September 7, 1971

On September 7, 1971, I was one of three young women sitting in a small radiology room at what was then called, St. Francis Hospital. None of us had any idea what that day, much less the next two years, would have in store for us.

The three of us, Michele, Mary, and I, were the new class of radiology students. Michele and I had graduated from the same high school, but we did not know each other well. Mary had completed one year of college at the University of Northern Iowa after graduating the year before from Columbus. She did not know either one of us. After that bit of small talk, we shared our expectations for the day ahead–we all thought we’d be taking x-rays by the end of the day.

I mean, how hard could it be?

Our primary instructor and head of the department, Chuck, came in to take us on the official tour of the x-ray department. The department may have been small but what it lacked in size it made up for in personality.

Pat, a fiery red-head, was the most senior technologist and the person we all tried hard not to make angry for any reason. Bev, small but just as energized, was Chuck’s main go-to person and our positioning instructor. When she was introduced as that, the three of us had NO idea what that meant, but we accepted it, as we did most things, without any questions. Sue, the newest technical person in the department, was hired to work primarily in the newest area of the department, nuclear medicine. Because of that, we would not be working with her much. Chuck was quick to point out to us what nuclear medicine was, “unclear medicine” and left it at that.

Maxine was the department transcriptionist and office secretary. Looking back, I think it was Chuck’s goal to find some politically sensitive joke to tell to one of the docs as Maxine sat taking direct dictation from the radiologist. Social media did not exist so jokes and all types of other off-color stories were shared openly for all ears to hear. Being sensitive and of Polish descent, Maxine must have put in some tough days while working with all of us.

The class ahead of us was now instantly promoted to the senior position. Carolyn and Lynn would be our cheerleaders and our toughest critics–sharing their horror stories while pointing out to us how their first year was so much harder than what we were experiencing.

Tradition is a huge deal in medicine and it was for our radiology department. Incoming and outgoing radiology classes were great examples of a good ol’ boy’s club mixed with some sort of bazaar fraternity hazing ceremony. If you survived certain insane experiences you were in for the long haul. The toughest? Easy answer–call. An experience we had the opportunity to share after we had completed six months of training.

It was one long, brutal ride.

Taking call either made you or broke you. Mary and I survived, but that may have been all due to timing. Michele drew the first nightmare weekend. Working alone she had orders for in patients, ER patients, and a body in the morgue. While processing her morgue films, she walked out of the darkroom with the film bin open–meaning all the film in the bin was exposed. It was, for the most part, unusable. Once she realized this and took into account all the other things happening around her, her decision was clear. This was not the career for her. Mary and I learned about her decision the next day–we lost a classmate.

With Michele gone, we had to cover more–which meant we learned more and were exposed to more. We completed our program and were both asked to stay. Staying on where you trained has its good and bad points–we learned to work around them and we both succeeded. Mary was asked to stay to take over nuclear medicine–you know–“unclear medicine.” I stayed to pick up whatever needed to be done. I needed a job so I was ready to whatever I needed to do. Little did I know that a few years down the road the hospital would recruit a new pediatrician. That pediatrician wanted someone who could do echoes. Little did I know the magnitude of this request–I was volunteered to go to Iowa City where I learned pediatric echocardiography.

Time flew by as we both continued to learn, change, and grow. Mary moved to Cedar Rapids, retiring as the head of Nuclear Medicine just a short time ago. I moved to Denver where I was fortunate enough to do pediatric echo for 30 years.

Neither time or distance has separated us. Mary and I have been close since that first day in room 3. I love you, Mary. Our career and all the twists and turns it took us on has been the wildest of the wildest rides ever imagined. I am grateful and humbled by it all.

In one other stroke of luck, Facebook reunited the two of us with our classmate, Michele. Having Michele back in my little corner of the world gives me such a feeling of coming full circle. Love you, Michele.

I am…

B…simply being…

I love Y’all.

Peace

 

Balance

Balance is the key to everything. What we do, think, say, eat, feel, they all require awareness, and through this awareness, we can grow. 

Koi Fresco

I thought once I retired, it would be easy to find a way to balance my life. My very fast paced, busy career ended and there was nothing in my life to fill that vacuum. My life’s scales that had been tipped to the work side for so long began to tip off center and rapidly topple off-balance. I had no idea how to correct that swing and bring my new life into any sort of balance.

I found a quote attributed to Jana Kingsford that gave me a hint of insight. Jana said, “Balance is not something you find. It is something you create.”

I realized it was up to me to become aware of what I needed in my life to create balance. On the journey to Wyoming for the eclipse, I gave myself the gift of time. Time to rest. Time to really see and become aware of the beauty surrounding me. Those discoveries continue to unfold, giving me the energy needed to keep myself and my life in balance.

I am not saying I have it mastered.

I imagine, for me, the balancing act will an ongoing process and always somewhat tenuous.

