Friday, February 27, 2015

The Changing of the Guard
As I removed my garments this morning to shower, I removed a pair of long john bottoms. I change into clean ones every other day. I thought of our ancestors, the pioneers, the settlers like Laura Ingalls Wilder. She mentions wearing the same underclothing all winter. It was unheard of to bathe or shower every day. Once a week was the normal. The whole family shared the water. There was too much time and energy needed to fetch, warm, and dump the water afterwards to be so wasteful as to do it more often.
So much that we have now, we take for granted. A warm home, food as close as the nearest store, and even transportation. The pioneers with oxen and wagons often could see the place they had camped for the night, when they stopped to make camp for the following night. Those days were rain-filled and must have been discouraging, but they pressed onward, in hope of something better for them and their families.
Land and freedom were the heralding calls, that lured them and the trail that they followed. The carved, wrestled, and whacked a living and homestead from an often harsh and demanding surrounding. But they chose that path and felt that it was preferable than living in civilization that often sucked them dry.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sharing past hospital experiences because I am feeling lazy today. Back irritated after cleaning the rest of the drive, so this is my post for the day. Sorry it's late.
Sometimes the state troopers or the local police would stop in the emergency department on the night shift for a cup of coffee. They had a few minutes of chat before continuing on their rounds. It was a small town and back then, nothing was open after about eight p.m. While they were visiting us and getting a free cup of coffee, they would often share their stories about things that had happened to them.
One night, a trooper said that one of his friends asked him and his partner to stop and check on his daughter and her friends who were staying in a remote cabin in our area. The trooper promised to check on them as long as time permitted.
It had been a slow night. The trooper’s rounds had taken him close to the cabin, so he decided to fulfill the promise and check on the girls. When they drove into the parking area in front of the cabin, three girls came out to greet them. He introduced himself and explained the father’s request to keep an eye on them.
The girls laughed and chatted a bit. Each girl was wearing a bikini top and Daisy Dukes. One of the girls hopped onto the fender of the police cruiser. She asked, “Do you want to see my tattoo?”
The officer shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sure. Why not?” He told us, “I thought I’ve got nothing to lose.”
The girl pulled aside the abbreviated leg of the shorts at her inner thigh. There on the inside of her the labia, was a tattoo of a small devil with a pitchfork in his hand.
He said, “When I saw that, I jerked my head for my partner to leave.” We climbed into the cruiser and drove away. “I figured if those girls would get a tattoo there, they can take care of themselves.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

Reality and Cartoons Collide

When I tried to think of a topic for me to write about, two thoughts meshed. I decided to integrate them and make them my insight on life today. I was reminded of the cartoons of my youth and the reality of my aging body. The pain in my lower back from the shoveling of heavy snow made me feel as though I had gone several rounds with Joe Palooka, the comic pages boxer. Putting aside my aches and pains, I began to recall the cartoons in the Sunday paper and on television.

Dagwood and Blondie, Sad Sack, Beetle Bailey were old standbys. Dick Tracy, Prince Valiant, Felix the Cat, Lil Abner, Katzenjammer Kids captured the excitement and humor over a wide range of topics for us kids. Mutt and Jeff, Nancy and Sluggo, Heckle and Jeckle were couples that amused me. The television introduced me to Tom Terrific, Mickey Mouse, Popeye the Sailor Man. All of the cartoons started in black and white. Adventure time made the names Rodney and Knish, the Little Rascals, the Three Stooges famous to me. Kookla, Fran, and Ollie as well as Sherrie Lewis and Lamb Chop were puppets as well as Howdy Doody.

Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Pepe Le Pew, Porky Pig and Petunia, Foghorn Leghorn, Road Runner, Wylie Coyote, Sylvester and Tweety were all late comers. Caspar the Ghost and Spooky, Wendy the Witch introduced me to a gentle enchanted and supernatural world. These were the cartoons that captured my interest every Saturday morning and caused me to fight for the Sunday Pittsburgh Post Gazette funnies.

