Thursday, August 30, 2007

Campus Mental Health Front and Center

Note: Revolution Health, the folks at a new online health resource founded by AOL co-founder Steve Case, noticed my incessant blabbering about college and invited me to join in on a bloggers’ conference call about campus mental health issues. While not strictly a health blogger by nature, I was intrigued since I have a college freshman son. I’m passing along what I found out and hope that if you are a college student, or know or love one, you’ll keep this advice in mind. And check out the new Website for I think you’ll find a wealth of good information there and at the special section devoted to college life. Also, you can listen to the hour-long discussion.

I often ask myself when son calls, “How’s he REALLY doing?” and “Would he tell me if he wasn’t handling life or school very well?” So, like many parents whose young adult child has left the nest, I wonder, "How life’s treating my son?" Since I went to the parents’ orientation I learned his campus has plenty of resources at the counseling center and even an informal “watchdog” group, which follows students who have been identified by their professors as perhaps students who might be struggling. But parents must remain connected despite the distance and the push on the part of students to enjoy this “great moment of freedom.”

A little personal background: I watched for years as my father lived out a mostly troubled life after he returned from serving in World War II. He went from VA hospital to VA hospital and from job to job. My aunt tells me that until he left home at 16 to join the Marines, he was fine. However, by the time I came along, and he had moved our little family back to Alabama, that was no longer the case. One of the earliest memories I have is of a visit to Bryce Hospital, down a long tree-lined avenue to a stark, white-columned building. The memory stops at the door and fails to unveil just what led up to my father being placed in the state mental hospital.

Back then, people would whisper, “He had a nervous breakdown.” That’s how people explained mental illness with its secretive and mysterious disappearances. No one went away for treatment or to rehab. These were still the days of electroshock to wipe away the mind’s demons. And even though electroshock therapy has managed to shed some of the stigma (can anyone forget 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?), today it is used for cases of severe depression and in a different manner from the days after Italian Ugo Cerletti developed the idea in 1938.

So, I was happy to participate in the call. Expert number one: Ross Szabo, Director of Youth Outreach for the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign, went to college with a bipolar diagnosis and found self-medication with alcohol didn’t work for long. Dr. Mark Smaller, Ph.D, the second expert, is a practicing psychotherapist and Director of Analytic Service to Adolescents Project as well as Director of the Neuro-Psychoanalysis Foundation in New York and London, a graduate of the University of Chicago and on the faculty at Chicago's Institute For Psychoanalysis. There were four of us bloggers (Lena from Sex and the Ivy, Therese of Beliefnet, John, me) and the moderator, Dr. Val Jones.

Szabo’s story is compelling. In January of his senior year in high school, he tried to take his life. By the following fall, he was a freshman at American University turning to alcohol to self-medicate the pain. He ended up in the hospital getting his stomach pumped from alcohol poisoning and suffered a “massive relapse.” He withdrew from college but returned and graduated in 2002 with a degree in psychology. Today, Szabo is a motivational speaker on college campuses, reaching thousands of at-risk students with his message and efforts to remove the stigma from mental illness. He has a book coming out this fall called Behind Happy Faces. His advice for students: Have a plan. Research the college and know what the counseling center has to offer. Talk it over with your current doctor if you are under care and have a plan. Stay away from drugs and alcohol. Develop a healthy lifestyle. Have a system. Sleep. Know what’s going to work.

Dr. Smaller emphasizes that going to college for the first time is a “huge transition.” This is the time “vulnerable spots in someone’s personality” may surface. According to Dr. Smaller, “Parents and students can be in denial about the intensity of this transition.” “Some students will immerse themselves in studying for awhile” and this will work. But he stresses parents should know the warning signs that may distinguish normal angst from a full-blown depression. Here they are: trouble sleeping (not sleeping intensifies any mood), eating too much or too little, social isolation, lack of concentration and a disconnect.

How do you encourage students to seek help?
Szabo says students hear a lot about alcohol at orientation but not much about mental health. He wishes colleges would “take the model on alcohol education and apply it to mental health” and add a dose of peer-to-peer contact. “Treat it as a health issue. Students may fail to seek help because of issues of trust or self-hatred Szabo says. Other excuses may be no time. But he urges them to realize the need to move beyond this attitude.

Parents must stay connected to their kids during this initial period of freedom. Visit the school if signs of distress appear. Let them know they can call. Szabo says parents don’t know what to say and that emotions are hard for many to talk about with their kids. Parents may be “frightened and just sitting down and having a conversation is alien,”he says.

