A new world…….

April 1, 2019, the price of unleaded gasoline was two dollars and seventy cents. Look at it today. Did you ever imagine?

One year ago when we encountered family and friends in the south, we hugged. Even business aquaintances were generally met with a handshake. Some folks who were really germophobic (or carefree youths celebrating athletics or just life) might substitute a fist bump. Now we are mandated to keep a six (or ten) foot distance, and I saw today that COVID-19 can be detected in droplets twenty-seven feet away.

A year ago the economy was sound. Politics was controversial, as always. Maybe a little more so, but relatively consistent as far as party lines and liberal vs conservative lines and personalities go. The speaker of the House didn’t like the President and the aversion was mutual. Republicans thought Democrats were “out to get” President Trump, and Democrats thought Republicans were blind.

And look at us now. Gasoline almost half the price. The economy, they say, is now a “bear” market. I wasn’t sure about the derivation of this term. It made sense to think that things slow down, like a bear in hibernation. Or that personal losses in the market made people growl like a bear when they sensed their retirement money cycling down the drain. Wrong! It seems that bears attack with a downward swipe of their big bear paws, and, therefore, when the market slumps or goes down (like someone attacked by a bear–sorry, my black humor coming through) it is characterized as the aforementioned bear market.

However you look at it, the world has turned upside down and inside out. And we all are reeling with the day-to-day, hour-to-hour, almost minute-to-minute change. The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused global distress. If Rod Serling were still alive, what material he would have for more episodes of The Twilight Zone!

I’ve seen some posts that seem to ascribe the current pandemic to a deliberate act of God. It may rather be a permissive act of God, like when we do things we shouldn’t and have to suffer the consequences. I agree that God probably created the first virus, or created creation to allow the development of virus. It goes counter to my personal theology to think that God in heaven looked down on this earth, which is obviously full of sinful people and sinful acts, and said, “I will send a novel coronavirus to get their attention because I don’t like what they’re doing down there.” I have been taught that God is a God of mercy and grace. And, yes, righteous indignation and necessary judgment. But I believe that Jesus Christ is making intercession for his church as the creation which we are destroying falls apart.

Did you get that? The “creation which we are destroying” part. Gobal warming. Our constant search for more throw-away convenience. Who cares about the environmental impact of plastic bags and bottles and aluminum cans and foam? My little bit won’t make a difference. We think. Did you know that these commonly used and discarded products can take ten to a hundred years to decompose in a landfill? Even milk cartons take five years. And styrofoam does not biodegrade, meaning it is here forever.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been as lazy and complacent as anyone out there. But as I view God’s glorious creation it makes me sad to think that the polar ice caps are melting and polar bears and penguins are suffering. God is, of course, omniscient and I suppose he must have known that man would strive to be ever “smarter” and would create gas-guzzlers, aerosols, unbiodegradeble substances and anything that would make life “easier.” He knew that mankind wouldn’t be able to foresee the damage we were doing, that we were generally disrespecting God’s creation, until it was too late and we were too “set in our ways” (a good southern term) to change. Perhaps the ability of virus to transform itself genetically, becoming more virulent and deadly, and resulting in COVID-19, is a part of creation’s natural demise.

After all, the Bible does foretell not only a new heaven, but also a new earth. It looks like we’re close to needing one. I am thinking that, rather than this pandemic being a judgmental act of God, perhaps it is more of a time of testing for us. Do we really believe and follow those two greatest commandments that a Jesus shared?

I’m thinking this may be a time of testing for all of us. Is our faith strong enough, are we loving enough, and are we self-disciplined enough to follow these commandments during this pandemic? Are we maintaining a living, active faith that includes praise and thanksgiving as well as petition in our prayer life? Are we daily seeking to strengthen our faith-walk through opening God’s word to find the message he has for us?

Are we selflessly seeking the health and safety of all by following guidelines of social distancing? How often do we have the “it’s all about me mentality” versus the Golden Rule attitude of looking out for others first? Where does hoarding of food and supplies fit into the picture?

I don’t know about you but I see room for improvement in my life. Just something to think about…..

The Great Physician. . .

