Monday, July 4, 2011

West Virginia is a little slice of Heaven

Imagine looking out over a beautiful valley punctuated with a flowing river running through the center and seven layers of mountains rising around the valley. There are no lights to be seen except the occasional car winding around one of the far peaks as it weaves its way to the base of the mountain. Now imagine deer grazing lazily, swallows diving past, and fireflies lighting the dark as you look down from your balcony. The temperature is 77 degrees during the hottest part of the day and a wonderfully cool 55 degrees at night. I have just described the scene that I enjoyed all week at the Pipestem Resort in Ghent, West Virginia.

Thursday we left the lodge and drove to White Sulphur Springs to tour the Greenbrier Hotel and the cold war bunker that was completed in the hotel in 1962. Because of the threat of nuclear war, Eisenhower had the bunker started in the 50's to house all of the U.S. Congress and their senior staffs. For 30 years the bunker was kept stocked with food, water, oxygen, medical supplies, physicians, technology personnel, etc needed in the event we were bombed. Think about this...all of the necessary items to accommodate 1200 people for 60 days were kept at the constant ready for 30 years!!! Even the furniture and decor were periodically updated and it was NEVER used! The expense of 30 years of daily upkeep for 1200 people and it was never used! (Of course, it's good that we were never that close to a nuclear threat!) And it was such a secret that the public never knew all of the secrets about the bunker until 1992 when it was exposed by the Washington Post!

One of the most spectacular sights at the Greenbrier is the interior decor which was decorated by the renowned designed Dorothy Draper (1889-1969). She designed long, sweeping hallways that practically burst with color. She was quite heroic for her time. She was born into a wealthy family and was married to a wealthy doctor. However, she wanted to make a name for herself. When her husband divorced her, she began her decorating business in earnest. She used bold colors of red, blue, coral, green, aqua, yellow to accent black and white. All of her patterns are huge and not easily forgotten. She went against all of the decorating norms of the oppressive Victorian era and created light, airy, wonderful spaces for people to enjoy. I loved seeing her designs and I am so glad that even 50 years after her death her designs live on in the company that bears her name.

After Greenbrier we visited a coal mine in Beckley, WVA. You can't imagine the difficult life of a coal miner until you are actually in the dark, damp, rat-infested mine and hear the stories of 12 hour days with men laying on their sides in the wet mud using a pick ax to extract coal. The life was hard and many men died in the mines. My family comes from a long line of miners and we have always heard the stories of the difficult lives of miners. However, the tour was eye-opening to reveal the reality of life in the mines. I loved the tour and we had a colorful character, Marvin, as our guide. However, I was ready to surface when the tour was over. The constant 55 degree temperature was nice, but the dark and the damp air was a little scary.

This vacation occurs every year for a Lilly-Mitchem family reunion. The Lilly family was one of the original settlers in West Virginia and was given land on the frontier in West Virginia in payment for their service during the Revolutionary War. Three years ago, the Lilly's made the Guiness Book of World Records by having the largest family reunion in the world at their original Lilly land in West Virginia. Much of the Lilly land was taken by eminent domain to form the Blue Stone lake and Blue Stone Dam. There are still monuments to the Lilly family throughout the Southeastern part of West Virginia.

This year I attended the reunion with my mom Betty, step dad Doug, sister Lora, and nephew Joshua. We had a big time riding bikes, taking nature hikes, playing cards and watching fireflies. As you may know, we don't seem to have fireflies in South Georgia any more. One theory is that the same pesticide that kills Boll weevils kills fireflies. Sad for me because I love to watch fireflies at dusk. My nephew and I ran into the bigger wild inhabitants of the park when we inadvertently rode the bikes right onto a large black bear. Both of us were terrified. We saw the bear at the same time and stopped our bikes immediately. I told Joshua to turn around slowly and head back to the cabin. That sweet baby couldn't get back on the bike fast enough and his only words to me were "Aunt Tina don't you dare leave me!" Of course, I wasn't going to leave that sweet baby. I would have fought that bear to keep it away from Joshua, but I was certainly glad that the bear ran back into the woods and I didn't have to fight it! Later that night I also saw a coyote running through the park and we saw tons of deer every day. If you love bird watching, you should definitely plan to stay in Pipestem. The birds are magnificent.

