Category Archives: Family

Autoimmune Disease – It’s Forever!

Do you or a loved one suffer from an autoimmune disease? Do you even know what autoimmune disease is?

Just to be clear, an autoimmune disorder is not a cold or the flu. It’s not “all in your head,” and It never goes away. You never get better. Drugs, diet, and exercise may help, but there is no cure.

Autoimmune disease is a disorder that occurs when our body’s immune response acts against healthy tissues by mistake. This response can take many forms, and today there are more than 80 identified autoimmune disorders that adversely affect more than 23 million Americans.

I don’t test my friends, so I’m not asking you to “like” or even “share” this, but I do feel it is important to help spread awareness for those who suffer daily (and quietly) with a chronic illness.

Some identified autoimmune disorders include: Sarcoidosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Graves Disease, Cushing’s, Addison’s, Hepatitis, Hashimoto’s, Type 1 Diabetes, Celiac, Crohns, IBD, MS, PBC,CIDP, Psoriasis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing spondylitis, Vasculitis, Ulcerative colitis, Fibromyalgia, MCTD, and many others not named here.

The next time you ask a friend or co-worker how they are, and they answer, “I’m fine,” take a closer look. Are there pain lines etched around their eyes? Chances are, they’re one of those 23 million Americans suffering in silence.

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A blast from the antebellum past!

Mobile’s Azalea Trail is more than just a dress …

… although it was the stunning, otherworldly dress in this article ( Meet The Maids ) that caught my eye … and sent me tumbling into a pool of memories. You see, this was me. A long, long time ago. In the world of 1969. When I was named to the court of Mobile’s Azalea Trail Maids. I’m humbled to this day by the honor bestowed upon me.

The whole concept of the Azalea Trail started way back in 1929 when a local horticulturist devised a plan to revitalize the city through a beatification project. Since the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta was (and still is) one of the largest intact wetland ecosystems in America, Mr. Lackland thought to take azalea bushes, which thrived in Mobile’s climate, and plant them along well-traveled roads throughout the city. The Jaycees (now the Mobile Junior Chamber of Commerce} liked his idea and the rest, as they say, is history. At one time, the city painted a pink stripe along the original 15-mile route, but this feature was later outlawed because of state laws. Today, the famous route (sans the pink ribbon marker) has expanded to 35-miles as it rambles through the city. In the spring when the flowers bloom in abundance, the sight is truly spectacular!

In the early days, debutantes would dress up in their finest, and act as ambassadors for the city. Between the flowers and the ladies, tourism soared and the Azalea Trail Court was introduced in 1935. Today, it is a continuing tradition that not only promotes the City of Mobile, but offers scholarships, a chance for travel, national exposure, and opportunities for fifty high school seniors to develop poise and confidence as they speak to large crowds on behalf of their community.

The colors of the dresses today are much more vivid than the delicate pastels my friends and I wore way back when, but the gowns are every bit as dramatic and still stunningly beautiful. My mother was a professional seamstress who was in great demand for her Mardi Gras costume designs, so I got to watch the magic happen in my own home. I saw my gorgeous pastel blue antebellum dress come to life day by day.

Mama made everything for me — the overdress, the hooped petticoat that gave the dress its bell-shape, a wide-brimmed garden hat, the prissy parasol, lacy gauntlets (fingerless gloves), satiny cummerbund, frilly pantaloons, a sweeping bow/sash, and even a faux fur-lined cape for those bitter winter days. She even dyed a corset (longline bra), several pairs of tights, and a pair of Mary Jane shoes to match the color of my dress!

I can still recall the excitement of donning that gown. It was like becoming a different person’ and going back hundreds of years in time. And the weight! After a few hours, the heaviness became a burden. Imagine, fully dressed, each girl wore 40-50 pounds of material—sixty yards of organza, fifteen yards of taffeta, ten yards of broadcloth, ten yards of fur, and who knows how much lace, ribbons, netting, and bows.
Back in my day, the Azalea Trail Maids performed at the Junior Miss Pageant, and appeared in the halftime show of the Senior Bowl Game. We made tons of PR appearances at Bellingrath Gardens, and rode in multiple parades along the pink-striped streets. We learned the art of a genteel curtsy, how to wave and smile with genuine feeling, but most of all we learned about the civility of a bygone time, one filled with poise and grace and generosity of spirit. And all this against a backdrop of azaleas, rhododendrons, gardenias, magnolias, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, violets, and Spanish moss.

This is such an amazing, whimsical memory, one that still brings a smile.

Suggested Links:

Vintage photos show the rich history of Mobile’s Azalea Trail

Bellingrath Gardens

Mobile’s Azalea Trail Maids

25 Things To Know About Mobile

 

A Labor Day Vacay with the Fam at Myrtle Beach!

Just what the doctor ordered!