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Life can be such a whirlwind. Don’t you agree? Mine is, has been, and probably always will be. So I’ve decided to share little snapshots of my life in the hope that some of them resonate with some of you.

My great-grandson was diagnosed a couple of months ago with endocarditis. That is an inflammation/infection (itis), inside (endo), the heart (card), roughly translated. Known to have a defect (hole) between the lower chambers of his heart (ventricular septal defect or VSD), he developed a month-long “fever of unknown origin,” meaning no one knew the cause.

But his brilliant and loving and gently assertive mother, my granddaughter, her mother’s intuition prevailing, persisted in getting medical evaluation after medical evaluation until the infection was found. (I think she has a lot of me in her.)

The vegetation (clump of bacteria) seen on the echocardiogram (ultrasound picture of the heart) was very large. We thought it would not completely clear until surgical repair of the VSD was done. A PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line was placed in his right arm, and he underwent six weeks of IV antibiotics with four of those weeks in the home. Again, the devotion and mildly OCD tendencies of his Mom, contributed to the success of the process. I do not think a little OCD is bad, by the way, since I rely on it regularly.

This past week a repeat ultrasound was done. The vegetation is gone! And I must thank the medical and nursing staff of Arkansas Children’s Hospital for their expertise in this rare and unusual situation. I must also thank Sully’s parents for their devoted care. I thank the multitude of prayer warriors across many states who prayed for his healing.

But, most of all, I thank God, our Creator and the Great Physician, who designed our lungs and touched this little boy with healing. The prayers of that multitude were answered. The antibiotics chipped away at the mass. Fragments traveled to the lungs where they were safely filtered away. And our boy is healed and ready to gain strength in preparation for surgical repair of the VSD.

Praise God! He is in control, even when we fret and fear. And he is good, all the time!

When have you seen God’s hand in your life?

Reflecting………

World War II ration books

My beautiful 93-year-old mother came to live with us this past October. She is getting frailer and has some problems with memory. She fills her days with putting photographs in albums and collecting items to donate to the Cleburne County historical society. When I asked about her apparent compulsion to get this done now if not sooner, she said she wanted to do these things before she couldn’t remember. Therefore, these remnants of WWII ration books have come to light. They made me keenly aware of the advantages I have had in this lifetime as contrasted with her life through the Great Depression and WWII.

Her books have several full pages of these blue stamps. She says she thinks they must have been fuel rations because her family did not have a vehicle and didn’t need to buy gasoline. I have Googled as much as I care to and can’t locate a clear description of exactly what the various “stamps” represented.

I think these are food ration stamps.

I have learned that there were stamps for various food items and stamps for various rationing periods. The ration week ran Saturday to Saturday. Mom couldn’t remember what the numbers and letters represented because “Daddy and Momma took care of all that since I was just a teenager.” From reading novels set in WWII I have learned that meat, cheese, butter, and sugar were rationed. Can we even comprehend what it was like to have these items not available any time we want them?

Mom’s family on the “home front”: dad Woodie, mom Eliza, my mother Jessie, her sister Georgia

The oldest sibling, J. B. “Jake” Harmon, was serving with a tank battalion in Europe at this time. I’ll have more about his service later.

All of this made me wonder how the people of our nation would deal with rationing now. It seems that many of us have the perspective that life, this nation, and the government owe us something. Disasters strike and the response is never quick enough or complete enough. We view the privilege of being free and prosperous as ours alone, something we definitely don’t want to share with people from other countries who come here seeking a better life for themselves and their children. The sense of patriotism that was part of day to day life in the 1940s seems to be a thing of the past. Hats off and standing for the national anthem are frequently omitted in various settings.

I have the feeling that today’s population would complain with bitter insistence that we are entitled to better things if faced with the same realities that my mother’s generation accepted as their lot in life. I fear I might be one of those people. Tom Brokaw (in his book The Greatest Generation) said that the men and women of my mother’s generation had values of “personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith” that made them able to defeat Hitler and leave us with the economic affluence, scientific progress, and vision that has made America great. Have we lost touch with those values? Have we lost a sense of appreciation for how far this nation has come? Have we lost the ability to value simple things like truth, right and wrong, and living for some higher calling than our own pleasure?