On the same day as the bear scare, Joshua, Lora, and I were hanging out at the Blue Stone River Gorge when the Beckley, WVA Channel 59 news team came on the scene to talk to vacationers about the greatness of the WVA parks. Minnesota closed all of its state parks during the 4th of July weekend due to budget restraints. When the reporter asked me if I wanted to be interviewed, I hopped right up there and declared the wonderfulness of West Virginia. I looked like a tourist with my hair pulled back, sunglasses, and my camera at my side.

Once again, we had a wonderful West Virginia vacation and plan to attend again next year (Lord willing). If you have never visited Virginia or West Virginia, you should. The land is the birthplace of democracy for the United States and is full of patriots. The terrain is the most beautiful I have ever witnessed and I leave a little part of my heart in that cool, gnat free, low humidity state every time I visit!

Tell me your thoughts on the blog. Thanks for reading and allowing me to write stories that I love.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Alaska: It's quite a journey!

In May 2011, eleven family members, including my mom, went on an excellent adventure to Canada and Alaska. There were many firsts on this trip. Mom's first time flying commercially, her first trip to Canada, and her first trip to Alaska. Most of us on the trip had never been to Canada or Alaska and we were uber excited! The impetus of the trip was to celebrate David and Tammy's 25th wedding anniversary.

The trip began as most fabulous trips do, in the Atlanta airport. We flew into Vancouver, British Columbia and stayed the night before the big cruise to Alaska. I had heard that Vancouver was one of the prettiest cities in North America. Vancouver is beautiful, but it's also full of vagrants and people begging on the streets. Interestingly, on the morning we were to sail, none of us had found a place to have breakfast and were huddled outside the hotel trying to decide where to eat. We had been approached many times by people asking for money, but I was approached by a young, pierced, tattooed fellow who was eating fruit from a clear plastic dish. He stopped and asked me why people always thought he was going to buy drugs when he asked for money. I assured him that I did not know the minds of the people he chose to beg from and could therefore be of no use in answering this burning question. He then asked me if I would give him money. Now, picture this. I am standing outside in the Canadian cold trying to find some food and this young, pierced, tattooed fellow is standing in front of me eating fruit and asking me for money for food. I suggested to him that he give me money since he already had food and I was hungry. He immediately withdrew from our conversation and carried on with his fruit-eating at another locale. Good riddance Mr. young, pierced, tattooed fellow. Try that crazy line of thinking on someone else. My very practical Aunt Lucy suggested that the young man apply for work at the local store with the "help wanted" sign. She loves being helpful. The young man did not find the suggestion as wise and practical as did the rest of us. His loss.

Next I saw a huge Confederate flag flying from one of the boats docked in the bay in Vancouver. In case you are wondering if I am using the words "Confederate Flag" to describe a flag other than the type you see in the American south, I am not. I figure that either some good ole boys from Georgia or Tennessee have moved to Vancouver and taken their cultural heritage with them or some Canadian has entered a time continuum that prevents from them realizing that the American civil war is over by like....146 years. Whatever. Freedom is a beautiful thing even if you choose to express your freedom by flying a Confederate flag from the deck of your Canadian boat!

On the way to the pier to board the boat we had to take a train. This sounds simple, but it's not. You go to the train station, take an elevator to somewhere, an escalator to somewhere else and then try to figure out which train to take to the pier. I am really bad at figuring out which train to take, but it seems that I am quite excellent at falling down escalators while carrying 50-pound suitcases. Yep, fell down the damn escalator. Only a step or two, but the bruises on my shin lasted longer than the cruise. Scared everyone involved and rattled myself just a little. I feel sure that I looked graceful and quite athletic while holding onto the 100 total pounds of suitcases. Luckily, no one had time to get their camera out to record a confirmation that I looked good while falling down. Just take my word for it. I had on my fabulous red hat. I ask you, how bad could I have looked? Now upright, I carried on.

