Fragments from a Fractured Mind

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Avoid the Rush!


The Magnificance of Cades Cove
Some parts of this great nation are bracing for intense winter storms, some of these even now dumping loads of snow upon already ice-laden towns and cities, and other strong storms are set to make their appearance just as millions of people get on the road over the hill and through the woods to grandmas’s house. It’s Thanksgiving!

That also means that folks all over the country are about to embark on the annual Black Friday frenzy – massing into brick-and-mortar retailers and onto myriad websites in hopes of finding a great deal on goodies for one’s own self and for loved ones. We’re already seeing news reports of people camping out in front of “Big Box” retailers, hoping to get their expectant hands on dirt-cheap items, most marked “Supply Limited.”

Hey! There is, you know,  a way to get a nice gift for anyone on your list, or perhaps that just-right something to brighten up your home or your office for the holidays without sleeping on a sidewalk or rasslin’ with sometimes unruly crowds -AND –  there’s no worry about finding something you like, only to find that it’s out of stock. All one needs to do is click on over to JaiGieEse PhotoArt (See the link above on the right end of the toolbar) and once there, have a look at our selection of fine art photography. There’s a lot to see at JaiGieEse PhotoArt and we’re about to add even more to our collection. And we don’t have limited anything.

See something you like? Just click on the handy “Buy” buttons and you’ll find a selection of print sizes and papers – glossy, matte, metallic, canvas, and so on. You can buy the print and have it shipped to the destination of your choice and then frame and matte it yourself – OR – you can choose from a nice selection of mounting styles, mattes and frames, and have a ready-to-hang print on your doorstep soon. (You choose your shipping options.)

You can even use our on-line wizards to create custom greeting cards – your choice of style, image and message, nicely printed and shipped with envelopes.

And soon, we’ll begin to unveil a selection of photo books – very nice books, hard-bound and professionally printed books, the kind you’ll love to share with family and friends.

And, y’know, you can get all of this without having to camp out on a sidewalk in the cold, rain and snow! If you’re in the Columbia, MS, area, you can get yerself some instant gratification by stopping in at the Artwistic Revolution Gallery, on Second Street in downtown Columbia, to see a small selection of my work, as well as some fantastic offerings by other area artists.

Come on in to JaiGieEse PhotoArt!

And please do have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving and a very Merry Christmas, y’all!

http://www.jaigieesephotoart.com

 

Fresh Images!!


Freight CarO.K., so I spent a little over a week building my new website, and….Oh, yeah, that would be http://www.jaigieesephotoart.com. See that link on the right end of the toolbar at the top of the page? Well, it’ll take you right to the website, y’know?

Anyways, after working a bit more than a week building the site, next thing I did was to transfer the images I’d uploaded to those other sites, the ones I’m soon to discard. Got those transfers all set up, as in, titled, key-worded, added to the main Portfolio gallery and separated out into specialty galleries, and then I engaged in some tweaking and fiddling and then the new site was ready. That was when I made that last post to tell all y’all about the new website, um, http://www.jaigieesephotoart.com – link on the right up top.

And now, I’ve added fifty new images for y’all to enjoy. Once you’ve arrived on the new site’s home page, and that would be at http://www.jaigieesephotoart.com, you’ll notice a brand new button on the toolbar under the site title. That button is labeled “FRESH” and that’s where you’ll find the new images – fifty of them. I’ll let’em sit in the new “FRESH” gallery until I’m ready to upload the next set of new imagery to the site – http://www.jaigieesephotoart.com – and then I’ll move those images now in “FRESH” to the main Portfolio gallery and into the appropriate specialty galleries.

So whyn’t you take a little trip over to http://www.jaigieesephotoart.com and have y’self a look at the new additions – in the “FRESH” gallery, y’know.

Something New This Way Comes….


Lido DeckHi, there, y’all!. Thought I’d let y’all know that I’ve a brand new website, and you can find it here:

www.jaigieesephotoart.com

Now, if you’ve been following my musings, you’ll recall that I’d affiliated myself with two separate print-on-demand sites, as a means of expanding my photographic empire. (The links to those sites may be found in the post just prior to this one.) Both seemed to be just what I needed.

However, as in many aspects of this thing we call “life,” all is not what it seems.

One of these sites – 500pix – is very well organized, and it allows for the creation of some nifty portfolio pages. I’d purchased a one-year premium membership, and was busily expanding my portfolio at 500pix, when I discovered, to my dismay, that 500pix had elected to dump it’s POD service and deal strictly with image licensing, i.e., they’ve become yet another stock photography agency. Nope. Not for me. Been there, done that, didn’t care for it. AND they made this change less than halfway through my one-year premium membership, with very little notice.

And then there’s the other POD site – Fine Art America. At first, this one seemed to be a good deal. A premium membership, which allows unlimited upload of images and includes a custom artist’s website, is very cheap. Plus FAA has seven or eight sister sites, situated all around the globe. AND they also have a licensing site, with which I’d normally not bother, but when one uploads imagery to one FAA website, one’s work is placed on all of them.

The trouble is that both of these websites employ their own proprietary search engines, and both are weighted to favor artists who’ve already sold work through their sites. If you haven’t sold anything, the best you could hope for was to see your work pop up on the twelfth or thirteenth page of search results, if that soon. And THAT is a galactic Catch-22. You won’t be seen unless you sell, and you aren’t likely to sell if you aren’t being seen.

Well, enough of that. I’ll be closing both those sites as soon as my premium memberships expire. I’ve created my own website and it uses standard web search engines. I’ve been learning a great deal about things like SEO (search engine optimization) and other such webmaster tools. I’ve spent most of the past two weeks building the site and it’s on-line and operating.

Oh, and you may have noticed that I’ve changed the name of this blog. Did so to reflect the fact that I’ve lost the desire to dabble in graphics design. I’ve left some of my design projects here (DESIGN link) just in case anyone might be curious about how I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life, but I really don’t plan to do any further design work. I would consider such a project, provided the thing interests me and for very seriously adequate compensation, but I’ve decided to focus (no pun intended) largely on my photography.

