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Monday, September 01, 2008

With Gustave roaring into the Gulf and all of South Louisiana driving North, my friend, Caroline and I headed South instead...to Natchitoches, LA....about halfway between Monroe, LA. in Northeast, LA. and Alexandria, LA. in South Central LA. We had made this reservation at a Bed and Breakfast in Natchitoches over a month ago and figured it was far enough inland to be safe, so we saw no reason to change our plans. There were 18 other guests at the B & B this weekend...all from the Lake Charles and Lafayette, LA. areas...all fleeing the storm. It made for a far more interesting and humanly significant visit than would have otherwise been the case. Some of these people will go back to normal lives...some will find their circumstances completely altered. And while Gustave has not been as devastating to our state at this point as was initially feared, the tale is not finished yet. Caroline and I drove back North and home this afternoon. These families have a couple of days more, and perhaps far longer, to wait to resume their lives. We all sat at a huge communal breakfast table this morning, listening to each other share stories as though we were all at a mutual family reunion. We laughed like old friends, wandered in and out of the common living area to steal peeks at the televised reports drifting in from points south, exchanged names and addresses in some cases, wished each other well and went about our daily plans.

Natchitoches is the town where the movie, Steel Magnolias was filmed. It is a beautiful city, interesting both culturally and historically. As we left town, the wind was beginning to blow signs over and stir up chop on the Cane River Lake that flows through the middle of town. Rain fell in big fat drops, but gently, and students from Northwestern LA. State Univ. gathered on New Orleans style balconies throughout the town to watch the storm and the tourists roll through.

Here at home, the air is ominously still. Rain has stopped except for fitful spitting, and we are under a tornado watch. My Mother, who lives 70 miles Southeast of me, called to say that she had lost electric power. If it stays out for much longer, my brother will fire up the generator to power the water pump, a few lights, the refrigerator, and some fans.

I'm going through several days worth of e-mail backlog, and I will shut down the computer very shortly. See y'all soon!

P. S. The photo is the deserted Front Street in down town Natchitoches on Sunday evening prior to Gustave's land-fall. Things were actually more lively the following morning as evacuees had begun to fill up the local restaurants, shops, B & B's, etc.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

THEGRACE2B 9/3/2008 10:55PM

    I am glad to hear you and your family have fared well. I have family (ex-inlaws) that came in for a pre-planned reunion this holiday weekend. My niece extended her stay until tomorrow, but she is very homesick and is eager to go back home. Thank God the devastation from Katrina has not been repeated. Keep safe.

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TRECECOOKS 9/2/2008 6:02PM

    What a gorgeous word portrait you painted, my dear! Thank you, and - be safe.

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SAYRAH-M 9/2/2008 1:47PM

    It seems like you got a glimpse of another sort than you planned. Those experiences for me are like reading an excellent book. I know people I wouldn't have known and learn things I wasn't looking for. You are quite the artist with words too! I am glad that Mare led me to you!!

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ROYALETBONE 9/2/2008 12:37PM

    What a lovely excursion you made. Thanks for sharing!

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    I'm happy to hear that you and Caroline enjoyed a nice trip. I'm so glad that you are safe, my friend. Please take care, especially considering the tornado watch. You and your family are in my thoughts. emoticon

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DOTSLADY 9/2/2008 12:07AM

    I've been thinking about you - thank you for your update. I think you should write books - I've read your blogs and I really appreciate your style. Even in the middle of natural disasters. Be well.

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MOJO-REAL 9/1/2008 8:28PM

    Come back soon and let us know how you're faring. I've always lived in tornado or nor'easter country but somehow I feel like a hurricane is altogether a different animal.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sometimes I'm content with all that I have...thankful for it, as a matter of fact. I realize I could easily be living under a bridge somewhere, locked in the horror of a mind twisted by years of illness, pain and yielding to fear and depression. (The more we yield to fear, the deeper its tentacles reach into our brains and squeeze the life from us.) I have much to be thankful for.

