Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mitochondrial Disease

I went exploring today.  There are a lot of cruel diseases and physical conditions in this world.  This turns out to be one of the more unpleasant -- and relatively common -- ones.  This is what my cousin's son must fight through in order to survive. [see previous post] If the disease pulls the body's energy plug, so to speak, what does one have left to fight with?

Pray for Carl and his family.  Give thanks for something positive in your own life.
Don't forget to pray ....
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Mitochondrial Disease

Overview of Mitochondrial Disease

Mitochondrial Medicine: Structure of a cell.Mitochondrial disease or dysfunction is an energy production problem. Almost all cells in the body have mitochondria, which are tiny "power plants" that produce a body's essential energy.
Mitochondrial disease means the power plants in cells don't function properly. When that happens, some functions in the body don't work normally. It's as if the body has a power failure: there is a gradation of effects, like a 'brown out' or a 'black out'.
Scientifically, it is actually a category or group of diseases. That's why mitochondrial disease takes many different forms and no two people may look alike.
It can look like any number of better known diseases: AutismParkinson'sAlzheimer'sLou Gehrig's disease,muscular dystrophy and, chronic fatigue. Staying with the power plant analogy, power plants provide energy to a large community with each part of the community requiring varying degrees of power; in the same way, mitochondria provide energy to various organs of the body. So, when there is a mitochondrial dysfunction, a "black out" looks like Leigh's Disease, severe and fatal, while a "brown out" might be severe, but not lethal.

Click to expand/collapse details What Happens To You When You Get It?

Mitochondrial disease primarily affects brain, heart and muscle in varying levels of severity.
Depending on which cells of the body are affected, symptoms may include:
  • Poor growth
  • Loss of muscle coordination, muscle weakness
  • Visual and/or hearing problems
  • Developmental delays, learning disabilities
  • Mental retardation
  • Heart, liver or kidney disease
  • Gastrointestinal disorders, severe constipation
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Neurological problems, seizures
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Dementia
In school, children with mitochondrial disease often seem to work in "spurts" and then "peter out," becoming lethargic and finding it difficult to concentrate. It is essential to understand that these periods of fatigue are not due to the child "zoning out," but rather total exhaustion from deep within the cellular level of their existence.It ranges from intermittent difficulty thinking, remembering, moving and acting, to severe handicaps. Some results may be fatigue, muscle weakness and diabetes. And all this is overlaid by good and bad days caused by significant inconsistency-like the electricity flickering in different areas of a community.
Though the impression most have of mitochondrial disease is a disorder that presents itself at birth, it can appear at any age. For some it develops over time. We're learning it's not at all rare but, due to a lack of physician and public awareness, this disease is not often diagnosed. Only in the past 10 years, with advances in genetics and molecular biology, have we a better understanding of the complexity in mitochondrial disorders. Even so, the definitive cause (or causes) of mitochondrial disease continues to evolve.
1 in 2,500-3,000 are affected by mitochondrial disease
1 in 2,500 are affected by Cystic Fibrosis
1 in 110 individuals are affected by Autism
1 in 500 are affected by Parkinson's
1 in 85 are affected by Alzheimer's
1 in 25,000 are affected by Leigh's Disease, a fatal form of mitochondrial disease
1 in 50,000 are affected by Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS)

Wisdom. Trust. Healing

A cousin is the father of a physically and mentally challenged child who is nearly an adult.  For most of the last week, the young man has been lying in a hospital intensive care unit, fighting for his life.  My cousin posted this yesterday:
... Update: C's vitals took a positive turn at least for a while there. They tried twice to ween him off of the ventilator but he is still not strong enough to breathe on his own so they will wait until tomorrow to try again. They have now re-sedated him so he can continue to heal and strengthen. This is going to take a lot of time so we are trying to settle in for the long haul.

As [my wife]  and I say, baby steps and they are still progress.
This is a lot better than the day before, when there was real doubt that he would survive the next 24 hours.

Pray for this young man as he struggles for healing, and for his family as they do the  things they can -- wait.  trust.  touch.  pray.  

Pray for those you know who are ill, alone, in need.  Reach out.  Hug someone and let them know you care. 
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Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Open Letter to a Granddaughter -- Part I

It’s the day after the shooting in the very upscale private school in Connecticut.   

As you can imagine, I am deeply troubled by all these seemingly senseless killings.  This is one of those times when I badly need to share with – talk to – gain perspective from someone or several someones in your age group and your circle of friends.  Please understand that I am not trying to be critical.  I am groping for understanding, and because I don’t understand some of my comments may sound critical.  Please jump over that level of response.  Lets try to get to the place where we can talk openly and look for share understanding and agreement.  I am beginning to believe that solutions lie not in my generation, and only partially in the generation of my children.  WE are looking at the world with a different sent of eyes and experiences.  The solutions need to come from YOUR generation.  

Once upon a time we joked about “going postal” because it was the post office employees who in frustration walked into their workplace and shot people.  Usually their supervisor. Doesn't mean all postal workers are murderers.

Earlier this year a homeless man walked into a church office in Maryland and killed a priest and the church office administrator.  He was a man with known mental health issues, known to the church community through their outreach ministry to the homeless.  The shooter at Virginia Tech had known mental health issues.  So did the shooter in the theater in Aurora, Colorado.  Doesn't mean all homeless people or all people with mental health issues are capable of murder.  

