Tuesday, January 30, 2007

9-11-2001.………Bavagna, Italy

In September of 2001 my friend Douglas and I were headed for a month’s stay in Italy. He was an architect so it was a great treat for me to be able to tap into his expertise. He was also not at all interested in expensive hotels & over-priced restaurants...so we were well matched. I had read an informative book entitled “Lodging In Italy’s Monasteries” and realized we could afford a month’s stay, instead of our proposed two weeks, by utilizing their services & traveling by public transportation.

This sounded great to Douglas and he was happy to have me do all the arranging…which I thoroughly enjoyed. I made reservations at seven Monasteries (located in Rome, Orvieto, Bavagna, Gubbio, Cortona, Florence and Venice).

Three days in Rome and two in Orvieto were filled with treasures and views that I had only imagined. The sixth day, which was Sept. 10th, found us in the small town of Bavagna. This is a charming town with 2 small piazzas tucked in between ancient buildings & churches.

We went to Assisi the next day and it was approximately 4:30 in the afternoon when we returned to Bavagna. The first inkling that something was wrong was when the few townspeople who were in the Piazza called to us and pointed to the little bar/coffee shop/ice cream parlor, insisting that we go there. The shop boasted the only TV in the square and it was just recording the horrific events of 9-11.

I can hardly put into words how this affected me. I felt totally shocked and helpless. A nice couple from Canada took us to their hotel and we tried to make calls to our family members in the U.S., but it would be 4 days before we could get through. When we left them and returned to the piazza a nun was waiting for us. She was probably from the monastery where we were staying although I didn’t recognize her. She motioned us to follow her and led the way to an ancient church in the center of the town. She unlocked the side door and beckoned us to enter.

The interior of the church was cool and musty and we were completely alone. It didn’t seem to matter that neither Douglas nor I practiced any type of formal religion. We sat quietly absorbing the atmosphere, each lost in our own thoughts, and in about an hour the little nun came back. We tried to show our appreciation although we knew very little Italian and it was hard to speak without crying. She kept nodding her head to show that she understood and then gave Douglas a pat on the back and me a warm hug.

That day comes back to haunt me, as I know it does for so many people. It always makes me remember the compassion and love that were shown to us...not only by the townspeople of Bavagna, but from all the Italians that we encountered during our month’s stay in their wonderful country.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


“Hey, diddle, diddle…the cat and the fiddle…and the cow jumped over the moon. The little dog laughed to see such sport...and the dish ran away with the spoon.”

That’s one of the oldest, and often misquoted, Mother Goose rhymes and I used it as the basis for this wall mural that I painted a few years back. It was a fun project and the parents of the yet-to-be-born baby were happy with their new nursery.

I, however, couldn’t get that silly rhyme out of my head. I would be working on something entirely different and it would come back to haunt me. What did it mean? Where had it come from and who was the imaginative person who wrote it? I kept thinking that if I were a foreigner just learning to speak English I would be completely baffled by that jingle.

I decided to do a little research and, bless the internet, I came up with some interesting ideas as to the origin of that rhyme. The one that seemed to be most plausible was from Wikipedia and I quote: “It is likely that this poem is a satire of a scandal during the time of Queen Elizabeth I. The cat is Elizabeth and the dog is Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whom she once referred to as her ‘lap dog’. It is also speculated that the ‘dish’ is a server at the royal court, whereas the ‘spoon’ referred to the taste-tester.”

Interesting stuff...except where does the cow come in and why is it jumping over a moon? I guess I’ll go to my grave pondering these earth-shaking questions. I did, however, find a version of this poem that my animal-loving friends will relate to, so I will close with that:

“Hey, diddle, diddle, the cat did a piddle...all over the kitchen floor. The little dog laughed to see such a mess...so the cat did a little bit more.”

Friday, January 26, 2007

Whiling away the hours in a USED-BOOK Shop

“Barnes & Noble” and “Borders Books” are modern, efficient and upscale . The personnel are trained to anticipate your every need and the shelves are filled to overflowing. The atmosphere is cool and the latte is hot. What more could you ask for?