I hope y’all will have a look at the new site. I’ll be using this here blog to spread the word about my new endeavor. I’ll be back on a fairly regular basis to pass along news, some image samples and tell all y’all about new product offerings and the like. Once again, the link to the new site is:

www.jaigieesephotoart.com

Come along with me. I’m on my way to the stars. (Kudos to the late Perry Como.)

Movin’ on…..


Early Morning GladeWell, now. It’s been a while since I’ve created this little ol’ blog. Lots and lots has happened in my life – got married, moved back to my home town, got a nice, new Nikon camera, and I’ve retired, basically. My lady and I are busily working on our bucket list.

It’s also been a while since I’ve updated this blog. Not that this exercise hasn’t been fun, but the need to keep it up to date somehow got lost in the swing of things. Plus there’s the inescapable fact that while my offerings and ramblings here have generated a smattering of comments, nearly all of them positive, this exposure has done little or nothing for the advancement of my creative pursuit.

And so, I am of a mind to try something new. Thing is, one isn’t really supposed to sell anything or offer services on these free blogs, and I’ve had to sorta skirt around the edges of that small, but important reality. But I’ve found a coupla other places, new outlets, as it were. These are places wherein I can openly sell my imagery. These new places seem to better fit my needs, and they require far less regular maintenance.

Soooooooo…..

I’m not gonna kill this blog. I may choose to stop in and say a few words from time to time, or maybe not. Y’see, the new places also have blog sections for those who choose to avail themselves of them. Might do that, might not. But I’ll leave my stuff here, for now. However, if you want the real skinny, as in to see my newest work and to discover what I’m up to, well, gee, come and visit me at:

http://jaigieese.500px.com/what_i_see

http://jon-stephenson.artistwebsites.com.index.html

The new sites are open for bidness 24/7/365. I hope you’ll come and look. (He leans back and quietly mutters, “and buy….”)

See y’all there, y’heah?

Listening to the Muse….


Columbia TankIt’s been about a year now since I came home to Marion County to begin a new life with my Suzy. We live south of Columbia, my home town and south of Foxworth, Suzy’s home town, on a quiet old highway on the edge of the Pearl River Swamp. I live with the love of my life, in the midst of the family I’ve always wanted and never thought I’d have.  It’s a truly special place and time, and it has just become even more special.

You see, I have for some years been seriously fascinated with photography. This particular passion goes back to the halcyon days of my university career at Southern Mississippi. My first efforts at photography were the result of classes I took as part of my major course of study. I started with basic photography class and an old twin lens reflex camera, shooting mostly black and white film. A second course put a 35 mm camera in my hands and led me into the world of color imagery. Not long after I left USM, I bought myself a Nikkormat FT2 35mm camera, with which I lept deeply into the world of photography, going so far as to develop my own film and after I’d put together a small darkroom, making my own prints. That little journey lasted some several years, until the night I ventured onto Pensacola Beach as a tropical storm passed, hoping to get some good storm shots. Did get a few, but the salt spray being pushed ashore by the storm leeched into the camera, and it froze up, never to function again.

“Oh, well,” I said. “I’ll get myself another camera.” And I did just that….nearly twenty years later. By that time, I’d become a graphics designer, and after spending a frustrating afternoon trying to locate just the right image for a project, I decided that there had to be a better way. Recalling that I’d been a fairly decent photographer back in the day, I determined to at last get that new camera, so as to shorten the process of getting the images I needed for my graphics projects. But things had changed a great deal since that stormy night on Pensacola Beach. The tried and true film cameras of old had been supplanted by the newest thing – digital photography. No longer was it necessary to spend hours locked into stuffy darkrooms, immersed in clouds of chemical vapor, trying to create images on paper. The darkroom was gone, as was the film. Images were now captured by electronic sensors and recorded on small media cards. These were then taken into a computer, wherein an image could be shaped and molded without need for chemicals and paper. This opened up an incredible new world to me, one not limited by how many exposures were on a roll of film or how long it took a photo lab to make prints.

The entire creative process now rested within my hands. I discovered that I was limited only by my own imagination. I got my hands on a Sony DSC-F828 camera, one which gave me a great deal of latitude. I’ve enjoyed many hours of shooting, sometimes idly and sometimes driven by an insatiable need to create. Time and experience brought forth a catalog of imagery that some deemed worthy of note. There came one exhibition in Jackson, and then another. Didn’t sell much, but I learned a great deal.

Just before Christmas last, I was given a new camera, a Nikon D7000. This event closed a circle. That first camera I’d bought for myself, not long after leaving USM, had been a Nikkormat FT2 – made by the same company as my new D7000. And what a camera this new one is! Where the Sony had limitations, this new Nikon has incredible potential. I’ve been using it a little over three months and already, the Nikon is forcing me to stretch my wings wide, to reach for things never before achieved, and I am only scratching the surface of learning to properly use the camera. It’ll be some time before I can be totally comfortable with the camera. But even as I learn my craft anew, even as the muse whispers softly into my ear, I reach another benchmark.

God smiles on me again, as he has done so many times this last year. A few days ago, I submitted some samples of my imagery to the good and very talented people of the Columbia Artists Coop, and to my great satisfaction, they have accepted me into the fold. I am soon to exhibit my imagery at the Coop’s gallery – Artwistic Revolution –  on Second Street in downtown Columbia. To describe this as a special event is to engage in substantial understatement. I am to show my work in the midst of the small town in which I was born, wherein I grew up. I stand at the gallery and I see the somewhat naive tow-headed boy who once rode his bicycle down this very same street, a shy fellow who set his feet upon a path that took him from the comfortable world of his youth, down many highways and byways, and eventually led him back to the beginning. To borrow a favorite old movie line, it is a wonderment.

I have come home. I have found the woman of whom I’ve long dreamed, and I’ve been graced with the most wonderful family for which any man could hope. And now, those long-ago dreams, those days spent in this little town, adrift in imaginative flights of fantasy, have led me full-circle to a warmly familiar old street that I know so well. I recall a quotation from an old sixties wall poster, one which caught my eye and my thoughts.