With students who come to college with mental health issues already, parents have to emphasize the nature of the transition and have a “very frank discussion” with their students. Dr. Smaller says he often stays in touch with his patients and will schedule a visit at Thanksgiving just to touch base. Szabo says it boils down to “Is that student going to be cooperative?” He says that the student may come to realize, “You know I didn’t choose this problem, and I am going to have to follow treatment.” Being compliant is a hard problem. Parents must focus on health in these situations and say, “If you stick with the treatment, you’ll be able to stay in college.”

So What Do You Do If You Think A Student Needs Help?

Friends and family can do a few things if they think a student needs help, but they can’t “fix” their friend or child according to Szabo. He says one way to break through the isolation and fear of going for help is to say, “I’ll go with you to counseling. I’ll sit in the waiting room and we can talk afterward.” According to him, “15-24 year olds have the lowest rate of seeking help.”Another suggestion is to compare the brain to another part of the body. If you had a broken arm or diabetes, you likely wouldn’t hesitate to seek help. It’s a “fight with their mind,” adds Dr. Smaller. Remind the student that with time and treatment, things will improve.

Depression’s classic warning signs according to Dr. Smaller: sleep issues, lack of concentration, hopelessness, the attitude that things aren’t going to get better. Parents, if you hear this from your son or daughter, take heed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Oddly Named and a Question or Two

The Overcoming Faith Church in nearby Ozark, Missouri, has such an odd name—at least this Unitarian thinks it’s strange.

Then, I noticed the local newspaper’s Faith Directory had the Cornerstone Church with the tagline: “Your Home Improvement Center.” I wonder what their services are like. Think they could show me how to fix my rattling air conditioner?

We even have Quakers in Springfield. They have a silent worship at 11:30 a.m., but you have to call to find out where. They are low-keyed. We have several kinds of Baptists—missionary, freewill, Southern and some called ABC-CBF. I’m not sure what they are, but it appears the Baptists outnumber even the Assembly of God, which has its national headquarters here. I went to a country Baptist church until I was a teenager whose mother could no longer drag out her of bed on Sunday mornings. That’s probably the most trouble I ever gave my mother. She never did understand why I chose to be a Unitarian, questioning often, “Have you ever thought about going to church?”

All in all, Springfield is a “Godly” town. We have Episcopal, Presbyterian, Catholic, Church of Christ, Lutheran (both Missouri and Wisconsin varieties), Seventh Day Adventist, Unity, Bah’i Faith, Anglican, Christian Disciples, Orthodox, Salvation Army and Vineyard. I may have overlooked a kind or two. But I always wondered why God needed so many denominations.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Super-Sized Nation

And the Winner is: Ta Da. . . Mississippi. Alabamians have a saying, "Thank God for Mississippi." Well, this time we can all point to Mississippi as the state with the fattest residents, but I wouldn't be so smug. More states, especially Southern ones, aren't far behind. I admire Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. While serving Arkansas as governor, he fought the battle of the bulge and won. It’s a battle a lot of us are fighting. The latest study from the Trust for America's Health shows we aren’t getting any thinner as a society, and in fact we are increasing our girths to the point of danger.

A year ago I embarked on my own battle when I hopped on the South Beach Diet bandwagon. One year later, I am over 20 pounds lighter. In January, my doctor told me I was hypoglycemic and at risk for developing diabetes. Add to this the fact that I had birthed two nine-pound-plus babies, and this risk is real. I was scared. Scared enough to get serious about exercising more for a while. Then came the stress of moving, and I fell out of my healthier routine and it’s only now that I’m resuming my workouts at the gym.

And now I’m again thinking about the glycemic index, carbs, sugars and prediabetes. I highly recommend reading Dr. Arthur Agatston's book, The South Beach Diet, even if you don’t plan to get whole hog into this particular plan of eating. Go to a bookstore and turn to page 75 in the paperback edition. That’s where you’ll find the chapter entitled, “Is It Diabetes Yet?” Only 10 pages in length, it’s a great introduction to why you should take action now while you still can.