A long drive over … Tropical Storm Hermine … braving the rain to eat out for lunch at TBONZ … fierce games of Sorry and Triominos while the streets flooded … homemade meatballs and pasta for dinner by the best private chef in the biz! … sunshine, sand, saltwater, sunscreen, and some serious beach time … no-holds’barred mini-golf at Jungle Lagoon, Mount Atlanticus, and Hawaiian Rumble … a happy 40th birthday …. a Thai birthday dinner … more beach time … amazing sunsets … terrific pools …. and then clean up, pack up, and hit the road again.

And a great time was had by all.

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Peace in the Valley

“There will be peace in the valley … one day.”

I woke this morning with a song playing in my head. It was like I was a child again, sitting on the floor of our living room on a Sunday afternoon while my father settled a stack of 45s on the record player. He loved music, but preferred two types—Western and Gospel.

Now when I say Western music, I’m not talking about the country twang of lost dogs, wrecked trucks, hangovers, and cheating lovers. Not the banjo-picking or bluegrass stuff either, though they each offer something special. He loved Western, the smooth, mellow outpouring of the soul we heard from the likes of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and The Sons of the Pioneers.

He also loved gospel music—The Blackwood Brothers, George Beverly Shea, and his all-time favorite, Tennessee Ernie Ford. It was Mr. Ford’s rendition of Peace in the Valley that rocked me awake today. My first conscious thought was, “Yeah, our country needs this reminder more than ever.”tennessee-ernie-ford

Which brings me to the point of this blog: Politics suck!

The news has been filled with negativity for as long as I can remember, this week even more so. Next week will likely follow the same pattern.

Yes, I worry about the state of our country. I fret over the BLM violence, the police-hating, the race-baiting, and all the political posturing. I grieve even more over the terrible things happening in the world. Evil has a foothold, but I have a higher hope.

“Concerned yes, but I refuse to let it consume me.”

I know that nothing happens by chance. Not kismet, not fate, not happenstance, luck, accident, or destiny. The two candidates vying for the role of President of the United States may not be ideal, but they’re what we have, and I don’t believe for a second they’re in this position by happenstance. And though the journey be long and difficult, as my grandma used to say, “Things don’t just happen, sweetie. They come to pass.”

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  ~Romans 13:1 (NIV)

I don’t like my choices, so I will pray. And listen. And then I will vote for the one who best supports a return to a God-fearing America. To not vote is to abdicate my responsibility as an American.  It is an admission that I have no value as a citizen of this country, and a declaration of my failure as a Christian.

I will do my part. And I will trust God to work things out according to His great purpose.

Peace in the Valley Picmonkey Collage

‘Nuff said. Listen to this oldie and let it soothe you, for I know that one day, we too will find Peace in the Valley.

 

To quote a favorite Yogi-ism, “It’s déjà vu all over again!”

A modern day David v. Goliath story … with a twist.

I hear Baxter!

I hear Baxter!

My dog, Daisy, has an ongoing battle with another dog in the neighborhood. Every morning, from two houses away, the little yapper comes out in his backyard and issues a challenge. And every morning, without fail, my Daisy accepts it. At the first yip, she bursts through the doggy door like a circus clown shot from a cannon, and the ‘bark wars’ begin with the mighty Baxter.  Try to picture it — a (maybe) 10-pound dust mop throwing down against an 80-pound hound dog.

I’ve chastened, reprimanded, scolded, chastised, reproached, and rebuked Daisy so many times. While all my fussing hasn’t stopped her natural inclination to protect her territory, she has improved. Now, after five barks — no more, no less — my big old hound dog tucks her tail and heads back inside, ears drooping, head hanging low, sad eyes filled with remorse.

Please forgive me!

Please forgive me!

Yes, remorse. (Anyone who says dogs don’t communicate has never lived with a pet!) She just can’t seem to help herself.

Does this sound familiar? Aren’t Christians the same way? Just as the Apostle Paul described in Romans Chapter 7 how way down deep in his heart and his soul, he wanted to do what was right, but his sinful nature kept getting in the way, kept overwhelming all of his heartfelt, good intentions.

Like Daisy, as much as we want to please our Master, we too succumb to our innate instincts.

The world sneers at Christians. They see us struggle with the same moral dilemmas they face, except that Christians are convicted when we do wrong. We admit our failings. We ask for forgiveness and mercy … and we receive it from a righteous God.

The image we present to the world is a mirror for them, one where they see in themselves the same failings—but not the forgiveness, or the peace that accompanies it. They want what we have – but without the price of submission.

Our assignment here on earth is to demonstrate the way to life everlasting through how we live. Our job is to talk the talk AND walk the walk, so be kind to unbelievers. Be gentle. Be earnest and understanding because the human spirit is drawn to sincerity. And for heaven’s sake, don’t judge others; that’s above our pay grade. That job belongs to Jesus.

