Happy Chinese New Year!

This is the Year of the Ox. New Year starts January 26 this year.  You probably have heard there are 12 signs of the Chinese Year.  The twelve signs are a popular way for recording the years.  People born on a certain lunar year are said to carry the characteristics of the animal in which the year is associated.  Since most of us were born in either 1950 (Year of the Tiger) or 1951 (Year of the Rabbit) these are our characteristics (according to Chinese folklore): 

Tiger–Sensitive, given to deep thinking, and capable of great sympathy.  They are courageous and powerful, but do not make up their minds easily.  Tigers are respected, but may have conflict with authority. Tigers tend to get carried away when they think they are right.  Excellent career choices are boss, explorer, race car driver or matador.  (Did any of you become matadors?)  Some Tigers are: Ted Turner, Jay Leno, Joan Lunden.

Rabbit–Articulate, talented and ambitious.  They are virtuous, reserved and have excellent taste.  Good tempered, they are clever and business and tend to be financially lucky.  Rabbits are conservative and wise.  People like to be around Rabbits because they are kind, affectionate and pleasant.  Rabbits do have a tendency to get too sentimental (that’s me!) and seem superficial.  Excellent career choices are business, law, diplomat or actor.  Some Rabbits are Julia Duffy, Michael Jordan, Cheryl Ladd.

I like to celebrate Chinese New Year because it is a good excuse to have Chinese food!  When my friend, Maggie, adopted a Chinese baby 12 years ago, we started celebrating it every year.  We said we were sharing Anne’s heritage and teaching her about it, but really we just wanted moo shu pork and cashew chicken.  Anne is older now and no longer interested in getting together with old people like us.  She would rather go out with her preteen friends, watch “High School Musical” or whatever it is, or download Jonas Brothers music.

Today Dennis and I went to the flower show at St. Cecilia’s (Cathedral).  It is an event they have every year to promote and raise funds for their extensive art programs at cathedral.  I made a slide show of all the beautiful flowers, quilts and artwork.  This year’s theme was “Quilts and Flowers” so many handmade quilts were used in the displays.  Gorgeous!  During the show, they also have musicians and singers performing at various times over the weekend.  It is a very popular event with hundreds of people attending.  The cathedral smells so good!  It is like having a little bit of Spring in the middle of winter. 

Thank you to everyon who sent emails and encouragement after my recent announcement of my pending surgery.  I will keep you posted on that. 


Small World

You never know who you will run into.  What do they call it?  The Six Degrees of Separation?

“Six degrees of separation(also referred to as the “Human Web”) refers to the idea that, if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then everyone is no more than six “steps” away from each person on Earth.”

(Wikipedia’s definition and picture)

On December 11, Dennis and I went to the home of one of the nurses I work with.  She has a huge Nativity collection and I wanted to see it.  She decided to invite us over as well as the doctor we work with and his wife.  Afterwards, the six of us would go out to dinner.

Regina has a over 70 Nativities.  Some are small and some are plaques or pictures, but nonetheless, Nativities.  She puts them all over her house during Christmas.  She usually keeps them up until February.  It is an impressive collection.  Her husband is a minister, currently unemployed, but working construction for a friend.  He has a big workshop in their basement.  Regina said he has made all the wood furniture in their house including a rolltop desk, a china cabinet, several frames and shadow boxes, dresses, light fixtures, you name it!  He does beautiful work. 

We asked him if he would consider fixing our floor under the dishwasher where the water had leaked (or gushed!) out.  (I think I wrote about that fiasco in the last blog.) He came over and took a look at it and said he would.  He would also redo the botched ceiling patch in our dining room and do a little work in the basement.  We agreed to have him come on Wednesday.

Sunday evening, after seeing the Nativities, we all went to Lazlo’s for dinner.  Dennis, Kent (the doctor) and Stuart (Regina’s husband) sat on one side of the table and Regina, Kim and I sat on the other.  (It was like the old boy-girl dances in junior high.  Boys on one side, girls on the other!)  We girls conversed with one another and the guys talked to each other.  At one point, Dennis interrupted and said to me, “Did you know Stuart has lived most of the places you have?”  It was the funniest thing!

