Archives for August 2019

One Thing At a Time

When my husband asks, “Are you trying to bake that cake, again!” I know it is my cue to slow down and concentrate on one thing at a time. It is a gentle reminder that started between us Onethingatatimemany years ago when our children were small and our life was extremely full of people and activities.

Right before guests would arrive for dinner, regardless of what a wonderful meal I had prepared, I would inevitably decide to add something else, which often made the moments before their arrival stressful.

Trying to do too many things at once cannot only be stressful, but also dangerous.  On my way to one of my appointments this week, I noticed the driver in front of me was talking on the cell phone, taking bites of a hamburger that was placed in her lap and sipping a drink from a cup in the holder of her console–and driving.

It looked like an accident about to happen, and I quickly got out of her way. Unfortunately, this dangerous scene is an example of how we live now.

It seems that, most of the time, we are scrambling around, moving very quickly, doing three or four things at once and only half-listening to the people we come into contact with.  Our minds are cluttered and overly busy.

Having things to make our life easier, like cell phones, can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. The blessing is that we can do so many things at once and always be in touch with everyone. Of course, that has always been easy for most women, because as mothers, we usually have about 18-25 years of “on-the-job” training as a multi-tasked person.

From the time the nurse places a child and the extra take-home supplies on a mother’s lap on the way out of the hospital, until the day that child leaves home, she learns to cook, talk on the phone, sign school papers, hem a pant leg, and place a band aid gently on a quivering knee, while getting ready for her own job.

The curse is-many of us have a hard time slowing down when they leave. Being able to do everything at once becomes a way of life. I’d estimate that I operate at about half the speed I did when I was a young mother.  However, I’ve learned that I get as much accomplished, when I concentrate on doing one thing at a time and I enjoy it more too.

Concentrating on the moment can also make a difference in how we treat others.  While at the bank one day, I watched as a very friendly teller was helping a customer.  The man’s cell phone rang while she was talking to him and he answered it.

Instead of asking the caller to wait, he began to ignore the nice person who was waiting on him.  She finally stopped trying to talk to him. When the transaction was over he simply took his money and walked out without acknowledging her.

Labor day is a time we celebrate the dignity and pride of the people in the workforce who are making a difference in the well-being of our country.  We never know what is going on in people’s hearts and lives.

Sharing and appreciating our collective vocations helps each of us get through a working day. It wasn’t a big thing, and maybe it didn’t bother her as much as it did me as I watched the scene unfold, but it seemed to me that it could have been a more enjoyable moment for both of them if he had concentrated on one thing at a time.

Trails, like rules, are there for a reason

“Trails are there for a reason, my husband always told me when we were hiking.  The high grass and wooded areas can be dangerous”. His warnings were usually confirmed by the posted signs that instructed people to stay on the trails.

The problem was that I had a hard time staying on the trail.  My curiosity of what I couldn’t see compelled me to follow sounds that I couldn’t identify.  Often I went off the trails to get photos of birds, such as, the Painted Bunting and the Scarlet Tanager soaring out of my camera’s view into the thickets of trees and bushes.

In South Texas where we lived, the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge was home to hundreds of bird species plus ocelots, deer, javelina, squirrels, long-tail weasels, alligators and mountain lions.

We spent a lot of time driving or walking the trails surrounded by thick brush and cactus with Mesquite trees serving as umbrellas against the hot sun.

Sometimes I didn’t always look where I was going when aiming my camera.  Once when I started down a hill toward a muddy puddle get a shot of a Black-Bellied Whistling duck, my husband stopped me and pointed to an Alligator lying in the thick wet sludge watching my every step.

My careless days of going off designated trails changed the day I saw something very big and dangerous that normally lived off the trails.

It was lying about 100 yards ahead of our car.  We were on our way to one of our favorite trails when, from the distance, I saw what looked like a dip in the road that had been made a little deeper because of the recent heavy rain. It seemed to reach from one side of the road to the other so I warned my husband to be careful.

However, as we got closer we realized that the dark line was not a dip in the road, at all.  In fact, it seemed to be moving. A few moments after we saw it moved we recognized what it was.  It was a seven-foot rattlesnake with a large bulge in its stomach.

The sun was warm and bright. The snake had obviously just had a big lunch and seemed to have stretched out across the cool wet road for a siesta. I was so excited.  I grabbed my digital camera from the seat and started to open the door.

Thankfully, my husband grabbed the handle and stopped me from stepping out into danger. He did, however, turn the car sideways so we were parallel with the huge creature and let me roll the window down and take photos.

The big snake laid there while I filled my disc with its image. After awhile he lifted his head and his tail, gave me a look; shook his rattlers and slithered off into the brush—the brush where my husband was always telling me that I should be careful not to wander into.

