Author: JoAnn


Lets Play Fetch?


 My pet Paisley loves to play fetch with me. What makes that so unique, you say? Well, maybe it’s because Paisley is my cat.  

I have owned cats my entire life. Had them as far back as my 58 years of memory can go. Not once, in all the cats loved, has one ever played fetch with me. 

Paisley has never been interested in actual toys. I guess you could say she prefers homemade ones over store bought. Like pieces of plastic peeled from a package, a cotton swab, button, or the plastic ring that is stripped from a milk jug. Unfortunately, she also loves rubber bands and thread. But I have prohibited those from her possession as she tried to ingest them.  

Paisley can play for 30 minutes or more with whatever tickles her fancy. All I have to say is, “Bring it to Mommy”, and the game of fetch is on. I will take the object of her affection, flick it with my finger to make it fly across the room, and she’s off, stalking and then catching it like her prey, only to return it to my lap for the fun to be repeated. I have been jolted awake many times in the middle of the night with Paisley pawing at me because she has brought me a “toy” and wanted me to play fetch with her. Yes, it’s adorable she does that, but not before dawn! Sometimes, I can kindly tell her mommy is sleeping and she’ll leave me alone. Sometimes I sleep too soundly, and I awake to find several of her toys beside my pillow. Poor baby tried more than once and couldn’t get me to play. 

I’ve heard many times from non-cat enthusiasts that the reason they don’t like cats is that they are boring or stupid. They aren’t like dogs; they say. Well, I believe people make such comments because they have never had a proper relationship with a cat. They have never taken a kitten, cared for it, watched it grow, learned its personality, interacted with it, or loved it. They really don’t know about cats. Very sad.

I am a HUGE cat fan, as you can tell. It would be wonderful if more people, who think they dislike cats, would educate themselves and give a cat a real try. I believe many would fall in love with them, just as I have. There is such an enormous need for adoptive parents for thousands of homeless cats all over the United States. It’s devastating!  

It is really quite easy to own a cat. They enjoy their alone time. Thus, they do not need the constant attention that a dog requires and most do not suffer from any form of separation anxiety like a dog. They do not need to be walked or go potty outside. In fact, they can live their entire lives only indoors, healthy both physically and mentally. This lowers their need for vet visits. My Paisley has been spayed and vaccinated. Other than that, she has never needed a vet’s care. She is the picture of a healthy kitty.  

The only downside to having a cat is the litter box. They must go to the bathroom somewhere, right? I used to hate the litter box. Keeping it clean was a chore. That is no longer the case. The type of litter boxes available, and the technology with the actual litter, has made the job not only very simple, but completely odorless. I use a litter that has no smell or dust yet absorbs all odors. It’s amazing compared to the kitty litter I used for my cats 20 years ago.  

So there really is no excuse anymore not to give a kitty in need a home. Try it. You may just fall in love and end up with a beautiful, unique cat like I did. My Paisley is my little fetching buddy, and I can’t imagine my home without her!         


Take Me Away


Does anyone remember the old bath oil bead commercial with a lady in a bathtub and the jingle that said, “Take me away!”? It boasted that taking a soothing soak in their product would relieve the stresses of everyday life. Back then I lived in an older home with an authentic cast iron claw-foot tub. I went through boxes of those bath oil beads! It really relieved stress from my busy day and relaxed my achy muscles.  

Not so many people have a big tub anymore to take a lavish bath. They barely have time for a quick shower. Even with all the advances in technology we have available to us, I think people are busier and more stressed now than they have ever been.  

So, what do you do when you need to be taken away from the stresses of daily life? I pondered that question after seeing this post on social media the other day. It asked the question; Who wants to shut off their phone, drive to the beach, forget everything, and just listen to the waves crashing? I, like millions of other people, would love to do just that. In fact, it would be at the top of my list of the best ways to relieve stress.  

When I lived near the ocean, a walk on the beach was my favorite thing to do. The moment my feet hit the sand, life’s stresses seemed to melt away. The calling of the water birds drew me far away from the world. If I could live at the beach, I would. But life sent me to Tennessee, where the ocean is only a fond memory. So, what do I do now? I can recall fond memories of the ocean. Our minds are beautiful things. All we have to do is close our eyes, be quiet in the moment, and we can plant ourselves anywhere we want to be. 

