008 at 8:30am in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She was eight pounds exactly and twenty inches long. She is my entire world wrapped up in laughter, temper-tantrums, sunshine, and twirls!

*Honoria is pronounced ah-nor-E-ah

Monday, April 18, 2011

One Day at a Time

My grandmother is never far from my thoughts around this time of year since she has been gone from me a year in May. While falling deep into depression and mourning once again, I reflect on the things she taught me. Or, more importantly, one thing in particular.

Grandma and Grandpa had a favorite song that also became their favorite saying: "One Day at a Time". When I was younger, I would scoff and not understand the importance of this philosophy. My future stretched before me and I eagerly sought many days: sixteen, eighteen, twenty-one, graduation of high school, college, moving away from my parents, marriage, graduation from college... It all seemed endless and bright. There was no possible way I could focus on just one day at a time!

Time and experience has given me wisdom. Now I look back on that young, naive girl and want to hit her in the head with a hard-soled shoe for not appreciating what she had each day. The time with family, the history she did not want to sit and listen to, the experience of years given freely, the love and acceptance wrapped in each hug and smile. I can see it all so clearly now and I yearn unhealthily for those days to return to me.

One day at a appreciate more.

One day at a love more.

One day at a see more than just what is in front of you.

One day at a miss those who have left even more.

So as the days draw closer to the day I lost my precious grandmother, I know I will only make it if I adhere to her advice to take it one day at a time.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for.....New friends

I wanted to dedicate this post to my new online friends that I have met while beginning this challenge. You have all been so supportive and encouraging to me as I began the journey of learning to blog. And with yesterday's slightly depressing statement, I have been surrounded by love and support!

You are amazing and wonderful! To reply individually to each one of you would be to repeat the same sentiments: Thank you for your words! Thank you for your comfort! Thank you for being understanding!

I am grateful, now more than ever, that I was "forced into" this challenge since it has given me the great opportunity to meet each one of you.

To my new friends, from the bottom of my heart, thank you all!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Melancholy

This shall be short.

I am feeling very melancholy. I have secluded myself with my computer and my Reece's peanut butter cups (which does nothing for my waistline, but helps improve my mood slightly). I have my music to either brighten my mood, or indulge it.

I do not feel like talking, I do not feel like writing very much or being insightful.

I suppose we all have these days...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Love

A bit cliche, I suppose, but I wished to write about love for the L blog. Mainly about how love matures and grows with wisdom and time.

Most of us grow up knowing a parent's love, whether it be from a biological parent, or someone who took over that role. This love is a support to us in our darkest adolescent years, and helps us to understand who we are becoming. This love is always there for us, no matter what dastardly deeds we may accomplish. This love is never in question and is often taken for granted.

As we grow a little older, we begin to develop friendship-love. This love we save for a few select friends. It is tested by harsh words and hard truths, but in the end is only strengthened to become nearly unbreakable. We may move away from our friends, we may hardly talk to them, but we know that they are only a phone call away. When we speak to them, it is as if no time has passed and there is no distance between us. This love never fades and only dies when we both do.

Then we turn our attention to romantic-love. We search for our soulmate, the one person who mirrors the best of us, who knows our skeletons and chooses us anyway. This love endures through the days where we are sick with the flu, hair a mess, unwashed, irritable, wearing pajamas and fuzzy slippers. This love is grown and takes both to slave at it night and day to have it mature. This love is tested like no other and is most often broken before it is tendered. This love cuts more than any knife, hurts more than any wound, and is more rewarding than the highest achievement ever dreamed. Most often this love is given up on as hopeless; once the heart is broken, one or the other leaves it on the wayside. This love can build on bitterness and sharpen defeat. Yet this love can be the most unselfish and giving of all. It can soften the hardest heart and create any bond. This love is the hardest to keep and the hardest to give up. It goes beyond "I do" and "You did this to me!", and becomes old, wrinkled, and senile. It is warm summer nights, wafting breezes, ocean sunsets, starlight, magic, and fulfillment. It is everything to have and the toughest to hold. It is all-consuming and wonderful to behold.