“Lots”, say I, as I head off to the nearest independent used-book shop. I love these stores, even if they are hard to locate...often tucked down a side street or in the poorer part of town.

Perhaps the thing that I like the most is that these small book stores are anything but impersonal. Their owners are diverse and of different ages & genders, but they have one thing in common. They have a passion for books and they pass this along to their customers. I love to ask the custodians for their recommend-ations. This usually opens up a conversation that lasts for hours and gives me a new list of authors to choose from.

Used-book stores come in many varieties. Some are dingy and completely disorganized with books still in cartons, waiting to be shelved. Others are quaint and cozy and have the feel of your grandfather’s library. But, regardless of the ambience, you can rely on two things...that you will be left alone to browse to your heart’s content and that you will leave with a bag full of books at bargain prices.

I think the most unusual store of this sort that I ever visited was the “Parnassus Book Service” in Yarmouthport on Cape Cod. It is located in a three-story 1840 building that was formerly a general store. The aisles are crammed with stacks of books that reach all the way to the tin ceiling but there is a general attempt at organization.

The first section of the store has new books but it’s in the inner recesses where you will find the “treasures”. I spent the better part of a day rummaging through the three floors and even found an area replete with portfolios of posters, prints and maps.

But, the thing that really impressed me about “Parnassus” was the outdoor book stall attached to one side of the building and protected from the weather by a small roof and two rudimentary walls. The shelves are packed with all types of books and the stall is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and works on the honor system. You simply choose your books, tally up the cost and leave the money in the mail slot !

Now, that’s MY kind of bookstore.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My Grandmother’s Glass-plate Photographs, 1899

Photography was a cumbersome business in my Grandmother’s day, but this did not dampen her enthusiasm. She loved the art of taking pictures and she was very adept at it.

Around 1885 the gelatin dry plate glass negative was introduced. It replaced the wet plates that were not only messy but actually dangerous to the user. And, best of all, the dry plates were made in a factory, came in a box, and could be stored for months either before or after exposure.

These plates went into a light-proof holder that fit into the back of the camera which was placed on a tripod. The subject would be checked through a view finder and then a black cloth tent would be draped over the camera and the photographer to keep out light. The cover of the plate holder would be removed, as well as the lens cap. This would allow light to enter for exposure.

The key to good photography then was knowing the exact time needed to get the correct exposure. This could be anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes and live subjects would have to retain their pose for that length of time. This could explain why so many family portraits of that day seem stiff and unfriendly.

My Grandmother also developed and printed all of her pictures. She continued to do this even when George Eastman brought out his first Kodak camera in 1889 using flexible roll film. She was a purist and believed in having control over her technique from start to finish.

My family is lucky to have retained many of my grandmother’s glass negatives and we’ve been able to make prints from them. The little girl in the picture is her daughter, my mother. She and her sister were favorite subjects, as were landscapes, structures and, of course, the formal family portraits.

I wonder what my grandmother’s reaction would be to the age of technology that we live in today? She was still marveling over the invention of the (now obsolete) Polaroid camera when she passed away in the 1960’s !

Monday, January 22, 2007

“SNOWFLAKES”….No two are alike

In 1997 I had been widowed for 7 years and was still working full time as a secretary in our local Emergency Department. My husband had been in his own business, in poor health and unable to get medical insurance, so my job, (complete with benefits) had been a necessity. The job took little in the way of intellect but it was a challenging and exciting place to work and I had spent the past 19 years there.

After Dick died in 1990 I made some reassessments and some big changes. I refinanced my house and put myself on a stringent budget and life went forward. Now it was 1997 and I could feel myself getting restless and out of sorts, both at work and in my life in general. My good friend, Bonnie, (who is also my AA sponsor) saw this in me before I did and she suggested that we talk about it. We spent a day walking in the woods and talking.

With a little prodding from Bonnie I came to realize that what I really wanted to do was cut back on work but I didn’t see how this was possible. She asked me what I would like to do and I told her that I loved to decorative-paint furniture and wall murals but I didn’t have the confidence to make that plunge.

