Tuesday, December 13, 2011

OW! Kidney stones

Surgery today.   Stone free, now.
Ok...enough already.
It would be better if the stones were diamonds or pearls.
Ordered not to lift more than 10 pounds for at least a week. ...Yippee. Let those boxes alone!  Bring on the bon-bons and People magazine.
Thanks for the well-wishes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bent-- Not broken

A friend mentioned that he didn't wear t-shirts or buttons anymore
Overt slogans might intrude & close gentle civil inquiry
Under the radar --polite and safe. Safe?

I think that as a crone, with the crown of age
I shall start wearing a few more signs of my ideas
goosing the world & to explore for myself

which ideas fit and match 

Jewelry made of my own pin buttons
One says "imitate water"
 My current favorite you see here
it says ..."Bent"
It caught my eye and tickled me
niggled at me
I made more of them in many colors
yet no one asks 
'what is bent?'

Perhaps what captivated me was a
line of word play; a loose chain of associations

I mean this
I am not straight
or narrow
I am weathered still flexible
I have a vein of dark humor and some twisted ideas

I am bent
Not broken
holding some measure of the worlds weight
I will bend to it
Be bent with it


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Say this..."I am not in a hurry"

"It's ok. I am not in a hurry."

Say this to people & time slows down, 
You can hear it.. feel it...there are a few extra beats
a bit more air
It surprises everyone. 
Try it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Where are the frogs going now?

Frogs and Toads - Images by Mother-Daughter Press

Our first cold snap is coming here in Maine.
Maybe all the ticks will die. Oh yippee! Stay tuned to our tick experiment going on in the jar. Yes, with photos -- we just had to .... ugh.
But, each autumn there is a flurry of online inquiry about the "cold blooded" animals and how they will fare.  Each species does it a little differently and the  details are very interesting.
The specialists say this about it all
"leave them alone. They will find their way, you do not need to herd them off or take them in".

Smart little beasts that they are they will dig down snuggling in the mud and leaves in a pool or river and "chill out". They need some oxygen and Bullfrogs will stay near the top of the mud. Meanwhile frogs on land stay  within the leaf cover.  In contrast, Toads can dig down under the surface. It is all a type of hibernation. And if you want to see it for yourself you should check out this video - with Robert Krulwich and real frozen frogs and miracles.

This video and a nice explanation of the frogs fate can be found at a website called "frogsaregreen.com: See you later frogs.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Women for Peace- Everyone uluate

Nobel Peace Prize winners
Leymah Gbowee, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,  Tawakul Karman

Today is be a good day for ululation
A sound from ancient Greece and Egypt that continues to now
the sound of women celebrating 
feeling strongly
in India, throughout Africa and the Middle East
It is onomatopoeia known by many names
in many tongues
my favorite is Ulu-uli
a long, wavering, high-pitched sound accompanied by
moving the tongue, rapidly, from left to right
A cry of praise in honor and today in celebration
Three women share the peace prize

It is a foreign sound to many of us in the west
but it is familiar to this years winners.
So, maybe we can practice it for them.
Join in with a woman at the 2010 ululating competition
in Nagaland a state in far nothern India

Each of these women is worth knowing better. In my research, starting in earnest today, I offer these words from Leymah Gbowee from an interview that is worth hearing with Michel Martin on NPR's program "Tell me more"

"MARTIN: Finally, do you have any wisdom to share? Perhaps to a younger you
who is just starting this sort of path of awakening that you've been on. 

Ms. GBOWEE: Well, one of the things that I always say is never despise a
humble beginning. That's my word of wisdom. No matter how small, if you have
a conviction that this is something that is going to change your community,
if you have a conviction that this is something that is going to change your
family, if you have a conviction that this is something that is going to do
some good, step out and do it. That's one.
The second word of wisdom that I would like to leave with the American
people, in the face of evil, in the face of depravation, in the face of a
lot of horrible things when you turn on your radio, people sometimes lose
hope, that evil is winning. But I just want you to know that from a tiny
part of West Africa, a group of women there taught me to know that in this
life, good always overcome evil. Thank you.

Rises up from the Ministry of Crones and gorgeous women everywhere


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stand by me - There is hope

I must respond. There is a wonderful inspiration started by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes on her facebook page (a very rich place to hang around).. A kerfuffule -- a communal gasp-- a rise of energy around the song 'Stand by Me'.

