A Day with Sam

Wednesday morning my eager eater Sam threw up his breakfast and, unlike the few times this had happened, he became very lethargic, refused to go outside, found his place on my bed and stayed there. This was so unlike him that I neglected the errands I had planned for the day.

I downloaded the new Baldacci mystery and just stayed with Sam, reading and cuddling him all day.

Around 6PM a friend came by with pizza, and I persuaded Sam to go to the kitchen. He showed no interest in food. I fed Sarah and Sam didn’t move, although I did get some water down him by putting ice in the bowl. I was very much afraid he would get dehydrated.

As soon as the visitor left, Sam ran back to the bed and claimed my pillow. About 9PM I almost called my vet but decided to wait out the night. I was very much afraid for him.

A couple of years ago Sam had to have emergency surgery, as he had a blockage caused by a t-shirt that he had swallowed. He had some of the same symptoms but not as severe. He is such a clown! Almost eight years old and still chews and misbehaves. Thank goodness he loves his crate because that’s where he is, partly for his own safety, when I am away from the house.

A day and night such as this reminds me of how much he and Sarah comfort me and how important they are to me. I cannot imagine life without the loving eyes of a special fur baby.

Sam is particularly adored. After John’s second Boykin Spaniel died, I called the breeder in South Carolina and flew there to get Sam and bring him home. He spent his first minutes in our house on John’s lap and was always by his side in bed or on his lap. Sam was so spoiled, we never heard John say “no” to him with anything but a loving voice. He had a terrible time adjusting after John’s death and mourned his loss for a very long time.

At 4:30 AM he licked my face and wanted to go outside. By 7 he was ready for breakfast and has been fine ever since, his mischievous self. I am so thankful that both babies are here by my side and feeling great.

Aren’t we who love dogs the fortunate ones?

By the way, if you want a good read, try “The Memory Man” as it helped me through the day with Sam. I finished it before I went to sleep and enjoyed it very much. It is full of twists and turns and ultimately a move toward going on with life after unspeakable tragedy.


Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day! We are inundated with messages about mothers, gifts for mothers, visits to mothers, accolades to mothers – I could go on and on.

I have a friend who was not able to have children and now her own mother is gone. It’s a painful weekend for her and many others.

There are those who have lost a child through an accident or illness. I cannot begin to understand their pain. To see all the happy postings must be very difficult.

Some are at the bedside of a child who is very ill.

Some are struggling as single moms to get through a workday and get a nutritious meal on the table.

And there are those who were never close or cared for in a loving and protective way by their own mother. There are mothers who chose not to report abuse, both physical and emotional. These children and adults suffer and are among us each day.

This Sunday perhaps a bright smile and a hug from you will make a mother whose children couldn’t be with her feel less alone. Reach out in kindness and never forget that we each have a story, and often it’s not a bright and cheerful one.

I know how fortunate I am that my two plan to be with me and celebrate with me. My husband always made Mother’s Day special, and our kids learned by observing. I am one of the lucky ones, and I don’t forget how blessed I am for one minute.





Removing the Clutter

Mary Lee Writes

In January of 2014, Mary Kathryn and I shared a two bedroom apartment in Little Rock as she recovered from surgery. That is when I became aware of the need within myself to be free of all the “trappings” and to downsize to a home that was right for me as an elderly widow.

I decided to have a sale, and the person who handled this was Roy Dudley, located in Little Rock. It was a challenging decision to open my home to the public, but I became excited during the process of living unencumbered by “things” and ignored the feelings of intrusion. Roy took the items that did not sell to Little Rock and sold most from his warehouse there.

Making a decision to sell a particular watercolor painting that I loved was difficult, though I had no place to hang it. When I was told it did not sell, I was relieved and excited. It is now hanging in Mary Kathryn’s guest bedroom, and I enjoy its beauty when I visit. Mary Kathryn  and Johnny both had the opportunity to choose anything they wanted to use to furnish their homes, and they helped me eliminate the clutter that they would never use. Mary Kathryn was busy getting settled in her apartment in Little Rock during my move. Johnny spent a week in Jonesboro helping me, and I will always be grateful for his insight and hard work.

My closet has just the clothing that I wear. I keep a large shopping bag on the floor of the closet to toss the articles that I don’t need or wear, and they are ready to take to a charitable organization.

Material objects are just that. I no longer wanted to be controlled in that way.

The irony of all this is that the piece of furniture I most wanted to sell graces my living room today. It is a huge antique breakfront purchased by my grandparents in the 1950’s. It has been moved many times and finally found its home at First Bank. When the bank became Simmons First, it was moved to our home on Harrisburg Rd., then to another home, then still another! The first thing anyone said when they walked into my new place was that the long wall in the living room was perfect for the breakfront. And it is. I am happy with it for the first time, as it embraces pieces that I cherish. I kept and display special pieces, gifts from friends or handed down by family.

One of my favorite memories is that, before we were married, John and I visited my great aunt in Jackson, Tenn. She was very ill and told us she wanted us to select a piece of her cut glass as our wedding gift. I asked John to make the choice as he loved cut glass, and I knew next to nothing about it. He brought a lovely deeply cut bowl to her bedside. She responded, “any but that piece, it was my husband’s wedding gift to me.” In later years, her son died and his belongings were left to my mother. This beautiful piece is now displayed in my home, and I remember and relive that special day in my relative’s bedroom as if it were yesterday.

This and other stories remind us “things” can be beautiful as long as they are not collected for grandiosity. A minister once told the story of his daughter calling to him as he headed for her powder room, “don’t use the show towel!”

Since my place is uncluttered, I appreciate the items that we chose to keep. I enjoy each piece more than ever because there aren’t “ten things on a table.” It’s pleasant a year after downsizing to still have some bare shelves. I can’t quite call myself a minimalist, although I am moving in that direction.

