Sunday, September 27, 2009

Joy Defined

Personal Thought for the Day # 25

It occurred to me that a positive spin I might take on this annoying condition known as frozen shoulder is that all the exercising and stretching might bring me a bit closer to Michelle Obama arms over the next 47 days. At a minimum, I can dream.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Migraines Suck

Potential Migraine Triggers:
everything I love.....

diet cola
watching TV in the dark

using my laptop (too long; how long is too long BTW?)

playing PoppIt on the computer


Notice I didn't say alcohol; haven't had a drink for 2 months. Haven't missed it either. Eliminating the wine hasn't helped a bit.

What am I going to do? I'm fed up, worn out, shipwrecked, desperate. I could try this ancient Egyptian cure shown in the drawing here. Who knows; it might work.

This is a devil of a disease, chronic and tenacious. It will get fixed. It will. Tuesday I see the doc again and we'll re-negotiate another tactic. There's got to be something out there that will work.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Second Seating Goes Live

My very talented sister, Mary Margaret and her co-artists, opened Second Seating in Houston last night. This amazing art installation located in an old warehouse in Houston's East End showcases the heart and soul of the region and the beauty of recycled products. Mary Margaret dedicated the show to our mother Doris, an inspiring woman who knew how to pull talent from the unlikeliest places and dazzle with her performance. I believe my sister has done the same.

I'm so proud of my sister. This work has all but consumed her over the last months. Her enthusiasm for the process has been fascinating to witness, almost as much as the artwork. I guess that's the message: "Success is the quality of the journey."

Check out the local television coverage from yesterday. Wonderful! I'm thrilled that I'll get to see the show in October; a quick trip to Houston is in my plans.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumn's Arrival

September 22, 2009; the first day of Autumn.

I'm glad to say goodbye to summer. Blasphemous talk? I don't think so. I'm ready to surrender the summer to autumn, to let one season pass into the next. Maybe it's because the colors of fall have always been my favorite. Maybe it's because autumn marks the start of reflection, quieter times, indoor activities, cooler weather, balmy skies. I'm ready.

Today I looked back at a blog post from this date in 2007. I posted a poem called Resignation, by J. D. McClatchy, a lovely tribute to the beautiful stoicism of trees. As we transition into a new season, trees remind us again of the richness of living; the cycles of life, death, growth, transformation, injury, loss, repair, and inner strength.

Today I looked into my own backyard and pondered the bank of Leyland cypress that we planted a year ago (left); young trees that took hold in the spot where neighbors had so cruelly and thoughtlessly felled mature Leylands several years prior. Our new young trees absolutely loved the summer of 2009. They grew at least 3 feet in height and spread out to touch one another in warm embrace, filling in the wall of green that will cover once again the fence line that separates our properties. The photograph I took this morning shows how much they've grown over the past year.

Trees. Healing sorrows. Standing proud. We have much to learn from trees.

Happy Autumn all.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Conversations with my Mother

"I bought Mama* a new purse. It a nice one; it'll hold all her things. Lots of pockets on the inside. I must pack it up and send it off to her. Funny thing about Mama though; she'll have to think about it awhile before she comes around to the idea of a new purse. Eventually, she'll like it."

"She's a bit stubborn, is she?"

"Oh, yes. But she'll come around."

"Good, I'm glad she'll like the purse."


"I'm worried about Mama. I've tried to call her but the phone just rings and rings. I can't seem to reach her. She must be out at church."


"I want to get over to the mall. There's a coat I've been looking at. Mama needs a new winter coat. She doesn't have one and the winters are so cold where she is. I want to buy her this coat for Christmas, get it sent off to her in time for the holidays. Your Dad's going to drive me over there today. I wish I could drive but they say I can't anymore."

"Dad doesn't drive anymore either."

"Really? Since when?"


"Why does everyone tell me I can't go back to teaching?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, everyone says I can't teach anymore and I'm just wondering why not. I'm a good teacher."

"I know that, Mom. You're an excellent teacher. I think it has something to do with your health and your age of 92. I don't think you'd able to hold down the job predictably. Grading papers, preparing lesson plans, getting to and from the classroom; it's all very rigorous. Wouldn't you agree?"

"Yes, I guess you're right."


*Mama: my maternal grandmother (1882 -1965)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

8 Miles, 26 Stop Lights, 28 Minutes

A one way trip by car to see my Mom and Dad at their adult family home involves a circuitous 8 mile road trip. There's no such thing as "hopping on the freeway" from where I live; it's more of a "cross town trip" or worse yet, a diagonal northeasterly trek. The drive, depending on traffic, time of day, day of the week and other variables like road work, takes 28 minutes (that's average). Today I counted the stop lights along the route; twenty six. Groan.

