Friday, March 28, 2014

Celebrate the Small Things: I'm in a Norwegian Mood

Vince and I have been enjoying a TV series called Lilyhammer on Netflix. Frank, a former Italian mafia boss from New York, is put in the Witness Protection Program and sent to Lillehammer, Norway of all places. He opens up a nightclub, and befriends and swindles just about everyone he meets. The script is in English and Norwegian (with subtitles), so you really have to pay attention, but the dialogue is really funny. The humor is for adults only and offbeat. We have been laughing a lot lately at this kooky series. I've been told that Norwegians are enjoying it too. 

So, I guess you could say I'm in a Norwegian mood today. It really started yesterday when I received an undelivered Christmas card in the mail from Rorvik, Norway. I'm half Norwegian on my mother's side, and I had forgotten that one of my relatives is in a nursing home now. I spent the day wishing I could see everyone again. 

In May 2008, my sister, mother and I met our relatives for the first time in Norway. We flew to Oslo, and celebrated Norway's famous Constitution Day with our family there. 
Constitution Day, Oslo, Norway 2008

Our handsome family in Oslo, Norway 2008 (Everyone dresses up for the holiday)
We took a train to Trondheim..... 

(Beautiful Trondheim, Norway in May 2008)

.....where relatives traveled and gathered to give us a warm welcome, and treated us to a lovely dinner we will never forget. 

(That's me peeking from behind in the middle, mother in front and sister in red)

From there we traveled north by car..... 

(A Norwegian horse along the road)

To Rorvik, Norway....

Rorvik, Norway. A statue in memory of all the women who
faithfully waited for their men to return from sea.

My sister asked the question, "So are we Viking women?" Our cousin Haldis just grinned. "Oh yes, you are Viking women!"  We were pretty pumped after that!

Outside of Rorvik, we traveled to where my grandfather was born and raised. We saw the home where he lived..... 

Grandpa's boyhood home
We saw his mother Oline's spinning wheel....

And the family land where he played as a boy.....

Just wanted to share my Norwegian side. Looking back on that visit, it almost feels like a dream now. My grandfather was the only son (there were five boys) to immigrate to America. Meeting our family was a lifelong dream come true. 

Next week is the big April A to Z blog hop, so I will be dropping out of the 'Celebrate' posts for the month. I know some of you are in the A to Z too, so I hope to see you then. 

Happy Weekend Everyone!!

'Celebrate the Small Things' was started by Viklit at Scribblings of An Aspiring Author. Sign up below. Meet some terrific bloggers! 

Sharon M. Himsl

Writer/Author. Blogging since 2011. 
Published with Evernight Teen: 
~~The Shells of Mersing

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Africa Mercy - A Small Piece of Plastic: One Nurse's Journey

Hi. Another post from Marilyn in Africa, my dear friend on board the Africa Mercy. Some of the blood pressure readings and sugar counts for diabetes are "pretty generous," she writes. In the United States they would be disqualifiers for all the surgeries the doctors do, but apparently, the medical staff has little choice. It's hard to fathom. As typical, Marilyn is positive and optimistic through it all.

I was also reading in the newspaper this morning about an Ebola outbreak in Guinea, where the ship sails next. The article said that the outbreak may be headed for Pointe Noire (Congo), where they are at present. Marilyn writes about the Aids epidemic and some of the tumors that result they are dealing with, but I worry about the Ebola virus headed their way. Those of you who pray, please remember Marilyn and the Mercy staff in your prayers!

(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the
Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast).

(Pointe Noire, Congo)
 21 March 2014

It has been a long time since I've written. Time seems to melt like
Marilyn in front
butter around here! We have only 3 1/2 weeks of cataract surgeries remaining because our surgeries need to stop well before the ship leaves to allow time for proper followup. The ship leaves Congo the
end of May, so our eye surgeries end mid-April. For myself, since the surgeries are done mid-April, I plan to leave for home shortly after that, and then return to the ship in early August, in plenty of time to sail for Guinea, our next port of call.

