Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday My Town Shoot Out - Smiling Faces

Today's theme is brought to us by the very talented Sarah from Idaho - a very favorite subject of mine: Smiles!

One of the treasures of my town: Baby Ben. I love this picture. I think my sweet, late Giacomino (Very Old Dog) is smiling a little bit in his sleep.

The bravest smile in the world - my big sister.

I miss these smiles. They used to brighten up Paducah Kentucky, now they brighten up southern California.

Carolyn (Easy's late mom) gave me a shirt that said "Official Dog Walker - CAUTION: FREQUENT STOPS", and I gave her the shirt with the three running whippets. This is a little cheaty becaouse my great friend Laurie from Minnesooooooota took this photo (not me) somewhere around 2004-ish. I love it.

Sam I Am is the smilingest dog I've owned since Uncle (Saint) Opie the lab.

hug your hounds and enjoy your leftovers!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Hallelujahs

Someone is trying to tell me something.

Last Sunday I was a big jumble of raw emotions as I walked the dogs on my final Sunday of life before returning to hospital nursing. I was excited, nervous, frightened, grateful, reticent, eager, worried. The old dogs go around one block, maybe two since Mama Pajama is doing so well and the weather is just right.

These old dogs: Fat Charlie, Mama Pajama, and Easy. In their eyes are twelve golden, magical years of my life. Of long trips with heart friends, of thrilling runs, breath-stealing sorrows, of laughing so hard that soda shoots out of your nose, of soaking toes, wrapping feet, of pride, of couch piles with me on the bottom. Of children growing up and moving out. Of grandbabies born. In Easy's eyes are my late friend Carolyn's voice and laughter. Her "Oh gawsh!" Greg's jokes. And Spice. I always see Spice in Easy's eyes.

As we walked last Sunday, I heard music coming from the Presbyterian church. It was in the afternoon; long past Sunday service. I deviated from the old dogs' normal route - much to their delight - and turned right, to hear more.

Oh! I thought it was a recording of Handel's Messiah. But it was (I think) The Paducah Symphony Orchestra Choir rehearsing. All of the windows were open. The old dogs and I stopped on the sidewalk just outside those windows. All three dogs pricked their ears and tilted their heads, listening.

It was such beautiful music. The voices didn't strain, they gloried. We walked in the grass around the church. I couldn't bear to walk away. That music gave me a sense that it would all be okay.

And then the week of reality hit me. I forgot.

This morning I headed off to blog land to play some catch up. The first blog I came to with my coffee and my sleepy breakfasted dogs was a new one I just started following last week. I don't know the blogger well yet. She's in Australia and it's hot there. She posted a video of k d lang singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. (Do click on that link. Do!)

I sat weeping.

I spent the next hour listening to all different versions on Youtube. Here is one for you.

I have read your generous comments, and I thank you. November 18th was the one year anniversary of Maria's death. This awful year of loss. I pronounce that year OVER.

Say Hallelujah!

I pronounce that year OVER.

Sing Hallelujah!

I pronounce that year OVER.


hug your howling hounds - we're having a good one here!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sweet Saturday

It is a G.L.O.R.I.O.U.S. day in Western Kentucky. Sunny. Warm. A little breeze.

Swede William allowed us to sleep until 6:45 this morning, before he sounded his, "Hey, it's a beautiful morning and time's a-wasting" alarm. (One of the great personal joys of starting this new job is my being able to wake up Swede William for a change. Ha!) Sleeping in until 6:45 felt delicious. Decadent. Ahhhhhhh.

I know that you all are curious about how the new job is going. (I won't ever talk about actual patient care. There are privacy issues that trump all.)

This week I have been in a classroom, although the last two hours yesterday I was on my actual clinical unit, simply observing. I am so impressed with everything I see in this hospital. Their orientation is excellent. People who work there have been there ten, twenty, thirty years, and there are LOTS of employees with that kind of longevity. That says a lot.