I travel this 16 mile round trip at least three times a week, sometimes four. That translates to 48 miles, 156 stop lights, and 2 hours and 48 minutes per week driving time. Sadly, many days I spend more time in the car commuting than I do actually visiting with my parents When I don't go to visit for a few days, I begin to feel "the pull"; the not-so-subtle commentary that comes from both Mom and Dad, the "we're pretty lonely" language interspersed with the everyday conversation we have by telephone. Most of the time when they see me coming through the door I'm greeted with large smiles and am made to feel welcome. But sometimes, especially when I walk in to find them both drowsy or involved in a TV show, my presence is neither here nor there seemingly. There's something wrong with this entire picture I tell myself.

I do my best but I could always do more. When my out-of-town siblings visit they are bastions of energy, coming up with creative ideas to entertain Mom and Dad in and out of their usual surroundings. Me? I'm stalled out and stuck in a rut most of the time doing the best I can to ease my conscience. I so wish I could fix or change what cannot be fixed or changed.

So, every now and then I resort to a whine like today.

I'll go back again tomorrow and do the same thing(s) all over again.

What would I do if I had those extra hours each week?

Probably nothing. Moot point.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Two Months To Go!

How does it feel to hear the mailman shove letters through the mail chute at our front door today?

How does it feel to catch that first glimpse of my son's wedding invitation?

How does it feel to open the invitation with care and love, to read tenderly the words for the first time?

"Heather and Chris"

It feels wonderful.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Homecoming Sunday"

Today was brilliant blue and delightful; a perfect late summer day in September. The day reminded me of the Sunday almost exactly three years ago when I last took Mom and Dad to church. Can it be that long that we three have been to church together? Dad has been asking me for weeks, if not months to "take us to church some Sunday" and I've been putting it off for various reasons. Today I had help and things went just fine.

They enjoyed the outing; the drive to and from, walking inside the sanctuary after a long, long time away, finding their familiar pew over on the far left hand side and taking a seat. This was "Homecoming Sunday", the start of the fall season and the choir was in full swing. Mom had talked about hearing the new organ. The music was lovely, the messages inspiring.

I sat between them, helping Dad stand whenever there was a hymn to be sung, holding the hymnal or the program steady for him so he could read the words. His voice wasn't strong but I heard him singing from "O God, Our Help in Ages Past". And, as we sat together for the the benediction and organ postlude, it struck me again how blessed I am to have these two, my parents, at ages 92, on either side of me at a Sunday service. I never thought there would be another chance.

We may try this again, especially now that I've got a helper. We may even make it to step 2 next time. What would that be? Why, none other than lunch at Taco Time!! Those crisp bean burritos and hot sauce are tradition.

It's all good.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What's That Awful Smell?

What a relief! What I've got is parosmia, not phantosmia.

Say what? Come again? WTF? What craziness is this now?

It all started in mid August when I started smelling something awful in our house. I smelled it mostly on the main floor of the house; the kitchen, the hallway, the stairs leading up to the second level, and the foyer. The smell got worse daily and the fact that I could not track it down nor eliminate it even after laundering the kitchen rug, spritzing the air with Fabreeze mist, and washing all dirty clothes stacked up in the laundry chute was making me crazy. I began to worry as I am wont to do.

No one else was smelling this stench of rotten, old olives that greeted me every time I opened the door to my house, my haven, my palace, my solace. Not good.I was driving my nearest and dearest absolutely nuts with my woeful complaints because he could smell nothing amiss. And Laura, the only other resident in the house was rarely around long enough to question.

I continued to stew and worry. Worry because I knew from my medical school neurology days that one who smells odors that others do not may have a brain tumor or some other undesirable intra-cranial lesion accounting for the mixed up signals greeting the olfactory receptors in the brain. In years past, I was prone to having all the afflictions we studied in medical school; infected heart valves, aneurysms ready to burst, tumors of one type or another. I had them all until we moved on to study the next pathologic lesion. If I thought this tendency to panic had been quelled, I was obviously wrong. The more I smelled the rotten olives in my house and was reminded that "no one else can smell it, Kate", the crazier I felt.

