March 20, 2005

Did You Know This About Me?

I wanted to call this, "My Obituary" just to get your attention, but the idea got Jim unsettled and he said the boys wouldn't like it either. So, after some thought, I've renamed tonight's chapter.

The Terri Schiavo story is big in the news right now. Just yesterday her feeding tube was removed for the 4th time. Her husband who lives with another woman and has a least 2 children by this mistress, wants Terri to die because he insists that she would not have wanted to be kept alive with a feeding tube. Her parents are pleading for Terri's life and it's seems that the President of the United States may play a part on whether she has the tube or not. Congress is expected to vote on the case any minute now!

For the record, if life support would give me another chance to enjoy my family and friends then I'm all for it. But if a feeding tube and/or other support would just keep my body alive and I would have to be taken care of by other people, then please let me go in peace. I've taken care of enough people like Terri to know I would not want that, nor would I want my family to keep me that way. When I go, learn from me and remember some good things about me every once in a while.

I encourage everyone to think about what and who creates within you feelings of cheer and satisfaction. It occurs to me that I am the best person in the world to appreciate my past accomplishments, reflect on my brightest joys and plan my future goals. So, let's get started!

Becoming a Registered Nurse has always been an off and on goal. Even after being an LPN for 35 years, I still sign up at the local college for RN classes!. On the other hand, I'm such a good LPN that I'd never be an even greater RN. Just to walk across a platform in a graduation gown would be something I know I'd feel very good about.

I was surprised when I figured out that I've had less than 7 years of formal education? Grandma believed in holding a child back to start school until they were 8 years old and by the end of my second grade, grandma had us hidden way back in the Ozark Mountains where she proclaimed to be our teacher but we rarely spent an entire day under her tudor. When I was 16, I spent a few glorious months as a freshman at Ozark Academy in Arkansas. There I took flute lessons and was soon playing in the band. English was my favorite class! Grandma also ran a nursing home and my sister and I spent more hours than children were legally allowed washing dishes and pots and pans before and after school. I'll write more about Ozark Acadmey later.

We next moved to Laurelbrook School in Tennessee where I was placed in the 11th grade. Because Laurelbrook's high school diploma isn't recognized by the state, I took the GED after graduating from Laurelbrook to qualify for LPN school. I spent a busy year with a wonderful family in Dayton Ohio while I attended the Dayton School of Practical Nursing there. I was 18 years old and worked nights at Kettering Hospital to help pay my way through the LPN course. A lifelong thank-you to Kathryn and Bob Flood for providing this opportunity to me. I'll write more about that exciting but busy year too.

My really happiest moments are when I'm going to school, having to read books and take tests to challenge myself!

I regret that my education has always taken a back seat, because choosing what I want has always been difficult for me to choose. I'm usually helping others; cheering then on to what's next! I should have gotten more education because it's such a "high" for me and I would have made such good use of it. Maybe it will still happen. If I was rich, I'd spend more time in school!

While we lived in Michigan and the boys were small, I was a correspondent for The Herald-Palladium in St. Joseph, Michigan, I learned how it feels to be filled with ambition, confidence and purpose. Those eight years were crazy because I ran after every fire, accident and unusual event in our town 24/7 except when I was working as a nurse in another town. I covered town meetings and school board meetings as a reporter and could quote every word. I enjoyed writing about people and telling their stories. Police Chief Jim Kesterke, presented me with an award for always providing first-aid first before I brought out the newspaper camera! My monthly newspaper "string" was longer than most other correspondents' but Bill Cash was quick to point out that even a 17-foot string didn't make us very much money!

I couldn't have been a such a successful correspondent without my longsuffering, chain smoking editor, Tom Brundrett. He taught me everything about journalism and computers at the time. We spent so much time together that our spouses were jealous but they needn't have worried. I was known as a fair and honest reporter and was always respected by the officials in our town.