And, finally, there is the reversal of parent love. We ourselves become parents and experience the love we so selfishly ignored as children. It is instantaneous and begins before we ever meet our children. It starts as a butterfly's wings and develops into a future of hope. We savor it, cherish it, and know that our hearts will be broken over and over. We willingly enter into it and are daily reminded of our choice. Sometimes we regret it--until we are wrapped in little arms, given little hugs, and slobbered with little kisses. It is the little voice saying "I love you" and the wonder-filled gaze in a little face. We re-discover our world in the love of our children.

Love surrounds us and completes us. I thank God that I am able to love!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kryptonite for Sale!

Welcome to the annual blow out bonanza of Supervillian Sunday! As usual for this time of year, Lex Luthor, billionaire and psychopath, has ordered more kryptonite*** than he could possibly use against the caped crusader, Superman!

Kryptonite can best be described as radioactive ore from the planet Krypton. When Krypton was blown to pieces (some attribute this to civil war, and others to General Zod), these beautiful babies were hurled across space, along with an alien craft housing a small alien child.

What are these minerals used for, you may ask? To warp Superman! (Disclaimer: None of these ores can be used against any other superhero not born on Krypton as Batman, Spiderman, The Flash, The Hulk, Captain America, and The Fantastic Four have merely looked at the rocks quizzically and then promoted defeated their nemesis--for more information on this lack of power, buy the new book Testimonies of the Superweak: A History of Pathetic Villains written by Boy Wonder.)

Compare these beauteous raw rocks! The color determines what havoc you would wish to inflect on Superman: Green is the most famous kryptonian ore.

This rare little beauty causes immediate pain and will kill within hours. It can cause cancer in normal humans--an added bonus! A mere ounce goes for the deed to a small planet!

Red is always a favorite for the villain who does not wish to kill, but merely to gain a sidekick! The crimson rock has shown to cause Superman to lose all moral inhibitions and to exhibit criminal-like behavior. It can be yours in exchange for your latest devious device!

Gold K has the most mystery around it for no one is quite certain what it can do. Some say it will permanently remove Superman's powers, yet newspaperman Clark Kent (from The Daily Planet in Metropolis) argues against this theory, stating instead that gold kryptonite is merely a deluded form of red kryptonite. Superman declines to comment. (No gold k is available for sale at this time as all of our supply mysteriously vanished overnight.)

A special little ore that has a double use is blue kryptonite. Similar to the color of a brilliant sapphire, blue kryptonite weakens Superman's powers, but also nullifies his ability to be affected by green kryptonite. Villains, use this one cautiously! Price: twenty henchmen Two for one!

Black kryptonite (a super-heated green kryptonite) can split Superman's personality into "good" and "evil". The wise villain would have a green kryptonite ready to dispose of the "good" Superman, thus craftily seducing the "evil" Superman to their cause. You can get this priceless baby for the low cost of your most loyal minion!

White kryptonite is usual for killing your garden to allow your weeds to flourish, but has little affect on Superman. If you wish this, it is given away free in the Destructo Lounge.

Do not be fooled! Silver kryptonite is not white kryptonite! Silver K causes mass paranoia in Superman, providing hilarity for the villain to watch. Superman will think all his allies have turned against him, becoming a danger to them and himself. Silver kryptonite is extremely rare and its creation unknown. The only known piece is in the Luthor Vault (see Lex Luthor for bargaining).

This is a once in a lifetime sale which will end on the last day of this month! Failure to obtain even one piece could result in other supervillains openly mocking you at cocktail parties! Do not delay!

***Kryptonite effects based mostly upon Smallville scenarios***

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Our Judicial System is a Joke

The title of this blog may have angered you. It may have piqued your curiosity. You may want to hurl hard objects at my head, but here you are, reading just the same, trying to dispel that little piece of curiosity that begs to know: what in the heck is she talking about?!

This issue is very simple and has long irritated myself. In our development as a society we have decided that every single living being in America (except the undeserving poor) deserves to have "the good life". What is the "good life"? For Americans this would consist of a television connected to cable, three hearty meals a day, and the freedom to workout in a gym (our decision to use this or not, as well). Who else has these freedoms? The prisoners who have broken our laws and thumbed their noses at our rules. And what do they get in return? A structured environment that includes television and weight-lifting. Three solid meals a day.

