Granny Sue and her Blue Bottle Bush

On her blog on March 3rd, my friend WV storyteller Susannah Holstein wrote that she was collecting blue bottles to make her own blue bottle bush to keep the evil spirits at bay. Not only that she added a lot about the lore behind the blue bottle bush.

Right then I knew I wanted to send her a blue bottle for that tree. I frequent thrift shops so I thought it would be a snap to pick up a blue bottle and pop it in the mail.

HA! Shows how much I know.

Blue bottles are scarce as hens teeth as I soon learned. I was beginning to think I would have to settle and buy a jar of Vicks vap-o-rub, clean it out, and pretend I had found it. But I persisted and finally ten days ago I snagged one.

Coming home from the Safeway in Kensington I swung my car into the parking lot of the old Kensington Town Hall which has been for years a thrift shop run by the Prevention of Blindness.

I had just about given up finding one when I stepped into one of the smaller back rooms and - - there it was - a doozy of a blue bottle - sitting on a top shelf, glowing in the sunlight - just waiting to be a part of Granny Sue's blue bottle bush.

I packed it up and shipped it off to West Virginia and as you will see on her blog today it arrived in one piece - in time to be a part of her blue bottle bush. It's a something! Don't miss it.

The way things have been going for us lately I am wondering if she is to something - - --
I am going to start collecting blue bottles myself so that I too can put up a shield that will keep the evil spirits away off our roof.



Back on Jet Blue.
Taking a last look at Oakland as we took off and turned to head East.

The trip home was a quick 4 and a half hours. Relatively smooth until we bounced through cross winds on descent and landing making me even more delighted to walk down the halls of the B Concourse toward the shuttles to the Main Terminal.

As we walked off the escalator in the main terminal I noticed paintings on the walls - paintings with a familiar look and feeling. I recognized that artist. "Jim, look, I know those are by Sherry Sanabria. " Sure enough, they were. Hard to miss her way of working with interior light - a style she has honed since I first met her in graduate painting classes at American University.

I love seeing good art in public spaces and it is icing on the cake when I know the artist.

What a great welcome home.!!!


Urban Barn Raising

It takes a village to raise a backboard.

Excitement in the backyard yesterday.
My ringside seat for this event suited me fine. I watched through the patio doors from the comfort of the couch in the den.
For several hours it was slow going as a couple of guys assembled the framework. When they were ready they called in more hands and backs from the neighborhood. As the raised arms and hands pushed the pole upright I recognized it as a barn raising.

No, I have never seen a real barn-raising but I have seen great movie recreations.
Remember the raucous barn-raising scene in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the great 1950s musical. Another barnraising scene fresh in my memory is the Harrison Ford film, Witness which Jim and I saw recently on TCM.

There is a good article about our root connections to barn raising on Wikipedia.

While all that sweating was happening in the back yard I was watching "House" on the Fox Channel. There was a marathon of medical mysteries for the brilliant, eccentric Gregory House, MD to solve.

I first encountered medical mysteries at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1954. Every Monday a paper with a puzzle was distributed - all the information to make a diagnosis. Blood work, x-ray information, etc etc etc. It was part of teaching and honing skills in differential diagnosis. Medical staff from top levels to medical students studied the clues, discussed them and cogitated over the possible answers. Students nurses also took a crack at figuring out the puzzle. Then on Fridays the answer was revealed at the Clinical Pathological Conference. Aleays complex, most always a surprise.

Now ofcourse there was not the drama of House - and no cameras - but the purpose was the same - ask questions, learn enough, save the patient.

And, often the cases were just as bizarre as those that appear on House. Hopkins is a teaching hospital. People came with the illnesses no one else was dealing with or with illness someone on the staff was researching and studying. I remember someone saying once time - "graduate medical school from here and you won't recognize measles the first time you see it."

But you will keep asking the questions - and I know from watching Jim - you're not satisfied until you get to the bottom of the problem. Part of the art of medicine.


