Category Archives: family

It’s that time of year …

not for celebrations and parties.  Not for get-togethers with good friends and people you may know.  Not shopping for bargains and gifts, not meeting up to have a good time and not for having a nice glass of wine with like-minded folks.

Well, actually, it is that time of year, but not for everyone.

For some, this time of year means eating a cold can of beans alone in an empty room without power because the electric bill wasn’t paid.  It wasn’t paid because the baby needed medication and there wasn’t enough money for medication and electricity.

For some, this time of year means standing on the street, in the cold, wearing street clothes and house slippers because there wasn’t enough money for rent and if there wasn’t enough money for rent, there certainly wasn’t enough money for a coat and shoes.

For some, this time of year brings memories that are bitter and hurtful; thoughts of years past that ran, one into the other, with no happiness or joy.

For some, this time of year means nothing.  It is simply the passing of time while watching the world go by, just like the year before and the year before that.

For some, this time of year means family, food, friends and fellowship.  It is these people who embrace the season and enjoy it as they always have, together with the people they love and are comfortable with.

But what about all the others?

Who, when they set down to their family table laden with food, surrounded by family, warm, cozy and perfect, think of those who have nothing, expect nothing and know nothing different from the emptiness they feel every year at this time?

I and many others call ourselves followers of Christ.  We say with our voices  how much we love and want to be like Jesus.

We sing praises, bless our food and continue on in the same traditions we have followed for years.  We praise Jesus and say we want to be like Him but prove time and again that we recite words we believe but don’t, deep down, mean and we fail the very Jesus we say we want to be like.

He wants us to share what we have; not just home, warmth, family, friends and food, but the very word that would bring others to love and honor Him.

Invite a stranger to Thanksgiving dinner.  Invite several strangers.

Let’s bring someone homeless to our home and make them, for one day, family.

Let’s show them that Jesus is real and that they are loved.

This time of year is our time, the Jesus follower’s time.  Our time to put our money where our mouth is.  To be hospitable, to offer shelter and food for those who are hungry and the ones the world calls outcasts.

It is our time to take in everyone, despite everything, and to show them Jesus.

If we, who claim to be the hands and feet of Jesus don’t show love to the oppressed, be certain that the evil one will.

He will entice and enchant them, then make them slaves to his depravity and hatred of all things good.

Don’t give the devil the satisfaction of beating us to the punch.  Let us be the Jesus we claim to want to follow and lead someone to Christ by being the hands and feet of the Savior.

Make no mistake –  Satan is working hard to win the souls of the lost and if we don’t work harder, he will win because he doesn’t give up if he doesn’t get a response on the first pass.

Be Jesus to the world and don’t give up just because you can find an excuse.  Having an excuse doesn’t excuse us, but overcoming excuses and finding a way to be Jesus to the world shows our true alliance.  We are with Jesus or not with Jesus.  It is as simple as that.

Everyone reading this post is welcome to Thanksgiving Dinner at my mom’s house.  You, for one day, will be our family, you will be warm and your bellies will be full.  Must love, or at least tolerate dogs, though, because our place is lousy with them!  🙂

It’s been a while …

since my last blog post. 

Since last time, satan has reared his ugly head and life has given me a bonified black eye, busted lip, bruised rib, and all around beating.

My mom, who I depend on way more than a nearly 50-year old (ok, 47 in two weeks, but still) woman should, has been ill.

In the hospital, taken by an ambulance, ill.

My dad, who leans heavily on my mom, has been beside himself.

My dearest friend has been given (by mere mortals) six months to live.

It has been a trying month.

First off, my mom is home, well and feeling quite herself. 

My dad, an Air Force Veteran (whom we should all be applauding today for his service to the USAF) is better because my mom is feeling better.

It brings a surprising revelation to light.

While this would distress and hurt me beyond comprehension, I have this hope they would die, in their sleep, at the same time.

As awful as this may sound to some, I’d rather mourn them both at the same time than try to handle one without the other.

I can’t frankly speak for my sister, but wonder if she wouldn’t agree.

If that isn’t possible, I hope my dad, my hero and advocate goes first, because I cannot fathom him without my mom.

Mom would miss dad terribly, but she’s strong, and would survive.

Maybe I’m more crazy than I imagined, but I can handle Mom’s tears more easily than Dad’s.

I honestly don’t know how I would deal with him if he had to live without her.

As for my dearest friend, who is battling cancer, I advised her, as I do everyone, to live every day as if it’s the very last one.

Nobody, but nobody has the promise to live further than the moment they are in.

I know where I’m going when I’m gone from this world, so dying doesn’t scare me.

Living, however, without the people who love and understand me, gives me pause.

If that sounds selfish, it’s because it is. 

I thought I’d grow old and watch, with my husband I dearly loved, grandchildren playing in the yard.

