Thank you to Suzanne C. Walker for the use of her fonts Old General Store and Adorable in my header. If you love 'em you can get them from Digital Scrapbook Place. (psssssttt...I put a link down below so you don't have to remember the www. part)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Learning Curve - Friends that come and go

Its been a long time since my last post.  I look at the date on that post and I think back that it was the day before I met the most amazing young man.  I'm going to sound like my parents when I say that I look around at the up and coming youth and I worry.  Maybe it is the area that I live in - I live in an under served area of the high desert of Southern California.  I work in one of the 10 poorest areas in the State.  50% of the residents of Barstow are on some type of assistance.  But I really believe that greatness can arise like a Phoenix from the ashes if there is a spark of fire in the belly of those who live an in that area that do not have all of the perks.  There was a time in the last century that the schools in Harlem, NY rivaled those of the white schools because parents believed that you should grab onto every opportunity and not fear hard work; it is something to be proud of.  Now, as the "haves" are glorified on TV and in sports, "thug life" envied in music and culture,  those who are willing to work hard and do the right thing are becoming a  rare thing indeed.  This why when I think of Evan, I will be amazed.

Aren't these pics great?  Evan took them and his Dad, Kerry was kind enough to send them to me.  Yes, I was that impressed.  Evan LOVES Astronomy - as a matter of fact, that is a career choice, thank you very much.  He took these photos from his telescope and a regular digital camera.   When I look at these, I see not only color and shape, something I'm drawn to, but I am seeing the past - perhaps millions of years in the past - and Evan caught that moment in the past that will never bee seen again.
That isn't the only reason why I will remember Evan, it is that he was dedicated to learning music and was learning classical piano.  Music and the "logical" sciences/math go hand in hand together I'm told.  Evan loves his family, and when I met him, he and his Dad were on the way home from seeing his Grandfather.  The pictures of that trip made me want to take it myself.  "The boys" smiling back at me from the desert of the American Southwest.   The more I learned about this extraordinary young man, I had a glimmer of hope for my grandkids future.  This is a young man that is going to do great things and shows the kind of dedication to his future that I haven't seen much.  The more his Dad spoke to me, the more excited I became.
Only, I never met Evan, not in person anyway.  I met him through his Dad.   You see, on their way home, there was an accident.  And it really was just that, although at the time, I don't think I was able to convince his Dad of that.  From what I learned a tire blew out on the highway, and the truck rolled.  Evan was ejected and once help arrived, he was flown from the scene to a different hospital.  Our little facility, while being the last hospital on the way out of the State, doesn't have the equipment to handle major trauma.  Dad had minor injuries and major heartache, worry, and fear.  That is where I join the story.  My job, in my heart, was to be there to listen to the stories and provide company in an strange environment and stress-full situation.  We waited together until Kerry's brother could arrive from the Santa Barbara area to take them both to Loma Linda University Medical Center to see Evan.
During our time together I made some phone calls for him, trying to arrange transportation and to find out what little information I could for him given the federal privacy laws.
At 1039 p.m. on August 14, 2011 I received a phone call from a family member telling me that Evan had passed away. The hospitals that Evan had been at are top-notch and I admire both of them, but the injuries were too great.  Part of my heart wanted the miracle for this family.  I wanted it for me because this was one extra-ordinary young man.  I haven't heard from the family since, but when I listen to the message on my phone, I send them a blessing of healing for their broken hearts.
I am lucky in my job, that I do get to see the best and the worst of people and situations.  Such was a man by the name of John Thomas.  When I first met him he was living at the only homeless shelter we have.  He was hoping to get a job there which he did.. and by the way, was THRILLED to be off of the streets.  No job was beneath him.  John's problem was that years of smoking caught up with him.  NO preaching here, just the truth and for the last 5 years I watched him go from inhalers, to getting him affordable medications for a "breathing machine" (Thank you Wal-Mart $4 program!), to needing a special machine at night to force air into his lungs and then 24/7 oxygen and a wheelchair.  I watched his face bloat from the steroid use.  But in all of that time I butted heads with him a few times, but never because he felt sorry for himself.  And we were always honest with each other, which made it easier to speak with him the sicker he became; he knew he was dying, but he wanted to fight it even it that meant that he was going to NOT play by the rules.
COPD "attack" and for a few hours he couldn't speak more than 2 words without struggling.  But that was OK, I was furious with him.  So much so, that when the Doctor asked me to speak with him, I refused.  But I did after calming myself down.  You see, not playing the rules meant that this patient was endangering an outpatient program he was in as well as coming in and out of the hospital so frequently I was wondering why we ever would discharge him.  But this is were open and honest discussion as well as a good helping of trust comes into play because the first thing I did was to tell him how angry I was and he still agreed to speak with me.  My next words were "John, you are dying."  There was a long space of silence between us before he told me that he was scared of dying...not death.  It is the struggle to breathe that had him imagining what it would be like to die without medical help.
We had a long and (for me) anger free discussion after that.  John agreed to go on hospice and give them a chance to work their magic and really help him and his wife through what was left of his life.  At the end, we hugged, and he road his scooter out of the ER.
I didn't see him after that.  I left on leave for my own surgery, something he wished me luck on.  I asked him to check in with me after the first of the year.  He didn't get the chance as John passed away, quietly and in his sleep on December 17th.  It was what he wanted.  For me, there is a tear-filled smile when I think of him.
Welcome to a new year.  During this year, I hope you will make the most of your time with friends, family, and strangers.  It is these encounters that leave marks on your heart and soul.  They change who you are and how you move through this life.  I am a better person for knowing both of these people, and I have learned so much about the depth of our ability to endure, survive, and thrive.  Truvy, the wise-cracking hair stylist in the movie "Steel Magnolias" said that "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion".  Indeed, it is those times when we grow bigger and stronger as individuals while closing the gap between friends and strangers.
So to Evan, Kerry, John,  James, Loretta, Linda Ruth, and the others that I have known, loved, and lost...thank you for being great teachers.  
To you who have made it through the end of this rather long story, may you have laughter through tears with a heart full of precious memories and valuable lessons learned along the way.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