Hal Schoetler Family - circa 1949

Front row: Judy, Loretta, holding Mary, Hal, Harold
Back row: Tom, Jim and Dave

Harold, Jim, Tom and Mary spent a lot of time together these last few days in Madera, surrounded by large groups of family and friends and alone. Time to talk. Time to remember. Time to just be together.

In this picture David is the youngest boy - he grew to be the largest - over 6'4", laughing and loving - a big man - a presence.


Re-reading Inkheart

"after all, there's nothing like a few comforting pages of a book when you're away from home Right?." (Inkheart, Cornelia Funke, page 235)

Last week when I was telling stories at Woodacres Elementary School I was leading third graders in a discussion of "how they make the pictures in their minds". An eager boy raised his hand. " I love to read chapter books because I make movies in my mind. I leave this world and go right into the book." Wow - from a third grader.

"That reminds me of Inkheart. Have you read it?"
"Well, I bet when you do, you will love it."

I am traveling with Inkheart. Entering the familiar story soothes me to sleep at night.

When I fall asleep with the book in my hands my glasses drop off and get lost in the bed covers. It feels like home.

In the 1960s my uncle took a job with a firm that sent he and my aunt overseas
to Baghdad. At that time Baghdad was still straight out of the Arabian Nights and filled with an aura of mystery and delight. I was surprised that my aunt traveled wth a trunk filled with books. Now I understand.

Smart woman.


Odyssey West

Everyone knew it was coming - ever since his operation at Stanford in March - but it happened suddenly. Jim's brother, David died Monday. Jim's doctors cleared him for the trip so here we are in Sunny California.

We flew out yesterday and drove down with Robin today. Our usual routte - the 580 to Highway 99 - is a boring drive but its a very familiar ride through rolling hills to the flat farmlands and smallish towns and almond orchards of the San Joacquin Valley. It was sunny but there was too much haze to see the Sierras in the distance, That's OK. I had gotten a really good look at those craggy mountain tops as we flew over.

We passed Modesto, Merced, old Castle Air Force Base and Chowchilla before we reached Madera, Jim's home town. After 53 years it holds many memories for me too.

We always stay in town at the Madera Valley Inn but this time we booked rooms at the Holiday Inn Express on the edge of town. Jim's older brother likes to stay here because its new and he says he doesn't hear the train.

There must be something amiss with his hearing - you can't take a step in this town without hearing a train. True its not as close so I miss the rattling and shaking as one of those long, long trains that brings traffic to a stop all through the town rolls by at the corner of our hotel room at the Madera Valley Inn.


Happy Birthday Lynda

Today is my sister Lynda's birthday.

I remember when she was born - and spoiled my happy life as an only child. People kept looking into her bassinette and ooing and ahing and I heard them saying - "Louie, what a pretty baby."

As she grew she added insult to injury ( to me) with her dark naturally curly hair that everyone liked to wind around their fingers to make into ringlets that bobbed on her head when she ran.

She was known as the "pretty one".

Now I ask you - how tolerable is that - even though there was a kernel of truth there.

But - she is my sister - and dispite all those pluses randomly awarded to her by nature -

She turned out to be a sweet, caring and loving woman - with a delightful sense of humor - that I love dearly and am so lucky to have as my sister.

Happy Birthday.


Lazy Jack

Today I told stories for more than 500 children and their smiling faces, laughter and engagement with the stories was a tonic for me.

" I liked your stories." "Your stories were so good." "Thank you for teling us the stories. I liked them all."

What more could you ask for? I was tired when I arrived at the school. I left feeling light on my feet.

One of the stories I told was Lazy Jack - the story of the muddled headed guy who keeps doing the silliest things - like putting butter on his head to carry it home, and dragging a leg of mutton behind him on a string. And finally carrying a donkey on his shoulders. All because he can't think his way into new situations and does things the way that would have worked with something else. Now the story ends well - seeing him and his foolish antics makes the miserable princess laugh and he wins her hand and his fortune.

I never liked the story much until I heard Irish storyteller Billy Teare tell it last August at Three Rivers Storytelling Festival in Pittburgh. He opened the story for me and I have been telling it off and on since then.