And finally before I step off of the soapbox, I leave you with:

Sheila’s Top 11 Reasons We Are Fat and Getting More So Every Day
1. “L.A.S.” aka not enough exercise
2. Large portions
3. McDonald’s
4. Fried chicken, French fries, etc.
5. Soda pop and other sweet drinks
6. Pre-sweetened cereals
7. Overly processed food
8. Too many sweets
9. White bread, potatoes, corn
10. Snacks like chips and crackers
11. TV and passive pursuits

Top 10 Things You Can Do Today
1. “G.O.Y.A.” and exercise
2. Drink water, plain tea or coffee instead of sodas or other sweet drinks
3. Cook and eat at home more
4. Eat whole grains
5. Snack on nuts or grab an apple
6. Eat less meat and don’t fry it
7. Try more salads and veggies
8. Use multi-grain pasta and eat less of it
9. Half an entrée and share or make it another meal
10. Don’t skip meals but skip the potatoes and corn

Monday, August 27, 2007

College Boy Does the Laundry

“Is it ok to use that All with bleach alternative detergent on everything?” CB wondered. “Sure,” I replied with a smile. “That’s it,” he said. After I hung up, I thought I’d better tell him one more thing and called back to say, “Son, use cold water.” Veteran moms know cold water may not be as effective, but it’s a whole lot more forgiving.

This morning in a short before class call, CB shocked his mom with, “I just want to thank you for doing my laundry all those years. It’s hard.” Laughing, I replied, “Well, I am surprised to hear you thank me. That means a lot.” “Yeah, it took me three hours,” he said, “but I was able to study while I did it.”

I hope CB is learning as much in class as he is outside of it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Crime for Dummies, Springfield, Missouri, Style

This morning’s Springfield News Leader had a twofer too good not to blog about, both stories having to do with dumb criminals.

Dumb Criminal #1
Wednesday the local media was aflutter with reports that an unidentified man was pulled from a sinkhole after being trapped for over 24 hours. I had wondered how he ended up there. Was he out for a walk, and you know, nature called and whoops, where’d that sinkhole come from? But then, today I read where he was involved the following night in a police standoff, which ended with him being arrested for possession of a firearm. Turns out the reason he ended up in the sinkhole to begin with was that he was running from the cops who had a search warrant they were trying to execute when he wandered off a trail and fell into the sinkhole. Ah, justice prevails.

Dumb Criminal #2
Cab driver gets a request to take a man to Camdenton from Springfield, Missouri, which is about an hour and a half drive. Cabbie tells the man it’s going cost $150. The man calls back later and says he has the money. Cabbie picks up the man who says he needs to stop at the bank “to cash a check.” They stop at the bank; the man robs the bank and the cabbie and robber head on their way. Cabbie keeps cool and tries to figure out what to do next. After all, he really doesn’t know if the man has a gun or not. As they are nearing the heavily patrolled I-44 onramp, the cabbie is hoping a cop will tag him for speeding, and indeed a cop stops the cabbie, who is quoted as saying to the robber, “He’s going to give me a speeding ticket. I’ll take care of it.” Cabbie tells the police who his passenger is, and well, justice prevails. Turns out the robber is a convicted bank robber with a long record.

According to the News Leader, cabbie returns to the bank because “I wanted to apologize for bringing a robber to my bank.”

Friday, August 24, 2007

Random Questions

I had a mammogram this week. You think I ought to ask for half off on the charges? Long time readers will get it.

Why are so many people so blatant in their thievery? I have discovered some fellow CafePress shop owners like my Believe design so much that they have lifted the design. One, copied my language word for word. That takes balls. Another took the image, which I had painted before digitizing, and plopped it down, changing only the ends of the ribbon.

While China “poisons” us with shoddy products, have you stopped to notice where the items in your shopping cart are made? Ever since I bought those pickles from India at the Dollar Tree and worried about eating them (I did), I’ve made it a policy to buy as local or regional as possible, with one exception—Italy is still high on my list of acceptable, and if you have a hunk of Parma ham or Parmigiano-Reggiano I’ll gladly take it off of you.