I really didn’t know Stuart.  I knew who he was when he stopped by the office to see Regina a couple times.  But, up until that evening, I had never really talked to him or anything.  Come to find out, we were both born in North Platte.  When I was two, my family moved to Bridgeport for a short time.  Stuart graduated from Bridgeport. I moved to Cozad from Bridgeport.  Stuart’s family lived in Gothenburg for awhile.  Then we moved to Broken Bow and Stuart’s family moved there shortly after!  He went to UNL after I went to UNL.  He and Regina met at UNL as did Dennis and I.  They even lived in the same dorm complex. I asked him if he had been following me around all these years!  He is younger than I so we never connected in any of those places because, either we weren’t there at exactly the same time, or he was so much younger (not many 10 year olds hang out with 5 or 6 year olds.)

Stuart mentioned living around Weissert for awhile, and I said I knew people with a place near Weissert.  I was referring to Deb and Frank.  Regina asked me if that was the person who made the angels for us nurses at Christmastime!  I told her, “No, she lives near Merna.”  Stuart said his grandma used to live near Merna.  I said the person who made the angels was Patti D.  When I said her last name, Stuart said, “I know her!  I know Dwight!”  It was surreal.  It seemed everything I mentioned, Stuart was connected in some way.

He came on Wednesday and did a beautiful job on all our damaged areas. Maybe it was the connection, but I think he did better than someone who does it for a living!  He braced the wood underneath so it was sturdy.   He redid the “swirls” in our ceiling drywall.  He did all kinds of little “extras.”  When he left, he thanked me for the work, but I said we were the ones who benefited from his talent and I thanked him.  It was a win-win situation.  When he left, he said, “God provides.” 

It made me realize how connected we are to one another.  It makes it all the more important to respect one another because you never know when someone is going to come into your life that has a connection somewhere.  I used to tell the veteran nurses I worked with at the hospital that you should always try to mold the new nurses and treat them well because you never know if one of them will become your supervisor someday.  If we respect each other, no matter our differences or ways of doing things, we all benefit. 

Keep those questionnaires and pictures coming!  I heard from a couple people last week that I hadn’t heard from in years!  It is great to get those letters, emails and pictures. 

Thank you to Jerry S. for his recent donation to the class funds.  You all have been very generous. 

I look forward to seeing you at the reunion in July.  Keep in touch! 

Quite a Week!

Thank you to all who sent me emails and messages about the loss of our cat, Pepper.  It meant a lot to me.  I know several of you shared your stories of your beloved pets.  If it is OK with you, I will share your stories on the blog at a later date.

Thank you to Ken B for his recent donation to the class fund.  If anyone else wants to send a donation, it’s not too late.  Thank you to all who have sent pictures and questionnaires lately.  I still haven’t received anything from about half of the class.  I imagine there will be some people who don’t send the information back for whatever reason, but I hope the majority will respond. 

We have all had our ups and downs.  We’ve lived our lives in many different ways.  We can’t judge another because we don’t know what all they have gone through.  Like the Native American saying goes, “Unless you walk a mile in my moccasins, you do not know my journey.”  

No one knows what another has been through or what joys and sufferings they may have had.  I used to teach Religious Ed to 7th graders and I always did an exercise where I split the board in “Different” and “Same.”  I would ask them to give me examples of ways that flowers are different and ways that they are the same.  It usually looked something like this: Flowers:  Similarities   Have roots, Grow, Have leaves, Need sunshine, Need water, Need carbon dioxide, Die if your pick them 

 Differences Different smells, Different colors, Different shapes, Different sizes, Grow in difference climates, Some like shade, some direct sunlight, Some are annuals; some are perennials, Some are produce seeds we eat, Some are poisonous; some are medicinal

 Then I erased “Flowers” and wrote People.”

Similarities                                                         Differences

Warm blooded, have hair                             Hair color, eye color, skin color

Need love, friendship                                   Gender, body shape, size

Grow, think                                                  Age

Emotions                                                      Intellect

Move their bodies                                        Talents, skills

Need food, water, shelter                             Social class, money

Need God                                                    Practice religion differently (or not)


Then we’d talk about what if all flowers were red roses?  Isn’t life more interesting because we have different flowers, different colors, different sizes, different smells?  We talked about rejoicing in our differences and loving one another.  I would point out that basketball would be pretty boring if we could all shoot baskets like Michael Jordan or if we all looked like Angelina Jolie or Hugh Jackman.  We talked about talents and enjoying each other’s talents instead of envying them.  I told them there will always be someone richer than you are, but there will also be someone with less.  There will always be someone better looking, but there are people less attractive, too.  That’s not what’s important.  Respect and character are what count.  If my 7th grade students learned nothing else that year, I hope they learned respect of others. 


