Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Is the problem really about race or is it about our culture?

     What has been going around in my head today is a reaction to a facebook post by someone I deeply respect. He didn't want to hear any more about the reactions to the killings of black young men and the lack of judicial response.

      It was a jolt to me. I started thinking -- this is not just about black males. It is much more than that. When my two sons were teenagers, there was a gathering of their friends in our suburban kitchen. Someone commented that everyone in my house -- except for me -- had been arrested -- even our dog. None of the boys were criminal types. (The dog was bailed out -- he had been a hero protecting a young woman who was being attacked.)

     We live in an environment where police are overly zealous. For example, I don't drink, but I was stopped for not having my headlights on.  The police woman was clearly disappointed that she couldn't get me on a DUI. What is going on? Years ago, a cop would have politely advised this grandmotherly person that she needed to turn her lights on. Instead, I faced a hefty fine and a trip to court that took most of my day.

     On the highways, there are towns that make their budgets by catching speeders. And they're famous for it. All these little infractions bring in money, too. And there are the prisons that are for profit enterprises. Far too many people are locked up for too long, many of them for little or no cause. Money, money, money.

     It strikes me that the police who are sent out to do the dirty work are patsies. They don't get paid much, they're in the line of danger and many people hate them for what they do. What is all this about? Abroad we are the policemen of the Western World. At home, we're selling military equipment to our towns and cities.

     NRA mentality has gone much too far. When we look in the mirror, we are not a pretty sight.
To claim we are civilized, we must make sure that we are.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Margaret Bowland's Paintings Pull on the Heartstrings

                                                       Painting by Margaret Bowland

New York artist Margaret Bowland stood in front of a mesmerized capacity audience at Alan Avery's gallery in Buckhead yesterday. The shock for those who were not familiar with her was that Bowland is white and paints as if she has crawled inside the skin of a black woman and felt the pain.

Her message to listeners was that she uses white makeup not to deny color, but rather to draw attention to the undue notice that is taken of it. She grew up in the South and saw the segregated drinking fountains -- and all the rest of what went with them -- and was conscious very early at how wrong it is to treat people that way.

However, Bowland underlines that is not just color that is the problem, it is the way women are treated. She pointed to the expectations posited with the concept of a woman becoming a wife. In particular, Bowland emphasized the sacrifices that a woman is supposed to make.

Further, she examines the burdens that have, historically, been put on children. In one of her paintings, a crown of cotton with its thorns is symbolic of those trials.

And, why she asks, should women of African descent put extensions on their hair? Pointing to her own hair that hangs down, she asked her audience why that should be considered any better. She has her model pulling out hair extensions with a very determined expression on her face.

Besides the messages in Bowland's work, there is the awesome beauty she has captured. She is a portrait artist of enormous skill. Instead of seeking to mimic modern techniques, she sought out the secrets of the masters. It wasn't easy, she said. The information wasn't readily available.

The result? Exquisite images with a rare depth of emotion. Bowland is a modern master of her craft...or should we say mistress? In our world, women still have to struggle to get their due.

It would be no surprise to find museums waking up and scrambling to collect her work. Several museums have already acquired a few treasures. Living in Atlanta, I would, personally, love to see  examples of Bowland's portraits on display in the High Museum.

The Margaret Bowland exhibit at Alan Avery Art Company will be on display through Jan. 17, 2015.

                                                            Artist Margaret Bowland

                                 Margaret Bowland (2nd from L), Alan Avery (2nd from the R)

Monday, November 10, 2014


    An interesting little event this morning: I found my internet and landline were both out. Comcast was down. I was frustrated at not being able to check my messages and start my business day, so I called on my cell and got a message that Comcast services would not be restored until after 1 p.m.

    Then...a friend called me on my cell and said that she had tried my landline first -- only to get a message telling her that Loretta was not taking calls until noon. THAT WAS COMCAST LEAVING A MESSAGE FOR ME! THAT I WAS NOT TAKING CALLS! Not that Comcast was DOWN!!!

    In fact, I do not have a message on my landline at all. What corporate nerve.

    It's very interesting that this episode coincided with Pres. Obama's interest in making net neutrality the law of the land.
I'm sure Comcast executives were in a bad mood anyway, maybe
someone threw a tantrum and hit the wrong switches. I'm not sure it's possible -- but it would play well as the drama of the day.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Waking up to another fraud on my bank account. ALERT! I ordered an e-cig offer that was too good to resist. For $4.99. Okay. Amazon charged me that and the package came in the mail. Today, I have a charge for $99.99 against my checking account. The banker is telling me that's because I didn't read the fine print. The $4.99 was only for shipping and handling. The PRICE -- undisclosed -- or not obviously disclosed -- is $99.99. Now, I have to get back to the company, cancel the order, mail it back and then wait at least 15 days before I can dispute the charge with my bank. Something I really didn't need. Everyone -- heads up!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

What is different about a woman's heart attack?