And yesterday while at the Dollar Tree, I found I could buy greeting cards, 2 for $1, that were nicely designed in this designer’s opinion. So, how come Hallmark and Carlton charge me $3.99 (I paid this for a new baby card before discovering the ones at DT)? In line with my new anti-China policy, the cards at DT are from a Canadian company and are MADE IN THE U.S.A. Woo Hoo!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sustainable Explained

At its simplest, sustainability means taking as little as possible from resources that cannot be renewed. A movement without real leaders, it seems to have the greatest resonance on college campuses, always a home for new thinking. Student groups and sessions dedicated to sustainability are flourishing. While some produce little but conversational--and political--gas, others are preaching practical solutions. At Drury University in Missouri, a campus conference on using natural resources ended with a posting of “10 simple ways to support sustainable living in the Ozarks.” Among the suggestions: Shop at local food producers. From “The Greening of America’s Campuses,” New York Times, Jan. 9, 2006

I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.
Theodore Roosevelt

I’m still getting my feet wet trying to understand just what all the “sustainability” or green movement involves and I’ll bet I’m not alone. However, with all the attention Drury University’s first Habitat for Humanity sustainable house project is getting, I’m educating myself. That’s why I included the excerpt from the Times, which seemed a simple enough explanation of “sustainability” even for me.

Drury’s 1,280 sq. ft., four bedroom, two-story Habitat house will have carpet made from 100% recyclable material, a ground-source heat pump (I had to look that one up and as I understand it, that’s geothermal energy), energy-saving windows and radiant heat in the floors.

I don’t care if you think global warming is real, natural or humankind induced or not. Going “green” and using building practices with sustainable materials makes sense in the long run. Of course, cost is a factor and must be balanced, but we can begin to make changes that will prove we can be wise stewards of God’s Green Earth. And even this morning, I found in my inbox a link to a new survey by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, “The True Costs of Green Building,” which “found that the costs of ‘green’ building are frequently overestimated – often by as much as 300%. The report notes that such misjudgment of the costs of ‘green’ construction creates barriers to more energy efficiency in the building sector.”

What can we do? Something as simple as an old-fashioned clothesline is an energy-saving device. How about recycling rainwater? Ceiling fans? And buy local. I have lost my love affair with China and her cheap products. Maybe it’s time to rethink what we put into our shopping carts and the energy it took to bring the items all the way from the Far East. But the most important thing to me is to encourage our young people to continue along this path of fresh and innovative thinking.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sustainable and Affordable Housing

“I see life as both a gift and a responsibility. My responsibility is to use what God has given me to help his people in need.”—Millard Fuller

Anyone who has read the Sink for any length of time knows I’m about connections. As a recently transplanted Alabamian, I found that Habitat for Humanity, the wonderful organization started by an alumnus of my Alma Mater (The University of Alabama School of Law), has a chapter here in Springfield, Missouri, at Drury University. However, Drury’s chapter among others is taking Habitat and community service homebuilding to a new level. Drury’s school of architecture students designed a sustainable or “green” house. No, this isn’t a greenhouse for plants. It’s the kind of wise design for the future I wish more home builders would engage in themselves.

On Monday, during a morning of heavy rain, the Drury community took the first construction step, building prefab walls, inside an old warehouse. Despite rotten weather, some 300 strong, the volunteers included students, faculty and staff.

I think Millard and Habitat co-founder Linda Fuller would be proud. That dream of helping families in their quest for decent, affordable homes, which started back in 1976 after a trial run in Africa, is taking a new direction with forward-thinking efforts like Drury’s Habitat chapter. Follow along with me to see the "House that Drury" builds.

Note: Can any reader impress me and tell me the name of the other famous or infamous University of Alabama School of Law grad Fuller made his millions with?

Photo used with permission and courtesy of Drury University.

Monday, August 20, 2007

First Empty Nest Weekend

Lest this blog take on too much of a college theme, I’ll be brief. Saturday, We helped some Drury University students and parents with the move-in process. Husband had to cajole me a bit as I still hadn’t recovered from son’s move in down at Hendrix College earlier in the week. However, after the sweaty morning was over, I was glad to have helped.

Our local paper, The Springfield News Leader, had a nice story Sunday on the letting go process in which we parents are engaging ourselves. And I smile now as I remember some of the items I carried the other day as I noted the sometimes bewildered and worried faces of moms and dads. I wanted to reach out and give them a big hug and tell them the folks at Drury will be there for their daughters or sons. But to one mom, I seriously doubt that iron you sent with your son will ever make it out of the box just like half the stuff I packed for Scott.

Good luck, parents, as we whip out the scissors and cut those apron strings.

Friday, August 17, 2007

With This Ring. . .

Thirty-six years passed before one of us lost a ring. For a while last year I didn’t wear mine because it had been cut off of my finger when a broken arm started swelling. I finally got our favorite jewelry store to repair and resize it. But while we were in Chicago recently, husband took his wedding ring off to wash grease off of his hands in a downtown movie theatre bathroom. In a panic he returned as soon as he realized what he’d done only to find the ring missing. Perhaps we could have scoured the pawn shops if there’d been more time.