Dr. CPE says "South African Yvonne Chaka Chaka sang this song a cappela to an audience after she warned Batswana to quit sitting around shaking one's head, and instead to be alert and to guard in every way possible, against increasingly devastating child pornography and human trafficking in all of Africa.
 She sang this POWERFUL song afterward."

It is a marching song, a question, a fearful longing, and an answer. My favorite version is from "Playing for Change"-- Musicians from all over the world are recorded and one by one brought into the shared space of the message in the music. In the end it is a joyful awakening --to the answer of many voices joining together --- and it lets us throw back our heads to sing louder and more fearlessly and to move our bodies.   An accompaniment to the work of many hands reaching out to make sure others know, "I am here".

Today I send this good medicine to Abdi and Hassan Nur Iftin in Nairobi (see Abdi flies Somalia from March 2011)  because we feel that there is now real hope that their dream of being college students in the US may happen.

As Dr. E says "we can make mere 'light' into Lightning!....¡Relampago!"

In April when I was sick nearly to death in the ICU, Hassan and Abdi found a phone line that reached all the way into that room in St. Johnsbury Vermont from Nairobi.  In my fog of grace and darkness a nurse said "Abdi called and his mother is praying for you".  I was felled.  This mother of mothers living in a Somali refugee camp, whose boys are not safe with her, who has no certainty of food still stops and offers me her prayers and stands by me.  This song is for her too.

I met Abdi and then Hassan through his stories on the radio. Listen as Abdi tells of life in Somalia as more and more people move to the restless rhythm of drought and lack of food, again.
Be reminded, he is a good storyteller and we can stand it. The Story: Abdi talks of Somalia now

If we are lucky these young men will soon get to open a course catalog and begin to choose -- feeding their hearts and their brains. Medicine for the murders they witnessed, the sister they lost to starvation, the threats, and the nightmares born in hiding caves, hopes lost in refugee life.  Its not perfect medicine but it is strong and it will help,

To pull this off we may have to ask for help but today there is real hope. Wahooo!
Sharon y familia

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Grandmothers revenge & a lovely grand-daughter

This is from one of Gay's photo files.
I have come to know my mother-- after her passing-- as a careful but ironic keeper of records. This photo was in a file called "Kids with guns".
My heart leapt at the possibilities.

This is Michelle McDonnell at 6 years of age looking pretty fierce.
She is at her grandmothers house where grandpa would let the kids shoot guns
while their parents would smile fixedly and ultimately join in.
Now she is a college graduate and more even beautiful and fierce

A friend (with 5 children) once said
"Socialize them as fast as you can before they can get to the knives and guns"
We were in Pakistan at the baby shower for my own son & now it seems
as good a rule as any for new parents

Pictures for facebook indeed! Watch out grandchildren Grandma had a camera.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Everything is a human being-- a la Alice Walker

.....even spiders

From Alice Walker dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr, 1983 
And,  it comes to me as I follow her reasoning THAT I believe we should be allowed to declare  war only against people whose language we speak and whose culture we understand.  In fact I am quite sure that if we had a Ministry or Department of Old Women (aka Crones) in our political system that they would over-rule a war between strangers as  irrational and self-destructive.  If we do not know people well enough to skillfully befriend them then neither do we know them well enough to hate them.  The opposite of love is not hatred but indifference; whereas the source of most hate is fear born of ignorance (and unfamiliarity).    Moreover, the chances of winning a war are significantly reduced if we do not take the time to know who we are fighting and why they are fighting back.  Remarkably, knowing people well enough to wage war against them effectively also exactly what protects us from ever starting a war against each other. 

I am shaking my head that so few Americans speak Dari or Pashtu and I think wishfully about a Ministry of Crones. So it is to Alice Walker that I return (certainly she would be in the Ministry) but this time on the topic of war.  In her essay "The Universe Responds: Or, How I learned we can have Peace on Earth," she says,

"War will stop when we no longer praise it, or give it any attention at all. 
Peace will come wherever it is sincerely invited. Love will overflow every sanctuary given it. Truth will grow where the fertilizer that nourishes it is also truth".

How difficult for us to do.... 
Meanwhile, everything is human, yes, my lovely daughter, Natalya, even spiders, or if not exactly human they are enough "us" to be worthy of our respect and far beyond our capacity to imitate - or create. They are weavers and spinners and since time out of mind there have been stories woven with spiders-- remember Arachne? 

