Mom

Monday


My mother was a great pie-maker and a hoot!

Marguerite Marie (Garnier) Young, known to friends as “Marg or Meg” passed away on the anniversary of Elvis’ death in 1997 at the age of 67 (or 68). She was never quite sure of her birth year as she had two birth certificates, dated a year apart. She would have chosen 67. I choose 68.

Mom was very colorful and not at all like the ‘other moms’. Her speech was salty, she liked a beer or two on occasion, smoked cigarettes (but oddly, never inhaled) and had a wicked sense of humor. There were times that as a child, I would be “so embarrassed” by her blatant disregard for what we now refer to as ‘political correctness’. She thought I needed to ‘loosen up a little’. Mom ‘called it as she saw it’ and if you didn’t like it – leave. She laughed easily and heartily…actually, that’s an understatement.
One to wear only lipstick and powder, I once tried to convince her to add a little eye make-up. Refusing it she said, "Joanie, you can’t even have a decent laugh with that shit on your face.”
If you were her friend, you were loved and you knew it. If you ‘crossed’ her, you only did it once and you knew it. Everyone was her friend until proven otherwise and loyalty was essential in her relationships. She was a caring and compassionate soul – and as sharp as a tack.

Not unlike many women of her time, in the 1950’s and 60’s, mom was a housewife and mother. There were four of us screaming kids and we were all about two years apart. We were raised Catholic and attended parochial school. One morning, at breakfast in the early 60’s, it was announced (on the radio) that the birth control pill was being made available to the public, but that the Pope had deemed it a sin should a Catholic woman take the pill in order to prevent pregnancy. I recall my mom simply saying, “Well then, when the Pope starts having my babies, then he can tell me to stop taking the pill.” Enough said. Mom remained a faithful, sacrament-taking, confession-going, birth control pill taking Catholic.

Although the stories about mom are endless, this is one of my favorites...

It was after her funeral, that friends and family from all over gathered at mom and dad’s house. I couldn’t help but notice one particular woman (who I didn’t recognize) sobbing as she was looking at pictures in a family photo album. I sat down beside her and introduced myself. “Were you one of my mom’s good friends?” I asked. With tear-filled eyes she looked at me resolutely, squared her shoulders and said, “No, I was her sister.”
Who knew? I had an aunt that I was unaware of. I knew mom’s family history was a little complicated but I had to find out more. After giving my new aunt a big hug and encouraging her to continue going through the album, I headed straight to the-one-who-knows-everything-in-the-family, my sister, Bobbie. “So, who’s mom’s sister?” I said nodding toward the grief-stricken woman I had just spoken to. “Oh, that’s just Mary” she said.

The story goes that mom met Mary, a poor, simple-minded woman who lived not too far away. One day, Mary called her and announced that she had reason to believe that they were sisters. Without missing a beat, mom decided… “What the hell, if she thinks I’m her sister, I’ll be her sister. It can’t hurt.” Following Mary’s declaration, mom would bring her food and clothes – remembering her on her birthday, Christmas and special occasions. She treated her like a sister and never told Mary that she doubted it.

I loved that about mom.

Gang Night

Sunday

I was working the 7pm to 7am shift at Baylor’s ER and it was rumored to be “Gang Night” in Dallas. Why Dallas gangs felt the need to show their mettle on a hot & humid night in August was beyond me but….

Was “gang night” for real? We weren’t sure, but the idea of one particular night where opposing gangs from all over Dallas demonstrated their fearlessness and courage by cutting up and shooting one another caught my attention.

So, amidst the usual chaos and cacophony of the ER on a typical Saturday night, we were all on the ‘alert’ for mass casualties to hit the door at any minute.

Around two in the morning, I saw two, tall healthy-looking African American men dressed in hooded, bulky winter jackets enter the ER through our ambulance entrance. Based on their unseasonable dress, I just knew they had to be armed. They looked like they meant business.

Not one for confrontation, I surprised myself when out of nowhere ‘I got up all in their bidness’... “What do you want?” I sternly asked the biggest guy. “My son’s been shot.” He responded. I looked at the other guy who did not appear to be in any distress when he promptly unzipped his jacket and I saw the baby.