Other days...like today, I am disgusted with my lack of tangible progress toward health and fitness and tired of the battle. So I decided to work. That is the quickest remedy for depression for me...to feel that I am accomplishing something, however small. I uploaded all the photos I shot at the charity benefit last night...the one I did the decorated star for, a month or so back. I will eventually have to use them to write an article about it in some form or other. I went with 2 friends...saw a dozen or so other old friends that I had not seen in some time, since they all live in another town...listened to a really good band, had tasty gluten free food that didn't shoot the diet all to heck...and came home thoroughly depressed.

I realized that it was because in all the labor and activity, I feel goals and dreams slipping away. I want to write a record of the things I've learned from life before that life is gone. I want my son to know where I've come from...where he's come from...so that he knows it is possible to not be destroyed by the hammering of life...so he will not fear for me, but can live his life with joy and strength. (He does anyway, for the most part. He's far stronger than I was at his age, that's for sure!) My strength continues to be limited, and I have to stringently prioritize what I give it to. Parties...even lovely parties with friends, where I am a "guest of honor" so to speak, tend to sap my energy rather than renewing it. I like to simply put in a brief appearance and leave, but I was riding with friends, since my car is not highway worthy. I'm coming off as an ungrateful, ungracious, sniveling whiner here. So be it. I'm groping for a way through this maze of how to live life most effectively.

So I reminded myself that what I am doing...even the party...is giving me the chance to earn a living in teensy little baby steps.

But I wanted a refuge today...a home and garden and horses and a view of the sea with the wind blowing the salt smell across my skin and the taste of it on my lips and the quiet...ah, the quiet of stars when the moon is full, and the grass stirs softly beneath it...and I am alone to wonder at the mind of the God who could make such things and feel His pleasure in it and in me. That is what the picture is about...a house I ran across in a magazine somewhere that said to me, "Oh yes...that would do quite nicely."

Meanwhile, back on the front lines...I've put in a whopping 15 minutes 3 times a week on the Nordic Track for the past 3 weeks...not likely to produce a sleek and toned body any time soon! That is part of why the fatigue of the rest of my life is getting to me, but the tiny bit of exercise is also a source of stubborn hope. When I'm able to feel the muscles working, and the lungs sucking in air, I know I'm at least moving, not lying dead on the battlefield.

So here's to all of us who have dared to enter life's arena and do battle. May we "live long and prosper!"

P. S. I put a picture on my photo page of me and the 2 friends I was with from last night's Gala!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JIBBIE49 8/27/2008 7:24PM

    I just love your "hair cut" and want one for me, too. You are doing great!
I went to the HEALTH FOOD STORE the other day and read a lot of books in their "free book" section. I sure see a lot of people coming in that store who have serious health problems. It just doesn't seem right, when we live in a country with lots of food. Something isn't right in DODGE. emoticon

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TRECECOOKS 8/25/2008 7:49PM

    I am with you on the serene retreat. I was aching for just such a thing this weekend.
Were I there, I'd make you "set a spell" while I made tea and just let you relax and rest.

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SAYRAH-M 8/25/2008 12:04PM

    How beautiful written. I love it all.
Yes it can be very tiring to be with people. Right after my gall bladder surgery I was putting in 10 to 12 hour days of "social involvement" and found it quite exhausting.
When you get used to your own thoughts and the quiet of solitutude and reflection, many people can make you feel bombarded. Even invaded!
Oprah talks about listening to God "whisper". I think you described that whispering with the salt air, soft breeze..... Sometimes the noise drowns out that whispering.
I love my on line friends because I come to them ready and leave when I don't have energy to spare. It is peaceful and blessed.
I am thrilled to have you in my life. There can never be too many wise women to share thoughts with....

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MOJO-REAL 8/25/2008 7:08AM

    So clear, so poignant, so real. Thank you for sharing this with us. Startwalking is right, it is a brilliant blog post. Your gratitude is evident along with your questions, but I've always thought we are curious beings in part because God welcomes our questions.