Now, Bonnie is one who never takes “no” for an answer and, before I knew it, we’d mapped out a plan. I would talk to the boss and see if I could negotiate a part-time work deal…and then I would start my own business!! My house would be paid off early in 2001 and then I could afford to retire completely. It would be tight for the next few years but it was do-able.

Looking back on it now I am in awe that I actually had the guts to take the risk. I decided to call my business “Snowflakes, Custom Designs”...based on the fact that all pieces would be one of a kind and “no two were alike”. I had a lot of furniture in my house that I had decoratively hand painted, (as well as wall murals), so I used those as samples and, before I could reconsider, I was off and running. I have never thought of myself as a "real" artist but I do have a good sense of design and that is about 80% of the finished product. You can see some of the pieces I've done in the picture above.

The “powers-to-be” in the ER were thrilled when I offered to work every weekend since that’s the hardest time to cover with reliable help and I was able to keep my benefits because of the longevity of my service with the hospital. It was a win-win situation for everyone.

I can’t say that I’ve set the world on fire with my creativity, but it’s been a lot of fun and I never know what will come next. Just this past weekend I painted a wall mural, (a scene of Tuscany), in a restaurant in Southern Pines. Tomorrow??? Who knows...but, whatever it is, it will be “one-of-a-kind”.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

“Aunt Bee” and “Opie” in Pinehurst, NC 1988

From 1960 to 1968 “The Andy Griffith” show dominated the TV scene. Who can forget the hilarious antics of Sheriff Andy Taylor and his deputy Barney Fife? How many of us felt like we were sitting in Aunt Bee’s kitchen as she dished out apple pie and common sense to little Opie? And what about poor Otis, the town drunk? We knew he’d always have a warm cell where he could “sleep it off.”

The show was set in the fictitious town of Mayberry, NC and it is interesting to note that “Aunt Bee”, Frances Bavier, bought a home in the small town of Siler City, North Carolina, in 1972. This rural area and it’s people, in that day, were very reminiscent of Mayberry. Frances was to live there until her death in 1989.

In 1988 “Aunt Bee” suffered some medical problems that were serious enough to have her hospitalized for about 6 days, and the hospital that she chose was the one I worked in, Moore Regional Hosp. in Pinehurst, NC. I never saw her but I did hear that she was a difficult and demanding patient. This was no surprise since I had read that her co-workers thought of her in the same way.

The one member of the cast who seemed to be able to get along with her was Ron Howard, (“Opie”). Rumor had it that he was in the Pinehurst area and, sure enough, he showed up one morning at our desk in the ER. Of course we didn’t tell him that he’d come in the wrong entrance !

One of the girls asked him for an autograph and he promised to bring in a stock photo with his signature the next day. He was as good as his word…so I actually saw him twice. I think he was just there for those two days but the nurses reported that his visit was a great boon for them. He was able to calm “Aunt Bee” and she became a much more pliant patient.

Looking back on this memory I can’t help but see the irony. Here was “little Opie” turning the tables on his old “Aunt Bee”. It was his turn to dish out just what she needed... common sense and a big helping of love.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

ART BUCHWALD, 10/20/25 - 1/17/07

I seldom cry when a celebrity dies. Their lives seem so distant from mine and I have a hard time connecting. But today when I heard of the death of Art Buchwald it felt like I’d lost a family member. Art Buchwald was a great favorite of my husband and mine and we’d often read his column or repeat one of his many humorous quips to each other.

I was saddened in 2005 when I heard how sick Art was. It certainly sounded like he’d been given a death sentence. I watched in fascination and awe as he fought against his disease, which entailed dialysis for a failing kidney. He was put in a Hospice and given a few months to live; but, he decided this was unacceptable and made the decision to go home and let nature take it’s course.

He returned to his home on Martha’s Vineyard, near Cape Cod in Massachusetts and by June 2006 his kidneys started to work on their own without the aid of dialysis. He took this as a sign and decided to go full steam ahead...his “last hurrah”, as he called it.

One of his greatest accomplishments was the memorial service that he held for himself...WITH HIMSELF PRESENT ! His many friends read their eulogies and he critiqued them amid much laughter and a few tears. He also spent those last months writing a book entitled, “Too Soon To Say Goodbye”, chronicling the events of his last days.