So, my set of New Year’s resolutions: To start each day with a prayer of gratitude that I have it so good, to live each day trying to be a better person than the day before, and to end each day thanking God that His grace has seen me through the day, no matter the challenges.

What about you? I’d love to read your responses.

Jessie Roberson, my mom….

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This picture is my mom, Jessie Velelia Harmon, in her twenties. The glass “frame” is cracked but I couldn’t give it up, so I had the whole thing matted and framed. The raven black hair and ruby lips remind me of Snow White. But my mother didn’t have it as magically perfect as Snow did, although I hope there has been a happy ending. She was born in 1926, and her early years were years of survival for a poor country family in Cleburne County, Arkansas. She remembers the depression and has described for me “canning kitchens” provided by the government so women could gather together and preserve the produce from their gardens and fruit trees while the children played outside. Her family’s house burned at some point and they lost everything. She told me that lids from cans of lard served as plates until they could gradually accumulate more dishes. Dresses were sewn from flour sacks and glassware was found in oatmeal boxes. The icebox was literally a box with blocks of ice in it and cooking was done on a wood stove. I have seen the remains of the one-room school that she attended and heard stories of her life on “Silver Ridge.”

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This photograph was made in the 1930s by Michael Disfarmer in Heber Springs, Arkansas. In our time he has achieved significant artistic recognition for his depression-era photographs. Negatives were made of glass. A picture cost thirty-five cents. My mom is on the right and stands with her sister Georgia in a classic Disfarmer pose. They walked or rode a wagon to neighborhood events, including the Old Soldiers’ Reunion, an annual event at Spring Park in Heber Springs. Her family attended every year, mostly for the music that could be heard.

In the 1940s things were looking up a bit. First her father, and then shortly thereafter, she, her mother and sister traveled to Kansas to work in an airplane factory. She was literally a “Rosie Riveter” for a short period of time. Georgia was too young to work in the factory, so she waited tables. It was in the late 1940s that Mother met my father, Lee Andrew Roberson, who had served in the Army on Guam as a sharpshooter. He had been married before going to war and had two sons, my half-brothers. However, his wife divorced him in a “dear John” moment and took the boys away from him, living in California and refusing to share his letters with them. It was only late in his life that he was reconciled to one of them after the other died of esophageal cancer.

He met my mom on a blind date. They fell in love. Here I am. But her story had just begun. For life continued to be sometimes easy but sometimes very hard. We were not well-off, probably not even middle class, in my infant years.  But shortly after my birth, my parents moved to Noblesville, Indiana. Mother loved it there. We lived in a neighborhood and they owned a home. Daddy worked for the Firestone tire factory. They had friends. A baby boy joined the family, my brother Alan. However, my dad decided he was ready to come back to Arkansas about 1959. Mother was not happy about showing the house to prospective buyers, but a buyer materialized, and we moved to Judsonia, Arkansas. I was nine years old.

Finances continued to be an issue much of the time. Dad initially worked as custodian for the Searcy Public School but then trained to operate an American gas station. Some of you may remember, back then someone pumped your gas, cleaned your windshield and checked tires and oil, all for twenty-five cents a gallon. My mother had to learn to drive because he was required to go to Memphis for several days for his training. That’s right, she was thirty-four years old and didn’t drive!

We lived in a “rent house” for about four years, and then my dad and my Uncle Truman built us a house, the house my mother lives in now. At one point my parents built another house at Pleasant Plains and lived there for several years so dad could have cattle, but as his health failed, he was wise enough to seek a place closer to family for her. God blessed with an opportunity to once again buy the house he had built. He died about eighteen months after their move to Judsonia, and my mom has lived there alone for twenty-two years now.

She has been a wonderful mother and was a phenomenal caregiver for my dad. She has a love for plants, especially flowering ones, and a true green thumb. She grieves her inability to care for her lawn herself and still is constantly undertaking little tasks of caring for her plants. (You know, I remember when we would visit my grandparents we would always take a tour of the yard to see what was growing well and what was in bloom. Guess the green thumb is an inherited trait that skipped me!)