Today as I was telling the story I realized something new (to me) about the story - its not that Jack is stupid - its that he doesn't adapt to new situations. He makes a mistake, his mama scolds him and tells him what he should have done - and he applies that solution to the next problem - where it doesn't belong or work.

"You twit. You blockhead. What are you thinking?" is the way it usually goes -
Today I found myself saying.
"you twit. You blockhead. Aren't you thinking?"

Became a different story for me -

Aren't we all "Jack" - trying to make square pegs fit into round holes? Because someone told us to - not because its the right solution for the problem at hand.


Rainy Day Treasure

Rain, Rain, Go Away
Come again another day.

I am not singing that song today. Its raining and that is fine with me.

It poured yesterday, hard rain. My cell phone beeped all day with weather alerts - storm warnings, flood warnings. I don't know where the floods happened but we had drenching rain - rain beating on the windows and the roof and splashing on the skylights. The dog waited as long as she could before she would dash outside and back.

Today the ground is soaked. And being wet through has taken away the stink from the new mulch.

It is still raining. And I am glad.
A good time to stay home: catch up: get work done.

I love this kind of day. Nothing better than being snowed in or in this case rained in - for narrowing my focus and keeping me on my list.
So that I can feel "out from under".

I asked Karen yesterday if she saw the smoke coming out of my office - "What?"
I just meant I was getting so much done surely the computer was "smoking".

Behind the stories, storytelling runs on "paper work". Letters, invoices, calendars, etc. etc. etc. And when you drop-out for ten days as I have with Jim in the hospital it like untangling slippery yarn to get it back together.

And, the filing.
Clippings of ideas, receipts, letters, photographs etc, etc, etc. I am a "keeper". You never know what will come in handy.

Besides that, I am looking for something for a story I am working on. I didn't find what I wanted but in the search I found a copy of a letter from my Dad when he was in India during WWII. Ten years ago my aunt Katherine found it among her papers, copied it and sent it to me. She gave the original to Mama - because it was a letter to Mama. Who knows how it got into Koki's papers.

The letter opens, "My, darling." and continues on to describe where he was and what he had been doing in the enclosed snapshots of a day off the base. I don't have the photos but I remember them - and when he sent them home he numbered them. A reminder of how organized he was.

Daddy closes the letter saying, "I have not been getting many letters from Ellouise. I like to hear from her. I have written and told her to write more." ( I was nine years old, in the third grade at Sacred Heart at the time.)

A treasure find on a rainy day.


Losing Connection

Tonight the phone rang and rang
I called again and again
It just keeps ringing

Mama doesn't answer the phone.

Maybe she doesn't want to
Maybe she is tired
Maybe she can't reach it

Mama doesn't answer the phone.

Mama and I have a long phone history. When I was small she taught me the important numbers in case I got lost.

Home - 8741 - then 2-8741 - then ED2-8741
Granny - 6735 - then 3-6735 - then FR3-6735

When Daddy went overseas during WWII and polio raged through Charlotte Mama took Lynda and me to Sacred Heart Academy to live with the nuns for the summer. She called us every Wednesday night at 6:30 PM - as faithful as the sun rising in the morning. The sound of her voice being the connection to home.

When I went to Baltimore to go to school I called home - and after I married Jim we continued to talk regularly. Talking, and talking about something about nothing. Connected by our familiar voices.

Keeping in touch with the daily, talking about then and about now, staying connected.
Telling stories.

Mama is not answering the phone.

She asks my sister for Granny's phone number. She wants to talk with her mother.

I understand.

PS - Monday April 21
Robin called. " Mom, I just spoke to your mother."
"12 seconds ago."
"I will call you right back." When I heard Robion's call click off I dialed Mama"s number.
" Mama. Good morning."
Her voice lifted. " Well, hello to you."
"Do you know who this is?"
"Don't be foolish, ofcourse I do, Ellouise."

" I called you yesterday and you did not answer."
"Well, I probably was not home."

"I am glad you are now."

Thanks, Robin.



