Category Archives: Gomez

And, Now the Rest of the Story…, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Yesterday I shared with you my feelings on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.

I also mentioned that as a whole 2001 was a turning point…a seminal year for me personally. In May of that year, on our son’s 21st birthday, my husband of 27 years walked out to start a new life with a woman who was a co-worker.

But, there’s more to that year, a turning point if you will and as Paul Harvey would have said, this is the rest of the story…

Little did I know that in the burning rubble of 9/11 and the crumbled decay of a 30 year relationship something new would rise up out of that and would be a new start for me. It’s almost cliché to use the Phoenix rising from the flame, but in a way that’s almost what it was like.

At the time it seemed pretty hopeless. I had been a stay at home mom for about 21 years.

But, I had kept up certain skills and developed new ones. I had worked part time here and there, done some civic work, aided my ex in some home-based businesses, homeschooled our son, co-founded a quilt guild, served as President for the guild for several years, launched the guild newsletter and served as editor for several years and then served on the board of the state at-large quilt guild.

But, there was one very important thing I had done that paid off in spades. I had begun developing computer skills. Yes, I was mainly self taught, but it is truly amazing what you can learn on your own and you can be underestimated by others when you are self-taught which can lead to a big advantage.

I originally began my journey through the would of tech when I began publishing the guild newsletter, using it for quilt design, home-school purposes and the real hook was genealogy research.

Those computer skills helped me snag an amazing job I really enjoyed, but unfortunately my health could not hold up under the stress of the job and over time my health began to be harmed in ways I never knew imaginable.

It was also those under estimated computer skills that cracked the caper of Gomez and Morticia, yes the ex and his new gal’s code names for their computer communications. It was all just an elementary matter of following simple internet cookies and temp files which he didn’t realize I knew about. When he finally realized I did know how to do that, ashen faced he said, “I knew I should have done a better job of cleaning up that computer.”

But the rest of the story is this…

After all of that, the turmoil in the country, the dashed hopes of a life and family, it was time to start looking forward.

Statistics told me the outlook was dismal for me. For someone with my health challenges and my age finding a mate would be about like finding a chicken with lips…

I prayed for a knight is shining armor…any girl’s dream…young, middle aged and yes, based on what I had seen in the media, yes, even the dream of blessed women of a certain age beyond middle age…we all want our knight in shining armor.

Statistics told me that in todays less chivalrous society they (knights) are about as rare as reptiles that walk on two feet, especially if you’re looking for a man who knows how to deal with chronic illness.

Years ago I read a study with statistics that related some stunning information. In relationships when a female becomes chronically ill, overtime about 97% of the men eventually leave. When a male becomes chronically ill about 94% of the women stay in the relationship. I was stunned and just didn’t know if I really believed those stats. I guess the truth was I didn’t want to believe them…

But, now I was faced with the fact of “what now” and the unknown.

Little did I know that just weeks after the turmoil of 9/11 I would meet my knight in shining armor. He would be a Southwestern cowboy who sometimes wore a Stetson and cowboys boots and had strong, deep Southern roots like mine. And even though I was upfront with every health situation he didn’t run the other way. He is one of the most decent human beings I have ever known in my life.

So, why do I tell you this with today’s picture?

Well, this picture was taken on Sept. 11, 2010. We happened to be on Jekyll Island, GA that day and we wanted to be somewhere that took our minds off the past tragedy of the day. We were approaching Driftwood Beach, my Tall & Handsome was a little ahead of me because I had stopped and taken a picture of two. I looked up and saw him right at this time and I caught my breath. It was the perfect time, the perfect place and a perfect picture.

There was my lone knight, my Tall & Handsome who’s long arms have comforted me many times. Even in his ball cap and his Alabama T-shirt, he was still my knight in shining armor.

“Being loved deeply by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~ Loa Tzu ~

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under 9/11, Driftwood Beach (Jekyll Island GA), Georgia, Gomez, Jekyll Island (GA), Loa Tzu, Love, Morticia, Photography, Picture of the Day, Tall & Handsome, The South, Travel

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 6–“Till Death Do Us Part…Well, Maybe” or The Wedding Ring Block, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 6 – “Till Death Do Us Part…Well, Maybe” or The Wedding Ring Block

And the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Mark 10:8 NASB

(*This post can also be seen at my quilt blog Around the Block with the BamaSteelMagnolia™ where I am blogging the whole project.)

Wedding Ring block

I started this chapter in February some time ago and it seemed a fitting month to start writing the latest chapter of The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries. The block for this chapter is called Wedding Ring. It is a single wedding ring and not the double wedding ring we know so well. The block is a simple 6 inch pieced block and it represents the fact that I don’t know many in life who have not been affected by a marriage in some way or another…including me.

Being a genealogist I can see how all the “begats” or unions/marriages in our ancestry make us who we are. When you stop and think about the numbers in the equation of “you” it becomes pretty staggering.

For instance, for each generation you go back the number doubles to how many sets of ancestors, or marriages if you will, it took to trickle down to create the final individual you. Look at it this way…you are the starting point on the road backwards into time and your ancestry. Take those sets and multiply them by two and you have how many people it took to create the one special individual called you.

It works this way; you had two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, 32 great-great-great-grandparents, 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents and 128 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents and so on. As mind boggling as 128 may seem, your heritage and ancestry doesn’t stop there and it continues to double for each generation back. There are so many life lessons just in the formula of who you are and how you were made, but that is for another story. One missing link in that chain and you would not have been you…as a matter of fact you probably wouldn’t have been, well, here on Earth at all.

I would ask you to reflect on the marriages in your life, including your own that have affected you and what they mean to you. I’m sure everyone has different recollections and feelings and experiences.

The most immediate marriage that has affected me all of my life and is actually responsible for me even being here is of course the marriage of my parents. My parents have something that is rare to find in this day and age. That’s a long lasting marriage. For you see, on Feb. 28, 2012 they celebrated 59 years of marriage.

Oakley Hicks and Juanita McGee Early 1950's

Daddy and Momma early 1950s

Momma and Daddy were high school sweethearts. They were 15 and 16 when they met at a church function being conducted by my Momma’s daddy. Yes, Mom was a PK…a Preacher’s Kid. She was the shy quite one with big brown “doe eyes” as Daddy calls them. Momma and Daddy were a couple all through high school, for four years, so for all practical purposes you could say they’ve been together for 63 years and that is the biggest portion of their life. When they laid eyes on each other, there was no one else as far as they were concerned…that was it.

Daddy started the University of Tennessee with intentions on becoming a mechanical engineer. But, Momma and Daddy also had secret plans…yes, in their own quiet non-conforming conforming way they were rebels with a cause. They had plans to get married and I don’t mean a big church wedding with the wedding party, flowers, music and weeping mother of the bride (and in this case weeping mother of the groom, too). Nope, no way, no how. Momma and Daddy were going to make Hicks history…or at least stuff that would go down in family history. For you see, the shy lovely quite preacher’s daughter and the tall good looking guy from the foothills of the Smokies eloped…all the way to Ringgold, GA!

Now, the plan was to get hitched and drive back home. Mom would go back and keep quiet and live at home and Daddy would go back home and live with his parents and continue going to college. The slight hiccup in their little plan happened when Mom told her next oldest sister, Korinne, what she had done and swore her to secrecy…which of course was the very last thing that actually happened. Before you knew it the cat was out of the bag, the cow was out of the barn and the camel’s nose was under the tent or in other words, it was like telling Western Union and everyone found out. As Ricky use to say to Lucy, “There was some `splaining to do.”

Well, of course everyone knows you can’t keep true love apart very long anyway and by the time the parents (my grandparents) had time to wrap their heads around the events Momma let it be known in no uncertain terms she was living where Daddy was. And that was that.

Everything went along pretty good in newlywed life until about three months later. At that time Mom came down with a raging case of flu. Made her sick as a dog. She just could not get well. That was the “Beverly” flu. Yep, eleven months after they married I was born…and Mom’s flu was cured.

Cominghome Day 1-7-1954

Daddy, Momma and Bev – Coming home day

I was an only child for about three and a half years. During that time we moved for a brief time to Texas where Daddy worked as an engineer in the aircraft industry for Chance-Vought Aircraft. I celebrated my second birthday in Fort Worth, Texas which has always left me with a soft spot for Texas and branded me Daddy’s “little Texas girl”. And, as I have always said, some of the most famous and infamous Texans were Tennesseans.

“Oh, really?!” I know you Texans are saying… yep. For instance: remember Davy Crockett…♪born on a mountain top in Tennessee…♪ and also famous for the Alamo. Then there’s Benjamin and Henry McCulloch who both fought in the Texas Revolution and became Texas Rangers; Mack Brown head coach at the University of Texas and oh, yeah some fellow named Sam Houston. I think you might have heard of him, too. Sam’s time in Tennessee included time as a governor of that great state and time spent teaching in the town of my birth…a long time before I was born or course Smile

Being the true East Tennessee mountain boy that Daddy is, the Plains of Texas didn’t do much to lift the Tennessee boy’s spirits and heart. In other words, he got sorely and mightily homesick, especially when those Nor’easters barreled into the Plains faster than a New York minute without any warning. It wasn’t too long before we were packed up and headed back to the lush green climes of Tennessee.