Then, I came home one day, and out of the clear, blue sky, found him as dead as Moses.

No warning. No goodbye.  Just gone.

There’s no promise of life, to any of us, past the single moment we find ourselves living in.

If one doesn’t intend to live life as it happens, they forfeit their right to complain when it’s over, or nearly over.

You can quote me on that.

Right now, in this moment, is all I am certain of.

It is all any of us can be certain of.

This moment.

This breath.

This heartbeat.

Each day, if it doesn’t mean something, is wasted.

I say this to family, friends, former friends that I miss with an intensity that embarassess me, and though I can’t think of any specifically, my enemies.

I don’t think I have any absolute enemies.  If I do, they’ve been mighty quiet about it, and I forgive them anyway, knocking out the one leg they, were they real, had to stand on.

That’s good, though, in my way of thinking.  Who, when they have life to contend with, need enemies to muddy up the mess further.

And yet, as I often do, digress.

Now is the only thing that matters.

Grab on or be left behind.

Those are, in actuality, the only two choices.

As Shakespeare said (though he may have meant it differently as words in his day were perplexing, they pretty much say the same thing). To be or not to be … that is the question.

I choose to be, even when it hurts, is painful, annoying, hurtful, betraying or joyous.

I choose to give it everything I have, be whatever I can be and love, even those who don’t love me, unconditionally. 

Be it joyous, angry, confused, happy, sad, contemplative or any number of emotionally relevant states, with bright lights, awesome auroras, sleepless nights and flying debris; I’m there, every day, all the way.

I know who I am and if I die before morning, I know where I’ll find myself.

I love you all, even when you’re unloveable, just as you do me.

We, though we are all in the image of God, are, intrinsically human.

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The obituary column …

is an essential component of living in the South.

Without it, life would take an incomprehensible and irreversible turn.

Every few days, my mom says to me “we’re going to the funeral home”.

The “we” is she and my dad.

I never know what’s going on so, as far as I’m concerned, it could be a relative or close personal friend.

Tonight, it was the wife of a preacher I’ve never heard of.

I don’t take the paper myself and even if I did, I wouldn’t read every word of every obituary looking for familiar names so I’d have a reason to go to the funeral home.

When I was a kid, growing up on a dirt road miles off the “main road”, the obituaries were read on the radio.

You late forty and older crowd, who live or have lived in the South, know what I’m talking about.

There was one AM station on the radio that was only part static and most words could be understood.

First came the Pledge of Allegiance, then the obituaries followed by the madly popular “Swap Shop”.

Since there was only that one discernable station, everyone around our parts listened to it.

They swapped hogs and chickens for mule harnesses and tractor tires, then met at the funeral home to talk about it because someone they didn’t know, who was a relative of someone they hadn’t seen in years, had died.

Congregating at the funeral home; it’s a Southern thing,  I suppose.

Or maybe it’s just a Southwest Virginia thing.

I think we’ll find, however, it’s broader than my little neck of the woods and call it a Southern thang.

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Life is precious …

although sometimes, until it is compromised, we can forget that simple fact and take for granted that we will just wake up every morning.

We forget that no-one is promised another day, another hour, another minute.

I did.

Took it for granted, that is.

I set my alarm each night in a way that is likely odd to most.  I set it for 1:00 am, then hit the three hour snooze which takes me to 4:00 am, then hit the preset alarm for 5:15.  And when it goes off that last time, I spring up and begin my routine which is exactly the same every morning.

No deviation.

Ever.

This past Friday, I followed the same pattern.  I woke up, started the coffee, brushed my teeth, drank half my coffee and took the rest into a scalding hot shower for 20 minutes, started my car (it’s pitch dark here at that hour, so clothes are optional), fed the cat, dressed and went to work.

I arrived without incident, but while walking into the building, I passed out.

A friend I walk into work with most mornings was with me and kept me from busting my head on the concrete, for which I am grateful, and got me to the ER.

I was found to be profoundly anemic and the plans to administer a transfusion were quickly underway.

But in the meantime, life interfered.

My heart stopped.

I don’t recollect that as it was for less than two minutes before the adept ER staff had me back up and running, but it doesn’t change the fact that, for a period of 96 seconds, my heart did not beat.

I left that part out when I told my family about my transfusion because, well, I suppose I don’t have a good reason except that they would have made a big deal about it and worried unnecessarily about the whole thing.

I didn’t see any lights or hear voices nor did I venture into the afterlife.

I have no stories to tell or visions to embellish.

What I do know is that each moment, even the boring and insubstantial ones, carry some importance.

I could have simply slipped away.  That would have been ok as I know who I am, to whom I belong and where I well be when my time is up.

I’m thankful, however, that I have more time to love those who touch my heart, to offer encouragement and to continue to walk the path I have been given.