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” ~T.S. Eliot

And so, here I am, in the place from where I began, a place I now know so well, a place I love so deeply, among family and friends and familiar places. Soon, very soon, a few of my images will go onto the walls at Artwistic Revolution. I’ll let you know just when. One hopes you’ll find a moment or two to come and gaze upon the captured bits of the imagination of a man who is so very grateful to have arrived at the place from which he started.

To Jump the Broom….


SuzyMe scanIt’s been almost a year now. Less than two weeks remain until the first anniversary of the beginning of our new lives. It was on February 6 of 2012 that Suzy and I first met – online – and set out on what has been a thoroughly wonderful journey. We both knew something was up when we started to talk online, and on a sunny and bright and VERY cold day last February, when Suzy and I rendezvoused in City Park of my old home town – Columbia, MS – to see one another in person for the first time, the feeling of “rightness” was strong. We had retreated to the relative warmth of my Silverado after a wind-chilled walk at Columbia Water Park. I had something to ask, and the very thought of asking terrified me.

It seemed as though every time I have allowed a woman to know that I am serious and that I have growing feelings for her, she’s upped and ran to get away from me. Often times, I’d start to get to know a gal, and we’d talk and talk, and then, just as we were about to begin in earnest, I’d find myself alone, again, wondering what the futz I’d done wrong. Sometimes it was a mystery as to what had happened and other times I knew the false start had nothing to do with me. Still, if a thing comes apart, the result is the same. One is indeed a lonely number. And I’d come to believe that relationships might not be for me.

Told people at my old church that I felt as though I’d wasted the best years of my life. Back then, I’d come to realize that I was old enough to be a grand-father and yet I had no family. I’d never experienced the simple, yet incredible joy of having a child sit on my lap and touch my cheek and say, so softly, “Daddy.” I’d never watched a son learn to ride his bike, or set out on his first day at school, or fidgeted nervously as a young fella picked up my daughter for her first date. I hadn’t gotten to smile with pride as my kid walked across a stage to pick up his or her high school diploma. Never had I known what it is like to have grand-children. Thought I’d missed it all, lost it all. I’d say this to folks at church and often, someone would smile and say, “It’s not too late….”

I wanted to believe them. I really did. But I discovered that my faith didn’t appear to be strong enough. I knew, I knew that God provides, and yet I was saddened by my loneliness, troubled by matters of money, by employment troubles. I shouldn’t have worried, and yet I did. 2011 had not been a fun year. Even though my relationship with my Lord seemed to grow and deepen, there were troubles aplenty. At long last, this past January, having been told for the second time in less than a month by a potential lady-friend that she couldn’t or wouldn’t see me, having done battle with a nasty and threatening loan company which was threatening to repossess my truck, I was on my last nerve. I was at the end of my string. The only thing that was going right for me at that point was an unexpected and incredible improvement in what had been a severely strained relationship with my older brother. Everything else seemed to have soured. So, one night, after having read an email from this girl I’d only just met, a note in which she explained that she couldn’t see me, I threw up my hands. “God,” I said, “I haven’t a clue what it is that I am supposed to do – not even the slightest hint. Obviously, I can’t deal with this life thing, so I give up. You take the wheel.”

Just saying that felt good. Seemed to take a load off my shoulders, it did. Then, less than a week later, I got an email from this on-line dating service I’d joined. Seems they had this gal they thought I oughta meet. So, with nothing better to do and thinking I could hardly be any worse off than I already was, I clicked on the link….and found myself looking at a pretty country girl. She was wearing a shiny, silky red blouse and a very nice smile. So I sent off a note. She sent one back. Her name was Susan, she said, and amazingly, she lived just a few short miles south of the town in which I’d been born, where I’d grown up. The conversations continued, and they grew longer. And more frequent. Then came the day we decided it was time to meet in person. So I drove south from Jackson, down to the place where I’d begun this life, down to the deep south of the state, to Marion County. To….home. To that moment in my truck on a bitterly cold day at Columbia Water Park.

On that winter’s day, I swallowed my fear and I admitted that I’d had a rough time of it for the months prior, the years prior, and I told Suzy that it felt good, very good to be with her. I pushed my fear back down and I asked Suzy whether she might be interested in making something lasting of our new fling. And she said….yes. That day trip led to an overnighter, and then a four-day weekend. Then Suzy told me that her step-grandaughter was to be married to her beau in a quiet little ceremony in the mountains of Tennessee, near Pigeon Forge, She asked me to go with her to this wedding, to share a mountainside cabin for a few days. Her argument made sense. We’d have to drive 11 hours or so to get there, and then stay together in that cute little cabin for a few days and then make another long drive to get back to Mississippi. If we could do that without wanting to throttle one another, she said, then we’d know whether we had something. Made sense to me, so of course, I said yes. We did make the trip and we did endure. More than that, we reveled in one-another’s company.

Once we’d returned to Mississippi, Suzy upped and suggested that I move to the country, to her family’s quiet little hilltop homestead, to be with her. And her family. Two grown sons. Two almost grown grand-sons. A teenage grand-daughter. A newly-wed step grand-daughter and her husband. Two beautiful step-great-grand-kids, a five year old boy and the prettiest little two year old princess I’d ever laid my eyes on. In short, it was the family I’d dreamed of my whole life. And Suzy was offering it…. to me. Said she didn’t care what had happened in my life before that point. Said I didn’t need money, or a job. All I had to do….was to love her. I knew, actually, that I had already fallen in love with Suzy, but the thought of telling her so frightened me beyond description. But Suzy has this wonderful and gentle way of getting what she wants, and so the night before I went back to Jackson after our first journey to Pigeon Forge, she coaxed it out of me, got me to say those three terrifying words. “I love you.” So I told her just that on that night after Pigeon Forge. Went back to Jackson. Came back to our little hilltop a week later for several days. Returned to Jackson again, and the night after I got back there that last time, I decided that I no longer cared for going to Jackson without Suzy. Told her as much in an email. So a few days later, I mentally cancelled my status as a citizen of Jackson, MS, loaded my truck as full as I could get it and I left for Columbia. Since then, we’ve brought several more pickup-loads and a trailer-load of my stuff down here, and only a little remains to be transported.