Today my writer’s creativity allowed my aging and abused body to be free and wander through the youthful hallways of my brain. I hope that by sharing my memories, that I have stirred a few of yours.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Record Breaking Cold
It was minus nine degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill factor of minus twenty-two. I waited until ten a.m. to go outside to clean the driveway and to haul in wood. The sun was shining by then and the temperature had risen to a wonderful minus two degrees.
I climbed into layers of the warmest clothing that I owned. I have a pair of long johns that are synthetic and made for skiers. Over top of them I slipped on a pair of the red and black plaid, Woolrich wool hunting pants. On my torso, I wore a T shirt, a thick sweat shirt that was sent to me by a friend from Indiana, and my dad’s hunting jacket. A black and white scarf wrapped around my neck and I topped my head with ear-warmers and a pull down ski cap. I was ready.
Taking a pair of gloves from the hot air vents in the basement, I took a wheel barrow and a shovel and walked out into a bright sunny day. I took a pair of sunglasses from my car and began the task of tossing out the snow in my drive.
Snow white lava bed
Pushed into my driveway by
Unrelenting plows.
My mind began to write as I tackled the jumble of snow the filled my drive from side to side. Snow was under my car and packed into the wheels from the snow plows. Slowly I worked my way to the road, tossing snow to the side. When I reached the highway, I carried the shovels filled with snow across the road. I had to be careful. The road surface was as slippery as my drive had been, when I fell.
The way the wind blows, if I toss the snow on my side of the roadway, the wind causes higher drifts to form and that snow ends up in my drive when the plows return. I carry it across the road to prevent larger drifts.
Under feet, snow squeaks.
Wind numbs fingers, toes, and cheeks.
The cold lasts for weeks.
I started to feel overdressed and warm. I stopped after three quarters of the snow was removed. I was afraid if I cleaned out in front of my car, I might be tempted to drive. I can’t do that until I am released by my doctor in March due to a head injury.
I still had wood to haul in for the wood burner. By the time I was finished with two loads, I was beginning to perspire. Even my fingers were warm and they were one of the first things that usually got cold. I didn’t overdo, so I must have overdressed.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday: I was reminded that today was Ash Wednesday and pulled this from my archives. It is a repeat, but it fits the day.
This incident occurred while I still worked in the emergency room. This was during the years before the days of the computer. When a doctor ordered an x-ray, the nurses would have to write the patient’s name, birthday, cubicle number, what part of the body was to be x-rayed and why it needed an x-ray on a small piece of paper. That requisition would then have to be hand carried to the radiology room and given to the techs inside.
I carried a request to the radiology room and handed it to the technicians. As I turned to leave, one of the techs said, “If you see the priest, tell him to stop in and give us ashes on our foreheads. We want him to bless the x-ray machine too.” It just happened to be Ash Wednesday.
Just as I reached the door, my odd sense of creativity and humor melded and I said, “You know, when the priest comes in, you guys can set up a confessional in the dark room. He can open the doors for exposed sins and the unexposed to give you your penance. In the radiology room, there were bins with doors marked as to whether the films were exposed or unexposed. My mind made the comparison to the Catholic confessional chamber with confessed and un-confessed sins.
I heard them laugh as I exited. Later in the day, I was carrying another chit for an x-ray to the techs. When I opened the door, the priest was already inside. The techs had ashes on their foreheads and one of the girls pointed at me and said, “There! That’s the one.” Apparently they had told the priest what I had said about the darkroom.
“Were you an altar boy?” the priest asked.
“No!” I responded.
He tried again, “Are you Catholic?”
“No.” was my answer.
He tried one last time, “Do you want to be Catholic?”
My reply of “No!” was almost lost in the peals of the technicians’ laughter.