When we reported the huge reptile to the park service, the ranger patiently explained to me the reason signs were posted to stay on the trail.  “It isn’t just the fact that there are wild animals and poisonous snakes out there, but when people veer off the trails they also trample wildflowers and cause erosion problems.”

I got the message loud and clear.  Of course, when I tell this story to my grandchildren, I point out the fact that rules are there for a reason.

Cats, Predators or Pets

I didn’t notice the big black and brown cat perched on the other side of the fence peering into our backyard.  I was busy watching the gray and white mocking bird with a long black tail dipping its beak into the cool water inside the birdbath.

Cats Predators Or Pets Alt

It is a sight I can see most any time of the day, because our yard is usually filled with birds. We have Sparrows that build nests in the eave of our back porch, doves that nest in the big tree that shade the bird feeders, Woodpeckers hammering away at all hours of the day and red winged blackbirds flocking hungrily on the platform feeder.

Colorful little Finches hop on the limbs of the potted rubber plant, a Tufted Titmouse shyly checks out the feeder that hangs from the tree limb, and Hummingbirds dart between the honeysuckle bush and the nectar feeders.

My sister often teased me for sitting on the back porch and taking pictures of the birds.  She says I should get a life, but watching birds makes me feel like I have a good life.  It’s a hobby I enjoy immensely.

We buy a variety of seeds to attract different kinds of birds, fill our feeders each morning, make sure water is dripping in the birdbath, and keep binoculars close to check out new species that may come by.

So I guess you would say birds are our pets.  We can’t touch them and we don’t name them, but we look forward every morning and evening to the time we spend watching them. Like many people who enjoy birds, I can tell when a new bird comes into the yard.

That’s why I came to the patio doors that morning. I recognized the familiar sound of the Mockingbird. After watching him for a moment, I turned away to get some meal worms I had bought to lure him to the feeder. I returned just in time to see the big black and brown cat lunge over the wood fence and pounce on the unsuspecting little creature.

He attacked in such a swift movement the Mockingbird never knew what hit him.  The cat’s teeth covered both his wings and the bird seemed paralyzed. I open the door and ran toward the cat yelling, but it was too late.  Just as abruptly as he entered our yard, he was gone, with the Mockingbird securely in his mouth.

Cats can be pets or predators.  It depends on whose backyard they are in. In our daughter’s home, their big beautiful black cat named Ginga is a wonderful pet. They had her neutered when they first got her because they felt they could only take care of the one cat.  They feed her well, make sure she gets her immunizations and hardly ever let her go outside.

In our yard and every other person who enjoys the sights and sounds of birds, cats are predators and intruders. If a cat has no one to care for it, its natural survival instinct is to hunt.  Even if they are cared for, they are natural predators when they are allowed to roam the neighborhood.

One of the saddest sights is a thin, sick looking cat that is obviously starving.  Some of them will get run over by a car and others will die of diseases. It may be easy to say yes when someone asks if you want a cute little kitten for your child, but the responsibility of caring for that animal should be considered.

  • First of all, they grow up and they aren’t always cute.
  • Second, they have to be fed, watered and kept in the owner’s home or yard.
  • Third, they should have their immunizations and be neutered, unless the owner is prepared to care for more cats.

According to the United States Census Bureau there are over 60 million pet cats. Of those 60 million cats, the American Bird Conservancy estimates about 40 million are unsupervised outside either part of the day or all the time. That means that only about 35% of cat owners keep their cats indoors at all times or constantly supervised while outdoors.

I was really disappointed when the Mockingbird was attacked in my back yard, but it wasn’t the first time.  I spend a lot of time chasing stray cats out of our yard.

It’s not that I don’t like cats; it’s just that I like birds better.

Fishing On The Fly

I watched with interest as my husband worked on his casting technique with his new fly rod. Fly-fishing has always been an appealing sport to me because it requires more activity than just standing and waiting for a fish to pull your floater underwater.

I was assigned to watch over the other four fishing poles he had brought with us.  They were baited with live shrimp and had bright green, orange and yellow floaters bobbing on top of the water. I wanted to try my hand at casting the line too, but it was his pole and I figured I would wait for him to wear the new off.

Fishing On The FlyHe worked for a while, and then complained that maybe he was throwing the line too hard and said he needed to work on his casting efforts. I teased him by saying something like: “You’ve got to put your whole self into it.”

I had watched fly fishing on the fishing channel and it seems to me when people fly fish they used their entire body to work with the rhythm of casting and pulling the fly through the water.