Bill and the dogs have done fine. I've been getting home around five. (I don't start the 12 hour shifts until December.) I change my clothes, feed the waggle, and then we go for our walks. Yes it's dark. Less stupid city squirrellies. More C.A.T.s.

Including an all white C.A.T. who wants to be friends with the whippets.

Who approaches us when she sees us coming. In the dark. Under the streetlights. Like a white baggie on the lure machine, screaming "CHASE ME! GET ME! NANNY NANNY BOO BOO!"

Oh boy.

If I'm feeling a little peaked from trying to absorb the last, oh, 24 years of updates in hospital nursing in, say, eight hours, if my feet are dragging and my head is pounding and my neck is more knotted than my gramma's tatting, well, let that white C.A.T. start trotting toward Sam I Am, Lindy Loo, Swede William and me. I am no longer feeling exhausted, no I am NOT! I am shot through with adrenaline. ZING! My personal catecholamine level is suddenly high enough that I could hop right on up to the tippy top of Mt. Everest and not even notice that it was chilly out.

And that white C.A.T. is one of those souls who 'doesn't take a hint so good'.

"SHEW," I say.

"We're going to EAT YOUR HEAD OFF, you beastly white flukinschmordablueysnorkle!" scream the whippets. (They actually sling all sorts of horrid epithets, vulgarities, and plain old cuss words, I'm ashamed to tell you, Dear Readers. Along with foamy spit and biting anything in their reach.)

We get back from the walks to the smells of Bill's heavenly kitchen miracles. Thanks to the C.A.T. my plate is spared my face falling into it. I am wide awake, and able to enjoy the most delectable delights he has created.

After dinner the dogs drape themselves around the TV room. I sort through the pages of handouts (more than 250 so far) and try to get my 55 year old brain to process what it took in. The dogs twitch and bark in their sleep, no doubt chomping on any number of white C.A.T.s with exaggerated fangs and stinky butts in dreamland.

I twitch and cry in real life. I have always had things come so easily to me. I was born with a brain that could grasp, figure out, problem solve, and retrieve anything I told it to in a snap. I was the pain in the ass in class: first one with her hand up, first one with the right answer. Now, I'm not.
It's scary.

I feel more like the white C.A.T. Like I'm approaching something all friendly-like. Only it wants to gobble me up. And I'm de-clawed.

But. I'll take it one day at a time. There is plenty of support available to me. I am going to the hospital today to use the online study programs available in the hospital's excellent library. I will do everything I can and if it isn't enough, I'll know I tried.

I will hug my hounds when I get back from the library. Then we'll walk in this beautiful sunshine.

You can hug yours now!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday My Town Shoot Out - Premier Attraction

Kent in Montana ( chose My Town's Premier Attraction for this week's topic. He tells us, "Since we all live in such different places, I thought a good theme might be to show what your hometown is most noted for." You can see the other places featured by clicking on the camera in the sidebar on your right.

Well, Paducah is Quilt City. First, foremost and famously.

It is home to the Museum of the American Quilters Society. And if you think of quilts as grammy's old mothballed fuddy duddy stuff, think again. Click on that link and take a gander on what is housed here, right here in Paducah, Kentucky.

The annual Quilt Show attracts around 37,000 visitors to Paducah in April. Retailers do better during Quilt Week than Christmas. Our UPS man always takes his vacation during that week. It is wild. The Quilt Museum is right downtown. Traffic is clogged. There are routinely cars heading the wrong way on any number of one way streets! But we love quilters, yes we do!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention The Paducah Bank and Trust.

It is still un-conglomerated, and it won some huge award and honor for being chosen as one of the best places to work in the entire United States of America! I think that is really something.
There is so much more, but if we're talking PREMIER attraction, the Quilt Museum is it.
Now, I don't know about y'all, but after a week's worth of training for a new job, I am going to put on my red flannel jammies with the paw prints and bones design, I am going to lie down, and I am going to hug my sweet hounds!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The End, The Beginning

Oh that's quite the dramatic title, isn't it?