Monday, February 16, 2015


As a kid, I can remember making a face at an adult and the person saying, “You better hope that your face doesn’t freeze like that,” and I believe that it might just have happened on a morning like this. I was out shoveling the driveway today. At first, the temperature didn’t feel bad. The wind was almost non-existent, but then, the cold actually attacked with bitter, stinging fingers. My cheeks began to burn, the bald spot on top of my head began to tingle, and my one arthritic little finger began to ache.
Half of the driveway is cleaned out and I will do the rest, the deepest part, later after my pinky finger becomes less aching. Hopefully the temperature will rise a bit too. On the weather channel, it advertises, that it is minus 8 degrees. It is supposed to go up to eleven degrees by noon, almost bikini weather.
I can remember as a kid, we would walk the one hundred yards to the unheated bus shanty to wait for the bus. Bundled and bulky, booted and gloved we marched out into the elements. Cold temperatures were hardships that we were to endure without whining and complaining. As kids, we were expected to go to school and to study.
I understand that things are different now. Pedophiles were either less prevalent or less bold, than they are at present and it is reasonable for the school systems to be extra cautious with our children. They are an innocent and precious commodity. They are our future. If their present is tainted, it affects our future.
I can remember standing just inside of the open doorway of the bus stop and watch my breath curl away in billowing clouds. I pretended to smoke. It was the glamorous persona that the Hollywood stars on television portrayed. It was a time when the G.I.s was returning from the war and many learned to smoke. Cigarettes were low cost and the thoughts of health problems were only a far distant image. Three packs of candy cigarettes were still sold without any thoughts of repercussion.
Often I would have to clamber over a mountain of snow to enter the bus shack. Repeated plowing of the road turned the Appalachians into the Rockies. Keeping an eye out for the approaching bus, it was almost necessary to have time to surmount the snowy peak to alert the driver to stop.
Brakes screeched and the bus door squeaked open, a warm and waiting maw to welcome me inside to thaw during the fifteen minute bus ride to school.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Looking out my windows, all I see are lies. The sun is shining brightly, streaming through the window. It is so bright that it makes my eyes and head hurt. It is so warm, that I just removed my long sleeved shirt. The heater is running less often and the sunlight is causing small popping sounds as it heats the vinyl siding and causes it to expand.
The sun is brightly reflected on the fresh snow from yesterday and overnight. I swept off the porch and found that the sun lied and teased me to go outside. It was cold, very cold. It was only 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind chill was much colder and pulled at my coat and jeans. I had to be careful. Even though much of the ice in the driveway had disappeared, the stone walkway had a coating of ice. It was safer for me to walk in the snow and avoid the walk entirely.
Teasingly, my car sits in the drive. I know that it wants me to drive it, but it must wait until I am seen by my neurologist the first week in March. I am hoping that I will be released and able to pick up my life again. I am missing my writers meetings and my writer friends. It is hard to be housebound.
I am writing, but it takes more concentration than I can summon at present to type my creative thoughts into the computer. Thoughts that come out of my brain, I can write down on a paper pad, but reading and then typing those thoughts takes more concentration.
I feel I am slowly improving, but it is still keeping me from my plans to write a third book with Tommy Two Shoes as the main character. I am at a stage of my writing that I am unsure whether I am making another good series of stories or am I lying to myself.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Warped View

I am not sure what I am seeing is the true view of the waning winter world around me or if waking with a headache has warped my view this morning. Looking outside, I see a dreary world, brown and battered. Surveying the yard around my house, I see small, scattered, dirty piles of snow, dehydrated weeds and grass, and even the sky is wearing a non-color robe of skim milk.

I can’t figure whether I am just weary of the cold and wanting the warmth of spring or whether it is reality. I am so tired of hearing the raucous calls of the jays and the crows. I want to hear the robin sing, the wrens warble, and the humming birds’ wings whir. I want to feel the green grass caress my feet and toes.

I want to be able to stop hauling in wood for the wood burner and haling out the ashes. I need it to be the time to store the snow shovels and close the salt bin. I want to wash and store the winter coats, the gloves, hats, and the gloves. I don’t want to see another snow flake and especially not any icy patches in the driveway.

Winter has worn out its welcome. The cold and snow has to go. It is time. Is it cabin fever, my old age, or the thump on my head talking, I am not sure.

Monday, February 9, 2015


Because of my recent fall, (and I am assuming that I fell. I have no recollection of what happened.) I have been thinking about how fragile the brain actually is. A single knock on the head can create such confusion and chaos where coordinated thoughts and memories once resided. The thought, or should I say the lack of thought about the fall, how it occurred, and how long it lasted got me compare the brain and skull to an egg and the shell that protects it.
A sharp rap will open an egg shell and expose the delicate creation that is stored inside. The shell will keep the inside protected and safe. It allows for the storage of the vital parts in a natural way. A receptacle created especially for it.
The brain and the skull are designed in the same manner, although much more complicated. A hard shell of calcium to protect the fragile internal organ is the chamber for all activity of the entire body. It is the control center for all thoughts and movements. It is the regulatory center for the life of the being; heartbeat, respiration, and all other bodily functions.
The hard shell protects memories, thoughts, and our identity. Even though the skull doesn’t have to be split open to cause things to be scrambled, thoughts to be lost, or things to be confused, it reacts much the same as an egg shell and the contents when disturbed. It scrambles. It becomes mixed up. The brain and the yolk/ albumin become unable to complete the job it was intended to do. Scrambled, the egg is still good for consumption, but the brain scrambled can be nearly worthless. Until it unscrambles, it will function at a very limited level. It still keeps the body alive, but it doesn’t permit the higher thoughts of creativity or complicated idea development that it was designed to do.

