Author Archives: Laurinda Wheeler

September 11 – Balloons Rising

by Doris Jean Shaw

Enjoying breakfast, my eyes drift to the window. “Is that water tower moving?” I get up and go to the balcony to get a better look. The round part of the top seems to be ascending toward the heavens. Standing there, I spot more spheres popping up. The sun above the horizon bounces off the spheres and I see a dozen hot air balloons at various heights from the earth. Each balloon decked out in an array of colors from bright orange and yellow to purple and blue, rises toward the sun.

I take my coffee to the patio and watch as the balloons rise from the earth, and drift off to dot the sky with colorful blobs. “I’m not sure I would want to be that high and be at the mercy of any prevailing wind.” It tickles my fancy but the sensible person inside defies me to do it. I once saw a balloon that would go up but a rope anchored it to the ground so you could not float off. Curious about the floating since I love to float in the water but I know I can only go so far. Does that mean that I want excitement within limits?

So much for the all that psychological stuff. I sip my coffee and enjoy the daring of others as a breeze comes up and disperses the balloons like throwing dice on a table, the balloons scatter. I tackle clearing the table with a smile. What a glorious way to start the day! Wonder what will cross my path tomorrow?

Doris Jean Shaw

Doris Jean Shaw is a retired educator, Life Coach, author and member of Beauregard Parish Writers Guild “The Ink Blots.” She loves to travel and writes romances, children’s stories and devotionals. She presents a workshop, entitled “Reclaiming Me” that helps others find direction for their futures.

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July 17 – No Explanation

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

“I don’t believe this,” I exclaimed to my husband. “The caregiver at ARC informs me that Stephen needs a new wheelchair. The one just purchased last year is already missing a headrest and a foot rest.”

Stephen lives in a home for the disabled; as he was born with profound disabilities and was predicted to die within weeks, then months which now have become 50 years this August 17, 2015.

Oh, I made an attempt to keep him at home, until sleepless nights coupled with uncontrollable seizures gave me no choice but to relinquish his care in a setting where caregivers had 8 hour shifts; thus relieving them of the constancy of his care.

These caregivers are only paid a minimum wage. Thus, the constancy of his care is compromised by the frequency of staff leaving for a better paying job. And, yet, the legislature drags their feet regarding any increase in the minimum wage for workers caring for the ‘least of these among us.

Their primary concern is to halt all abortions. You know their spiel about the sanctity of life, blah, blah, blah. Does that include quality of life as well? Have any of them visited or cared for a child who is profoundly disabled in all facets of their bodies?

Stephen needs touch and a constant pair of eyes and ears. Vicky, a massage therapist, gives him a massage twice a month and then reports to me the state, or lack thereof, of his home and care. She has become my eyes and ears regarding his care.

Stephen, I pray that when you and I both are not bound by the limits of the physical realm we can have a conversation about all these years and the profound impact they have had on each of our lives.

Patricia Roop HollingerPatricia is a retired LCPC/Chaplain from a inpatient/outpatient psychiatric hospital as of 2010. She is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and the daughter of a mother who will be 102 on July 12th, 2015. She is a voracious reader, musician, lover of cats, and is currently exploring her writing skills.

April 10 – Staying Calm

by Doris Jean Shaw

I have no Sunday to hang my week on; sometimes I lose track of what day it is. When my husband could no longer sit through a church service, we no longer attended. At the present, my one concession is to get up a few minutes early, drink my coffee in a room that starts out dark and is illuminated by the rising sun. I need that time to myself and to prepare for the day.

No longer is my time my own, as his health diminishes, my husband depends on me more and more to help with every day tasks. By ten o’clock, breakfast and bath are behind us. Any doctor’s appointments are scheduled for mornings, as by afternoon he is worn out and struggles to get out of a chair. Preparing lunch and seeing that he gets up and walks a bit drains me as well. The hardest part is to remain calm while he grows agitated. No longer can he dress without help. Eating is a challenge as his hands shake and food falls off the spoon. His foot does not want to move. Just getting through the ordeal of daily living leaves us both ready for a nap to rejuvenate. Between treatments for various ailments and his frequent trips to the bathroom, I am once again exhausted after supper and preparations for bed are complete.

Sleep eludes me as I wrestle with what I have to do, and the negative responses I get from those who have nothing but unsolicited advice. Thankful I am not in charge of the future, I get down on my knees and thank God for helping me through the day, and pray that tomorrow will be a repeat of today for I am not ready for the alternative.

Doris Jean Shaw is a retired educator, Life Coach, author and member of Beauregard Parish Writers Guild “The Ink Blots.” She loves to travel and writes romances, children’s stories and devotionals. Mrs. Shaw presents workshops, entitled “Reclaiming Me”, “My Parents Keeper”, “The Trouble with Retirement”, and “Care for the Caregiver” to help women find direction for their futures.

