Thursday, March 23, 2017

Happy Puppy Day

You never forget your first. This little girl was my first baby in 1968. She was leading a great escape,  a jail break if you will, at a department store called Arlan's in south city which had a pet department. She had opened the cage and led her littler mates to freedom, or I should say, to the kibble buffet. She ripped into the bag and invited her brothers and sisters. I knew I had to buy her for seven dollars or risk having her be in BIG TROUBLE when the young male clerk came back from break. So I did. She was my girl for fifteen years.  

The year was 1969. My friend, Sheila and I, both expectant mothers in Alaska, were walking through the woods when we came upon a tractor tire on its side. It served as a pen for half a dozen puppies. The owner was not thrilled with them. Seems a Husky hooked up with his sweet white poodle. He begged us to to take a pup. So I did. Buffy Marie was my baby girl and not much bigger than the size of her own head when I chose her when she was eight weeks old. 

If you look at the bottom of the picture you can see Willy, my ex husband's puppy. He weighed sixty pounds at three months old. Buffy was such a smart girl, and Willy was a playful goofus who swiped things all around town. One day it might be a kid's winter cap and the next a large size bra he snatched off the clothesline up the road.

These two always frolicked freely in the woods. Buffy almost always had to drag Willy home in the evening. She was always ahead of him yapping for him to "Come on!"

One time my wonderful husband Bill, sometimes called Willy by my late friend, Sheila woke me after I had gone to bed. He was on the computer and saw I had received an acceptance.

"Wake up, honey. That story you wrote about me has been accepted."

In my sleepy fog, I wracked my brain for the story. I asked the title.

"Oh you know, the one you wrote about me titled, Goofy Willy."

You guessed it before he did! I had to let him down gently. "Honey, Goofy Willy was a dog I had forty years ago."

Saturday, March 18, 2017

My great escape, a cultural lesson

We took pictures of various buildings in Progreso, Mexico. This is an elementary school. Preschool is mandatory. The children wear uniforms and attend for three years. The third year is similar to our kindergartens. There are 35-50 students in a class. OH MY GOODNESS! Recess is unsupervised. Children are expected to work out their own problems. Can you imagine? 

Actually, to some extent I used that approach when I taught Pre-K, 4s&5s. Children usually resolve their own conflicts if adults stand back and step in only to prevent injury. It is true.

Primary schools are grades 1-5, and secondary schools are grades 6-12. They sometimes share the same building and attend half days. It was an interesting concept. Also, after school there are street vendors outside the schools selling snacks etc. 

Our tour guide told us how the Catholic church had a very special wooden cross: the biggest and heaviest. People were gathering for a funeral in this open air church. The guide named all the religions in his town, then turned to look at us and said, "No worry. No Muslims."

That made me sad, and I wanted to say, "Not all Americans dislike Muslims." But I didn't speak up. I'm sure he has his stereotyped ideas, just as we have ours. It is good to learn about other cultures. After all, we are all human with the same basic needs.

This is comparable to the Colonel's chicken in the U.S., and they are all throughout town.
Many Americans travel to Mexico to purchase their prescribed drugs at a reduced price. There seems to be a pharmacy on every corner.
Mexican people are very friendly. Everyone shouted and exchanged  greetings with our bus driver.

He said many Americans retire there, and those who have set up businesses are well-respected in the community.

He tried to persuade us to move there. "You see? Very safe here. You retire, leave America in winter and come here. Maybe you stay, then fly your family in for holiday and send them back home. You have beach every day and have lunch on the beach with locals. Si?"

If that sweet man only knew how much I would love to take him up on his offer. See, reality set in the moment we left the open air double-decker bus and headed back to the ship on a motor coach. That will never happen.

There was an added bonus to this side excursion. As we were driving across the narrow bridge, I was gazing out the window into the turquoise sea, saying a little thank you prayer. A large sea turtle surfaced for a few moments, and I swear our eyes met! It was magical.

Well, now the trip to Mexico is a memory. A fond one, but my toes need sand and sea, not memories.

Heading to a family reunion today. Yes my people are in America, and I could never leave my Liam.

 He went to the doctor with me and his mama to listen to his sibling's heartbeat this week. After the exam, he asked the OB, "Where's your suckahs?"

She said, "My patient's don't get suckers, but I have stickers." That thrilled him.

When I show him beach photos he begs me to take him to the ocean. I hope one day I can.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

His nurse got a handful

My big guy went to the cardiologist for a stress test. He has always had a large heart, not enlarged, and so his resting pulse is about 50 or less, and he has to work hard to get his heart rate up.

He was on the tread mill doing fine, when the technician elevated it a little, then a little more, and before he knew it, my honey felt like he was climbing to the top of a mountain.