Over the next eight or nine years Momma had two more cases of “flu”. And, two more baby girls followed those cases of “flu”. Pamella was next in line, followed by Yvonne. For a little Hicks trivia here: Mom named her girls Faith, Hope and Charity…in that order. I always teased her and said if we had been born boys we would have been named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John…

Momma and Daddy’s marriage has mirrored life in general…a road with ups and downs and bumps in the road. Almost every young couple starts out with the bare necessities and grows from there. Daddy was smart and savvy and his engineer career grew. We also moved several times following that career. We landed in Birmingham, AL (for the second and final time I might add) when I was 12 years old and the rest of that is history. That is why I proudly say, ♪…my home is in Alabama…♪ and one of my ringtones on my cell is Sweet Home Alabama…

My baby sister Yvonne, really Charity Yvonne, was born in Greeneville, TN when I was in the third grade. Mom’s delivery with her was fast. Like greased lightening…about 20 minutes. She barely had time to step off the elevator at the hospital before Yvon was born. When Momma & Daddy brought the baby home, they brought home another beautiful baby girl (Momma and Daddy had the reputation of popping out beautiful baby girls with long dark eyelashes and heads of thick dark hair. The nurses in the baby nurseries used us as baby dolls and hated to send us home. Back in those days they had about seven days to get attached to a baby before it went home.)

It seems like from the recollection of my child’s mind that it wasn’t too long after she was born that Yvon seemed to get sick and stay sick. So sick in fact that Mom had to take her all the way to Chattanooga for medical care and stay with family that lived down there. Papaw and Mamaw came to Greeneville to help Daddy take care of Pam and me.

I remember it as a tumultuous time. Yvonnie was sick. We didn’t quite know what was wrong and in the world at large, the Cuban missile was going on.

Over time Yvonne was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and for the last 50 years has lived at home. Do you know what the statistics are for marriages surviving for couples who have disabled children? They’re not very good. The divorce rate is very high and it’s usually the husband who takes his walking papers and goes on to create another worry-free life for himself.

It is a testament to my Daddy’s character that he is right where is started out 59 years ago, disabled child and all, and that is with my Momma and our family. As a matter of fact Daddy is pretty much the rock of the family and the three of us girls are Daddy’s girls. It is also like having a Jewish momma having him around, which is our way of saying he worries over us like a Jewish mom would…he just never learned to cook that chicken soup. Daddy’s remedy is to always take it to prayer…

I heard some place one time that marriage is a marathon not a sprint. My parents’ marriage would certainly qualify for the marathon…

Unfortunately, the first time around, I married a sprinter…

There is a lot I could write about my first marriage. My child is the issue of that marriage. And, sometimes I feel really badly because I feel I provided a poor example…a sprinter if you will as a role model for my child. I do not adhere to the current feel-good philosophy that divorce does not affect children. It does…no matter what their age. I think our society today reflects the side effects and ravages of decades of divorce. On the other hand I also believe that some parents can be toxic and I do not adhere to the theory that having a toxic parent around is better than having no parent around.

But, with that said, there are just times when divorce is unavoidable. Marrying that “marriage sprinter” is certainly one instance. Infidelity usually ends a marriage fairly fast or ends the chance for that marriage marathon partner. Another unavoidable instance is when you marry the type of person who ends up creating the “tragic love” scenario or as I wrote about a few years ago, the type of guy (or gal) that causes love to hurt.

If that is the case, I would beseech you to go back and read a blog I wrote a few years ago that addresses just that subject. Called When Love Hurts I address the rash of tragic stories in which women have chosen to stay and in the end unfortunately paid dearly for that relationship…sometimes with their lives.

The most recent example would be Susan Powell and her precious boys. Susan disappeared one cold December day in 2009 while her husband supposedly had taken their two very young sons camping in a blizzard. On Feb. 5th of this year her

husband blew up himself and those two precious boys as the police drew closer to lowering the hammer on him and his pedophile father. The coward and those poor children died in a burning inferno that should have never happened.

My love hurt story wasn’t like that, but it was traumatic just the same. Had I just opened my eyes and looked at the warning signs early on I could have saved myself sorrow and devastation years later. After 27 years of marriage my ex walked out because he was unfaithful. The summer he left I read my diary from the summer we started dating and as I did it was a real eye opener…he was the same back then…had cheated then and had not changed in 27 years. Leopards as they say do not change their spots. I just could not love him enough for him to change.

Bev & Momma on the Regrettable Day Nov. 1974

Bev & Mom – me as a young bride not paying attention to warning signs

And, unfortunately staying in a bad relationship hoping to make it functional only teaches children dysfunction. What did Susan Powell’s children learn in the end by her hanging on to a bad marriage? It cost her kids their lives. What a tragic shame… There is a saying…”The sins of a father (parent) are visited upon the children…” In other word the kids will learn from the father…from the parents. And, if you close your eyes to alcoholism, addiction, incest, abuse, violence and plunge ahead into that and choose that as a family center for your children…it will trickle down to them and affect them in one way or the other

For me realizing I could not love the ex enough to change who the core of him was, it was, well, the beginning of a new future, hope and moving forward…

So, even though I was scared to death when Gomez the Underwhelming abandoned me I began to have hope. Yes, I was disabled. Yes, he had wiped out the bank accounts. Yes, I had not worked outside the home full time in over 21 year. Yes, at one point he left me without health insurance. Yes, he assaulted me before he left and injured my back. Yes, I had hoped with everything in me that that he would have a change of heart and come home and things would go back to normal.

But, to have normal and a marriage that’s going in the same direction, you have to have two people who want the same thing. Without that, it’s just not going to happen and the only resulting by-product is going to be pain, sorrow, poor health, a bad example for the kids and low self esteem.

In the end the veil was lifted from my eyes and I was able to see there just might be someone out there who not only would help heal my broken heart, but became my marathon runner.

As the Rascal Flats song goes…God blessed the broken road that lead me straight to you…and that you is my Tall & Handsome…my southwestern cowboy.

Our story is unconventional at best. A sign of the times and a sign of what happens when a geek (me) comes into her geekdom and starts to revel in her life and gain self esteem once again. And a lonely, broken hearted southwestern cowboy who had given up on the hope of a loving nurturing relationship begins to hope again. You see we met playing an online MMORPG game. We emailed, talked and instant messaged for almost a year before we met face to face.

When I first laid eyes on my Tall & Handsome he was walking out of the Birmingham Airport. He had on tight blue jeans, a Western cut jacket and a Stetson. I got out of the Lead Sled (what I “affectionately” called my Park Avenue) and walked towards him. He walked toward me, smiled and said, “Hello, darling” and then kissed me under that cowboy hat in front of the Birmingham airport.

I felt 18 again! Wow! It was like living in a movie…a real chick flick. He really had me at “Hello, darling” and that kiss.

The kiss 12-30-03

The Kiss – my favorite of our wedding pictures

I have also learned words are cheap, but actions speak volumes and they do so loudly! Some of Gomez’ parting words were (referring to my illnesses and disabilities), “I didn’t want to take care of you, I hated taking care of you, but I did. So, there!”God help him when his karma comes rolling around.

I have never wanted to be a burden…to anyone. So, I was very up front from the beginning with T & H about the status of my health. The man did not tuck tail and run. He called me his wounded dove…

He knew I saw in him a heart that was larger than large…and he appreciated that.

I never felt secured and truly loved with a man I was married to for 27 years. I never felt “good enough”. I poured myself into him, body and soul. But my self confidence and self esteem was non-existent. There were episodes of suspect cheating from the beginning. He had developed hepatitis before we were married five years and I was so naïve back then I didn’t realize how hepatitis is contracted. Deep down inside though I knew something wasn’t right…

By the time T & H and I married, I felt loved, appreciated, confident and secure. I had found my muse. I wanted to create again. That is a huge gift any man can give to the woman he loves. My T & H does it effortlessly…

It has been the little things that some people would never notice. The time I lay dying in the back of an ambulance in Knoxville, TN my feet were bare. T & H dashed quickly into the house and grabbed a pair of sock and gently put them on my feet before the ambulance doors were closed. At the hospital ER, he refused to be separated from me and was by my side until I stabilized and was released.

When we moved from Alabama to Tennessee I was so sick I had to go through the ER first. When we got to Knoxville I was exhausted and slept quite a bit. I woke up one weekend afternoon to discover T & H had set up the deck furniture like a side walk café, bought flowers and grilled a luscious dinner. All I had to do was eat and enjoy him and the outdoors.

Another time when I was deathly sick and my stomach would hold absolutely nothing down, he cut up corn tortillas and made home-made lime-pepper tortillas chips and they were the only thing I could eat and not get sick.

Life may try to batter us, but we fight back together as a team.