Many of the school shootings involve a shooter who is somehow linked to the Goth sub-culture.  We hear that Goths are often loners, obsessed with death, heavily involved in role playing, often feel alienated, enjoy the shock value of their style, dress, and statements.  We are told we can recognize Goths on the street by their long trench coats,  black clothing and extremely light make-up, by multiple body piercings, "weird" hair styles and heavy jewelry.  Does this mean that all role players are goths, that all online gamers or folks who suffer from depression are likely to commit mass murder, that everyone with body piercings is somehow tainted, that horror literature and vampire stories should be outlawed?

"I don't think so!" says she who enjoys fantasy games and fantasy literature, wears lots of black, has taken anti-depressant medication, has been known to wear two earrings -- in each ear -- and has been accused of "wearing some strange get-ups" after wearing a Hawaiian dress (as in more formal, not as in a garment with a skirt) muumuu in public outside Hawaii. 

While it is true that guns are a common factor in most mass killings, they are not the only common factor.  The component that I do not understand is the Goth sub-culture. While not all Goths are mass murders, it is true that many mass murders are Goths.   Help me understand what the sub-culture is all about, what draws one in, what holds him or her there?  Are we seeing another example of a reasonable belief being tainted by the polarizing views of extremes within the community?   Or is the whole sub-culture somehow tainted?   Is it important to reach out  to the lonely and alienated?  If throwing words at each other that neither side hears or understands is not communicating, how does an outsider speak meaningfully to a Goth? 

What about gangs?  Are gang members the opposite extreme from Goths?  Or are both cultures meeting the same needs in different ways? 
How can I touch one life to move it in a postive direction? 

Pray for open communication.  Pray for understanding.  Pray for positive social action.   
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Looking for Tonka

Somewhere out there is a woman in her mid-40's who as a toddler bore the nickname Tonka.  Yes, she loved those trucks!  Her real name is Christina, and she was probably born in Arizona.  Her mother came from Texas; her father was ethnically Mexican, but may or may not have been a Mexican national.  She has at least two siblings -- a sister Shelley  and a brother Jamie.  By 1977 Jamie was living happily with an adoptive family in Tuscon.  We never found Christina or Shelley.

Tonka's mom and step-father were married in Los Angeles in 1968, but were back in Arizona and living in Phoenix by 1969.  They lived in a large mobile home in a park on what was then the southwest edge of Phoenix.  You could watch the movies at the drive-in theater next door from their living room window. 

When Tonka's mom and step-father split, mom left the 3 kids with a sitter.  (step)Dad, who was working out of town that week, tracked the kids down when he got home and found his wife gone.  His version of the story is that he came home to an empty trailer pad, a full garbage can, and an emptied bank account.  He tried to keep the children, but he says the laws in Arizona at the time declared that a young single man (man being the operative) could not adequately care for three pre-schoolers on his own.  They took the children into foster care over his protests, and effectively drove him out of Arizona.  He went home to Utah, bounced around the western US for a few years, and eventually settled in California.  There he divorced, remarried, lived, and died. 

He carried a small collection of photographs of Tonka and her siblings until he died.  The children -- and their photographs -- were very precious to him.  He thought Shelley went to her maternal grandparents, but often wondered what became of Tonka.   The State of Arizona did not pursue the girls in 1977 as they did Jamie because he had no legal responsibility for or claim on them. 

Tonka, if you're out there, I'd love to hear from you.  Respond to this blog with identifying information about your mother and about a childhood health issue.  No strings attached, just hope to resolve one of those loose ends in life. 

Have hope.  Give thanks for loving families.  Pray for children who are alone, whether abandoned or orphaned.  ...
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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Witches of Salem

Here's another tidbit of information that came my way because I am a genealogist.

I recently picked up a novel off the Kindle Free Books list.  Those books are not always the highest quality literature, but do open some unusual doors.   This novel is contemporary in setting, but the premise is  that the events in the life of the protagonist are the direct result of his ancestor who was innocent but nevertheless hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692.  That prompted me to learn more about the Salem Witch Trials.

I was surprised to discover that there were not many, many Salem Witch Trials, but one basic event with only a handful accused (relatively speaking), and not all of them executed.

One of the most outspoken of those executed -- and one of the central characters in "The Crucible" -- was John Proctor.  His wife was also accused, but not executed because she was pregnant.  The couple's youngest child was born after his father's death and while his mother was in prison.

I have Proctors in my family tree.  They come from Virginia.  But I don't think my mom has ever identified the immigrant ancestor.  I wonder if my Proctor ancestors came to Virginia from Massachusetts?

My most recent ancestor who carried the surname Proctor was a woman who died about 1845 in Tennessee, age about 96 years.  At least two generations of her ancestors were from Virginia.  Her children were born in North (and/or South) Carolina.  Her first husband was a Mr. Morris.  We know almost nothing about him, but there are suggestions that he was from "up north".   As Massachusetts??? 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

On Being Different

Don't know why this spoke to me today, but it did.  We each have a story that must be told.  Live your story. 

