Monday, September 30, 2013

Update on Sam

I snapped this photo as Sam came out of her bed to drink some water.

Late last week, we thought Sam was doing better. However, late Friday night and early Saturday morning, we found blood in her urine.
We took her back to the vet on Saturday morning. She had a temperature and blood work showed high white cell counts. She was also very depressed, reacting very little to the work of the vet and her assistant.
The vet said she had an infection that seemed to have gone into her kidneys.
She said it was very serious and life threatening for a cat Sam’s age.
She has been on antibiotics and pain medication over the weekend.
The vet suggested that we offer her sliced chicken or turkey or baby food, or perhaps some roast chicken, to entice her to eat.
She loved the roast chicken we bought and the sliced turkey. She didn’t like the baby food. She likes dry food soaked in water.
But her eating has been erratic. Sometimes she eats, sometimes not.
They gave her subcutaneous fluids at the vet’s office on Saturday, and then Larry and I gave them to her Sunday morning. She’s drinking water on her own, too.
She’s mostly staying in the bed we made for her in what we call the futon room, right off the den. We don’t want her high up on furniture because we’re afraid that she will fall.
She comes out to use the litter box and to drink water, occasionally to eat, but goes right back to the bed.
Larry took her into the den Sunday night and sat her on the couch with him, but she wanted to get down. He put her back down on the floor and she walked back to her bed.
We have an appointment to take her back to the vet Monday morning.
We are concerned, of course. We’re very worried and very anxious. It’s hard to keep the anxiety at bay. We are hoping for the best.
I am trying to remind myself that healing takes time, that Sam needs to rest and perhaps she needs to stay in her bed.
Thank you for all of the kind comments you left on Friday’s post. Please keep Sam in your thoughts.

P.S. After I wrote this post and put it in Blogger, I heard a noise just as I was ready to press publish. I looked up and Sam was getting out of her bed. She walked into the den to find Larry. She walked around a bit, then went back to her bed. That's reason for hope!

I'll be back when I can.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Random 5 Friday: Our Baby Sam

Hello, dear readers, and happy Friday to you! I’m joining in Random 5 Friday, hosted by the wonderful Nancy of A Rural Journal, when, as she says, “you can share 5 random facts about you, your day, your pets, your kids, whatever!”

Our cat Sam has been sick this week.
She has an ongoing problem with constipation which sometimes requires intervention by the vet. On Monday night, we had to take her to the emergency animal hospital. She was in pain and had struggled for hours to poop.
The treatment apparently aggravated her arthritis, which left her barely able to walk. She saw her regular vet on Tuesday and Wednesday. X-rays showed arthritis in her spine, hips and ankles, but no fractures or dislocations, thank goodness.
She has been on pain medication, and she’s moving around a little now and is looking better.

Sam in the carrier right after the procedure Monday night, before we knew that her arthritis was flaring.

Sam will be 17 years old in October. Larry has had her since she was a kitten, before my time. He said she was so tiny as a kitten, he could carry her around on one hand.

I came into Sam’s life when Larry and I started dating in 1999. I became her mom when we got married in 2003. Sam likes me and trusts me, but she adores her Larry. It is very sweet to see.

I think I've posted this photo before, but it's one of my favorites: Sam and Larry.

Wednesday was a really hard day while we waited for results from Sam’s X-rays. Larry asked me to discuss things with the vet because he was too upset to talk.
It’s hard to accept the fact that your cat is an “old lady,” as our vet called her. It’s hard to accept that you are going to lose her someday. It has to be accepted, of course, but it’s hard to lose a loved one, as all of you know.
Sam is doing better, for which we are so grateful. I hope that she has more good years ahead of her. And I hope that I have the good sense to cherish each day I have with her and Chase Bird and my Larry.

Sam in her fluff bed. I call her Baby Sam sometimes. She seems to like it.

Larry and I seem to trade off being the strong one when needed. Not that both of us can’t be strong at the same time. But when Waddles was so sick, Larry was the stoic one while I cried myself sick. With Sam, though I cried, too, I kept it to myself and tried to be upbeat and positive for Larry.

It works for us. We lean on each other when we need to. That’s a comfort.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My OCD is better

Step by step

Today I told someone that my OCD seems better.
Until then, I had kept the hope to myself.
But I’ll say it a bit stronger here: my OCD is better.

OCD is tricky. It can wax and wane.
During especially stressful times, it can grow stronger, leading to more obsessive thoughts, less ability to control the compulsions.
Other times, it grows stronger for no clear reason.
Then the symptoms ebb away, interfering less with the rest of my life.