I am, yet again, blessed … and I am thankful.

Each moment unfolds when it is meant ...

Each moment unfolds when it is meant …

When the wheel never stops turning …

life can become more of a trial than a joy.

The thought process becomes so discombobulated with the inundation of information and images that simply focusing on what is relevant becomes a near impossibility.

My family and friends know that some of my blogs are about them.  They are about life as I live it, so how could they not be?

This particular blog is about photographs that aren’t my own; photographs I want to take.

It is about images I want to see with my own eyes, not through someone else’s.

It is about the words that surround the images.

It is about the music I play that enhances the images and the words that describe them.

It is about the the things I dream of.

These statements alone make me sound like some kind of fanatic, but I’m not a fanatic.

I am a photographer.

I am a writer.

I am (somewhere in my soul) a musician.

I want to see, write and hear for myself.

Experience the heat, the cold, the adrenaline, the magic, the music, the inspiration, the awe.

I work for a living so that I can traipse around to places I want to see, photograph them and then write about them.

It may sound as though I am putting down the importance of nursing, something I have done for 25 years.

I’m not.

Just today, a patient made me cry when he told me that I was a bright spot in his day and he looked forward to my visits more than he did meal-time.

If you have ever been in the hospital, you know that meal-time is one of the highlights, and so I felt very moved.

But I wanted, more than to speak with him and encourage him, to photograph him.

I have been on a photographic journey, teaching myself, learning from others, finding God in the creation He so beautifully paints, for more than 30 years.

It is my center.  My sense of self.

My life is made up of images.  They rotate through my head like a never-ending carousel .

Image after image after image after image.

And the words.

Mrs. Campbell in eleventh grade gave me the courage to have  confidence in my words.

She was my favorite teacher and the one, above all, that I remember the most.

And yet, I digress. (But thanks, Mrs. C)

I can’t even begin to explain, with all of my words, what the words, when coupled with the images, does to me.

It shatters me on a level that is the most perfect shattering a person could ever hope for.

I wonder sometimes if I am vain.  I certainly don’t think much of myself, so that kind of vanity is out, but the images … I like them.  I want others to like them.  I desire, not to be famous, or even rich, but to simply be able to live out my life doing what I love.

I don’t think that is too much to ask, but therein lies the vanity.

I look at myself and see nothing special … I look at the images I see through the eyes God gave me and I see great things.

I don’t mind, particularly, sleeping in my car.  I don’t need much more than toast-chee crackers and an occasional diet Dr. Pepper.

But I need to see.

To experience.

To feel.

I want to know what a North Dakota winter looks like, what a New Orleans Summer smells like, what driving along the coast road from California to Washington State feels like.

I want to see the beauty, to feel the air, to see the endless flat road of Kansas extending out in front of me.

I want to taste the fog of San Francisco and breathe the vastness of a Montana sky.

I used to think that I wanted too much, but a wise woman (my mamaw Daphne) told me “some people want the simple and others want the extravagant  … wanting is wanting whatever the dream may be”.

She taught me to not be ashamed to want the things I want and dream for the things of which I dream.

If I can see the things I want to see, I won’t need others to show them to me and if I can play the piano myself, I won’t long for someone else to play for me.

So my dreams are this … to see my country and then see Ireland, to play the piano and to have a jeep, preferably red .

That is the extent of the the dreams I have for myself …

I have much deeper and greater dreams for those I love and cherish, but myself?  It is the simple things that stir my heart.

I have hope.

I have faith.

Nothing else is required.

It will happen when it happens.

And it will happen.  Of that, I am certain.

Until next time, be well, my friends … be well.

And don’t forget to dream.

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When God gives one a heart of compassion …

it is understood that it will get broken.

There is no way around it.

I am still learning this.

I find that is is both  an honor and a privilege to watch the end of life come to pass.

It isn’t easy nor can it be considered pleasant, but it is a part of life that not everyone gets to see.

The living years is what most of us look for, find pleasure in and hope to be a part of.

But to be present when a spirit leaves this world is nothing short of amazing.

The last breath.

The last heartbeat.

The last moment.

I cannot help but cry for it is, in it’s way, very sad … and yet, when there was suffering, it is also a comfort.

I try, in my weak way, to console the ones left behind, but at that particular moment, there really are no words to say.

I can only be there, in the background, in the edges of the moment, to hold a hand or wrap my arm around those who need the contact.

I’m not, by nature, a hugger or toucher.

It doesn’t really come naturally to me as it does to true nurturers … and yet, I find myself being pulled into the emotion.

It is difficult, but I cannot turn them away.

Not in their moment of need.

Maybe I am weak. But if I can offer some bit of strength in their moment of weakness, then my strength has been made manifest.

I can do, for this moment, what I have learned through experience to do.  Not book experience, or clinical experience, but life experience.