"I suspect that you knew you were different at an early age.  Not that you stood aloof or failed to find friends, but that you carried an awareness of life that was not easy to share.  It was not just your outward sign, how you appeared to others, but an inward reality, a way of seeing, a sense that the air around you was scented with the fragrance of something sacred.  And so you held your secret close, listening, waiting, until your time came, until your name was called by a voice familiar.  You are what you were meant to be.  You are called.  You have a story that must be lived to be told.  But I suspect you know that." 
Bp Steven Charleston, Hope as Old as Fire (2012, Red Moon Publications)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Art, History and Genealogy

One of the first books I loaded onto my first Kindle was something called His Majesty's Dragon, a novel by Naomi Novik.  It captivate me.  Read it at least twice, then all other available (read available for free) titles in the sequence.    They are set in the period of the Napoleonic Wars and feature the British Air Corps.  Aircraft?  Dragons.  The central character is a dragon named Temeraire.  The history may or may not be accurate. 

I am not particularly a fan of British military history, British Naval history, or the Napoleonic period so I was reading fiction.  The names of characters and places meant little unless I pulled out the maps to follow the geography mentioned.

Then I read a piece written by a genealogical researcher in Australia about one of my 3rd great-grandfathers, Richard Holmes.   It is part of a 65-page report which touches briefly on my direct line.  Graeme  Hicks writes:


Richard Holmes, Esq.
It has not been possible to find when or where Theodosia’s great grandfather Richard Holmes was born or died but some aspects of his life are known.  He was a Royal Navy purser[1] commissioned in 1793.  A full list of the ships in which he served is difficult to discover but at the time he married, in 1796, he was purser of the Colossus (74)d and in 1799 he was on the Impregnable (98).  Further, in about May 1803 there is record of him, formerly of the Temeraire (98), being appointed to the San Josef (112), both flagships which served with the Channel fleet.  Richard was still serving on the San Josef in mid 1805.  As both the Colossus and Impregnable were lost at sea and a mutiny occurred on the Temeraire[6], Richard’s naval career was not without incident.

[1]           See the Navy List.  Although it was necessary to be commissioned as a purser, pursers to a large extent operated as merchants independent of the Navy.  With a ‘captive’ clientele it was often a lucrative business.
[6]           In late 1801 the Temeraire was removed from Channel duty to escort a convoy to the West Indies thereby inciting a mutiny by many of her crew – with rumours of the war about to end they thought they would be returning to England.  Richard was most likely serving on the Temeraire at this time.  Twelve men were hanged as a result of the mutiny and when Temeraire returned from the West Indies in late September 1802, due to the Peace of Amiens, she was laid up at Plymouth.  Temeraire later distinguished herself at Trafalgar, the only battle in which she fought; she was second in column behind the Victory.

Off I went to Google "Temeraire", only to discover that since Trafalger there has always been a ship in the Royal Navy carrying the name.  There is even a well-known painting, The Fighting Temeraire by Jonathan Turner, depicting the ship at Trafalgar.  I've been aboard the Victory, a major visitor site in the Royal Naval Shipyard Southampton.   That visit was recalled dramatically as I read about the Temeraire. 

Suddenly my 3rd great-grandfather's naval career has acquired facts that will stick in my memory.  He was a purser -- as was my favorite uncle.  He served aboard the Temerarire, and was probably her purser during the infamous mutiny.  He was NOT aboard her at Trafalgar; by that time (Oct 1805), he had been assigned to the San Josef.    I have learned about a British landscape painter whose name previously meant little to me.  As it happens, I have recently been researching a Turner family, linked to the painter only by a common surname.  But it's a mnemonic that will stick. 

Because I am a genealogist I am continually learning about history.  In this case, I learned something about a British artist as well. 

Give thanks for learning, in whatever way it presents itself.  
Don't forget to pray....
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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Passing the Buck

Governor Romney says, "I'll solve the federal budget crisis by passing the responsibility for ... to the states.  After all, that's the responsibility of the states."    That has left me pondering questions about responsibility and problem solving.

How many of you live in a cash-strapped state?  Is your state meeting its own budget crisis by passing funding responsibility down to the counties?

Where are your state's priorities?  Does your county have law enforcement personnel and fire fighters who earn more than your teachers?  My county does.  California prison guards start as apprentices at substantially higher wages than a new teacher currently earns in the first district I worked for, but cap out at about the same level.  Wages are a little higher in historically high income communities, about the same or a little lower the Central Valley, even lower in rural areas.  In San Francisco, journeyman plumbers start at a higher wage than most teachers in small to medium-sized California school districts can ever hope to earn.

When I  graduated from college, the best public schools in the nation were in California.  Now, a good many years later, California public schools are somewhere very near the bottom of the educational barrel.  Instead of educating our children, we provide more places to incarcerate our adults -- and give them better educational opportunities and tools than most of our public schools can afford to provide.

Do you find any of that troubling?

But this isn't meant to be a rant about teacher salaries.  In my county, I'm told, as much as 10 years ago the county was lagging years behind -- something like 2 to 5 years behind -- in paying the salaries of part time public defenders.  They are private attorneys appointed for those who are arrested and told, "...if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you."  They fill in when a county-employed PD is not available.  The attorneys keep doing the work,.  I don't think they stand a prayer of getting paid.  Any why was the county not paying?  Because funding was actually from the State, but the State was not paying their invoices.

So how do states solve the problem?  They ultimately throw up their hands and transfer to the already cash-strapped counties the whole responsibility for whatever it is that the State budget can no longer afford.  Or they dig in and make very hard decisions.