April 5 – A Stretch

by Fran Simone

If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never create anything original.
– Sir Kenneth Robinson

Several years ago I signed up for a class in collage because I felt the need to stretch beyond the familiar, never mind that my artistic talent (or lack of) consists of drawing lopsided stick figures. In elementary school I couldn’t stay within the lines of a coloring book, and a painting class in college was a disaster.

The class met for five sessions in the messy studio of Marc, a gifted artist and enthusiastic teacher. My four classmates were repeats with Marc.  Each was talented with a flair for style as evidenced by their bright colors, bold jewelry, and eye-catching hats. What am I doing here? Should I bolt out the door? But I had paid my money and set myself a challenge.

Session one. Marc talked about the elements of collage and turned us loose to page through old magazines and “cut out or tear out whatever strikes your fancy.”  I looked, cut and tore, and wound up with a pile of flowers, birds, trees, and clouds. Well, maybe a nature theme.

Session two. More of the same: look, cut, tear, and puzzle over ways to arrange disparate pieces.. My classmates were way ahead. Two had already chosen themes, farm and music, and had begun arranging pieces on their canvasses. One sketched a design. I was still undecided.

Session three. Again, not a clue.  Then, I stumbled across a picture of Michelangelo’s magnificent statue of David, which I had marveled at while visiting Florence. Eureka. My theme. Italy.

Session four. I located pictures of the Ponte Vecchio Bridge and Tower of Pisa.
“Great,”  Marc said, “now tear pieces to represent the sky and the earth. Then begin to lay out your design.”

My first attempt was as out of proportion as an unassembled puzzle. Marc patiently showed me how to divide the canvas into three spaces. He penciled in three parallel lines in equal proportions.

“Now place the sky above, the objects in the middle, and the earth below.”
I devised various combinations and consulted with Marc and my classmates.

Final session.  I carefully positioned my clouds and sky, statue, bridge, tower, and earth in various combinations. Running out of time and patience, I had to plunge right in like a swimmer jumping off a high diving board. Here goes. Glue pieces on canvas. No turning back. Hope for the best.

A month later we were invited to exhibit our creations with students in Marc’s art class at a local college. While the students’ works weren’t as magnificent as Michelangelo’s, they were pretty darn good. Although out of my league, I wasn’t embarrassed.

Today, my Italy collage is displayed on a book shelf in the office where I write. It reminds me to stretch beyond my comfort zone.

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Fran Simone is a Professor Emeritus at Marshall University, South Charleston, WV, campus. She directed the West Virginia Writing Project and taught classes and conducted workshops in personal narrative, memoir and creative non-fiction. Her memoir, Dark Wine Waters: a Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows was published last year.

March 31 – Settle In

by Nancy Davies

There is a fine mist hanging from the grey Oregon sky as I sit down to write this afternoon. It usually takes me awhile to settle into a focused frame of mind when I am writing during the middle of the day. My first reaction is that I am squandering my time, being frivolous with precious moments that I can’t get back. I feel this need to be doing something “constructive” during the daylight hours, and have something to show at the end of each day; a clean house, a weed-free yard, some money in the bank. When my husband comes home after another stress filled day at the office and asks me innocently, “What did you do today?” I want to be able to recite a litany of accomplishments that make him believe it is more important for me to be at home than grinding out another day in the work force. But in reality, I think it is me who I’m actually trying to reassure. After years of raising kids, working, volunteering and being generally insane, it’s difficult to get used to so much unscheduled time, and at the same time it’s so amazing!

I have taken this past year off and I am now looking back and viewing this as a year of learning. In a sense, I have become a student of all the things I previously never had time for. I have read books and watched videos of all kinds. I took a class on mindfulness and started a meditation practice. I have tried to make it a point to work on the internal makeup of my life much more than the external. And I’ve been writing, which helps me to straighten out my thoughts. My hope is that once these thoughts are on paper I can step back and see them from an outsider’s perspective. Perhaps try to look without judgment; even reflect back and see some sort of growth occurring. My intention is to open up with no expectations and see what comes out, not unlike walking through life with your arms wide open ready to catch whatever might drop down from the heavens.

What is emerging from all of this for me is the appreciation that life is not a to-do list. By pursuing activities that are meaningful to where I am right now, I’m convinced I will not look back with regret. At the end of the day, by enriching my own life I am, in turn, enriching everything around me.

Recently retired, Nancy has rediscovered long walks with her dog and the joy of a flourishing garden. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Tom and dog, Ella.

