Monday, May 25, 2009


It was December 3, 2000 when I carefully packed my video camera into the over-the-shoulder carrying case and made certain the extra, newly-charged battery was in its appropriate pouch. Extra battery? Check. Extra tapes? Check. Cord, just in case? Check. I was loaded and ready for this extra special event I had been commissioned to document. I have almost always been the designated family historian. My niece is usually my backup, but this was her event and she was going to be, well, very busy and preoccupied with other duties for this one; so I got in my car and made my way toward Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Georgia for this happy and joyous occasion. My youngest niece had finally gone into labor with her first child.

I pulled into the visitors' parking lot and looked up at the big, white building where the event was already in progress without me. I was nervously hoping and praying that all would go well and we would soon have a healthy new addition to the family to dote on and spoil. I grabbed my purse and camera bag and hurried toward the automatic doors at the front entrance, tugging at the camera bag as it fought to slip off my sloped shoulder a hundred times. In the Maternity Ward, I inquired at the nurses' station and was directed to the room in which I could find my niece. She, her husband and my sister were already there and the pacing and fingernail chewing had already begun.

I dutifully documented the birthing room as I entered. A hospital-issue baby crib was on my right as I came through the door. Laying on the soft crib bedding was a baseball cap with "Doctors Hospital" emblazoned across the front. I assumed it was for the new, proud papa. As my lens swept the room it captured the decorator's attempt to fashion a cozy and homey atmosphere in a sterile environment. An oversized stuffed chair occupied one corner near the bed where my niece lay attached to whirring, clicking and beeping machines that monitored her various vital signs. My sister stood next to the bed as I made my way in and they both looked toward me and smiled. My niece's smile was warm, but weary. She had already been in labor for eight hours.

Nurses and doctors made their way in several times to check her vitals and her dilation progress. Things were not progressing as expected. She had dilated to a certain point and hadn't made the progression normally expected, so they gave her Pitocin to speed up the labor. It didn't work as expected. Finally, the doctor came in for another progress check and, after about 18 hours of labor, talked to my niece and her husband about the choices facing them. They could either let things continue for a few more hours and hope for some progress soon, or opt for an unexpected C-Section. The doctor felt the C-Section was the best option, as she did not anticipate any further progress in dilation. She left the room and left my niece and her husband to make the decision in private. It didn't take long for a decision to be reached. A C-Section it would be. It was not quite the birthing experience we were all expecting, but a necessary decision, nonetheless.

The doctor came back into the room a few minutes later and was informed that the C-Section was option A. She turned to my nephew-in-law and asked him if he would be accompanying her into surgery. His face turned ashen as his six-foot frame, draped in hospital cap, gown and booties, backed against the wall. "I'm not going in there!" he said. It was a final decision. My sister turned to my niece and asked her if she would like her to go in with her. "No, Mama," she said, "they only need one patient at a time to deal with." Sis doesn't do blood very well. The last thing they needed to deal with during the surgery was a fainted mother. I asked her if she would like me to go in with her and she said yes. Wow! I was going to go in and witness the birth of my brand new great-nephew or niece from a perspective I was so not anticipating! You see, sonograms had been inconclusive, so we still didn't know if it was a boy or girl.

They came in and did the epidural and whisked her away to prep her for surgery. In the meantime, I had been informed I would not be able to record the birth in the operating room. That was ok with me, as I didn't want to be distracted during the procedure. I was going in to support my niece and help keep her focused and calm. I donned the sexy cap, gown and booties that would clear me for access to the disinfected environment into which I was about to enter. I was nervous and in wonderment at the same time. I had never had children of my own, so I was about to experience childbirth vicariously for the first time in my life.

I watched the entire process in awe. They had my nieces arms splayed from her sides on narrow boards and I grasped her cold, shaking hand as I took in the experience. She was frightened and nervous. This was her first childbirth, too. A doctor moved into my line of sight and I could tell she was pushing down on the baby to force it into the alternate way out they had provided. As quickly as she had moved into my way, she moved back over to the side and I saw a moist head full of black hair come into view over the green surgery drape that rested on my niece's swollen belly. The doctor grasped the infant and raised it high above the belly and the umbilical cord stretched down into places I could not see.

Holding my breath, and forgetting the cold, nervous hand I held in mine I saw my nephew for the first time. "It's a boy, Becky! You have a son!" I said with a choked voice. I know she responded, but to be honest, I couldn't tell you what she said. The new baby boy squalled out for the first time. What a sweet sound!! It was 9:53pm.

He was being held butt-up and I noticed a stream of clear liquid spilling down onto the drape. "Oh! He's peeing!" I said with a laugh. "Are you sure he's peeing?" one of the operating team asked me. "Oh, yes, he's definitely peeing," I responded. One of the nurses began to make notes to indicate the baby's water works seemed to be in proper working order.