Mary Lee writes

Last year’s sale.






Inside the O’Briens

MLW reading
As I read a lot, several have asked that I write about books that have impressed me. I have only given one or two book reviews in my life, so in no way am I an authority on what people want to know before choosing a book. I’ll just tell about why the book appealed to me – or did not!

I read Still Alice by Lisa Genova when it was newly published, and was intrigued by the way she portrayed emotion and – though I haven’t seen the movie – I remember her book as if I read it yesterday.

When I saw that she has a new book on the New York Times Best Seller List, I quickly downloaded it and finished it last night. The subject is one that is difficult to depict because it is about a family devastated by Huntington’s Disease.

It is an honest, clinical at times, emotionally “inside the heads” of the family portrayed. Joe is a tough Irish Catholic Boston cop, blessed with a beautiful wife whom he has loved since his teens, four children, a comfortable life – though he is haunted by the memory of his mother who spent her last years in a nursing home, believing that she was there because of her alcoholism. When he visited as an eleven year-old, he remembers hating the sight of her, strapped in a wheelchair and uttering nonsensical sounds. Only later did he realize she was saying “thank you” and “I love you.”

Inside the O'Briens

After Joe’s diagnosis of Huntington’s was confirmed, he knew the gene had been passed to him from his mother. He realized that she was not an alcoholic, as she was branded, but a victim of a dreaded disease.

Each of his children reacted in different ways to being tested. It is a tough book to read, but if you are interested in good writing and watching a family as they work through a crushing diagnosis – and are not afraid to shed a few tears – I recommend this as a visualization of how the O’Briens learn to embrace each new day with love. Let it be an inspiration, and it will be worth your time.


Second Update

Mary Kathryn & dogs

Surely she will get a break soon!

Mary Kathryn called to alert me that she had been awake since 3am with a pain in her arm and shoulder. She said she was afraid of a clot in the area where the picc line had been inserted. She had called her doctor and spoken with the nurse who told her to go once again to Baptist ER.  They worked her in for an ultra-sound.

After the test, she was sent to the doctor’s office. It is indeed a clot. Luckily her insurance allowed her to treat it as outpatient. She is giving herself injections of Lovenox twice daily and will take Coumadin for three months when she will have another ultrasound. She will also have her blood levels tested twice weekly for now.

Mary Kathryn told me she is still having a deep pain, and the only relief she gets is from the heating pad.

When I talked with her, she was at the Coldwell Banker Rector Phillips Morse office dealing with a home inspection. Working helps keep the focus off herself and concentrate on doing something positive for others.

She was warned that the clot could break off and travel to her lung. When she was told that another blockage could occur, she commented that she didn’t choose to live in fear – she is handling this in the same way.

Sometimes the strongest ones among us are the ones who smile through silent pain....




Zach and Zoe | Mary Lee writes
Mary Kathryn came to Jonesboro to celebrate the birthday of a friend. We were both invited to the party and had such a good time, though she admitted later that pain in her abdomen was a concern. The next morning she said she had a little pain but thought/hoped it would go away. She left to go back to Little Rock as she had an appointment to show houses. At Cabot, she realized the pain was so bad she would have to go to the ER and began calling for a Realtor to stand in for her.

When she arrived home, she called a dear friend who arranged a ride to the hospital for her. Then she called me at 1:35. Somehow, as a mother does, I showered and dressed, arranged a dog sitter, packed and, when I backed out of the driveway, I glanced at the clock. It showed 2:20. I felt it had been hours since her call.

When I arrived at the Baptist Hospital ER, I went directly to her space. A friend was there with her, such a comfort. She had already had the awful NG tube inserted as the CT scan showed a blockage.

Mary Kathryn was then taken to a room on the kidney wing, reuniting with several of the nurses she had known since the transplant surgery and who had seen her though the subsequent hospitalizations. It was heartwarming to witness how much they care for her, and I knew then that she would be in good hands. Her transplant surgeon was on call and the transplant nephrologist was available at all times to monitor her precious kidney, the gift of Steve Holt.

I imagine one reason they all love her is the welcoming smile she gives them, cracking a joke through the pain of the tube, the abdominal pain, and the feeling of starvation, having had not even a piece of ice for 5 1/2 days.

Mary Kathryn never exhibits a “poor me” attitude but instead she shows an acceptance that she will get through this “one more thing.” When I commented on her bravery at the height of her pain, she answered, “What choice do I have?”

She was dismissed late on Thursday and on Saturday kept her commitment to talk with ALS caregivers as the lead speaker. When you have the chance, look at her Life Coach Arkansas page on Facebook in case you know of someone in need of referral. And – if you are buying or selling a home – you can contact her as a Realtor with CBRPM.

I have been away from any writing for the past ten days as I just couldn’t process this setback for Mary Kathryn. However, I have found my peaceful place once more, imaging myself in the palm of God’s hand, being held with love.

The photo is of Mary Kathryn’s fur babies, Zach and Zoe, wishing for her while she was in the hospital.











A Very Good Story

curious_new_banner with title2
When the book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, was published, I was in Menlo Park visiting John Jr. There was an incredible bookstore there, with dark wood, antique shelves, stacks of books and comfy chairs. The staff’s selection that week was this very book. I purchased it and remember sitting on John’s balcony, reading this mesmerizing tale.

It is the story of an autistic 15 year old boy. He found his neighbor’s dog after it had been killed. He was first accused of the crime, even spending a night in jail. He is encouraged by a social worker at his school to write a book about his search for the killer, and he is the narrator. Do I have you hooked yet? Explore this one, you’ll be glad that you did. (Click here to see it on Amazon.)

This book is now a play on Broadway, and critics predict it will have a very long and successful run. They are calling it “immersive.” I am planning a trip!