Finally got some breakfast and began the week-long exercise of boarding the boat! Seriously, the lines were crazy long and nothing moved fast. Next time we take a cruise, someone is faking an injury and requiring a wheelchair! And you better bet that I will be the companion of the wheelchair cruiser! As it should be, the good folks in wheel chairs get some sweet accommodations when it comes to avoiding long lines and someone else takes care of their luggage! There were almost 3000 people trying to board the boat in a two hour period. We met a lot of the folks that would be our neighbors for a week. There were people from all over the world in line with us. I recall hearing England, China, Japan, Ireland, Canada and USA as we all chatted.

When mom and I finally boarded, we went directly to the spa and arranged for massages. Because it was Mother's day, mom got an awesome 90 minute massage for her gift from her eldest daughter! Great way to start a cruise. We bought special "limited passes" to use the ultra-exclusive section of the spa that included heated, ceramic lounge chairs, multiple jetted hot tubs, and the most fantastic view of the Alaskan landscape available anywhere on the boat! We lived it up big. We kept saying that we may never have the opportunity to cruise to Alaska again, we wanted to take advantage of everything! Unfortunately, the time difference (three hours most of the time, but 4 hours difference during part of the cruise) had me crazy! It was not until the third day of the cruise that I finally started to adjust!

Mom and I had a wonderful cabin with a balcony. I suggest a balcony for an Alaskan cruise. We saw wonders beyond imagination from that awesome balcony. I have lots and lots more to tell you about the cruise. Since this is my first blog in 10 months, I don't want to overwhelm you. Let me know if you want to hear more details about the cruise. You just can't imagine the beauty of Alaska until you visit. Lots more to come......

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My life as a Halloween addict

It's cooler this morning than normal and I can feel the life stirring back into me. The oppressive heat is giving way to the first signs that summer is almost extinguished and the more temperate fall weather is on its way. Secretly, I have a Mardi gras-style celebration going on inside my head because cooler weather means that HALLOWEEN is fast approaching!

I love Halloween. Always have loved everything about Halloween. There are thousands of websites and groups dedicated to creating beautiful objects for Halloween. I have such wonderful memories of all the kids loading up in the back of the pick up as mom and her friends slowly drove us around town gathering treats from the neighbors. It's funny that I don't recall much about my costumes but the memories of camaraderie and excitement are an integral part of my life. I don't like the scary part of Halloween but I love the traditions and parties. As adults, Halloween allows us to forget the troubles and routines of every day and just be kids again for one night.

Recently, my husband and I, my mom and step-dad, and several wonderful friends began hosting a Halloween party at my house. I knew as soon as we decided to have the party that I must go extravagant and "leave no stone unturned" in decorating for this party! We don't build elaborate sets with zombie monsters jumping out, but we do change the entire house into a Halloween celebration. The party is not about gore and blood, it's more about Halloween colors with a little glitter thrown in! My husband loves the party and he is an excellent host, but he does not love the "changing the entire house into a Halloween celebration." However, he tolerates my innate need (at this point it has become an innate need) to go crazy decorating for Halloween. He even expanded the attic in his shop to accommodate my growing collection of Halloween items. Now, a man who gives over part of his shop for Halloween decorations is a keeper.

We try to make the party bigger and better every year and we are working on the next big decorating decision. Let me tell you just a few of the things we do in preparation:

1. Change all the pictures in the house to Halloween-themed pics

2. Change out the fabric on the dining room and breakfast room chairs to Halloween fabric

3. Paint a new series of paintings each year to reflect some new detail of Halloween. Last year the new paintings centered around green witches (Tony and I had just seen "Wicked" on Broadway so my mind was occupied with thoughts of the green witch!)