They whisked Baby Boy to a corner of the room and began poking and prodding every crevice and body cavity as they put goo in his eyes and syringed his mouth and nose. In the meantime, they began cleaning up my niece and putting her pieces back where they went. I'll spare you the details, *smile*, but I watched it all.

They finally left the room with the baby and my niece was doing well and the relief was apparent on her face, and probably mine, as well. She was a new mother now and would be facing new challenges and responsibilities. I was proud of her. And she had allowed me to experience one of the most awe-inspiring miracles I have ever witnessed in my life. It was an experience that is forever in my heart and one I will never, ever forget.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I got out of bed this morning feeling excited about my new blog and the entry I would write today. I've decided to stay on the theme of memories. As with everyone, I am sure, some of my memories are painful, while some bring soft smiles to my face. Other memories invoke deep and satisfying belly-laughter. They all hold a special place in my heart, so I'd like to share some of them with my readers over the next few days.

In 1971 my dad had just retired from the Army, so we moved to Hazard, Kentucky to be close to my PaPaw (my dad's father). He (my PaPaw) was getting up in age and my dad wanted to spend some quality time with him since he had spent so many years away from the family while globe-hopping in the military. I was a freshman in high school and quite used to moving to new schools, as I had done it my entire life. We moved to Hazard from West Point, New York, where we had lived for five years....and I had quite the New York accent. That made me a little "unique" at HHS.

One day they announced they would be starting up a new B-Team Cheerleader squad for the first time in school history. (If not in school history it had been decades since they'd had one.) All freshman were invited to try out. I decided I would give it a shot. I was very interested in sports and cheering was a "natural" for me. I loved to scream and yell, especially in support of a team. I decided to sign up and then attended the meetings where they taught us all the same cheers we would perform at Try Outs. We also had one cheer we were to choreograph ourselves and would be performing that one, as well. I was petrified and exhilarated at the same time! I had never done anything like that in front of other people before.

The Try Outs at HHS (at least back then) were not a student-body vote format. We were going to be JUDGED! "Holy cow!" I thought, "What have I gotten myself into?" Not only were we going to be judged, but the judges were members of the University of Kentucky cheerleading squad! They are only the collegiate cheerleading squad with the most National Championships in college history! Double holy cow!

There were about 25 girls trying out and only seven were to be picked for the squad, plus two alternates. They kept calling out numbers (we all were assigned numbers) until they finally called out seven numbers (I was one of them) and asked us to perform one of the cheers we had learned for our try out. When we were finished with the cheer, one of the Varsity cheerleaders said, "Congratulations! You are the seven members of our new B-Team Cheerleading squad!"

I couldn't believe I had made it! I was shocked beyond belief! It was one of the most exciting and fun experiences of my life. At the end of the year I tried out for the Varsity squad and got it again. Unfortunately, my parents had decided after try outs that we were going to move to Harlan, Kentucky where my parents are actually from originally. The next year, when I got to James A. Cawood High School, I tried out for cheerleader again there. Their voting was done by the student body and it was basically a popularity contest. Since I was brand new at the school, I didn't get it that time. I never tried out again.

I focused on becoming a leader in the pep club, called the "JACS" Club for James A. Cawood, and by my senior year I was voted in as JACS Club President and charged with the daunting task of planning, coordinating and leading every single pep rally the school had. I had to get in front of the entire student body ALONE and make the pep rallies fun, exciting and LOUD! It was great fun! And it started with my cheerleading at Hazard High School. I cherish those memories.

I learned, about three months ago, that one of the girls I cheered with at Hazard High had recently passed away due to a long illness. I was deeply saddened to hear that news. Carla, you are missed, my friend! You are forever in my memories.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I was on a painful mission on Tuesday, May 19, 2009. As I made my way up Catrons Creek in Harlan County, Kentucky, my uncle sat in the passenger seat next to me and my mother sat behind him in the back seat. A machine that had recently become my uncle's life-line and his primary source for blood-and-brain enriching oxygen sat in the seat next to her. My mission was to get him home and leave my mother there to care for him.

It was a painful undertaking for multiple reasons. My uncle has never been healthy. He has suffered with asthma and other lung-related issues since very early childhood. My mother is around 14 years older than he, so she was very involved with his upbringing. Her relationship with him is closer to mother/son than sister/brother. She has a very strong maternal instinct where he is concerned, and when he became ill enough to require in-home care, Mom was more than willing to be there for him. It meant I would likely not see her for a while. That is painful. What is more painful is the fact that my uncle is ill. It may have been the last time I would get to see him...and *that* is indeed painful to think about. I hope that is not the case.

I rounded the bend on the narrow, rural road that lead to a place that blossomed with memories of bygone years. I hadn't been back home in over three years. As I took the even narrower two-way lane that would only accommodate one vehicle at a time into the bottom referred to as Teetersville, my mind was taken back to when my grandparents were living and I used to visit them in the house that perched precariously on a steep slope at the edge of the main road.