Women often don't suffer the same dramatic symptoms as men when they have a heart attack. A friend just sent me a nurse's description of a female heart attack and it's right on! I wrote a book about heart disease and heart surgery for a surgeon and heard all about this...over and over and over again.

A Nurse's Best Description of a Female's Heart Attack

I am an ER nurse and this is the best description of this event that I have ever heard. Please read, pay attention, and send it on!


I was aware that female heart attacks are different, but this is the best description I've ever read.

Women rarely have the same dramatic symptoms that men have ... You know, the sudden stabbing pain in the chest, the cold sweat, grabbing the chest & dropping to the floor that we see in movies. Here is the story of one woman's experience with a heart attack.

I had a heart attack at about 10:30 PM with NO prior exertion, NO prior emotional trauma that one would suspect might have brought it on. I was sitting all snugly & warm on a cold evening, with my purring cat in my lap, reading an interesting story my friend had sent me, and actually thinking, 'A-A-h, this is the life, all cozy and warm in my soft, cushy Lazy Boy with my feet propped up.

A moment later, I felt that awful sensation of indigestion, when you've been in a hurry and grabbed a bite of sandwich and washed it down with a dash of water, and that hurried bite seems to feel like you've swallowed a golf ball going down the esophagus in slow motion and it is most uncomfortable. You realize you shouldn't have gulped it down so fast and needed to chew it more thoroughly and this time drink a glass of water to hasten its progress down to the stomach. This was my initial sensation--the only trouble was that I hadn't taken a bite of anything since about 5:00 p.m.

After it seemed to subside, the next sensation was like little squeezing motions that seemed to be racing up my SPINE (hind-sight, it was probably my aorta spasms), gaining speed as they continued racing up and under my sternum (breast bone, where one presses rhythmically when administering CPR).

This fascinating process continued on into my throat and branched out into both jaws. 'AHA!! NOW I stopped puzzling about what was happening -- we all have read and/or heard about pain in the jaws being one of the signals of an MI happening, haven't we? I said aloud to myself and the cat, Dear God, I think I'm having a heart attack!

I lowered the foot rest dumping the cat from my lap, started to take a step and fell on the floor instead. I thought to myself, If this is a heart attack, I shouldn't be walking into the next room where the phone is or anywhere else... But, on the other hand, if I don't, nobody will know that I need help, and if I wait any longer I may not be able to get up in a moment.

I pulled myself up with the arms of the chair, walked slowly into the next room and dialed the Paramedics... I told her I thought I was having a heart attack due to the pressure building under the sternum and radiating into my jaws. I didn't feel hysterical or afraid, just stating the facts. She said she was sending the Paramedics over immediately, asked if the front door was near to me, and if so, to un-bolt the door and then lie down on the floor where they could see me when they came in.

I unlocked the door and then laid down on the floor as instructed and lost consciousness, as I don't remember the medics coming in, their examination, lifting me onto a gurney or getting me into their ambulance, or hearing the call they made to St. Jude ER on the way, but I did briefly awaken when we arrived and saw that the radiologist was already there in his surgical blues and cap, helping the medics pull my stretcher out of the ambulance. He was bending over me asking questions (probably something like 'Have you taken any medications?') but I couldn't make my mind interpret what he was saying, or form an answer, and nodded off again, not waking up until the Cardiologist and partner had already threaded the teeny angiogram balloon up my femoral artery into the aorta and into my heart where they installed 2 side by side stints to hold open my right coronary artery.

I know it sounds like all my thinking and actions at home must have taken at least 20-30 minutes before calling the paramedics, but actually it took perhaps 4-5 minutes before the call, and both the fire station and St Jude are only minutes away from my home, and my Cardiologist was already to go to the OR in his scrubs and get going on restarting my heart (which had stopped somewhere between my arrival and the procedure) and installing the stents. Why have I written all of this to you with so much detail? Because I want all of you who are so important in my life to know what I learned firsthand.

1. Be aware that something very different is happening in your body, not the usual men's symptoms but inexplicable things happening (until my sternum and jaws got into the act). It is said that many more women than men die of their first (and last) MI because they didn't know they were having one and commonly mistake it as indigestion, take some Maalox or other anti-heartburn preparation and go to bed, hoping they'll feel better in the morning when they wake up... which doesn't happen. My female friends, your symptoms might not be exactly like mine, so I advise you to call the Paramedics if ANYTHING is unpleasantly happening that you've not felt before. It is better to have a 'false alarm' visitation than to risk your life guessing what it might be!