Our Christmas Tree is a Global Experience

Three weeks until Christmas. All week long, Paul and I have been bringing the Christmas decorations down from the attic—lights, wrapping paper and fancy boxes, the pre-lit tree, wreaths, bows, tinsel, greenery … and the ornaments. Lots of ornaments. This weekend, the house will transform.

Our Christmas tree has its own unique personality. Not a designer creation by any stretch of the imagination, but one wholly representative of our life together. From the kiln-fired airplane painted by our son in first grade, to the Rudolph made from a real peanut and decorated with pipe cleaner antlers and googly eyes our daughter made in 2nd grade – each item we put on our tree comes with its own special memory.

Some of my faves include a cuckoo clock from Germany, a photo ornament of our beloved dog, Christmas Ornament from KoreaMac, and a hand painted bulb given to us by a dear friend when we lived in South Korea. There’s a sea shell from Barbados, a Big Ben from England, A reproduction of Mary the Queen Catholic Church (moved from Buffalo to Norcross in My Favorite Christmas Ornaments2010 and gifted to us by our son and his family). A replica of St. Basil’s Cathedral from Russia, foam handprints of our grandchildren, and (recently added) a kangaroo ridden by a koala from Australia.

After the festivities end every year, I painstakingly wrap each ornament in soft paper to ensure its safety. Let’s face it, some of these things are older than my own kids! And fragile, so delicate. The payoff comes the following year when I get to unwrap them all over again. It’s like my very own private Christmas complete with presents! I get to relive some of the best times of my life.

And yes, sometimes I cry.

Amidst the unveiling of all these precious and priceless memories, there are two ornaments in particular that I look for. Christmas isn’t Christmas until they surface. The first (our very first BrotchenChristmas ornament) was given to us by our German landlord, a little something his wife made for our first Christmas together in our first home. She took a simple brotchen (a crusty, hard roll), varnished it, added a ribbon and a little decoration, and penned a note. Gib uns heute unser täglich brotchen” — Give us this day our daily bread. 

We still have that roll. The note has yellowed with time, and the bread is crumbling, but it still goes on our tree, front and center, in a place of honor.

The second ornament is a baby in a blue cradle that we picked up on our first road trip to Italy. (You see the “first” pattern?) It represents the Baby Jesus. We were young, invincible, and owned the world back then. Tomorrow was a long time away. As with most young people, we took one day at a time and without much of a plan for the future. But even so early in our marriage, we knew Christ belonged in our marriage.

I wish you and your loved ones a joyous and Christ-filled Christmas.

Frohe Weihnachten  –  Feliz Navidad  –  메리 크리스마스   –  С Рождеством Maligayang Pasko  –  Joyeux Noël  –  Giáng sinh vui vẻ  –  Nadolig Llawen

Merry Christmas to all!

 

Life as a Military Dependent

What every civilian fiancé should know about marrying into the military:

For a little girl who’d never been out of the great state of Alabama, I sure jumped into the deep end of life when I married a career soldier. Life with a military man is not a bed of roses, and not for the faint of heart.Army wedding

Below, are five things I think every prospective military spouse should understand before tying the knot. It’s not a comprehensive list by any means, but they can be a real eye-opener.

  1. If the Army wanted one of its soldiers to have a wife, they would have issued one. If I had a nickel for every time I was called a “dependent,” I could have retired ten years ago. The day I graduated from high school and got a job was the last time I was “dependent” on anybody. My parents raised me to be responsible and self-sufficient. The Army views a soldier’s wife and family as gratuitous baggage. You take them along when you move, but they get dropped and left behind the moment the going gets rough.
  2. In the event of hostilities, you’re on your own. Your soldier is married to the Army. Army wifeYou’re more of concubine as long as they remain in the service. We lived in Korea for three years during one tour. Back then, North and South Korea were always teetering on the edge of war with each other. The tension at Panmunjom (the abandoned village on the border between North and South Korea where the Armistice was signed after the Korean War) was palpable. We lived in Seoul, a scant 50 kilometers from the border, which meant the populace remained in a constant state of readiness. As the commander of an elite helicopter unit at Camp Humphreys, my honey and his men were first responders. That meant, in the event of hostilities, he answered the call of duty, and I was on my own with the kids.
  3. Discipline is a way of life. The military trains their fighting forces to obey orders— without question and without hesitation. The U.S. continues to have the most well-trained and educated forces in the world. The dress code, the physical fitness requirements, the mandatory drills—all result from and encourage continued obedience. You’ll never see a wife fuss and fidget about her clothes as much as a soldier in dress uniform does.
  4. You will be alone at times. Face it, the military is on call twenty-four/seven. This may mean maneuvers, training/education, or deployment (when they’re sent to hot spots around the world). When Uncle Sam calls, your soldier will go. Missing your anniversary, the kids’ birthdays, birth of a baby, or a family crisis—in the grand scheme of things, you run a close second, but Uncle will always come first. Don’t get me wrong. The military will often make allowances to keep families together and happy, but it’s just that, an allowance.
  5. Plan on having clean closets for the duration. With a move at least every three years, you’ll have the cleanest garage/attic/basement in the neighborhood. You just won’t have the time, space, or energy to be a pack rat. Of course, you’ll wonder three years down the road what became of that tan dress you liked so much. There will be lots of donations to the clothing drop boxes.