My uncle's single-wide trailer sat in the Teetersville bottom on the lane just behind what used to be my grandparents' home. As I approached his driveway my eyes lifted up and to the left to the spot where the house stood...and by breath was taken away. Instead of seeing the big blue house perched on the side of the road, I saw two men wearing heavy clothing and thick gloves milling around the ruins of a home that no longer existed. They were picking up pieces of what used to be walls and ceiling joists and sheetrock and flooring and tossing them into a pile that would, I assumed, later be hauled away as junk and trash. Wow. I was not expecting that. I could tell my uncle was struggling with it, too.

We got everything settled in at my uncle's house and I sat there for a few minutes not wanting to leave, yet itching to get on the road in order to get the dreaded 7 hour trip home over with. I was already going to be leaving way later than I wanted. We chatted for a bit and I finally gathered my things and made my way out the door and to my car, leaving behind two people I wanted to take home with me. It's hard to live hundreds of miles away from those you love.

In order to keep from getting myself killed while pulling out into traffic on the main road, I decided to go out from the lane at the far end of Teetersville. The two-way lane that would only accommodate one vehicle at a time where I had come into Teetersville was at an odd angle to the main highway and was at a steep incline to boot, so I chose the conservative approach where it was easier to see both ways and less precarious for entering traffic. But this route required going directly past my grandparents' house....the one that no longer existed.

I quickly pulled onto the road with a slight squealing of tires and pointed the car toward the mouth of the "holler," as it is called around here, and the empty hole that once held so many memories. I tried not to look. This was not the sight I wanted to remember. I wanted to remember the house my grandparents were married in front of when he was a strong, handsome 19-year-old and she was a young, pretty girl of only 14. And where so many years later they would remarry in the living room of the same house. Where my grandmother would run a small grocery store and my mother's oldest sister would live and run the same store. Where my older sister would have a huge lighting fixture globe fall from the ceiling onto the bridge of her nose. (Thankfully, she was not seriously hurt and it became a funny family story that has been told for over 35 years since.) Where my grandparents would settle in to live out their final years.

I couldn't help but feel bitter and angry that someone had destroyed that place. I felt my memories had been stolen without my consent. I made my way back to Georgia in a bit of a funk and in a reflective and somewhat depressed state of mind. I thought of how much things had changed in Harlan over the past 21 years since I left for Augusta, Georgia. Things and places so fundamental to my childhood memories that no longer existed. Some were the victims of "progress," while others fell prey to the economic hardship of an Appalachian community so dependent on coal and its fickle, volatile market. A few meeting their demise due to negligence and lack of upkeep or just down-right indifference.

The memory-triggers these buildings and landmarks served as will be missed in my heart and mind. I can only hope I can dredge up the memories by sheer will-power so the treasured remembrances will not fade completely out of my aging and weakening brain. Perhaps I need to sit down some day and make a list of all the places I used to frequent that are no longer there. I think I shall do that someday soon in order to reclaim those stolen memories.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I’ve always dreamed of writing and being a successful writer. I actually started a book back in the early 1980’s when I took a semester of classes at Southeast Community College in Cumberland, Kentucky. (Those are two more projects that went unfinished…an attempt at writing a book and getting a college education.) The book was/is entitled “Mistakes of the Heart.” I got about two-and-a-half chapters finished…barely enough time to establish three main characters. I think it could be a really good book if I ever decide to pen the rest of what’s in my head.

I have a vivid imagination. I have always had one. I remember playing with cars and trucks in the sand behind a house we lived in when my dad was stationed in Denver, Colorado. I made an entire city in that two-by-two square of dirt next to the back door stoop. The two-by-two square next to the neighbor’s stoop was the rest of the world. I traveled daily going nowhere and had a blast doing it. All by my lonesome. Yes, I played with dolls, too. I remember a Tiny Tears Doll with curly auburn hair and vivid blue eyes. I remember I had her when I was just beginning to learn to write my name. I had scrawled a huge P-A-M on both arms and legs in blurry blue ink. Funny, the things you remember when you get old.

So, anyway, I had this English Professor at Southeast. She tried to encourage me to write a book. I made an “A” in her class. She must have liked my writing style. Hey…maybe there *is* something I’m good at, after all. But just how does one overcome this Attention Deficit Disorder I am apparently afflicted with? (I wear a rather copious grin at the moment.) My sister, Debbie, had her for English 101, too. Debbie was a bit put off by the fact that I had managed an “A” under Ms. Carr and she was given a “B” under her tutelage. You see, my sister is quite the type-A personality. A lowly “B” was an underachievement for her. She resented it. (That grin is back.)