The same pass-the-buck tactic is being suggested at the federal level.  Those Medicare and Social Security programs that eat up a huge percentage of the federal budget?  Get rid of them! Send them down to the states to worry about.  States that are already cutting welfare and mental health program to sub-minimum levels.  States that cannot afford their existing social burdens.  It's not just California.  I'd guess that your state has similar issues.  They may not be out on the table in the same way as California's, but I'll bet you can find them.  You just have to  look.  

I don't know the solution.  But I do know it does not lie in shifting responsibility, in pointing a finger at a younger sibling or a more vulnerable neighbor saying, "It's his fault."  It doesn't lie in hiding by virtue of distance from the center of activity, by putting the problem out of sight and therefore out of mind.  Nor does it lie in looking longingly at past glories or jealously at someone else's good fortune.  Digging in to really fix a problem is never easy, seldom fun, never accomplished quickly.  How do we get there?  I'm reasonably sure that changing horses at this point will fix anything.

Don't forget to pray ....
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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Whose problem?

I thought I learned about taking responsbility for my own actions from my mother. 

"Don't come whining to me about ---" she used to say, filling in the blank with the latest crisis in my teen life.  "You got yourself into this.  It's not my job to get you out of it." She wasn't being mean, just practical.  Encouraging independence, responsibility.

Another time, watching our neighbor care for several granddaughters of questionable legitimacy:  "Don't run off and get married, then bring your children home for me to raise.  They are your children, you raise them."  I was still in high school, not even contemplating marriage much less children. 

My favorite mental health counselor often admonished, "Assign the problem where it belongs."  Usually it was a reminder.  Sometimes she added,  "If you can fix it, do.  If you can't fix it, it is not your problem." 

So it is a little startling to hear my  mother, in an apparently rational state, say things suggesting that all her problems are caused by someone else.  Once upon a time, all her ills came from my father.   Now it is her doctors.   "I was fine until they changed my medicine."  That's partially true -- but the new med is also deflecting a whole range of more sinister conditions lying quietly, waiting to pounce.   The new med is also keeping her pain-free. 

Nor does her attitude address the things she can do to mitigate the negative impact of the new medication. Actions she chooses not to take. 

Change seldom comes easily.  Change is especially not easy when you are out of practice.  Or after 98+ years of living. 

Acceptance of difficult circumstances is even harder, especially when the ultimate difficulty involves your own mortality. 

What choice will make a difference in your life? 
Don't forget to pray....

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Slide

Yesterday I was bragging that my mom was still mentally sharp, reading, researching, doing her own accounting.  

Yesterday was a difficult day.  It was especially difficult for my brother, who has not had a lot of direct care-taking opportunities in his life, particularly end of life care-taking.  See his post of yesterday, 22 Sep, at

Yesterday, our mother slept from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., then thought she was waking up at the start of a new day.  Yesterday morning she could still sit up in bed unassisted.  Yesterday morning she was in pain, but reasonable stable on her feet behind that walker.  On Friday she could easily put the battery in her hearing aid.  On Friday she could reliably open and read her mail.  On Friday she  was taking meals at table.  On Friday she was directing how life should be in this household -- we need to be on a schedule, you (meaning me) need to go off and do things for yourself, I will eat this but not that ... 

Today is different.  Today she cannot sit up in bed without assistance.  Today  she is unsteady, even behind her walker.  Today she looks at but does not read the morning paper.  Today she eats what is put in front of her, takes her pills as directed.  Today I am not confident she is reliably reporting what she is feeling. 

Jackie, our mother's lead Hospice Nurse, called this morning, obviously having gotten a report from the on-call weekend nurse.  Jackie suggests that that "tingly feeling" on the side of the head may be something real and physical -- or not.   She says what we are seeing is also consistent with coming off certain medications.  She says monitor and report.  She suggests we have absorbent bed pads and diapers on hand -- just in case -- when the prunes and other laxitive products kick in.  She is ordering a bedside commode, which will be delivered tomorrow. This may pass, she says.  It may also be another step in the path toward that inevitable door. 

I love you. 
Thank you.
Forgive me.
I forgive you. 

Don't forget to pray....

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

One more time ....

My mom was admitted to a Hospice program this weekend.  Third hospice patient I've been directly involved with, third hospice provider.  Our experience in Tuolumne County was brief but heaven-sent, and allowed Ray to die at home.  My dad was in a nursing home when enrolled in hospice care, and it was a very different experience. That hospice program seemed to chug along on its own steam, doing what it does every day without making any accommodation for our specific situation or desires.  Except for who paid the bill, there was no discernible difference in day-to-day existence. 

We have yet another Hospice provider for my mother.  She is at home.  We're still adjusting, have already had a medication issue, but it got resolved and  I get a response when I call their office.  We've met Toni, the Weekend On-Call RN; Alicia, who did a qualifying assessment; and Jomel, who made the first contact with a potential patient.  All have been young and polite.  None have been local.  Jackie, the Case Manager RN, is also young, but she is local.  Thinks on her feet.  We don't ask "ordinary" questions.