Harsh? Yes. BUT, for every con of military life, there are two or more pros. My world expanded exponentially with exposure to other cultures around the world, and to the men and women of the armed services. The Army takes care of its own. Pride, honor, integrity, morality, principles, ethics, and virtue – what better role models for your children than a man or woman in uniform. And oh the places I’ve seen!

The bottom line for me is, if I had it to do over knowing what I know now … I wouldn’t change a thing!

On Retirement…

Fourteen years … long years … productive years .. .memorable years …

That’s how long I’ve worked at my current job. To last that long in one place today means it was a mutually beneficial relationship — or we all got stuck in a rut. For me, it’s been very positive. Let me count the ways: my bosses, the people, the opportunities, the work, the appreciation, stretching my limitations, expanding my horizons, making friends, finding goofballs, some funny and some not-so-funny — all in all, a decade+ of experience.

They say (whoever “they” really is) that all your experiences mold you into the person you’ve become. I’m thankful to have been surrounded by some very wonderful, kind, caring, and professional people.

I thought it would be difficult to leave, but I know now it would be more difficult to stay. I’ve always heard you know when it’s time, and I did. I do. Leaving will be bittersweet, but it’s time to open a new chapter and begin a new phase of life. I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t a little nervous, but excitement trumps trepidation every time!

There’s so much going on in my life right now with my debut book launch, training a replacement, wrapping up projects, South Pacific Islandretiring from a full-time job, and a going off with my honey on a dream cruise to the South Pacific. How could I NOT have the fidgets?

I say Bring It On!

I’m ready to tackle it all because My God created all this. He planned my life and is big enough to handle what the world  throws His way.

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up…

I’ve joked for years saying, “I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up — Retired!”

Well, that time is approaching and it fills me with joy and more than a dash of trepidation. I want so much to be productive in the coming years, but there’s a lot of change to embrace first. I’ll need to address a few questions, like:

I’ve spent forty years working. I’m a known entity with proven value. Will I lose my identify and sense of self without a corporate support structure to acknowledge me?

I’m a creature of habit. I need order. Will I become the kid again who left home for the first time and went a little wild without an authority figure to guide me? Without a curfew?

A job comes with set hours and expectations. How do I re-establish accountability for myself?

The think I look forward to the most in retirement is time to write, write, write! But a body can sit in front of the computer monitor only so long without getting rusty and creaky. Will I find the discipline to draw up a timetable? Set aside time to write, but also to move about, see friends, get outside, and clean house? (Yes, there are some things that never go away!)

Time is about to take on a whole new meaning. I just hope I’m up to the challenge. Wish me luck, because October 17th is coming fast!

 

Letting Louey Go

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Eight-years old and a lifetime of love. Louey was a Boxer with one tooth that always stuck out, a tongue too long for his mouth, and a docked tail we lovingly called his “gas cap” – for obvious reasons. I swear he had a motor in that little nubbin.

Whenever the garage door went up, he’d be there, waiting by the kitchen door to greet me when I got home. His tail would wag at the speed of light and he’d be holding his “baby” – a ratty, old stuffed rabbit he’d safeguarded for years. That’s when the prancing and pretzeling began.

Lou didn’t like to cuddle, but he was a toucher. He also shadowed me everywhere I went, regardless of whether he knew where we were going.

He liked to have his hindquarters scratched, but not his back and definitely not around the ears. You could trail your fingers along his sides and watch the skin ripple and flinch repeatedly. Messing with his ears brought on a “kickle-itch” attack every time.

Boxers are strong, sleek, and muscular, and Louey was no exception. He loved children, but had a BIG bark that would make a grown man back away. At heart though, he was such a coward. This sixty-five pound beast once confronted a six pound Yorkie…and ran away! From a cat, too. And a squirrel. A bird. And let’s not forget the evil vacuum cleaner. And the broom.

He didn’t care much for thunderstorms, always seeking a reassuring pat or if we weren’t home, a hiding place under the bed. And Lou had to be the only dog in the world not motivated by food. Oh, the games we would play to get his meds down.

Such a funny guy. Happy. Trustworthy. A real sweetie. Brave, too (to a point). It was hard to let him go, but it was harder to watch him suffer.

I miss Lou.  And I still look for him at the door when I come home.