Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Autumn in Washington, by Annette Skarin

She’s stolen my warmth,
Autumn with her shadows
She’s stolen the leaves
From my pondering places
She colors my lawn with darker hues.
Moody shifts draw me inward.
Decaying leaves lay a quilt
Steaming pavement hissing upward
Naked trees stand and shiver
Sipping fragrant pine cone lattes

Monday, September 27, 2010

Teamwork in the Middle of the Night, by Noemi Rabina

I worked night shift in an American Hospital in Manila, Philippines. I was expecting another long quiet night, but anything unexpected can happen even in the middle of the night.

There was a lady who had an emergency Caesarean Section in the afternoon. She was already resting in bed when I came. I noticed that her dressing was soaked with blood. I tried to change it and noticed that blood was oozing from the incision. Immediately her doctor was summoned who came without delay. The patient was brought back to OR.

The doctor tried to resuture the wound but for every stitch that he made, it became another source of bleeding. He made the conclusion that the patient had a blood disorder, a failure of blood to clot. He ordered all off duty doctors to come and help for the patient was already going into shock. Some were calling other hospitals and emergency units for blood, which was very rare type "AB" and for the medicine "Protamine" that will facilitate the clotting of blood. Red Cross and major pharmacies were closed at this time of the night.

The surgeon was saying, "We need blood! We need blood!" The OR nurses passed the word to those who were circulating outside the Operating Room. But there was no blood available. The patient was in desperate need of blood. I volunteered to give my blood since I am type "O," a universal donor. The doctor said, "OK.
X-match, if compatible, give blood."  And it was compatible.

I lay down and they came with big needles, massaged my arm and squeezed the blood from my veins. I had been poked several times and was able to fill only half of the bag. Immediately, it was transfused to the patient, but it was only like a drop in a bucket. She continued to bleed, and bleed, and bleed. Her blood was dripping from the OR table to the floor. They caught it in a sterile container and infused back to her.

We had done everything possible under human power and it was only a matter of time and the patient would be gone. . Frustrated, the doctor asked, "Has the husband been notified?" The forgotten husband was then called. When he arrived, he was allowed to be with his wife while the doctor explained all that has transpired.

Finally, somebody got hold of the US Air Force, about 100 miles away and the response was good. "Yes, we have the blood and the medicine and we will bring them by helicopter." In less than an hour, they were there. After the transfusion was started and the medicine given by IV, the bleeding ceased.

I was sure that everyone was praying all that time for if it were not for the Divine intervention, all efforts could have failed. The patient lived her new life.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Leo Dicaprio, by Kathy Cooper

A few years back I had surgery for a torn meniscus and was confined to a wheelchair for awhile. My father volunteered to push me around the L.A. museum and I literally jumped at the chance. (Well not literally.)

But that was the day I literally ran into Leonardo DiCaprio with my wheelchair.

Are you familiar with that famous scene of the two star-crossed lovers who are running towards each other in slow motion amidst a beautiful open field of soft yellow and blue poppies as dramatic love music is being played in the background? Well, it wasn’t like that.

It was more like the Teacup ride at Knotts Berry Farm, going round and round as your eyeballs are doing the same thing in their sockets.

I was alone, pushing myself around looking at Picasso’s work and trying to take in a little too much when it all happened. Oh, did I mention that Leo was also in a wheelchair? Yeah he was. I had run into him, but he was the one who kept apologizing. I couldn’t think of anything in response but, “So, what’re you in for?” (meaning the chair.)

He told me that he also had a torn meniscus. By then I knew it was fate that he and I had collided. Immediately I started telling him about the screenplay I had recently been working on. “Yeah, it’s all about this pack-rat guy and that’s the part I wrote for you. That is, if you like the part. But I can change it.”

Immediately my mind was bombarded with childhood memories of wanting to be a movie star. When I came back to reality I instructed myself, “Don’t act like a gawky fan and start drooling. Don’t act stupid and tell him about the screenplay you’re working on.”

Oops. Too late, stupid.

“Are you who I think I am?” was the only thing I could spit out after that. To this he smiled and shook his head affirmatively.

That day, Leo was in a wheelchair, with a torn meniscus, just like me. The only difference was he wore a baseball cap backwards. The truth is we are all alike; even if we are famous. It’s weird, running into a movie star. One might expect them to be something entirely different than us simply because they become so many different characters on the big screen. But truth is they are like us… Wait a minute. Leonardo DiCaprio was wearing a baseball cap backwards and he was pushing himself in a wheelchair. He didn’t have a torn meniscus! Sitting down, slouched over with a cap covering his face?