Jim was discharged mid-day.
He says he feels un-well. He looks un-well.
We were home only two hours when he realized he had a fever again. And by late afternoon it had risen higher. And they do not know why.
I remember these from my days in nurses training. FUO - fever of unknown origin.
We are gathering data. Taking his temp.
Wait and see, they say.
I don't do that very well, do you?
Get busy, I say to myself. Work on your list.
So, I have done the laundry, written emails, put pictures and words on the blog, and
played computer solitaire.
When all else fails - play.

Post Script: April 19
I came back to this today and when I read I thought to myself, Ellouise, shouldn't that be Pray?

Betty left this comment for me the other day.
My prayers are with you and Jim. I know you would rather be home with a healthy Jim at your side, but God does work in mysterious ways. So glad you had just the right room.
Betty Smith

but God does work in mysterious ways.
Sometimes it takes me a bit - a knock in the head, maybe - for me to see what's right in front of me. The threads are all there - in these posts -

I have been looking for connections and they are there all right.

God is walking with us through this - and I am not listening or talking to Him.

Thanks, Betty.

Reminds me of the story of the Apostles on the road to Emmaus.


Circling and Connecting

I love this computer and my new broad band plug in. Surf, surf, surf. Email, blogs-read and write and a way to watch out for yourself. Jim and I spent one evening surfing for articles about the procedure the doctors planned for him for the next day. And having it helps to fill the minutes and hours that hang heavy on your hands when you are just sitting and waiting.

This time I brought Net Flix movies so Jim and I could choose our own entertainment and we watched them on the computer. Once you're in a hospital and strangers think they are in charge of you and your body it becomes important to make some indepedent choices just to hang on to your sense of yourself. Watching on the computer has several advantages - watching on a tiny screen - you're distanced from the violence in The Last King of Scotland and "pausing" takes care of interruptions without losing the thread of the movie. That's OK. Tests your memory. If you forget you can review a few scenes. Would you believe it took us five hours to complete a two hour movie?

Jim was visited by a member of the Pastoral Staff who is a Methodist minister. "Ellouise is a Metholic" Jim tells her." Then we explained that I had been Artist in Residence at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washingotn. I was sent there on a grant from Wesley Seminary. Isn't it great that I am a Catholic but art is ecumenical. For a year I went to Mass on Saturday evening and Church services twice on Sunday at Foundry. The ministers and the congregaton were great. Being at Foundry Church was a Grace that continues to enrich my life.

It turns out that this woman was a graduate of Wesley, had attended Foundry and we knew people in common. Another bit of small world connecting. She asked me if I knew that Catherine Kapikian, the artist who developed and directs the liturgical art programs at
Wesley and is the person who assigned me to Foundry, had designed the chapel here at George Washington Hospital. No, I did not know that so later I went to see it.

The Chapel is small and inviting - a calming meditative space. A central element is this large art work by Catherine Kapikian, which suggests a stained glass window. The background on the wood panel of patched suede-like fabrics softens the thoroughly modern abstract composition. The non-denominational "sanctuary space" is a gift to patients and families from the Women's Guild of George Washington University Hospital. Trust women to recognize the need.

Jim and I also spent some time with a bit of personal circling.

Our view from the windows in Room 552 over-looked the backside of 2440 Pennsylvania Avenue. Now it is the Melrose Hotel but in 1970 it was an office/apartment building. When Jim opened his private practice in DC his office was on the first floor of 2440 PA Avenue. He knew all the tradespeople, walked to GW Hospital for meetings, to teach, to see patients, and spent long days in his office. This was his world, his neighborhood for seven years.


Circling to the Pope

Some time ago Jim asked if I was interested in seeing if we could attend the public Mass when Pope Benedict came to Washington. I am not a big crowd person so had little enthusiasm about it. As it turned out with Jim's surgery and later complications the idea fell by the wayside.

Last night when we drove down to GW to the Emergency Room workmen were setting up barricades as they prepared to close the exits from Rock Creek Parkway to Pennsylvania Avene. Ah, ofcourse. The Pope's visit tomorrow. This was part of the traffic re-routing for the security plan to protect him. I had not wanted to be part of this very thing. At least we would were ahead of it. I parked in the multi-strory parking garage across from the hospital, feeling good that our car was safely out of the way.