So, what have I been doing, week in and week out? In one sense, every week is about the same--preparing patients for surgery starting at 0645, sending the last one home around 4:30 or 5:00, on Monday through Thursday. Then, I am working with the field team and having meetings on Friday. On weekends, I do whatever personal chores need to be done, but mostly I rest.

But...that description is deceptive. It sounds regular, steady, predictable...but in reality, it certainly doesn't feel that way. It seems that every day brings unexpected twists and turns. Perhaps it will rain, destroying any "timetable" we think we have. Perhaps six patients will not come and we need to find substitutes...or two extra patients will show up on the wrong date and expect surgery. Perhaps the surgeon will go fast and have no complications, and we struggle to keep up. Or perhaps he's training another surgeon, and they go really, really slow. Or they suddenly start running two surgical tables simultaneously without telling us, and we can't get enough patients ready in time to keep them busy. We think they'll be done by noon! Oh, wait, complications pile up, and in fact they are not done until 6:00 PM. (Yes, we did have such a day...)

Our patients range from 14 to 98. Many younger children also have cataracts, but they require general anesthesia instead of a local nerve block, and this year, we do not have that capacity. In addition to having a surgeon skilled in working with children's cataracts, we would also need an anesthesiologist who works with children. The ones that we have are fully booked for other types of surgery this year. Perhaps, next time we come to Congo, we can help the children, too. I hope so.

We've tightened our policy concerning blood pressures and blood sugars. Our blood pressure limit is generous--200/110--but now we have to send patients home if their pressure is higher than that, instead of just giving them medication to lower the blood pressure temporarily for surgery. We tell them at screening to see their doctor and get it under control, and then we call them (if their phones work...) and remind them, and still, some days we have four or more people arriving with blood pressure over the limits. Sometimes, if we let them sit on the dock and wait a couple of hours, the pressure will come down. If it does, I sure don't take it again! If it doesn't, I eventually send them home to get better medication and return to the clinic for a recheck before we reschedule them for surgery. The procedure is the same for blood sugars. Our limit is 200, pretty tight control for a diabetic.

Uncontrolled diabetes really wrecks eyes, though, so maybe in the long run we do them a favor by demanding that they figure out how to get good control before we do surgery.

Actually, I've been amazed at how many blood pressures do drop to just barely within the limits, allowing surgery. We pray, of course, and it certainly looks like answers to prayer when their numbers drop from 254/125 to something like 198/110 or 200/106. Just barely under the wire feels like God puts his thumb on the number and pushes gently down.

If it happened once in a while, I'd think coincidence, but it happens so often that it feels deliberate. In my life, anyway, I find that God often does "just in time" and "just barely enough", almost like a fingerprint, so that I do see his hand at work in the situation. It's not the big, splashy's the still small voice.

Normally, we do two types of surgeries--cataracts and pterygiums. Pterygiums are growths of tissue caused by irritants like dust and sunlight. They grow gradually from the edge toward the center of the eye, and eventually obscure vision if not removed. Lately, however, we've done several patients who have a cancerous tumor that looks a lot like a pterygium, but isn't. This particular type of tumor is strongly associated with HIV infection, so we offer these patients a blood test if they want to know their status. It's a delicate situation because a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS can be socially devastating, and yet, anti-retroviral treatment is available for free in this country, so not telling them of our suspicions could deny them the chance to get early intervention and longer life.

Two of these patients are heavy on my heart tonight. One was a young pregnant woman we had last week. Her test came back positive. I wonder what her husband will say, and I wonder if the baby will be all right. We did get the tumor off her eye...but that pales in the light of her greater problems.