It's not that anyone expects my mom to die in the next month, or in the next few months.  It took some talking to get people to realize that her "on paper" condition is very different from her real-life condition.  On paper, she is healthy, better than 99% of people her age.  She can toilet herself, feed herself, walk unassisted in her 4-wheel walker -- by doesn't go anywhere without that walker. When she squeezes your hand, her grip is still firm.   But none of the normal measures of health and fitness consider her long naps -- morning, afternoon, and early to bed,  18 hours or more of sleep each day.  They do not address her decreasing food intake and gradual weight loss.  I jokingly say "Conversation would be nice!", but it's true.  Often communication is in one word commands, waves of the hand, or just pointing with a grunt.  Now I learn these behaviors are indications of withdrawing into oneself, and a typical end of life behavior.  It was those cumulative behaviors that  tipped the scale to qualilfy her for hospice. 

The steep downward spiral began on August 23.  The day before her doctor told her that her white cell count was up a little bit and asked if she had a cold or the flu.  "No." she said.  Then she came home and thought about it.  "No wonder I haven't been feeling very good," she said.  "My white cell count is up."  She could have added, "and my kidneys are no longer working at their best."

All the books on death and dying say that sometimes you have to give a person permission to die.  Or in my mom's case, to feel sick.  To let go, stop struggling to put on a strong front.  It wasn't her imagination any more.  She wasn't sick enough for medical intervention by her doctor (who refused to give her an antibiotic), but she is not completely well, either.  Now she is allowing the rest of us to know she feels less than perfect, allowing herself to sleep as much as is needed, allowing  herself to take enough  pain medication (and it's powerful stuff, beyond Tylenol and Aleve and aspirin) to stay relatively pain free. 

So we watch.  We wait.  We keep her comfortable.  We strive for sanity in the midst of chaos.  We love her.  Unconditionally. 

Don't forget to pray ....
* * * * *

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Manu o Ku, Hawaii's "Bird of Peace"

It was a new bird in the mango tree last week.  A pair, actually.  At first I thought it was a pigeon, but the wing span (the bird book says 24") was too wide, the wing shape wrong.  And the color!  This fellow clean, white, with black beak, large black eyes, and dark feet  A beautiful, unique bird.  Here he is, more or less as I first saw him.

The bird book says he is a Fairy Tern (Gygis Alba), a native in Hawai'i and not to be confused with the Australian Fairy Tern.   To avoid confusion, he is better known as White Tern.  Or by his Hawaiian name, Manu o Ku.  He is a listed as threatened species, but his numbers are increasing.  He's migratory, arriving in April and leaving again in September.  Some breeding pairs like Hawaii so much that they remain here year round.

He is described as friendly and curious, not afraid of people.  Nope, not afraid; I thought one was going to land on my head the other day!  A fish-eating sea bird, but raises its young on a tree branch -- sans nest.  Raises only one chick at a time, but may have three nesting cycles in a season.

More looking.  The Fairy Tern may be threatened, but is considered a common bird in the major parks around Oahu and in the unpopulated islands and atolls of the northern end of the Hawaiian chain.  He is also the official bird of the City of Honolulu.

Give thanks for those things -- like the birds -- that add beauty to our lives!
Don't forget to pray ....
* * * * *

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hidden Stories

One of the things you learn quickly as a genealogist is that if you cannot deal with the skeletons in your family closet, this is NOT the hobby for you.  Every family has skeletons hidden away somewhere.  My personal view is that they contribute to who we ultimately become.  Sometimes they drag us down.  Sometimes they lift us us up -- either because they are so positive, or because they are so negative that we are driven to overcome them.

I invite you to stop in at to read my brother's post for today, 2 Sep 2012.  I had showed him a photo of the remnants of the Fergushill Rows (Kilwinning, Scotland) earlier this week.  The photo caught his attention.

Our paternal grandmother,  Jeanie Montgomery,
lived in the Fergushill Rows until she was about 12.  There was not a whole lot lower one could go on the social scale and still survive as a family.  Her life at Fergushill represented the very bottom of the economic pit into which our line of Montgomeries and Greigs slid.  Earlier generations had better times.  Our great-grandfather began the climb out after following his own father into the coal mines.  His children and grandchildren  kept climbing.  The climb takes determination -- and education -- and more determination.

The photo above was taken during the family's years at Fergushill.

Our grandmother lacked the education, but she made up for it in determination.  She would leave those muddy streets, open sewers, and 6x9' lodgings behind.  She would be all the things she dreamed a gracious lady would be.  She never shared the stories.  I heard them from her brother Tom's children, pieced them together from literature in Scotland and online about life in the Ayrshire mining camps, and from visiting the  museum at Eglington Park, Kilwinning.

Grandma is probably appalled that I'd consider sharing her stories.  But her experiences and attitudes are just as formative  as those of the English landed gentry in Devon, the farmers and livestock men in West Calder and Dumfiresshire (Scotland), the pioneers who spent 200 years settling the American frontier from Virginia and North Carolina all the way to California, and the pioneering seamen who followed a legend and a star -- and later, regular migration paths -- across the Pacific Ocean in open canoes to eventually settle in Hawai'i.

Share your stories.
Don't forget to pray ...
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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

An Unconventinal 4th

4th of July.  Commonly, a day of parades, picnics, fireworks, and gathering with friends.

Our significant event of the day was a small boost for the American economy.  We went to the Apple Store.

Let it be said up front that, without any effort on her part whatsoever, my mother raised two children who cannot live without computers.  Ian has always used Apple products.  I have been a PC user.  Then I got an iPhone.  Next came the Mac.  Now I'm trying to figure out if an iPad is a toy or a tool.  