Jim and I had a rough night.

We arrived at 9:30 pm, sent by the doctor as the safest thing for Jim who had a fever, saying it was best to get the IV antibiotics started as soon as possible. We are dealing not with a new condition but with an ongoing issue that began in this very hopsital. Well as soon as possible was two hours later. For those two hours Jim lay on a gurney in a curtained cubicle, feverish with chills. Finally blood was drawn for blood studies and the IV was started. We were told Jim was to be admitted. But, there "are no beds" "you have to wait in the ER." Fine.
Four hours into this wait - and Jim had not even been given a drink of water. I asked if he was ordered no food or drink, "no" so I found a drink machine and bought him an orageade and some plain animal crackers. The nurse said, "he doesn't look dehydrated" and I heard myself saying, "look, not even offering someone a drink of water shows no human kindness."

I don't think these people are cruel- they are thoughtless and as the night gets longer they lose sight of the basic human needs of people lying on gurneys waiting for treatment, tests, or admission. They are sharp for crises but over-look the human touch.

We stayed in the emergency room for 6 and a half hours.
Finally Jim was rolled upstairs to the floor at 4:30 am. Not to a regular floor but to a "holding area". We had been there before. I knew this was a basic observation ward. The nurses and tech were very caring. Once Jim was settled, I was grateful for a pillow and blanket as I prepared to sleep sitting up in a straight chair.

By 5:30 am my right leg was numb and I could hardly move so I crawled into bed with Jim and went to sleep. And that's where was when the four man urology House Staff entourage made their Rounds a little after 6 am. Oops. The really funny thing is that they seemed nt to notice that I was there. After they left I clmbed back in beside Jim for a little more sleep. When the nurse came in with a new IV she laughed. "How nice you can still snuggle." "You're right." we agreed.

When the nurse told us Jim was staying on this ward I aked if they could please bring down a cot from the 5th floor. Well, the short of it is that instead of getting a cot they found a room and Jim was moved to the Fifih floor. We walked into a room that faces 23rd Street and PennsylvaniaAvenue. A room with two windows that overlook the route planned for the Pope to travel when he leaves the White House this morning.

Jim could see from his bed and I pulled up a chair to watch the security preparations and then the gathering crowd.

And finally.
Pope Benedict in his white Mercedes Popemobile rode right before us.

Jim was delighted. He saw the Pope after all.

And I thought the crowd would be hard.

Circling back.


Back to GW Hospital

No. No. We are back in GW Hospital.

Jim had a procedure - an innocent enough adjustment to his drain from th surgery on Monday. This evening at supper time he began to feel hot and feverish and then began to have chills. A call to his doctor and we were on our way downtown to the emergeny room. By the time we got here his fever was 102.8. And, you guessed it - they started IV antibiotics and admitted him.

There is a story here and I will write more about it later.



1. Celebrating 37 Days,
Life is a Verb - (37Days.typepad.com/37days/2008/04/turns-out-life.html - On 37 Days today in her 500th post Patti tells the story of her new book, Life is a Verb.

Today I drove down Kensington Parkway on my way home. On the corner at Rock Creek Park a straight-backed woman Park Ranger sat on a bronze colored horse surveying the traffic. I noticed a small horse trailer parked on a near-by gravel pull off and it stuck me funny - the Ranger drove the horse to work. Old and new co-existing

3. Telling stories
Telling stories today at a small Catholic elementary school. Sunlilght flooded te large multi-purpose room when fresh faced students wearing maroon plaid uniforms filed in. "I liked your stories." from a first grade boy as he walked past me. "You really held their attention." from the first grade teacher. And they lifted my spirits with their attention and delighted smiles. Its an even exchange.

4. City Mouse and County Mouse

Watching a 1966 movie - a room filled with young women wearing bee-hive hairdos reminds me of my special bee hive up-do that I wore to New York City when Jim and I went with a medical group from Chapel Hill in 1964. There was so much hair spray holding my hair in place that it felt like a metal helmet. It did not dent when I lrested my head on the pillow.

