Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Morning at Maple Hill

Maple Hill saw lots of activity this past week. Sprucing up. Decorating.

The cemetery is awash in flags. The American Legion places them on the graves of veterans every year.

There's been activity there since early this morning, too. Entry flags hung and raised to half staff. Preparations for memorial service.

I took a slow drive through.

My husband and I especially honor his uncles today whose flags fly here.

Uncle Bob Ladd (Lt Col) served with the Air Force in World War II and Korea as a bombardier/navigator. He also served in Vietnam and the Pentagon.

Uncle Kenneth King served as a pharmacist's mate aboard a Navy battleship in World War II. Because "loose lips sink ships," he wrote that his ship had "as many guns as the Shumaker's have kids." That meant a dozen.

Great Uncle Irvin Greenawalt served in the Army in World War I. He was killed in France.

Our local American Legion Post 42 (Greenawalt-Flaherty) carries his name along with that of of Francis C. Flaherty, recipient of the Medal of Honor. He served aboard the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor and died while helping crewmates escape.

Thank you to those who served and sacrificed the ultimate!

Amazing Grace by LeAnn Rimes

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 (NIV)

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Friday, May 28, 2010

Do You Know Where You're Going?

My husband's car broke. The driveshaft. On his 1997 Saturn. The one with 368,000 miles.

He loves his cars. I remember when he had to finally let go of his Colt. Just pitiful. I swear I saw tears.

Tin cans.

Anyway, he got the car fixed. Which meant a rental car for a few days. And yesterday I had to drive him up to the airport to turn it back in and then over to pick up his mistress.

I hate highway construction. I hate the barrels and the barriers. I hate trying to figure out where I'm supposed to be. I hate that everyone else seems to know, and they ignore the 60-MPH  but 45-MPH-when-workers-are-present signs. Construction ahead. Slow down. They just fly past me. Weave in. Weave out.

Anyway, I don't know what possessed me to ask. I think because I seldom have a passenger but Gracee who just turns up the music and enjoys the ride or amuses herself with her Nintendo or pen and paper.

My kids always complain about my driving. But they're kids. I guess I was thinking about them and their complaining.

But before I knew it, the fighting words fell out of my mouth.

"Does my driving make you nervous?"

Silence. Weighing words.

"Well, a little," he finally said.

I gripped the wheel tighter. Clamped my teeth. Tight. Tongue safely dammed behind them.

He continued.

"You did get a little close to that truck back there, and you nearly crossed the center line. AND you say you know where you're going, but you don't really."

I screamed, "What are you talking about Mr. DK55 on the open highway? YOU who likes to scare someone who pulls out in front of you so you don't brake until the last minute. YOU who loves the sound of your horn. YOU who when you drive in Detroit traffic turn into one of THEM. YOU wonder why I always have my nose in a book even in the car? YOU who leaves dust in your wake as you hit country chatterbumps at 55 leaving me with aching teeth and a bruised tailbone? I make YOU nervous?"

Yup. That's what I screamed.

In my head.

But since I have a gentle and quiet spirit, I simple nodded and said, "Hmm. Well, I get nervous riding with you sometimes, too."

And I could use a GPS. Even right here in our little town. I admit it. I've never had a great sense of direction, and Dennis loves to tell the story of when we were riding "around the square" on horseback (a much softer ride over chatterbumps), and how we turned right, then right, then right, and then I tried to go left.

I mean, who pays that much attention when you're settled in the saddle, buried in thought, playing with a mane, brushing away flies, patting a warm neck, and taking in the scenery.

Just enjoying the ride.


I might have said a few other things. In a gentle and quiet way, of course. But I got to thinking.

This drive through life can be tough. A battle sometimes. And there are rules and signs.

Dodge the barriers. Roll with the bumps. Don't ride too close to someone else. Stay in the narrow lane. Don't cross the center line. Keep your eyes on the road. Construction ahead. Slow down.

But enjoy the ride.

And always know where you're going.