This is hard to deliberate on. They are humans, so should they not be allowed their human rights? Or does breaking the clearly defined laws of the land negate them from this privilege? Is it a privilege, or society's duty and responsibility to treat even prisoners with courtesy and respect? Do murderers and thieves deserve respect? Do rapists and serial killers equate the luxury of being allowed to watch soap operas or even the daily news that might give them bragging rights on if their crime is featured?

I am not suggesting that we return to the days where prisons as horrible as Andersonville or Alcatraz, maybe Devil's Island or Sing Sing. But surely there should be a clear line drawn in the sand that they are being punished.

What are your thoughts about having "luxuries" in prisons? Should televisions and weight-lifts be allowed as part of the prison routine? Or should we strip them of their luxuries as they strip us of our innocence?

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for I Admit

Who can truly self-analyze themselves and come to the conclusion that they need perhaps a bit of help? As a social worker, this is something we are encouraged to do quite often in order for us to help others better. In my latest self-analysis I realized I am part of a growing trend: internet addiction.

I admit that I simply must get online each day to check my Facebook friends and see what has been happening in the world of my friends and associates in the few hours I was away. I am truthful enough with myself to know that I am not addicted to the games on Facebook (though I am a part of way too many of them!)--I am addicted to the connection to the outside world in a way that is comfortable to myself.

I have always been an introvert, prefering to stay inside and read a book than attempt to make a fool out of myself trying to make friends with the local children. The few times I attempted to seek friendship I was viciously rejected, driving me further into my self-isolation. I escaped my lonely world through the adventures of other characters and sought companionship in my cat, who never rejected or humilitated me. I was content; I was socially isolated.

Then the world of the internet opened up (and became faster). I discovered that I could be myself through the written word and obtain friendships with others that otherwise might not have accepted me in a live situation. Online I had no peer pressure to worry about, and I thrived. I went to college, made a few (live) friends, we graduated and moved back to our prospective states, and then distance made it nearly impossible to spend time with them.

Until Facebook came along.

We found each other once again through this internet tool and have been in constant, even daily, contact since! A friend I consider my soul sister who lives in Texas converses with me every day, and we are able to indulge ourselves in constant Scrabble games with each other--all due to Facebook. Is it a wonder I've become addicted? Who would not be if you could re-connect with dear friends, keep in touch, and share in each other's lives this way?

Facebook is free...stamps cost money, as does paper and envelopes.

Facebook is instant...mailing a letter takes weeks for a reply.

Recently, I have become aware of a growing problem besides addiction to the internet, and this is internet bullying. Never one to really think of my age, it was brought to my attention that the younger generation is dealing with this horrible and unneccessary problem. In our world that allows anyone who can type to create a website on absolutely anything they can dream, some mean-spirited teenagers are using this medium to attack and spread hate. Emails, instant messaging, Facebook, websites...all are used to create a world of misery for others. Unlike when I was younger when I could run away from my taunts by simply going home, now our teenagers are being targeted while they are at home as well. There is no reprieve for them. Teen suicide is rising, and there is a distinct and direct link to internet bullying.

What can be done?

As adults in today's society, we should be more carefully monitoring our teens and the mediums that they use. This is not only for their safety, but for others' safety as well. We should filter their inbox and outbox, block certain content from being available, and closely watch whenever they log into the world wide web. Perhaps if we adults become more vigilant, we can help decrease the misery and deaths of younger people. I know that we as parents do not like to think that our child would be involved in tormenting someone else, but we cannot keep blinders on. We, the parents of these children, are responsible as well for these rising suicides if we do not do our part to keep our children from contributing.

Perhaps I am hyper-sensitive since I was "teased" growing up, but I will do what I must to ensure my daughter does NOT either become a statistic nor adds to them.

Internet addicted? Perhaps.

Internet blinded? Hopefully never.

What are your thoughts about internet addiction and internet bullying?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Rediscovering History!

I am an incorrigible and completely hopeless history fanatic. Especially the Civil War. No, I do not like, nor agree with, the idea of slavery in any form or fashion. What fascinates me is the 'brother against brother', one nation divided into two pieces, over an ideal. When I was younger, my greatest joy was to participate in Living History re-enactments (both North and South portrayed) around Georgia and Tennessee. I have had the honor of visiting the site of Gettysburg (and yes, I cried nearly the entire time we toured that monumental site) and of being a member of the re-enacting regiment that hosted the 140th Anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee (let me tell you, if you have never cleared a tree, it is definitely not an easy task!).