Anyway, I think we can all use the reminder that we should respect each other even though we don’t always understand each other or would choose to do things differently than someone else might.  It is my hope that, at our reunion, we can set aside our old prejudices and enjoy each other’s company.  The people we knew in high school are not exactly the same as they were then, and we need to recognize that we have all grown and changed in ways that others may not understand. I enjoy receiving the questionnaires and seeing all the wonderful things you have done in your lives.  We have many who are/were volunteer firefighters, EMEs, Scout leaders, youth leaders, volunteers in their churches and kids’ schools, professional organizations, charitable organizations, etc.  It is impressive that many have given so much back to their communities.  In high school, we may have been self-centered and self-absorbed, or quiet and shy, self-conscious, worried about peer pressure, experimenting in things that might not have been healthy or wise, been risk-takers in foolish ways, but now we hopefully know better and have done many worthwhile things.  My challenge to us all at the reunion is find out all the wonderful things our classmates have done through the years.  Instead of worrying about what others think of me or who has the nicest car or best income or who has been divorced, I will rejoice in my classmates’ victories and achievements.  I congratulate you all for the paths you have taken. 


Speaking of trials, sometimes the most stressful ones are the daily mishaps or irritations.  Besides having to put our kitty, Pepper, down on Monday, we also had a major plumbing problem when a pipe behind our dishwasher was leaking.  When the plumber came, he found the elbow pipe was totally disconnected and rusted, and as the dishwasher would drain, the water would gush into the wall and floor instead of through the pipe!  So, our kitchen is a mess right now.  It was hard to find someone who would fix the damage, so a nurse-friend’s husband is going to tackle it for us.  He is coming over on Wednesday to give it a shot. 


Then…besides losing Pepper and having the plumbing problem, Dennis had the stomach flu and I had shoulder and knee problems.  Dennis got better, but my knee is still bothering me.  I saw my orthopedic doctor Thursday and he injected my knee with that artificial cartilage stuff (Synvisc).  It helped some, but it still hurts.  My shoulder will be “MRI’d” tomorrow to make sure I don’t have a rotator cuff tear.  Meanwhile, in my spare time (!) I am to have aquatic therapy and physical therapy on my knee.  It’s always something!  Like Bette Davis said, “Growing old is not for sissies.”  (She may have used a different word.)    


This week has got to be better!!

Loss of a Pet

 Pepper and Daisy It is a sad day in our house.  Our 16-year-old cat had to be put to sleep. It has been a tough weekend as we struggled to get her well. 

Pepper has been a member of our household for 16 years.  I got her (much to the surprise of my husband and boys!) while attending a Nebraska Nurses Association board meeting/retreat at a Bed and Breakfast near Murdock, NE (between Omaha and Lincoln).  She was just a little gray furball, so soft.  Pepper’s coat was the softest I’ve ever felt.  It was like mink.  Anyway, she was a farm kitty and didn’t like that I brought her to the city!  For years, she had nothing to do with me.  She wasn’t a “people kitty,” didn’t like to be picked up and only allowed certain people to pet her.  She mellowed in her old age, though, and became a wonderful companion.

She was a great hunter and loved to go outdoor and find birds, bunnies and small ground squirrels.  The neighbors were happy when we moved into our current neighborhood because Pepper got rid of many pests that had been ruining gardens and bothering landscaping for years! 

Pepper moved with us to the Chicago area in 1996 and went missing a week after we moved to our new home.  We thought she was a goner because we lived in a very busy suburb, lots of traffic, plus the county law stated that if your cat was loose, anyone could do anything to it, including kill it.  She was gone for 2 weeks. We were so sure she was no longer alive, that we got another cat, Sabrina.  Then, one day, a person called and asked if we were missing our cat.  She had been in their neighborhood while these people were on vacation.  They read her tag, which still had the Omaha address and phone on it.  The people had investigated and tracked us down.  Pepper had traveled a long distance, crossing three very busy four-lane roads to get to where she was.  She possibly battled some geese along the way, too. 