The evening Jim and I arrived in NYC we went to see my cousin at her apartment on Park Avenue. As we left she casually suggested that I meet her next day at 11 am because she wanted to show me something "absolutely fabulous". It turned out to be my introduction to Elizabeth Arden's Beauty Salon where her regular stylist cut through my NC helmet as he restyled my hair with a very flattering short hair cut. I loved being behind the Red Door. It was only years later that I realized that my cousin had set up the excursion so that she would not have to be seen in public which such a bumpkin.

That evening she and her husband took us to an exclusive private club for dinner. Like Professor Higgins she admired her creation, the new me, and commented approvingly on my elegant navy blue silk shantung sheath. I had sense enough not to tell her I bought it at the Franklin Street Episcopal Church "tag sale" for fifty cents.


Reconnecting with 37 Days

I miss Patti Digh when I don't read her blog every day so this morning I started catching up on all the 37 Days posts I have missed lately. This morning Patti writes in memory of a dear teacher and cites a wonderful poem in his honor. Then she tells that Patricia sent her the poem. Following that link I found that Patricia is why Patti wrote about Trudy and asked people to put her name into what I have always called a God box.

A God Box is a place for prayers and petitions. And praise and thank yous as well.

It does not have to be a special box but it can be - like the one Kate is using. Patricia linked to Kate and I am grateful to find her blog. I know I will be back to it often.

So my morning check up onc 37 Days brought on this bit of surfing, connecting and reconnecting and a bright light - epiphany they call it. My God box was right here all the time and I could not see it through my fog of fear.

I hope you read far enough to see that Patricia also has high praise for Patti's book, Life is a Verb which will be released soon. I can't wait to see it.

And I have a special reason to be on pins and needles until it arrives.

April 2 - I received an email from Patti - Your Art Work
Finally, I am writing to tell you that the artwork you submitted will be included in the book!!

Last Fall Patti issued an invitation to 37 Day followers asking for submissions for the book. She sent essays to the more than 100 artists who responded. I submitted 2 pieces - made for specific essays - maybe this one will be in the book.

All I can say at the moment is - I am thrilled to be a part of the project.

Charlton Heston

Since Charlton Heston died recently they have played a number of his movies on TV and I have enjoyed not just the films but the memorires of the times when they were made. His movies have been a part of the landscape of my life -when they came out and when we went to the local movie theater to see them and later with the many reruns on TV.

A few days after I went to the Circus last month TCM showed The Greatest Show on Earth. Great movie. It won the Oscar in the 1950s for Best Picture. I was surprised to learn it was Charlton Heston's second film, launched his career and he was about 27 years old when he made it. My sister Kathy called from Georgia while I was watchingn the film. ' Well how was the circus - I am watching The Greatest Show on Earth on TV and I remembered you had just been." We spent a few minutes talking abou the circus, the movie, and remembering our trip to the circus when we were kids.

Honoring Heston last week TCM host Robert Osborne replayed an hour long interview with Heston talking about his life and his movies. I am glad I watched it and heard Charlton Heston talk about the how and why of his movies and his approach to acting. It was something he loved doing and he worked hard to give the best performance he could.

At one point Osborne said, "you are a movie icon." and Heston responded. " People say that but I think its more that I have played a lot of very intresting men who achieved important things and some of that, maybe unfairly, rubbed off on me."

That reminded me of some genealogy advice I received once. When I was taking genealogy classes at the National Archives one of the instructors gave examples of " fame by association." For example, if you when you find the name of the boat that brought your ancestor to America and he or she is traveling in steerage - check the names of the other passengers - you may be surprised who was coming over in First Class - so they arrived on the boat with someone famous.

There are many ways to tell our stories.

Even though I did not agree with his onservative politics, I appreciated Charlton Heston for the way he chose to tell his story - and it has given me a richer appreciation for him as an actor and as a person.