Since that beginning, Suzy and I have grown to realize that we are indeed on the same frequency. Often one of us will be thinking of doing one thing or another and the other will suggest that we do just that. We’ve already traveled quite a lot. We go the Mississippi Coast often. We’ve been to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and to Fort Walton Beach, Florida. We traveled to West Virginia to visit Suzy’s oldest son, Danny, and his family. We’ve spent a lovely weekend in a wonderful bed and breakfast on the Gettysburg battlefield. In late October, we returned to Pigeon Forge for four peaceful days.

Somewhere along the way, I told Suzy that I wanted to marry her. She replied that it wasn’t necessary, so long as we are together, but I wanted to make the commitment. Somehow, it mattered. A lot. And so, in December, just a week or so before Christmas, I put a diamond ring on Suzy’s finger. Not long after, we began the process of setting a date. We’d thought of March at first, but then we settled on April. So we thought. We picked a day, but that didn’t jive with various family schedules. So we tried another. This one didn’t match up with still other family members. We moved on to May, tried two different weekends, to no avail, and then, at last, we found a day that works for everyone.

For the last several days, I have been getting an education in the complexities of planning a “simple” wedding. We talked with one service and another and another and another, until we settled on the one service that seems to have everything we need. And so, on Thursday, we made a down-payment for the services of a picturesque little mountainside wedding chapel in Pigeon Forge. There, in the Mountain Valley Wedding Chapel, Susan Foxworth Smith and Jon Gilbert Stephenson will “jump the broom” on 25 May, 2013.

This little union carries with it a bit of irony. You see, Suzy, as I call her, is Susan. Or Sue. Once we clear that fabled broom, she’ll be Susan, Suzy, Sue Stephenson. My late mother’s name….is Sue. Somehow, I feel my mama’s smile. And I hear my daddy’s laugh. I can see the tears on my grandmama’s face and the quiet satisfaction on my granddaddy’s face (My gawd! The boy finally done somethin’ right….). As I said early on, the feeling of “rightness” continues to grow. Lordy, I hope it never stops….

Danse D’Bladder Galle


It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t even okay. It WAS very painful. But they did have some GREAT drugs. You recall the old Jimmy Buffet tune, “Where are the Flashbacks They all Warned Us About?” It came out back in the Sixties. Then again, if you actually were a passionate young hippie during the Sixties, you may well NOT remember it. Whatever. I dId, however, find one of those fabled flashbacks. But I digress.

Anyways, I was rushed by my lovely personal nurse, Suzy, to Marion General Hospital in the wee smalls of Wednesday morning, October 3rd, because,…what’s that you asked? Oh. HOW wee? I’m sorry. I thought you were inquiring about Howie Mandel; as in roughly 2:45 a.m., as I was suffering from what I’d taken to be a severe case of acid reflux. Nexium failed to knock it back and neither did the pain meds I had left over from the incident earlier this Spring when my dog nearly took off the end of my finger. The burn got stubbornly got worse…and worse…and worse. Suzy, being a retired and very good R.N., therefore issued a medical instruction.

“Gitcher dammed butt up and get dressed. We’re going to the hospital.”

Now, seeing as how I dearly love this woman, I instantly did as she asked. Trust me. If you’d seen the look on Suzy’s face, you’d have jumped up like a Jack-in-the Box just as fast as I did. Besides, I was scared spitless because of what had happened to an old college pal a few years ago. He’d started having what he first took to be severe indigestion, and then, reflux. When the meds he was taking stopping doing any good, he went to the doctor, and that’s when he discovered that what he actually had was pancreatic cancer. Five months later, he was dead. So, when Suzy said we were going to the hospital, I hesitated, briefly, thinking of the possible expense. Then I thought of my pal. And off we went to Marion General’s Emergency Room, with me trying not to think about things too much.

Arrived at the E.R., as stated previously, at about 2:45 Wednesday morning, After being typed, classified, rated, sorted, quantized and labeled, I was led, rolled, actually, through a series of tests. Blood tests, urinalysis, and EKG and all these seemed to confirm that I was suffering the effects of a moderately severe gastric distress. I knew this, already, of course, but these tests DID eliminate some several fears. The EKG was clean. Whew! Even better, this was NOT cancer, the ER doc said. Not pancreatic, not any other kind. Not an ulcer, and so on. But ER doc was suspicious of a problem with my gall bladder. He assured me this would be very repairable. But he wanted another test.

So I quickly took out a clean sheet of paper and numbered it from one to ten. “What was that, Doc? Oh. Not that sort of test?” He wanted a cat scan. I told him, that would be fine, just as long as I didn’t have to try and hold the cat still while it was in the machine. Some of those very nice pain meds had kicked in, you see. Doc looked at me with raised eyebrows and then he looked at Suzy, who simply shrugged. Doc blinked and scribbled down some of those arcane medical terms. Probably something like “Watch this one VERY closely. Keep him AWAY from sharp objects!” So then I got my ride on the cat scan, after which I was admitted to the hospital to await results of these tests and to get some much needed pain relief.

Remember those drugs I mentioned? We started with Morphine and Demerol. Turns out that I could have a dose of either as I thought I needed, I left the choice of which kind of numbsall to the nurses. For the remainder of Wednesday, this worked well. But when the stuff wasn’t hitting hard enough, the doc on rounds upped the dosage. Mellow in a syringe, it was.

And then,…what was that? , Uh, no, this isn’t when I found the flashback. But the docs, who’d consulted amongst themselves and then referred the cat scan images to the radiologists at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, seemed to agree that I did indeed have a gall bladder problem. Along with a nasty infection of that same organ. So the Columbia docs hung an I.V. on me – saline solution and THREE different antibiotics. They wanted to allow these meds the time to hopefully bring down the infection before beginning surgery, which they’d determined would be necessary.

This led to two and a half days of being constantly fretted over, frequently checked and so on. I was placed on a liquid diet – broth of several flavors, cranberry juice cocktail, tea, coffee and milk, and some several small dishes of mystery jello. It’s label called it “Carnival” Jello. It color was, ah, well, sorta something and it tasted like, um, ahhhhh, well, anyway, it tasted. Not too bad.