After a while, he put the rod down and came back to check on the four poles he had left me in charge of. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I wanted to see if I could cast the fly rod the way I have seen it done on television, so I seized my chance. “Could I try the fly rod?” I asked.  “Sure, he said, but it is hard to do.  I will probably have to help you.”

I picked up the long pole with the yellow rope-looking line and caught the excess line in my left hand, while I drew the pole back with my right hand.  The feathery hook jerked awkwardly backward through the air. I immediately threw it forward. It plopped into the water, but it wasn’t smooth. I tried again and again until I could feel a rhythmic movement.

Back then forwards, then a quick pull to make the lure look and act like real bait. It felt a little like a dance.  After a while, the line was sailing easily, and I was thinking I needed my own fly rod.

My husband was truly impressed when he saw me casting.  He said I seem to have a natural knack for it. Actually, a friend has São Paulo, Sp, Brasil, 12/02/2017. Pesqueiro Matsumura Localizado Na Ilha Do Bororé, Extremo Sul Da Cidade De São Paulo, Sp. – Foto: Alf Ribeirotold me that a woman could sometimes cast a fly rod better than a man because she is gentler with the casting.

When I was getting pretty good at casting (or at least getting the line out without getting it tangled) I decided it was time to start looking for a fish in the water to entice.

However, my husband was getting ready to go just when I was getting sure of myself. I decided to try one nice, long, smooth casting motion to impress him and show him how far I could get the line out.

I drew back the rod with the yellow line and feathery lure flying in the air and let it go with all I had. I put so much into the effort that I felt myself falling forward with the line.  I tried to stop, but my foot slipped, then my knee went forward and I was staggering with nothing to grab for support except the fly rod I had in hand.  The next thing I knew I was face down into the muddy water.

My husband heard the splash and looked over thinking I must have actually landed a big fish.  When he saw me trying to stand up in the water–mud running down my legs, he began to laugh—actually he hasn’t stopped. “That’s what I call putting everything you’ve got into it,” he said.

Learning How to Help Your Child With ADHD

“When I was in the first grade I had trouble concentrating and doing my work and what added to this problem is that I have a disorder called ADHD, (Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder) and I didn’t know it.  I was always hyper, out of control, and always getting in trouble. I also had a temper problem. Because of this I set a goal to improve. The school put me in a program called 504, (to receive extra help), and I also started to take a medication. I finally got to the point where I reached my goal. Now I’m in Pre-AP (honor classes).”

This is a letter written to me from a middle school boy named Abraham.  He was writing in response to a writing prompt I had published in a local newspaper:  What goal have you met and how?

Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity cannot be diagnosed with x-rays or blood test. It is a disorder that is diagnosed through symptoms.

The most recognizable symptom is the child’s lack of attention span. It affects between three and six percent of children between ages 4 and 14.  Those affected are unsettled, cannot concentrate or sit still and are often disruptive.

That may sound like the average child, but it is not the average behavior the doctor looks for when he or she is talking to the child and their parents about ADHD.


Abraham’s mother said the teacher noticed something different about her son.  He was more mature speaking than the other children and very smart. He asked very intelligent questions and seemed to notice things that other kids didn’t, but his mother said, “He was the only one rolling around on the floor.”

When he finished his work, the teacher said he disturbed the other children because he couldn’t sit still. His mother took him to a pediatrician who ran tests to rule out any neurological problems.

The parents and teachers were asked to fill out a questionnaire describing the child’s behavioral patterns at school and at home.  If the symptoms are the same in both environments, the doctor prescribes a medication to help the child concentrate on their work.

The medication does not cure the disorder, says Dr. Toland from the Children’s Clinic, but it will help them to concentrate so they can learn while they are in school.  “If they are diagnosed with ADHD medication is the definite medical treatment.

This was Abraham’s diagnosis and he was given medication. “My family didn’t want me to give him the medicine, because they thought it would hurt him or he would get addicted, but I wanted to do what was best for my son,  Abraham’s mom said. After he started taking the medication and getting extra help in school his grades went from failing to A’s.”

“Sometimes when I had a hard time controlling my temper, Abraham said, I felt worried and I didn’t know what to do next.” His mom talked to him about the diagnosis and the medication, and explained to him that it was to help him concentrate.

The reason I wanted to share Abraham’s story is because sometimes people do not believe ADHD is real.  They believe the child is just undisciplined and acting out. That may be true in lots of cases. However, there is a difference between children who have Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity and misbehaving children.

That is why the doctor compares the symptoms reported by both the teacher and the parents and what he observes. Abraham’s mother said that when the doctor gave her the literature about ADHD, she could see the symptoms were identical to her son’s behavior.