A Window on the World

Having my hair cut today was not just for grooming - I went for the therapy of it. Tina, the shampoo lady at Images, has magic in her fingers as she massages my scalp. I have told her more than once that if I ever win the lottery I will come to her every blessed day. Tina is Italian and the only person I still even try to speak Italian with. I may not be able to say more than "Come stai, Tina." but somehow with those few words we connect on a different level.

Sometimes being in the beauty shop is not all comfort - it brings me slap up against reality.

After Soraya put the color on my hair I read while I waited for my transformation. And I listened to the voices surrounding me. Then the voices seemed to focus one one note and I heard it. Guns at the local high school. Yesterday two students were arrested selling guns in the bathroom. There was a shot fired. Thankfully no one was hurt.

The high school girl who is the afternoon receptionist chimed in reminding people that she goes to that high school. Telling them how she was late to work yesterday because the police held all the students on the campus until they had completed the arrests. As I paid my bill I said to her, "your parents must be worried about you." "Oh, yeah - they are kind of freaked out and keep calling and bugging me during the day."

How do they stand it, I wondered to myself. Thank goodness for the cell phone umbilical.

Remember how it was before cell phones - waiting and wondering without being able to connect with your child. I worried and sometimes could only breathe easy as I saw them walk down the street or the car turned into the driveway. But nothing like this - where the schools are armed.

Like a turtle I want to pull my head back in my shell. I do not want to know about this - but that won't make it go away.


Jackson - Pet Therapy Dog

Introducing Jackson.

Before I leave the subject of Jim's hospitalization I want you to meet Jackson.

Last Saturday was gray and rainy - a long and boring day in the hospital - when in walked Jackson, a sleek black Labrador Retriever, with his owner, Jennifer. Jackson,wearing his green National Capital Therapy Dog vest, walked quietly over to Jim's bedside and waited until Jim greeted him and reached down to rub his head. What a lovely exchange.

Jennifer told us that she and Jackson were trained before they began their hosptial visits. When I asked her how she got started with this, what motivated her to do it -she told me it was seeing dogs being brought in to comfort families after 9/11. "I was living in New York and when I saw the dogs visiting families standing in the lines I knew Jackson was a natural for this work. He has always been so calm and friendly and open to people."

That is true. Jackson is a warm and friendly presence - and you are hearing this from me - someone who is usually leery of large dogs. He and Jennifer are a perfect pair. She, too, is warm, open and and engaging. Together they are a great therapeutic team.

We wanted to know more about their volunteering and Jennifer kindly told us that they visit many hospitals in the area on several Saturdays a month. We happened to be lucky that today she was assigned to GW. She added, "Jackson is also trained as a reading education assistance dog."

A reading education assistance dog? Have you heard of that? I never had.

Jennifer explained, "its a new program to assist children who are challenged with their reading. Jackson and I go to the Rockville Library and kids read books about dogs to Jackson. He is trained to sit and listen and at my cue to put his paw on the book page and seem to ask for more reading. Its very empowering for the children and encourages them with their reading."

What a neat idea.

During our visit Jackson knew his job and he never stirred away from Jim's bedside.

We were grateful for their visit.

Another unexpected gift - from the hearts of volunteers.


We Are Home

Jim was discharged from the hospital this afternoon and we will sleep in our own bed tonight - - - -.

Thanks for your love, prayers and good wishes.

Those are the real healing potions.


An Unexpected Gift

Staying in the hospital over the week-end is trying.
Our fifth day at George Washington University Hospital so we have had time to learn the drill. And more time to get antsy and bored and chomping at the bit to go home.

What do you do when you are not the patient?

Stay out of the way.

You sit and watch.

Catch up on emails and business when the hospital Wi-Fi is on. Would you believe they cut it off on Saturday?

Watch TV - and learn about the eccentricites of Direct TV. When the wind blows it moves the dish around and you only receive the
second-rate stations and no movies. Its weird and someone with paranoid tendencies might take it as a personal persecution.

Read. Jim is completing a spy novel and I have finished Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke and am now re-reading her InkHeart before
the movie comes out this summer. With all the reality I am dealing with sweet fantasy feels just exactly right.