Two weeks into this ordeal, feeling worsening nausea from the fumes, imagining the findings on my MRI of the brain (such drama!), I found myself in Laura's room helping her pack for school. Mind you, I hadn't been in her room in weeks (on purpose); leaving the laundry and daily cleanup to her. Her room smelled of rotten olives. I still couldn't put it all together until I spied a plug-in air freshener underneath her desk. Yanking it out of the wall, I took it apart and took a good, long whiff from the oily reservoir. Bingo. Praise God.

I was ecstatic to solve the mystery......after two weeks of convincing myself that I had phantosmia. Phantosmia is a worrisome symptom; the brain is fabricating smells that really are not there at all (phantom odors) and that's usually because something is not-so-good in the squash. On the other end of the spectrum, parosmia occurs when a legitimate smell is misinterpreted, usually in a negative sense. Glade's lovely Sweet Pea scented room freshener which all in this household thought quite lovely was absolute stench to me.

Turns out parosmia is a fairly common side effect of the medication I started for migraine prevention last month. Thank goodness this is the only thing that has smelled weird so far.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Hope. I'm embracing hope again and it feels good. For the longest time I've struggled to define this four letter word; what does it really mean? I think there are many ways to describe hope; most very personal. My friend Wendy Harpham, in her blog On Healthy Survivorship, shares a poem she wrote entitled "Hope". Her words resonate with me and I'm posting her poem here today.


Hope is an image of goals
planted firmly in your mind.
When looking at life before you,
hope lines the paths you find.

Hope is a well of courage
nestled deep within your heart.
When faltering in fear and doubt,
hope pushes you to start.

Hope is an urge to keep going,
for limbs too tired and weak.
When apathy stills all desire,
hope sparks the fuel you seek.

Hope is a promise of patience,
as you wait for distress to wane.
When all you can do is nothing,
hope pulls you through the pain.

Hope is a spirit that lifts you
hould heaviness pull at your soul.
When torn apart by losses,
hope mends to keep you whole.

Thank you, Wendy.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Go Whitney!

I love Whitney Houston.

Her latest album, I Look To You, went on sale last week and yours truly bought the CD at Target, drawn into the store like a moth to a flame. The eleven songs are a mix of heartfelt ballads and rhythmic tunes that make you want to take to the dance floor. Yeah! It was all I could do to drive (shhhhhh) and tear off that tenacious plastic wrap on the darn CD so I could slip it in the player and boogie on down the road to her comeback tunes. Her voice is smooth as silk, vintage Whitney, and she's gorgeous to boot. I love Whitney.

My favorite piece off the new album is Call You Tonight. YouTube offers up a pretty decent rendition although the sound off that CD blows me away. With happiness.

I wonder if she'll make any music videos like she did back in the '80's. I remember waaaaay back in 1986, while on maternity leave with Chris, I watched MTV and fell in love with How Will I Know? I'd dance around the house and if we were in the car together when this hit came on the radio, I'd sing to him. Oh, the 80's. Those were happy days and I never hear this older song of Whitney's that I don't smile.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Cougar is Caught in Magnolia

After eluding capture for the past 10 days, the Magnolia cougar was caught early this morning. He may already be on his way back to the wild where he belongs. This is a happy ending for all concerned. We are just a half mile from where he's been roaming. How he got out of the woods and into civilization is a mystery.

This photo is the actual "Magnolia cougar"; after he woke up from the effects of the tranquilizer gun. The yellow tag on his left ear is some sort of marking device. The story tells about how they plan to follow him.

Check out this story from our local Magnolia Blog for more interesting pictures of this gorgeous young cat.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Addicted to Popping Balloons

This is my first post for September. We're already five days into the month! What have I been I doing with my time? Certainly not blogging, that's for sure.

I've been working. In fact I'm "on call" for the Labor Day Weekend. I've been running errands, visiting Mom and Dad, eating, sleeping, reading, thinking about the cougar roaming around in Discovery Park, a half mile from our house, and wasting HUGE amounts of time popping balloons.

I blame all this on Denny. He's the one that got me into this mess in the first place. I've heard him say to me for weeks when I ask him what he's doing, "....popping balloons on the computer." Right. OK. He plays games all the time. I generally ignore all this stuff. Then, a few days back he logged me on to and gave me a two second introduction to the web site's most popular game, "Poppit", complete with sound effects. He told me it was mindless relaxation, a way to chill out and forget the world. Ha!

No, not me. I'll never get hooked. This isn't my thing. Never. No way. No how. Dumb. Very dumb.


Pop. Pop. Pop.

Until my eyes blur out and I have to quit.