Here -- to all the lovely forms of existence-- we dedicate these images to our many legged spinning friends that live life on their toes & up in the air like members of cirque du soleil.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The two sisters and the circle of horses

A story of two sisters and the horse circle - Images by Natalya McDonnell

It is an unusual story. Two sisters.
Zoe and Sybil. Rattus rattus.
They had heard of the great circle of horses
& They had to see for themselves.
They slipped out carefully and went to the arena at the special time.
So excited Zoe peeked over the red curtains, she could hardly wait

But, before they knew it there were horses all around them.

It was scary they almost got stepped on;  the horses came so close.
But in time it was exciting and the ritual of the circle called to them.
The horses were nice and Sybil joined their ritual circle and walked her "pride walk" in time to the drums circling with the horses.
Zoe tried to see if she could get on one and ride.
It was amazing.

The the sisters began to speak to the circling horses...
of their hopes, their lives, and to imagine a whole new way.
They spoke to the circle and they were heard.
Things could change!!

But suddenly there was stamping and the noises of fear. Hoof beats ringing loud -- horses with shoes? --  unfamiliar and, someone was yelling.

They heard "run!"
from the breath of the horses around them
But before they knew what was happening there was the shadow of the lasso over their heads

Oh no.... what will happen to them?

Any ideas?  Will they escape? What were they plotting with the horses?

[thanks to Natalya McDonnell for providing Zoe, Sybil and all the Schleich horses. Take note photographers.... rats are hard to work with. They constantly move and each part of them seems to move separately. Yikes!]

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Late Bloomer: Myths and Stories of the Wise Woman Archetype
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Live in six weekly sessions online beginning September 21, 2011

Return once again to the “fireside” and join with women (and honorary women) from all over the world to hear Dr CPE present the latest from her masterwork on the Dangerous Old Woman.

Dr. E is living medicine

In this new program there are more original stories, poems, and psychological commentary exploring the cycles of “burgeoning, blooming New Life.  In the topic list there are such compelling topics as: "Aunt Edna on How to Misbehave", "Possession by the Overculture: Stockholm Syndrome and the Creative Force" and here is one "“The Woman Who Was Eaten by Her Relatives” 

Follow this link to
The Late-Bloomer at Sounds True for the details and course topics.  All sessions can be downloaded to listen and share again later. 

You will be very glad you came in whatever way you can

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Septic Shock newsletter-- finale

I emerge from my experience of septic shock not yet able to tell the story in a way that feels quite right.   There is much to process -- much good and much that is just much-- intense and interesting and that still needs digesting. In literature I find words that help me.  Here is a section from a wonderful book by Molly Gloss called "the Dazzle of Day"- Quaker science fiction. Ursuala LeGuin meets Rufus Jones. A wonderful book.  In one chapter a woman is working on a boat and trying to save a person that has been injured. She is preparing to jump with him from a small raft to the main boat and instead hits the side with her shins, misses her landing, and says....

"I lost hold of the boat and sank with him, straight down.

I had been afraid, waiting to jump, but now I wasn't afraid. How quickly our ties and ballasts are cast off! I was of the Owl Strait, suddenly my outstretched elbows were resting in fjords, my palms outspread on the cobbled beaches. Inside my body there were forest of lichens, galaxies of starfish and lamp jellies, and in my bones the shields of turtles, the teeth of balenoj. I felt in my blood the long slow tide, straining after the sun -- I was water, and its unknowable alchemies, dreading nothing, simply streaming and alive. This was one of those times when your mind and body cohere and you understand suddenly what the poets say: To die is different from what you had supposed, and luckier.

Then unpredictably I began to rise up through the muffled darkness toward the dazzle of the daylight -- Kikuma was hauling me up-- I remembered I was tied fast to the boat. There was a curious moment: I had a sense that I must now make an accommodation to the world, as if I had lived a long time under the sea."

......I was grateful, exhausted. We were laboring through heavy seas with the edge of the puso weather whining in the windpipe, but I didn't try to hold this or anything in my mind. I lolled in the bottom of the boat, my skill rocking dumbly among the sliding scraps of salvage. While Kikuma was steering for a lee shore, I suppose I stood up from my life and let it stream around me in a clear cataract. I was freed from time, not lying inside a dream but standing in the compass of heaven where everything goes onward and outward, nothing collapses -- and when I lay down in my life again we were beating noreast along the cape. When I looked over the gunnel of the boat, across the strait toward the rocks there was a break in the sky and the sun broke fleetingly across the water in long bright reef - the puso weather had gone over our heads onward."