When our son was in the second grade he was diagnosed with ADHD, but not many doctors were treating it then.  I gave him medication but it seemed to change him. He sometimes appeared to be in a daze. The medication needed to be adjusted, but I didn’t understand that.

I made the decision not to treat him with medication. Instead, I became as involved as I could with his school so I could be there for him, but it was always hard for him to concentrate, and he was often very impulsive.

He struggled to complete his work and make passing grades. Sometimes I wonder if his life in school would have been easier if I had made a different decision.

Today, as an adult, my son still has ADHD and he is aware that he has to work hard to keep his concentration on one thing at a time, but he can deal with it now.

Some parents choose to treat their children with herbal remedies and diet changes, while others choose to deal with it on a daily basis the way I did, but the most important thing a parent can do is to educate themselves.

We can do that by asking for information from the doctors or medical clinics, or even ask for a second opinion if we have any doubts.  When we do that and pay attention to what is going in the child’s life, the next step is to do what is best the child.

Be careful what you wish for

My photo fantasy, while on a road trip to Alaska, was a big black bear standing on his hind legs looking directly into my camera lens.

According to the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, black bears rarely attack humans unprovoked. Usually when they stand erect it is to get a better look at you and possibly to show their size as a warning not to get too close.  I had no intention of getting too close, or feeding or petting a bear. I just wanted a great photo.

BecarefulwhatyouwishforBlack bears and their cubs were plentiful on the side of the road as we drove our RV through the Canadian Rockies into Alaska.  Sometimes they would swing their big black heads our way, but usually they just ambled off in the other direction.

While visiting Fish Creek in Hyder, Alaska, both grizzles and black bears played with their cubs in the water and caught pink salmon with their claws right below the bridge where I and many other photographers stood at a distance, hoping to catch a perfect shot.

On our way to Denali National Park in Alaska, we stopped about 50 miles south at Bayer’s Lake to catch a glimpse of some reported Trumpeter Swans.

We were excited to see them because we had been told that they are considered endangered. They are not only the largest swans in the world, but the largest species of waterfowl native to North America.

These beautiful swans with their snow white plumage, flat black bills and black feet, measure up to four feet in height with a wingspan of seven to eight feet and weigh 20-35 pounds. The male is called a cob and the female is called a pen.

Their long straight necks allow them to uproot plants in 4 feet of water and they get their names from the trumpet-sound they make when they call. They were once fairly common throughout most of North America and Canada, but market hunting and millinery trade rapidly depleted nesting populations.  Their meat was sold as food, their skins were sold in the fur trade to Europe where they were used to make ladies’ powder puffs and feathers were used to adorn fashionable hats.

After we had set up camp we took a walk through a narrow path that led to the lake. We hardly had room for our legs to navigate through the thick, waist high brush.  It was near dusk; the air was cool and the world was quiet except for the sound of a few birds and rustling leaves.

Suddenly we heard it, a sound like a trumpet.  I couldn’t believe it. It was an unmistakable resonant, loud, trumpet-like call.  We began to hurry. When we got to the last brush before the clearing, my husband moved aside and let me go first because, of course, I had the long-lens camera.

When I stepped into the open, sure enough, there they were the cob, the pen and three small cygnets gracefully gliding on the top of the water about 20 or 30 feet out.  They were stretching and dipping their long necks.

By the time my husband stepped in behind me I already had my camera in position and was clicking as fast as I could. Finally, after a few minutes, I just let the camera rest and gazed at the wonder of those beautiful swans playing on a perfectly blue lake with the gentle light of the sun fading behind the mountains, showcasing it all.

My husband told me he was going to stepped around the lake and cast his fishing line for awhile.  After he left I lifted the camera back into position for more shots. I heard a rustle a few feet from where I was standing.  I thought maybe it was a turtle,Photographers a fish or a beaver playing in the water.

In a moment I planned to turn that way and get a few shots, but the rustling got louder.  I turned to see what it was. You guessed it. It was a bear. A big black bear.

He stepped up out of the brush at the edge of the water and looked at me.  I looked at him. My heart began to race and without a moment of hesitation from either of us we turned on our heels and started running in the opposite direction.

My husband stopped reeling his line through the water when he heard me calling his name.  He could see I was terrified. “What is it,” he asked. I ran right into him banging my camera into his chest.  “It’s a bear, it’s a bear,” I said. “Where,” he said. I turned and pointed in the direction of the bushes.

For a moment I thought we might be trapped with no way out, but my husband check and the bear was definitely gone.  We didn’t hear another sound. As we looked out into the lake, we realized why the swans were getting farther and farther away. Their trumpet call earlier was a warning to other waterfowl that a bear was hiding in the bushes at the edge of the water.