We’ve taken care of a couple of bucket list items together. But, our greatest strength is being there for each other, understanding each other and appreciating each other. I love to see life through my T & H’s eyes. It is seeing life anew sometimes.

In the end, my greatest regret…our greatest regret? That we won’t have more years together and didn’t meet years earlier. If only fate had intervened when we were young…how many times have we had that conversation?

But, in the end, it is what it is…as much as we both hate that saying. We are thankful for what we have and for finding each other. It would have been awful to have never found each other. Neither of us can imagine a life without the other. I cannot imagine a day without his voice and his blue eyes and his sense of humor.

My Tall & Handsome and me at the Survivors Dinner in Savannah, GA (2011) celebrating 29 years cancer free non-smoking lung cancer (right lung) and 16 years cancer free non-smoking lung cancer (left lung)

And, in the end we resolve…`til death do us part…with the wedding ring block…

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

**The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries is a writing and textile art project I started a few years ago. It’s based on a concept started by Mimi Dietrich and a book she wrote about diary quilts. I was so inspired by the book I started my own and decided to accompany each block with a chapter. Everyone has always said, “Bev, you need to write a book!” Well, here it is…at least part of it!”

If you’re interested in catching up, here are the beginning installments:

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries Begin

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 1 – Cupcake Block or Happy Birthday to Me

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 2: Southern Belle and Yankee Puzzle or A House Divide Will Fall…

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 3 – Compass or Where in the World is Bev?

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 4 – Paw Print or To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 5 – How Green is My Thumb? or Grandmother’s Flower Garden Block

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Filed under Around the Block with The BamaSteelMagnolia(TM), Daddy, Divorce, East Tennessee Heritage, Family, genealogy, Gomez, Life, Marriage, Photography, Quilt Block, Quilts, Susan Powell, Tall & Handsome, The BamaSteelmagnolia(TM) Diaries, Wedding Ring Quilt block

My First Poppy, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Years ago I was a horticulture major…at least that was one of my courses of studies. I was a few hours short of an AA degree when the ex, Gomez had a car wreck and broke his neck. Being the loving wife that I was, I dropped out of school to take care of him while he recuperated.

I was repaid handsomely years later when he walked out on our son’s 21st birthday, clean out the bank accounts and took up with his wealthy co-worker girlfiend girlfriend Morticia (hand to God, that was their code name for each other).

Of course by then, I had survived non-smoking lung cancer twice, developed Sjogren’s syndrome, fibromyalgia and other chronic health issues. (Gee, kinda sounds like something ripped out of today’s political headlines vis a vie Newt and Callista.)

My green thumb seems to be a genetic thing from my Momma’s side of the family. There have been garden putters in our family for years. Because of health reasons I can’t do vigorous gardening, but a couple of years ago with the help of my Tall & Handsome we did some container gardening. Along with some herbs and veggies, I grew ornamentals. Today’s picture is one I took of my first poppy. It was enchanting…even if it was for a short while…

So, some bright color for a winter’s day…

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Flowers, Gardening, Gomez, Horticulture, Photography, Picture of the Day, Poppies, Tall & Handsome

Divorce Has Lasting Toll on Health, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Divorce Has Lasting Toll on Health

Shared via AddThis

I found the above article this morning on WebMD and feel it applies to my concern for women’s health matters. Please take the time to read it…especially if you are a survivor of divorce or someone in your family is!

This one personally hit home for me because I fit the demographic…plus, I had the ex from hell, with a matching sibling and girlfriend/paramour/new wife…the “other woman” who broke up the marriage. She was Gomez’  co-worker and she and the ex both worked  for the same company where my father had spent a 25+ year distinguished and respected career.

When they pulled their shenanigan phone calls started pouring out of the woodwork to my Dad (and a few to me) about their behavior at work (they thought they had been “sly” and covered their tracks…but, nope they just Punk’d themselves). Daddy and I were also informed about her less than distinguished and respected reputation…

During the divorce I started out with a “handicap”…I was disabled with a laundry list of disabilities and chronic health problems. Gomez was determined to see I was penniless when he emptied out the bank accounts and “supported” me with a grand amount of $250 for almost 18 months for food, medicine, health and dental care, gas, legal fees and any other necessities. Fortunately I managed to get a small pittance from an account he forgot about…but it was waaaay below the national poverty line…he also bought a Ford Explorer he put on a second mortgage on the house (that I ended up having to pay for even though I hadn’t worked outside of the home in over 21 years…I was a disabled, diplaced homemaker…I did manage to stop payment on a check he wrote for a down payment and that added a little to my living money…)

So much for vows like in sickness and in health…for better or worse…unless of course you find a gem like my Tall & Handsome 🙂

Oh…and those legal fees…well, that’s one of the things that enraged him. He wanted to go get a lawyer, but he had the nerve to stand in my living room and tell me he had told his lawyer, “I told him you would be conservative and get legal help off the internet.” When I retained legal representation he saw red and his freckles went 3D…I began to wonder if he was a sociopath…

The stress of the divorce and the battle he waged to put me through…the “lessons” he felt he wanted to teach me (his words) even though he was a low-life, lying, cheating, stealing dog (yep, he stole our son’s income tax refund out of the mailbox, cashed the check, kept the money while our son was at SERE training. It was a whopping $235 and my son found out from the IRS what had happened…his Daddy didn’t have the gonads to tell him what he had done) and the ex’s desire to batter and bruise me casts long shadows…even today. I think he would have killed me if he could have…he bragged to my poor sick Aunt…”She’ll be dead in five years without ME to take care of her!” (Kinda sounds like Lucifer before the fall to me…”Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling” Proverbs 16:18 NASB)….Hummm…sounds like he was uttering a death wish/hope/threat for me…

So, I can concurr, confirm and say “Amen” WebMD! Is it any wonder divorce can have a lasting toll on your health?!

But guess what? Eight years down the road I’m still kicking…married to Tall & Handsome, who can still make me feel 18 years old sometimes…

No wonder there is a First Wives Club!! Ladies TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES!!!

© 2009 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Divorce, Gomez, Health, Life, Proverbs 16:18, Tall & Handsome, WebMD, Women's health

How Dry I Am…by Beverly Hicks Burch

How Dry I Am…

By Beverly Hicks Burch

In 1993 I finally got a name for the “thing” that had been making so sick and fatigued for years. Sometimes just having a name for your illness is a blessing…it serves to alleviate your fears that you might be crazy! Thankfully I was referred to a doctor who knew what he was doing, what to look for and how to look for it. Believe me when I say that was no small miracle as far as I was concerned…

Given the title of this blog, you may think I’m about to confess to some terrible secret. No, the problem is not alcoholism or any related complications. My illness is a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects approximately four million people a year…9 out of 10 of which are women. I am a Sjogren’s (pronounced SHOW-grins) Syndrome patient…

With that said, and because April is National Sjogren’s Syndrome Awareness month and in keeping with the “Women’s Health” series I started some time ago, I would like to share with you a little about my experience and a little helpful, informative information about Sjogren’s.

The shear number of Sjogren’s sufferers makes it one of the most prevalent autoimmune disorders, but I can imagine when you read the words “Sjogren’s Syndrome” your first reaction was probably, “What the heck is that?” That is a typical response of most people because they are more familiar with autoimmune diseases like lupus, scleroderma, Rheumatoid Arthritis and diabetes.

Although symptoms of Sjogren’s were identified as early as the late 1800’s, in 1933 Dr. Henrik Sjögren was the first physician to identify the illness. Because of his “discovery” the illness bears his name.

Now, keep in mind an autoimmune disorder or disease occurs when a person’s body is attacking itself and killing itself or parts of the body. This is called an overactive immune response. In simple terms that means in say the case of lupus, a person’s body may read the body’s liver as an unwanted and dangerous foreign substance. The body will then send “agents” of some type to the unwanted “item” or area for the purpose 0f eradicating or ridding the body of the perceived danger. When that happens, the body and the areas in the body affected are damaged and/or diseased…sometimes terminally.

In the case of Sjogren’s, the body’s white blood cells are attacking the moisture producing glands in the body and killing those glands. Hence, my title “How Dry I Am…”

About 79% of the people affected by autoimmune disorders are women. Combine that with the rate of incidence of Sjogren’s among female patients and you can see autoimmune disorders are a predominantly female problem. Yes, men can and do develop autoimmune disorders, but just not at the rate women do.

Not to make light of the situation, but one of the hallmarks symptoms of Sjogren’s is dryness, particularly dry eyes and dry mouth (again, “How Dry I Am…”). But, don’t be deceived or mislead…Sjogren’s can be a very debilitating illness to live with causing far more than “just dry eyes and dry mouth”.