If you know of anyone who might steer us toward a similar ring, wide yellow gold with a design, I’d appreciate it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Boo Hoo Hoo

Nope, if you thought that was I, it was some other mom or dad when we said our farewells yesterday. Son asked, “Aren’t you going to cry?” “I’ll miss you, and I’ll do it later,” I said, hoping he didn’t mind that really I had already gotten most of the crying out of my system before we even laid eyes on Hendrix College.

It was a jam-packed two days with information sessions (family had a separate 2-day schedule full enough to satisfy most helicopter parents), boxes lugged up to a third floor temporarily-shared dorm room (with a RA or resident assistant if you’ve forgotten the lingo), mad dashes to Wal-Mart and Target and a realization that I (we) are not alone in the letting go process. Dad called from Springfield and said, “I passed his room and saw Paddington Bear sitting in Scott’s desk chair. And it hit me.” This from the man who until that call had shown little of the angst to which I openly admitted.

The next days will fly by for Scott. There are classes to pick, and tomorrow he heads out on a camping and water skiing trip designed to help ease the transition and create new bonds.

Me, I have some medical appointments and that new job to find. Stay cool.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Nearly Time

How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?
Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss

Part Two
It’s the ah-ha moment. I get it now. For the last month there’s been this tension and at times a snarliness that puzzled me. Nothing I did seemed to be right.

CB is pulling away, reading himself for the changes ahead, readying himself as both the driver and navigator. His dad and I are merely backseat passengers now, and he is in charge of which route to take, not us.

The procrastination too, is his way, I believe, to assert that independence.

Today's the big day. I feel as if we’re off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. CB’s house, Martin is known as the men’s party dorm. Hendrix College doesn’t have a Greek system, but residence halls seem to take the place of sororities and fraternities and bind a mad assortment of personalities in at least one common identity. Martin is to CB as Gryffindor is to Harry Potter.

Hendrix doesn’t have a football team either. A t-shirt with the message “Hendrix Football—Undefeated Since 1961” is popular among some alumni. CB hopes the president’s idea to bring football back flops. CB says, “That’s one reason I didn’t want to go to Bama.” I swear that boy is mine, and he’s even been to a Bama game, but the Crimson didn’t wear off on him good enough. Anyway, Hendrix is exploring NCAA Division III football and that hardly compares to the Southeastern Conference, does it?

So good luck to the class of 2011, “The Harry Potter Generation,” and my fellow parents. I’ve got a box of Kleenex stashed in the car. I’ll let you know if I need them for the return trip home and we’ll see if I can follow more of Dr. Seuss’ wisdom: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Precious Little Time

Part One
College Boy flies out of the nest Monday, when he and I drive the 186 miles down to Hendrix College. This week has been nuts with my obsessive list of things to take, all 630 items. No, I’m just kidding. I really haven’t counted up everything, but he will carry with him a well-stocked sewing kit, first aid supplies including a thermometer since you know who won’t be around for the forehead test (hey, it’s not me this time since daddyO is better at this) and a nice little tool kit from Target and a huge roll of white duct tape which should fix just about anything from ripped clothing to car bumpers.

The worst part of this week has been trying to get CB interested in shopping for jeans. I think he’d be happy with just the shorts we bought yesterday, but doesn’t it get a little chilly around Little Rock?

We are nearly there, but now we have to round up all of the stuff and get ready to jam it in the car. I am trying feverishly to reign in my emotions as I am not normally an overly emotional person. I just want to hug him and tell him, “Don’t you dare forget me, because I love you dearly.” Yet, I’m realistic and know that I’ll have to watch the Daily Show, the Colbert Report or South Park if I need a few laughs. He won’t be around to crack his jokes.

I won’t know when he has a bad day unless he wants to call me. When I left home, I didn’t do much of that. My mom would get tired of waiting for me to call and would finally ring me up with, “I thought you’d died.” I’m good at the guilt trip but not that good.

I guess I still have a bit of work on the letting go part.

But, I have quit worrying about him waking up for class. In addition to the Sonic Boom Alarm Clock with its 12 volt bed shaker (thanks Rev. Jay for putting me on to this), he’s taking a Sony clock radio and a battery-powered alarm. I think those should be enough to wake up the roommate.