Do you have any highway horror stories? 
What traffic sign best typifies your life right now? 
Do you know where you're going?
"Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life--to God!--is vigorous and requires total attention." Matthew 7:13-14 (Message)

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Buddy Makes All the Difference

"Real care means the willingness to help each other in making our brokenness into the gateway of joy." ~ Henri Nouwen

My friend, Duane, broke his finger playing softball. Or maybe he just sprained it.

Reminded me of the time I broke my own finger. Falling UP stairs. Because I'm graceful like that. An accident waiting to happen.

Anyway, Duane's sporting a splint and finding it a bit painful to type, and I have ten working fingers. For now at least. So I'm giving him a break and sharing my story over on his blog today.

Come on along. See you there. Bring chocolate. Duane~Scott.

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm Ready--Are You?

Baby's Breath

It could happen any moment.

I'm ready.

Camera/new camera card/fresh batteries.


Book to read/Bible/notebook to write in/pen and pencil.


Makeup/hairbrush/contact lens solution and case/glasses.


Sweater and a pair of warm socks.


Full tank of gas/cash and change in wallet/gum.


All packed and in car. Yes, some things I need to retrieve from the car and return.

Fresh clothes at the ready.

White board/fresh markers.


Coloring books/word search book/fresh crayons.


Nintendo DS/charger.




"Cute" clothes.


Packed and in car.

Grandma's and Gracee's bags.

Taking a lesson from the fig tree.

And now we wait.

For a little sister. For a new grandgirl.

It could happen any moment.

I'm ready.

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Matthew 24:36 NIV

"So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him." Matthew 24:44 NIV

Are you ready?
Have I forgotten anything?

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Who But God?

My ladies Bible study gave me this hydrangea today.

My first one.

I'm stunned by the richness of the velvety blue blooms and the deep green of the leaves.

Who but God could create such beauty? 

This stuff doesn't happen by accident.

Of course, I had to connect with Mr. Google this afternoon to learn how to care for it. I discovered that I have to feed it aluminum. Too little aluminum in the soil means pink blooms.


Did you know that in the 19th century aluminum was more costly than gold? Did you know that aluminum is the most abundant metal (third most abundant element) in the earth's crust, but that it's so reactive it's hardly ever found in its pure state?

(There's spiritual significance there, but I'm sidetracked from my flowers.)

I also learned there are lots of ways to manipulate colors to pink and blue and purple and mixtures by doing things like adding lime or rusty nails, but that you can't change the color of white hydrangeas, though God sometimes adds pink and red to the blooms as they move toward the green of an aging flower. 


Anyway, after class I went to a local farmer's market (Horrock's for you Michigan people) and picked up this hardy "Knock Out" rose to plant in memory of Rose Dog.

I also just wanted to pick up a few herbs, but I was overcome by the scents and colors.

Everywhere I looked.

Reds and purples and whites and pinks and blues and yellows and oranges and greens of every shade and mixtures of all!

Who but God?

I filled my basket with Mexican evening primrose, flax, beard tongue, petunias, geraniums, salvia, marigolds, portulaca, ageratum, vinca, parsley, chives, basil, chervil, and tomatoes to add to the blooming astilbe and bachelor's buttons and lilies of the valley and yet-to-bloom day lilies and black-eyed susans and daisies and hosta.

And a box of zinnia seeds.

And I came home to the heavy sweet scent of the first peony blooms.

And this summer--provided I remember to water everything--I'll drink in the colors and the fragrances and watch butterflies and hummingbirds and behold God.

Because who but God could create such beauty?

"Attention, all!  See the marvels of God! 
He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, 
Bans war from pole to pole
breaks all the weapons across His knee.
Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
loving look at me, your High God,
above politics, above everything."
Psalm 46:8-10 (Message)

Where do you see the marvels of God?
Can you slow down--step out of the traffic?
Can you look at Him longer than and above anything else?

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Let It Be

 Maple Hill Cemetery - 05/16/2010

I've been captured by Pete Wilson's new book, Plan B. So much so that I based my teaching on it the last three weeks.

Have you read it? If not, you should. I wrote a review of it on my other blog here.

Life goes awry. Dreams shatter. People fail us. Expectations go unmet. Someone dies.