Sjogren’s is also systemic…meaning the symptoms and problems may and do affect the whole body. So, what are the symptoms of Sjogren’s? Well, they include but are not limited to:

  • Dry eyes – this can lead to ulcers on the eyes, infections and blurred vision. Sometimes “dry eyes” result in a gritty feeling…like someone has kicked sand in your eyes. In some cases, the eyelid may actually stick to the eyeball. Oddly enough, dry eyes can lead to excessive tearing. Why? Well, the tear film that covers the eye has three major components: water, an oily layer and mucus. The natural oils in the tear film enable the film to cover the eye and protect it. As the film breaks down, holes begin to form in the film, resulting in the dry eye. The tear ducts go into overdrive producing water, i.e. tears, to try and make up for the other missing components. Sadly, this doesn’t work because the proper ratio of all components is absent and the eyes remain dry. Of course, then there are the times when tears are totally absent…even if you are crying! Believe me, that’s a most frustrating situation…to be angst enough to cry, but your body is unable to produce tears.
  • Dry mouth – the complications of this is dental decay; infections, difficulty swallowing and chewing; oral yeast infections called thrush
  • Dry or burning throat
  • Dry cough and hoarseness
  • Dry, cracked tongue – all of the oral complications can result in oral yeast infections
  • Changes in taste and smells
  • Digestive problems; reflux
  • Vaginal and skin dryness; painful sexual intercourse because of vaginal dryness; vasculitis; Raynaud’s Syndrome
  • Joint pain and problems
  • Dry sinuses and nasal passages; this can cause difficulty breathing
  • Peripheral neuropathy – tingling or a “pins and needles feeling” and numbness in the extremities
  • Other organ involvement including but not limited to the brain, lungs, pancreas, liver and thyroid; swollen parotid glands
  • Increased risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Fatigue…many times patients are overwhelmed with life altering, debilitating fatigue.
  • Symptoms and complications can be life changing and debilitating in many patients.

If Sjogren’s is present alone, it is called Primary Sjogren’s, but if Sjogren’s is accompanied by other autoimmune illnesses, then it is considered Secondary Sjogren’s. In my case, Sjogren’s is accompanied by a laundry list of autoimmune disorders and chronic illnesses. Some days it feels like I’m hauling an anvil around on my back…

My official diagnosis of Sjogren’s came in 1993. I had been exhibiting severe chronic fatigue, dry, gritty feeling eyes, joint pain and weakness, muscle weakness, and a chronic dry cough among other symptoms. My teeth were even being affected…I had crowns that just wouldn’t stay on and other issues. When I made the statement to an acquaintance my teeth were being affected, she suspected what my problem was…she was a Sjogren’s patient also.

Many doctors were unable to diagnose the problem or simply overlooked important red flag warnings. I look back over the years since and I can see in hindsight how much my life has changed. It has been a life altering and sometimes overwhelming illness. I wish it was merely the “dry eyes, dry mouth” problem so many people assume it is.

The doctor I’ve used since 1993 knew what to do after listening to me give my history and after examining me. He also knew enough to know blood work can sometimes be like smiling faces…they can lie…Blood work and/or tests are not always the best diagnostic tool. Many outside factors can affect the results of blood work.

So, my Dr. X sent me to an oral surgeon for a lip biopsy. During the procedure a salivary gland was removed from my lower lip and sent to the university hospital pathology lab. The result came back and confirmed that yes, indeed, I have Sjogren’s. A lip biopsy is the most conducive way to determine Sjogren’s.

I have never been what you would call a robustly healthy person…even as a child. Knowing what I know now, it almost seems like I was on a yellow brick road leading right to chronic health issues and autoimmune problems.

Stomach problems have plagued me since I was an infant, and after having test after test run, doctors are still perplexed at what causes my gastrointestinal system to do the things it does. One very uncomfortable test was performed while I was several months pregnant. That my friends is a road you don’t want to go down…

I was told after one GI test and a turn in the hospital that I had a very sluggish GI system…as a matter of fact, the slowest one they had ever seen. Ya think?! My research on Sjogren’s has revealed this could be because of the lack of sufficient moisture, thus resulting in slow motility of the GI system. In addition I’ve been diagnosed with Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS or IBD), spastic colon and esophagus, colitis, and acid reflux.

Bev has lived with an upset tummy…

When I was first diagnosed my rheumatologist sent me to an ophthalmologist who examined and tested my eyes by measuring the moisture level and looking at my eyeballs in a Slit Lamp exam.

At that time, in 1993, the ophthalmologist determined my eyes were affected. He had used the Schirmer exam to measure the moisture in my eyes. (I have been told since the Schirmer exam is not used as universally as it once was and other techniques are used.) Based on the scale of 0 to 15 with 15 being the moistest, I was informed my level was about 3. Wow! No wonder I was walking around feeling like I’d had a whole sandbox kicked in my eyes!

By using sterile eye drops or “tears” I was able to raise the moisture level in my eyes for a while to 6. Since autoimmune disorders can have a degenerative effect on the body and its parts, that was not to last long. To keep moist eyes over the years has been a struggle.

In 2006 I was told my tear film was totally gone. My eyes are constantly dry. I’ve had complications such as inflamed eyes; red, irritated bumps or knots appearing for a time on the rim of my eyes, excessive tearing and some blurred vision. There was one period I call my “wraith” period because my eyes were in such terrible shape, that’s the best way to describe how I looked…and felt…

To maintain any moisture in my eyes I have to use the sterile eye drops or “tears” several times a day and during really bad flare ups a lubricating ointment. Although the ointment is called a “night time” application, my eyes are so dry that on occasion day time usage is needed. GenTeal makes a gel drop that is for moderate to severe dryness. Since it’s a little more viscous than other drops, it gives me more relief than a standard eye drop does.

If all else fails, then surgical measure may have to be taken. This involves implanting silicone plugs into the tear ducts in an effort to prevent as much moisture loss as possible. (I personally have been cut on enough in my life and hope to avoid this procedure, but have been advised it may be in my future.)

A Sjogren’s patient is advised to visit the ophthalmologist every three months. In many cases uninformed and restrictive medical insurance company policies and cost make this prohibitive for the patient.

Over the years I have seen a daily decline and degeneration of my health. No matter how fastidious I am about dental hygiene, I battle tooth decay and dental issues. When my mouth becomes extremely dry I develop painful sore in the angles of my mouth. Many times this can be caused by oral yeast (thrush). To battle that I use a concoction called “Magic Mouthwash” made up of ingredients like nystatin, lidocaine, an antihistamine and sometime something like Mylanta.

My mouth stays so dry that I am seldom without something to drink right by my side. Over the years my devoted canine companions have learn if Momma picks up the “big glass”…then she’s on the move. They hop up ready to follow me where ever I go.

As far as glandular problems…around October 2006 I was finally diagnosed with hypothyroidism…something I was not surprised about. I had suspected it for years and exhibited many symptoms. I have a parotid gland that seems to stay swollen and besides the other various smaller (and uncomfortable issues), I am a two time non-smoking lung cancer survivor.

In 1982 a tumor and a portion of the lower lobe of my right lung was removed. I was cancer free until 1995 when I went through another bout with lung cancer. This bout resulted in 60% of my left lung being removed. Sjogren’s can affect a person’s lungs, but did Sjogren’s cause my lung cancer? The lungs are one of the many internal organs Sjogren’s can affect…but, cancer?

No one has any earthly idea why a non-smoker like me has gone through two bouts of lung cancer. I had no risk factors per say…no extensive exposure to second hand smoke…had not lived with a smoker…but I do have those pesky autoimmune disorders.

I would say in my case, the fatigue and joint pain has been as severe or more severe as the dryness. Combined with Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome and you can understand why some days I feel too tired to even breathe.

There is no cure for any autoimmune illness…Sjogren’s included. There is no “magic pill” either. In handling Sjogren’s, as with other autoimmune illness, the best you can hope for is management of the disease or a slowing of the disease. This is done by learning to pace yourself…learning to say “No”, making some lifestyle changes, good doctors, and yes the use of over the counter and prescriptions drugs.

I mentioned earlier the use of artificial tears for the dry eyes. For the oral dryness there are medications, like Salagen. There are several other products on the market to help with oral complications of Sjogren’s. You may have to take pain medication for the joint pain, avoid situations that will aggravate your dryness, address complications and practice good nutrition and proper rest. In some cases you may have to take a disease modifying medication like Plaquenil, Enbrel or Methotrexate. I have been on Methotrexate for over a year now, but like all drugs in this category it comes with serious possible side effects.

Yes, I know this all may sounds dismal, but it doesn’t have to be. Supportive friends and family can be a lifesaver, so make sure they are informed about you disease.

Learn to love the current you. It was very hard to accept myself and what was happening to me at first. I felt like I was loosing myself to a strange, unbeatable disease. As a result, I pushed myself in way I probably shouldn’t have resulting in unhealthily stress and strain.