Teaching CPR for the American Red Cross and volunteering at special events in our county was exciting for me. I also worked closely with the firemen and policemen keeping them all updated in CPR. I don't think my teenage Billy appreciated my close association with the local police at the time, but he knew I was happy and looked forward to teaching those classes.

Photography developed from a sense of wanted to start my own business and make money at it. My diary reflects how scared I was to take that step to order the studio equipment. I remember the day it arrived, I cried because I thought I'd never be able to understand the f-stops and shadows and light placements. But, I became the best wedding photographer in the county and shared that business with Billy and Philip as they often helped me with setting up the studio and accompanied me on weddings. I still shoot weddings but have left the studio work behind for awhile.

Friends pushed me into studying for the Ham Radio license. I was sure I'd never pass something like that but wanted to enter into the world of electronics and Amateur Radio.. Today I'm proud of that license and plan to join a radio club in Columbus, Ohio. It can be a rather expensive hobby and I don't have much equipment but it's a fun experience I look forward to. I'm looking for a service oriented radio club.

Winning an elected position on our township and becoming the township clerk probably was the catalyst for my divorce from Bill Cash. As with most of my interests, he was usually quietly pessimistic and not overly supportive. I'm sure he thought I'd make a fool of myself by running against a lifelong incumbent for the township clerk position. It was many months of hard, hard work. I went to most every door in our town and depended on a very loyal election committee who advised me, made calls, passed out pamphlets, put up signs and in every way gave me unconditional support. We marched in the July 4th parade, attended pancake breakfasts and kissed a lot of babies (just kidding). I won a four-year term and another 4-year term the second time around. Billy and Philip are still in awe about my political experience.

About then I also took the Emergency Medical Technician Course (EMT) so I could volunteer for the local ambulance service. I considered becoming a Paramedic but discovered that my body mechanics were not good enough to protect my back while lifting heavy people and big stretchers. Working as an EMT was short-lived but I look back at that experience with satisfaction and pride.

My work with handicapped children at the county school for MRDD was very gratifying. For 5 years I was one of the nurses at Blossomland Learning Center in Berrien Springs, Michigan. I loved every child and knew each of the 250 little ones by name and history. They taught me about being positive no matter what the handicap, enjoying life no matter what the challenge, and the pure pleasure of little accomplishments!

I have a little picture on the wall by my bathroom lightswitch that says, "If I can't do great things, I will do small things in a great way." It really works for me! I appreciate knowing that with only a few months of formal lessons I can enjoy playing the piano, the organ, the flute and the accordion. I have books of published poetry and award-winning photography. I have traded on E-bay and learned how to post on the World-Wide Web.

It is beyond imagination what I would be doing today if I had 18-20 years of education like I helped provide for my first husband and children. Certainly I would not be working in a nursing home passing medications to the elderly, nor would I have a second job working 12-hour shifts for an MRDD facility where management is sporadic at best. My hourly pay would be far more than the pennies I make now, and I would be part of a creative team to help make whatever I'm doing far better than it was when I got there.

The best I can offer my jobs now is a cheerful attitude, dependability and error-free nursing.

Proof of what can happen if I'm given the opportunity to shine is my history with Teresa's County Homes in Berrien Springs. Teresa hired me as her floating nurse for the three Assisted Living Homes she owned there. Because Teresa is a very smart and talented businesswoman, the 40-bed homes prospered and she was able to move to sunny Florida and leave the day-to-day management of the homes to me. I was made the Administrator. I worked closely with her administrative assistant, Marian Mendel to keep the homes above census and site-free for several years. I really loved the employees, some of whom will read this story. Marian is a jewell of a woman. I appreciate the trust Teresa had in me and will never forget what I learned about being a good leader.

Above all, I am thankful for what I have now. My children cherish and love me and would be at my side in a moment if I called. My baby sister that I practically raised is a happily married woman in control of her destiny. The mystery of our mother has been solved. My husband today thinks I am more of an angel than I really am. He brings me purpose and vision. We look forward to the next 55 years with confidence, optimism and contentment.

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