This week we had another young woman with an even larger tumor. It was so large, in fact, that the surgeon felt he couldn't remove it under local anesthesia. It took quite a bit of negotiation, but our team leader got her scheduled for general anesthesia next Tuesday. Alas, her blood test also came back positive, and her counts revealed that she has full-blown AIDS. Her counts are so low that I'm not sure they can proceed with the surgery--but again, that's the least of her problems.

I can only imagine what it must be like to think that someone is going to remove a small growth on your eye...well, no, it's too large... and it's not just a growth, it's's not just cancer, it's associated with HIV...oops, you are not only HIV positive, you have AIDS and are too sick for surgery. Her world has crumbled step by step over the last week or so as we deliver one piece of bad news after another.

Meanwhile, many people are receiving their sight. If I have a stressful day, or if I focus too long on those we can't help, it is good to come back to that bottom line. Many people have their lives transformed by something as simple as a small piece of plastic cleverly lodged in their eye. Every once in a while, I try to walk down the hall with my eyes closed just to remember and appreciate the incredible blessing of being able to see. Hundreds of people in Pointe Noire are receiving this blessing, and I get to be a small part of making it happen. Now that's job satisfaction!


[Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy]

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring: What's Not to Celebrate?

First day of spring. Hurray, hurray! What's not to celebrate?

Sunflower sprouts basking in the warm light.
Vince and I had our first cup of coffee on the patio today, and I know that some of you are still dealing with snow! But the day WILL come when the sun shines again, so hang in there!

My sunflowers are now sprouting in their pots under grow lights. Last year's experiment was good and bad. Some seeds took forever to sprout, while others like my tomato seeds grew two inches and stayed dormant for a month. They DID finally grow in the garden, but how frustrating to watch. I wondered....was it the seeds, the grow lights?

This year I DROPPED THE GROW LIGHTS LOWER and...guess what?

The seeds starting sprouting twice as fast. ~Sigh~ There is always something new to learn.....and here I am taking a Master Gardener course.



Alas, I did not place in the Pitch Madness contest, but I can celebrate that I entered my first contest and practiced pitching my novel. The examples of the 60 novels that did place are a GREAT LEARNING TOOL. You can read the authors' pitches and first 250 words at the website. I urge you to take a look.

Biking the local trails is right around the corner.....actually NOW. I found a map of our area in the newspaper this morning that shows some of the wonderful trails we can bike in Pullman and Moscow alone. The trails extend to other communities as well.

Map of region in local paper.
If you ever visit the Palouse region, BRING YOUR BIKE. There is plenty to see in our two communities alone.

Note the Cougar and Vandal mascots in the middle of the map. FOOTBALL IS HUGE HERE (although personally not my favorite sport), but with two universities back to back, you can just imagine the crowds that come to see the games. Lots of energy and great for local businesses! Not bad for two communities with a combined population of less than 60,000.


Celebrate the Small Things was started by Viklit at Scribblings of An Aspiring Author. Sign up below & meet some terrific bloggers!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Celebrate the Small Things: A Good Week

Just saying "Hi" and wishing you a lovely spring week. I certainly have been celebrating one here (with the exception of today's wind and thunderstorm, but I won't go into that).

View driving into Clarkston, WA. Hell's Gate Marina on the Snake River where Vince and I sometimes sail on our sailboat, "Duet." Explorers Lewis Meriwether and William Clark explored this region and river in the early 1800s, and thus the names of our two towns, Lewiston and Clarkston came to be. A great place to visit for all you Pacific Northwest history buffs out there.
  The weather has been lovely in Eastern Washington, and the Palouse hills are already greening up from the winter wheat. Temperatures are in the 50s and 60s. Spring is definitely on the way. The Master Gardening class I have been attending once a week has been wonderful. Gardeners in the Lewiston-Clarkson valley (where classes are held 45 minutes away) are already gardening! Their season (zone 6) is about four to six weeks ahead of the rest of us (in zone 5) living on the plateau above. Boo! I'm 'green' with envy :).
Close up of Hell's Gate Marina (there is also a nice RV park here and Hell's Gate State Park farther down the road). The hills surrounding will turn green soon, but then quickly turn brown over the summer when temperatures reach the 90s and higher.