When I met and married Hubby and let these aspirations roll off my tongue to him, the nag was on. For the past thirty years he has “encouraged” me to write a book. It only intensified when my professor’s opinion was revealed. He’s gotten so frustrated at times that he has threatened to write his own book just so we can say one of us did it. The problem is, he’s a lot like me. All dreams, no action. He’s always said he wanted to create a comic strip. He loves comedy. He’s one of the best one-liner guys out there. He has a great sense of humor…or “a propensity for jocularity,” as he likes to say. The only thing is, he is better at impromptu comedy. His delivery suffers mightily when he tries to be rehearsed or "formal." But he is a funny, funny guy. It’s made life with him more interesting and fun. I love him.

I got up this morning with a shoulder injury that has my left arm basically incapacitated. I can’t lift my arm without a considerable amount of pain. On a scale of one-to-ten, I’d call it a 9.5. Yeah…it hurts a lot. I guess it’s really not an injury in the true sense of the word. You see, I’ve been having issues with my joints and muscles for several years now. I’ve been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and chronic tendonitis. It makes every-day chores and activities more difficult…and sometimes down-right impossible. Today is one of those days. I was wrestling a shelf off the wall yesterday and that must have been when I hurt my shoulder. I’m really not sure what I did to it or when. I picked up a couple of semi-heavy objects yesterday. I suppose it could have been either one of them, too.

Bottom line is, after yesterday’s shoulder injury and today’s incapacitation; I have come to the conclusion that now is the time to get started on that writing project of mine and a renewed retirement plan. It doesn’t take a lot of strength to sit at the computer and type. Although it is irritating my shoulder some, so be it. I’ll type for a while and rest when I need to. At least I can go at my own pace.

My primary care physician took the giant leap and wrote a book. Now he’s got three or four out there. I got a first-edition signed copy of his first book. It’s kind of special to me now. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve got a signed copy. Doc probably spends close to 12 hours a day at his practice. If he can find time to write a book, I’ve got no excuses regarding having the time to write. All I have to do is spend a little less time watching television or playing video games. I waste a lot of time. I guess I won’t be doing that any more.

Hey, I really don’t have a lot of choice in the matter. Since Hubby and I have been terribly poor financial planners and have pretty much always lived paycheck to paycheck, this is the only retirement plan I can come up with. I guess we will be pretty much sunk if I can’t find an audience that’s interested in these random ponderings. And I figure we aren’t alone in the lack-of-prior-planning department. Who can afford to save these days, anyway? What with gasoline costing over $2.00 a gallon for regular gas and groceries going through the ceiling and job layoffs…how can folks put any money away each week? We’re too busy surviving. That’s why I’ve had to come up with a Plan B.

I’ve decided that the best type of project for me to write is just what I am doing right here. Random reflections of my own thoughts. Hubby has made comments to me in the past about how I can make friends with anyone. “You’d tell your life story to a perfect stranger in the grocery store line!” he has said to me many times. Yes, I love to talk. Maybe by using this strategy I won’t develop writer’s block. I can almost always come up with something to say. The only problem is…will it be something that people will want to read? I guess time will tell and we shall see…and any other cliché along those lines. I’ve reflected on my life and decided I’ve had some unusual experiences to relate. I’m not sure if there is enough material for a good blog, but I’m going to give it the old college try…since I didn’t give college a try. I’m hoping to be able to keep readers interested enough to keep clicking on the website until the end. Since I’m not afraid to tell everyone my life story, who knows? Maybe after this I will be a famous blogger on the internet or something…


Well, writer’s block right off the bat. I guess that is par for the course. I finally made a decision to sit down and do that writing project my husband (I'll just call him "Hubby") has been hounding me to write for thirty years and I sit here for five minutes staring at the computer screen thinking, “Ok…now what?”

My name is Pam and I’ve always been a procrastinator. I’ve also always been someone who never finishes anything. I can be so gung-ho for a project at its inception. Then for some reason the enthusiasm just wanes into non-existence. I must have some sort of inherent flaw. But, then again, maybe I’m just normal. Maybe everyone else has the same sort of feelings I do. Could it be that everyone feels the way I do and some of us give in to it while others resist it?

This blog is probably a doomed project. It will likely suffer the same fate as the myriads of other projects I have undertaken in my 52 years. Gathering dust in a server file somewhere…or in this case, in a never-accessed file on an ancient hard-drive. I’m not sure if I can think of many things at which I have been successful. I started to say my marriage, but I can’t say I feel I’m successful at that, either. Hubby seems to think I’m a good wife, but I don’t agree. I’ve been told that if he thinks I’m a good wife then I must be one. He is the ultimate judge on that, isn’t he? If he is happy with me, isn’t that all that matters? I say not. I think I could be so much better. But then, perfectionism is another inherent flaw I seem to possess. You will probably find this out in more detail, should you choose to continue reading these random reflections.