There is nothing that I can point to as the reason for the current improvement. I think it’s probably a combination of things:
*Good medication
*A focus on preventing myself from following through on the desire to do a compulsion as I work on Exposure and Response Prevention on my own
*Good therapy earlier this year and last year
*A dedication to being mindful
*A growing realization that worrying doesn’t do me or anyone else any good

This time the improvement feels like a step up. I’ve improved in the past, but I wasn’t so aware of working on my OCD and keeping it at bay as much as possible. 
I’m more deliberate about it now.
It's not that I don't still have obsessions and do compulsions. But the symptoms are bothering me less and less. I'm better than I've been in a long time.
I’m very grateful. No need to analyze that too much, is there?

I’m not an expert on OCD. I’m just someone who has had the disorder since I was a child. I realize that OCD can seem very weird, and there are some misconceptions about it. Is there anything about OCD that you’d like to ask me?

Monday, September 23, 2013

The changing of the seasons, a time to change

Happy Autumn! I am so happy it’s officially the fall of the year. I love the chill in the air in the morning and in the evening, and the reduced humidity.
My husband and I went out into the yard today with our cameras, looking for signs of fall. We still have a lot of green, but there are signs that the foliage will turn soon.
And here’s a wee acorn sprouting up on an oak tree branch.

Soon enough the acorns will be raining down, providing a vast supply for our neighborhood squirrels. And sometimes leaving little dents in my car.

I feel like fall is a new beginning. Maybe it’s because I went to school for so many years, but with the fall of the year, I get a yearning to start anew, to try new things, to get organized.
Lately, I’ve been finding pieces of wisdom about using our time wisely on the Internet and elsewhere. I haven’t been purposely looking for it as much as it just seems to have shown up.
I’ve been reminded about the preciousness of time, of how we’re all given the same amount of time, how we can easily make the excuse that we don’t have time to do something that is important.

On Sunday, I went to the store and bought some lavender legal pads and purple ink pens to use for creating lists and plans to help me achieve some things I want to achieve.
Why the special paper and pens? Well, I love office and school supplies. And I wanted something pretty and special to use for something so important.
I’m starting out with lists of what I want to accomplish, from the big, life-changing things to the small ones. I’m going to gradually break things down into doable goals that will help me plan each week as it comes.
I’m not starting from scratch. I’ve done this before on the job, when I worked as a health educator. At my current job, I keep a list, or budget, of the stories I need to follow in the future, then transfer those items to weekly lists.
I know what my priorities are. I know many of the things I want to accomplish.
It’s time I applied a more organized approach to the rest of my life.
Again, I’m not starting from scratch.
But I do have a new sense of urgency to not let time slip by any longer without me using it the best I can.
I won’t be giving up on spontaneity, and I won’t panic if I don’t follow to the letter everything I write down.
But my tendency is to procrastinate. My tendency is to think instead of act. My tendency is to push things aside for later. My tendency is to drift along, with no plan.
Some of this comes from having OCD. OCD used to rule my life so much, tell me what I had to do when, that I rebelled against routine.
Some of this comes from having depression. When you’re depressed, it’s hard to see the point in planning. It’s sometimes hard to have the energy or desire to do anything beyond the basics.
But I need more routine. I need a plan. I need accomplishments.
As the leaves change, as the weather changes, so I need to change. As the leaves drop off the trees, letting go for the winter, so I need to let go of certain habits.
I’ll share more as I move forward in this journey.

How do you ensure that you get the important things done?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ready for the dirt, and other randoms

Hello! It’s Friday, and I’m participating in a meme I enjoy so much, Random 5 Friday, hosted by Nancy at A Rural Journal.
It has been a strange and seemingly endless week. I was busy but feeling a bit under the weather. So if I didn’t visit your blog as usual or if I commented way after the post was published, I apologize.
And now for the randoms for the week!

Larry has nearly finished the raised bed garden. It’s ready for the dirt and, in due time, seeds and plants.
The bed is mostly fenced in to keep out the wildlife critters that visit our yard. The two ends will be open, so I’m sure the animals will get a little bit of something.
The enclosed bed is 4 feet by 12 feet. To make access easier, Larry put in two gates on both sides.
When I went to get my camera to take the photos of the finished project Thursday evening, I couldn’t find it. So these photos are taken with my iPhone.