The beautiful woman is my mother, Marietta Norton, in her graduation photo from nursing school in Des Moines, Iowa. I wish you could see how blue her eyes were. She died in 1974, when I was twenty. She was younger when she died than I am now.

I have spent hours today unsuccessfully searching for a photo of my own graduation day from nursing school, 11 June, 1983. My six year old son, dressed in a little jacket and tie, with his hair slicked is standing next to me on the steps of the first home Bill and I would make together. It was a week before Bill and I married. My son looks proud. I look so young.

I wore a dress uniform and my nurse's cap, and an expression of happy nervousness. My classmates had elected me to give a speech at the graduation ceremony. Our dog, dear Measly, waited back at my apartment; I'm afraid it was a long day for her. She never complained.

Measly. Our last shelter rescue. Doesn't she look whippety? She was whippet-sized, whippet-shaped, and loved to run zoomies. But I think it was just a happy accident. She was a great good dog.

Tomorrow morning I will restart my nursing career. I will be working at Western Baptist Hospital. The first two weeks will be the hospital's mandatory new employee orientation: classroom instruction from 8 to 4:30. Then I'll do four to six weeks of full time twelve hour shifts of orientation on my unit. After that I start my part time job.

I am as certain as we can be about these things that I'll work at this hospital for the next ten years. Since moving to Paducah, time has been flying by me, catching me in its jet stream, spinning me like a dervish. Occasionally I tap a toe down, and thrust my arms out to stop: eight puppies born, Xela winning at Keeneland, a first draft of a novel finished, treasured visits from friends and family. And then the time whirlwind catches me back in its tornado. Can it be that we just celebrated our seventh year in Paducah? How can that be?

In ten years, I'll be sixty-five. Bill will be eighty. In just ten years.

Ten years ago, Mama Pajama was the #1 AKC Lure Coursing whippet in the country. Fat Charlie received his Award of Racing Excellence, and his Field Championship. Sam I Am's mom, Jessie, got her Championship in the show ring. Every weekend I headed off with friends in the Warburton Whippet Wagon to have some dog fun. My son was in college. We saw patients everyday in Bill's office on our farm. We had eight horses and ponies, who whunkered to me in the early morning when I opened the barn doors.

Ten years ago, we lived on the farm with Uncle (Saint) Opie the black lab, Gracious, Caruso, Giacomino, Maria, Mama Pajama, and Fat Charlie. Luciano and Delia weren't even born yet; they're nine and a half now.

Tomorrow begins the next ten years. I'm excited to be given the privilege of taking care of people again. I've missed that. I'm nervous about how the dogs and Bill will fare. How I will fare - given my well known separation anxiety from the waggle! I'm excited at the notion of being able to enter some dog shows and agility trials.

I'm beyond thrilled to have been hired at the hospital where I will work. I am so impressed with everything I have seen there. It's a good place. I will be proud to be a part of that caring.

I loved being a nurse. It will be wonderful to be a nurse again.

Christmas 1983. I was working straight midnights and Jake had a Dukes of Hazard lunchbox.

hug your hounds and please think of mine

Friday, November 13, 2009

Best Wishes for a Dear Wire Fox Terrier

The whippets have a friend out in blog land who needs some good thoughts and prayers. She has the same name as a wonderful 15 year old whippet who is so very special to us, and who is FINE, so we didn't want to scare anyone. This wirey friend is named Snickers, just like our 15 year old whippet friend.

But Wire Fox Terrier Snickers is needing some positive healing energy.

So, some other very cool blog friends of ours, Jake and Fergi, are asking everyone to set your alarms
And at exactly 11:00 PM GMT on Saturday 14 Nov 09
(Go to this link to find what time that is for you)
5:00 PM Saturday evening in Iowa (that's 5 PM in Paducah, 6 PM on the East coast)
as Snickers' family sits down to eat
Turn toward them (in the central USA)
And join together in a silent minute
Of prayer, meditation, contemplation, reflection
Whatever feels right to you.
Followed by whatever means of communication
You choose.