He was incognito! I believe it was that night that I realized how hard it must be for movie stars to hide their identity. I finally was happy I had changed my career plans and gone into screenwriting.

Disclaimer: Some of the events in the story have been changed to…spruce up the story.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Many Blessings, By Yolanda Adele

While on a road trip with our 25-foot travel trailer in tow between Utah and Idaho, my husband Vic (“Honey”) and I stopped at Bear Lake to camp for a couple of days. The campground was a private resort with many amenities, such as a pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, tennis court, golfing greens, showers, recreation, dining room, paddle boats, and more. (I enjoy “roughing it,” smoothly. I’m a city gal, after all). However, we were told by the camp manager that only the Jacuzzi and showers were available due to the off season. I could barely hide my disappointment, while Vic whistled a happy tune.

Honey expertly parked our trailer on a top level campsite, affording us a stunning view of meandering paths abundant with Queen Anne’s lace growing in wild profusion, and across from the resorts entrance we could see farmlands that backed up to the lake. Peace was in the air so heavy that I could almost smell it, along with the sweet scent of clover. I absorbed the peace; it entered my heart and grew until the quiet was pierced only by the high-pitched song of orioles flying overhead; their bright orange bodies were a bold splash of color across the clear blue sky.

That sight gave me pause for appreciation of the beauty I was witnessing. I felt like I was looking at a living painting. The scale of this enormous canvas that displayed nature’s art under a flawless azure sky immediately filled me with peace that comes from knowing that there is a grace more powerful than any mortal tribulation.

“Wow, Honey, this is a spectacular vista! Sadly though, when night falls our eyes will be denied feasting on such beautiful landscape.” I said mellow- dramatically.

“Let’s wait and see what the night will bring us.” He said.

“It’s going to bring darkness! Haven’t you noticed there aren’t any street lights around here?” I pouted.

There were few R.V. rigs in the camp resort, and no signs of people out and about the grounds. At midnight Honey and I put on our swimsuits and climbed to the highest knoll with the light from our flashlight to where a Jacuzzi was located. I turned on the switch that started the waves of bubbles percolating before we submerged ourselves into the warm comforting water.

Darkness seemed to blanket the earth around us and over us like a canopy of black velvet. The stars were like diamond clustered broaches in the midnight sky; they rivaled the moon in their brightness. If that were not enough, we were entertained by fireflies capriciously flitting about like miniature stars.

“Honey doesn’t this place, this night, make you feel as if we are the only people in nature?”

“Yes, it does. He said with a boyish smile, because we are.”

I felt privileged and humbled for the divine experience we had been gifted with. Midnight darkness brought out the galaxies to illuminate our many blessings.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Homeless, by Annette Skarin

I wrote this a shortly before my sister got in touch with me after she had been living on the streets for years.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Her shoulders were stooped and her head hung low, while her eyes continually scanned the ground. Her dull and unkempt hair had at one time held a beautiful golden sheen. Not long ago her skin had been as smooth and delicate as a porcelain doll. The pitted scars she now had were caused by staff infections after years of alcohol and drug abuse and exposure from living on the streets. Her hands trembled as she dug through the trash looking for a scrap of food like an old starving cur.

She wore an old stained and torn dress, two sizes too large, retrieved from a thrift store trash bin. Her belly was bloated from malnutrition, causing it to protrude. An old wool cap donned her head with its threads unraveling down her back. She wore combat boots with one sole separated from the shoe, causing it to make a slap-slap sound as she walked.

Her sunken eyes were dull and glazed over, not in touch with the reality around her. They had at one time been bright with twinkling humor and filled with intelligent alertness. Her lips were now constantly twitching rigid lines, when once they had been soft and pliable, often opening to reveal gleaming white teeth. She mumbled aloud to herself as she continued her journey through the alley. Her conversation was rambling and nonsensical, accentuated with an occasional sniffle or grunt.

I went to visit my sister on the streets of Oceanside. She showed me the homeless community and told me their stories. She told me horror stories that broke my heart because she talked so casually about the incidents. I wanted to take her back to that innocent child, who was desperately seeking to be loved.

My sister called me months later and said she was tired of living on the streets and wanted to quit drinking and doing drugs. I said she could live with me, but on the condition that she get into rehab. She never did.

One particular incident which had pushed her over the edge was when she eavesdropped on a conversation with my mother in which she was saying, “Why doesn't she just get it over with and kill herself?” She got high and tried to kill me that evening. I had the paramedics take her away; then three days later, I had to put her back on the streets.