I always knew the stories of my family--that there were five brothers who fought in the Civil War in the same battalion. Yet where was the proof? We did not have any paperwork that showed us the actual roster to prove the claim.

Until last night.

I have recently become an avid watcher of the show "Who Do You Think You Are?" and the season finale featured Ashley Judd. If you do not know the premise of this show, basically they take a famous person of our time and research into their family tree, then video the results. Ashley discovered that her three times great-grandfather was not only in the Civil War, but had an emergency field amputation which he survived. As I finished watching, I decided to visit the website and see if I could find previous episodes. During that search, I saw an advertisement for were hosting free Civil War records searches for this week.

Naturally, I simply had to do this!

What I found was astonishing and only opened more questions for me about some of the brothers. Here is a brief commentary on what I discovered: The oldest brother, W.H., and a younger brother, W.B. (seventeen years difference) both enlisted with the Confederate Army on October 25, 1861. A year later, the younger brother was promoted to "full corporal" on May 13. I wonder if that irked his older brother?

On that same day of promotion, two more brothers joined the Confederate Army, James and J.G. (second and third oldest of the boys). They were all four in the 34th Georgia Company C Infantry. J.G. was promoted to "full 4th sergeant" (no date given) and James was promoted to 2nd lieutenant on February 12, 1864.

(A side note: middle brother Thomas was enlisted, but does not have an enlistment date, nor any other information other than promoted to captain and a prisoner of war, though no site given.)

Unfortunately all five brothers ran into a bit of trouble in Vicksburg, Mississippi. They were captured on July 4, 1863 (what an Independence Day that must have been!) and enrolled as prisoners of war. They signed statements claiming they would "not take up arms again against the United States, nor serve in any military police or constabulary force in any Fort, garrison or field work, held by the Confederate States of America, against the United States of America, nor as guard of prisons, depots or stores, nor discharge any duties usually performed by Officers or soldiers, against the United States of America, until duly exchanged by the proper authorities". This was signed the eighth day of July, 1863.

November 1st of that year, they all appear again on Confederate rosters as active military members. What liars they were! (My question also is, did they escape from prison? Were they released? Were they exchanged for other prisoners? What happened so that they were only in prison a short time?)

James was killed after the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee in 1864 (rumor has it that the Union officer in charge was sore about his brother dying at Andersonville Prison and executed any Confederates taken as prisoner--even after being reprimanded to cease these actions, he continued).

W.H. has conflicting information. One paperwork says he survived the war, and another claims that he was killed at the Battle of Jonesboro, Georgia in 1864.

Thomas? His listed death date is after the war, but there are no documents to support this.

W.B. survived the War of the States and lived to be an old man. The most interesting one was J.G. Information states that he surrendered to the Union Army in Greensboro, North Carolina on April 26, 1865! He also lived to be an old man.

I think perhaps I will have to try to contact Vicksburg, Mississippi to determine if they have any records. I am nearly dying of curiosity to find out if my relatives were released, or if they were not only liars, but fugitives as well!

History can be so exciting!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Grandmother... An Epilouge

Today's subject is very dear to my heart and is still a gaping wound with jagged edges. The chances of my being able to write this without weeping are small, but with keeping to the letters of the alphabet for April there is no other I would do for "G". I hope I do it justice.

My Grandmother (maternal) was the stereotypical image of a grandmother: short, plump, and white-haired. She had dimples that stretched for miles and a heart bigger than any ocean. She loved her children and her children's children (and even, at the end, children's children's children) beyond all sense and sensibility, regardless of flaws of character or lack of mind. We adored her.

Growing up as a typical female teenager who fought her own inner demons, I naturally ignored any advice given by my mother and father. I was "misunderstood" and they "hated" me--as any good, self-respecting parent does to their child. The person I turned to? My Grandmother. She gave me the same advice as my parents did, mind you. I just listened to her more.

When I was eleven, my grandfather passed away. Even then I could see the depth of loss Grandma felt, especially at the holidays. Therefore I concocted the most brilliant plan ever: every year, on New Year's Eve, I would spend the night with Grandma and we would "toast" (non-alcoholics that we are) in the New Year together. Grandma and I enjoyed our time together; she bought pineapple cream cheese for crackers, mini wieners in barbeque, pizza rolls, and many other types of snack foods, along with raspberry ginger ale for the grand toast. We began stuffing ourselves at 10pm and did not stop until the ball dropped and Dick Clark wished everyone a good night.