That’s one way I can take myself away from the daily grind. There are many others. Talking on the phone to one of my grown daughters is another. Paying more attention to what is going on in their lives instead of my own, even if it is only for the length of a phone call.  

I’d have to say my most favorite thing to do since moving to Tennessee is to simply take a long drive in the country. I live in a very rural area made up of many small towns and farming communities. Any direction I go, I am driving with countryside all around me. Back roads are our only roads, and I for one am very appreciative. Driving to my heart’s content, enjoying the sunshine and nature at its finest. If I pick the right time of day, there is usually zero traffic. I adore it!  

I wouldn’t be truthful if I said I didn’t miss that big ole claw-foot bathtub. We just have to make the best of what we’ve got. Maybe someday I will live near the beach again, or by a stream in the mountains, and maybe I’ll have a big ole tub in which to soak. But until then, I will continue “getting away” in whatever way seems to help. I hope you do too.   


That One in A Lifetime


For as long as I can remember, I have not made friends easily. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m an introvert by nature. But the few friends that I made in my lifetime have been good ones. I consider myself blessed to remain friends with girls whom I went to elementary school. There were five of us and we all met in first grade. Memories of our little gang huddled up at recess, gossiping about the cutest boy in class, or comparing our newest outfits, remain cherished in my heart. To this day, I stay in touch with each of them through social media. If there is one good thing that has come from Facebook, it is finding old friends to reminisce about the good old days. 

Many people will walk through our lives. Few will make a lasting impression, even fewer will become a loyal friend. But even more rare is someone who will be the friend that changes your life forever. I believe most of us never find someone so unique. I can proudly say that I did, and her name was Kathy Sue.

An older cousin of mine introduced me to his friend Kathy when I was around 15, and she was 19. We instantly hit it off as friends. She was intrigued about my life in another state, and I was in awe of her for many reasons. Kathy stood a mere 4’10” and was pretty as a doll with crystal blue eyes and long brown hair. Every guy would turn his head when she entered a room. She had a dazzling smile and the personality to match. She was also very intelligent, attended college, and had a good job.  She was everything that I hoped to be someday.  The maturity difference between us seemed invisible.  We got along great and had a lot of fun together.

As I got older, we became closer.  Our maturity levels eventually matched up and we were the best of friends.  I lived in Virginia, and she in Tennessee.  I visited TN several times a year, as that was where I spent my childhood.  Kathy would drop everything, take vacation days from work, and spend every moment with me when I visited.  She would make me feel like I was having a red carpet rolled out for me.  Everything we did, she would let it be my choice because I was her guest.  I never had a family member treat me so well, much less a friend.  She was the definition of a true friend.  

Years went by and I got married and had children.  Kathy had bad luck in relationships and remained single.  But no matter when I visited Tennessee, she would be there, rolling out that red carpet, now for me and my kids.  She never wavered in her friendship, showing love and support to me and my family no matter how different our life paths had become.  We still had so much fun when we were together.  

Over the years, I nicknamed Kathy Sue “my little angel”. No matter where my life took me, she was always waiting in the wings with a smile and positive attitude, always there to listen, and offer loving words of advice. She had the patience of a saint and a heart of pure gold. She is the only person I have ever known in my 58 years, that never made me feel a negative emotion. Not once!

Mother’s Day 1999, I took a trip to TN and spent most of my long weekend with Kathy. We celebrated my upcoming birthday and had a wonderful time. We laughed, had long talks catching up on each other’s lives, stayed out till way past our bedtimes, and soaked in as much friendship as we could. The last night we visited, I remember Kathy saying to me she didn’t want to say goodbye. That she didn’t want me to leave, and that it would be too long before she could see me again. I too felt sad and wished that I could take my precious friend back to Virginia with me. We promised to write each other letters, as we had been doing for over 20 years. Little did I realize, that would be the last time I would see my angelic friend.