The child was about 9 months old. Snatching him, I ran next door into Trauma one. He was barely alive, with a single bullet wound that had entered his right chest and exited out his back.

The ‘story’ was that these two guys were babysitting when they decided to go out for a drive.
The baby was in the back seat of the car when “some mother-f!#*er started shootin’ at us.”
The baby survived. Hopefully his first GSW would be his last but - I kind of doubt it.

12th Anniversary Trip

Wednesday

It was immediately following The Annual Girls Trip that I said straight-faced to my sweet husband, Doug, while on vacation in Florida last week, "I'm more of an ‘adventurer’ than a ‘risk taker’.” Without hesitation, he responded… “bull.”

It was then that I felt the need to define my idea of ‘adventure’ for him.

‘Adventure’ is akin to “experience”. Experience the pace of life, the people, savor the regional specialties, soak in the colors of the landscape and embrace the music of wherever we happen to be at the moment. Bungee-jumping, dirt-biking and/or hang-gliding would be scratched off of my ‘To-Do’ list, while on vacation. I’m more of a get-to-know-the-place-and-sit-on-the-beach-or-in-the-local-cafe sort of girl.

Doug, on the other hand has energy to burn, prepared with a list of places to see, activities to do and a plan of action.

In the first year of our marriage, I recognized our differences during a rafting trip down the Guadalupe River in Texas (actually, it was about a 10 mile “float trip” and we were in “inner tubes”). Anyway, when we hit a set of rapids, I flipped out of my inner tube (yes, the water was only about three feet deep but none-the-less), and I was stunned to see my new husband immediately take off to save the tube. A kind stranger floating by asked if I wanted to hang on to his tube until I could reach my husband. When I met up with Doug, he was obviously very pleased with himself, passing me my inner tube and saying, “Hey, it would have been a long walk without it”. We think differently.

Last week, our 12th anniversary vacation was spent in Florida.


If it were up to me, I would have parked my butt in a beach-chair, set up an umbrella and read two novels in one week - that would have been typical of a ..."Joan Trip".

We started started our vacation at “The Bay Forest Condos” as guests of Mary & Ed. They winter in Naples and were so kind to offer their condo to us. It was fantastic. After leaving Naples via ‘Alligator Alley’ we were off to Boca Raton for a couple of nights and then back to the gulf-side of Florida - Fort Myers. This is typical of a ..."Doug Trip"

Acutely aware of my adventuresome spirit and my subsequent happiness, Doug bought me an umbrella and beach chair soon after arriving.

This is a sampling of where we went and what we did in seven days…

Naples/Bonita Springs:
Barefoot Beach, Bonita Bay Beach, Clam Pass Beach (our favorite), Delnor Wiggins State Park, Lowdermilk Beach, Marco Island, Olde Naples, Pelican Bay, South Beach, Tigertail Beach, Vanderbilt Beach. "Rodes" Market - great fresh seafood.
Boca Raton:
DelRay Beach, Spanish River Beach, Spanish River State Pass (nice beach – surfers to watch)
Fort Myers:
Fort Myers Beach ( good restaurants, party beach), Sanibel Island, Captiva Island. Stayed at The Marriott Residence Inn near Sanibel – It was almost as nice as Mary & Ed’s.


Parkland 8: OB-Gyn ER

Monday


Parkland's OB-Gyn ER was the place to go should you be pregnant, in labor, sexually assaulted, having ‘female problems’, think you’re pregnant or somehow ‘lost’ something or other in your va-jay-jay. Next to Psych, I can safely say that OB-Gyn ER was my least favorite of the five designated ER specialties at Parkland.

OB residents were able to communicate with paramedics via a radio that was set up in the ER so we were lucky to have a heads up on what was going to hit the door via ambulance but all too often our OB Gyn patients would arrive by car, pick-up truck or bus.

Over 8500 babies were delivered at Parkland in 1980 – each and every mom was admitted through Parkland’s OB Gyn ER, staffed with a PCA, two ER RN’s and an OB Gyn Resident.