4. Incorporate bigger-than-life wooden cutouts of witches decorated for the season. So far we have Willow, Boobalicious, and Bootylicious. The names are very descriptive of their actual look. My step-dad cut out the witches and painted them while my mother and I decorated them. They are very stylish and are great props for Halloween pictures.
5. Replace all the knobs on my cabinetry with big, hairy rubber spiders that have a hole drilled in them to substitute as knobs. The effect is really wonderful and the guests and always surprised when they reach up and grab a spider rather than a handle! I love it.

6. Place a hundred pumpkins on the porch, the deck, and every open spot in the house.

7. Design the skeletons so that they are climbing the columns on the front porch to sneak into the upper window of the house.

8. Cutting out and hanging hundreds of black bats so that the living room looks like a bat cave!

9. Collecting EVERY Halloween book known to man to scout out new ideas!

10. Decorating the back yard with hay bales, corn stalks, and eerie candles and lights to give just the right party atmosphere!

11. Searching for the perfect costume all year so that I: (a) Don't show too much skin; (b) don't have to wear a wig - they are just too hot; (c) don't need high heels - this is a fun party and aching feet could mess with my fun; (d) don't look fat!

12. Reminding everyone all year that there are only 8 months until Halloween; only 7 months until Halloween; only 6 months until Halloween, only 5 months until Halloween; only 4 months until Halloween........

13. Decorating a Halloween tree (using an old Christmas tree) with orange lights and every kind of wonderful Halloween ornament. The tree turns out beautifully and is too fun to create.

14. My favorite part of the preparations is creating the hand-made invitations and envelopes with my mom. She is very creative and a wonderful paper artist (along with jewelry artist - some of you may own a piece of hand-crafted jewelry). The invitations are individually made and printed by mom and me. The envelopes are also hand made by us and we try to make them very special. We are solidifying our design aesthetic for this year and should start making the invites very soon! The perfect words for the invite change each year and we are working on that part of the design now.

15. My colors for Halloween are the obvious choices of orange and black, but I also use turquoise. I love turquoise, but you don't find it much in Halloween decorations. For some strange reason, purple is too often thrown into the mix by retailers. So, when I find a new Halloween decoration that I love that has purple in it, I just pull out the trusty paint box and brushes and customize that sweet baby until it is uniquely Tina. I have lots of altered pieces that started out one color but have been changed to another color. Of course, they look great.

16. Wonderful food abounds at our Halloween party. We have special Halloween cakes and home-made Halloween cookies along with BBQ by the Spring Fling Grand Champion. Thanks Johnny and Jackie! Usually the guests bring some wonderful food item and the food table become a pot luck heaven!

17. Build a wonderful center-piece of Halloween fun items. The centerpiece includes skulls, crows, mice and beautiful flowers. Of course, there are a few girly feathers thrown in for good measure.

18. My step-dad makes a wonderful grave yard with hand-made grave markers and Connie contributes the mannequin legs peeking out from the graves. The effect is really great.

19. Built a witch's shelf that looks like she just came in from flying. The shelf (created by my step-dad) includes the witches book, cape, hat, stockings, boots, and jars of various potions for creating mischief! I love this particular piece.

20. By far the best part is the many friends who make the party so wonderful. We had no idea that anyone would even show up for the party, but our friends have been very supportive. It's not a crazy party, but the costumes are fabulous. People who are very conservative in their real lives, can be very creative in their Halloween life. Costumes are REQUIRED.

Here is a salute to everyone who loves Halloween and to those hosting Halloween parties this year. Have fun and be safe, but most of all draw on those memories of the Halloweens of our childhood that still linger in our minds. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Connect the words

I have been thinking about the fine line between Fearless and Foolish. I have lots of things I want to share with you, but I have not quite fleshed out the entire article. I want the post to really be worth your while when you read it. Lots of deep things for you to consider. Should post it soon.