The Politics of Cancer

Livestrong Presidential Cancer Forum coming soon to Iowa

I don’t know who’s signed on for this forum, but I intend to see which candidates show. Apparently “only a handful of candidates have agreed to participate and now Armstrong hopes to mobilize what he calls the “LiveSTRONG Army” to pressure the others to commit. The Forums will be broadcast by MSNBC.” From Words to Live By

Friday, August 10, 2007

How Could I Forget the Dog?

Here's granddog Monte, the exuberant one-year-old English Springer Spaniel. He’s a chocolate and white--okay he’s officially a liver and white, but Monte’s human mom says it should be changed from the liver, and I’m with her. And don’t write me all you liver lovers out there and tell me there’s nothing wrong with liver. Don’t wanna hear it.

He is fun and so full of life. Well, except for that morning he thought getting up at 4 a.m. was a good idea. Course, I didn’t have to get up. That’s the beauty of a granddog, isn’t it?

Anyway, here’re photos of the handsome boy taken over the weekend.

Middle Name Meme

Old Sarge tagged me for this little game. Yes, these things are like chain letters, but they do serve to broaden our blogging connections and help create a sense of community.

RULES: You have to post these rules before you give the facts. Players, you must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your middle name. If you don’t have a middle name, use the middle name you would have liked to have had. When you are tagged you need to write your own blog post containing your own middle name game facts. At the end of your blog post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged and to read your blog.

My middle name is Gayle, as in Sheila Gayle, which my mama would always call me when there could be trouble ahead:

Gave up some of my craft supplies but not the ribbon collection.

Attempting to work on my sense of style but hate to shop except online at L.L.Bean, Lands End and Coldwater Creek.

Yearn to find a puppy after a year and a half without a dog.

Love to travel to Italy and think that it’s about time for another trip.

Eating the South Beach Diet way but have to get back on the wagon after a relapse. It works as good as anything does!

And the nominees are:

Trashology - funniest woman I cyber-know

Miss Kwitty's Cottage - looks a bit like Anne Bancroft and is a crafty woman

Southern Gal Goes North
- we both love the Crimson Tide

eye-dyllic - a new blogger who just moved like me

Fear and Loathing - The Gonzo Papers - the token man

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Happy Birthday Dear Son

August 9, 1977, 30 years ago my life changed in a way I’ve never regretted. That day, after nearly nine months of anticipation, my son Jeff was born. For a second-year student in law school, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Back then there weren’t as many women in law school as now, but coincidentally, three of us were walking around the halls of the University of Alabama School of Law with ever-expanding bellies, which were not from drinking too much beer.

In those days, Tuscaloosa’s Druid City Hospital had little use for fathers watching their offspring come into the world, and we made the pregnancy and birth a road show to Birmingham where daddy-to-be was welcome in the delivery room if he could take the heat. Weeks of Lamaze classes, breathing practice and coaching barely touched the surface of what that day would be like. After a routine appointment, we were told the time had come. Thank goodness because I couldn’t see us driving the 60 miles in the middle of labor.

Our Lamaze teacher popped by the hospital and Nana-to-be had a chance to make the drive up from Montgomery although she had no desire to watch the event up close. It was a long day and he was a big boy. His birth was induced and he was pulled a bit reluctantly and jaundiced into my life. Hungry and tired, new dad got new mom a Big Mac, and we were off and running as parents.

What a wild time it’s been too. Isn’t that life, though? The little guy saw his mom return to law school after a short time off and saw her struggle to graduate, which I did. But love of the law didn’t stick with me like love of the kid, and I’ve mostly been one of those dinosaurs called a stay-at-home mom.

And so today, I look back through the years and remember. Feeding the ducks at the little pond on campus, a scare about cystic fibrosis, days as a Cub Scout den mother when I seriously wanted to run away from home because of what an unruly bunch of energetic and crafty (not the good kind of crafty) boys put me through. Nights reading to you, mean kids and bullies and a fight that ended the bullying, trophies, home runs, swimming, trips to see Nana or visit Disney World. Friends, never-ending sleepovers, camping, wild wiffle-ball games and soccer balls through basement windows. Driving you to your first job sacking groceries for Kroger, driving with you to driver’s ed and an accident at the gas station. A budding high school baseball career cut short by a bum knee, the school paper editorship. Prom, college, coming home to go to college at Loyola and nine months away studying in Italy before graduating summa cum laude. A trip to Italy where you were my Morgan Freeman to my Miss Daisy as we drove around the countryside of Tuscany. Seeing you as a man with a good job, meeting the love of your life, holding my hand as I faced a tough time, the wedding, visiting your home.