July 2 – Burning Mouth Syndrome & Me

Kaliby Kali’ P. Rourke

Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS): “Chronic burning pain in your mouth. The pain from burning mouth syndrome may affect your tongue, gums, lips, inside of your cheeks, roof of your mouth, or widespread areas of your whole mouth. The pain can be severe, as if you scalded your mouth.”-MayoClinic.com. ABC News covered it in a piece called “The Mysterious, Agonizing Pain of Burning Mouth Syndrome.”

There is no conclusively identifiable cause, no assured treatment and definitely no cure. The few research studies out there note a correlation between depression and BMS, but neglect to ask,”Which came first?”

In my case, the BMS definitely caused depression; not the other way around. Researchers suspect dental work, dense nerve tissue in “super tasters,” hormonal links, or neurological damage, but no one knows for sure.

I have been battling burning mouth since May, 2008, and after a hectic flurry of exams, specialists, tests and possible diagnoses over the first year or two, we settled on this bizarre syndrome that affects less than 1% of the population. Oh, how special!

I will not take you through the gritty details of everything I have tried; nerve blocks, GERD testing, vocal cord scoping, oh my! At this point I merely manage the pain and try to keep its effect on my life to a minimum. Most days I am fairly successful, but occasionally stress or other factors overwhelm even my best laid coping strategies and I must turn to medication. A small dose of Clonazepam (Klonipin) seems to make me drowsy and interrupts the escalating cycle of pain so that I can get through my evening. The only times I do not burn are when I eat, drink or cry.

I know I am not alone, but as those of you out there who have suffered from chronic pain know so well, sometimes it feels like it is just you and your constant companion. In fact, isolation becomes the additional thing you must battle. You have told everyone who needed to be told and there is nothing new to tell, so you stop talking much about it. When people ask how you are, you say, “Fine.”

And you move on.

I recently decided to talk to a counselor.

You see, I needed to talk to someone who would not be burdened with my pain; someone who did not feel for me personally, other than professional empathy with good boundaries.

Why?

Because I needed to vent without regard for the other person’s feelings, our future relationship, or any of those considerations that come into play when you talk to people you love, and who love you.

If you are dealing with chronic pain, whether it is physical, mental or emotional, I hope you will feel encouraged to reach out and find help and support. Sometimes your family and friends just aren’t enough, no matter how much they care.

Kali’ P. Rourke is an avid philanthropist and volunteer in Austin, Texas, serving on the board of the Seedling Foundation, Impact Austin and the Texas Advocacy Project.

May 3 – Penteli Mountain

by Marilea Rabasa

My son and I loved to fly kites when he was growing up in Virginia. The right kind of wind could propel his paper bird high and far, with us right on its tail giving it enough slack to keep it soaring in the air currents.

He’s a grown man now, but I remember a day twenty-five years ago when we were living in Athens, Greece. We were driving home from his friend Chris’ house. Chris lived on Penteli Mountain, one of my favorite haunts outside of Athens. From the crest of this hill on a clear day in winter you could see the whole bowl of Athens, with the smog hovering overhead, and even beyond. This was where the Brits came to celebrate Boxer Day every December 26. They hiked up more for the whiskey than the view, but that’s another story.

As we turned the corner, we saw the tail of a kite peeking out from under a pile of rubbish. We knew it was a kite tail because it had flags zigzagging down the string. Also, everyone came to fly kites on Penteli Mountain in December when the weather changed. This kite had lost its wind and lay abandoned in the field, its owners having no more use for it.

And so, our curiosity taking over, we stopped the car, got out, and went to investigate. Right away our curiosity turned into compassion and we wanted to breathe new life into this broken and tattered old kite. I never thought that something inanimate could come to life. But at this time in my life there was a dying in me that I knew I had to defeat or it would defeat me. My son was part of this tragedy, and somehow we knew that the road to healing could start with repairing this kite and watching it fly again. A dust-covered old TV pinning it down to the ground was holding the kite hostage. Its colorful tail saved it from certain death.

So we took the kite home and repaired it with glue and tape. We waited for a good day with just enough wind to try and fly it. The day finally came, a clear sunny day with a nice breeze. Together we took the kite back to the mountain and flew it. We watched it continue to rise and float in the air until all the string was used up. We ran with it as it leaped in the wind. It was flying like it was brand new – a miracle!

We didn’t let that kite go. We brought it down and carefully put it in the car. We knew we would probably never fly it again, but we couldn’t let go of something that had taught us such an eloquent lesson: I was sure from that day on that there are second chances for those who have the heart to reach for them.

Marilea is a retired teacher. Toward the end of her career, she earned her Master of Arts in Teaching. “This was a critical step on my life journey because it concentrated on reflective practice. Now I have time to reflect back on my life and put my stories down on paper. I look forward to sharing them with you.”