The details of  my own story-- the fall into illness & the moments with death nearby-- the similarities and differences from what the author describes here are important to me.  But, I appreciate that it is close enough and that it helps me. The word "cohere" struck me because it is exactly the one that was in my mind when I was so deeply ill.   I was considering whether to melt or cohere.   How quickly one becomes ether and water and then the effort required to return and remain embodied, combined with gratitude.

What I learned was good news about dying and living and it is this quiet calm and relief that I want to tell you about.  I hope as I carry the experience forward and live it that in time I'll find a creative expression that suits it. Who knows, fiber arts, song, silence, drawings, or simply growing old as a woman touched by life and death.

 Be well and happy and thanks for the kindness from so many.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Welcome: Newest Mother-Daughter Press Photographer-- John Feldhahn-- my grandfather

This path and gate lead forward and backward for me.  Sometimes I have heard something 1000 times but only on the 1001st time do I understand and take in what is important. Some paths are impossible to predict.  Who would have put me here looking at photos, family photos, and being touched as an artist and a daughter and mother.

My mother told me about her parents. That they were artists among their regular lives. My grandmother went to Parsons school of design -- enabled by the men in her life.  My grandfather loved photography. I heard this many times and I remember him with a camera and trying to catch us all in photogenic moments. But none of this prepared me for the day, about a month ago, when I opened up the boxes of photos she saved of his slides. They were beautifully filed, labeled, and even had compelling names on them such as "my 50 favorite pictures".  [Note to all mortal photographers-- this is one way to make your work live]. 

I fell into 3 days of breathtaking photos of people I knew including myself, my family, and complete strangers. So, as we have been selecting photographers to work with Mother-Daughter Press I want to welcome John Feldhahn and share just a couple of photos of his.  John's family came from Germany and he was born in Nebraska to a family that joined the Church of Latter day Saints. His mother Anke was a seer, a prophet, and woman not to be trifled with.  John went to Pharmacy school and met Madeline Crick at college.

The gate shown in the first photo was made by Madelines father -- Mr. Crick at his foundry in Independence Missouri. Much of the wrought iron work in their yard came from the foundry.

Until recently however, this one below was the only photograph of Johns I knew well.

It is Gay's wedding day. He has set the stage for this photograph. Each detail carefully thought out. She is very happy and wearing yards of blue silk. He places a photograph of her husband to be in a frame behind her and one of her mothers wedding in the other picture. He asks her to hold a mirror and look towards it. She wants to hide her hands, the ones whose nails she nibbled and a febrile illness had rendered unlovely to her.   They practice many shots but this is the one they like best.
The care and attention to detail are part of what make this photograph so beautiful. The model is gorgeous and the connection of photographer to subject-- uncommon and good.

Gay later worked some of his photos in with hers luckily, the same garden he photographed stayed in the family and my aunt Lois worked in it and made it even more lovely so we have over 60 years of one garden in photos.  Gay took his intital slide and then added in elements of Lois' garden and her own too. In this picture, that is her bird, his bird bath, Lois' birdhouse, and all of them shared the orchard. The flowers were from all three gardens.  

We were all shocked to end up gardners after watching our parents do it. Years later wishing we could ask them questions. This is the next best thing to getting a second chance to play in the dirt with them and design somthing together.

We plan to put many of Johns Photos in a web gallery and some images to stock for those places that like historical or antique images.  I am so pleased to have these to show.

Congratulations to John and his family :)
Let us know if you want to see more of his work or their work "together". Look for the stone pedestal birdbath as one clue 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Watching photographers & A love story

Living with photographers

In his quiet way James Bumgarner took a picture of his wife Gay Bumgarner
The Photographer
They are in Costa Rica and
She crouches in the undergrowth still and watchful
waiting, camera to her eye focused close.
There is a chance that the unusual butterfly of the area – it being the reason for their hike to this section of the forest, where it’s preferred plants grow --
and its unique black and white sworls, will come & be at home

She waits watching... carefully.  Filled with anticipation at this good spot and feeling lucky --- a lucky day perhaps.
she hears a click behind her and looks up smiling surprised to see her husband standing very near. 
He replaces the lens cap and wears a wry satisfied smile.
She smiles up at him-- and asks if he saw something "good."