Sometimes stuff happens because of our own bad choices. Sometimes because others made bad choices. Sometimes a combination of both. And sometimes--just because.

And all we can control then is our response.

We can run.

Away from God. Into sleep or food or busyness or television or overeating or some kind of addiction. Or into the arms of the wrong people.

Or toward God. Fling ourselves straight into His arms.

We can grab the reins.

Try to take control. Make a plan. Manipulate. Try harder. Help God out.

Or we can give up control. Sit in His lap.

And wait.

Yes, wait. And rest. And trust His timing.

We can ride it out.

Hang on tight to the "stuff." Stuff it. Wallow in disappointment. Let bitterness take root and give birth to depression and anger.

Or we can let it go. Confess our failure. Accept the consequences. Forgive. Others. Ourselves. Surrender to God's plan.

We can let it be.

Like Mary. "Let it be done to me according to what you have said." (Luke 1:38 - Amplified)

Not my will but Yours.

Not my plan or my dream or my expectations.

Because everything that comes to us is either by God's hand or is filtered through His fingers. To conform us. To change us into His image.

And when life seems out of control, it really isn't. But God IS. In all. Over all.

Pete says, "When life doesn't turn out the way you thought it was going to turn out, you may think you're losing control. But the truth is, you never had control in the first place." 

He says, "The greatest of all illusions is the illusion of control."

God takes all of our failures, all of our twisted and broken plans and dreams, and weaves them into His beautiful and perfect plan.

I played the Beatles' song, "Let It Be" for my class yesterday. I didn't realize that Paul McCartney wrote that song during a stressful time in his own life. Based on a dream he had that his mother visited him and told him that everything was going to be okay--to "let it be." You see, his mother's name was Mary. She apparently was a nurse, a midwife, and she died suddenly from breast cancer when Paul was only 14.

A Plan B.

He sang the song at his wife Linda's funeral. And again at a 911 benefit. He was in a plane on the runway at JFK that day and watched the towers burn and crumble.

There's hope in the darkness. Hope in the brokenness. Hope when everything in life goes up in flames or comes crashing down.

God's in control.

Let it be.

Are you living a broken dream today? 
How do you respond when things don't go your way?

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry . . ." Psalm 40

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When Do You Say Good-bye?

With Mona, our first lab, it was pretty much a no-brainer. She had  hip dysplasia and was in obvious pain.

Elsie. Just. Died.

She was a great dog. After she quit digging under the fence. She treed a woodchuck once. And caught a pheasant in the backyard. She loved water.

She survived parvovirus, a whole pound of raw bacon, and Abby's chocolate birthday cake. Though we found sprinkles in the yard for weeks.

And one day I found her in a puddle of piddle. Congestive heart failure. She pulled through that, too.

But died at the vet's while we were on a cruise. She was ten.

Rose was a wild thing when we brought her home. Three years old. Product of a broken marriage and returned to the breeder. She needed us.

She's always been a sickly dog, though. Skin allergies mostly. Icky ears. Perpetual scratching. Expensive foods. Frequent treatments. All kinds of medicines. And then pancreatitis, probably steroid induced.

But she recovered from that.

She hates water. And in the last few years had to lie down during short walks. So we don't walk her any more.

She'll be eleven in October.

She limps. A lot.

She scratches. A lot.

She whines. A lot.

She yelps. Sometimes.

She pants. Sometimes.

She seems restless. Sometimes.

She goes off her food. Sometimes.

And she seems fine enough. Once in a while.

She sleeps a lot.

She seems happiest when she's asleep.

How does one know--really know--when it's time to say goodbye? When it's more about love and relief of suffering than your inconvenience?

Messy carpets. Hair all over. The expense.

I wish I was Dr. Doolittle.

We've talked about it. Dennis called the vet for advice yesterday. He was in surgery, but hubby talked to one of the gals in the office who made an appointment for Saturday. For euthanasia.

But we're having second thoughts.

I prayed about it last night. Asked for some kind of sign.

She didn't get up to go out as early as usual this morning. She hasn't eaten all day. She's been vomiting all day.


Making this kind of decision is for the dogs.