So, we drove from Carol Stream to Glendale Heights to pick Pepper up.  It was happy reunion.  Pepper was very personable for about a day, then she returned to her former standoffish self.  (I think she thought she should continue to get tuna like she was given by the people in the neighborhood where she was found.)  She didn’t like having another cat around either.  She was used to being top kitty cat!

As the boys settled into the new schools and life in the Chicago suburbs, Pepper started to warm up to the boys.  She started with Mike, allowing him to pet her.  He was probably 6 or 7 years old at the time.  Then, Joe was permitted to touch her, and lastly, David.  Mom, however, was still shunned.  She wouldn’t let me touch her and if I did, she immediately bathed.  She had to remove all those “Mommy Germs!”  When we moved back to Omaha, she became David’s cat.  She slept with him and let him hold her.  When he went off to college, she became my cat at last.  She was very friendly in her old age.  She continued to hunt (even without front claws) and loved sitting outside in the sun.  As she aged, she was more reluctant to go outside during the winter time, but sometimes wanted to sit in the garage for awhile to “cool her heels.” 


Just prior to Christmas, we noticed she was moving kind of slow and had lost weight.  I finally took her to the vet last Friday because all she wanted to do was sleep under the Christmas tree all day.  She was still drinking water, but not eating much.  At the vet’s, we discovered she had lost 4 pounds, a third of her total body weight!  She also had jaundice, which we hadn’t noticed until the vet pointed it out.  Her diagnosis was Feline Hepatic Lipidosis or “fatty liver.”  Apparently, older cats that are overweight sometimes stop eating.  The fat is then broken down and deposited in the liver.  If caught in time, it is reversible.  The trick is to get the cat to eat.  If she doesn’t eat, the fat continues to deposit and cause damage, leading to death.


The vet gave Pepper some IV fluids, antibiotic and vitamin B, then sent her home with a special prescription catfood.  She instructed us to try to feed Pepper a little bit every two hours.  She gave us a syringe in case we need to force-feed her.  At first, we thought Pepper might do it. She ate a little tuna fish on her own.  She refused the prescription catfood.  I went to PetCo and bought some kitty milk, which the vet said we could try, as well as Fancy Feast and baby food turkey and chicken.  She actually ate couple bites of dry food from Mike’s hand.  But, it got harder and harder to get her to eat.  We started giving her food from the syringe.  She hated that!  She tried to resist, but was too weak to get away.  We thought we might turn the corner, but then she started throwing up.  She lost everything we fed her.  We were only giving her 2-3 cc, less than half of a teaspoon.

Last night, I was up with her, trying to coax her to eat.  She started gagging at the very smell of the food.  She would get dry heaves whenever I brought food close by.  Around 2 am, I was sitting in the recliner, taking a break, when she jumped up on my lap like she used to do prior to her illness.  She settled in and slept on my lap the rest of the night.  It was as if she was telling me, “Please let me be, Mommy.  Just let me rest.”  So, in the morning, I told Dennis she wasn’t eating and we needed to take her to the vet.  We already had an appointment.  I cried as we strapped her cat carrier into the backseat.  The drive to the veterinary office had become all too familiar.  Dr. Apker met us the door and knew right away that Pepper hadn’t eaten for us.  She knew what we would be asking.  Dennis took the cat carrier into the small exam room and he and Dr. Apker opened the carrier.  Pepper just lay here, not making a sound.  She let Dr. Apker pick her up without any protest.  It was as if she totally trusted the vet and was putting herself in Dr. Apker’s hands.  Dr. Apker even had a few tears in her eyes as she explained our options.  Because of her age, we said it would be torture to tube-feed her.  The decision was hard, but it was obvious.  The gentle vet who had taken care of Pepper since she was a kitten, held Pepper close as we left the room. 

We will miss our dear friend, our beautiful kitty.  She brought so much joy into our lives for so many years.  I know people say pets don’t go to Heaven; that they just die.  But, I want to believe that Pepper is in Heaven now, chasing bunnies and sunning herself, glowing in the love of her Creator.