Grandma and I became pen pals when I went to college. After my sophomore year, it became harder to continue our tradition as I took more and more classes earlier each year (some even starting on January 2nd!) and went to a university 338 miles away from her. I missed a few years, to my great regret. She never voiced a complaint, instead focusing on the time we did spend together at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and some in the summer break.

Time passed. I got married, and Grandma was beaming (and crying) next to my mother. Three years after changing my last name, I gave birth to a beautiful and precious baby girl--the first great-grandchild. I had a hard pregnancy (more on that in "P"s blog) and Grandma offered advice and consolation. It was wonderful seeing four generations sitting together on the same couch (see the picture at beginning of the blog--I'm the one holding the startled-looking child). I blindly believed it would always be this way.

April 2010 came and with it certain expectations--it is my birthday month, after all. I visited my parents and as part of the celebration my mother invited several family members to come. Grandma, of course, came as well. We laughed, we talked, we enjoyed our time together...and then it was time for Grandma to leave.

I will never know what prompted me to say it, but as I watched her walk away from me, I suddenly blurted, "Take care of yourself, Grandma."

She turned around and gave me her usual smile. "I am," she assured me.

Something dark clutched at my heart and I peered at her closely. Slowly, I told her, "Don't lie to me. You need to take care of yourself. You've got great-grandchildren to think of now."

She came back to me and we hugged, squishing said great-grandchild between us as we did so. Then she pulled back, patted my cheek, told me she loved me, and was gone.

Mother's Day came and was a Sunday. My husband took me to eat at a Chinese restaurant (a very big deal, since he hates Chinese) and I got a mother's pendant that I wanted very badly (there are some perks to having a husband who works in jewelry). The day was winding down and we were about to put our child to bed when my mother called.

My world ended that day.

Grandma had a massive heart attack and had been rushed to CCU at the best hospital in the state. They were to perform a quadruple-bypass surgery and attempt to save her life.

I was in Georgia (family in tow) five hours later.

Family gathered in the CCU waiting room. None slept. (Okay, the small child slept, but we barely got a wink.) Tense hours passed. We tried not to think the worse, and tried to bolster each other's spirits as best as we were able. Even the janitorial staff who entered to clean were kind and listened to us trade stories and memories.

Monday dawned and we finally had word: Grandma had, in all attempts and purposes, survived the surgery, but there were several problems that put her future in doubt. She would not wake up from the surgery, she was lost for "a while" on the operating table before being revived, and the youngest doctor attending to her had performed a new medical procedure on her heart that had not been tried more than five times in the entire country (he had had to connect living heart tissue to dead heart tissue to try to keep her heart in one piece--that is how massive of a mardicardio infraction she had had).

Monday afternoon, when I was allowed to visit her, she twitched her hand. We were elated. Surely this meant she would wake soon!

In vain, we waited. For nearly a week, we waited.

Thursday afternoon a neurological specialist was called in to assess her brain waves. Then we got the horrible news: the twitching she had shown off and on was not, like we had hoped, her waking, but rather an involuntary muscle spam that typically occurred when someone was brain dead. Now her three surviving children had to decide: what to do? Thankfully, Grandma had a Living Will that stated she did not want to be attached to artifical life machines. After much family discussion, my mother, aunt, and uncle decided to honor her decision, and told the doctors so.

Grandma had always been a fighter. She fought for nearly 24 hours. It was agony for us as we took our turns every few hours to visit with her, knowing she was really gone and we were seeing only her shell.

By Friday evening, just about all the family had left to go home and rest. The only ones left in the CCU room were my uncle and myself, and I was waiting for my husband and child to arrive so I could get something to eat. Since Grandma was so critical and near death, my family did not have to abide by the set visiting hours--we were allowed to see her (two at a time) anytime we wished. I called for the nurse and was allowed into Grandma's room. For the first time since Grandma's heart attack we were alone, excepting the lone nurse still removing the last tubes. I assisted her and helped her brush Grandma's hair, and then the nurse respectfully moved to a back corner of the small room so I could talk to my grandmother in relative privacy. I watched her heart rate and breathing lower a few more digits and knew the words she should hear; they were the same ones she had told my ailing grandfather years ago when he was clinging to life and suffering for it. I stroked her hair and her cooling cheek.