But our mother has been resistant.  When our father was alive, she said she would not get a computer because HE would expect her to do all his secretarial work.  I don't know why she thought it would be any different than her daily use of a typewriter, at least on our father's expectation for her to provide secretarial support, but that's what she said.  Then she said she didn't want to bother with learning something new.

On Monday, Ian dropped by.   They were talking about a split in one of their stocks, and he picked up his iPad to find out if it had actually recorded.  Then he check on the number of shares she owns -- of a different stock.  He did a couple of other things on the iPad before she asked, "What's that?"  Ian told her.  Then, "What does it do?"   He explained that it is a little, light-weight computer.

The telling question:  "Can I use it for genealogy?"  Ian asked what sort of genealogy tasks she wanted to do.  "I want to find for myself some of the things that Bonnie finds for me on the computer."  Ian, who is NOT a genealogist, looked at me.  I figure that if you can search the Internet on a computer, you can probably search the Internet on an iPad.    "Yes," I told her, "you can use it for genealogy."

We were not expecting the next question.  "How much?"  Ian and I both went scrambling for price checks.  iPad 2 or 3?  New or refurbished?  When it became clear even to our mother that we were considering online purchase, she added, "I want to look around before I buy one."  Patiently, Ian explained the avantages of buying from the Apple Store only a half-mile away.

So itt was that our 98-year-old mother made her first trip EVER into an Apple Store on the 4th of July, and came home with a brand new iPad 3.

The folk at the Apple Store were superb.  They allowed her to avoid the long (it is long if you depend on a walker and find a trip through Safeway a week's worth of exercise) walk through the mall and actually come in through the sacrosanct back door.  Noah, her salesperson was friendly, knowledgeable, and dealt gracefully with the three-way discussion (our mother, Ian and myself) as we tried to explain what Black vs. White means in the context of iPad body color, who was going to actually make the purchase, and who would get the system up and running for her.

She spent the afternoon searching.  There was only marginal success on the search front, but she is certainly getting the hang of the new gadget.   Which right now is still very much a toy.

Give thanks for 98-year-old brains that are still excited about learning new skills.  Don't forget to pray ....

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Child Remembered

You are never more than a step from love, no matter where you go.  No distance can separate you from the touch of grace, no depth conceal you from the care of the One who made you.  You walk in light.  Go then to the places that need you.  Step over thresholds of hurt for the sake of others.  Dare to be the truth, share the work of justice.  Even if to save a few you lost it all, you would not count the cost.  
Steven Charleston, "Hope as Old as Fire"

I am a genealogist.  Therefore, I am a reader of obituaries   This week I found an obituary for a 15-year-old boy, the son of a casual friend from Groveland.  The friend and his wife had been through some traumatic health issues in their lives before this child was born.  He was their only child, his father's constant companion at least through the early years of his life.  Now he is gone.  

A remark made by a friend on a memorial page said, "If only you had someone close to talk to ...."   Someone else said, "If only you knew how many people cared."  Would he still be with us if he had heard the message of which Bishop Charleston reminds us?  If one person has stepped over the thresholds of his hurt to share a message of love?  

Don't blame the parents.  15-year-olds don't often hear their parents.  If they did, Ray and I wouldn't have had so many 14 to 17 year olds as crisis intervention foster kids.  But those same teens listen to their friends, their schoolmates, their scout leaders, their teachers.  They listen to strangers, to recording artists.  

Dare to be the truth.  Dare to share the work of justice.  Dare to share the love.  Step over the threshold.  

Don't forget to pray....
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Thursday, June 28, 2012

An Old Habit Reawakened

Some of us who have lived for any period in an area prone to wildfires learn to dig out information on the Internet.  I haven't  polished those particular hunting skills for awhile, but they came out with in a hurry this week when I heard about "a fire near Colorado Springs".  That was Sunday morning.  I was on my way to church.  Had to stop in the parking lot, haul out the smart phone, and check just how near to Colorado Springs this fire was.

Since Ray's passing I have kept in close contact with a cousin who lives on the west side of Colorado Springs.  He's been a volunteer fire fighter in a rural fire department, did some fire investigation work for said department.  His beloved mountain cabin was one of 133 homes lost in the 138,000+ acre Hayman Fire in 2002.  We've been out of daily contact for the last year as he's had health issues that have had him in and out of hospitals and care facilities, but he's home now with the help of a part-time care taker.  I called to ask about the fire.

"I'm calm."  he said.  "I'm OK."  This man is a master of understatement.  Turns out he was watching the fire from his front door.  "Last night you could see the fire move along the ground, then suddenly it would be in the top of a tree and the tree would explode.  It was moving that fast and that hot."  The ridge line he was watching was about 5 miles away.  A fast-moving wildfire can cover 5 miles in less time that it would take you to throw essentials into a bag, throw the bag in the car, and pull out of your driveway.

Me?  Been there, done that.  I've learned that after you've done it once (as in almost every critical or tense situation), you are less likely to panic when confronted with a similar situation.  But I'm still checking the National Fire Information Center website, the Pike National Forest website, InciWeb and their links to Google Earth, all the Denver and Colorado springs news sites, watching the direction the fire is moving (away from him, but towards his daughter's home north of the Air Force Academy).   And I am not directly threatened.