It worried me that I couldn’t find my camera. I take it to work each day and bring it back home every night. I thought I had brought it home Wednesday night (I was off on Thursday). But it wasn’t in my car or on the table in the living room.
I thought I must have left it at the office, but I couldn’t be sure. And I didn’t want to wonder all night about it until Friday morning.
So Larry went with me to the office Thursday evening to retrieve my camera.
It was in the office, thank goodness. And while we were out, we saw the almost-full moon and I got some pictures.

This week has seemed so long. The visitation and funeral for my aunt were Monday evening and Tuesday morning, respectively. It was good to see cousins that I hadn’t seen in years, but sad that the only time I see them is when someone dies.
The funeral was in my “home church,” the church I grew up in in the community I grew up in. The memories flowed as I drove down the country roads to the church, and as I walked through the cemetery, where many of my family members, including my father, are buried.

I started taking antibiotics this week for an ear infection. My right ear started hurting Monday, and by Monday night, the hearing was muffled in that ear. I didn’t have time to see the doctor until Wednesday.
I’ve had ear problems off and on since I was a little girl. When I was a child, my mother would warm a towel in the oven (NOT a safe idea, by the way) and lay it on my pillow. I would lie down with my ear on the warm towel, and it felt so good.

I work 32 hours a week, so I usually have Thursdays off. When I reduced my hours earlier this year, I knew I would enjoy the extra time at home. I just didn’t know how much I would enjoy it.
Lately, I’ve been seeing quotes here and there and reading articles with really good advice about time management. I think I’m getting the message that I need to start making better use of my time.
Do you ever feel like you’re seeing or hearing the words you need to at just the right time?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gratitude post

Today I am thankful for many things. Here are a few of them:

*The good report my husband received from his doctor.

*Cool mornings, cool nights, cool breezes during the day.

*The quilt that keeps me warm during the cool nights.

*Nature on the fence.

*The sound of my kitty Sam’s deep breaths as she sleeps in her little bed beside me.

*The feeling of Chase Bird’s purrs as I hold him and place my cheek against his fur.

*Getting lost in a good mystery book.

*Time spent with cousins I haven’t seen in years.

*The fact that there are always new things to learn.

*My camera.

*The shape of leaves against the sky.

What are you grateful for today?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Family and time

My father when he was about 3 years old. He was outside the home he was born in.

In his life story that he wrote before he died, my father noted that he was “one of nine children” of his parents. His oldest sister died of pneumonia when she was four years old, he wrote, but the rest of the siblings lived to be 60 or over.
He never knew his oldest sister because she died before he was born. He was the sixth of the nine children, and he grew up with two older brothers, two older sisters, two younger brothers and one younger sister.
On Sunday, I received word that his younger sister had died. Only one of the nine is still living, my father’s youngest brother.

I’ve been thinking about my extended family.
My father’s family was quiet but friendly. When I was a child, I preferred visiting with my mother’s family because there were cousins around my age to play with. On my father’s side, I was the youngest grandchild. The cousin closest in age to me was about six years older, but she did play with me when she was younger.
I remember how we got together at Christmas every year, usually at the house of one of my uncles. He worked for Dr. Pepper, so we always drank Dr. Pepper when we visited him.
I remember as a child staying with my aunt, the one who just died, when my brother had to be in the hospital for a few days. She and her family lived in Lynchburg. I liked walking up and down the city street with my cousin and playing in their backyard.
By the time I grew up and moved away to go to school, the family get-togethers were fewer. Gradually, I saw family at the reunions that I occasionally attended or at funerals.
I’m been thinking about the passage of time, how those family gatherings were so long ago. I’ve been thinking about my grandparents, raising their children on a farm, tragically losing one daughter at such a young age.

I suspect that many of you have similar stories of family, of growing up with aunts and uncles and cousins, of losing family members with the passage of time.
It’s the way life works. I know that.
But it still makes me sad.

I have a large extended family. How about you? Did you have a lot of aunts, uncles and cousins growing up?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Random 5 Friday: Work and time for a few photographs

Happy Friday! I’m joining in with the Random 5 Friday meme, created by and hosted by Nancy at A Rural Journal. You can join in the fun by writing your own random 5 and linking up at Nancy’s blog.
The photos below are of a new installation of public art in Altavista. The downtown revitalization group recently set up the bench that includes a lovely sculpture of a mother and child reading together. It sits outside the library.

On Sunday afternoon, I took my camera and drove and walked around town, taking photos of things I found interesting.
One of the interesting side effects of working for the local paper is that when someone who knows I work for the paper sees me with a camera, they sometimes assume I’m on the job.
As I was taking pictures at the library of things like the bench, an acquaintance walking by asked if I was taking photos for the paper.
No, I said. Just for me.