Two weeks later, after running errands all day, I returned home and found my oldest daughter Robin waiting for me. She had a strange look on her face and I immediately knew something was wrong. She told me to call her dad, that it was very important. She also said, don’t listen to the answering machine. What in the world was going on? She wouldn’t tell me, just kept saying “call dad”. When I called my husband at work, he told me to sit down. He began explaining that someone had left a message on our home answering machine and my friend Kathy was killed that morning in a head on collision on her way to work (the same route she had taken every morning for over 10 years).

It couldn’t be true. I kept asking him, are you sure it’s “My Kathy”? Unfortunately, there was no mistake.

I will always be grateful for that last trip to visit my dear Kathy. I remember her often with great fondness and gratitude. When I think of Kathy Sue, I can’t help but think of how special it was that God picked me to be her friend. She was a priceless gem, and it was an honor to have known her.  

It’s been 21 years since my friend Kathy left this earth.  I still think of her often, as she was a once in a lifetime kind of friend.  I know I will never find another friend like her.  They are much too rare.  I believe the two of us will be reunited some day and the thought of that makes me smile.

If you happen to have a friend as special to you as my Kathy was to me, my hopes are you appreciate them and never take them for granted.  Let them know often how important they are to you.  It really is true that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. . . . JoAnn 


Biscuits and Gravy


                         

Sometimes you just need comfort food! Food like your mama or grandma made for you as a kid. Food from a favorite restaurant, or junk food from a gas station. Anyone who likes food has a favorite or two. On a stressful day, or even a cold day, certain foods bring comfort. Just like ice cream hits a special spot on a Summer day, hot soup warms you to your toes on a Winter day.

There is no better comfort food in the world than one that brings back fond memories of special days. Why do you think the traditional Thanksgiving dinner is such a favorite? I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t want the same dinner with all the fixings every year.  It brings them pure joy.  

My absolute favorite comfort food is one my mama made us almost every weekend.  Usually on Sunday morning.  It’s gravy and biscuits.  Any time I miss my mama, I get a craving for her biscuits and gravy.  Her creamy gravy, made from a bacon dripping roux, and rich milk, was smooth as silk.  She always added extra black pepper for me.  That hot gravy poured over her light as a feather biscuit, was a meal to die for!  It’s no wonder it was a family favorite.  And no wonder it gives me so much comfort when I am missing those precious days.

I was talking to my daughter Christine this week and somehow the conversation landed on cooking.  She was explaining to me that in Maine, she cannot find the flour or cornmeal that she was used to using here in Tennessee.  Christine is a very good biscuit and cornbread maker, and those are two of her favorite things to bake.  Our conversation then led to gravy and biscuits.  It turns out that is also her favorite meal.  A girl after my own heart!

Gravy and biscuits are certainly not on my weekly menu as it was growing up, but I do indulge now and then.  A couple of weeks ago, with the mornings turning cold, I had a hankering for my mama’s breakfast.  I found a new bacon brand that is, in my opinion, the best I’ve ever tasted.  I saved the drippings and made plans to make my mama’s gravy.  I decided to just use store bought biscuits, as I could never duplicate my mama’s anyway.  But I made the gravy just like she always did.  It was wonderful!  As I ate that meal, even the aroma of the rich, peppery gravy, brought me back to sitting around the table with my parents and siblings.  It not only warmed me up on a chilly morning, but it also filled my tummy and heart with the love I felt way back then.  Now that is comfort food at its best!


Hello Doc


A while back I had an appointment for a regular checkup with my doctor.  Every 3 months I go in for blood work, refills on my medications, and a general check on everything going on with my body and mind.  Having Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Thyroid, and Type 2 Diabetes, it’s important for me to stay on top of things.  All of my adult life has been filled with regular and not so regular medical appointments.  As you can guess, that doesn’t mean I like it!

Being sick is nothing new to me.  I was a sickly child in my younger years.  Back in the 1960s, little was known about the autoimmune diseases I would later be diagnosed with in my twenties.  I absolutely hated going to the doctor as a child.  Most children from my era will remember that almost every doctor’s appointment would end with a shot!  I would either get one for infection or an inoculation.  I felt like a human pincushion as a kid.  And so, began my life- long dread for doctor appointments, and my sometimes- overwhelming anxiety to keep them.