To wish and send Miss Snickers and her family
whatever is in your hearts
That will help them feel the Love and Support
They need right now.
Personally, we’ll be sending Miracle Whippet Magical Wishes.
Blow a Kiss
and send your Love and Prayers and Best Wishes
to Miss Snickers and her Family
and they will feel their arrival
in the breeze.
hug your hounds
in gratitude for their
good health

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Friday My Town Shoot Out - Places of Worship

Today's Shoot Out topic is brought to us by Rebecca of Ambler Pennsylvania. She says:

This week I picked places of worship because I was thinking that so many churches & synagogues (etc.), have such interesting architecture and symbolism both indoors and out. In addition, there is often much history surrounding the older buildings used for worship as well, adding to the interest.

Western Kentucky is known around these parts as the very buckle of the Bible Belt. I could fill up blog posts for the next year and still not come close to including all the churches. I've chosen to show you some of the ones in my immediate neighborhood.

The flood wall features a mural with Paducah's historic places of worship. The beautiful Jewish temple - seen with the golden minarets - burned before we moved here, but it was right downtown.

you might have to click on the photo to enlarge - use your back button to return

This is the Presbyterian Church three blocks away. The congregation has been so welcoming to the artists who have relocated to their neighborhood. It is a beautiful church.

The Methodists are also just three blocks from our house. There's an indoor swimming pool in this church! They're very generous about letting the neighborhood use their meeting rooms to gather.

This is Grace Episcopal -five blocks from our house. The Stars of David fascinate me. During the Civil War, her courtyard was used as an infirmary. They allow us to hold our rehearsals of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues there. Every year the performance raises money for the domestic violence shelter, and it raises awareness. Grace Church lives up to her name.

This is the Catholic church, St. Francis de Salles. It is six blocks from my little computer room. Ironically, Bill took care of the brothers from a St. Francis de Salles monastery back in Maryland, in his old practice. I miss Brother John.

St. Francis de Salles

The churches are, for the most part, segregated here. Not by law any more, thank God, but sadly by choice. I find it sad, anyway. This is a Baptist Church four blocks in the other direction from our house.

This is another Baptist church. I don't know if it is for white Baptists or black Baptists. It's the furthest, about eighteen blocks away. But it's right across Broadway from the hospital where I'll be working. (Yipppeeeeeeee!)

This is a spiritual place for so many people. The cars in this photo each contain one man. And there are always cars backed away from the river, occupants staring at the water. Always. I have written about these lonely men.

Bill's place of worship is his studio.

Mine used to be here. These were the fields behind our farm. I walked with the dogs, whistling to the red tail hawks and being thrilled when I got good enough that they would call back. (I always hoped I wasn't saying something rude in hawk-talk, and I'd laugh at myself.) I walked the dogs all at once, three times a day. Only twice a day in winter when it was dark after work. I rode the horses here with the kids before there were whippets. When there were Opie the lab, and Measley the very mixed. Sara and I found the Magical Lands.

There my soul found its breath and its reason. There was where I knew God was listening, and more importantly where I could hear.

Here I find my breath in the smiles of the people on the sidewalks. In the fact that at Kirchhoff's bakery, they work at perfecting Bill's favorite Ciabatta, and give me a loaf for free because they're excited that Bill will love it, and because they felt bad that they had none the last two times Bill came in. In knowing every person in the audience at the 7 o'clock Sunday movie at the independent movie theater.

In caring about my neighbors, because in reality they are dear friends.

It's a great town.

hug your hounds

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank you

I got a job!

Thanks for all your good wishes, encouragement, hanging in there with me, and being there in blog land and real life.

Yay oh yay. I'm going to be looking up some dog shows and agility trials to enter.


hug your hounds and any nurses you know and hug yourselves for me!

image from google images HERE but I messed with it. I tried superimposing my face but it was spooky freaky.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Helpful Ben Takes A Hike

You all met helpful Ben before when he threw a party for Lindy Loo and her brother, Emmett. Well, Ben is still helpful and he thought that Lindy Loo and Swede William, and especially their old servant Patience might need to get out of the city and take a hike.