After he had hugged me for a few minutes and assured me that the bear was gone, he smiled and said, “Well, did you get it?”  “Get what,” I asked. “The picture of the bear,” he said.

So much for being brave and taking photos of a wild bear.  “No,” I said.  “I didn’t get a picture, but I bet when that bear got to the top of the hill, he thought, Dang! I’m supposed to be the scary one!”

The good news is I have a new photo on my wall of a family of the beautiful Trumpeter Swans and great story to tell.

Armed Forces Day in May

When we lived in Harlingen, Texas I loved visiting the Armed Forces Appreciation Day at the Texas Air Museum.  The last time I was there it was hot, Texas hot! I thought I might go in, look around, and say hello to my friends, John and Jeanette Houston, and then leave. But I ended up staying three hours, and I hardly noticed how hot it was because of all the interesting things I saw and learned. Volunteers were serving food, cleaning up, listening and telling stories, and heartily involved in recreating history for the Independence Day celebration.

The museum was like walking into someone’s back yard.  From the road it doesn’t look that grand, but when you turn the corner the grandeur of history begins to unfold. Even for me as a layperson, I could see through the restored displays of real military equipment that portrayed the drama of life how our military men and women lived in war and in peace. The first thing I saw was the super structure of the Iwo Jima.  Touring it, one can walk through history and vicariously experience the drama of life aboard an aircraft carrier. My husband and I recently visited the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi, and the tour of the air museum was equal to, if not better than that.

ArmWhen I was given the opportunity to go up in one of the small planes, I was a little nervous.  Someone asked me if I thought I might get sick, and I told them, of course not, I traveled in planes all the time. But they reminded me that this was a small plane and I would feel the movements and rocking a lot more than when flying on a big commercial airline. I was not about to let the thought of getting airsick discourage me.  The plane I rode in was a 90 horsepower Piper-PA-18, L-21, which was used as an observation plane in the Korean War-era. When the plane lifted off the ground for a moment the wind made it hard for me to open my eyes, but then the ride became smooth and it was totally exhilarating. It was like riding a roller coaster without the jerking and twisting that usually does make my stomach sick.

John glided in the air dipping now and then while I was able to view the people and the buildings below.  People on the ground resembled the characters in the movie “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, only this time the earth equaled the size of the little people. It occurred to me while I was flying the spacious skies why one could get addicted to this type of flying. It was a short flight, and I was disappointed when it ended.

Afterwards, I watched the Marines demonstrate the proper way to capture a fortified bunker.  This and other demonstrations and reenactments evoked gratitude from the audience for the men and women in uniform who made and continue to make sacrifices, to make experiences like this day possible. With all I saw and heard that day, the story of how this museum began in 1985 interested me the most.

John Houston, who made his living as a crop duster and who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam era, was the director of the museum. He said that he and his wife, Jeanette were sitting with their friends one night talking about all the friends they had lost in Vietnam, and how they needed a place in history. They decided to build a museum in honor of these men and Piper Pa 18 150 Super Cubwomen. “Originally it started with Vietnam,” John said, “but then we decided to complete the confederate Air Force that included aviation from 1939-1945.  Our goal was to pick up where they left off.” The government wouldn’t talk to them about focusing only on the Vietnam War, so they picked up the Korean War, hoping to get financial help, but that didn’t happen. Consequently, they decided to take on aviation from the beginning to the present.

A year or so later they obtained a non-profit status, and continued their project with the help of friends, volunteers, memberships, fundraising projects, and a solid support from World War II veterans. “The backbone of the museum is the World War II veterans,” John told me. “They feel like the country has forgotten, and this helps them remember.” There are no paid employees, and John Houston continues to make his living as a crop duster, although that can be hard at times.

There are two other charter museums, one in San Antonio and one in Lubbock. The museums continue to survive on memberships, donations, and fundraisers. “This is a good way to teach our young people history,” John said.  They are our future. We have to let them know. Sometimes kids are not receptive to lectures, but coming in here for Kid’s camp, movies, games and experiencing the reenactments make them walk away with history without even knowing it.” What a great resource for our families.


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Looking in the Mirror

A curious mouse visited a carnival that was in town. There were tents that contained attractions the likes of which he had never seen. The mouse entered one tent that was filled with thousands of mirrors in various shapes and sizes.

He ran from one to another, fascinated by all of the curious mice smiling back at him. He thought to himself, “This is a wonderful place, full of so many happy mice. I will come here as often as possible.”

As he left the tent, he came upon another mouse. “Guess what?” he exclaimed. “I’m not guessing anything. Whadda you want?” the other mouse snapped back. “I have just come from the most amazing place. You’ll love it.” “What’s so special about it?” asked the other mouse. “Just see for yourself,” replied the first mouse. “Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. Go into that tent over there.”