Art Buchwald died last night. His humor and his down-to-earth outlook on life will forever be available in his writings...but his gravely voice and distinctive laugh will be greatly missed. He was an inspiration to us all.

Sleep well, Art Buchwald, you deserve only the best.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

2001...at the MERCATO CENTRALE, Florence, Italy

In 2001 my friend Douglas and I spent a week in Florence, Italy. On one of those days we decided to go our separate ways. This meant that I could do exactly what I wanted and my choice was to spend the day wandering the streets of the city. It would be both inexpensive and healthy.

I started my walk around 7am, after a light breakfast, (hard roll & black coffee) . I had no destination in mind and was going slowly because I didn’t want to miss a thing. Every store window seemed to be more appealing than the one before. The shops were open and the city was alive and vibrating with energy. (This would wind down at 2pm when they closed for a two hour “rest”.)

About 9:30 I found myself at the famous San Lorenzo street market. This is a seemingly endless conglomeration of souvenir carts and stalls, most of them under colorful tents, with sellers hawking their wares. They literally bombard the buyer and I was not in the mood for this so when I saw a group of shoppers enter
a large building I decided to follow them.

With surprise and delight I realized that I had found my way to the famous indoor Mercato Centrale food market. From all that I’d read this is a “must see” when you are in Florence, but it was of no interest to Douglas. Now I was here and I could take all the time I wanted to savor the atmosphere and the aromas.

The market is a huge, open expanse, with hundreds of individual stands displaying fresh foods as works of art. The main floor is devoted to meat, cheeses and dry goods but it was the upstairs that took my breath away. This area consists solely of fresh fruits and vegetables…a literal cornucopia of colors, shapes and sizes for the shoppers consideration.

I watched with delight as the local women bargained for their daily groceries. The good natured bantering was carried on with laughter and lots of gesturing and I joined in the fun. I knew that I couldn’t carry much because I still had a long walk ahead, but I finally bought a large bag of the most delicious dried apricots that I’ve ever eaten.

It was well past noon when I left the market and I continued my stroll through the streets of Florence. It didn’t concern me that I’d had no lunch because I had that wonderful bag of apricots & by 2pm I’d eaten most of them. All of a sudden my stomach gave a lurch and I thought, “Oh, no, what have I done? I might as well have been eating prunes!”

I won’t go into the sordid details but I was getting a bit panicky. I realized that all the shops were closed & I had no choice but to hail a cab and, luckily, he did get me back to my room “in time”. I realized that my inexpensive day and my leisurely walk were over and I was (literally) too “pooped” to go back out again.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


I believe that all people at one time or another suffer from the guilt of survival. “That could have been me” we say, when we lose a friend to a strange accident. Or, “Why am I alive and well?” as we watch a loved one suffer and die at a young age.

“Survival Guilt” is the type of remorse felt by people who manage to survive while their friends or loved ones do not. The events that take their lives do not have to be traumatic. They can be the result of a long illness or even old age. The common denominator, however, is that the survivor feels a tremendous guilt at being able to get on with their life. It can be summed up by: “why am I the lucky one?”

When my husband died at the young age of 59 it was the result of a lifelong illness. He was a brittle Type 1 diabetic &, although the death certificate read “congestive heart failure” it was the side effects of the diabetes that killed him. When this happened I felt shock, disbelief, anger and sorrow, but overriding it all was an ominous feeling of guilt. I kept thinking how unfair it was that I would be here to enjoy all the milestones of the family that we had created...but Dick would not.

I was going through my own adjustments before he died. I had joined Alcoholics Anonymous 15 months earlier and I no longer had the crutch of alcohol to help me forget. This proved to be a blessing in disguise. “Forgetting” would have been the worst thing I could have done.

With the help of my sponsor and the kind people in AA I was able to face the loss and to experience all the emotions but not have them overwhelm me. I learned to work through the pain & adapt to the loss. It took time but slowly the confusion & turmoil faded and I was able to put aside the guilt that had been plaguing me.