It’s come full circle. I am at peace that you are an adult who is a good and loving person. You know I’ll always love you. I really don’t need to give you any more advice and my “wisdom” really isn’t useful for it is mine and you will find yours. I trust and I know. Happy birthday, dear son.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Heat Wave

Yep. Springfield is smack dab in the middle of that heat wave plaguing the U.S. Alabama can get this hot, but dang, it seems more humid here. I’m no stranger to heat. We moved to the Chicagoland area in 1995, the year 600 people died over a five-day period and the temperature topped out at 106 degrees F. Now, 97 degrees isn’t quite that bad, and this time around, officials have learned a thing or two and precautions are being taken to help the most vulnerable.

I think we’ll hang at the lake this weekend, and I’ll take my first dip in the water despite the old wives’ tales about nests of snakes in the water. I grew up hearing this popular story in Alabama even before the term urban legend was applied to it.

Or maybe I'll try my hand at frying eggs on the pavement as the two women in the photo were attempting. We never seem to get tired of this gimmick, do we?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Yes, You Can Go Home Again. Sort Of.

Interstate highways mostly obscure historic Route 66 these days although you can pick up sections of the old road as you travel from Chicago westward. One particularly delightful stop along the way is in St. Louis, Missouri. We hadn’t been to Ted Drewes in several years and despite the rampant overgrowth of the town, I navigated the family Camry right there to our Mecca on Chippewa just as if time had stopped. Surprisingly, I was the one so intent on stopping. The guys were anxious to get home to television and a soft sofa to rest on after a long day in the car.

Maybe Ted Drewes is foreign to you. If so, I must implore you to seek out Ted Drewes if you are ever in the vicinity of St. Louis. And what dear gentle and curious readers is this Ted Drewes I speak so highly of? Some of the best frozen custard--a. k. a. ice cream--my friends. Okay, time has robbed my memory of what sundae I used to routinely get once a week. But I think Cardinal Sin with gooey hot fudge and tart cherries was awfully close.

And while time had moved on like a drop of Mississippi River water, Ted Drewes’ frozen custard was as good as I remembered.

Like Sands Through the Hourglass

No, this isn’t about Days of Our Lives, the soap opera. Well, it is about the real days of our lives and that hourglass is a wonderful reminder of the sad fact that the meter is running. Jobs, school and everyday chores intrude and consume a good portion of time. Then, we must sleep. Hence, time for reflection, long novels, hikes in the woods and visits with friends and family takes a backseat.

Those times when we can hop in the car or on a plane for a visit become even more precious. That was the case a few days ago when the Springfield Noblitts visited the Chicago branch. We enjoyed our time and hope that we weren’t too much the kind of visitors ole Ben Franklin referred to when he wrote, “Fish and visitors smell after three days.”

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Road Trip to the City of Broad Shoulders

Montgomery, my old hometown, called itself the Cradle of the Confederacy and the Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement—how far apart is that?

Chicago goes by several names like this too. Of course, everybody knows it’s the Windy City, although my mother always swore Oklahoma City was windier. The City of Broad Shoulders is a good one. Thank poet Carl Sandburg for that one. Second City is another nickname for Chi-Town you might have heard.

Philly is the City of Brotherly Love. I like that one. There's far too little of that and oh to be in a city of peace and love of fellow humankind. Does anyone know if they have much crime there? Wouldn't think so with a nickname like that, would ya?

Although, I’ve never been to the Big Apple, everyone knows where it is without me saying so.

Several cities like the Queen City moniker. Cincinnati does. My new hometown, Springfield, Missouri, is known by some as the Queen City of the Ozarks. I’d like to propose that the city’s fathers and mothers make the official nickname, Home of Cashew Chicken. There’s a cashew chicken joint on every corner. But please don’t make the mistake I did and think that this is a typical Asian-style cashew chicken. This is a uniquely Springfieldian way to serve what are in essence fried chicken nuggets in brown gravy.

More later about the road trip along parts of Route 66.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

None of the Above

I bounce between hopping on the Sheila soapbox and writing about the impending empty nest. Today’s installment is political and I’m mad at the Democrats and the Republicans.