Trying not to cry so she would not pick up on my sorrow, I said the hardest words of my entire life. "Grandma, it's time to let go," I urged her. "If you are worried about us, we'll be fine. If you want to fight for you, then fight. But if you are fighting for us, we have each other. We'll watch out for each other--you don't have to do it anymore. We love you. It's okay to let go."

She gave no sign that she heard me, no dramatic change in her vitals, no fluttering of the eyelids. There was no Hollywood music that swelled, no miracle that offered to save her at the last possible second. Tears in my eyes, I kissed her cheek, squeezed her hand gently, and turned to leave. The nurse also had tears in her eyes as she nodded to me...and I fled.

When I returned to the waiting room, my husband and daughter were waiting for me. We left and traveled just down the street to Chick-fil-A for dinner. Almost forty minutes had passed when we piled back into the car and were debating returning to CCU or going back to my parents' house so I could get some rest.

My mother called. Grandma had just passed away.

I sobbed so hard I couldn't breathe. My last words played back to my mind, and even now I believe Grandma had heard me in that room. If it was coincidence, it was a very close one.

The next few days were a blur. I tried to be a support to my mother, who was devastated, and uphold my promise to my grandmother. I supported my mother as she met with her sister and brother at the funeral home to make final arrangements; I supported her as she traveled to Grandma's house to pick what she would be buried in; I was there for her as she cried as if all the sorrows of the world were laid on her shoulders. It wasn't until the actual viewing and funeral that I completely lost control, and then I cried until I felt as if I could fill the ocean.

It is now nearly a year later. My family has survived our first Thanksgiving and Christmas without our matriarch. I had a harder time getting through New Year's Eve, especially when I went shopping beforehand with my family for groceries and I spotted the pineapple cream cheese. Grandma's birthday has come and gone, as has mine. The next major battle will be Mother's Day. A year since she suffered her heart attack is approaching.

What makes it harder to bear is that the doctors said with the amount of blockage she had in her arteries that Grandma had to have been in pain for the last few months of her life. None of us knew it because she did not allow us to. She could have changed her diet, been put on a medication, and had her life extended. She choose not to.

She was not even eighty years old.

I miss her every day. I still feel my heart aching to hear her voice, have her tell me what I do not want to hear, see her smiling face. I run across her handwriting sometimes in old cards and recipes she handed down to me--it's a shock to the system to see it.

You see, most of the time I stay comfortably in denial. Grandma is simply living in her home in the middle of nowhere and hadn't had time to write or call. It's the only way I get through most of my days.

Yet as a year approaches, I am forced more and more to confront the awful truth: she is gone and not coming back to me.


I would write more, but I fear I cannot see the keyboard.

I love you, Grandma, and miss you more than words could ever possibly say. You will always be missed.


F is for Frazzled

I stare at my keyboard and wonder what exactly I should write for the F challenge. So very much has happened that it all swirls together in my mind.

*I received word that I was accepted into medical school. While I am estatic, I have also been inudated with financial aide paperwork!! I have filled out so many papers on the subject of our (lack of) finances that it came to a point where I simply could not bear to think of money for the rest of the night! Who knew that being unemployed would assist me into receiving a better education, and at no cost to myself! (And please, no comments about "it's on the taxpayers' dollars" for I know this quite well, and have helped contribute toward this end for thirteen years!)

*Family comes to mind as well. Support. Lack of support. Aggravation. Love. Irritation. Wanting to push someone down a flight of stairs... (My dear friend, you know who you are and who I am thinking of the most with this!) There is no one in the world to whom we love the most, and hate the most, than our own family members. They can be our best supporters, or our worst critics. They can build us up, and tear us down. Give us confidence to fly, and clip our wings. What other phase of life do we willingly put ourselves through if not our family time? As I am fond of saying, "Parents. You can't live with them; can't be alive without them."

*I am also tempted to tell a funny story or two. Or at least it would be amusing to myself, and I could only hope it was also to you. Let me try: One day my two year old daughter took her nap. While she was sleeping, her daddy left to run a few errands. When she woke up he was not there, but she did not comment on his absence--that is, until he walked in the door. Throwing down her toys, she flung her hands into the air and pelted toward her father like a mad thing. "Daddy!" she screamed in joy as she clung to his leg. "You came back! You came back!" ... It was rather amusing.