Have you ever had to do it?

"One reason a dog is such a lovable creature is his tail wags instead of his tongue." ~Unknown

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Saturday, May 8, 2010

For Those With Empty Arms on Mother's Day

One church. One Mother's Day.

"All you children stand up and face your mothers. All together now repeat after me, 'I love you, Mom.'"

Another church. Another Mother's Day.

"All you grandmothers stand up. All you moms stand up. Now the rest of you women stand up. Because if you're not a mother in the physical sense, you are a mom in the spiritual sense."

Sorry, Pastor. That does not help when you are racked with new and even aging grief. In time, maybe. In time.

And that is why for so many years I avoided church on Mother's Day.

And why I still hurt for those with barren wombs and empty arms on Mother's Day.

And sometimes wonder if it's not best to to erase Mother's Day from the calendar--and honor our own mothers every day.

And so this weekend, for those who suffer, I think of you, my sisters. And I hold you up before the One who knows.

I know.
It's Mother's Day.
I know the burning in your breast
The throbbing chest ready to explode
The aching arms
The tightened throat, choking
The dammed tears
And then the flood.
I know the heartbreak
That follows month after month of scientific love
And manufactured methods.
And then the exhilaration of success
And the devastation of loss.
I don't know your path of healing
But it will come in time
In some form
And the pain will subside
Leaving an occasional familiar twinge
A thorn.
It's Mother's Day.
And you hurt.
I know.
He knows.

"If your heart is broken, you'll find God right there; if you're kicked in the gut, he'll help you catch your breath." Psalm 34:18 (Message)

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nursing School Memories on National Nurses Day

Composed by Mrs. Lystra E. Gretter, Detroit, 1893

Memories from nursing school dance in my mind today. I graduated from a hospital diploma program in 1969--a member of the last class.

Most programs lasted three years, but this one packed all the work in two. We went year around. I think the hospital counted us as staff, and some of us also sometimes worked as aides for a little--and I mean little--spending money. 

Which was okay because we had no need for much. We spent almost all our time either on the floors, in class, studying, or sleeping.

We lived in a dorm connected to the hospital with a tunnel. Sometimes we amused ourselves with cart races.

Most of the girls roomed with someone else, but Becky and I each had our own room in the end turrets--maybe because we lived further away and stayed on the weekends more often than the others. 

I remember the first night was just plain scary. I locked my door and lay on my bed shaking and crying. I wanted to go home. Especially when I heard all the crashing doors and screaming. And then pounding on my door. I didn't answer, didn't move. And found out the next day that the "big sisters" were dragging all the newbies into cold showers. 

If we survived the first six months, we received our school cap in a special ceremony. Every school had its own uniform and own cap. You could identify a nurse's school by the cap she wore. I remember sending our caps out to the cleaners who would wash, stiffly starch, and press them flat. We'd need to fold and staple them back together.

Capped by my big sister, Betty.

The ceremony took place in a church, and we are each holding a Nightingale lamp.

My brother carved the school's insignia (from a uniform arm patch) into a plaque as a gift. He cut himself and bled all over the house one weekend I was home --and wouldn't tell me what he was doing. Made me pretty mad.