I still felt that I’d let Dick down and one night, while sitting at the table in my kitchen, I closed my eyes and “talked” to him. I told him that I loved him and that I hoped he was in a place of peace and finally free of pain and disease. I was going to ask him to forgive me for the things I hadn’t done for him but I was stopped in mid-sentence.

I felt a breeze on the back of my neck and then something brushed by my left shoulder. My eyes flew open and I blurted out, “Dick, is that you?” Of course no one was there but I felt a sense of comfort that I had never felt before and I knew that I had been absolved and that all was right in my world.

This is a true story, exactly as it happened to me. I am not a religious person but I do believe there is a type of higher power out there. It’s way beyond my comprehension but there is no doubt in my mind that it was with me that night in my kitchen.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Solving crossword puzzles just might be the world’s most popular pastime. Kings and ditch diggers alike put pencil to paper daily as they fill in those little squares in search of a solution.

The passion for word games dates to the Greeks of the 6th century and acrostics have been around since the days of the Romans; but, the actual crossword puzzle that we know today was introduced in 1913. It was invented in England and once it crossed the ocean to our shores that was “all she wrote”. The obsession had begun and it spread like wildfire.

I’ve found, in my own case, that a puzzle a day keeps the boredom at bay. That, and a good book, are my daily companions and I’d be lost without them. But there are many people who could care less and you can spot them easily. They are the ones who give a loud, disgusted sigh when a “puzzler” calls out, “5 letters starting with A meaning sour.” For lovers of crossword puzzles that is just something we do but it really annoys the people who don’t care for them. I try to keep my enthusiasm checked if I find myself in their presence.

My father’s favorite Sunday activity was to solve the New York Times puzzle so I grew up in this atmosphere. He considered this a family project and would include us all in his search for just the right word. It was great fun and we all celebrated when another week’s puzzle had been solved.

Recently I came across this little poem written in the 1920’s and it gave me a chuckle because I often find my head filled with words from the crosswords that I’m working on.

“Anger, ire, temper, rage !
Era, epoch, eon, age !
Do, re, me and fa, so, la,
Egyptian sun god, Ra, Ra, Ra !”

I was bitten by the “crossword bug” a long time ago and it has only increased in intensity over the years, so I guess I will go to my grave calling out clues. How about this one? “Two small words in 6 letters, starting with T and ending with D, meaning Finale ?”

T _ _ _ _ D

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My “I Hate to Exercise” Exercises

For the past 70-some years I’ve tried to pass myself off as an active, “sporty” type of person. If the truth be known my favorite “activity” is reading a good book while curled up in an overstuffed arm chair.

When I retired in 2001 I realized that I would have to face this problem head on. I could very easily see myself turning into a fat couch potato. There were 2 things that I had never done well & they were: 1) sticking to a healthy eating pattern and 2) keeping a regular exercise regimen. My intentions were always good but the follow-through was atrocious.

It was at this time that a good friend suggested Tai Chi and she and I attended a few classes. I didn’t stick with it but I was very impressed with the warm-up movements. These are 18 exercises that are designed to relax and tone all the major joints in the body. I realized that I had finally found an exercise regimen that I could stick to. During the last 5 years I have had an operation and been sick a few times but I have always kept up with my exercise plan.

It takes me about 15 minutes each morning, and, although they are deceptively simple, these basic exercises have proved to be remarkably beneficial. From a standing position I rotate my neck (right, then left), raise and lower my shoulders, shake my hands, “paint the wall”, “circle the moon“...front and back, “play the accordion”, “swim breast-stroke on land”, circle hips, right & left, touch toes, bend backward, bend side to side, “look back at the moon”, bend legs & circle knees, circle ankles, “sit” on an imaginary chair, rise on toes and finally lift the knees.

Simple, huh? Well, it is for me and now I can’t imagine starting my day without this regimen. On the few occasions that I do miss I can tell it by early afternoon. My back starts to ache and I don’t have my usual energy level...and all of this just because I didn’t devote a few minutes of my precious time to doing what’s good for me!