She finished only the eighth grade but has been a great reader all her life. However, macular degeneration and “dry eyes” have slowed her reading. She loves musical theatre and bluegrass music and her family. Above all, she loves the Lord. Her severe spinal stenosis and chronic pain keep her from church now, but she was working in Bible School into her 80s. She is a faithful Bible reader and prayer warrior.

Her 93rd birthday is approaching. Her mind is beginning to fail, and I am hopeful that at some time she will yield to living with us. But for now she insists on her house, her yard, and her cat. (The psychotic cat cannot come live with us–although we do have a prospective home for “Callie” if Mom comes to be with us. Callie is a calico with the personality disorder to match.)

I feel so blessed to still have my mom with us. She is a hero to me. She has taught me so much about living for the Lord and caring for family and strong southern lady spirit. I love her with all my heart.

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We visited Mountain View a few years ago, when her back was still strong enough for the walk. This is one of my favorite pictures of her, in her element, questioning every plant and drinking in Arkansas history.

Happy Mother’s Day with more love than you know, Jessie Velelia Harmon Roberson, my mom!

What’s in a name-part 2

My sweet mother on her 90th birthday

I didn’t quite finish my musings about names. Because a lot of my thoughts about names and the roles associated with them relate to family. I am blessed to still have my mother with us. She will soon be 93 and, as I observe the decline in her health as she ages, I am reminded that soon I will be the matriarch of this family. But for now my role as daughter is a big part of my life. She is a loving, worrying, steel magnolia of a woman who recognizes that she is failing in both mind and body. And I, as daughter, am there to see her through each minor crisis that arises. My name as daughter is Kathy (when she calls me with the current problem). She speaks it with a tiny upswing in tone at the end of my name, as though it is followed by a tiny question mark. It’s almost as though she wonders if I’m really still here. Perhaps she’s afraid of losing me, losing the anchor that holds her to her role as Mother.

My next name is Nana-girl. That’s what my husband often calls me. Nana because that’s what the grandchildren (3, all grown) call me. I don’t know where the girl comes from. Those days for me are long past. Perhaps in his eyes I am still the younger woman he fell in love with.

Of course, before being Nana I had to be Mommy, Momma, Mom and, sometimes, Mother (with that tone of barely disguised disgust at whatever I was demanding of them.) The choice of motherly name varied with the ages of my children and the situation. I found that during the teenage years the tone of voice often said more than the name I was called. My two living children now treat me with the utmost love and respect. Thank you, Ronnie and Cindy! And I would give anything to hear Daniel once again challenge me not to use my “Nancy-Nurse” voice with him.

,Then came the grandchildren, all grown now, two with children of their own. They made me Nana and I love to hear them call me that, especially when it’s accompanied by a hug and kiss and a murmured “I love you.” They make me proud and make me feel important as a kind of glue holding this family together. That’s where the matriarch concept came to mind.

I, however, created a bit of a conundrum when the first great-grand came along. Multiple generations of grandparents and great-grandparents still living had me convinced that surely there were other Nana’s. So I chose Gigi or G-G (great-grandma). My great-granddaughter and her mom latched on to it, and I feel her little brother will too. But my third great-grand is experiencing name confusion, because his dad calls me Nana while his mom tries to stick with Gigi. And I was ready to go with Nana the day we thought the name was uttered from his 10-month-old lips. I guess they’ll all just have to figure out what to call me as the years progress.

The last name I have is grateful. For all of the above–my mom, my husband, my children, my grands and great-grands. Life would be very empty without them. And this is my message to them–You make me very happy and make my life worth living. Thank you for being the wonderful family you are!

So, what about you, Reader? Have you thought about your names? Professional? Personal? Family? I’d love to know your stories. Because we all have a story, don’t we?

What’s in a name?

I’ve been thinking a lot about names lately…..

Especially about how my professional “names” have changed since my “young nurse” days. Of course my original RN license included first, middle, maiden, and last names. That was the law. At first I wore a simple name pin proudly, as depicted in this framed print that my nurse managers gave me when I reached administrative status. I also wore my school pin from Harding University–gold with a map of the world and a “go ye” message.