If doing lots of writing is difficult, have you thought of speaking your story into a tape recorder? In our family, oral history is done a lot. My brother did one with our mother on the occasion of her 80th birthday. Now that she's nearly 94 and can no longer recall so many details, having those tapes is very precious to us all.

Bless you friend. May YOU live long and prosper.

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STARTSPARKING 8/25/2008 2:04AM

    What a brilliant blog post. I am truly inspired by your strength, grace, and determination. Yes, may we live long and prosper, my friend!

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Friday, August 08, 2008

The picture is a painting I did, reworking Honore Daumier's "Don Quixote". It reminds me that "impossible dreams" sometimes have to be tweaked and refined along the path of pursuit in order to reach them...dreams of growth and change and renewal. I went to an Art Crawl last night. 4 new galleries have opened in the downtown area just blocks from my apartment. I've been researching and writing about the "renewal" efforts that are taking place in the old inner core of the small city where I live in Northeast LA., and this is an encouraging sign of life...(not to mention more stuff for me to write about... emoticon I got to meet with a man who has invested heavily in the rennovation of several old historic buildings in this area, (one among about 5 private investors that I've stumbled on so far) and he took me through a stunningly lovely building overlooking the River that is to become an upscale restaurant , bar and live music venue in just a few short months. It won't be a place that my meager budget will be able to afford, but it looks like it's going to be an enticing new asset for the city's cultural and economic growth.

Richard Florida has written about the process of urban renewal in books such as "The Rise of the Creative Class", documenting the way that artists and other creative types often form the "first wave" of renewal in a city, since they aren't afraid to move into older, "less desireable" segments of real estate, investing ideas, sweat equity, and whatever money they can come by, to carve out space to work, live, and exhibit. Eating establishments and other service industries ultimately follow, and "renewal" begins. Creativity isn't limited to the "arts", though. Similar processes have occurred with centers of technological, scientific, and commercial creativity, such as Silicon Valley, Austin, TX., and Atlanta, GA. Anyway, I see hopeful signs of emerging life in a region that has long had little to commend it to industry as a place to invest in, build businesses in, and relocate their employees to.

Meanwhile, on the personal front, my uncle has agreed to move in with my mother and brother...that ought to make for something of a simmering volcano with the relationship between my hot-tempered brother and equally hot-tempered uncle. There will have to be personal character growth on someone's part in order for them to not destroy my mother in the crossfire. I have to go down to my Mother's place next week for a couple of days to help move the "office" out of the bedroom into which my uncle will move, reconfigure the computer system in Mother's room instead, and generally offer her "moral support."

As for me, I restarted baby steps in exercise this week with 3 slow 15 minute sessions on my Nordic Track. (for about the 35th time in as many years) Every time I "start over", I am able to do less and less because of the aging and illness process, but to be able to begin at all is a glorious gift. I used to become so discouraged whenever I went through the "relapse" phases that meant that once more, I had to back off the exercise or stop it altogether. Now I can tell myself that I'm just taking a "pit stop", and I will be able to resume the race when the engine has been overhauled. I've battled severe muscle weakness and painful spasms/cramps for years, causing doctors to try to add MS to my list of autoimmune conditions, but tests have always been "inconclusive", so I keep doing what I can do. I came to a "new" conclusion this week though: I am no longer pursuing weight loss as my primary goal. I am just trying to stay out of a wheelchair. I believe weight loss is part of that, but immune system care through nutritional, cardiovascular and muscular/neurological fitness is my primary emphasis. Staying the course day by day is my "impossible dream".I'm glad to be alive and able to keep learning! Have a great day, friends and neighbors!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

THEGRACE2B 8/15/2008 11:46PM

    Bravo! Absolutely beautiful painting! It reminds me of Monet. My daughter recreated Monet's Starry Night when in middle school--with crayon and chalk...of coarse I still have it. Once again, magnificent!

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TRECECOOKS 8/12/2008 8:10PM

    Did I understand you to say that you live in Louisiana? Or am I nuts, and it's Los Angeles. . .
GORGEOUS painting!! You do fine work. thank you for sharing it with us!!