I’m okay with that.

I am…

B…simply being…

Be kind and pray for each other. There are many in our country tonight who need our prayers.

I love and thank you.

Peace

 

 

 

Marie and Mom

 

I love September. It is the beginning of Fall and a month filled with family birthdays.

September 3 was my Aunt Marie’s birthday–at least that is the day we all believe to be her birthday.

Happy birthday, Marie. As usual, I am a few days late–which would be no surprise to Marie. This is the only picture I have of her. Marie is on the left. Her sister, Eve, on the right. My sister, Susan, and her two kids, Matt and Ashley are in the foreground. Of all the pictures I have saved through the different moves, this is one of my most treasured.

Marie was my Mom’s aunt and a nurse who took care of everyone in the McDonald family. At that time, the McDonald family was huge and scattered all over the country. Marie told me that her brothers and sisters never saw each other unless someone was sick or dying. Until Mom got sick, I never knew Marie or any of the extended McDonald family existed.

Mom’s illness started out innocently. Well, at least in my kid’s memory, that’s what I thought. It began about a month after the birth and death of my brother, Richard. I remember the details of those few days so well–I wonder if I subconsciously knew something was wrong.

Things were quiet as Mom recovered from the C-section she had with my brother. It was late summer and school was getting ready to start. I was looking forward to fifth grade, wondering who would be my teacher and what kids would be in my class. I heard Mom call me into the living room. She asked me to come look at the back of her neck. Could I see and feel a lump? Even my nine-year old self could see and feel that large lump. As I told her, the look in her eyes was my first experience of seeing fear. The question she asked next caught me off guard. She asked if I would go with her to the doctor’s office instead of going to the pool. I said sure. Not that I was giving up my favorite thing.  My motivation was I knew the waiting room had good things to read. I’d skip the pool if I could read adult-like stories and the jokes I knew were in Reader’s Digest!

Looking back, my adult eyes see things so differently. She must have been so afraid of what was coming next. She had just gone through a very difficult pregnancy and lost her son. She was still grieving this loss. What will happen to her three young daughters?

Looking back, I wonder why she asked me to go to the doctor with her and not my Dad? Looking back…I question many things.

We went to see the good doctor that afternoon. The little room was warm and stuffy as we waited with several other people, many sharing their stories about why they were there. HIPPA was far in the future and people shared more than even a kid really wanted to know. I was immersed in the Reader’s Digest joke section as my Mom waited. Silently. I sat close to her and she would hold my hand. Being there with her made me feel important. When she held my hand, I knew it was going to be okay.

She went back alone when Florence, the office nurse, called her name. As we left the office, the look I had seen earlier was back even as she forced a smile. She and Dr. Dalby had made plans and they were starting immediately.

This was the early 60’s and there was not a lot of hope when the word cancer was used. Mom went to the hospital and the biopsy came back as cancer. At the request of Aunt Marie and the McDonald family, Dad took her to Mayo for a second opinion. Mayo doctors confirmed and their prognosis was poor. All doctors suggested radiation so she had her series of treatments. In one of my life’s many twists and turns, I would find myself years later in that same room. I  would be a student in a radiologic technology program, doing a radiation therapy rotation at the same place she had her treatments. I don’t remember a lot about that rotation except the sound of the lock on the door when the Cobalt 60 treatment started. That heavy clunk sound still haunts me. That must have made her feel very alone.

Around Christmas, she began having severe headaches. I, too, started having migraine headaches at the same time. Mine would eventually pass. Mom’s headaches got worse. The first part of January, she and Dad went to Mayo for a follow-up visit. The news from Mayo was not good. Her cancer had spread to her brain. Because this was so serious, Mom asked Marie to come be with her. Marie arrived as soon as she could get there so Dad could come home to the three of us. Her stay seemed like forever. Because Marie would be coming home with Mom, they discharged her early. On February 14th, the anniversary date of her marriage to Dad, she came home. In my romantic young girl mind, that was perfect.

Looking back, I think it was just more irony for my parents to bear.

Mom began radiation treatments to her brain. Radiation is brutal. Her previous treatments and her recent surgery and hospital stay had taken a huge toll on her. After a few sessions, the radiologists determined that it was too much for not enough benefit. The same group of radiologists I would later work for sent a letter stating that–a letter Dad shared with me one late winter afternoon. We had gone to the post office box to get the mail. He handed it to me after he read it. I am not sure why I reacted with the intensity I did. I don’t think I really believed that the doctors couldn’t/wouldn’t fix her. I could not believe that God would take my Mom. I screamed. I cried. I swung my fists out at him. This had to be a mistake. Slowly, I started asking questions and settling down. Only then, after I was calm, did he tell me I could not tell Mom I knew. He had shared this with me against the advice of everyone in the family. I had to act normal.