Scrambled brain or scrambled egg can be very similar.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fragile Memories

Memories are stored in the brain and what a delicate receptacle to place such treasured items into. It is an uncertain and fragile container to keep such precious parts of our lives. Monday, I apparently fell on some ice after I cleaned the walkway. I don’t remember anything after replacing the broom on the porch until being in an ambulance in my ride to UPMC.
There is a hole in my life, a hole where there should be a memory. I only remember what I have been told. Anna said that I appeared outside of her door and told her that “I think I need help.” I don’t remember getting around to make the ride to the hospital at Frick. I don’t remember going into the hospital or the time I spent there, any testing, the physician, or the staff.
I should remember the staff. I worked at Frick for 34 years and knew most of them. Many of them are friends. I walked the hallways all of that time and knew it as well as I knew my own home, all I remembered was a blank spot I time with nothing hanging there for me to see. Like an empty closet. I know the hangers mark the time, but there is nothing on them to say what has happened.
I have snatches of the emergency department at UPMC, snatches of going to the floor, and snatches of the admission to the floor. I remember a long day of stiff neck and fullness in my head. I remember a stream of physicians and technicians. The nurses and my roommate and his family made the most impression on my brain. I remember Terry from the admission to the floor, I remember my night nurse Abibibi, who took my assignment from Terry. She was from India, sweet and patient. She wheeled me down to my 4:30 a.m. CT.
I remember an assistant, in forest green scrubs, who took a job as an assistant because he wasn’t able to find what he wanted in his area of expertise. For some reason, I can’t recall his name but that he studied music and was from Munhall, Pennsylvania. (Sorry dude.)
I remember my daylight nurse Erin and all of the demands that I made for comfort and care. I remember two men who came into my room and talked to me about my injuries and concerns. What they discovered was that at some time, the crystals in one of my vestibular canals had misaligned and was misreading my position. By leaning me back over the edge of the bed and turning my head, they were able to realign them and hopefully they will stay that way, reducing the any disequilibrium. I remember my roommate and his family, but will talk about them at another time. I remember two sweet, slender, cute young female aides, and how impertinently and teasingly refreshing they were.
The only thing that I know for sure is that I have an abrasion and sore spot on the back of my head and a stiff neck and that will be a memory for sure.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Write Now

I have heard many writers talk about writer’s block. I have had impediments in my writing, but after putting the story aside for awhile, I often find that although I hadn’t been consciously working on it, my unconscious mind has worked through the problem. Too often, my brain keeps spinning out more ideas than I can reasonably work on at one time. They keep pouring out and sometimes clog the channels, blurring one story into another.
Other writers ask me why I prefer to hand write my stories instead of typing them directly into the computer. These clogs are the reasons why. I always have several pads: some with stray thoughts, others with Haiku or poetry, and at least one story that I am writing and typing onto a flash drive. It is easier for me to find and scratch a line or two on one of my pads than finding and switching to different entries on the computer.
When I type from a written form, I find I like certain phrases better than the one I had originally penned down. I find that I have jumped from one idea to another. My mind made the jump, but I had omitted the connecting thought. The missing thought would have left the readers scratching their heads.
I consider this time of typing the script as my first edit. It helps to smooth out my thoughts, making sure my point of view is constant, and that I don’t change verb tenses in the story.
I’m not the best at punctuation, although I have improved and as I enter the words, I often catch the places that need a comma, or where I have a glut of commas, or a missed question mark.
Shifting speakers, I sometimes miss a starting or closing quotation mark and when I type it in I do catch it. My editor helps to keep me in line, with my grammar and with my punctuation. She also points out any areas that need strengthened, clarified, or deleted because they distract from or destroys the flow of the story.
I am not a typist and it takes longer than I want, but I can’t afford a secretary, even if one could read my chicken scratch. I have heard pros and cons about the speak-and-type programs for the computer. Until I am sure that it would benefit me, I will keep on with my present system.
Maybe the answer to my dilemma of clogged ideas is to have myself cloned, but is the world ready for two of me?