SPA - Oriental

I had fun with this prompt.  The image of the 3 Geisha is from Tumblefish Studio.  Marsha has some dynamite kits available at Deviant Scrap.  The backgrounds have been altered in color to better match the  kimono in the image. The background, bamboo, and frame are from Erica Belton at Digital Scrapbook Place.
It's no secret that I have a fascination with Geisha.  I find that a woman who will dedicate her life to the arts and the pursuit of beauty a wonderful thing.  Geisha are misunderstood by most and cherished as icons in Japan.   But in truth, they are "arts person" which is one translation of the word Geisha.
I chose the image of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak, no evil" not just because it is a really nice image, but because these women are prized not only for their intelligence, graciousness,  beauty, and talent, but also because they can be trusted never to divulge what is said during the course of an evening.  They know everyone and no one all at the same time.  They can hear much and speak little.
It is a fear that the Geisha tradition is going to die out.   Fewer woman decide to turn the collar of their kimono from red of a Maiko (an apprentice)  to white, becoming full Geisha.    The turning of the collar, making it past the training period and embracing the life and business of being Geisha is a long, hard, well thought out process for any woman.
As much as I would love the opportunity to see and meet Geisha, I will not have that privilege in my life.  So, I scan images on the internet and read books by those who have been lucky enough to part the bamboo screen and enter the Flower and Willow world.  
If there is anyone reading this who have postcards of Geisha and would like to trade with me for one of my postcards, please contact me!  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Serving Life - a documentary

Serving Life - Trailer

I wish that I could have uploaded the video trailer to this extraordinary documentary.  But the link will have to do for now.
I am a strong proponent for Hospice.  If you do not know what hospice is, it is the idea the those who are moving on to the last stages of their lives, should do so at home without the unnecessary medical interventions, surrounded by friends and family - making memories to last their lifetimes, and to do so in comfort and as pain free as possible. (I realize that there are English teachers everywhere cringing at that sentence structure)  If you believe that death should be fought tooth and nail up to the bitter end and then have CPR with perhaps mechanical ventilation, hospice isn't for you.  Hospice is designed to add quality, not necessarily quantity to your life.
This documentary, shown on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), is narrated by Forrest Whitaker.  This hospice program is within the walls of Angola - Louisiana State Prision.   As their Warden says, these are the worst of the worst with average sentences being 90 years.   These men freely tell you what they did to get into the prison.  Robbery, rape, murder, these men have done it all.  But for some reason, they want to get into the facilities hospice program as a caretaker to the dying.  This work is difficult having to bath, shave, dress, a man.  Learning to change a bed with a patient in it, clean and dress pressure ulcers (bed sores), and in the end having to hold vigil at the bedside of a man whom you have carefully and lovingly taken care of, and watch him take his last breath in this life.  As part of the program, there is a gentleman who makes quilts for the dying.  All original designs, freehand.  These quilts keep warm cold limbs and are a visual reminder to the patient that they are cared for by their prison family; they are not alone and will not die alone.  These quilts accompany the patient either on their coffin or in their coffin.
This is a documentary that is, in my opinion, a must see.  There is a metamorphosis of a sort that unfolds with those chosen to be in the program.  From Killer to Caretaker is a fascinating change to see.  None of those who were in the documentary used their hospice service as a stepping stone to parole, I didn't even see one who said that they were a "changed" man, to use a cliched term.  In place of words, there was action, which for me, means more than words.  Men who were hard and calloused became caring and empathetic.
There was an inner strength that develops with hospice.  Doing "grunt" work day after day, changing diapers and dressing painful, smelly wounds and for what?  What do you get in the end?  Your patient dies; its nothing glamorous.
I cried watching this show.  I cried for the those in the program, both patient and caretaker.  I cried at the change in the lives of the caretakers.  I cried to see the quilts made with such great care.  I cried for the dignity shown to the patients, even to those who, if their crimes were made known, would probably have been killed by the prison population.  All are equal in hospice.  I cried for the family members who found their loved ones again.  Families who have a second chance, and fathers who see that their actions will affect their sons and daughters for a lifetime and want to change that sentence.
I hope you click on the link and watch the trailer.  I hope that  you will be able to see the entire documentary.  Serving the dying is serving life.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Three Muses Challenge - Oriental