I’ve checked with physical therapists and they all agree that a “soft” exercise plan like this would be good for anyone, even if you are recovering from an injury or out of shape in general. Any good Tai Chi book will describe the exercises in detail, usually done 12 times per sequence, and you’ll be on your way.

GOOD LUCK and believe me, if I can do it you can too!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

In Loving Memory of RICHARD 4/3/31 to 9/22/90

Many years ago a good friend gave that plaque to my husband and it described him perfectly. He left this earth too early, and with many dreams unfulfilled, but it wasn’t from lack of trying.

Dick was a photographer in New York City when I met him. He had just left “Life” magazine and was starting out on his own. He had a wonderful eye and a very creative bent. He would have made great inroads in that field if he could have persevered, but it entailed a lot of traveling and his health prevented that.

We moved to the country and started a new life. Then in 1978 we made our final move to the Sandhills area of North Carolina. Side effects of the diabetes that was to plague Dick’s life began to surface and he underwent a triple heart bypass in 1980. At that time “they” told him he’d be lucky to live another 5 years, but he fooled them and he thoroughly enjoyed doing it! He worked hard at staying alive. He loved life and he met each challenge head on. He was a fighter, my Richard.

He was a tough man and not always the easiest to live with because he made hard choices...the old-fashioned kind like right over wrong and good over bad...and he expected those near him to do the same. There were few gray areas in Dick’s world, but he felt deeply and he was strangely gentle in his toughness.

His avocation was teaching. In the early ‘70’s he was a founding member of the East Clinton Rescue Squad in NY and this was the basis for his life-long association and love of rescue work. He became an EMT instructor and then an Instructor-trainer. Even in death he continued to teach, since he donated his entire body to the scientific research department of UNC.

In June of 1989 Dick made his most courageous decision. He knew that his time was getting short and he did not want his children to be left with an alcoholic mother and all that it would entail. I was very much in denial and probably would never have admitted to needing help if they had not forced the issue.

Interventions don’t always go so well and they were taking a big chance…but it paid off. I was gone for a month but when I came home I had started the long trek back to sobriety and I have not veered from the path. That was more than 17 years ago and hardly a day passes that I don’t thank Dick for the sacrifice he made.

Sickness robbed Richard of a long life but it did not rob him of the love and respect of his family and fellow man.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

My “BRECK GIRL” Adventure … 1958

I’ve never been a blond and I don’t think I’ve ever fit the image of the “girl next door” but I did have a “BRECK GIRL” experience in 1958. My husband (of just a few months) and I were living in New York City and we’d been invited to the wedding of the daughter of one of his clients, an Argentine diplomat.

Shelia was his only daughter and, although she was somewhat of a tomboy, I knew that she would bow to her father’s wishes and that the wedding would be a very posh affair. I mentioned to Dick that I felt like a frump and that I wished I could look like one of those fabulous Breck girls that were all the rage then.

I had very long hair at that point and I would usually just pull it back in a sort of ponytail and let it fall down my back. One day, as I was looking in the mirror and trying to make up my mind how to style my hair for the wedding, I spied Dick coming through the door. He had a big grin on his face and an envelope in his hand.

“A gift for my bride”, he said and I couldn’t wait to see what it was. “Oh, my gosh,” I cried as I realized that it was a certificate for a ½ day at the Breck Salon on Fifth Avenue. This was a completely new experience for me. I even had to call one of my wealthier friends for her advice on who to tip and how much !

I made the appointment for just one day before the wedding and when I got there I told them to do whatever they wanted. This was my first experience to get a complete head-to-toe work-over and when I was finished I hardly dared to move. All 20 of my nails were shining with pink polish, my cheeks and my lips were glossy and my HAIR … I couldn’t believe what they had done.

Since I was not a blond and did not have the “all American girl” look they decided to concentrate on my long hair. They clipped just a small amount off the ends and the rest they fashioned in a combination beehive and bouffant style. You can see the results in the picture above…taken with Sheila.

I felt extremely elegant and could hardly wait to get home to show Dick. I will say, in his defense, that he tried very hard not to laugh. He told me that he was glad that I was happy with the results and that he hoped it would stay that way until after the wedding. This proved to be easier said than done. I wrapped my head in a scarf that night and slept (or tried to sleep) with a small pillow under my neck so that I wouldn’t flatten the new “do”.