Eat - meals are an excuse for an excursion into the wider hospital world. The food is like any cafeteria - edible. And regrettably
fattening. Its hard to stay on a diet esecially when you are eating for comfort or to fill time.

The cafeteria is also a great place to watch folks and occasionally meet interesting people.

Thursday a woman in a bright green cotton hospital shirt sat down at the table with me. We struck up a conversation over the soups. She told me she was a volunteer - a reikki practitioner. She sees people on request when the nurse or physician suggests a reikki session might be a help to the patient.

What a coincidence. Karen and Monica and I once took a course in Reikki - so I understood what she was talking about. I don't believe I have the healing gift but Monica, Jimmy's wife, does - she has "hot' hands when she puts hands on to heal. Marcia assured me I just needed to practice. That was encouraging.

We chatted like old friends for about fifteen minutes, then shared an elevator. When I told her Jim was having a procedure later in the afternoon she asked, "do you think he would like a reikki session? It helps with healing."
'Yes." I said. A blurt that felt good.
"Ok, I will come right up."
When I told Jim aout this "gift' he was open and had just agreed when Marcia tapped on the door.

The session lasted about 15 minutes. She placed one of her hands on Jim's head and the other on his abdomen. Quiet. No talking at all. Toward the end she motioned for me to come closer. She placed a hand on my arm and I put my hand on his shoulder. I felt the energy connect us. Aftewards, Jim and I both felt calmer and positive.

Marcia left and we were most grateful she had been there.

A gift.


Staying Focused on Red

I collect shoes - actual shoes or pictures of shoes. Glad I have red shoes in that collection.

How could you resist these sparkly small dancing shoes on a rack in a PA thrift shop. It was well worth a dollar to have a pair of Dorothy's red shoes for my very own. My ticket to the emerald city.


Red Shoes

When we were living in Chapel Hill, NC in the 1960s I took a UNC evening college Creative Writing course with NC author, Manly Wade Wellman. He was an interesting guy and a good critic. He called himself a "hack" writer. I later learned that he had a bevy of books on many subjects to his credit. Today I would call him a "journey man" writer - someone doing what they love for their full time occupation.

I remember a story I wrote in that class about a red dress I had when we were living in Brooklyn, NY. It opened with a line, " When she was afraid she wore the red dress and it gave her courage." or something like that. Mr. Wellman underlined the line and wrote "good and true" in the margin. I was thrilled he thought it was good because I knew it was true.

Well, I wish I had that dress these days or at least a pair of red shoes.

The other morning without either my red dress or any red shoes handy I pulled on red socks as I quickly dressed to take Jim downtown to the George Washington Univerity Hospital emergency room. 4:30 am little or no traffic held us up and we made the half hour trip in 15 minutes.

Wouldn't you know, a post-op complication - that had taken two weeks to manifest. When we were in NC visiting Mama Jim began to spike a fever. The came the shaking chills. He put himself on an antibiotic to get some treatment started until we got home and his surgeon.

Once at the hopsital we sat and sat as a dozen doctors came and went in his treatment room before finally, "we are going to admit you for observation." During the day that changed frequently to, " the ct-scan shows a collection of fluid so we are going to aspirate the fluid under Interventional Radiology, to doing it, to "you will be here two or three days."

So here we are again. His surgery was March 14, we are back on the same hospital floor with the same nurses and staff and attended by the same residents who were part of his surgical team. Familiarity is good -

All is going well.! Which is the best news - -

And what you ask am I doing all this time? Just like always - WATCHING!

This time I caught a mistake that could have really been hurtful for Jim. The in-take doctor did not order a complete list of Jim's heart meds and not getting the regular dose of one of them would have been a dangerous risk for Jim. Jim would have caught it himself except that he was still "out" from the anesthesia they had to use for his procedure.

It's important to have a watcher.

But if you are the watcher get ready - they will dub you a bitch, give you a dirty look and and walk away mad.

And will you care?



Things are changing for Mama.
Everyday is the same and everyday is different.

Old times are more real than today.
She checks out from time to time.

Its harder and harder for her to do everything.

She knows you and not me.

She is there and not here.

No predicting what will be what.

Is this good-bye?