Winter sowing in mini greenhouses actually worked.
Planted Feb 16 when temperatures were still in the 30s at night.

Here on the Palouse on the plateau, I'm excited to begin gardening again and already have a garden shed planned (thanks to Vince's willingness to set up one). I'm a bit behind starting my seedlings indoors but the grow lights are set up and ready. My experiment sowing romaine lettuce and mesclun outdoors in mini-greenhouses actually worked (see photo). I have plenty of starts for transplanting. A Master Gardener suggested I try this method. You can't see the green shoots in the photo, but believe me they are there. I'll transplant later in April.

Also drove to Spokane this week, which is about 90 miles north of us. Vince had an early morning eye appointment, and I needed to picked up my red worms for my new vermi-composter.
View from road driving to Spokane at sunrise. The fields are already turning green.
What a beautiful day to drive!

I was pretty nervous about the worm composting process, but I'm happy to report the worms are thriving, and now eating a potpourri of chopped pineapple leaves, lettuce, bread and other fruit and vegetable scraps. At the end of the month, I should have a bucket's worth of fresh compost for the garden and a new batch of worms. The process is ingenious. I water and feed the worms with kitchen scraps, and brown material like leaves and old newspaper and they produce this marvelous soil for the garden. What a great way to recycle!
Vermi-Composter. Three more bins go on
top as the worms build up the soil.

My new worms. Most are hidden underneath.

Happy Weekend everyone!! 

'Celebrate the small things' was started by Viklit at Scribblings of An Aspiring Author. Sign up below. Meet some terrific bloggers!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Weekly Recap: Okay, Did It

Ever have that epiphany moment when things come together and you know it's time to do something? When you are buzzing along in life, smelling the flowers in happy bliss, and suddenly your eyes pop open and you know it's now or never?

I've had moments like that. I still remember a job I wanted so badly I could taste it. It was within the company I worked for at the time (General Telephone), but the laws of advancement were in place and not in my favor. I was in a position that did not normally advance that high. My boss had already told me she would not support my efforts, since the timing was off and it was during our busiest season.

But I knew the other job was perfect. It was in the town where I lived and would be easier on my family. I said a prayer and decided to go over my supervisor's head. It was a scary can-do moment, but I was bursting with energy and determination. I introduced myself to the supervisor in the office where I wanted to work and explained my situation. I was practically hired on the spot, and was later told that my energy-level had convinced her I was perfect for the job, and......more positions followed.

So did I learn something from this? Yes, indeed....


Others have written about this, too.

Winston Churchill wrote:
"Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all the others."

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote:
"Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others."

(And my favorite....)

Victor Hugo: "Wings"
"Be like the bird that, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings."

I wish I could say that I still had the same thirty-something energy. The laws of nature, i.e. getting older, have put a damper on some at least, but I did have a moment of courage this week. I entered my novel in a contest for the first time, Pitch Madness. I have no idea how I'll place, but there was a moment of
"I can't do this. People will judge my novel. Some may think I can't even write." Ee-eh, I hate those feelings, don't you? Or am I the only one who ever feels this way?

But it was time, and my 'self-assigned' publicist husband was already kicking my butt. "You gotta do this. Either put the book to rest, write another, or quit." 

Me: Hmm.....typical male logic. "Okay, okay, quit getting so emotional," I told myself. I was also remembering something my son had said.

Son: "Think of this as a product, Mom. Take yourself out of the ratio." Okay I'm selling a car then? Hmm......maybe not, but it does give a whole different feeling. 

So, today I wrote the email, pasted in my 35-word pitch and first 250 words, and hit the 'send' button!! No explosions, no hurrahs from the email Olympians of the Internet, nothing extraordinary to report at all. But boy, did that ever feel good.

About Me

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You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.