Plus I had me a TV, and y’know, watching the First Presidential Debate while on those meds was not a bad experience. Doesn’t matter who says what, you just smile and nod and then you say, “Yeah, Um, Cool, like, farrrrrr out, man. Deep. Um. Yeah.” and then,….ah, nope, that was not the flashback, either.

Sometime Thursday night, I off-handledly mentioned to one of R.N.’s that I appeared to have lost the ability to pee. I was told later that this was known to happen when men are dosed with morphine. Wonderful. Marvelous. She continued to tap on her computer and said, “We can fix that.” Ten minutes later, in came a male nurse, equipped with a scary-looking device he said was a catheter attached to a tube. What he did next.,…well, let’s just say that I decided not to watch. Ever had to use a catheter? Trust me. Make certain that it’s REAL necessary before you do. I wouldn’t recommend putting a catheter on your bucket list….

It was VERY uncomfortable, but at least I could empty my straining bladder. And the call button for the pain meds was right there. Got through Thursday night fairly well. So Friday morning, these nice radiologists come in and they shoot a few sets of X-Ray plates. They had to roll me over several times to position the plates. This was…very…painful. At one point, I suggested that were anyone to do that again, they’d discover where I could put that catheter’s drainage tube. They settled on two sets of plates.

About noonish, the Columbia doc issued us a multi-page set of documents, said the surgeon in Hattiesburg already had them and that he was waiting for us, because he wanted to perform the surgery quickly. As in, “How long will it take y’all to get there?” He allowed as to how he thought a auto trip would be better for me, as opposed to an ambulance, as I was still in a deal of pain. A wheelchair arrived in a short while and I was quickly trundled out and loaded into Suzy’s Nissan. Do you know that down here in South Mississippi that “Nissan” is pronounced “Nice’un?”

The trip was not too bad, except for the catheter bag sitting on the floor by my feet and the drain tube in, well, in where it was, O.K.? Ever hit a bump on the street while you are wearing a catheter,….well, again. just DON’T. It isn’t nice for a man to have to scream in public. But I wasn’t at all shy or self-conscious about it.

But Suzy got us there, very safely and fairly quickly. We rolled into the Forrest General ER admissions bay about two-thirty. In very short order, a nice orderly showed up with a nice wheelchair. He was a good driver, missing nearly all the bumps in the floor except for the expansion joints in the hospital halls, which made for a solid jolt when the wheelchair hit them. Coupla those, and I quietly gave him the memo about the drainage tube. He slowed down. I mean, I had been wearing that damned catheter for almost 24 hours and all wanted was for them to take it OUT. If I had known about what happened later, I might not have been so anxious, but we’ll get back to that.

I was trundled into what Forrest General calls a TAD Bay. This is where they make sure you really are hurting and decide on where and to who they are to send you. They got us from the admissions desk to the TAD bay in less than an hour. This impressed me. It also scared the crap out of me, as it made me wonder just why they were in such a hurry. But fortunately, my magic papers had beaten me there and they glanced at the set in my hands, and then things began to happen. Fast.

In minutes, they’d drawn blood and they’d borrowed a sample from my catheter bag. That was indeed interesting. I was about to ask about maybe getting some pain meds when a nurse pointed at an orderly and said “Radiology. STAT.” STAT is a medical term that means “Right Damned Now.” Again, that both impressed and frightened me. In less than a half-hour, they had a set of plates of my chest and abdomen, one front and one back. The radiologist unloaded the plates from her machine and RAN them into the photo lab. I noticed this. I also noticed that the orderly got me back to the radiology waiting room as if her arse was on fire. NASCAR would been proud. We picked up Suzy and they rushed us back to the TAD bay. There, they stripped me nekkid, fixed me up with one of those nice gowns with no back and put me and by catheter bag back on the gurney, and then the surgeon came in.

He smiled a lot. He looked calm and confident as he explained that he was going to remove my gall bladder. He would do this, he said, with a laparoscope. This is an octopus-like device which has several arms equipped with lights and cameras, suction devices, grabbers, cutters and so on. They make five small incisions and through these, they insert the laparoscope’s tools. This is said to be a considerably less traumatic type of surgery, as compared to being cut open like a watermelon. Couldn’t say why, but I trusted the surgeon immediately. It might have been that I was good and damned ready to get shed of the pain in my side, not to mention the damned catheter, and this was just the guy to get that done.

Anyways, I did casually mention that the pain was worsening, so the nurse injected me with a fair-sized syringe of something. She said it was Dilaudid. At once, things got all warm and fuzzy. I was…..placid. REAL mellowwwwwwwww. The nurse was transcribing some information into her computer, asking questions as she wrote. Suzy was handling most of this. She kept answering the nurse’s questions in hospital-speak, which puzzled the nurse, until I explained that Suzy had just tired after 28 years in E.R.’s and Intensive Care Units. Then the nurse got sorta concerned, as she then realized that Suzy would know instantly if she screwed up.

I had become mildly curious as to what time it was, so I glanced at a large black rectangular digital clock on the wall in front of me. It seemed to pulsate, And then it seemed to slide….down…. the wall. I casually remarked that someone ought grab the clock before it fell off the wall. Suzy started to giggle and the young nurse, well, she just stared at me, her eyes large and her eyebrows raised, her mouth open. Then I noticed that the top of the door frame over which the clock was hung was also sliding down. That was when I realized that perhaps I’d found one of those fabled flashbacks. I started to hear Jimmy Buffet music in my mind. Suzy continued to giggle and the nurse concentrated on biting her tongue to keep from laughing out loud and I continued to marvel at the incredible sliding clock. At least, I wasn’t hurting anymore.

A short time later – I THINK it was short. As I say, my perception was all twisted – they rolled me out of the TAD bay, down the hall and into a small examination room that served as a pre-surgery holding area. Suzy was allowed to come along. I hadn’t been there very long at all, or so it seemed at the moment, when a gent clad in surgical scrubs came in. Said he was to be my anesthetist. He wanted to brief me on what was to happen to me. Said he had a couple things in his pocket that would make me “not care any more.” That intrigued me. He continued his briefing in a very calm manner, describing the steps they’d take to be certain I was in that dark and pleasant land of nothingness wherein those who are being cut upon must reside.