In the meantime, I wrote down several adjectives or other descriptive words recently as they popped into my head and I decided to look for something in my life that matched the adjectives. Some of these are just plain crazy, some are very revealing of who I am and how I think, and some will cause you to think about who you are and why you think like you do.
Here is my list:

1. Surprising -- finding gasoline prices going down instead of up!
2. Techno-surprising -- a 70 year old retiree getting his first Blackberry!
3. Updated -- New, red leather chairs for the study at home.

4. Blessed -- life-giving rain on my beautiful flowers

5. Terrifying -- the lights going out at home last night during the storm.

6. Crazy -- a 28-foot alligator with an adult deer in its mouth being killed at Lake Weiss, Ala.

7. Bookwormish -- finding the awesome book "Life's Golden Ticket." You should read it.

8. Totally fun -- finding comfortable, red, patent leather pumps in my size!

9. Funny -- jumping in fear when I mistook the log in the lake for an alligator.

10. Never Becomes Ordinary -- Seeing my sweet husband every day.

11. Warned -- a rabbit hissing at me when the puppies and I got too close.

12. Lucky find -- new eye cream with stem cells in it. Guaranteed to look 5 years younger.

13. Whoo Hoo! -- riding bikes with the nephew in West Virginia

14. Old Timey -- eating pure, golden honey with the honeycomb included in the jar

15. Representing -- great conservative candidates talking about "taking back America."

16. Small world -- running into people from Moultrie in every state I go into!!

17. Soothing -- our pastor sitting with us though Tony's knee surgery.

18. Respect -- seeing the moms and dads who give at home, at work, and in the community.

19. Free stuff -- free puppy kisses from my sweet Stretchy the Dachshund.

20. Delicious -- "chocolate stuff" at Norma Jeans in St. Simons.

21. Sneaky -- a friend planning a huge surprise trip for their 20th anniversary! Shhhh!

22. In awe -- watching honey bees pollinate the crepe myrtles.

23. Straight forward -- my sister's attack on fibromyalgia.

24. Celebrate -- the 10-year mortgage rate going down to 3.75%

25. Comfortable -- being at home surrounded by my stuff, the puppies, and the hubby.

I would do 25 more, but I will stop with these. I hope you like this blog and that you will get ready for the next blog. Please suggest to me other topics that might make for great blogs. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Things I saw and heard on my vacation

I spent a week in paradise. My step dad's annual family reunion was last week in Pipestem, West Virginia at the Pipestem State Park and Lodge. The park is located in the most majestic setting possible. We stayed in a cottage on the top of a mountain surrounded by the forest. The resort has everything you could possibly need and I didn't leave the park all week except to go stock up on food. My mom, step dad, husband, and the 9-year old nephew were with me. I made notes all week so that I could tell you about the trip. Seriously, it was paradise and I hated to leave.

I know that most people love to go to the beach in the summer, but if you know me at all, you are aware that I don't "do" the sun and I hate the heat. I go to the beach in the wintertime when it's cool and not crowded. One of the days while we were in WV, the temperature was 71 degrees at 4:28 p.m. = Heaven. No humidity = Angels singing. The 9-year old nephew hanging out and riding bikes with me all week = blessing beyond belief.

So here are the interesting/odd things that I noticed or participated in while on the trip:

1. Before we left Georgia we went into a McDonald's that had an electronic trashcan that said "thank you" every time someone put trash in the can.

2. The flags flying at half-staff for WV Senator Robert Byrd who was the longest serving Congressman in the history of the United States. He was 92 when he died and had served for 51 years in Congress.

3. The nephew and I discovering that not being able to carry cash with us on the bikes was not a problem since we could charge our ice cream to the room. We ate alot of ice cream after that discovery.