When I first met my current husband I told him how I felt and I felt like illness had turned me into a faded beauty. I told him I wished I looked the way I did in my 20’s and 30’s. He said, “Honey, you may not feel like a 27 year old beauty, but you are a 47 year old beauty and I think your gorgeous…and you’re mine!” What a guy like that?! How can you not love a guy like that? It’s certainly a far cry from Gomez the ex. When he walked out on me and our 27 year marriage, he said, “I don’t care if you ever have any f*cking (medical) insurance! I didn’t want to take care of you, I hated taking care of you, but I did! So, there!!!” No, there is certainly no chivalrous knight behind his low life, yuppie wanna be facade… And, his “taking care of me” was puny in many ways and avenues…

Over the years I have found things I enjoy doing. They help validate who I am. This is a God-send for self confidence and self worth. Many of my most enjoyable pastimes can be done sitting under the covers of my bed. I read, stay connected to the world via the internet and the laptop my Tall & Handsome made sure I got. I can quilt for small amount of times and with rests. I’m a computer gamer (MMORPG’s) and of course, I can write.

T & H also brought home a little four legged, practically hypo-allergic companion…our little Miniature Schnauzer Watson the wonder dog, and in my opinion one of the best little mood lifters there is. Nothing warms my insides like those two little eyes looking at me adoringly.

After the haircut 3 5-13-2007

Would this cheer you and comfort you if you were sick? You betcha!!

 

No, life did not end…it was just reinvented…and in some ways for the best…

So, if you suspect Sjogren’s or any other autoimmune illness, get to your doctor as soon as you can. Starting a proper health care and management regime can turn “How Dry I Am…” into “How Strong I Am…I’m a Survivor…”!

© 2009 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Autoimmune Diseases, cancer, GenTeal Eye Drops, Gomez, Health, Methotrexate, Miniature Schnauzer, National Sjoren's Syndrome Awareness Month, Plaquenil, Salagen, Sjogren's Syndrome, Tall & Handsome, Women's health

Lonesome Dove, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Lonesome Dove

By Beverly Hicks Burch

Spring is around the corner and daylight savings time has “sprung forward”. (I hate loosing that hour!) That’s a clear sign things will soon be turning warmer and we’ll see changes all around us. Days are becoming longer and I’ve detected the return of certain little friends.

As kids we were taught that “robin red breast” was a sure harbinger of spring. I personally look for other sign such as the “chirp” of one of my favorites, the red cardinal. But, the past few mornings I couldn’t ignore the symphony that greeted my ears…all the chairs seemed full with different voices from different species. A sure sign spring IS around the corner…and their way of celebrating the fact that temperatures have climbed into the lower 80’s the past few days.

For years I’ve loved watching our little feathered friends. Along the way, I’ve discovered and uncovered some interesting and sometimes startling facts I hadn’t known beforehand.

For instance, I love to put out feeders for hummingbirds and enjoy watching their antics. Their tiny bodies belie their ferociousness and how territorial they are. Watching them at the feeder is like watching a military dogfight in action. I have had some little fellows buzz so close to my face and just hover there…inspecting me and determining my right to be so near their food source…that I could hear the frantic flutter of their tiny wings.

I’ve also learned birds are also creatures of habit. They return to feeders year after year if you continue to put them there…move them and they just might have a hard time finding them…move away and they’ll return even if the new person puts out feeder or not…those birds will be expecting those feeders though.

All this reminded me of a couple of incidents I had years earlier. The first time was when I lived in my first house. I’d had a hanging basket on my front porch. One day I went outside to water the plant in the basket and was quite startled to discover a creature in the basket!

Upon further inspection, I discovered my interloper was a momma dove sitting on her nest. Well, I melted and left her alone and watched out for her the next several weeks. Before I knew it there were a couple of downy heads popping out over the top of the basket. I had the privilege of watching the family grow until the babies spread their tiny wings and flew.

Seeing this once would have been special, but I was soon to discover that when it came to nesting doves seem to be creatures of habit. This momma dove returned to my front porch for the next several years, and I made a habit of leaving that basket there for her.

You still may be doubting and thinking, “Well, that was just one dove and it could have been a really messed up bird.”

Fast forward about 15 years or so. By then I was living in my third house up on a little mountain northeast of Birmingham, AL. I hadn’t been in the house long and we were in the process of landscaping. I had purchased some forsythia to plant on the lot and I still had one gallon sized pot left on the deck waiting to be planted.

One day I happened out onto the deck and my eyes couldn’t believe what they saw…yep, sitting there quietly trying hard not to be seen was another momma dove sitting on her nest. I was gobsmacked.

So, for the season there were strict orders to let the family grow in peace…and they did. Before I knew it, she was gone as silently as she had landed and taken up residence.

The next year was tumultuous for me. Gomez walked out and abandoned me after 27 years of marriage. I was very sick, 9/11 happened…let’s just say it was the year from Hades and a year I wish I had a delete button for.

But, one morning when I was on the deck I happened to look at the forsythia and to my surprise and delight, there she was…my little, lonesome momma dove. I felt like she looked. She had return as was her nature and habit. She looked so peaceful and calm. Watching her that year reminded me life can be normal even when it seems like the world is falling apart. It also reminded me of a Bible verse I had heard all of my life…since I was a small child.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear: you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Luke 12 6-7 NASB.

In these uncertain times maybe we can find the miracles in the small, hidden places…like a forsythia pot…

Dove (1)Dove (2)

Little Lonesome Momma Dove

Dove (3)

© 2009 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Alabama, Bible Verse, Birds, Birmingham AL, Dove, Gomez, Life, Luke 12: 6-7, Photography, Spring

The BamaSteelMagnolia(TM) Diaries – Chapter 2: Southern Belle and Yankee Puzzle…or a House Divided Will Fall..

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries – Chapter 2:

Southern Belle and Yankee Puzzle…or a House Divided Will Fall…

By Beverly Hicks Burch

In her book A Quilter’s Diary: Written in Stitches, author Mimi Dietrich includes a section on “heritage”. Many of you would not be surprised to know I was drawn to that section. After all, genealogy is another passion of mine. I don’t know if we, as Southerners, are imprinted at birth to have a burning desire to know all our “begets”. I think yes…and sometimes, I think no…

I find it amazing to talk to younger people who have absolutely no interest whatsoever to know anything thing about those who came before them, or what and who makes them who they are. Actually I find it unthinkable, because what these young lions don’t understand is one day, God willing, they will be one of these “begets”…an ancestor if you will…and they will be just as forgotten if their descendents have the same attitude they do.

My heritage is about as Southern as it gets…as Southern as grits, fried chicken, chicken fried steak, pecan pie, mint juleps, magnolias and azaleas; AND you know how much I love that heritage. My Daddy’s people were from East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Momma’s people were from East Tennessee and Middle Tennessee. (Tennessee is divided into East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee. If you’re from Tennessee, you understand all about that.)

Some of those ancestors in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina were mountain people. I’ve always felt that explains my affinity for the mountains. I recently wrote about that love and a surprising family discovery in a blog called, No Place Like Home…In More Ways Than One.

Given the choice, I will head for the mountains any day instead of the beach. Beach = torture. Well…maybe not all of the time… But, just let me ask you, “Do you know what happens if sand gets into my Bernina?!”

 

This is no joke, but I have actually taken my Bernina and holed up in a log cabin in the Smoky Mountains for about a week. Guess what I was doing? Nope, it wasn’t designing a new model of a stock car for NASCAR. That cabin, a cozy fire, my Bernina and piecing quilt blocks till my heart was content…that’s my definition of heaven on Earth. I can just see me lugging my Bernina down to the sandy shore…

My heritage is also Scots-Irish, English, German, Native American and a spattering of other nationalities that probably add up to a cell or two in my over all DNA and make-up. But, there is something else…something many Southerners may not even realize or may not want to “own up to” in their own heritage…and my diary blocks tell that story…

My diary blocks in this chapter are the Southern Belle block…and the Yankee Puzzle block. Whooaaa, wait a minute, I’m sure you’re saying…Yankee Puzzle?! Yep, that’s right…Bev is not ingesting funny mushrooms…you read it right.

You see, when you do genealogy, you discover some very interesting facts and situations. This die-hard, GRITS (Girl Raised In The South) has Southern ancestors that fought for the Union! I’m sure right now there is a collective gasp in some places, heads hung low in others and some heads shaking in disbelief that [1] this happened and [2] I would admit it.

You see after having traveled over this big beautiful USA, reading and watching media of all sorts, I have learned there are some decided impressions or stereotypes of antebellum Southerners. The most common are that most Southerners personally owned thousands of slaves, all Southerners were for “The Wawah” (War), Southerners were as dumb as pet rocks and the remainder of the Southern population was dirt poor, stayed barefoot and ate things like possum and entrails. Oh, and we can’t all do a “Rebel Yell”.

Well, if any of those were Jeopardy answers, the question would be, “What are some biased, idiotic, uninformed notions of antebellum Southern people?”

Not all Southerners owned slaves (yet pundits fail to teach or even mention Native Americans and free African Americans owned slaved during that period). Actually only about 4.8% of Southern whites owned slaves. In New Orleans alone 28% of free African Americans owned slaves before the War. US Federal Census records from the time are replete with information of slave holders of the day, both white and black. This is not to justify anything…this is just providing historical background.