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SAYRAH-M 8/12/2008 10:50AM

    I wonder what talented artist painted that and was SHOCKED that it was my spark buddy! Wow are you talented. In so many ways. You write with equal talent creating a mental picture and feeling of being with you.
I love urban renewal. Something about living in a city seems so right to me. However I don't live in the city because my husband is a country guy. He needs land for all this plantings. I garden too but I could do that in the city.
I bet the move of your uncle is going to be the subject of many many conversations with you Mom over the next weeks. Oh my.'U
Also I commend you on tweaking your goals. I think Health should be everyone' s goal and exercise does increase ones strength in most cases.
I am praying that the current stem cell research and genetic work will reveal a lot about the autoimmune system. It is amazing how many times our own body attacks itself. Arthritis and Cancer being two main incidents.

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ROYALETBONE 8/10/2008 8:23PM

    Yup, this journey is about health and well being. Being as healthy as I can at this point, no this point, no right now, in time. You are doing your best. Eat well, be happy- if you lose, great, if not- you are eating well!
I love to read your blogs. Please keep on keeping on.

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    What a gorgeous painting! Thank you so much for sharing your work with us here. I really admire your talent.

I'm glad your uncle's living situation has been settled. Again, your family is to be commended for sticking together through thick or thin. I hope it will all work out, and bless you for giving your mom moral support.

You should be so proud of yourself for the exercises you did this week! I've always called this a journey to better health instead of weight loss. For me, weight loss is just a means to reach better health. It should never be about the numbers on the scale or on the labels on my clothes. What's important is we feel healthier. Keep up your great work, my friend.

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VGINNY 8/8/2008 7:44PM

    Fascinating picture!! What medium do you work in--or do you do several?? Some do.
I have restarted so many times that I have lost count, But you sound so positive in determining to "make it" that you will!!. I look forward to seeing how you progress.. Have a good weekend! Ginny x

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MOJO-REAL 8/8/2008 5:11PM

    It's a beautiful painting and this is a fascinating entry.

I am particularly interested in what you write about renewal. Having been a part of many groups that weren't afraid to move their art into "bad" or broken down neighborhoods, I've watched what you describe first hand. The only downside to the story is that too often, once the trendy shops and restaurants move in, the artists can no longer afford the rent on the space they have lovingly rehabbed, and they're forced to move on. I've never understood why landlords don't get that keeping the artists around is a good thing.

I'm visiting my sister and my elderly mother (nearly 94) this week. Some of my job while I'm here is to give my sister time off to get things done for herself. My other job is to try to assure her that moving mom into the health care center last year was a good thing. It's never an easy decision but in our case, it was the only decision to be made.

I hope things work out all right for your family. If she doesn't already have one, maybe you should get your mom an I-Pod so she can make them all go away while she listens to her favorite music.

Good for you for getting back on your Nordic Track. Those things aren't easy! I used to cross-country ski when I lived in MN and I think the Nordic T is harder. A little bit each day is definitely the way to go. Before you know it, you'll be a champ. And you're right, movement is the very best way to stay out of a wheelchair. I too hope I will lose weight through all this life-change, but like you, my primary focus is very much my health.


Comment edited on: 8/8/2008 5:10:59 PM

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Coach Dean posted on his blog today that the results are in on the "Coach Tough Love" study he started the first week of July. I had every intention of participating in that research...to wit, a copy of the comment I posted on his blog on June 24th...

"Coach, this sounds like a great idea. I find that my chief motivation killer is fear of being "overwhelmed" by responsibilities/committments I don't feel able to handle because of years of living with CFIDS and several other auto-immune diseases which necessitate approximately 30 hours additional sleep each week over and above the "average" allotment of 56 hour/wk. I also battle being a chronic "people pleaser" and super driven type A personality who thinks I should be able to do anything I can envision. I therefore pick and choose my battles carefully. This type of observation and analysis appeals to me, though...how do we 'sign on the dotted line?' "

He responded: "I think you just did. lol. emoticon "

Well...life happened, and I did not follow through on the participation for the rest of the month...to tell the truth, I'm not sure I clearly understood the study...story of my life! But I am eagerly waiting to see what the results of his collected data and analysis are. I'm banking on still being able to learn something from this.