4. Cars from 21 states staying at the Pipestem Lodge. That 21 actually includes the District of Columbia and Canada. You hear lots of dialects when 21 states gather at the same lodge!

5. Running into a man from Tifton, Georgia at the Wal-Mart in Princeton, West Virginia. I noticed him because he was wearing a Tift Regional Medical Center shirt! Small World.

6. The nephew and I riding bikes down the huge hills until our eyes watered from the wind! Thanks John Griffin for the loan of the bicycle rack. You helped make our vacation awesome!

7. Celebrating my husband's birthday in the mountains.

8. Hearing an unusual conversation between four elderly men as they discussed the fact that their email was going straight to spam rather than to their inbox.

9. Watching the deer, including twin fawns, as they came up to us to eat peaches from our hands.

10. A billboard on the Interstate with a female toddler featured on it that read: "Please find the cure to breast cancer before I grow boobs!"

11. Paddle boating with the nephew when he finds a dead bream in the lake with a hook and line still attached to the fish.

12. Taking a picture of the nephew holding up the dead bream like a trophy catch.

13. Going to sleep to the sound of an owl hooting in the forest outside my cabin's window.

14. Going through two tunnels that had been blasted through mountains. A little scary.

15. Watching in horror as two motorcyclists are almost hit by a tractor trailer when their motorcycle stalled in the dark tunnel. They were pressed against the wall with no "pull-over" lane. Not sure how they kept from being killed.

16. My husband's surprise when a ground hog popped up out of the hole on the golf course and flashed its two huge incisors in warning.

17. The realization that 9-year old boys don't bathe or brush their teeth of their own accord. You have to threaten to hurt them in order to convince them to wash their feet. They don't sit quietly very much either. Actually, I didn't care if he bathed or brushed his teeth because he gives such good hugs that everything else is irrelevant.

18. Learning to play the card game "golf." It's super fun and I will be glad to show you how to play. Come on over one weekend and the hubby and I will host a "golf" tournament. You will love it.

19. Playing guitar with my step dad's extremely talented relatives. They are the kind of musically-talented folks that just walk up to an instrument, introduce themselves to it and start playing awesome music. Mountain folks learn early to play an instrument and to sing. I played my guitar version of Country Roads Take me Home and in a very supportive voice they told me to keep practicing and I would get better. Ok, I practiced for a year to play it at all. Don't think I will improve much, but who knows!

20. Riding in an aerial tram with the hubby and nephew as we dropped 3000 feet from the top of the mountain to the Blue Stone Creek gorge below. You can actually see a huge cave in the side of the mountain with a moonshine still set-up in it. I'm sure it's just for the tourists, but the effect is perfect.

21. Sitting in the lodge watching the most beautiful sunsets every afternoon.

22. My mom "adopting" a young woman who is leaving West Virginia to become a U.S. Solider. She and her Red Hat group have adopted several soldiers that they send hand-made cards to so that they know that we are thinking about them as they sacrifice for us.

23. Not wearing sunscreen but not getting burned even through the nephew and I rode bikes for several hours every day. Did I mention that I loved the cool, humidity-free weather?

24. Watching a fat raccoon that has become accustomed to being hand fed, steal the bags from the humans playing bean bag toss!

25. Discovering a jar of Moonshine Jelly at the local trading post.

26. Mom discovering that the bat we kept hearing screech was actually stuck in the boards of the old shelter where he nested. Mom insisting that the park rangers save the bat.

27. Eating awesome food while enjoying wonderful company at the family reunion. The peanut butter cheesecake won the dessert contest.

28. The hubby driving 12 hours straight from West Virginia to Georgia and not asking me to drive. I love that man.

29. The puppies being super excited to see us when we came home. Our fabulous baby sitter, Kelli Lynn Moser took care of the babies and the house. We love her and the babies told me that she is the greatest!

Best vacation ever. Lord willing, we will be back again next year in a three-bedroom cabin hanging out with the deer and the owls! Thanking God for the safe trip and the opportunity to tell you about my adventure. Until next time......