It was a secret. It was a very heavy one and one I am sure I did not pull off well.

Mom recovered some after stopping radiation. Marie had gone back to Omaha and Dad and I were trying to take care of things.  I was feeling very adult and trying hard but it was obvious we were in an impossible situation. We needed help. Once again, Marie came to the rescue. She arrived just before Mom’s birthday, April 22. Mom passed away August 30. Marie and Mom waged a very hard-fought battle.

Marie cared for mom and stayed on to help our family for nearly two years. I cannot begin to imagine what would have happened to my sisters and me if she had not stayed. Not that I made her life easy–I made it an absolute hell on earth. She was there through all my pre-teen rants and rages. Marie was the only one who understood a young girl grieves the loss of her mother in some strange ways. It must have been the love she had for my Mom that gave her the patience to always try to find some way to break through the shell I had constructed around myself. I was still trying to act and be normal. Through it all, she never gave up on me.

I never thanked her enough. Oh, I went through the motions and said the appropriate words. In my usual very immature adult fashion, I was so busy being busy, I could not and did not take the time to appreciate her. On my list of regrets, this is one of the biggest ones. Now, as an older and hopefully more mature adult, I do realize and understand all the sacrifices she made for all of us.

Thank you, Marie, for giving me the guidance and care that allowed me to be the person I am today. It took decades for me to grow enough to fully appreciate all you gave me. In all the time Marie spent with me, I never told her I loved her. I signed my hastily written cards and notes to her with love–but never said those words to her.

I now know that time stops for no one or for any reason. You can be angry and sad and hurt. Put yourself away long enough to tell those you love that you love them. Just do it.

I am…

B…simply being…

I love you.

Peace

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Today would have been his 99th birthday.

The older I get, the more I miss him.

Merle H. Burton was the only constant in my life for most of my life. When I was younger, I was too busy doing what I thought was so important–creating that person I thought was me. Well…that self-improvement project turned out to be very costly and really not very successful.

I think he saw that–probably because he had walked the same path in his younger years. He tried to warn me. I was and am such a stubborn first-born.  I think he understood I had to learn my own lessons and pay my own piper. I am grateful for those times shortly before he died when we both laid down our shields and began to really talk WITH each other.

I love you, Dad. Thank you for never giving up on me.

Texas is still struggling and will be for a very long time. As someone said yesterday, this recovery will not be complete in a few weeks or a few months. This will take years. Thank you for your prayers. Now, because of the refineries in the Houston area being shut down, there is a gas panic in the rest of the state. The debate rages. Is it a real shortage or something politically motivated? Regardless of where you point your finger, many gas stations near us are out of gas. In the big picture—all very minor.

I wish you all a very safe Labor Day holiday. There are many struggling in our great country–flooding continues here and major wildfires in Montana, Wyoming, and the northwest.

As you relax and enjoy these last days of summer, take a moment to pray for each other. We are all fighting battles–some do so very quietly. Be extra patiently kind.

I am…

B…simply being…

I love Y’all.

Peace

 

 

 

Our Home Away From Home

Three weeks on the road was much easier because we had our home away from home. Otherwise known as a travel trailer. With this mode of travel, we can take all our stuff. We can load up our own food, our own adult beverages, our three dogs, and hit the happy trails.

Over the years we have been lucky enough to experience all types of RVing. From a pop-up to a motor home, we found that a travel trailer works the best for our traveling style. For three weeks, the CrossRoads Sunset Trail 26BB Grand Reserve, was our home. Getting from one place to another was easy, thanks to Michael’s pride and joy, his diesel GMC one-ton Denali HD.

What makes set-up work so well?

This trailer is small enough we can take it anywhere. Our goal was to be small enough we could go into national park campgrounds and other remote areas. This little camper can do that.  The center of the trailer opens up by way of two opposing slides. With the slides open, the main living area is large enough for the two of us and our three dogs to relax comfortably. The kitchen island, with double sinks, makes it possible for both of us to work in the kitchen at the same time. Storage is always high on my wish list and this trailer comes through with ample storage space throughout the entire trailer. There’s the usual under bed storage, under the dinette, and multiple large storage places in the kitchen and bathroom. An added bonus is the outside kitchen and shower. Coming in from the beach, that outside shower has been a huge plus. The outdoor kitchen has a small refrigerator, sink, and storage areas. All that cuts down on trips in and out of the trailer and makes grabbing that cold drink so very quick and easy.

If you are in the market for an RV,  please check out Kansas RV Center, Chanute, Kansas. Michael has helped us so much as we’ve transitioned from full-time RVing to RVing for fun. Mike has always been just an email or a phone call away.  We value his sound business advice, his fairness, and his excellent customer service. Thank you, Mike. The RV world is a small one. We ran into one of his other customers when we were in DuBois. Jeff and Michelle have a MobleSuites that reminded us of the fifth wheel bought from Mike when we first retired. It was great to hear their experience and together, we had a four member Mike admiration society.