A new day and a new challenge!  This one is from The Three Muses.

I have to admit that I am in awe of Geisha.  Western culture doesn't really know what do think about Geisha.  The American occupation of Japan saw a troubling change in the perception of what Geisha were.  Geisha literally means Art Person.  It is a woman who dedicates her life to the pursuit of beauty and art.  When we think of Geisha we think of the alabaster white mask, red lips, swaying obi and beautiful kimono.  That picture is actually a Geisha in training; a Maiko.  These women traditionally started training at a very young age, learning the very strict protocol of a Geisha, working on her chosen art form - dance or music.  Learning to keep conversation flowing, but never interjecting her own opinion but able to listen and keep secret what is being said.  She is the most perfect of hostesses, making sure that her guests are supplied everything they need without asking.  It is not about sex or love, it is about art.  This life is as difficult as it is rewarding.  It takes a very special person to take on the endless training that it takes to the business of being Geisha.  That is partially the reason that the numbers of Geisha are declining.  Another reason is that Geisha is not understood by those outside of Japanese culture.   They are mysterious, even to glimpse one walking to her evening appointments is a special treat for Japanese and tourists alike.
This is an ATC (artist trading card).  The images on the card are from Nice Crane Designs.  The buddha bust is a brush that I downloaded free from the internet.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

SPA - Summer

This time I am not taking any chances!  I was a few hours late on the last Sunday Postcard Art prompt - although they are gracious enough to still take my entry.  (Thank you Donna and Mandy!)
This week the prompt is SUMMER.  We have yet to make it to the hottest part of our summer here in the  desert. We have gotten up to  103-105 degrees a couple of days, but for now we are 85-95 degrees and enjoying it.  The nights being cool and we are able to sleep with the windows open.  It is nice not to be the slave of the air conditioner.
As I said in the last post, I love the "pin up" or Vargas girls.  Thanks to a site called Far Far Hill and to contributor's from Deviant Art, I have a nice little stash of pin up images.
I would like to thank -
Beth Rimmer at Deviant Scrap for her kit Nantucket.  She provided the background and accessory images.
Thank you again to Far Far Hill for her Pin up girls.  I have enjoyed creating with them and I am sure there will be plenty more creations where these came from!
And once again to Paula Kesselring for her photoshop brushes.  I have used her frames again as a subtle accent.
These will be made into REAL postcards and sent to random users around the world via the site Postcrossing. (see right sidebar)  I really do get a kick out of creating and sending these cards around the world.  I have received some fantastic ones back in the mail!  Although I am a bit bummed that the one I sent to India didn't make it to its recipient.
Have a great week!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

SPA - Vintage Glamour

Yea ME!  The last day to turn in a postcard to Sunday Postcard Art and I got one done AND took the grandson to Big Bear (California) for the day.
The prompt was Vintage Glamour.  The wonderful example has a turn of the century woman on it.  Me?  I really like the Vargas (and faux Vargas) girls.  They have a wonderful, playful, sexuality that has me collecting more and more images.  This too, for me, is Vintage Glamour.
For this card I have used the following items -
Createwings - the background paper from her kit Creation 23
Far Far Hill - the lovely pin up.  She provides some wonderful freebies nearly every day.
Paula Kesselring - You may not be able to tell it, but this is a photoshop brush placed around the boarder of the paper.  I then put it on overlay mode to darken the edges of the paper.
The corner boarders and the writing are also photoshop brushes that I got from free sources.  I apologize if these are yours and I have forgotten who you are.  I am humbly sorry and grateful for your wonderful work.
This postcard will go into my folder and into my rotation of postcards that I send out at  