Some of the things I remember are:
  • Seeing my instructor's feet outside the curtain while I was giving a complete bed bath. She was eavesdropping.
  • Having to give up my chair at the charting desk if a doctor appeared.
  • My first patient death and having to prepare the body.
  • Passing nasogastric tubes on each other and injecting each other with sterile water (yes, water, not saline.)
  • Following a patient through an emergency C-section (baby's arm prolapsed) and discharge. The baby had a physical issue that caused doctors to question its sex. At discharge the mom proclaimed, "We love him in spite of his penis problem."
  • Assisting with a circumcision performed in the nursery. Maybe more traumatic for me than baby.
  • Stocking my closet with jars of baby fruit for late-night study snacks.
  • Friday morning (8 a.m.) dates with a formaldehyde cat. 
  • Early morning doctor rounds.
  • Sunbathing on the dorm roof.
  • Metal bedpans and emesis basins.
  • Glass thermometers.
  • "Man on the floor" warnings when maintenance came up to fix a dorm issue.
  • Psych rotation--Playing Euchre with the patients, scopolamine and insulin treatments.
  • Dr. Manning halting surgery to admonish (and embarrass) Becky. "Young lady, we NEVER say 'oops' in the operating room!"
  • Having to wear our hair off our shoulders.
  • Yelling "flush" if someone was in the shower so they didn't get scalded.
  • The fragrance of alcohol, Dial soap, moist dressings, musty halls in the old wing, and fresh paint--among some not-as-pleasant aromas.
  • Having the difference between empathy and sympathy drilled into us.
  • Avoiding the autopsy page. We were all supposed to observe one. I always managed to be busy.
  • Doing post-op teaching for a patient several days after a routine gallbladder removal.
We earned a black stripe for our caps later in our training. After graduation, we could work as a graduate nurse such until we passed state boards, allowing us to add RN after our names.

My first job was in an intensive care unit, which in 1969 would probably remind one of a regular patient room today. I rotated through all three shifts. I couldn't sleep during the day, and I remember a nightmare evening as charge nurse even before I'd passed my boards.

Over the years, I worked as a special duty nurse, office nurse (OB/GYN and family practice), OR nurse, community health educator, and public health nurse. I went back to school in my 40s to get my BSN. 

I haven't worked in the field for several years. And I miss it sometimes. I feel a sense of "home" when I step into a hospital, and I keep my license intact--just in case.

Someone reminded me today, "Once a nurse, always a nurse." That need to nurture and comfort in some form continues to be part of who I am. 

Even as I've turned to writing.
Nursing is an art; and if it is to be made an art, 
it requires as exclusive a devotion, as hard a prepration, 
     as any painter's or sculptor's work; 
for what is the having to do with dead canvas or cold 
     marble, compared with having to do with the living 
     body--the temple of God's spirit?
It is one of the Finest Arts;
I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts.
                                           ~Florence Nightingale

Are you a nurse? Do you have memories of training? 
Do you know a nurse who creatively practices the art of compassion and caring?

Thank a nurse this week.
National Nurses Week 
May 6-12, 2010

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Great Lilac Massacre

I stood in Abby's drive today and breathed. 


The heady fragrance of  lilacs. 

I closed my eyes, lifted my nostrils toward the breeze, and sniffed to capture the aroma trail. 

I nearly hyperventilated.

Pure joy!

The bushes grow wild there, lavender and white.


I watched a woman cut a bouquet from them yesterday, her car parked next to the "private drive" sign. 

What nerve!

I drove on. 

I understood.

As soon as the snow melts, I obsess over the first signs of lilac leaves, then the buds, then the blooms.

From my office and our bedroom windows, I look down on a wild, overgrown area. A log cabin once stood there. We still find artifacts. 

My lilac overlook. 

That wore a billowing white gown in the spring.


Until the Great Lilac Massacre of 2007.

When the OCD demon took control of my son. 

With a chainsaw.

For a little spring cleanup.

I ran outside and saw

pure devastation.

Broken and bleeding limbs lay everywhere. 

I smelled death. 

And when Jeremy saw my face, I'm sure he thought it was his. 

I considered it. 

But a good long cry seemed a better choice. 

My husband thinks the earliest bushes may have graced the cabin. 

No matter.


All gone.

Except for a handful of survivors. Some that refused to die. 

I wish he'd taken out the trees instead.

Poor Jeremy.

He knows he broke my heart.

And stole my joy.

A fleeting joy.

A replaceable joy.

Because nobody can steal the true joy. The inner joy that remains through broken dreams and butchered expectations. The joy that remains steady through the autumns and winters of life as well as the springs and summers. The joy that does not fluctuate with circumstances. 

And if I'm very still and tilt my nose upward, I catch a sweet scent of One once broken and bleeding. One who refused to die. 

My Joy. 


"Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart." Psalm 119:111

What brings you joy? 
What is your favorite flower?

NOTE: This post is part of the Blog Carnival on JOY. For more thoughts, visit One Word at a Time.

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King
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