As a result, not all Southerners necessarily sought War or wanted to go to war. Many dreaded sending sons to a War they didn’t have a stake in, others had moral trepidations with slavery, still other didn’t like the fact that Big Government was forcing some things down States throats (they believed in state’s rights) and that was unconstitutional…sound familiar?

We were a country sorely divided…it was a time in this country when we found out as a nation that “…if a house is divided (split into factions and rebelling) against itself), that house will not be able to last.” Mark 3:25 Amplified Bible Abraham Lincoln used that very Scripture in his famous “House Divided” speech. Yet, the country press on towards war…people on both sides had convictions they believed in…

Back in the hills, mountains and valleys of East Tennessee there was many a concerned and worried home. When the war did come, that part of Tennessee was torn asunder…homes were divided…families were divided. Some fought for the Confederate and some fought for the Union even within the same family.

My great-great-great grandfather Henry Ogle of Sevier County, Tennessee was one of those. He served in the Union Army.

Henry Ogle Civil War Pension Index

Henry Ogle’s Civil War Pension Index Card

Yet, a couple of hundred miles to the west, in Middle Tennessee there seemed to be an unusual story that developed…

Family lore says my great-great grandfather George Washington Shaffer did something unusual. His brother was just about to be married and was also about to be conscripted into the Confederate Army. George volunteered in his brother’s stead. He went on and served in fighting around Nashville and Murphfreesboro…some of the worse battles in the War. George became sick and was hospitalized for some time.

Once George was well, he could have gone home back to Lawrence County, Tennessee, but he didn’t. He walked all the way to Mississippi and joined the Union force there and fought with the Union. Yep, George fought for both sides.

These stories aren’t exceptions to the rule. In Alabama there is an independent minded little county called Winston. During the Civil War, they seceded from the state of Alabama and became known as “the Free State of Winston”.

Then, of course, there were those that came South after the War…some were called carpetbaggers. I always said my marriage to Gomez the ex went south when I started digging around in his family history and discovered his paternal ancestors were carpetbaggers. I guess he thought his ancestors spontaneously and miraculously sprung from the red clay of Alabama after God flung a lightening bolt to the ground.

And then, there’s the reverse of that…imagine my surprise when I started digging around in the roots of my Southwestern cowboy and I found out his roots are as Southern as mine! Tickled me pink…no wonder he’s such a sweetheart…

So, there it is…why I’ve included the Southern Belle and Yankee Puzzle blocks in my diary quilt. They are both part of my heritage…one in a really big way and one in a smaller, surprising way. But, they are part of what makes me who and what I am.

Southern Belle

Southern Belle Block

Yankee Puzzle

Yankee Puzzle Block

These blocks are both 6 inch machine pieced blocks. Once again I used the red, white and blue color scheme…kinda fitting. All pieces for the blocks were cut with the rotary cutter and they went together super fast…I’m having a blast with these little blocks…

So, on to Chapter 3 and what’s next in The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries…

(If you haven’t yet read the Introduction or Chapter 1 of the BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries, it not too late. You can find them here:

Introduction

Chapter 1 – Cupcake or Happy Birthday to me…)

© 2009 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Alabama, Civil War, Diary Quilt, East Tennessee Heritage, Family, genealogy, George Washington Shaffer, Gomez, Henry Ogle, History, Lawrence County Tennessee, Life, Mark 3:25, Middle Tennessee, My Tennesse Heritage, Ogle, Quilt Blocks, Sevier County Tennessee, Slavery, Southern Belle Block, Tennessee, The Free State of Winston, Winston County Alabama, Yankee Puzzle Block

The BamaSteelMagnolia(TM) Diaries – Introduction, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries


Introduction


By Beverly Hicks Burch

Well, 2009 is here! First, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! The last month has been extremely busy and hectic for me. I still don’t know why I opted to take two classes this session…anyway…that’s all over and done…

I have to admit the fact this decade is almost over still blows my mind. Think about it…it’s been 10 whole years since the world was in Y2K meltdown. People were afraid the world as we knew it was going to end.

Our cars, ATM’s and everything else with even a smidgen of computer technology were going to shut down on midnight December 31, 1999. Just because we would be entering the year 2000, people were afraid computers would not be able to read the date and cease to function and the globe would be thrown into chaos! (My question was: If a computer was that dumb, why the heck were we putting so much faith and stock in them to begin with and letting them run so much or our lives?)

People were stockpiling non-perishable food, purchasing guns and ammo, and running out to buy generators. Society seemed to be in survivalist mode… My ex was one of those…he went out and purchased a gasoline generator then he proceeded to let it sit in the box it came home from the store in until after he left the family. In November 2001 a tornado damaged my home…and pulled the power lines totally off the house.

My brother-in-law and sister drove up the mountain so Bob could take it out of the box and hook up it for me so I’d have some power and not loose what little food I had in the refrigerator. Funny thing is, later, Gomez, the ex, demanded the judge in the divorce award him the generator because he said he needed it to make a living. The man worked in electrical engineering as an electrical designer…guess he needed to crank up that electric eraser of his or maybe CAD. NO…I did not call him a cad…I said C-A-D…computer automated drafting/design software. (Of course, what I thought is an entirely different story…)

Anyway…it IS 2009, a date our ancestors could not even begin to imagine…

As 2008 closed, I took on a new project. I am teaching Tall & Handsome to quilt. Yes, men CAN and DO quilt! This isn’t the first guy I’ve taught to quilt either. T & H originally entered college as an art major and as I’ve mentioned before, did some work in stain glass. It seemed a given he would see it as another creative outlet…and as I told him, as hard as he works, a creative outlet would recharge him.

His first project is one we’re doing together and combines pieces of both our heritages. I plan on writing about that and sharing pictures we took during the process. But, that too, is another story…

I have to tell you I’ve been impressed with his potential and ability, comprehension and in some places eye for detail. He’s determined, too, as in “I want to learn to thread this machine myself…”

One of the things we had to do was get him some tools of his own…small scissors, needle safe, pins…you know general stuff. Sewing machine needles with large eyes were a must have…that camel just wasn’t going through that eye…at least not as long as he was threading. I’ve always said we make one good set of eyes…he can see distances…I can see close up.

So, on New Year’s Day 2009 off we go to the local fabric store that’s holding a mammer-jammer sale…as in 50% or more off many items and we had a coupon for an additional 10% off EVERYTHING! If you know any quilters, you know a sale like that is like yelling fire in a theater…we’re off and running!

One item I was drawn to and became really excited about was a book (yes, of course it went into my cart!). The book is called A Quilter’s Diary: Written in Stitches, by Mimi Dietrich. Mimi’s idea is to “write” you life story in stitches…using quilt blocks. The book is full of different blocks (all 6 inches) you can use to write you life story. I immediately saw the appeal…as a quilter, as a writer and as a genealogist. A challenge I’ve given myself is to use as much of the fabric needed for the project from my burgeoning stash…

There are many blocks I seem drawn to because they represent or signify something, someone or an event in my life. My creative juices went into overdrive and I began to plan my Diary Quilt. I was immediately struck with the idea of how each block I finish would help me write about pieces in my life…yes, an aid to a written diary of such. So, while it may not be the book many of you have said I should write…it will be a book of sorts…The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries…

© 2009 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Diary Quilt; Y2K; The BamaSteelMagnolia(TM) Diaries, Family, Gomez, New Year, Tall & Handsome, Writing

Anniversary – Part 1, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Anniversary – Part 1

By Beverly Hicks Burch

I am approaching an anniversary in a few days (Oct. 25th). It’s an anniversary I hope I don’t share with too many people. You see on Oct. 25th, 1995 a thoracic surgeon removed 60% of my left lung because of cancer. It’s so hard to believe it’s been 13 years. It actually still feels like it happened such a short time ago. Unfortunately, it was not my only experience with this type of surgery and cancer. In Jan. 1982, part of my right lung was removed.

This anniversary makes me nervous. As a cancer survivor we tend to count anniversaries…years if you will, for a reason. The five year survival period is considered a benchmark of sorts. You start to breathe a little easier if you have survived five years past an occurrence. Each five year increment also tends to give you additional peace of mind…you have warded off and defeated the big “C” a little longer.

I was 13 years past my first occurrence when out of no where the second incident catapulted into my life with a vengeance. To say it was a shock it like saying Hurricane Katrina was a thunderstorm. I was almost 15 years “safe”! I had even avoided smoke filled rooms. Why?! And, now I am once again at that 13 year benchmark…

My lung cancers could almost be considered a fluke. I was a non-smoker, had never lived with a smoker nor had a worked in a smoke filled environment. Sometimes lung cancer survivors tend to carry a “black mark” on their slate of life…a stigma if you will. Why? Well, many people hear “lung cancer” and automatically decide you were a smoker and as a result brought the disease upon yourself. I feel as if I always need to qualify my cancer history by saying, “a two time non-smoking lung cancer survivor”…and, boy is that ever a mouth full…

Even today when I tell someone I’ve survived bouts with lung cancer two times and had never smoked most people seem incredulous. You can see it in their eyes…” You must be kidding!” They seem to have a need to find a cause…a reason…it’s almost if they can find the reason “why”, then they’ve distanced themselves from such a fate. They usually stand there and tick off the potential reasons “why” and as each reason is answered with “no” there is just a tinge of panic in their eyes.