Just as he finished this, a nurse came in. She, too, was clad head-to-toe in scrubs. She was to trundle my gurney into the O.R. I was trying to be sure she knew where my catheter’s catch bag was, so it wouldn’t get snagged on anything as we moved. While this conversation proceeded, the anesthetist stepped around behind the head of my gurney, where I couldn’t see him. There, a bag of saline solution hanging from an aluminum pole was attached to my I.V. line. There was a valve there, a little port through which injections could be administered. He quietly injected those “don’t care no more” things he had into the line, one right after the other. And he was absolutely correct. I very soon did NOT care anymore. In fact, I was out like a light. Quickly. The nurse started to push my gurney and she got, oh, two or three feet before I was very nicely under.

Darkness. Quiet. Calm. Silence. Absolute nothingness. Indeterminate passage of time.

And then. “WHERE AM I???? I came up in a large room which appeared to be divided into several bays, each of which was equipped with all sorts of monitors, beeping things, things with lights and read-outs, and so on. Some were empty and there were people in gurneys in others, with people fussing over them. I sensed that someone had put a mask of some sort on my face and I yanked it off. Didn’t want anything to do with it. Wanted to know where, who and why, not necessarily in that order. A slender and very patient nurse was fighting off my struggles and not having much luck calming me down. I kept asking for Suzy. After a minute or so of rassling me, the nurse picked up a phone and called the waiting area and got Suzy on the phone. Asked Suzy to PLEASE calm my ass down. She put the phone up to my ear, and then I heard Suzy’s sweet voice telling me to calm down and do what the nice nurse wanted for me to do. So I did.

Some time passed. Don’t know how much time, really. The anesthetist was there, sorta hovering, watching me very closely. Seems they were concerned about my breathing. Then the surgeon came in. He said hello to me, added that the surgery had gone well. He looked at my monitors and read-outs and then he gave the nurse some instructions which consisted of a lot of those seventy-five cent doctor words. I could only make out one of them – “bolus”. I asked the nurse about it and she said it meant they’d give me a lot of fluid very fast. Some problem with my blood pressure, apparently. So they filled me up with saline solution, and the anesthetist finally decided my breathing was all right and then they started to unhook me from all that beeping and booping equipment.

A fellow whose face I never saw began to push me out of recovery. I recall fleeting, disjointed images. Not long after we started, I saw the holding bay where I’d been started on my deep slumber passing by on my left. Doors, big, double doors, opening, closing. Hallways. Overhead fluorescent light fixtures. An elevator, into which I was backed, my feet facing out. Several “dings” as the elevator moved up several floors. The door opening, the gurney moving again. Went around a corner and there I saw familiar faces. Suzy. Her youngest son, his wife and their grandson. Was nice to see them there. I have been concerned as to how accepting Suzy’s family would be of me. Turns out to be VERY accepting. That one moment made the whole experience worth it.

Then I was in a nice room. They asked me to slide from my gurney onto a bed. Things were hooked up, including my ever-present I.V. An oxygen thingy was placed on my face and my faithful catheter bag was hung at the foot of the bed. Then they placed these things on my lower legs, legging sorts of things which alternately inflated and then deflated, first one and then the other. I had the sensation that my legs were being milked. It was sort of pleasant. These things apparently greatly reduce the instance of blood clots in the legs. I got some pain pills and a nice young nurse asked if I wanted anything else. I hadn’t eaten since early that morning, so I asked for a soft drink and some ice cream. Got my drink and two small cups of chocolate ice cream in short order. That may well have been the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

While I was dealing with this, Suzy had discovered that a chair sitting next to the bed could be pulled out to make a reasonably comfy single bed. The nurse brought her a blanket and pillow. By the time Suzy had made her nest, I was hurting a dab. I mentioned this and the nurse brought me a syringe. She injected in to my I.V. and things got so…..niceeeeeeeee. Sleep. But at least the clock didn’t start to slide down the wall.

Next morning came without any issues. I got a better breakfast – the liquid diet was done with. There were several rounds of tests and some blood was drawn. I’d been exploring my chest and stomach and had found a small donut shaped bag of some sort attached to a tube, which led into my side. It was draining off excess fluid, they say. Mid-morning, a male nurse came in and said the docs wanted me to walk some. He said that when they do laparoscopic surgery of my sort, they inflate one’s abdomen with carbon dioxide, so there will be plenty of room for the surgeon to work. They wanted me to walk so, well, so I could fart several times, in order to get rid of this gas. I had to roll my monitor and I.V. bag along as we made a couple laps in the halls, and I did turn a few heads with some lovely and loud blasts along the way. I just smiled and said, “Doctor’s orders.”

Later that morning, the surgeon said I was doing remarkably well, and so he would kick me loose that afternoon. This pleased me. Until I started to think about certain things. One of these came to pass not long after, when a male nurse came in. Said he was there to remove my catheter. At the outset, I was pleased. After all, I’d been wanting to get shed of the damned thing since five minutes after they’d put it in. He pushed my gown aside. Said, “Take a deep breath.” I said, “What…..” and then there followed a unique experience. Let’s us say it will go down as one of the more unpleasant things I’ve experienced. I’ll spare the details. Just take my word when I suggest you DON”T want to ever do this….

But after a moment, I was growing increasingly glad to be rid of the damned thing. I’d just begun to appreciate this when two cute girl nurses came in. Said they needed to take out the drain bag and tube, the one nestled in my side. They pulled my gown to one side, being very careful and discrete. Then one of these cuties says, “Take a deep breath.” I said, “Oh, shit!” and there came a sharp pulling sensation. Thankfully, it was over quickly, and with considerably less discomfort than what I went through to get rid of that catheter.