I understand loss, especially unexpected loss that blindsides you and leaves you reeling from words left unsaid.

It is what it is and there are no do-overs.

It is enough to know that you loved someone while they lived in a way that they knew, unconditionally, that they were loved.

It is enough.

Move forward as you can, but whatever the cost, move forward.

To remain where you are, in grief and sorrow is the last thing in the world the one you lost would want.

Don”t be afraid to live.

If you aren’t afraid to live, then when your time comes, you won’t be afraid to die.

It is a circle.

Don’t break it.

It’s funny how it’s funny …

later.

I am a facebook junkie. I admit it.  No reason not to really, since people I have never laid eyes on see the things I say.  I post random thoughts at random times and forget, more often than not, to change the filter that goes from my brain to my mouth; or in this case, my fingers.

Often, things that other people say or do remind me of events of my own life.  Tonight was one of those times.  As it happened this time, it was something I said that brought the old-but-not-forgotten memory into focus and I was taken back, decades, to a time in my childhood.

I was six years old.  Ok, maybe I was five or even seven; it has been so long ago that the age has escaped me, but the clarity of the memory has not.  I write this, not to remind my beautiful, wonderful Aunt Nell of the error of her ways (though to a kid, the error was heinous), but to relive a priceless, however painful, moment in time.

She was like a mystery wrapped in an enigma, was my Aunt Nell.  She was beautiful, knew famous people and likely, most importantly even, owned a portable tape recorder and brought presents in her multi-colored bag.  She and my Uncle Ford lived in Pennsylvania which, to a kid growing up in the back country, tobacco-farming, cow-milking, chicken-raising, hog-slopping, corn-hoeing, bean-picking, mule-plowing area of Southwest Virginia, could just have well been Ireland or Italy or France.

Or Gate City.

All I knew for certain was that it was hours away and trips there, with Grandaddy in the back seat with me and later, my little sister, was never a joy.

And yet, I digress.

As I said, I was a kid, the age remaining undetermined, and was on the cusp of pulling  a tooth.  Even as a little girl, the very thought of blood in my mouth made me sick to my stomach.  So obviously, pulling a tooth was right up there with being staked to an anthill.

They, she and Uncle Ford, came to visit, along with the snazzy clothes, tape recorder and gifts that I could never resist hinting about.

That drove my mother crazy … the hinting, not the presents … but I knew she would bring me something and the suspense nearly gave me a coronary.

How embarrassing  that would have been at five, or six or whatever.

And so, I digress again.  This was supposed to be a story about an event that has, for obvious reasons, stuck with me for nearly forty years.

The loose tooth.

So, Aunt Nell, or as we in the family call her, Aunt Neldie, had the bright idea that she could pluck that tooth right out of my mouth, painlessly and with little to no bloodshed.

I, being a gullible child, went along with it.

She was, after all, the well-respected, visit-anticipated, living in another country, Aunt Nell.

I let her, against my inner voice’s urging, tie a string to my tooth.

Then I watched in barely contained horror as she tied the other end of the string to a doorknob.

Then I stood, idly by, as she proceeded to slam the door with the strength of a Sumo wrestler.

Or Batman, even.

This being the same door holding the string tied to my tooth.

It should have worked, she said.

I don’t understand it, she said.

Don’t cry (as if!), she said.

Come back, she said.

At least I think she said these things.

I had disentangled myself from the doorknob at this point and was stalking up the hill towards the smokehouse.

I’ll explain a smokehouse some other time, but it isn’t where you go to smoke, unless you were my cousin.  It’s where he went to smoke unless he wanted to be skinned by my mamaw.

As I was stalking off, I was crying.  I hadn’t yet learned to say curse words or I would have been cursing, which would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap.  For real.  I made it to the top of the hill, the house still in view when I stopped.

There at the top of the hill was the mule that everyone called Old Beck.  She was a gentle creature, but I, as a child (and even into my teens and twenties – and let’s just be truthful here, my thirties) was an avowed chicken.

I was afraid of everything.  Bugs, airplanes, grass, bees, water, dark, oxygen.

Even sweet-natured-if-stubborn-to-a-fault Old Beck.

It would be much simpler to say what I wasn’t afraid of.

Dirt.

I wasn’t afraid of dirt.

Unless there were bugs or worms in it.

At any rate, I found myself too chicken to actually run away as I had originally planned and went back to the house where the offense had occurred.

While it wasn’t funny at the time, it has been a constant source of amusement over the years.

I forgave Aunt Neldie, because otherwise, she wouldn’t have given me the present she brought or let me play with her tape recorder.

But I didn’t forget it.

Some things just stick with you, ya know?

I. Was. Running.flolicking

Don’t panic .. and wear your sunglasses.Beemer, a sweet Great Pyrenees, shows his Hollywood