So he helped his mom Heather get all ready, and he even wore his big boy underpants. He brought his Old Dog Edgar, and his Young Dog Emmett, who is Ben's good friend. Ben helped print out the directions and the whole kit and caboodle headed north to Ferne Cliffe State Park, in Illinois.

Before they all started hiking, Ben peed right on a leaf and the grass. (It was okay, because we were in Nature, not in civilization.) That was very helpful. His mom was glad that he did not need to change clothes.

Once they started hiking in earnest, (they were in Illinois, but they were also earnest), Ben realized that the stroller was going to be a lot lighter without a Ben in it. "I'll walk," he said. And he did. The whole way.

Ben grabbed his mommy's hand and helped her escape from being squished on the head by a giant tree!

Ben helped his mommy from tipping over when he showed her the cool stuff. Ben's mommy is a little tippy these days, since his baby brother is taking up a lot of room in her belly.

Ben was showing his mommy the gargantuan rock. Ben's mommy smacked her own forehead in disbelief and amazement.

Ben helped his mommy and his baby brother and his Old Dog Edgar and his Young Dog Emmett who is his friend through the muddy slippery part. He held on extra tight, which helped his mommy be extra brave.

They made it! They thought this was where Ferne Cliffe State Park got its Ferne Cliffe name, though they didn't know where the extra ees (Ferne Cliffe) came from. This cliff was covered with ferns. (You can click to enlarge and use your back button to come back. Ben said so.)

Ben helped his baby brother feel like he was part of the gang by sitting on him!

Ben helped show his mommy and his dogs the way.

Then Ben showed his mommy the slimy stuff under the biggest rock in the world. Young Dog Emmett didn't care to see, and Old Dog Edgar thought they should have a snack.

Ben helped by posing handsomely in front of a Big Dark Crevice. Ben is not only helpful. Ben is brave.

Ben realized that his Old Dog Edgar was thinking about a little snack. He gave each dog a dog treat, and then got out the graham crackers. He gave each dog a graham cracker, and then he gave his mommy one (who shared it with his brother in her belly) and he even gave Lindy Loo and William's old servant two! (Maybe three, but who was counting.)

This will be hard for you to believe, but Ben went down all of those wooden steps far away, and then he went up all of these wooden steps right here, by himself without help! Yes, that's right, he did. His mommy and Lindy Loo and William's servant carried the stroller down and up and Emmett the Young Dog decided this was an opportune time to try to romance his sister Lindy Loo. He got a head bop from Lindy Loo's servant. He decided it was a bad idea after all.

Ben even made his own sandwich in the picnic place after that long hilly hike. He ran up and down the hill and helped lead his Old Dog Edgar back to the car.
On the long ride home, Ben sang his A B C's and 1 2 3's and made everyone in the car just a little smarter.
Anyone who got to take a hike with helpful Ben is lucky lucky lucky, and they know it.
hug your hounds and any helpful Bens you know!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday My Town Shoot Out - Skylines

This week's assignment is given to us by Kate of Kansas City, Kansas.

"My topic is up to bat this week and I picked Skylines. One of my favorite things to see when I go to a new city is the look of their skyline - and for me, skylines can be the look of a small-town Main Street or the giant buildings of a huge city's downtown or a field full of corn. What is the "skyline" that you think of when someone mentions your town?"

Paducah is a small city in way Western Kentucky (and the W in Western is capitallized like the N is in North Carolina - like it's the destination, not an incedental direction). We're between Nashville and St. Louis; closer to each of those cities than to Lexington or Louisville. That far west. We sit on the spot where the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers join forces, about twenty minutes upstream from where they sacrifice their spirit and identities and their very souls to the Mighty Mississippi.

Because of all that, Paducah has always been a center. It is a town, my husband likes to point out, that lives larger than its size. River commerce thrives. (One barge can carry the load of 75 eighteen-wheelers.) Cultural activities are incredible here. We have a $44,000,000 Performing Arts Center, The Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center, where I saw the stage production of To Kill A Mockingbird last night. (As a great part of The Big Read; Paducah is one of 269 communitites across the nation participating in this inspired program of the National Endowment for the Arts.)