I was a tired, but fashionable, spectator the next day at the wedding. Shelia was a lovely bride and the whole affair was just as elegant as I had expected. I held my head high (did I have a choice?) and I did make it through the festivities which included dancing and a formal dinner.

Finally, Dick and I said our goodbyes and as soon as we reached the street it started to pour. Down came the rain and down came my beehive ! Dick laughed and said, “welcome back” as I shook my hair loose. We followed this with our own corny version of Gene Kelly’s “Singing in the Rain”. A perfect ending for a perfect day !

Thursday, January 04, 2007

PIG PICKIN’ Time………… Y’all come !

There are many stories that I could tell about my 23 years working in the Emergency Room of our local hospital...but this is one of my favorites.

I had been there less that 6 months when an ambulance crew brought in a farmer who had been severely attacked by one of his domestic pigs. He was suffering from a profusion of bites as well as a great deal of blunt trauma; but, perhaps what was suffering most was his ego. He was positively furious that the pig that he’d raised could have turned on him.

Actually he was lucky to be alive and, after his emergency cares were attended to, he was admitted to the hospital. We, in the ER, thought that was the end of it until 3 weeks later when we received an invitation in the mail. The farmer was planning to celebrate his recovery with a good old fashioned Pig Pickin’ and wanted all of us to be his guests.

When I called and told my husband that we were invited to a Pig Pickin’ he said, “What’s that?” and I had to admit that I had no idea. (Remember, we had only been in the south for a short time). All I knew was that everyone told me to be sure to come and to bring a big appetite.

The big day arrived and when Dick and I drove up to the farm we saw a large crowd congregated around a smoking barbecue. A delicious aroma was in the air and I suddenly realized that it was THE PIG who was the guest of honor ! Sure enough, there he was…trussed on a spit and being slowly turned over the hot coals by our friend, the farmer.

I had been to many picnics and outdoor roasts but I’d never seen anything to equal this. Hush Puppies, 2 types of Cole Slaw, baked beans, hot rolls and a barbecue sauce complimented the roast pig which melted in your mouth. Ice cream and watermelon were the dessert items and, all in all, the afternoon was a huge success.

I did feel a little sorry for THE PIG. After all, he was the main attraction but nary an “oink” would he be able to utter. He’d had his say loud and clear on the day he’d turned on his owner

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

1978 …In the ER in NORTH CAROLINA

The late 70’s were very unstable years for many small business owners in New York. We decided that it was time for a move and my husband accepted the offer of a job in Pinehurst, North Carolina. It was early in 1977 when he started that job, but it wasn’t until July of ‘78 that our family was united again. It took that long to sell our house and to make all the arrangements.

This was a huge change for us in many ways. For one thing Dick had not worked for anyone except himself since his days at “Life” magazine. He loved the South and especially Moore County but the job was not as it had been advertised and it wasn’t long before he wanted out. He had a building contractors license from NY state and he transferred that to North Carolina. Once again he was starting out on his own.

Our daughter was a senior in High School and the boys were on their own by now so I decided it was time for me to get a job. I had no idea how hard this would be. After all, I had a BS degree from Boston University and had worked for the last 20 years as general office manager for my husband’s Real Estate and building business, as well as selling properties.

It soon became apparent that no one was interested in a 45 year old Northerner regardless of education or qualifications. I put an application in to the local hospital but heard nothing from them. It wasn’t until 3 months later that I met an ER nurse and she said she thought I would be just what they needed in the emergency room. I had some EMT training and could type and that was all it took.

Sure enough, that’s where I got my job. The pay wasn’t great but it was steady work and it gave us health insurance, which we badly needed. Being an ER secretary was never in my plans but it proved to be a God-send in many ways. I stayed in that job for 23 years and finally retired in 2002.

(The picture is a newspaper clipping of an ad for Coca Cola that ran in our local paper. It was taken in the ER and shows a couple of the Docs and nurses and me in the right lower corner.)