Then, there’s the opposite reaction…from smokers. Their response is usually, “Well, there you go. You never smoked and look at you. I’ve smoked all my life and I’m fine, cancer-free. Why should I quit?”

Well, let me put it too you this way…if you had a friend who was nearly hit, or was hit crossing the street and survived, would you just go and stand in the middle of the street daring cars to hit you? Would you think “Well, look at so and so? See what happened them. I’ve been crossing the street all my life and have never been hit, so why should I think it would happen to me now?” I have one “intelligent” response to that…duh?! When I get that response from smokers I feel like lifting my shirt up to reveal my large scars and asking, “Do you really want to tempt fate for this?!”

Do not tempt fate! Especially if you are a woman! Every year during breast cancer awareness month I get a tad irritated. It’s not that I think breast cancer awareness is a bad thing. Nope, it’s because since 1987 more women have died from lung cancer than breast cancer in this country! That’s a pretty scary thought especially since we know breast cancer has been one of the major causes of death in women for over 40 years.

My first occurrence happened when I was just barely 28 years old. My baby was 18 months old. I was scared I would not get to see him grow up. A mother should never have to feel that emotion. It rips at the fabric of your heart and soul. I’ll never forget that time.

My cancer was found by the sheer fluke of luck or, maybe Divine Intervention as I like to think. It’s odd, but I always associate that time period with the murder of Anwar Sadat. While I was going through the agony of discovery and waiting and at war with my body, a man struggling to seek peace was murdered half way across the world… (This poses a more current question: If militants and terrorist will do this in their own country, what else would they do in the USA?)

The cancer in my right lung was a carcinoid tumor, a form of a neuroendocrine tumor . This type of cancer is rare and very slow growing, sometimes taking 3 – 5 years to grow to a size substantial enough to be discovered and by then it could be too late for the patient. This type of cancer starts out as a microcarcinoid and grows into “the big guy”…a true carcinoid. Finding this type of cancer can be a life saver because in the early stage it is treatable…usually with surgery.

Unfortunately, even with surgery there is no guarantee you will be clean. Small cells can remain in your body that will cause a new occurrence. Quite possibly you could live for years with carcinoid syndrome and as one physician explained to me eight years after my first surgery, “you could have carcinoids throughout your body and not be aware of the fact”.

Carcinoid syndrome involves a plethora of symptoms including: flushing of the face and upper body, wheezing, diarrhea, and a fast heartbeat. Because this is a type of neuroendocrine cancer the tumors can secrete serotonin and a test to check excessive serotonin levels is a useful diagnostic tool.

I often have suspected that my cancers are related some how to the many autoimmune disorders I have. In autoimmune ailments your body creates antigens that read parts of your body as foreign. In other words these antigens see these substances or objects of your body as things that shouldn’t be in or a part of your body and its systems.

Normally this process works as it should. For example, when you cut yourself and it starts to become infected. Your body’s proper systems…blood in this case…will send the proper tools (antigens, white blood cells, etc.) to the affected area…to the cut to combat the infection.

But, in autoimmune disorders, there is a disconnect somewhere…a malfunction. For instance, in lupus the body may read the liver or spleen as unneeded, unnecessary and even dangerous to your health. As a result, the body will begin to attack these organs to destroy them in an attempt to make you safe and well. But, it’s all a big mistake and it can and does kill the patient over time.

One disorder I have is very similar to lupus. Some of the organs and systems attacked are different…others are the same. My ailment, Sjogren’s syndrome carries an increased risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma…yes, a cancer. In addition to attacking all moisture producing glands in my body and my joints, Sjogren’s can affect the lungs. There it is…

The biggest number of carcinoids are found in the gastrointestinal system, but like mine, they can be found in the lungs and other parts of the body. I have a first cousin who was treated for carcinoid in her appendix. For years when I went to a new physician they seemed more intrigued with the fact I’d had a carcinoid in my lungs than in the problem I was there to see them about. That was extremely frustrating to me and really counter productive to my health.

Thoracic surgery is no picnic. It is major surgery. As one surgical nurse explained to the ex, it is more severe than open heart surgery in many ways. It’s very intrusive, the patient’s upper body, for all practical purpose is almost cut in half. My incision(s) runs from just under my breast, across my side and ribs and onto my back to within a few inches of my spine. Once the incision is made, the ribs are either broken and spread apart, or a section is cut and removed from the ribs for the same purpose. They are spread apart to allow access to the lung. In my case, both techniques were used. The first time some of my ribs were broken, the second time a section was cut and removed.

I don’t recall how long my surgery lasted. Let’s put it this way…it wasn’t a quickie. I was placed in ICU and the first thing I remembered was a bright light as I regained consciousness. I asked the ICU nurse if it was cancer and she replied, “The doctor will have to speak to you.” I knew then it had been cancer. My first surgeon…an angel…told my family we should thank God the tumor was found when it was.

Although I did go through a major depression after my first surgery, I eventually bounced back…or I tried to pretend I had. I can look back now and plainly see I was “cruising for a bruisin’”.

The depression in hindsight was predictable. In the two years leading up to my surgery I had experienced several life shaking events.

I had gone through a difficult pregnancy (I was hospitalized twice and had to spend a good portion of the time in bed due to illness.) My last living grandfather died about a day after I returned home from my first hospitalization while I was pregnant. While pregnant, the ex, Gomez the unremarkable, had a car accident that totaled his vehicle. It was his second in four years. My son was born a month early and as a result his fetal breathing system didn’t shut down. (Heart problems are common in the newborn of Sjogren’s patients.) My baby boy spent the first two week of his life in NICU (neo-natal intensive care).

Then, the tumor on my lung was discovered and “watched” for three months. As I lay on a cold table while my lung was being scanned, I asked one physician, a radiologist, what could be on my lung. He replied, “Well, it’s a 33% chance it’s cancer, 33% chance it’s a calcium deposit and 33% chance it’s an enlarged lymph gland. (I have learned since there are other possibilities.) He then turned and left the room as I shivered on the table. So much for A+ bedside manner…

I lived through a holiday season knowing something angry was growing on a vital organ…and I spent the season wondering if it would be my last with my sweet baby boy. And then, surgery was scheduled for Jan. 1982.

As I counted down the days during a very frigid January, an Air Florida airplane hit the 14th Street Bridge in Washington DC. As I watched victims being pulled out of the freezing waters of the Potomac River, I realized we were in a swiftly changing world and I wondered what I would miss should my outcome be as disastrous as that fateful flight. I survived on Faith and prayers…

So, that my friends set the circumstances surrounding me prior to my first surgery. Post-op depression is severe enough to deal with…but, factor in a possible case of post-partum depression and everything else and well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see a train wreck coming…

My train wreck lasted about a year. Sometimes I think that period was the beginning of my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was a dark time. Once again I was surviving solely on Faith and prayers.

I would go days without eating and my weight plummeted. As an anorexic survivor, I was already painfully thin. At one point my weight dipped below 100 pounds. I have one picture taken a few months after Gomez had his first car accident in 1976. (He had broken his neck in the same place Christopher Reeve did…it was a miracle he lived and didn’t have any paralysis. I spent months nursing him back to health.) In this picture, I have the typical “lollipop” head…a characteristic of someone waaaaay too thin. By the time I became pregnant I weighed a whooping 112 pounds and was back down to that weight within about two weeks after giving birth. Depression did nothing to stabilize my weight…food literally made me sick to my stomach during these dark days.

After that year, I decided I was tired of living at the gates of hell…feeling the flames flicker at my feet…that is my description of that dark, depressing time…

© 2008 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under "Autoimmune disorders", Anwar Sadat, Breast Cancer, cancer, Depression, Gomez, Lung Cancer, Mental health, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Sjogren's Syndrome, Washington DC 14th Street Bridge Plane Crash, Women's health

I Do Remember…, by Beverly Hicks Burch

I Do Remember…

By Beverly Hicks Burch

The ringing of the phone jolted me out of my sleep that morning at a little passed 8:00 AM CST. On the other end was an agitated and alarmed male voice admonishing me, “Momma quick, turn on the TV. The World Trade Towers have been attacked!!”

What?! How could this be? Surely I was having a hideous nightmare. “Son, what do you mean the Towers have been attack?!”

“Momma, quick…hurry, just turn on the news! It’s awful…we’re under attack!”

With a trembling hand, I reached out and grabbed the remote and clicked on the TV. Oh, dear God, he was right! How can this be possible?

As he began to fill in the details of the unfolding events I sat in the bed…my eyes transfixed on the TV screen…not wanting to watch, but knowing I had to watch. And, as I watched, my son began to spill out the horrific details of that fateful morning.