Looking In The Mirror

No sooner had the second mouse entered the tent of mirrors than something startled him and he began to sneer, then growl. Everywhere he turned was a face glaring back at him; hideous, gnarly, scowling faces. “What an awful place this is,” he muttered to himself as he left the tent. “How cruel that mouse was to send me here.”

The scared mouse ran from the carnival, cursing the first mouse for being so devious. Every creature he passed along the way sneered and spat in his direction. He thought, “The world is filled with so much unpleasantness.” Yet, this wretched little mouse failed to realize that the world, like the mirrors in the tent, merely reflects back at you what you give to it.

We’ve all met people with the same attitude as the little mouse. If we are honest with ourselves we might admit that we have had days like the grumpy little creature.  I do and when I catch my reflection in a mirror, I am reminded of something a doctor said to me a long time ago when I had just become a nurse.

We were both on call in the operating room. We had worked all night on one emergency case after another and we still had to stay for our morning cases. Everyone was tired and ill and for some reason I took it  upon myself to try to cheer my co-workers up with encouraging words.

One of the nurses asked me how I could keep an upbeat attitude when things looked so bleak in the wee hours of the morning. I said, “I don’t know, I just do”.

The doctor standing with us said it was because I saw the glass half full instead of half empty. I was very young and it was the first time someone had pointed out a positive trait in my life.

From that day on, I decided that is how I wanted to approach things, because it feels better to acknowledge the best in something or someone. That doesn’t mean you ignore the bad things or accept people’s bad behavior, it just means you deal with it and go on.

My sister-in-law is just the opposite. She says she always expects the worst in people and situations so she won’t be disappointed, but that means most of her life is spent anticipating the worst and it is not always pleasant to be around her.

Seeing the glass half full isn’t always that easy, but it is possible. It is a matter of daily choices, and if we pay attention we will find that most people and situations we encounter reflect the same attitude in life that we have, just like the little mouse looking in the mirrored glass.

The Power of Touch

It is hard to go to sleep at night when you are angry with your spouse, especially if you are trying to stay on your side of the bed. I’ve tried it occasionally.

Recently, I had an idea for a column about touch–the importance of feeling human touch. The idea came to me while I was having a massage to help relieve some very tense muscles in my neck.

Lying on my stomach with my face resting downward in a doughnut hole pillow, my shoulders began to relax as skilled hands targeted the muscles running from my neck to my shoulders. The warm soothing oil gently washed away little drops of stress with each stroke administered by the experienced therapist.

The low key instrumental music playing quietly in the background was a cue to let myself go, and relax. I tried to make my mind go blank, but my thoughts went to all the people who spend days, weeks and even months without ever feeling the touch of a human hand on their arm or shoulders.

I recalled an article I read where a woman talked about not having any human contact after her husband died. She said she would go to the beauty salon to get her hair washed just so she could feel the physical contact with another person.

Power Of Touch

Touch is so important. Sometimes people sink into depression because they miss the touching hands of their companion. Medically, therapeutic massages can be especially beneficial to seniors, from those with depression, arthritis, diabetes, circulatory problems and high blood pressure to those with headaches, stiff joints and sore backs.

In fact, 28 percent of all massage patients last year were 55 years old or older, according to national statistics. Massage therapy reduces the heart rate and lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow and relieves joint and body stiffness and it also releases endorphins, which act as a natural painkiller in the bloodstream.

The benefit of human touch has also been proven in studies that have shown infants and children who are touched thrive and survive painful procedures more quickly than those who are not touched or held.

You don’t have to be an older person or a child to benefit from touch. Occasionally on a stressful day, someone will pat my back or touch my arm and I can feel the tension slip away.

Research shows that touch can communicate multiple positive emotions: joy, love, gratitude, and sympathy.

Of course, there are all sorts of directions a writer can go with a subject as large as touch. That’s why I needed to get on the Internet. I needed to do some research. However, when I tried to sign on, the system kept hanging up. I blamed my husband for downloading too much information that slowed the computer.

As silly as it was, I went to bed irritated at him. He knew I was angry so he settled in on his side to let me get over it. I wrapped the blanket around me, pulled my pillow under my chin and tried to settle down and go to sleep.

However, after tossing and turning for an hour, I realized my best research might be lying right there beside me. Sure enough, when I turned over and wrapped my arms around him, I went sound asleep.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and everything was going wrong. There was no heat to warm the small trailer where we lived. That was because the butane tank that held the gas was empty.

Twas The Night Before Christmas 2 Lb

We called the gas company, but they refused to come out on a holiday to fill the tank, even though the temperature was only going to reach 15 degrees. My husband’s job had brought us to the small Georgia town. He was the new pastor of a small missionary church.