The Carson Center for the Performing Arts

In addition to the TKaM performance last night Tom, Dick, and Harry was playing at Market House, the community theater, The River's Edge Film Festival began its fifth year at the fantastic independant movie theater, Maiden Alley Cinema, the actual Second City comedy troupe (you know, the one that spawned Alan Arkin, Belushi, Radnor, Murray, Aykroyd, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and a bazillion more) played at the college after an important art show by Michael Crouse. And that is just last night!

What does all this have to do with skylines, you rightly ask?

Paducah has had to survive the invasion of the Mall. Right out by the Interstate. It opened in 1982 and with the addition of two area Walmarts (gag, choke, spew, BOYCOT) historic downtown Paducah suffered the inevitable blight. Thanks to dedicated citizens, city leaders, and civic minded businesses this lovely old city thrives. Not with skyscrapers, but with charm and history and culture and spirit, with independant specialty stores and antiques shops and fine dining and friendships. I hope I've captured a little of that for you in these 'skyline' photos.

My attempt at an artsy photo: looking out of the Carson Center at downtown.

Besides being all that it is, Paducah is a wonderful place to walk the dogs.

hug your hounds and support your historic districts!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Service Above Self

I was asked in a last-minute-we-can't-get-anyone-else-the-guy-who-was-supposed-to-come-welched-on-us kind of way to join two perfectly wonderful and qualified speakers who were doing a presentation about Social Networking to the Rotary Club of Paducah.

half of the tables before things got started

When I arrived, I thought, my, my this is a big room with a lot of seating! I had imagined the Rotarians were a small group of (mostly boring, self serving NO I DID NOT SAY THAT) business people. Three of us were to speak.

Mary Thorsby IS social networking in Paducah. She started iListPaducah dot com, for which I write the iPet of the Week feature. She is a dynamo and a treasure and a precious gem, and all of us in this region -most of all the charities - have benefited from her creative spirit and energy and ask me how I really feel!!! Mary spoke first.

Laura Thornton is Laura K of Laura K Style. She's only a model, a PR guru, a marketing genius, and a graphic designer all in one. She was the second speaker.

And then there was ... me.

I looked out the windows at the same river where the dogs and I walk every morning. It calmed me some. Some.

Mary and Laura had prepared wonderful talks about how to use Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, LinkedIn and a bunch of other stuff I'd never heard of.

I walked to the podium and held up my digital camera and said, "SMILE! ...Y'all are going to be on my blog tomorrow!"

and they did! Only I couldn't fit everyone in one shot.

And then I said, "I'm here as proof that if I can do this stuff, anyone can do this stuff. I have a little blog, and I have found great friends on Facebook, but I don't get Twitter. I keep telling folks for heaven's sake don't follow me on Twitter, because I have no Earthly idea where I'm going, and there you go I have five new followers."

I certain I didn't teach those Rotarians much of anything. But I sure did learn. I really thought the Rotary Club was about people pushing their businesses. Kind of like the recorded messages about consolidating your debt phone calls you get at dinner time. HA! This was absolutely wrong, wrong, wrong! Their motto is Service Above Self. I looked around the room and saw the friendly faces of the people I most respect in Paducah. They recited:

The 4-Way Test
Of the things we think, say, or do...

1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Huh? That doesn't sound like a bunch of self serving business sharks! (Not that I have anything against Sharks, Janet Reid, Literary Agent. I loved being your chum*.) That sounds like my very own personal mantra. How did they... ? This sounds like something Little Miss Goody Two Shoes could dig right into.

As I listened to the meeting progress, and to new members being sworn in, I was more and more impressed with the whole philosophy behind the Rotary Clubs. Today I've searched around the web and I'm even more delighted with what I found.

L to R: Laura Thorton, Rotary President L V McGinty, Mary Thorsby and Goody Two Shoes

So. What do you know? Life is good!

hug your hounds and your Rotarians

*query #112, if you were curious