2. Note that I said 'Call the Paramedics.' And if you can take an aspirin. Ladies, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!

Do NOT try to drive yourself to the ER - you are a hazard to others on the road.

Do NOT have your panicked husband who will be speeding and looking anxiously at what's happening with you instead of the road.

Do NOT call your doctor -- he doesn't know where you live and if it's at night you won't reach him anyway, and if it's daytime, his assistants (or answering service) will tell you to call the Paramedics. He doesn't carry the equipment in his car that you need to be saved! The Paramedics do, principally OXYGEN that you need ASAP. Your Dr. will be notified later.

3. Don't assume it couldn't be a heart attack because you have a normal cholesterol count. Research has discovered that a cholesterol elevated reading is rarely the cause of an MI (unless it's unbelievably high and/or accompanied by high blood pressure). MIs are usually caused by long-term stress and inflammation in the body, which dumps all sorts of deadly hormones into your system to sludge things up in there. Pain in the jaw can wake you from a sound sleep. Let's be careful and be aware. The more we know the better chance we could survive.

A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this mail sends it to 10 people, you can be sure that we'll save at least one life.

*Please be a true friend and send this article to all your friends (male & female) who you care about!*

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Secrets of the Apple Tree Tavern

    BOOK ALERT for those who love a great story:

            Secrets of the Apple Tree Tavern
                             a novel by
                                       Mary Ellen Gavin

                If you want a book that will keep you up until four in the morning because you can’t put it down, this is it. Mary Ellen Gavin has wound the culture and customs of Irish Americans into one cliffhanger after another.
                How can you not care about Francis Fleming, an adorable, plucky, red haired, child?  When he is rescued by a warm hearted, resourceful, Irish cop who doesn’t mind bending the rules avoid dragging the boy to a draconian orphanage, cheers are in order. And that is only the beginning.

  Next, buckle up for the ride. Frank takes off on his journey to adulthood with the help of Mae, a member of the tribe who takes him under her wing and poses as his aunt. She happens to own the Apple Tree Tavern. It’s New York and the bar is a refuge for one and all as they march through the aftermath of the Great Depression only to plunge into the War to End All Wars.
                There are so many more events to share – but the risk of being a spoiler is too great. Discovery is all.
                Mary Ellen infuses each of her characters with a personality that jumps off the page. There are no cardboard figures on her horizon. She gets up close and personal with each and every one of them. It’s a slice of life with no blinking allowed. If there is a chance there will be bleeding, she lets them bleed.

              Yes! People die in and around the Apple Tree Tavern and it isn’t pretty. It’s life! The good, the bad and the ugly are laid bare. At the same time, there is so much loving and caring involved, the reader isn’t given the opportunity to turn away. When I got to the last page, I still wanted more.
                Gavin took ten years to research and write this volume. We can only hope she is secretly working on a sequel and is close to finished.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Thank you, John Kerry! Saving Afganistan!

For once there is news that isn't depressing and renews faith in our leaders. It was such a relief to read this headline and story from the New York Times:

Afghanistan to Audit Every Vote Cast, Kerry Says
Afghanistan will conduct an audit of the entire eight million votes cast in a runoff vote for the recent presidential election, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Saturday, a deal he brokered to resolve a tense power struggle between the top two presidential candidates over widespread vote fraud.
The audit will be the largest and most comprehensive possible, Mr. Kerry said at a news conference in Kabul. “Every single ballot that was cast will be audited,” he said. “All eight million of them.”

John Kerry -- if anyone can let you know that someone out there cares -- I wish I could thank you personally for your leadership. Had you only won the presidential race here how different this country might be.  Counting the votes is such a sensible solution! Clean, simple, certainly nowhere near as expensive or devastating as a civil war!

Anywhere in the world where people can be talked into putting down the guns and being reasonable it is certainly a good thing. Life is so short and so much of what goes on is tragically unnecessary. Good grief! We are all going to die anyway.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Thank God! -- Police carrying anti-opiode drugs to save lives!

The New York Times is featuring a headline article today about more and more police around the country carrying anti-opiode drugs as our populations experience an epidemic of heroin and opiode drug addiction. How many people had to die -- most of them too young to know better -- before we could spring into action?

I do hope this spreads to a world-wide method of dealing with the problem. This is the way the war on drugs needs to be fought. Just arresting people is not enough. More to the point is saving lives.

And for those who have had the misfortune of becoming addicted, sending them to prison may keep them away from drugs -- but it also destroys any real life they may have had. Give them a chance! Give them rehab...maybe even rehab for life. Give them a place to turn when they don't want drugs to ruin their lives but they don't know how else to deal with what their bodies are telling them.