He is happy with his camera and its long lens. He enjoys looking -- watching the exotic world ----and she thinks he would be just as happy with a good set of binoculars since he seldom actually takes a picture yet, he always seems content about it.
"Did you see something?” -- she wonders. 'what inspired him to actually take a picture?'
He looks at her with mischief and says,
"The view from here is just lovely" and she is filled with the pleasure of his attention and the compliment.
Their marriage is still brand new, her sense of good fortune unfazed.

He watches, as the wind plays with her hair
and smiles.
His pleasure in her company, her beauty, and her joy is a sturdy force
--- delight durable as an element of earth

In her white blond, Gringa hair, the butterfly is an exotic hair bow,
A stylish fascinator 
& as The Great Eggfly warms itself brief notions of flowers rise up -- butterfly visions-- created by the sun releasing the aromatic floral scent from her shampoo

Does the man speak to her of the butterfly?
No, likely not.
Her butterfly, the one meant for her, will come in time and she will be filled with excitement at its beauty and the efforts of making a picture.

Much later the yellow box of slides, "Kodachrome" comes in the mail and she peers  down her loupe at the slides on the lightbox.
She is confused and then she laughs in music.

Ah, the Great Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina)
She goes to him.
Note: There weren't many photos that James Bumgarner took and this is one she kept.  These are my imaginings combined with my rememberings of those times.  For all who knew them, enjoy.  If you are a photographer or live with one....enjoy too.
Have you a photo or a story like this?


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yes, four frogs. Thanks for counting

Hello, this is a bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana, smiling up at me from my "swimming pool" in Maine. She/he has her very own mosquito sitting in front of her that I think will be lunch (is it shocked into inaction or unaware?)

Thanks to all who played the guessing game.  You were right-- there were 4 visible. Most of you figured that if I was asking the question then there must be a trick so, most said "I see four but there are probably more".   Such a crafty lot you are.  But, I really wanted to know if the pictures on the website are actually visible in the way we have sized them.  Seems like everyone could see the details and count the 4 (visible) frogs.

The question is whether we should move away from thumbnails and offer bigger web pictures that will do them justice.  However, the problem comes when you try to make navigation and selection easy. I haven't seen what I like yet. It is just one of those head scratchers that may never be answered.

This big wonderful frog makes me happy because our "pool" is not going to get its complete maintenance this year and thus will be given over to the wildlife. Most of the wild life is amphibian and they sing deeply and with enthusiasm each evening.  They don't seem to mind my daytime visits with my camera at all.   I spend a lot of time archiving Gay's photos and some of the photos are 20 or 30 years old. Thus, the animal or creature in most cases is long dead. But, in this case I have a pool filled with frogs, tadpoles, and eggs, and a camera to learn so I am going to get to know them awhile in real-time.  I have even taken to giving them names.

In one of Gay's photography journals she admits that the frogs are one of her favorite animals to photograph. I agree but perhaps for different reasons. Right now I appreciate that they sit still a lot and although they are amphibian I find their faces seem expressive and interesting.

So, stay tuned to the updates from the frog pond in Yarmouth.  Join the blog if you want the updates...its free, easy, & more reliable than me remembering to send it to you by email.

Next will be a love story of cardinals with an unveiling of new cardinal and winter birds with berries.

My  health os still improving but it is slower than I would wish.  Thanks to all the well-wishers.


ps here is the next photo taken after the one shown in previous blog-- those ol anti-social frogs just haven't read the books about amphibians I guess. I only see three here but we know there are more.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

How many frogs do you see?

Put your count in the comments section of Facebook, or the website or email. Respondents are rewarded
If you cannot see very well (picture too small eyes, too old?) then you can go to original photo at

In the scientific literature bullfrogs are considered solitary and not particularly social although no distinction is made by sex.  Some sources say they will eat other frogs including smaller bullfrogs.  However, there is a growing appreciation of the complexity of their vocalizations as a clue to the oversimplification that may have been applied to their social lives and general intelligence.  If they are so darn solitary why are they always sitting around on lily pads and rocks together calling back and forth?

I think frogs are big jokers in the natural world. They love to make sudden noises or to leap up when it is least expected;  creating surprises for frogs and non-frogs too.  I think they love the freaked out look on those caught off guard.  If you watch them a lot there are activities that looks suspiciously like play.

For example, in the photo below there are two frogs sharing a moment of tender affection.  You don't see this kind of amphibian intimacy everyday.

 In fact in the close cropped view of the picture look at the front of the photo and you can see two young jokers ready to make sure that the intimate moment being shared won't last long or end quietly.