Well, I could come up with quite a few other 'f' things, but some would not be suitable for print!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Education starts with Agh!

I have been debating upon a difficult choice for some time now: should I continue to try to find a job with my current bachelor degree, or give up and get a different degree? The degree I have now is in social work. If you are not aware of it, social work has an unemployment rate of 4% all by its lonesome--the highest in a single occupation.

I heave a sigh. My degree served me well when the country was affluent. I have experiences and knowledge that cannot be replaced, and I was able to achieve my dream of helping others. Alas, I still have this dream, yet I have been unemployed almost a year now (in July). I have no one to blame for losing my last employment other than myself, yet I cannot seem to find any social work positions hiring in any state! Hm, other than government, and somehow I still am lacking in experience to be hired by them.

For over a year now I have been toying with the idea of furthering my education by learning something new, something that is stable, something that will always demand expansion and qualified people to fill in the gorge. I, naturally, thought of the medical field. People will always become ill and need someone to take care of them.

A nurse perhaps? No, that would not do for me. I positively hate the sight of blood!

A doctor? Goodness, no! That's worse than a nurse on witnessing gory details!

But what?

The answer came in my younger uncle. A bright lad, he reached and outshone the entire family by seeking, and obtaining, his degree as a pharmacist. I could not be prouder of him--and more envious! Envious because even before he graduated, he was courted by employers, given the world on a silver platter, has a new house he does not have to pay for, and makes three figures a year.

Did I say envious? I am positively green!

Yet could I do the same as he? Science has never been my strong subject (hence the only grade C I have ever received). Could I keep straight all the intricate knowledge of medications and biological interactions? I am not too sure of this.

Therefore, I have lighted on the perfect solution for me: become a pharmacy technician! The best of both worlds! I do not have to have as much schooling as a pharmacist does, nor do I have to worry about quite as much science (I'll leave that to smarter people!). Instead, I can assist a pharmacist. I like this option very much, very much indeed! Not only will my starting salary be nearly $4000 more a year than I could secure with my bachelor's of social work, but I can still help people--a deep-seated desire that I will never outgrow. I have dreams of working in a small town, learning the people's names and histories, being able to greet them personally, making enough in earnings to comfortably support my family and pay back my student loans from both degrees, not being in debt any longer, and eventually being able to own a house that can be passed down to my daughter when I pass from this Earth.

Stability. It all comes down to stability. I crave it; I need it; I want to provide it for my daughter.

Today I will find out if my medical school application was accepted. If I have been deemed worthy enough to once again march down the halls with books in one hand and high expectations in the other.

I hope they say yes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Destruction

Ah, April! The time of spring flowers, mud puddles, baby birds...and severe weather. Yes, that is correct--it is tornado season again for America. Oh joy.

This A to Z blogging has coincided neatly with where my thoughts have been centered all day: the destruction of property and lives due to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Rain might be needed to make the vegetation grow, yet I wish with all my heart that the yang to the yin was not always dangerous lightening, high winds, hail, and spurred tornadoes. Living most of my days in the Deep South, you would think I would be used to this by now, but I think I shall never grow used to the devastation caused by uncontrollable severe weather.

Nestled in Tennessee I see quite a few tornadoes at this time of year. I recall quite clearly the year I was finishing finals at university. That fateful night there were tornadoes popping up quite literally all around the campus. I watched the news as the system approached...and then the station went out, as did the power to campus.

I would like to say that I handled myself with grace and pose, calmly helping other girls in my dorm down to the basement for safety. Alas, I have been gifted with a great phobia of thunderstorms, coupled with a sick fascination for them. I might be panicking, but I simply MUST SEE what the weather is doing outside. (I have never been one to fit neatly into one shell--instead I like to sample them all.) Off and on all night we were evacuated to the basement four times. Under stress, fatigue, and irritation, several of us girls posted notes to our doors stating that we understood the danger to staying in our room, but we wanted sleep so we released the school from responsibility if harm befell us. When we woke a few hours later, we discovered that the nearest town had had two F-2 tornadoes merge into an F-4 and wipe out the southern end of the city. At least 11 people were dead with several still missing. On campus, we had downed trees and saturated ground, but we were safe.