Sadly, many of our full term moms were under 16 years of age, had not received any prenatal care, had no idea how they got pregnant in the first place and refused physician examination. Any way you looked at it – their pregnancies were a result of rape. Who could blame these children for refusing an exam? As there was no way to determine their stage of labor, they would be instructed to ‘walk the halls’ of the ER until their water ‘broke’ or they felt they needed us. I saw more than one pregnant child checking into OB Gyn ER with a baby doll under their arm, and witnessed the look of terror on more than one thirteen-year old girl after giving birth.

Suffice it to say that (through my eyes) there was not a lot of ‘joy’ in Parkland’s OB Gyn ER.

Parkland was the designated hospital in Dallas County for rape exams and (unbelievably today) D&C's were routinely performed without sedation or anesthesia. Brutal.

Recalling Parkland's OB/Gyn ER brings back far too many sad memories of poor women who had to endure abuse, neglect and objectification all because of their gender.
I could go on forever.

The good news, is that things have changed. Hospitals throughout Dallas County are sharing the burden of rape exam through the SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) program and D&C's without sedation or anesthesia? I would hope not.

On a lighter note –
The radio system was not great in OB Gyn and there was a lot of static when the call came in from Dallas paramedics… “Parkland – we’ve got a full term female, shot with two arrows.” The OB Resident (clearly on the brink of becoming unglued) responded by excitedly saying “Don’t bring her to OB …go to Trauma Hall!” The paramedics responded affirmatively. Trauma and OB Docs, nurses and techs were waiting for the arrival of a very bad situation. When they arrived – there was no evidence of penetrating trauma, arrows or anything else other than a woman in labor. The story goes that the pregnant woman was Native American and her last name was “Shot with Two Arrows”. Crisis averted.

Parkland 9: Medicine

Arkansas Road Trip 2009 - Part Three

Thursday


I really should have been taking notes on our Arkansas road trip as I recall giggling about several town and business names like the hair salon in Mountain View called “Curl Up and Dye” or the town of “Fifty-Six’, Arkansas. My plan was to ... commit the quirky names to memory, look-up the names up and then write about them.

Unfortunately my memory is less than a steel trap these days and I should have known better. But, I did look up Fifty-Six and according to www.Arkansas.com…

“Pleasant Hill was the choice for a new post office in Stone County back in 1905. However, the postal authorities rejected that name because Arkansas already had a Pleasant Hill. The second choice was the number of the local school district and it was accepted.” And that is how “Fifty-Six” Arkansas got its name.

Other interesting Arkansas Town names I found were …Toad Suck, Greasy Corner, Ink, Snowball and Smackover, to name but a few.

Texas towns?… Happy, Gun Barrel City (been there), Cut and Shoot, Spur, Fink and the most unimaginatively named, Austonio (located between Austin & San Antonio) and Texarkana (on the border of Texas & Arkansas).
But, my hands-down absolute favorite town name has got to be “Bug Tussle” Texas.

Location: Fannin County, Central Texas N FM 1550 and Hwy 345 miles N of Ladonia, 10 miles S of Honey Grove , 14 miles N of Commerce, 32 miles NE of Greenville, Population: 15

One day I may go there and see if I can buy a Tshirt - but I kind of doubt that they have a store.

Arkansas Road Trip 2009 - Part Two

Tuesday

In the woods at Blanchard Springs Caverns

Lying naked in a tub of excruciatingly hot water with two teensy washcloths to cover me as I’m about to be ‘exfoliated’ by a pierced and tattood stranger named Erma pretty well defines the word ‘vulnerable’ for me.

Erma coarsely commanded, “Give me your leg”. I did as I was told as she began my exfoliation with a loofah from hell. All the while I couldn’t help but think how surreal this whole experience was to me.


Working my feet, legs, arms and back with vigor, I determined early on that it was time for a little ‘small talk’.

  • Me: “So Erma, how long have you been doing this sort of thing?”
  • Erma: "Well, during my incarceration, just outside of Little Rock at ‘Hawkins’, I found Jesus as my personal saviour.”
  • Me: Enthusiastically saying, (but thinking, ‘oh shit’) …“That is wonderful! Good for you!"

  • Erma: “So I decided to turn my life around and move here to Hot Springs”

  • Me: “Well that is just fabulous! So how long have you worked here?”