These fellows made a colossal nuisance of themselves in a very social way.  They swam surreptitiously under the lily pads emerging beside the quiet pair & filling the air with sudden loud calls.

Then diving under water they would be gone but I could see their silent eyes among the leaves. until they would reappear , out of sight only to reappear and jump on the occupied lily pad making it tip and then off they would go, kicking the pad and making it spin wildly so it would tip and  spin.

A group of frogs is called an "army of frogs".

Check out our new updated gallery of frogs and toads Amphibians galore here
I hope you are enjoying the frogs this summer by sight and sound.

And how many frogs are there up there in photo #1?


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Update - Mother-Daughter Press joins Boone Hospital new Patient Tower project combining architechture, art, and healing

New hospital tower designed for patient care and healing

From Columbia Business Times -Brian McNeill May 27, 2011 full article and pictures included
After six years of planning and a special design process, The Boone Hospital Center in Columbia Missouri will welcome the first patients into its new eight-story patient Tower on the 27th of June 2011.  

This $89 million project was designed by Michigan-based HKS Architects and incorporates state of the art energy systems and a design process that was featured at the Health Facilities Symposium & Expo (HFSE) in Chicago last year.  The presentation team included HKS healthcare design leaders and Mary Beck, vice president, at Boone Hospital Center. Their topic, “Success Design Strategies Working with Owner Teams,” featured a case study of the Boone Hospital Center’s new model of patient-centered care. The hospital, located in Columbia, Mo., was designed incorporating decisions from patients, families and nurses – and the mantra “nothing about me without me.” The session also provided practical tools and decision-making guidelines for participants to use when designing their upcoming building projects.

The new tower was created with nature as its dominant theme and it was designed to facilitate the interactions and movement between health workers and patients.  The lobby contains rich cherry wood walls and soft green carpets while the patient rooms are painted with earth-tone yellow and blue fabrics and paints.  A new "healing" garden creates a natural transition from the old building to the new one.

A key feature of the design was that all the public areas, and selected patient environments, are adorned with the works of mid-Missouri artists that were selected by H&P Consultants of Columbia  in collaboration with the Art Committee of the hospital.  Their emphasis in the selection process for the art included in the project was on representations of nature and organic elements.   The artwork is meant to reinforce a healing environment as the mission of the space is to provide a calm, nurturing, and restorative environment for patients.   Environments that include nature and natural light can profoundly effect a patient’s healing process.  For a more thorough description of design features with patient healing and comfort in mind see the article in "Inside Columbia Magazine"

Mother-Daughter Press and Gay Bumgarner Images has worked with three US hospitals through the project "health through imagery" to encourage healing environments in health care facilities.  Moreover,  because of our family connection with Boone Hospital I was happy to participate.  To see the 9 images selected by Boone Hospital and H&P consultants I have made a web gallery (Click here Boone Tower Images).  I also included an image that was gifted to the hospital by "The Salon"-- a group of wise and wonderful women in Columbia that wanted to offer one of Gays pictures to honor Gay and Jim Bumgarner and their long association with Boone Hospital.  Images available for purchase here online (email or call) or in Columbia through Jeff Berg at Creative Photo (573) 875-1841. Contact Sharon McDonnell via this website or Jeff Berg.

To celebrate a public open house and grand opening will take place from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday June 26 from 12-3. The event will feature tours, health screenings and refreshments, according to a news release.

 artwork unveiled

David Spear unveils his painting “Columbia Sunset,” a 12-foot-by-8-foot oil-on-linen work that will decorate part of Boone Hospital Center’s new patient tower.  (WOW! GO David! His work has to be seen to be believed-- very special).

Regrettably, I am not well enough to travel yet but I encourage all who might be able to go to check it out and tell the people there what a good idea it is-- giving art to people in hospitals.

Best wishes

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Greetings! It has been a long time since I sent out a blog post, a tweet, or a facebook message.   My journey into septic shock and back was very engrossing. Convalescence has been a circuitous and much slower process than I would have predicted despite years of medical training. 

I offer messages of thanks and gratitude for the many people who provided aid in my hours (and weeks!) of need and in the all ways it came.  And, of course, I have philosophical views and thoughts from the very edges of life. There is much to learn from life-threatening illness, but today I want to start with lighter fare.