RVing is always an adventure–from the places you see to the people you meet along the way. I have a journal that I kept for years when we began this type of travel. I am sorry I stopped writing because those trips are wonderful to re-live by the stories both Michael and I wrote. I’ll have to share them as well.

Thank you for keeping Texas and Texans in your prayers.

I am…

B…simply being…

I love and cherish Y’all.

Peace

 

 

 

Missing in Action

I have a confession to make. Our latest trip has worn me out–mentally and physically.

For my mental health, I know writing is the best thing. Try as I might, I could not make any words make any sense yesterday. I was missing in action.

A big part of my exhaustion comes from feeling so helplessness as I witness the losses my fellow Texans are experiencing as a result of Hurricane Harvey. My heart begs to go help. My brain argues, at least for now, there is not a lot I could do. Never to be left out of the debate, my little inner voice reminds me of the good relationship I have with God. She urged me to use that gift and put in some extra prayer time.  So, I took her wise advice and did just that–said many prayers. If you can grab an extra minute here or there, join me. You may be as surprised as I was at how saying those few extra prayers will help you as well.

A follow-up to the refrigerator saga. Our Sears approved service technician, Paul, arrived early this morning to fix our Sears Kenmore Elite. Paul got five stars because he came prepared with a replacement compressor. He dropped down to 4.0 stars because he initially hesitated to replace the compressor due to the fact he was sent to do a diagnostic evaluation. After listening to our story, which was strongly and whole heartedly shared, he agreed to do the replacement IF Michael would help.  An hour and a half later, the new compressor was in and Paul was on his way to his next call.

Some advice for anyone considering a new LG refrigerator. Paul told us that LG compressors do not have a good service history. He has replaced many compressors on new refrigerators. Some units he’s replaced compressors twice with one customer waiting for their third compressor. He confirmed what we had heard from our salesperson at Home Depot–the wait is long because there are very few service people who have the knowledge to do the work needed and of those workers, very few are willing to do the hard work needed to get the job done.

Today is the 54th anniversary of the day my Mom lost her long, hard battle with cancer. Today’s page was supposed to be all about her. Try as I might, I could not pull it together well enough to share.

After this amount of time you’d think it would not be so difficult. Well…it’s not that simple. I’ve learned grief is sneaky tricky. You think you’ve mastered it or at least moved on long and far enough it can no longer create an undercurrent in your life.

Wrong.

I’ve also learned the older I get, the more questions I have about that time in my life. Over the years, I told my stories and believed I understood what had happened during the time of her illness. I now understand I know very little. My memories of that very critical time in my life are all based on observations made by my eight to ten-year-old self.

There has always been an uneasiness, sparked into life on anniversary days like today. I kept that at bay by staying busy. If I was busy, I avoided any discovery that did not match my safe little collection of memories.

It’s now time to put on my detective hat.

As I make my discoveries, I’ll share what I learn. That is the whole point of this blog–sharing my life lessons, in hopes I’ll help someone else along the way.

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and peace, Y’all.

Please keep Texas in your prayers.

 

Home

3,300 miles later, we are home.

As Dorothy said, there’s no place like home.

Over the next few days, I’ll share tales about our journey along with things that made the trip so much easier.

A valuable part of any road trip for us is our dog car seats, Fido Ridos. Whenever we travel with our dogs, Bud, Duffy and Ruby, these seats are the first things that go into our back seat. As you can see, they boost the dogs up so they can see out the windows, secure them so they are safe from any sudden stops, and keeps each dog in their own space. Bud, our oldest Lhasa Apso, struggled with car sickness until we discovered these car seats. Now, no more rapid stops due to a sick dog or worrying about quick stops when we travel during busy traffic times. You can check these dog seats out at fidorido.com.

I leave you tonight with a request to keep Texas in your prayers. There are thousands of people struggling due to Hurricane Harvey. From what I hear, this storm is not done with the Gulf yet. Every meteorologist says they have never seen anything like this!. I did not know this much rain was possible. Please God, protect those amazing volunteers who have responded to help.

You make me proud to be a Texan.

I am…

B…simply being… 

I am very happy to be back at my desk.

As you go bed tonight, join me in prayer for those in need due to this storm.

Love and Peace.

 

 

August

I love August.

As a kid, once the Fourth of July fireworks ended, I knew summer was only a breath away from being history. This was also the time when my internal clock would chime away, telling me it was time to prepare for the new school year while prodding me to give some serious thought to my own future.

Even though it has been many years since this month signaled my return to school, I still hear that message.

It has become one of the more comfortable constants in my life.

In honor of that tradition, I’ll be stepping away from my computer so I can recharge my batteries and search for old and new stories to share.

Why not join me?

I am…

B…simply being…

I love Y’all.

Peace