Print by Billy Kirk, 1984, “Ready to Serve”

Yes, I wore white (oftentimes a dress), a nurse’s cap, white “duty” shoes, carefully polished, and a wristwatch with a second hand! A far cry from today’s colorful scrubs, athletic shoes, and photo IDs required of healthcare professionals. In those days I was simply “KP” to most of the staff and physicians. After all, we charted on paper and simple initials confirmed medications administered, etc. There were a lot of other things different about nursing back then. I was one RN “charge nurse” with a couple of LPNs (if I was lucky) and a team of nurses’ aides and orderlies taking care of 25 to 30 patients on a unit. I knew about all of them because part of my job was rounding three times in an eight-hour shift to check on them. There’s a lot to be said for the advances in healthcare but I sometimes feel that I came up in the last of the “glory days” of nursing when technology was less important. I know that I made a difference on many of those shifts because of the time spent with patients and decisions made. And, just sometimes, I long to be called a simple “KP” again.

But back to the name thing. When I finally completed my Master’s in Nursing I dropped the middle name and added my maiden name in its stead. My father was so proud of me. I wanted the family name to be part of my professional credential. He didn’t get to see me graduate (he died in September before I finished in December). But I hope someday to tell him about it. Or maybe he already knows?

Lastly, the thing that really got me thinking about all this professional name thing is the realization that I’m no longer “KP.” Now old enough to be many attending’s mother and the resident/intern/medical student’s grandmother, I am known almost universally as “Ms. Kathy.” And I guess that’s ok. It just made me think about things. It comes with a bit of responsibility, I guess. I want to exemplify the traits that make nursing strong–intelligence, discernment, compassion, courtesy, professionalism. To be a person who leaves the world a little better because of my presence. I hope I can do that in my remaining years of nursing practice. And I’m not ready to give it up yet! I really like what I do and, yes, I’m good at it! 😉

Hungry for books….

A few days ago the thought came to me that you might be interested in knowing what I’m currently reading. Most writers are readers. My boss shared a quote from somewhere that “the best writers are the best readers” or something to that effect. I don’t know that I’m the best of either category, but I have had a love of reading all my life, and, most recently, the habit of having several books going concurrently. I was going to make a picture of my current reading projects. I wish I had made it that day.Because someone else in this house has an “appetite” for the written word!

My husband Arlin, daughter Cindy (holding Piper), and me, holding Princess.

The black fluff that I am holding is Princess, the less-than-well-behaved miniature Schnauzer member of the family. Although Arlin kind of dropped the ball today, too. You see, Princess has a deep fondness for the paper that the written word is recorded on. Alas, today Arlin forgot to kennel her before leaving the house. And she, left to her own devices, is easily bored. Looking about, she found my current reads.

My current menu of books. . .

Fortunately The Witch Elm had a book jacket. It was easily removed and chewed on sufficiently that it will no longer fit on the book. Oh, well, sometimes those covers get in the way anyway. A somewhat more “literary” read than I’m used to, I find the plot a bit slow-moving but intriguing enough that I can’t quite give up on it.

I highly recommend The Soul of America.  The historical detail and insight into the struggles for equality for our African American citizens has reminded me that the roots of racism run deep in this country. Jon Meacham recounts our search for our “better angels” thoughtfully. I pray we find them soon. By the way, Princess ate the lower right-hand corner of the front cover, not visible in the photo.

Unfortunately Stein on Writing lost its cover. Copyright 1995, I ordered a used copy from Amazon. Sol Stein was a master editor of some of the most successful writers of the last century, and his craft techniques and strategies are fascinating.

I included the Kindle directory on my phone, because in spare moments waiting for an appointment or waiting for my husband I read. Thrillers, mysteries, the occasional romance, but my favorite are historical novels set during World War II. My dad fought in it and my mom and grandfather worked in an airplane factory during it. I, like Tom Brokaw, view that generation as perhaps the greatest of our time.

So, are you a writer? A reader? Hungry for books? No appetite for them?Hard cover? Paperback? Digital? Hate reading? Just wondering.