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A story worth telling

You probably didn't know Janet Copeland, but she was a sweet, wonderful lady who loved Chinese food and who loved to paint little figurines. She always had a smile and an encouraging word for Tony and me. She always finished every conversation with us by saying "ya'll be careful driving." She was a positive person who had many friends.

What you might not realize is that my entire involvement with her was at Heritage Healthcare Nursing Home here in Moultrie and her friends were the very dedicated staff at Heritage Healthcare. Ms. Copeland was only about 53 years old, but she had been in the nursing home for years. She didn't walk and only got out of bed with tremendous assistance to go to a doctor's appointment. She never married and didn't have children but she seemed to "mother" each of us she encountered. She was my mother-in-law's roommate at the nursing home and she unexpectedly passed away last week.

I do not know why I felt such a strong desire for you to know Ms. Copeland. Perhaps it is ironic that she spent so much of her life in a nursing home, but her death will now be a part of the Internet that is accessible to the far corners of the world! She felt that her job as Mrs. Anderson's roommate was to observe and report to us who visited Mrs. Anderson and to make suggestions for her conduct. My strong-willed mother-in-law did not always take the suggestions too well. She has short-term memory loss, but she has NOT lost her strong will.

Tony and I still have trouble dealing with the death of residents of the nursing home. I know that death is a fact with a community of elderly patients and I have tremendous respect for the nurses, CNA's, administrators, and support staff who so tenderly care for the residents. The staff spends so much time with the residents that they must be tremendously saddened each time a resident passes away. The crazy thing for me is that I am always surprised when one of the residents dies. I definitely feel like a hole has been created where a sweet, gentle person once filled it. There is always another elderly citizen of our community waiting for a spot at the nursing home so that the cycle continues. We are very fortunate to have so many quality nursing homes in Moultrie. If you have ever dealt with placing a family member in a nursing home, you know the importance and peace of mind that comes with finding a caring environment for your family member.

It's tough visiting a nursing home when you are young and healthy. We all are afraid of aging and the unfortunate results that accompany aging. I assure you that you will be blessed by visits to the nursing home. There are quite a lot of characters sitting in those wheel chairs. You never know what you might see or hear from the residents. I always have at least one good laugh as the residents comment on my shiny, red pocketbook or when the little old ladies smile at my sweet husband.

Ironically while looking for Ms. Copeland's obituary last week, I came across an obit for Vivian Hall. I would not have even looked at the obit because the name was not familiar at first, but there was a picture attached and I thought I recognized the picture. I was right. Ms. Hall was a GED student at MTC and was a pure delight to know. She struggled with math as many people do, but she worked diligently with tutors to try to master the subject. When I would see her in town, she always stopped me to talk about her efforts at school. I think she was very proud that after so many years she was back in school working toward her GED. We were certainly proud of her.

For most of you, neither one of these ladies, Ms. Copeland or Ms. Hall, may have crossed your path. In their own small ways they touched my life and I wanted to share them with you. Both of them are gone, but a little bit of them lives on with me. This blog is a way for a tiny piece of their story to be told to people who might not have known them. I hope that you have a blessed week and maybe you could share the story of someone who may not have been on the front page of the newspaper, but whose story is worthy of telling.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This is for the girls only....

Well, this month on the full moon I had a mammogram. Ironic? I think so. I had not had a mammogram in 10 years. I know that's crazy, but I have been really busy. However, the great folks at Dr. Trescott's office decided that no matter how busy I am, I must have a mammogram. They scheduled it and I obeyed. No known problems, but those screenings are important. The entire time I was having the mammogram, I was thinking that I had to tell all of you my interpretation of the procedure. Guys, there is no way to compare the procedure to anything you have to go through. Just go hug your wife/sister/girlfriend/mom and thank her for going through the pain of a mammogram. Keep reading, you will find out why.