It was so cold in the trailer that the children had to wear their coats and gloves. Their dad was outside under the church trying to wrap the pipes so they wouldn’t freeze, and I was inside trying to keep the children warm and happy. We had to use the electric skillet to cook with, because the stove and water was heated with gas.

I knew it was important for me to keep everyone’s spirits up, but my own were slipping very rapidly. Just about the time I was ready to break down and cry, someone knocked lightly on the door.

Our unexpected guest was one of the young people that attended the church. He had a pretty canister filled with homemade candies in his gloved hands and a Christmas greeting on his lips. At first I just wanted to accept the gift and close the door, but instead I invited him in. He immediately started playing with the kids and suddenly our house was filled with laughter.

When I told him about the heat, he began helping me put blankets on the windows, and then went out to help my husband with the pipes. Later he came back in and sang and played with the children until it was time to go to bed.

The young man’s name was Tony and he turned our cold, dismal Christmas Eve night into a warm and wonderful time of sharing. Later we wrapped the children up in our bed and once again read them the Christmas story. We kept the room warm with one electric heater that Tony was able to find for us. We slept on the floor in front of the Christmas tree.

Twas The Night Before Christmas P2 NbThe next morning it seemed that Santa had his Christmas list mixed up and put the wrong toy in the wrong stocking. Our boys were forgiving and said Santa was probably so cold he couldn’t think.

To make matters worse the car window had shattered because of the night’s low temperature, and the pipes had indeed burst. We warmed frozen lasagna for Christmas dinner in the electric skillet. We held tight to each other because we knew that all we had that Christmas was the warmth of our hearts and the kindness of a teenage boy.

Since then we have had many warm, wonderful Christmases. There have been lots of presents and friends to share with our children. But…when you ask either of them what is their most memorable Christmas, they will smile and say,”The year we all had to sleep in the same bed to keep warm.”

Our son and daughter-in-law are sharing this Christmas with us here in the Valley. We have filled our moments doing things we wanted to do together and haven’t yet had time to put up a Christmas tree. I was a little worried about that but my son reminded me that the best part of Christmas for him is being with his family.

My Christmas wish to you is that you enjoy every minute of this holiday and remember the joy of Christmas is in the moments you share with others.

Threatening our Children Causes Many Problems

The little girl ran from one side of the waiting room to the other, almost tripping the adult walking by. Her mother tried to stop her, but the three-year-old ran out of her reach. When she finally got her back to her seat, she stood up and began jumping up and down dangerously close to the edge of the chair.

The frantic mother told the child to sit down or she would not get a treat when they left. It didn’t work. When all other negotiations failed, the mother seemed to have had enough. She said to the child with exasperation; “When the nurse comes out, she’s going to give you a shot!” The little girl stopped dead in her tracks and looked at her mother.

Threatening Instead Of Disciplining

About that time the door opened and there stood the nurse. The mother looked up at the door and the little girl followed her eyes.

Absolute terror appeared on her face. When the nurse called her name, the child broke down in tears. By the time she reached the examining room, she was hysterical.

When the doctor came in, he had a very difficult time examining her sore throat. My friend at work told me that her parents used that as a form of discipline when she was a child and she is still terrified of shots.

She suffers from a condition known as Trypanophobia, “a persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of injections,” that affects countless people each year and can significantly impact the quality of life. It causes panic attacks.

Of course, nobody really likes getting shots, but people with Trypanophobia have symptoms that typically include shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and overall feelings of dread.

It is caused by a past event in their life that links injections and emotional trauma. That doesn’t mean every child who is threatened with a shot will become Trypanophobic, but some can.

When our children were small, I learned a valuable lesson about threatening my children with other people’s behavior. Our youngest son was so active. He seemed to wake up thinking of ways to get into trouble.

Some days I could hardly wait for my husband to get home so he could take over. Occasionally, I was guilty of saying, “When your dad gets home…”

My husband asked me not to do that, because it made him feel bad when he had to come home and discipline our son for misbehavior.

One day when he came in, I told him our youngest son had been in trouble all day and he needed to talk to him. He looked at me for a few minutes, and then walked outside and came back with a stick (what some may call the switch).

Before I could say anything, he told our son to go into the bedroom. I started to protest and he said, “You told him I would handle it, so stay out of it.” I hesitated as the door closed until I heard a loud whack followed by the sound of our son crying out in agony.

My husband seldom spanked our children, so I opened the door to see what was going on. There he stood hitting the bed with the stick and our son standing beside him with his eyes closed, yelling as loud as he could after every blow to the bed.