But I will focus on the Democrats and save the rest for another day. My message: Don’t take this Yellow Dog Democrat for granted. Sure, I have been a party loyalist. The first presidential candidate I ever voted for was George McGovern back in 1972 when I was a student at the University of Alabama. I am unhappy though with party leadership or rather I should say, the lack of leadership.

The more I hear, endlessly it seems these days, the more the pack of candidates seems to blend together into one big “none of the above.” I am tired of polls, pundits and politicians. I am tired of lobbyists who can buy a voice. The few little dollars I can contribute are so small as to be laughable. Who the devil am I kidding?

I used to think my vote counted, but I no longer think that. So to quote my favorite South Park character Cartman, “Screw you guys. I’m going home.”

Longtime dear gentle readers will know, I cannot pull away entirely. Here’s what I am doing, though, and I urge you to check this out friends. I am thinking about joining Unity08.

The Atlantic chronicles the birth of Unity08:

Over dinner, some of the best political minds of the 1970s, Republican and Democratic, reached bipartisan consensus: none could any longer recognize the political parties in which they had once been major players. The cynical focus on divisive “wedge” issues and the ferocious negativity of recent campaigns, which fed in to an inability to govern once elected, dismayed everyone at the table.

If you watch much TV, you have probably seen actor spokesman Sam Waterston on The O’Reilly Factor, Joe Scarborough’s MSNBC Morning Joe or Chris Mathews’ Hardball. I’ve looked at the names of people putting themselves behind this effort. They are a bipartisan group. Here and there you may read about the efforts of Unity08. I just noticed the Washington Times had a piece recently, and a professor who studies political rhetoric said she thought the lack of a candidate and agenda would hurt Unity08. She is quoted as saying,
"It's going to hurt them because there is nothing substantial that well-meaning, critical American voters can hold on to," she said. "They're using Sam Waterston as spokesperson because he's identifiable, but most of us think politics in terms of an ideology, and there should be people, ideas and beliefs that are tied together, that are shared by people. And if discontent with the status quo is your only unifying factor, that's not going to be enough to hold it together, in my opinion."

To which Unity CEO Robert Bingham replied:
"We are not going to have a candidate until June of 2008," he said, but predicted the primaries will leave "a lot of people that are going to be disappointed and disaffected. And so we think that those folks will come our direction, and because they will feel like the system isn't going to produce the solutions that they expected."

From the Web site of Unity08:
Unity08 believes that neither of today’s major parties reflects the aspirations, fears or will of the majority of Americans. Both have polarized and alienated the people. Both are unduly influenced by single-issue groups. Both are excessively dominated by money.

Be warned, Democratic Party muckety-mucks. This Yellow Dog is shopping around. You probably aren’t going to listen to me. You didn’t the last time about John Kerry. And the Hillary Clinton bandwagon seems to be gaining more and more of the Big Mo. Funny, though, none of my fellow Democrats whom I have asked are supporting her. What I hear most often is “I don’t trust her.” And if there are any Hillary supporters who read this, I’d dearly love to hear from you. I’m polite and would welcome your two cents before I take my ball and go home.

photo by Scott Noblitt during a school trip to the Big Apple.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Days of Vine and Salad

A fellow blogger was looking for a healthy way to get more veggies into her diet, and I promised to share a recipe I like. This recipe is great this time of year in the States when fresh, beautiful tomatoes are plentiful. Plus, garbanzo beans (chickpeas) are super good for you. High in fiber and protein, coupled with pasta they make a great light lunch or dinner.

Garbanzos and Pasta Salad
1 can (19 oz) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 or 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar or a mix
2 or 3 tablespoons fresh cropped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or fresh if you have it
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups small pasta (note: I use Barilla’s Plus Multigrain Pasta)
2 cups fresh, ripe summer tomatoes, cubed
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced red or Vidalia onion

Combine the garbanzos, oil, lemon juice or vinegar, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper in a bowl and let stand while you cook the pasta in salted water. Don’t overcook the pasta—just until al dente. Drain, rinse in cool water and drain again. Add the pasta, tomatoes, celery and onion to the first bowl. Toss and serve at room temperature.

I remembered a photo I took at a Roman market and thought it would be appropriate here. I always carry a camera with me when I shop at local markets--in Italy, in Alabama or wherever. The shot of the tomatoes was made last year at Montgomery's Curb Market. And yes, they were as good as they look.