Sort of like when we were in our 40's hiking in Colorado to the top of St. Mary's to see the glacier. He'd warned me about the wild boars. We remained vigilant and on high alert. I had a lot of stamina when I was young and thin. I was ahead of him when I was attacked. I screamed, turned to run, watched him reverse course and trip over a fallen log, scramble to get back up and regain his footing. He shouted, "What?! What is it? A wild boar? What did you see?!"

Huffing and puffing, I barreled to the trail head, and stopped. My honey arrived and breathlessly wanted to know what was chasing me.

Bent over, hands on my knees, I panted, "A big insect, big as a saucer flew right at my head!" My eyes were as wide as saucers.

His eyes narrowed.

Through clenched teeth he gasped, "You mean it was NOT a wild boar?!"

"It was humongous," I cried.

I have never lived that down.

Yesterday he had an equivalent experience where he found it hard to catch his breath.

The female technician said he had less than five minutes more to walk on the treadmill, and asked if he was feeling any chest pain.

"No ma'am, but I think my legs are going to give out before my heart. I can hardly finish this."

She cheered him on. "Only three more minutes."

He shook his head, ready to give up. She shouted for the nurse who shouted to him, "Hold on, you only need less than two minutes. I can help you out here."

She came up behind him and grabbed the back of his jogging pants, got a handful of the top of his Fruit of the Looms and gave him a wedgie like he'd never had in his life, not even from his brothers when they were kids.

"I ran like hell on that treadmill trying to get away."

Results pending. If he has to go back for follow up, he says he is not letting the nurse near him.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

City of the dead and underwater Jenga

We discovered this activity in Cozumel Mexico. The cost is just under $70. We were spectators.

 Advertisement: Stepping into Clear Lounge is like stepping into the future. You’ll feel the weightlessness of the underwater world all around you, while the colorful lights and bubbles, mixed with refreshing, aromatic oxygen exhilarate your senses. It’s a whole body, multi-sensory experience.
You’ll enter Clear Lounge via a vertical ladder. As you descend the ladder, a high-tech Sea TREK® helmet will be placed on your shoulders. The helmet keeps you dry from the shoulders up, and provides a constant flow of cool, refreshing air enriched with oxygen and an aromatherapy scent of your choice. Once you have entered the underwater lounge, you’ll have a chance to:
·    Shoot targets with a high-powered bubble gun
·    Play a custom underwater version of jenga
·    Write and draw messages for your friends on the outside of the lounge
There were lots of young participants.

I am always amazed to find Mother Nature's surprises growing out of a crack in a vertical wall. 
 On our way home, passing through New Orleans, I snapped photos of scenes that captured my interest. I just like the way the trees seem to grow out of Lake Ponchatrain.
 And this picture does not begin to capture the giant wing span of this bird. Six feet, at least.

Cemeteries always fascinate me, and while I have always wanted to take a tour of one in  New Orleans, time constraints prevented our doing so. Cemeteries there are known as Cities of the Dead because of the elaborate sculptures, decorative art work, architecture, and tomb embellishments. New Orleans is built on a swamp, so burials are all above ground. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

The sea calls to me

In case you were wondering, we cruised to Cozumel and Progreso Mexico last week. 

 We toured the town of Progreso in a double-decker bus and saw all sorts of interesting sights.
 I begged the bus driver to stop when we passed the beach. He said,"Only cinco minutes!"
 That was enough for me to stroll the beach, sink my toes in the surf and collect a few shells.
 Then we did a shore excursion. We swam with the sting rays and snorkeled in the sea.
 Their barbs are cut periodically, but I still wasn't that thrilled.  I mean kids have rapid growth spurts, and I thought it would have been my luck I'd feed a ray whose barb had regenerated. We held fish in our hands and put our hand on the bottom of the sea, then the sting rays swam over our outstretched hands and took the fish from us.

We also saw babies in an aquarium. They were so cute and felt like the softest velvet.

The tour guide warned us about the aggressive thieving pelican who tries to get a fish from tourists.
Bill is ever friendly and walked closer to make friends with this monster bird. It nearly snatched his nose off! You never saw a big man move so fast! I laughed and laughed. All in all, except for the last day, when Miami, Florida news reported the angry sea was tossing fifteen feet waves, and the ship was rocking, and the stage show canceled, we had an enjoyable vacation.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

What matters is the gray and white matter inside your noggin.

Anyone who's watched the Wizard of Oz knows the scarecrow was short on shingles; all the bulbs were not lit in his chandelier; the elevator didn't go to the top floor... poor guy needed a brain.

There are a lot of people in political office, at all levels of government, who remind me of the scarecrow, and while I'm at it, let me add this, many also need a heart. But that is my expressed opinion, and I'll stop there and tell you about a time I held a human brain.

When I was in grade school, the science teacher posed a question: You cannot move from seats,  speak or do anything without (______?)  Of course, we all had the same answer: teacher's permission. In reality, the answer was without our brain, which is command central for our entire bodies. That was mind boggling to me when I was eight-years-old.