Let's be smart. Let's really care about our children and our children's children. It's a heartbreak that doesn't have to happen if we all pull together.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Summer Tease

     The beginning of summer is a tease. It's too beautiful and too comfortable to even begin to think about what is ahead. The mosquitoes have not yet launched their all-out attacks, nor has the humidity that drenches us in sweat really gotten off the ground. Personally, I cannot help but be seduced by this perfect weather.

     This morning I went outside and actually enjoyed doing yard work. Clipping hedges that are mushrooming with the rains. Pulling weeds that are thriving and don't know they are about to be thrown in the trash.

     As I clipped, I wondered why I hadn't written the books everyone is telling me I should write -- about my stories. So many. Do I want to do that? Do I really want to stand naked in front of strangers -- and, worse, in front of those who know me? In the stories, there is joy and there is pain. I guess that is about par for the course in everyone's life. So many strange twists along the way. Maybe I got more than my share, maybe that's just the way it is.

     Is it fair to tell other people's stories and tuck away my own in a safe place? (Great exhale.) Maybe I'll start. Yeah, I've done that before. Mo' bettuh to paint a picture and let people guess what is inside. A major gallery owner here in Atlanta has just revived his interest in my work. Maybe there's hope? Before I die and everything I've created goes to a garage sale...or the trash heap.

    Ah, yes, thoughts a summer morning can stimulate. I think I'll make myself a cup of tea and then hit the showers...a luxury summer makes us appreciate.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Love in the Afternoon

Looking at our surroundings with different eyes is one of the ways I entertain myself. Through my camera lens, I take a piece of our surroundings and capture it -- capture it and then twist it around with editing tricks.

This one is actually the closeness and companionship of two dogs. However, the comical take on it is to have a lyric that tells an entirely different story. Ironically, terrier eyes seem to be in sync with the singer's tale of woe.


The Heart of The Goldfinch

     Last night I finished reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It's a tome, but once you get into it you never want it to end. Stepping back, it's not so much about the painting as it is about dealing with grief and medicating the pain. It's an unflinching look into our drug and alcohol culture.

    Tartt took ten years to write her novel and it's easy to see why. She did in-depth research that left me torn between wanting to get on with the story and wanting to find out what this word meant or how that phrase translated -- or just to find out more about a casual reference.

    It could take years probably to go back and sniff out every tangent and every bit of background. It's a challenge, but if you go with the emotional drift -- it's the core, the human element that got her the Pulitzer: Why are we here and what does it all mean?

    Did she figure it out? I'd say she posed the right questions. Very central to the story-- the bird is chained to its perch. We can't escape our reality?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

As the Snow Melts...

Georgia becomes a very different place in winter. It shuts down. It becomes a strange, insular village where people huddle in their homes and hope that the power doesn't go down.

Celebration begins -- as it did today -- when the snow starts to melt. There was very little of it, but our state is so unused to the concept of real winter and its inconveniences that we shrivel up and hide until it is gone.

Today, I looked out my windows and snapped some photos of the scenery around me -- beautiful trimmings in sparkling white...melting...Then, I turned them into a rough, quickie video. That's what we do here when it snows.

Here it is:

Melting Snow (2)


Saturday, January 18, 2014

News from Kabul

The most recent  tragedy in Afganistan was reported this morning. Those targeted were nonmilitary foreigners. The blood spilled belonged to people who probably went to Kabul hoping to help, knowing the dangers and being brave about the journey. Braver than I am.

As I listened to the report this morning on NPR, it didn't seem to have the right slant. The Taliban message seemed more than clear. No, they didn't go after soldiers, the usual targets. They are protesting the killing of innocent bystanders in their own backyards. The drones. The soldiers.

Imagine if we had that going on here. The anger, the grief. The Taliban wanted foreigners to feel the pain. There is so much pain in their world. It is hard to even fathom what their lives must be like. This is not in support of what the Taliban did. None of it is right.

 Is there a way to stop the bloodshed? Will Afganistan ever be a place where people can be at peace? After all that we have tried to do, we would hope so -- but the path is still far from obvious. Will there be a bloody power struggle when our troops come home? Most likely. Will it be any better or any worse than with us there? That's a painful, open question.  Who will benefit? Who will suffer? In the end, what have we accomplished? It is so hard to know. All we can know for sure is that so many have died and been wounded on all sides.

I remember the day I heard that Pres. Bush had decided to bomb Afganistan. My reaction was -- NO!
Please don't tell me they are going to do that. Of course, the war there began. Could they have dealt with terrorism in any other way? I wanted to think so.