There were some papers to sign and I was presented with a couple prescriptions, one for a very good pain medication and the other for a stout antibiotic. Got my jeans and shirt back on, stuck my Chevy baseball cap on my head and my shoes on my feet and off we went, me being trundled along in a wheelchair, Suzy walking alongside. Me and the wheelchair driver waited at the exit lane of the parking garage until Suzy got there with the car. Soon, we were riding off into the sunset, literally, driving westward toward Foxworth and home.

There followed a week of intermittent soreness and twinges of pain, all these brought to bay by the nice pain pills the surgeon had prescribed. I left the hospital on Saturday. The following Thursday, we returned to the surgeon’s office in Hattiesburg for a follow-up. He said, again, that my recovery was remarkable. Added that I didn’t need to come back.

The nice thing about all this is that I had little or no appetite the week after the surgery and for most of the second week, as well. As a result, I’ve lost 27 pounds. People are commenting about the difference in my appearance. I feel better than I have in years. Turns out that my gall bladder had been going bad for years, perhaps five our six, maybe even seven years, during which time, I had recurring episodes of what I’d taken to be acid reflux but was actually gall bladder flare-ups. But all that’s done with and now I feel great. God carried me through all this, and my personal private R.N., my wonderful Suzy, saw that I was given extremely good care.

Another plus is that all the tests they’ve done revealed no other issues. Although I need to continue to lose weight and I need to work on getting into better general physical shape, I have no hidden gremlins and that is comforting indeed. I do have some nice bills to pay, but the hospitals and doctors are being very patient, and that’s very good indeed. Thanks to all who prayed for me and sent their love. Now then. Suzy and I are resuming our journey through retired life. Praise be.

Them Changes….


Okay, okay, I know. It’s been too long since I’ve updated this blog. Chalk it up to the fact that my life-style has changed, hugely so. Chalk it up to Suzy. It all began early last February (2012) when Suzy and I met in an on-line encounter. That first digital meeting led to messages and more messages. There followed the private emails, and then came a phone call, and another and another, all of them hours long. We got our first real-motion look at each other in a Skype chat, also hours long.

Thing is, I was moved, deeply so, by the fact that I was totally comfortable with Suzy, and THAT has never before happened in my encounters with women. From the get-go, it just seemed…right. VERY right. And so, it quickly became apparent that a face to face meeting would be in order. This is where the irony comes in. You see, Suzy lives on a beautiful country road not more than 12 miles from the small town where I was born and raised. We arranged to rendezvous in the small-town city park we’d each visited more times that we could count. Suzy jumped into my truck and we set out to find one another. I took her to the places I’d lived, the school from which I’d graduated, the places my pals and I had haunted. I showed her where my family first set down roots in South Mississippi, and then Suzy took over navigation duties and she took me to see her beginnings.

We wound up in a small water park on the banks of the Pearl River. It was a biting and very windy cold day, but neither of us minded and neither of us hesitated when Suzy suggested we go for a walk. We clung to one another, bracing ourselves against the knife-sharp winter wind until we found shelter in the lee of a pavilion stage. We had no agenda, no schedule. We talked, simply and with no need to accomplish anything but just getting to know each other.  Finally, the wind grew to be too much to endure, so Suzy and I retreated to the warmth of my truck and that was when I asked her whether she would be interested in trying to make something of what we’d found with one another. She said that yes, she would, very much.

That day visit led to an overnight stay, and then a long weekend, and in March, Suzy asked me to accompany her to Tennessee to watch as her step-grand-daughter was wed to her beau.  She and I spent three nights in a secluded mountainside cabin near Pigeon Forge. Most of the family returned home after the wedding, but Suzy and I stayed another day. We spent that day in Cades Cove, a wonderful picturesque park nestled on the northern fringe of the Great Smokey Mountains. It was during that weekend that Suzy and I came to realize that we had found something of worth, something lasting.

Not long after that weekend, I decided that I’d given Jackson, Mississippi, enough of a chance. Lived there three times since 1973, 19 years on that last stretch. I finally understood that Jackson was not working for me and would not ever work. So I moved south, to the countryside of south Marion County. I came home to the place I’d been born nearly 63 years before. I came home to be with the woman I’d grown to love. We haven’t looked back. A couple months after I moved south, Suzy retired after 28 years as a registered nurse. I still have some irons in the fire with my graphics design business, but it is MY business and I answer to no one save God.

Suzy and I have been together right at six months and already we’ve begun to explore this life. Since the Pigeon Forge journey, we’ve made several trips to the Mississippi Coast. We’ve joined some good friends as they celebrated their 41st anniversary at Fort Walton Beach. We’ve visited Suzy’s oldest son and his family at their home in West Virginia, and we’ve spent a wonderful weekend in an impressive bed and breakfast inn on the edge of the Gettysburg battlefield. We’ll be spending some time in Jackson soon and in October, we will return to Pigeon Forge, to the place we found one another in the springtime of the Great Smokeys. We’ll revisit that wonderful place, to see it this time in its fall finery.

If you know me and care for me, then be happy that I’ve at last found the lady and the life for which I’ve been searching my whole life. I praise God for your friendship. Bless you and yours. If you don’t care for me or don’t want to know me, well, fine. I’ve too much joy in my heart to waste any of the precious time that God has given to Suzy and I to be concerned about whether or not you approve or me or what I do. I forgive you, as my faith requires that I do.

So. That catches me up. I’ll try much harder to keep this blog up to date. I do hope you’ll continue to check back to see what we are up to. See the public albums on my Facebook page for some of the images I’ve captured on our journeys. See ya next post.

Words worth repeating….


“Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mahomet, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and schools combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke words of life such as never were spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of any orator or poet; without writing a single line, He has set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art and sweet songs of praise, than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times. Born in a manger, and crucified as a malefactor, He now controls the destinies of the civilized world, and rules a spiritual empire which embraces one-third of the inhabitants of the globe. There never was in this world a life so unpretending, modest, and lowly in its outward form and condition, and yet producing such extraordinary effects upon all ages, nations, and classes of men. The annals of history produce no other example of such complete and astonishing success in spite of the absence of those material, social, literary, and artistic powers and influences which are indispensable to success for a mere man.”

~ Phillip Schaff

I wish I could understand….