Twenty years ago when my granddaughter, who had a keen interest in science, was about eight, we visited a fascinating exhibit at the Science Center on the human brain. We were instructed to put on latex gloves and prepare for a once in a lifetime experience. It certainly was! We explored a real brain, held it, examined the areas, learned the speech area and so much more.

Here are some interesting facts about the white and gray matter that matters in your own noggin.

 Albert Einstein. Einstein’s brain was similar in size to other humans except in the region that is responsible for math and spatial perception. In that region, his brain was 35% wider than average.

London taxi drivers. Famous for knowing all the London streets by heart, have a larger than normal hippocampus, especially the drivers who have been on the job longest. The study suggests that as people memorize more and more information, this part of their brain continues to grow.

Music. Music lessons have shown to considerably boost brain organization and ability in both children and adults.

      Thoughts. The average number of thoughts that humans are believed to experience each
      day is 70,000.

Ambidexterity. Those who are left-handed or ambidextrous have a corpus collosum (the part of the brain that bridges the two halves) that is about 11% larger than those who are right-handed.

      Weight. The weight of the human brain is about 3 lbs.        
      Cerebrum. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain and makes up 85% of the brain’s
      Skin. Your skin weighs twice as much as your brain.
      Gray matter. The brain’s gray matter, made up of neurons, gather and transmit signals.

White matter. The white matter is made up of dendrites and axons, which create the network by which neurons send their signals.

Gray and white. Your brain is 60% white matter and 40% gray matter.

Water. The brain is made up of about 75% water.

Neurons. Your brain consists of about 100 billion neurons.

Synapses. There are anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 synapses for each neuron.

No pain. There are no pain receptors in the brain, so the brain can feel no pain. My friend's brain surgery was painless.

Largest brain. While an elephant’s brain is physically larger than a human brain, the human brain is 2% of total body weight (compared to 0.15% of an elephant’s brain), meaning humans have the largest brain to body size.

Blood vessels. There are 100,000 miles of blood vessels in the brain.

Fat. The human brain is the fattest organ in the body and may consists of at least 60% fat.

And all the while I thought it was my belly!

I read an article about a woman who knows her unborn child has no brain development. She is carrying her child to term so she can donate the organs. What a priceless and precious gift.

When my grandson was born, there was a mother who gave birth to a little boy who had no brain stem. It was so very sad. 

I am thankful for my brain. I am forgetful at times, but I can write an essay. In fact, one of my stories has made first round selection for Listen to Your Mother, St. Louis. I will audition along with the other 29 folks selected (three of which are my critique group members) and then judges will whittle their selections down to 15. I am thrilled to even be considered.

Just a question: are you better at math or language/ words or numbers?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

You need some characters? I have characters for you!

The ER is a great place to observe people, their conversations and quirks. It helps with fictional characters if you're a short story writer.

Last night I spent almost nine hours in the ER with our neighbors, a couple in their late 60's. He had an infection and was eventually admitted. Real characters came and went all evening while he waited to be seen. I got out my pen and pad and started jotting notes...until 11:30 p.m.

Older woman sitting in a wheel chair, nodding off. Took off her sunglasses and shoved them on top head into wiry hair. Removed pair number 2 and wove them into her nest. She fiddled for five minutes with pair #3 and finally fit them in, too.

Young man, late teens, T shirt imprinted with the word STAPH across his back. Not going near that knucklehead.

Woman with sick kid. Her T-shirt: FLU CREW. Steer clear!

Three generations of limited English-speaking Muslim women. 20-40-60 yrs old. Mother complained of stomach pains. "Baby due March." Young receptionist told her she should be seen by L&D on the 7th floor.
The women said okay, sat down, and waited. An hour later, the 20 year old daughter apporaches receptionist. "My mom, needs doctor."

Receptionist asked,  "Mom's name?" Checked computer. "Sorry, your mom is not here. Maybe she was treated and released."

The poor girl was so flustered and kept trying to explain. The young receptionist said, "She is NOT in my computer."

I finally intervened.  "I know you just came on shift, but the other receptionist said she should go to Labor and Delivery."

"Well maybe that's where she is. No one by her name is in this computer. She is not here!"
I pointed to the waiting area. "I said, "Yes she is. She is right there!"

"Oh, well she should have been sent to L&D."
It took another fifteen minutes to get someone to assist.

Elderly couple, she in wheel chair, bloody, suffering from a fall injury. The tech walked over and said, "I need to get your vitals."
"I'm 5'9" and I weigh 157 pounds..." the MAN said.

Dizzy woman (more than one way) mid-thirties, registered and walked to the waiting area with her hands extended as though she were sleep walking. "Been running into things all day." Few hours later she jumped up, rushed the receptionist and screamed obscenities, "I'm out of here, ain't waiting another four hours! F*** You!" She walked a straight line right out the door arms swinging by her side.