There are many good information links and lots of photos.  Here's one.  Imagine these scenes from your front door.

Don't forget to pray.  Pray for the weather.  Pray for the firefighters.  Pray for those who have lost property, for those who must shelter in evacuation centers or with friends, and for all those whose lives are directly impacted during an active fire.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dr. Steven Charleston

Dr. Charleston is a PhD and a Bishop in the Episcopal Church.  He is also a citizen of the Choctaw Nation and an activist for ministry to Indigenous Peoples -- those of us sometimes called "Natives".  Bishop Charleston came to Hawai'i from Oklahoma for a weekend specifically to lead a retreat in Christian Renewal at the church I regularly attend.  

"It's out of character for Episcopalians, he said, preaching with a bible in his hand, "but sometimes I sound like an old Baptist preacher.  It comes from growing up in rural Oklahoma."

"Episcopalians don't always agree on what we believe," Charleston reminded us.  "But the Holy Spirit is the energy that charges our faith and our life."  On that we can agree.

He found a quiet place in a garden to sign his books.  

He laughed with us.  I love this image that catches him in a mischievous  moment.

Charleston brought with him his new book, Hope as Old as Fire, a collection of brief daily meditations.
For May 19 he wrote:  
God bless the church, our traveleing tribe, our motley crew,
caravan of the conflicted and courageous, stumbling toward paradise,
the hurt and the hopeful, wounded healers, singing along the way.
Life within her tents is never easy,
but life without her would be darkness beyond our imagining.
Bless the church, dear God,
your quarreling brood, your stubborn flock,
your love living for love,
your dream of what might be. 

Thank you, Dr. Charleston. 

Don't forget to pray ....   

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Photo Challenge

An interesting challenge for photographers trying to improve their visualizing and composition skills is to carry a camera at all times, taking photos every day.  Then select one photo each day that pleases you.

These images are a bit fuzzy.  I was using a fixed lens camera with telephoto lens at close to max power.  Not great resolution with a subject a half-mile or so away.

Today I went for an outdoor walk (as opposed to mall walking), camera in hand.   Down Kealaolu to the neighborhood beach park.  On Sunday afternoon, it was a busy place -- lots of cars, several family groups.  From the road I saw what looked like a  colorful assemblage of small tents.  I needed more than one image to tell the whole story.

 "Ah," I thought.  "Boy Scouts. "

Not Boy Scouts.  Not even tents.  

Grown men.  Lots of harness.
Lots of rope cables

 Kite surfing.
Kind of like water skiing,
but using wind power instead of a boat.  
You can tell the speed involved by
the wake behind the surfer's board

I love watching these athletes skimming the water.
Such concentration.  Such grace.  Such joy.  

Give thanks for clear skies, clear water, and sufficient wind.
Don't forget to pray!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Remembering Prince Kuhio

Today is a Hawaii State holiday, honoring Prince Jonah Kalaniana'ole Kuhio (1871-1922).  Visitors to Hawaii will recognize his name in Kalaniana'ole highway,  the route to Hanauma Bay, Sandy Beach and Makapu'u.  They may even recognize that a portion of Waikiki Beach is properly called Kuhio Beach.  Prince Kuhio was an member of the US Congress from Hawaii.  Wikipedia reminds us that he was the first native Hawaiian and the only member of a royal family ever to serve there.

My mother, who remembers things Hawaiian even when she misses holidays like Presidents' Day and sometimes the 4th of July, smiled softly and said, "I think the man who smiled and kissed my hand was Prince Kuhio."  Then she told the rest of the story.

"We lived in the country, and when my mother would come to town for shopping or other business, she would leave us with Auntie Alice.  When we were there Auntie Alice would walk us down to the beach, where we used the ocean-front lanai at Prince Kuhio's home as our base.  One day a man came out, on his way to somewhere else.   I remember his mustache.  I remember that he was very nice, smiled, kissed my hand.  I was about 4 or 5 years old."

That would have been 1918-1820.  Auntie Alice Lane was a schoolmate of my grandmother's and a lifelong  close friend.  Her husband, John C Lane,  had served as a member of the Queen's Guard during the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893,  was a staunch Royalist, a supporter and personal friend of Prince Kuhio.  Using the Prince's lanai was a perfectly natural thing for Auntie Alice.  So it became a natural thing for my mother and her sister.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Persistence Pays: a Myth Uncovered

Kalaupapa in 1890,  about the time my family lived there.
(photo from
Oct 2010)
A long-held story in my mother's family is that her great-grandmother died a Kalaupapa, the leper colony on the island of Moloka'i where  St. Damien, then Fr. Damien, served as priest.  There are a variety of ancillary stories -- how she really didn't have leprosy, how there was some jealousy in the community over her reputed beauty, how her husband and two sons went with her as kokua (care-givers), how she was actually sent to the colony but refused to leave when it was determined she was not a leper because she could not take her trunk of beautiful dresses (holoku) with her back to Maui.

PROBLEM:  There are no records of Hele'ualani at Kalaupapa.  No record of diagnosis.  No record of admission as a patient.   No record of housing.  No census entry.  Nothing.  There are multiple records for her husband and two sons -- admission as patients at the Kalihi Detention Center in Honolulu, transfer to Kalaupapa, church records in Kalaupapa, and records of their deaths in the register of the colony residents.  A cousin and I began to wonder if she ever was there.  We looked further.