When I was around 19, I remember a friend of mine encouraging me to visit a doctor for a chronic sore throat.  She made a statement that stuck with me. She said, “Wait till you have a baby, all your inhibitions about going to the doctor will end.” She was right. After carrying a child for 9 months and being poked, and looked at by a room full of strangers, you tend to let your guard down.  

However, something changed after the births of my first two daughters.  I felt overwhelming fatigue, joint and muscle pain, low- grade fevers, hair loss, digestive issues, mental problems, and constant infections. These symptoms were chronic and on some days debilitating. It was very difficult to care for my young children and keep up with our home. I felt like I had the flu, and it would not go away. I was miserable. 

Thus, began the long process of seeing doctors for an answer. I just needed to know what was wrong with me so I could deal with it! The family doctor I was seeing at the time told me it had to be stress. He said I was too young to be so physically ill that my being home 24/7 with 2 babies was too much. I knew he was wrong. So off I went to find another opinion. And another, and another. After getting a referral from a friend, I made an appointment with a female physician. I was told she was easy to talk to, and God knew I desperately needed someone to listen.

I went to my first appointment with Dr. Jennifer with a long, handwritten list. I handed it to her and said, “These are my symptoms. We have great insurance and meet our deductible for the year. Do every test you can think of and don’t stop until you can give me a diagnosis. I am SICK, and I cannot live like this anymore!” She listened, really listened! She was the first person I had spoken to for months that truly believed me. It wasn’t all in my head, as one doctor had told me.  It was real, and it was ruining my life.

I literally went to every specialist known to man and endured every test they felt necessary. There were three full months that, in every single business day, I had a test scheduled. I knew my way around the hospital like I worked there. It was hard at times, of course, but I knew something was wrong, and I was determined to find an answer.  

After a year and a half of visits and medical tests, Dr. Jennifer called me to her office. This lady was a pro. I have never met a doctor since with her incredible thoroughness and caring bedside manner. She truly loved her patients and wanted the absolute best for them. There were several times that I made an appointment with her at the last minute, upset and weary from my plight. She had instructed the front desk to fit me in any time I called. On three occasions she didn’t charge me for my visit. Now that is a dedicated, caring doctor!

When Dr. Jennifer & her nurse came into the room where I was waiting, she looked at me and began to cry, and then the nurse began to cry.  Dr. Jennifer said, “It’s Lupus.”  I did not know what Lupus was or what a long road I had ahead of me. She informed me it was mainly affecting my Central Nervous System, but I was also having Lung and Kidney involvement. All the other symptoms were just par for the course with Lupus. My body was literally attacking itself, which explained the constant infections. I had a lot of inflammation inside of me. That explained the unrelenting pain.

That was in the 1980s. I am so very grateful that now in 2021, almost anyone you talk to knows about Lupus. When I was diagnosed with Lupus, it was still being called a death sentence by many doctors. Thank God with research and new medications, that is no longer true for every Lupus patient. 

With all the doctor appointments and tests I have had in my life, I still DREAD it! I go through so much more with the dread and anxiety it breeds than I ever go through with the actual visit. Why? I do not know.

I know I’m not alone. There are people who refuse to see a doctor even when they are sick or in pain. My most recent appointment gave me anxiety for over a week. Yet the appointment itself went perfectly! It was pleasant and quick, yet thorough. I told one of my daughters that I spent more time dreading it than the actual visit lasted. It’s all so silly to do that.  

If you are not familiar with Lupus, I would like to ask you to take a few minutes out of your day to educate yourself. There are over 15,000 new patients diagnosed with Lupus each year. That means millions, upon millions, of Lupus patients out there are dealing with this chronic disease every day. Someone you know and love may be suffering, and you don’t know it. People with Lupus often look perfectly healthy. Having loved ones who at least try to understand what we go through is part of our ongoing battle.  

Thank you for reading my story, and I hope you are well.