“Mom, we were all standing around getting ready to started the day (they had been in the ready room or command center room, whatever those military types call that kind of room…he was at the AL Air National Guard base at the time of the attack). Mom, we have the big screen TV on in the room (usually it was on news channels to monitor world situations). All of a sudden one of the guys hollered out one of the Trade Towers in New York had been hit by an airplane. I turned around to see what was going on just in time to see a second jet approach the other Tower and fly straight into it. Momma, this was a deliberate attack…we’re at war.”

Of course by then, as he gave me a blow by blow detailed account of the morning thus far, the major news outlets were looping over and over the scenes my son had witnessed just minutes before on TV. I sat there in stunned disbelief. I couldn’t possibly be seeing what I was seeing…yet, there it was…broadcasted around the world.

As that September morning continued to develop, God in heaven help us, what I saw next was even more horrifically unbelievable. At 8:59 AM CST one of the gleaming, steel and glass pinnacles of the New York financial district began to fall…it slid down upon itself amidst a gigantic column of dust, ash, debris, steel and glass and human life. The North Tower was gone! Oh, God no! My first thought was, “Oh dear, Lord, all of those people inside! Help them please!”

Of course this became more fodder for the news media grist mill and the collapsing building was added to the loop of the planes flying into the Towers. I sat there and held my breath…afraid that one little breath would surely place the last colossal, burning Tower in peril. I hoped and prayed this Tower would be spared and become a symbol of survival and reminder.

But, alas, like a womb twin, this solitary survivor seemed unable to stand alone without its twin. Suddenly at 9:28 AM CST pandemonium broke out…people were running away from the site like their lives depended on it…and they did.

Just like the first Tower, the second began to implode upon itself, collapsing downward in a single column of destruction only to become nothing more than part of the world’s largest junk heap. As it made its deliberate slide downward…all my memories fell with it. Like the earlier Twin, this one would also become the final resting place for many souls. Parts of Lower Manhattan lay in ruins…looking like a bonafide war zone…people, wounded and some miraculously unharmed, wandered the streets covered in a white powdery ash. Most were almost catatonic with disbelief.

Evil had not done enough to our country and our countrymen in New York City, the city that seems to never sleep… As the morning had continued to move forward in a surreal state more rumors started flying…and then were confirmed. Another rogue jet had hurled into the Pentagon in Washington DC at 8:37 AM CST.

News flashes advised us there was yet another suicidal controlled jet still in the skies above the USA. Reports hinted it was also aimed for Washington DC…possibly the White House or Capitol Building. For the first known time American military pilots were faced with shooting down a jet liner full of their own countrymen.

But the patriots on United 93 had surmised what was happening. Through cell phone calls with loved ones on the ground they had been told of the morning’s events. They vowed not to let their flight become another weapon of terrorism against their country and they took matters into their own hands and launched a counter-attack. They rushed the cockpit of their flight and at 9:06 AM CST United 93 slammed into a field outside of Shanksville, PA. They understood and epitomized “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 NASB

Our air transportation system was shut down and would remain so for months. Only military planes had clearance to fly the US skies.

At that point, I knew the world as we knew it had ended…

My heart broke and ached and I shed many tears that September morning seven years ago…

United States soil had been attacked by a terrorist group out to bring down the Great Satan (translate the USA). We would never be the same…as a nation and as a group of people. Our lives and way of living in the land of the free would change forever. We would have to become hyper vigilant…CAUTION: there’s an unattended bag or package…even an otherwise harmless looking child’s book bag would have to be viewed as a suspicious potential weapon.

How we travel across the USA would change, too. They took away our scissors (no more hand appliqué on long flights for me), our nail files, certain liquids and cosmetics (another big inconvenience for a Sjogren’s syndrome patients because we need to keep our throats, mouths and eyes moist). Airport security became a gigantic hassle adding long lines and insult to injury when we became forced to remove our shoes at the security checkpoint. Crazed terrorist had found a way to kill with shoes…

There would be no more flying the friendly skies…

For a time we pulled together and rallied as a country. 9/11 had become this generation’s Pearl Harbor. Songs were written and sung, American flags flew everywhere. Thousands of pictures of loved ones lost and missing were plastered everywhere, asking “Have you seen this person?” Compassion and concern could be seen once again on the faces of Americans in the street going about their daily business.

And, then as human nature is want to do, people began to forget. Just like the Israelites of the Old Testament…who began to forget…and grumble and complain. The Israelites had suffered slavery and oppression at the hands of the Pharaoh of Egypt for generations. They had cried out to God for deliverance…for freedom. The great I AM, Jehovah God sent then a deliverer in Moses…Pharaoh’s adopted son of all people! After battling the Pharaoh for the freedom of his people, with God’s help, Moses won their freedom. They must prepare and leave quickly for their exodus out of Egypt…thus, the history of Passover.

But, after fleeing Egypt and beginning the trek towards the Promised Land, attitudes and memories began to change. They were tired of pushing forward…and heaven forbid they were certainly tired of eating that manna from heaven! They began to gripe and complain, moan and groan. Surely, they said, their lives had been better in Egypt! Maybe they should return. They had forgotten! They forgot the oppression, the slavery and the whip of the taskmasters…just because they were a little inconvenienced. And, as a result, they lost their vision and wandered in the wilderness for 40 years…

Now, Americans have forgotten what was at the root of the 9/11 attacks and the war on terrorism…they forgot the almost 3,000 souls that where vaporized in places that should have been one of the safest places…their work place. They forgot the sights, the sounds and the smells…the sounds of hundreds of emergency homing units emitting a haunting, shrill wail, indicating the spot of a fallen emergency and rescue worker.

They forgot the images of panicked, frantic souls flinging themselves off the sides and out of windows of the Trade Towers. These poor souls were willing to take their chance with a fall…or face a known end and breath precious air to the very last…rather than face the ungodly inferno behind them that was smothering them with super heated air, singeing their throats and lungs.

Many Americans have forgotten the falling debris that showered down of the streets below…papers from offices in the Trade Towers, building materials and office equipment and they have forgotten the waves of white hot clouds of ash roiling down the streets of Manhattan seeking to engulf, consume and suffocate the very air from all left standing.

We have fallen back on the old political hack of political correctness…afraid to breath wrong least we offend. How dare we consider what some call “racial profiling”? After all, there could be an 85 year old Caucasian granny hijacker willing to fling her life away and commit terrorism. I mean, come on, after all what does she stand to loose but a set of dentures! How utterly, insanely ridiculous!! Why is it wrong to investigate people of certain groups who harbor known hatred for the US and avow to destroy the US and its people? They have made it their life work…their mission in life. You can not negotiate with blind hatred…

Some delusional souls would have us think a conspiracy theory that claims our own government set up and perpetrated the attack. Just the logistics of such a conspiracy would be mind boggling and involve thousands of co-conspirators and take years to plan. It is illogical and grasping. Sad, desperate, sick people will seek attention any way they can…this is the lowest of low…

2001 was a bad year for me. I had been the victim of a form of personal terrorism and betrayal from someone I had trusted the most. I was gravely sick much of that summer, even having to be taken to the ER the weekend before 9/11. My windshield was smashed sitting in my driveway. A tornado hit and damaged the house, the air condition unit flooded downstairs, and even though he hadn’t lived there in months and did nothing to help restore the house, the ex, Gomez the unremarkable demanded half of the insurance money. What a Prince!

And, then 9/11 happened…

As I watched the news coverage that morning waves of grief swelled over me that were devastating. When I saw the Towers fall I remember thinking, “I’ve been there. I stood under their shadows. I stood at the top of one Tower and breathed in the magnificent panoramic view of New York and the surrounding area. Oh my God, never again, never again…how could this happen?”

An unbelievable seven years have passed since 9/11/2001. My world has changed in more ways than I could imagine. My son, my only child was deployed and activated the day of 9/11. His unit flew refueling runs between Alabama and the northeast. They refueled military jets that were patrolling the skies of the US during those dark days, keeping us safe. On one run just hours after the attacks, he literally saw the Pentagon burning from the air. He was later deployed to the Middle East several times with his unit where once again he flew refueling runs. (He had been a boom operator in the AL ANG.)

My life moved forward. I met and married a white knight…my Tall & Handsome who has offered me love, acceptance, support and encouragement over the last few years.

They say time heals all wounds. Well, I don’t know that I can agree with that, but I can say this…time does cause wounds to scar over and protect the wound. But, on occasion that wound can be pricked at and reinjured. The one thing time should not do is give us amnesia and cause us to forget. People that forget are doomed to repeat history and mistakes over and over again…

Never forget…never forget…never forget…

The Hicks Girls in New York - Nov 1983

© 2008 Beverly Hicks Burch All rights reserved.

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Filed under 9/11, Conspiracy Theories, Gomez, History, New York City, News, Passover, Pearl Harbor, Pentagon, Racial Profiling, September 11, Sjogren's Syndrome, Tall & Handsome, Terrorism, United 93, World Trade Towers