I showed up at our great hospital and filled out the necessary paperwork. Everyone from admissions to dismissal was wonderful as usual. Very short wait and I was ushered back to radiology. Filled out more paperwork with radiology. One of my biggest fears is that they would have to weigh me. I fully believe that my digital scale at home lies in a big way. I did not want to find out differently at the hospital. Luckily they allowed me to self-proclaim my weight. In the "Weight" blank I simply wrote "Too much." I knew that they didn't really use that information for the procedure. No need to be weighed. Going nicely so far.

The radiology folks sent me to the mammogram room -- it's behind the door with the pink ribbon. I found the right place and again had only a short wait until a little lady came and got me. I had read the prep paperwork so I did not have on deodorant and had a shirt and pants on (no dresses -- two pieces are necessary.) The tech gave me a little shawl/shirt and told me to put it on with the opening in the front. Along the wall of the dressing room were about 6 or 7 dispenser rolls of band aid-like stickers. They started with the wee itty bitty size and progressed to the biggest ones. She told me to put the ones from the second dispenser over the center of my breasts. They were not the wee itty bitty ones -- they were the itty bitty ones. I knew there was a great story brewing to tell you when she asked me to apply the itty bitty ones to my breasts. It got more interesting.

Next, we got down to the serious business of the mammogram. Guys, seriously, if you are reading this it may be too painful for you. Mammograms are not for the weak. They hurt.

The tech was a tiny lady who looked like she couldn't hurt a fly. I was so wrong. Keep in mind that she does many mammograms a day and her job is to get a perfect image so that the radiologist can identify any irregularities. She must be efficient and thorough. Women's lives depend on her doing her job well. The first question I asked was whether the band aid-like stickers were chosen based on breast size. She laughed and assured me that they were not. Hmmmmmm. I don't know.

This tiny lady placed my breast on a metal tray covered in sweet, little, pink flowers. How nice. Next, that sweet, perfectly sane-looking lady hit a foot pedal and slammed an acrylic tray on my breast with the force of having your tender breasts slammed in the car door. Yep, I think that is a good description. She then came over and prodded my breast and informed me that the muscle/tissue must be taunt for the image to be accurate. You have no idea how much taunt can hurt. The acrylic torture tray closed tighter. We got an image she was ok with. Geez, another breast to go.

Same routine on the other breast. I was so relived when that acrylic tray released the second time. I kept thinking about how I would get out of that thing if the electricity went out or the darn machine stuck. I almost had a panic attack thinking about being stuck in that darn machine. I started to put my fashionable, open-front hospital top back on and that little lady told me we were only half-way through. At that point I told her that she was the meanest person I had ever known. She laughed and said mean or not we were going to get a good image for the radiologist.

Keep in mind, I am about 6 inches taller than her and probably 40 pounds heavier. That little lady placed my breast on that tray again and took me by my waist and plopped me into the correct position so that the machine could include the lymph nodes in the photograph. She was little, but this was certainly not her first mammogram rodeo! Here comes the dang torturous acrylic tray again. Same hurt and I am about to cuss. I told that tech that if I were choosing sides to go to war, I would choose her. I meant it as a compliment and she took it that way. She laughed again. Soon the procedure was over.

Because our hospital uses digital photography, I could see my images immediately. Of course, the technician did not tell me anything about the image, that's not her job, but it was cool to see the image immediately after it was taken. We were almost friends now.

I couldn't wait to tell you the story and to remind you to please have a mammogram. This procedure is so important and your life and the life of women you love is too important to negate this important, simple test. The test is temporarily painful, but breast cancer can be horribly painful and even deadly. I hope you will schedule your mammogram and get a little laugh as you remember my experience and how yours is similar. I love you and hope that you will take my advice and schedule your exam or encourage the women you love to schedule theirs. To great breast health!! This little story is dedicated to Liz Keith -- she is cancer free. Thank God.