One day I received a notice to appear in court on a theft charge. I had to prove it was not me. I appeared in court twice before finally signing the papers to have my sister prosecuted. I love my sister too much to enable her.

My sister has been off the streets now for ten years and is living with a care-taker. She has cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis C. I pray for her every day.

See more at: Annette's Blog

Friday, September 10, 2010

Summer Work camp, by Noemi S. Rabina

After graduation from college, summer in 1954, we were made to select the area of Nursing that we would like to practice more. It was one month experience and I chose Public Health Nursing.

At that time, the YMCA was recruiting young people from different areas of knowledge to join their work camps. We were four new graduates from our school who were eager to go out of the city and meet other people who could benefit from whatever knowledge we had to offer. With our clinical instructor, we were headed to a small village of Cotta, Lucena, Quezon province.

We were joined by other young graduates of Home Economics, Education, Agriculture and Fisheries, all ready to roll up our sleeves and do our jobs for the rural folks. It was about a 6-8 hour train ride, which we enjoyed as we were getting acquainted with each other and enjoying the beautiful scenery and country fresh air.

We were met and welcomed by public officials and were escorted to the school where we were supposed to stay for a month. Cots and kitchen utensils were provided. Ladies occupied one room and gentlemen another. The kitchen was separate and we took turns cooking and washing dishes.

We met the village people who were very eager to learn whatever knowledge we had to offer. Our teaching in particular was about health and sanitation, child care, nutrition, first aid, and lectures for expectant mothers. We were glad that in this place, the people spoke our national language, not another dialect, so that teaching was effective.

A doctor from the town joined us on Saturdays as we set up a clinic for physical examinations and minor treatments. We wore our uniforms as we ministered to the people in the clinic as well as in our home visitations. We were happy to see their respect, love, and enthusiasm.

We made several friends. We were invited in town for dinner, for church service, for dance parties. But of course we nurses did not dance. On our free time, we strolled around and enjoyed the beauty and peacefulness of the country and the simple living of the people. In the evening, we conducted a program where anyone could participate, campers and residents alike. Sometimes we invited guest speakers.

At the end of the day, we who have the same faith, would sing hymns of praise and thanksgiving for the Lord who used us to minister to His people.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tea and Shortbread -- with a nod to Proust

I’m having my first afternoon cup of (almost) fall tea - chamomile, sweetened with honey – and it is a moment to savor. The cool weather tricks me into feeling that it is fall, even though we are likely to have more hot days in the months ahead. And the overcast skies add to the illusion that the hot days are behind us. It is now almost 4 o’clock, and I can indulge in a few minutes of restoration with my chamomile, my Tuesday cup (which is rare in that it works just as well for tea as it does for coffee), and my shortbread cookie.

How many memories are generated by this single event? Memories associated with various senses jumble together to remind me of bits and pieces of my life. Unlike Proust with his tea and madeline, I cannot pull up multiple details of a single vivid memory. Instead, I feel a wash of memories, all detached from one another, yet somehow connected by the thread of my life.

The tea is its own pleasure in this moment, yet it’s also a reminder of countless other cups of tea which have brought comfort and connection on other afternoons. Tea alone enhances the pleasure of solitude. Tea shared with a friend is a ritual of community.

Uncle Cliff liked tea. Although I’m truly a coffee drinker, there are times when only tea will do. I remember times when the whole family was together and everyone else was drinking coffee. Having tea with Uncle Cliff set us apart just a bit, and created a link between us. I think he was the one who taught me to sweeten my tea with honey.

I have memories of tea with Uncle Jack, too. The last time I went to visit him, just months before he died, he was confined to a wheelchair and experiencing so many limitations. It was November, and it was Idaho cold. I wanted my afternoon tea. He had some with me each day that I was there, and we talked and shared as much as he was able at that point.

Most of my memories of Uncle Jack involve the two of us talking alone in a room while others were away or asleep. When we shared our cups of tea he still had some very lucid moments and was able to tell me stories of his friendship with my parents, his marriage to Aunt Elaine, and even some of the humorous things he had recently experienced in the confusion that surrounded that time of his life.

And the shortbread cookie? I remember my mom’s love for Pecan Sandies. She always had them in the house. I haven’t always shared her love for them. I could take them or leave them. . . until I began combining them with my afternoon tea. They then took on a whole new pleasure. Now whenever I have a shortbread cookie, I think of my mom, and I want a cup of tea.