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Grate-Full 4th

Like many families, I enjoy spending the 4th of July outside playing games, grilling food, laughing - enjoying good times with great company, and waiting for it to get dark for the fireworks to begin.  This 4th, like many in my profession, I will be working.  I'm hoping to get home in time to watch the fireworks with my family, but that is never a guarantee.   But that doesn't mean that I have forgotten the significance of the 4th of July.  Far from it.  As a family historian, I am very aware of the contributions of my family members to this history of America through their military service.
I humbly thank and I am thankful for  -
Scott Sowieja - my own son-in-law.  He served in the US Marine Corps in Iraq.  Our lives are much better for him and for his service.  Our family knew 36 hours of hell as communications were lost with him during an intense battle in Ramadi.  We experienced a small slice of what our mothers and grandmothers before us went through.  I remember sitting in a drive through at Wendy's, my phone ringing and hearing "Hi Mom" All I could say was "Oh my God!" over and over.  Until I made the most brilliant of remark..."What do you need?"  He said a "massage" and I realized that I could do nothing from literally a half a world away, but I knew that if I could get on a plane with my massage table right then and there, I would have.  Scott came home on my birthday that year.  I count that as one of the best birthday presents I have ever received.  We love you Scott.
Mike Chapman -  my Uncle.  He enlisted in the US Army in 1934.  He fought in WW 2 and Korea.  Retiring in the late 1960's/early 1970's.   A quiet man, he never spoke much about his service but a newspaper clipping states that he served in the Rhine campaign, receiving several decorations for his brave service.  He passed away in 2009.  He is one of my hero's having braved through several bouts of recurrent cancer and even becoming a century (100 mile) bike rider when in his 70's.  He last tried to ride the Hotter -n-Hell in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 2005.  He wasn't able to make it far due to his declining health.  But he and I were able to make the start of the ride with 14,000 of our closest friends.  (The Hotter-n-Hell is held the last weekend in August each year.  Hence the name of the ride.  They have rides from 6 mile family rides to 100 miles of in your face heat and humidity.  Take your pick!)
Vollie Chapman - my Uncle and brother of Mike.  He joined the Navy, and served in the Pacific Theater during WW 2. Vollie joined the military 12 December 1942 and  died on 19 April 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa, just 6 days before Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun died via suicide in a German bunker.  He was buried in Washington State in 1949.  I have not figured out why there was a 4 year delay, but I thank the Veterans of Foreign Wars for assisting Sena, Vollies' wife, in bringing him home.
Roy G. Swanson - my maternal Grandfather.  He was the son of Swedish immigrants, who enlisted for service in the Army during WW 1.  I know that he was sent home from Europe while in France, but  not much else (yet).  He came home and led the quiet life of a farmer in Illinois, even hosting German POW's on his farm during the next World War.  I met my Grandfather once.  He was a gentle soul.  I have a picture of my Grandfather in his Army uniform.  I think about what he saw during his life,  2 World Wars,  the "Spanish Flu" pandemic, the Great Depression,  the Korean conflict and part of the Vietnam war, the assignation of both JFK.  So much history in one lifetime.
Jesse Van Chapman - my paternal Grandfather.  He enlisted for the 1st World War.  There is no record of him serving, but he enlisted for service with small children at home.  My Grandparents were married in 1910.
Valentine Martin - my G-G-Grandfather.  He entered as a 2nd Lt. during the Civil War.  He served for a short time in Company H, 41st Infantry, Georgia, CSA, also known as the "Wool Hat Boys".  He was mustered out several months later.  I have tried to find out why he only served from March to July, 1862.  A very kind Professor of History at the University of Georgia has told me that he figures that while my ancestor could read and write, perhaps not to the level needed for an officer.
Captain Charles Weatherford -  Captain Weatherford married one of my maternal G-G-Aunts, Martha Virginia Staples.  It is the brother of Martha, Daniel Webster Staples (my great-grandfather) who married the daughter of Valentine Martin, Nannie Elizabeth Martin (my great-grandmother).  The Captain also served in the Confederate Army.  He was part of the Alabama Calvary known as "Barlow's Boys".   Captain Weatherford and my Aunt are both buried in Monroe County, Alabama.  Captain Weatherford's grandfather was known as "Red Eagle".  He played an intregal part of the massacre at Fort Mims in 1813 which ironically had ties to Martha Staples' family as several family members were killed in that massacre.  It also played a role in the rise of a certain military man and future President of the United States, Andrew Jackson.
Thomas Martin, Sr. - grandfather of Valentine Martin.  Thomas served in the Revolutionary War as a scout in the Horse Militia.  The Martin farm skirted the boarder of North and South Carolina.  Thomas joined the military after a battle where "mountain men" had to march south after defeat by Lord Cornwallis.  That march led these men close to the William Martin farm during the fall of the year.   Thomas married Sabra Wilkie several months prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence i 1776.
This is by no means a complete list of the service people in my family.  Only the ones that I have found through my research at  and the history passed down to me by family members.  I am still researching my family history and I am proud of what I have uncovered.
So from my family to yours, Happy 4th of July!  I hope you have a great time making wonderful memories with family and friends.  To those of you that have served, or know of brave service men and women of whatever conflict,  you have my eternal thanks for your courage and commitment to a cause bigger than yourself.