Yesterday I thought of the past as a tornado warning hit. My husband (smart man that he is) was taking a shower. I yanked the door open, screamed "Tornado warning!" (yes, I was very eloquent wasn't I?), grabbed our two year old, and pelted for the backdoor to get to our car (the house we are currently living in does not have a safe place to be during severe weather so we evacuated to a local church basement). Thankfully the system went south and around us, once again sparing major damage to the university and those who live in the area surrounding it.

When we were able to return to our home, I placed the television on the Weather Channel and have been watching footage of the destruction tornadoes and strong winds have left in their wake.
I could not help but wonder if my friends living in the path of these storms are safe; if my parents were safe since the system hit their state hours after blowing through ours; if my relatives were safe... I also wonder if we mere humans will ever be able to develop a better early warning system that can allow people to take cover with more time to spare. Homes can be rebuilt, business can be re-established, but lives can never be replaced.

And so I decide to post this and pose a question to those reading: Were you affected by the storm systems in the South? And, are you all right?
Be safe, dear readers, be safe...

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Companion

Companion. When you hear the word, what conjures to your mind?
Is it a person? A spouse who knows the darkest corners of your heart and loves you anyway? A parent who has survived your ‘terrible twos’ and ‘terrifying teens’? Is it a best friend who not only can tell you what you do not want to hear, but also let you know that they love you just the same? Is it a relative that became a mentor to you as you were growing up?

Or is it pet? A dog that shows undying devotion every time you return home, and expects nothing more in return than treats and food? Is it a bird that sings you to sleep and sometimes may talk back to you? Is it a cat that comforts your every fear and lets you rediscover your sense of self-worth?

Is it your computer with its savvy internet connection that feels like a lifeline to the outside world? Is it a good book that is creased with use from sitting curled up with the story? Is it your gaming system that permits you to escape and have control over the ‘bad guys’ of the world, real or imaginary?

Whatever your companion may be, they never vie for affection since each has its own place and time. Everyone and everything contributes to shaping us into who we are and how we see our world. Without our companions we would be two dimensional and lifeless.

My companions are many and serve many uses, yet each is irreplaceable to me. I dedicate myself to protecting and loving them in return. My books that provided an escape from my tormentors as I grew older. My cat(s) that showed me that, even though they loved me, they would not permit smothering in the relationship. My childhood best friend who taught me that friends are to be shared. My best friends in college who gave me many hard lessons, but helped the medicine with a spoonful of sugar. My parents taught me numerous things, both positive and negative. And my husband has taught me that while love can sometimes be a two-edged sword, it is worth fighting for.
To all my companions—my love and respect.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Blasphemy!

As I enter the second day of this A to Z Challenge, I am presented with a rather timely blog: the blasphemy of the written word. No, this is not another rant on tomes vs ebook (see a previous entry for that), but rather for the absolutely horrendous thing I saw at the bookstore yesterday afternoon. There I was, innocently browsing through crisp, shiny new novels, when my husband approaches, daughter in tow. I was already perusing a book I wished to purchase and was not paying much attention to him as he came to me. "Here," he says, pushing a large paperback at me. "I thought you might be interested in this." I glance up...and nearly emptied my stomach at the title. I don't believe I can put the actual title on here for fear of retribution, but let me just tell you: a Jane Austen novel....with vampires.* Vampires! Can you believe it? The authors listed were the new author and Jane Austen herself. I do believe if Miss Austen saw the grievous misjustice her books have been subjected to, she just might turn vampire and slay those who dared such an insult! I was talking to a dear friend about this and she said, "Oh yes, and there is also one that mixes Pride and Prejudice with zombies". Zombies? Are they out of their mind???? How do they DARE corrupt such wonderful words? How can something so ridiculous actually make print?! I was so outraged by the book I saw that I nearly took a match to it--and I am completely against burning books!!! This is blasphemy! An outrage! A misuse of everything literature lovers hold dear! I say we protest this "latest trend" and take our historical classics back! Who is with me??? *Let me just state for the record, I have nothing against vampires or zombies or Jane Austen. If you would care to know, I have a published book that involves vampires. It is merely the combination of these that is so insulting!