Child Immunisation

I got the point. It was easier for me to threaten my son with his dad’s impending arrival as the great disciplinarian than it was for me to deal with his behavior.

My husband said when he came home he wanted the children to be glad to see him. He didn’t want to be portrayed as the big bad guy who only dished out their punishment.

Children’s minds are like clay when they are little. We can shape it without even realizing what we are doing. When a parent tells a child that the police are going to come and get him if he is bad, he becomes confused and loses trust in authority.

The policeman becomes the bad guy, just like the father does when the mother uses his name to discipline their child. That also happens when we use threats like, “That doctor or nurse is going to give you a shot if you don’t calm down.” It builds unnecessary fear and distrust in the heart of a child.

If a child does need a shot, the parent can truthfully explain that the shot may hurt for a moment, but the medicine will help to get rid of the bacteria that are causing them to be sick.

There are so many things that are frightening our children now. There is no need to add to their fears by threatening them with other people’s behavior, especially if you know those people care about them.

Health Fears are Often Unexplained and Overblown

Our daughter was always afraid of the dark when she was little. She would see these monsters looming over her bed or swaying in the dark and cry out to us. Her dad or I would go into her room and turn the light on to show her that the monsters were just pieces of furniture or the curtain moving in the wind of an open window.  “See, if you turn on the light, it’s not so scary, is it,” he would tell her


She had a scare during her second pregnancy that made her feel as helpless as that little girl. She got a phone call from a nurse at her doctor’s office.

The call was to inform her that she tested positive for Toxoplasmosis. This is a common infection caused by a one-celled organism called Toxoplasma Gondii that infects humans, birds and animals worldwide.

A person can become infected by eating under cooked meat, working in the garden without gloves or being exposed to cat feces, such as in litter boxes.

It is not dangerous to most people. The average person develops immunity to Toxoplasma Gondii after becoming infected, but when newly infected, you may feel like you have the flu, or may not feel ill at all.

However, it can be life threatening to the unborn fetus if the mother is infected in the first trimester of pregnancy. It is then called congenital Toxoplasmosis. That is the reason the test results were so frightening to our daughter. She was eight weeks pregnant.

When my daughter asked the nurse what that meant, she told her that the infection could cause abortion of the fetus or severe malformation at birth, including brain damage or blindness.

Our daughter’s first reaction was much like the ones she had when she was a little girl and woke up at night seeing monsters in her room; she panicked. She had a cat, she loves gardening and she just came back from a cruise, where she remembered eating a steak cooked medium rare.

By the time she located me on my cell phone, she was hysterical. After a time trying to calm her down, I finally reminded her that the one thing we could be sure of is that regardless of what she had to deal with, she was not alone. Her family and God’s care would surround her. Then I told her we had to check into this more. That seemed to calm her down.

By the time my husband and I sat down for breakfast the next morning to talk about the situation the phone rang again and it was our daughter, sounding much better. “Mom, the one thing Dad has always told us is to get the facts before we panic,” she said with confidence. “That’s true,” I told her, “So what facts do you have?”

She told me she called her previous gynecologist and asked them if they had tested her for Toxoplasmosis. She had tested positive three years earlier with her first child, but they were not worried, because they had done additional testing that showed a latent infection.

What the nurse failed to tell her on the phone was that if she tested positive before her pregnancy, there was little or no danger to the baby. In other words, she had found the light switch and the monster lurking in the dark was just a chair in the corner. One that she needed to know about, but she didn’t have to be afraid of. Fear is like that. It can be a monster, but dealing with it is as easy as getting the facts.


The fact about toxoplasmosis is that in most areas of the US, fetal toxoplasmosis infection is rare (one to 10 in 10,000), and routine prenatal screening for it is therefore not required in this country, although many doctors do them.

Dr. Estela Sosa, of Devi Women’s Center, said that she does the testing according to the information she receives on the patient information sheet at their initial visit. “If a patient has a pet or has traveled then we would do the testing,” she said. “However, patients don’t always tell you everything on the questionnaire. That is why it is important to come back in for the test results and follow-up visits.”

Going in for test results would have been a lot less frightening for our daughter. Sosa agreed, because she said that talking to a patient face to face makes a lot of difference. “You can ask questions, see their fears, and give them the information they need better in person.”

Other facts that helped our daughter were that she didn’t have to get rid of her cat, because she could not be infected again. Also, patients who find out that they have tested positive for Toxoplasmosis do not have to panic, because it is not always fatal for their baby. If caught early it can be treated with antibiotics.

When our daughter found out all the facts, she was alright. She wasn’t afraid anymore. That’s what information can do for us. It is like turning on a light in a dark room.