My favorite color is purple. Blue is a close second, especially sky blue and lavender blue. Yet, most of the time I wear khaki, white and black, with some navy.
I buy and wear what seems the easiest: everything goes with khaki, white and black, and those colors go with each other. Thus, more outfits for the money.
Sometimes it does get boring, though.
What’s your favorite color? Do your clothes reflect that?

One of the reasons I like fall and winter—cooler weather—is because I love to wear turtlenecks. They’re just so comfortable. And they can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion.
With turtlenecks, I do wear more color. I have one in just about every color, including purple and different shades of blue.

I feel like I’ve been something of a slug this week. I worked late Monday and Tuesday, and the work was stressful and intense. It just seemed to tire me out more than usual.
I went to bed early Wednesday night and slept late Thursday morning. I was off work Thursday, so I took a nap that afternoon. And I still feel tired. It seems to take me a while to get over a couple of days of intensity.

My stories in this week’s paper reflect the variety of my work: a story on a county meeting on how to deal with water issues; a story on the retirement of the local chamber president; a story on the preliminary hearing in a murder case; and a story on the grand jury returning capital murder indictments in another case.
I like the variety of my job, but it’s sometimes disconcerting to have such a wide range of things to cover and write about.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

12 years later

“Don't be ashamed to weep; 'tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.”
--Brian Jacques, Taggerung

Peace and grace to all those who suffered on September 11, 2001. May God have mercy on us all.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Photo: Sunday afternoon

I don’t usually post on Tuesdays, but this week I decided to join Tuesday Muse, a meme hosted by Nancy of A Rural Journal, who also hosts Random 5 Friday.
I’ve been taking more photographs for the last several months. In doing so, I’ve begun to notice things I never noticed before.
With that extra attention comes more opportunities to practice mindfulness, being in the moment, seeing what’s in front of me.
That’s a very positive thing for me because anxiety and worry are often centered not on the present but on the past or imagined future.
Here’s my first photo for Tuesday Muse. Thanks for hosting, Nancy!

"Broad Street, Sunday afternoon."

This is a view of Broad Street in Altavista. I took the photo looking down from the library, which is perched at the top of the street.
If you follow the yellow lines all the way to the end of the street, and cross the step-bridge over the railroad tracks, you’ll be in English Park and just a short walk from the Staunton River.

What sights have you enjoyed lately where you live?

Monday, September 9, 2013


When Larry and I got home after dinner on a recent evening, we saw a little head at one of the windows in the house.
It was Chase Bird.
I grabbed my iPhone for a photo. It was dark outside and it’s a pretty grainy photo, but I was so happy to get a photo of him in that position.
Chase likes to sit on a stool that we placed on top of a table under a window. He can watch the goings on outside.
Sometimes he watches us come and go. We look up at the window and see his head and know he’s sending us off or welcoming us home.
I like to think that our cats are glad to see us when we get home after an absence. And we are glad that they are they to greet us and help us make our home.

What are some things that make your house a home?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Random 5: Cats, books and imagination

It’s Friday again and time for me to join in with Nancy of A Rural Journal and her Random 5 Friday meme.

Usually Larry feeds the kitties first thing in the morning. He and Chase Bird recently started a new morning routine. Before Chase will begin eating, he has to have his tummy rubbed and his back scratched by his Papa. Larry gets down on the floor with him and obliges.
One morning this week, Larry was sleeping soundly, but Chase and Sam let me know that they were hungry. So I fed them. I put food in their bowls and talked to them, but I didn’t do the rub-Chase-Bird’s-tummy routine.

Chase Bird Barbour

Later in the day, Chase presented me with a contract for me to sign. I promised to rub his tummy and scratch his back before breakfast if I was the one feeding him.
Sam thinks it’s all quite silly. She just wants to eat.

Samantha "Sam" Barbour

No, my cat didn’t really present me with a contract. I know you know that part of the story is just my imagination.
But I love making up stories where my cats are the main characters. I can put words in their mouths and imagine their thoughts and actions. Usually I tell them to just Larry.
I wish I could draw. I would write and illustrate a book about the Barbour cats.

This is an exciting time in the book world, at least in my book world. Three of my favorite authors have come out with new books.
On Sunday, I went to the bookstore to pick up Kathy Reichs’ Bones of the Lost. I also wanted to get Lee Child’s new book, Never Go Back, but the clerk said it wouldn’t be released until Tuesday.
So I went back to Lynchburg on Thursday to get that book. Yes, Lee Child is worth a second trip to Lynchburg this week.
Next Tuesday, Sue Grafton’s W is for Wasted is released. So I’ll be going back to the bookstore next week.