This morning I found a computerized entry for a woman named Heleualani among a collection of Hawaiian Deaths and Burials.  This woman was born about 1846, and died at Kaaluloa (sic) on 6 Apr 1886.  She fits the expected profile, more or less, for my great-great-grandmother.  The computerized version of this record does not tell which island Kaaluloa is on, nor does it tell whether Hele'ualani is buried on private land or in a cemetery.  The gazetteers were useless.  The place may no longer exist.  It may be too small to count.  It may be misspelled. It just doesn't appear.  Anywhere.

The online transcription does not tell us anything else about Heleualani to help identify her as our ancestor.  I gave a copy of the print-out to my cousin to mull over.

A couple of hours later he called back.  "Could that place be Kaululoa?" he asked.  I'll know on Saturday when I can get down to the local LDS facility and read the microfilm.

"Read the land records you already have  Hele'ualani and Kaho'oilimoku sold just under 6 acres of land to Dennis Toomey in 1885.  Where was it?"  Toomey had fathered two of this couple's grandchildren, and was then living with their daughter.  I found the deed he mentioned.  The parcel was identified as being in Kaululoa, Kawaipapa, Hana.  Where we know Hele'ualani and her husband Kaho'oilimoku lived.

The source for the burial record is a register of burials from the Kingdom of Hawaii.  If this particular register is from the Hana district of Maui, we have found what happened to our great-great-grandmother.  She may or may not have had leprosy.   My guess is that she did, since her husband and two youngest children were known leprosy patients.  But she died, at home, in Hana, before she could be sent to Moloka'i.

Another myth created in family tradition may be shattered.  A transcription error may be overcome.  It helps to have someone with whom to bounce around ideas.  Thank you, Tim, for being that person.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Masterful Understatement

I took my mother to see an orthopedic surgeon yesterday.  

In January 2011 she started some serious complaining about pain.  First there was the gout -- in her toe, later in her thumb.  Now she takes a daily anti-gout pill.  Then there was the shoulder pain that had her right arm in a sling for about 3 days -- until it was too much trouble to keep it in the sling.  She had been complaining to her primary care physician for at least a year before that about her shoulder bothering her.  She is correct when she says he doesn't really listen to how she feels about things, just passes her complaints off as the normal process of aging.

At her January 2012 quarterly visit with the PCP, she was offered an x-ray and a visit to the orthopedist.  She declined, complaining, "Can't you just give me a shot and make it go away?"

By last week, she was no longer sleeping because the pain was keeping her awake at night.  After another visit to the PCP, she agreed to shoulder x-rays.  Initial diagnosis?  Worn out shoulder joint with rough places, bone spurs in the space where the shoulder and scapula meet, and possible rotator cuff damage.

The orthopedist took one look at the x-rays yesterday, blew by the worn out joint and bone spurs, and focused directly on that rotator cuff.  "No question." he told his nurse.  "That rotator cuff is completely separated from the bone."  Patiently, he explained her options to my mother.  1) Live with it.  2) Get a cortisone shot that might reduce the symptoms, typically for about 4  months, then repeating the shots as necessary.  3) Surgery to smooth out the rough places on the bone that are rubbing together and causing the pain.

My mom elected not to have surgery, but admitted that the pain is more than she is willing to continiue to endure.  That left the shot option.  With a little help from her daily doses of  ibuprofen, today the pain is down to an acceptable level.

Here's the kicker.  Before seeing the orthopedist, she had to fill out a basic new patient form.  Do you have pain? Yes.  Is it mild, moderate or severe?  Mild.  On a scale of  0 to 10 where 0 is no pain and 10 is the most you can stand, what is your pain level?  9.  I warned the receptionist.  "This lady won't complain.  The fact that she is here says the pain is more than she can tolerate.  Keep that in mind when she describes it as mild."    They smiled and said they'd bring that to the doctor's attention.

Give thanks for competent doctors who take the time to explain to each patient all their options and the consequences of each, then accept the patient's decision for treatment.
Don't forget to pray!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Back to School

Have I written about the new computer?  

I was going to buy myself something with a 21-23" monitor, preferably one of the new all-in-one units so I wouldn't have to figure out a place for the tower.    Then my brother offered me an Apple laptop.  I countered with the 21" iMac.  With a TB of memory.  With all the software to allow it to do everything I need.  And a maintenance contract.  And the Apple service called One-to-One, individual training to use your computer effectively.  He agreed.

The good news is that the Apple Store is only a half-mile from the house.  The bad news is that a 21" all-in-one is a substantial beast to haul around.  Even if the store is only 1/2 mile away, there's still the walk through the mall.  With the iMac.  Which  now has its very own hand truck (folding, from Costco) and a luggage strap (leftover from real luggage) to keep the box and hand truck from parting company in transit.

The good news is that the One-to-One training is helpful.  As long as you are using an Apple product.  Third party vendor?  No support -- unless from the vendor.  Even if you buy the product in an Apple store.  I suppose that's reasonable.  But it can be frustrating.

So the iMac and I go off to school about once each week.  We're learning.  Sometimes quickly.  We learned about a new product, iCloud, in about 10 minutes.   Desktop Publishing is going slowly.  Just needs practice.  Lots of practice.  So much to learn, and so little time.

Pray for patience.  Your own patience in a challenging situation.   My patience with the iMac!
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