  • Erma: With a wide semi-toothless grin, “’bout three weeks.”

  • Me: (Gulping) “Well then, best of luck to you.”

vul·ner·able
adjective

  1. that can be wounded or physically injured
  2. a. open to criticism or attack a vulnerable reputation
    b. easily hurt, as by adverse criticism; sensitive affected by a specified influence, temptation, etc.

Etymology: LL vulnerabilis, wounding, likely to injure (also, in pass. sense, vulnerable) <> L vellere - Dictionary.com

Unfortunately, I was now an informed client.

My mind was racing with thoughts of "Women in Chains" and the thoughts of beatings, gruel, cold concrete, iron bars and the like.

I ended my conversation with Erma. She had a job to do and I was speechless. It worked for us both.

Following my bath, Erma passed me on to a coworker who appeared to have a full set of teeth and no visible tattoos. I was wrapped, pampered and massaged. It was a good day.



Arkansas Road Trip 2009 - Part One

Monday

I think Arkansas gets a bad rap.

Every fall, we are drawn to experience the beauty of the autumn leaves, the serenity and yes, the quirkiness of Arkansas. This year was not any different.

The Annual Spotswood Road Trip to Arkansas included…
Day 1 – A 5-hour drive from Dallas to Lake Catherine (just outside of Hot Springs)
Day 2 – Hot Springs: Breakfast at The Pancake House with "Murph" and his wife, Theresa.
Day 3 – A 5-hour drive to Mountain Home
Day 4 – A day Trip to Mountain View and a visit to The Blanchard Springs Caverns
Day 5 – Mountain Home to Eureka Springs then on to Queen Wilhemena State Park
Day 6 – Home
Blanchard Springs Caverns

Hot Springs
A great little city. I have always thought that if I were homeless, I would try my best to make my way there, largely because of the fact that Hot Springs has an abundance of hot running water that comes from natural springs. The city has installed (free) public hot water access at several locations along the main drag and I can’t help but think that would certainly be an advantage to those who might need to wash up or warm their hands on occasion.

Known for the healing properties of its natural thermal waters, Hot Springs developed ‘Bath House Row’ during that time that gambling was the major draw. In 1967 casino gambling was banned and with that, the Bath House business 'dried up' - so to speak. Fortunately, Hot Springs Bath Houses are back. Renovation and revitalization began a few years ago and Bath House Row is looking good again.

The Bath House Spa Experience ...as I encountered it a few years ago:

Know Before You Go…

  • Hot Springs Bath Houses separate men from women. You will not see anyone of the opposite sex once you begin your experience. Thank you Lord.

  • You will be issued a robe and are expected to strip down to your birthday suit. Awkward.

  • You will be escorted to a private tub room where a bath has been drawn for you with the natural hot spring water. There, you will meet your very own ‘bath lady’.

My bath lady, ‘Erma’ was not the ‘chatty’ type and judging by her deep voice, I'm thinking she had smoked a few cigarettes in her time. I guessed her age to be about fifty-five or so, hair as black as shoe polish, less than expertly applied mascara and looking a little rough around the edges. She sported several piercings and what appeared to be not-so-professional tattoos on her hands and forearms. Whatever.

After providing me with a couple of washcloths “for privacy” and pointing out the call button located on the wall behind me, “for emergencies”, Erma instructs me to “get into the bath” and then, she was gone.

Carefully, I enter the steaming porcelain bathtub and gave it my best effort to think only good thoughts of mineral healing before I was to lose consciousness and die in the hot, hot, hot water.

In the nick of time, Erma reappears and without making eye contact, she places an ice cold washcloth on my forehead “for comfort”she says. Saved.

"She's not so bad after all, " I thought. But then, without warning, Erma cavalierly hands me a large cup of hot spring water “drink this,” she croaks. She is then nothing more than but a memory.

Putting that cup to my lips would have for certain been the kiss of death. I poured the contents into my bath water and placed the cup on the table beside me. She would never know.

Soon, Erma returned and with squinty, mascara smeared eyes, she announced her plan to "exfoliate" my arms. legs and back.

I was scared.

It was at that moment I felt the need to become friends with Erma.

...to be continued. Eureka Springs
Lake Catherine State Park

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