While I was at the bookstore on Sunday, the clerk told me that though they had boxes of Lee Child’s book in the back, they couldn’t even open them until Tuesday.
“Oh, can’t you go back and get out just one for me?” I asked.
I was kidding.
Apparently, I wasn’t communicating very well that I was kidding. The clerk very seriously gave me a list of ways the bookstore would get in trouble if she sold any of the books before Tuesday.
I must appear more serious than I am at times. Do you ever find that people don’t realize you’re kidding?

Staunton River Memorial Library in Altavista

I love my library. I love libraries period. But I do have a problem with library books—I can’t seem to return them on time. Over the years, there’s no telling how much I’ve paid in library fines.
Larry says I’ve basically donated a lot of money to the library. It could go to worse things.

I hope you have a wonderful Friday and a great weekend! 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Tuesday in the life of a small town reporter

I’m writing this late on Tuesday night.
Tuesdays are my long days at work. We’re a weekly paper, the Altavista Journal, and we come out each Wednesday. So we’re due at press Tuesday nights.
My mind is still on work, so I thought I’d share a look at what a Tuesday is like for this small town reporter.

I took this photo of my desk at work one day. Notice the bottles. I get thirsty!

*I arrived at work a little before 10:00 a.m., late morning because I knew it would be a late night. I had already written my stories for this week—three bylined stories (stories that show I wrote them) and three briefs (stories with no bylines, usually rewrites of news releases).

*I checked my email, looking for a news release from the Virginia State Police. I had heard about a fatal crash in the county overnight. Because I hadn’t received an email, I sent one to the communications contact with the VSP in Richmond asking for information.

*Our news staff is made up of our editor and two staff writers, who are me and another reporter. The news editor at one of our sister papers used to work for the Journal, and he still helps with layout on Tuesdays.

*The four of us met with the advertising manager at about 10:30 to decide how many pages to include in this week’s issue. A lot depends on the number of ads and the amount of copy we have.

*Once that’s decided, the news staff figures out what goes on each page. Page one is especially important, and deciding what goes there can take a lot of discussion.

*We finished up our meeting around 11:30 and all but the editor started laying out pages. We use Adobe InDesign for layout. As we finish up a page, we print them out on large paper and pass them on to the editor to read. After we’ve corrected pages, we change them to PDF format to send to the press. We also print the PDFs to check headlines, dates, etc. one more time. It’s a process that goes on all day.

My work computer showing one of the pages of the paper in InDesign. The photo on the upper right corner of the monitor shows Thunder Cat, who we lost in 2009.

*Larry picked me up for lunch at 12:10 and we ate Mexican.

*I returned to work and continued working on layout.

*At 1:45 I drove 17 miles to Rustburg, our county seat, to cover a 2:30 governmental committee meeting, a 4:00 Board of Supervisors meeting (the Board is the governing body of the county), and public hearings at 5:30.

*I got back to Altavista at 7:00. No one else was in the office: the editor was covering a town council meeting, one reporter was covering a high school volleyball game, and the one that works on Tuesdays only was covering something in his own town.

*I had received a news release from the state police about the fatal wreck, so I wrote that up. I also wrote a story based on the Board of Supervisors meeting.

One of my notebooks. Sometimes I have a hard time reading my own handwriting.

*I put the stories on the pages and worked on readying copy and photos for the website.

*The editor got back at 9:00. He wrote his story, and I put that on the page. Meanwhile, the other reporter returned.

*We worked out some corrections and my co-reporter sent the pages to the press over the Internet via Fetch.

*I got home a little after 11:00. Larry met me at the door, and my kitties fussed at me for being gone all day long. I made over everyone.

And that was a Tuesday in the life of this small town reporter. I don’t have to follow meetings every Tuesday—that usually happens only once a month. On Tuesdays when I’m in the office all day, I also help with editing and proofing.
And the other days of the week on the job? That’s another story!

What has been your favorite job ever?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Our place

Note: The quotations in this post are from the poem, “Wild Geese,” by Mary Oliver. To read the entire poem, go here.

“Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.”

Snake skin left behind in our yard.
Yellow leaves among the green.

Blue feather left behind in the yard.

Raindrops on blades of grass.

A bit of moss.


“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

What helps you feel connected to the rest of creation? How important is it to you to feel connected?