Meanwhile, my mother and I took my uncle out to look over the War Veteran's Memorial Home here in town today. He could live there more economically than any other option we can find. (other than moving in with my mother) He hated it. Let me hasten to say that it was a very nice place...beautiful grounds with docks on the bordering bayou, lots of trees... the residents who are healthy enough can keep their vehicles and are free to come and go as they please...it's just that he has spent his life out-of-doors, doing precisely as he liked, accountable to noone but himself, really, and the resident's rooms were very small and shared by two people...no individual rooms. It was a disappointment. I fully understood his sense of clausterophobia, but now we are back to square one as to how to care for him long term. Oh, well. A way will open up somewhere. At least he still has his sense of humor. As he was on his way to the restroom, he leaned over and winked at the receptionist and soberly stated: "If Governor Jindal asks for me, please make him comfortable in the lobby. I'll be back shortly." I'm not sure the receptionist was amused...they deal with patients with dementia, after all, but mother nearly choked on her drink! (And no, we do not enjoy a social relationship with the governor!) Oy vey!!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    Nothing is going to be as ideal as living independently in his own home. However, under the circumstances, I hope he will reconsider the War Veterans' Memorial Home if no other options seem more suitable. Bless you and your family for being there for him and assisting him. I pray that he will find somewhere where he will be pleased with very soon.

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MOJO-REAL 8/2/2008 4:42PM


I just drove five hours to spend a week visiting with my mom. She's has been living in a nursing facility for just over a year, and while it too is "really nice," I know what your uncle means. It's not home. My sister lives nearby and spends time with her every day, but mom needs constant attendance, so having her live there is the best option all around.

I shudder to think what it's going to be like over the next 20 years as all us baby boomers get that old. Maybe our kids will just put us on ice floes and let us drift away.

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ROYALETBONE 7/31/2008 9:42PM

    I'm part of Coach Dean's Tough Love team- but I've missed his blogs. I'm going to have to track those down. I love his insights into human behavior, and his comments are well considered, and right on the money.
Good luck with the Uncle. It sounds like a tough row to hoe.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Just a quick note...the eye seems to be not growing any worse and is still free of pain, so that front is encouraging. I've been having to ride herd on some family crises...an uncle who had a heart attack 2 weeks ago...my mother's brother...the one who raised Quarter Horses and was my favorite when I was growing up. I wanted to grow up and raise beautiful horses just the way P. J. did! Anyway, he is not doing too well, (at least he's still with us) and my mother, P. J.'s son (my cousin), my brother and I are having to figure out how to arrange for the sale of his remaining horses and property...take care of him in the meantime, and keep my mother from collapsing under the stress...she has chronic stage 3 kidney disease. This too shall pass. It's just where life is at the moment. At least we can all support each other and maybe even grow closer as a family through the process.

Thank you to each of you who continue to stop by to check on me and offer encouragement. I will try to post a bit more regularly, though it is likely to be brief while all this is ongoing.

P.S....the picture is not of my uncle's horses...just a picture I found that reminds me of what wonderful spirited creatures they are!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

STARTSPARKING 7/30/2008 12:54AM

    I'm so glad to hear that your eye is doing well and free of pain. I am very sorry about your uncle's heart attack. Bless you and your family for rallying together to take care of your dear uncle. You are in my thoughts, and I pray that God will put His healing hands on your mother and uncle. emoticon

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ROYALETBONE 7/30/2008 12:19AM

    What a lovely family, to be helping each other.
What a lucky family to have you be a part of it.
Great picture. Thanks!
My Uncle had horses- I was sure I would have them someday. It just never worked out that way. Hmmm.
Are we related?
I wish!

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