I had a dream once, many long years ago. It was back when I was young and foolish, and oh, so, painfully naive. And alone.  Didn’t plan to be all by my lonesome. It was just the way that things turned out. The folks had died when I was too young, way too young for that sort of thing. Everyone patted me on the head and said that things would be alright, that I would get over this terrible thing. I didn’t. Still haven’t. It marked me, way down deep, too deep for anyone to see, not even those who cared to look, and there were too damned few of those. I pulled in on myself, withdrew, tuned out. An overly-enthusiastic, irrepressible, hard-to-stifle kid changed, nearly overnight, into a painfully shy and very frightened youngster.

High school turned out to be an adventure I’d soon as done without. or most of it, anyways. I was the uncool kid, butt of the jokes, the one who took the brunt of the pranks. Wasn’t much fun. I’d discovered girls, of course. Problem was, I was so terrified of them. A cute chick would look at me and my knees would turn to water. I’d come down with world-class lockjaw. I was just plain no fun for the girls. Which, of course, only made it worse, because by then, the dream had come to me, It snuck up on me one dark night when I was trying to make believe that all was right in my young world.

I began to wonder when it would happen to me, when I’d find a good girl, the way all the other guys seemed to. I’d muse about my wedding day, when it would come, where it would unfold, who my bride would be. I mean, I was so damned naive in the way-back days. I looked at those around me in the insular world of my little home town and I came to believe that life was running on auto-pilot. You were born, you grew into a kid and you did all the kid things, until you developed into a teenager and the things you did were different. Then came graduation day and the doors to the world opened wide. There might be the armed forces, perhaps the university or a job and then you met….her. You went steady, you put a diamond on her finger and then a slim gold band. You brushed the rice from your hair and you bought a house, a car, a dog and a cat and you had 2.5 kids and the dance began anew.

Just one problem with that. There is no autopilot.

The night I realized that, well, just say I was not having fun. I was alone, and the chances for changing that were slim and none. I began to understand that a guy has to fight for his joy. The perfect girl just doesn’t appear in a puff of magic smoke. Building a relationship takes time, building a relationship takes effort, takes an investment. Building a relationship means you take your heart and you put it in someone else’s hand. This requires a willingness to take a risk.

Ah. There’s the rub. In 62 years of searching, I have found…not very many…people who are possessed of such a willingness. Not enough guts to go around, more’s the pity. I haven’t found many who will look a new thing square in the face and say, almost without thinking, “Yeah. Let’s give it a go.” Those that do? Well, sometimes they get hurt. But many’s the time that the risk-takers succeed beyond comprehension. How do the old sayings go? “Y’can’t hit a home run unless you swing at the pitch.” “If y’wanna go for a sail, y’gotta get in the boat.” Yada, Yada.

Me, I am stubborn. When we were kids, my brother would tell me that I would argue with a fence post. I hate to give up, even if there is only there faintest glimmer of success. So I try and I try and I try and….

I’ve been trying my whole life, trying to find just ONE girl. Just….one. One is all I need. I’ll meet someone, somewhere, online, offline, at work, in church, getting left in the lurch, most times. I see, I want, I try, too hard, she goes away. Sometimes I know why, most times I just don’t understand. I wish I could understand….

Sixty-two years old now, and I’m a little gun-shy. But still, they seem to drift by, the girls with….something magical. So you throw caution to the winds and…you try. Most times, you’ll fall flat on your face. But once upon blue moon, it works. Um. Or, at the least, it seems as though it is working. The guy and the gal seem to feel something, they say the right words. The feelings grow and the smiles get broader.  You start to think that maybe, just maybe, this is the one. This is the girl I’ve been searching for my whole life. You feel so good when you think that the hunt may be over, at long last.

Sometimes, for some people, it really, truly is. For some people.

For others, one feels that something wonderful has been discovered. One feels so damned good. But for the other comes a nuance, a lessening, drifting cooling. Circumstances suddenly intervene, distance slyly creeps in between two hearts, and one decides,”Well, maybe not…” It could be that words will be exchanged and it could be that tears will fall. Hearts will break. Oh, how they break. Sometimes, there are just no words. One will decide to go, and they will decide that it is best just to silently drift away. So they do. No explanation, no reasons, just a lot of ice cold gone.

And again, hearts will break, all the more painfully, because one doesn’t know the why of it.

I’d thought I was past all of this. I’d thought that God had strengthened me and cleansed me and rebuilt me until the foolish fantasies and fruitless adventures of the heart would never again overtake me. I was wrong. I chanced to find her, out there on the information highway one otherwise bland evening. She was full of lightning and she sparkled like moonlight on the beach.  Chestnut hair cascaded down her shoulders. She has a smile that will melt the hardest of hearts. She confessed a fear of dying alone, of feeling hopeless that anyone would ever love her for herself.  These last are my very own, time-worn fears.

I knew at once I had to try for this woman. I HAD to. She and I talked and talked and talked and we kept finding that we’d been to many of the same places, we like the same things and we seemed to want the same things. So, of course, I did it. Dammit. I opened my stupid mouth and I told her how I was beginning to feel, the way she had brought light to my lonely soul. I don’t know that any other woman has ever made me feel this way, and I told her so. I was well on my way to putting my heart right in her hand. Told myself this would be the last time, that this would be the one that would work. No more dark and lonely nights, I told myself.  Just me and my lady, hand in hand walking in God’s good sunlight.

Ah. But. The circumstance. First I didn’t hear from her for a day. Felt as if it had been an eternity. Then came a brief email. Her son had been injured in an auto accident, not seriously, but she’d flown out west to care for him. Said she’d call. Two days later came an email. Something else had cropped up, she didn’t say what, but she told me she might be out west for months. About things of the heart that I’d written to her, she said nothing.

When I read that last message, I went cold. Absolutely cold, worse than it has ever been. I cried, I prayed, I went to church and I got on my knees and I gave it over to God- the only thing I could think of to do. So night has fallen in my soul once again. Once again, I feel the weight of a life’s worth of loneliness.  Once again, I have no idea what to do.

I wish I could understand……

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