There is a new section on the website called "stories” in which I share the background for some of the pictures on the website: the crazy, effortful, funny, and surprising behind-the-scenes events of Gay Bumgarner, photographer extraordinaire pitting her wits and patience against the goddess of nature.  Using her photography journals, the writings of Jim Bumgarner her husband, my own eye-witness accounts, video clips, and occasional poetic license, Mother-Daughter Press gives you a peak behind the creative curtain.  I hope you enjoy the unusual behind the scenes views.

The first photo-story is brief and it’s called Bugsy the Watch Turkey

If you want to see larger versions of the pictures, go to the new gallery called "Series in Nature"

Welcome to this new feature on the website, and enjoy the story-ettes. Please let me know what you think and feel free to share your own stories. I even take requests, if you have a picture you have wondered about let me know.

To make finding the stories easy, we have added it as a choice on the navigation bar of the website.  If you want to automatically get story updates you can subscribe to the blog or send a note.

Most of all thanks for all your well-wishes and kindness in this difficult time


Saturday, May 21, 2011

A cell phone should be as easy as a toaster, or at least a phone. Instead I have a device that is referred to as "smart" and in fact makes me feel incompetent.  It impedes communication through poor sound quality, gaps, and loss of connection.  All this for more money.  Are we sure that Americans have experienced progress through the transition to cell phones?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Septic shock newsletter part IV: stone less and back home again!

Dateline: 5 May 2011, Peacham, Vermont

Sharon’s stone-less and back home again after surgery! 

Bring on the puns- stones, rocks, boulders, blocks, obstructions, you name it. We can take it.

Today, Dr. Andrew Nisbet (and all around good egg), Sharon’s urologist, removed a bodacious great mondo-stone and some little satellite stones from Sharon’s left kidney. The surgery went more easily and more quickly than Dr. Nisbet had expected, as the stones were more easily broken up than anticipated. What was expected to take 3+ hours only took about 1.5 hours. Turns out the equipment for this procedure resembles something Playstation would make-- a video game with fiberoptic lasers blasting away at rocks and then clearing those out--all while keeping your "health up". Dr. Nisbet confessed it was fun and did make a case for there being one useful purpose for practicing video games as a means to master practical skills in later life.  

Sharon’s blood pressure and medical condition during the surgery were excellent, and her anesthesiologist commented how much easier today’s surgery was than the one on April 20th, when she was in septic shock and the goal was to be fast and drain the infection, try to keep her blood pressure up, keep her alive.

Dr. Nisbet collected samples of the stones for analysis and the big mystery now will be what is the stone made of?  There are different types of kidney stones and the most common are made of calcium carbonate.  However, Dr. Nisbet wondered, given how soft these were, if they might be uric acid stones. 
We take bets here and award prizes for both the most thoughtful and the most imaginative or silly answers. Time and laboratory analysis will tell! Sharon still has a stent (a plastic tube) that that connects her left kidney to her bladder.  The tube travels inside her ureter and maintains an open channel from her left kidney to her bladder so that any postoperative swelling cannot obstruct the outflow of the kidney which can cause infection which can cause sepsis and well....that nasty little cascade of the past 2 weeks. Next week we hope to have the stent removed. 

The other big mystery is Why stones at all?  In addition to analyzing these particular stones Dr. Nisbet suggested that we try to figure out what might be causing recurrent kidney stones by evaluating various possible causes and to have a CAT scan in a few months to assess whether any stones are reforming. Considering many in her family have had them and she has had at least 5 documented kidney stones in  her life it might be time to get a wee bit more curious.

Sharon is ecstatic to have survived the surgery and to have had such a successful surgical outcome. She is resting relatively comfortably this evening, and Gib is tending to her every need. Natalya again took care of the domestic menagerie, while Sharon and Gib were at the hospital. Natalya’s teacher and family friend Nene Riley brought chicken curry and rice for Gib and Sharon’s dinner. All in all, it’s been a very good day!

Gib and Sharon

Now a photo treat......We are dumbstruck with gratitude

This slide show features nests, eggs, nestlings, fledglings-- the must vulnerable life -- and nest tenders and minders of all sorts.  It is dedicated to our friends and family who stepped in during my illness. Your notes of kindness, food, phone messages, cards, visits, food, books, articles, poetry, FOOD, garden help, phone tree, jokes, tears, and food helped so much. Thanks Peacham Vermont and of course Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital staff. It seemed liked nestlings and their helpers were the right images to illustrate how big the world felt and to express our gratitude for coming when we needed you. THANKS to the Senturias, Nancy Lou Saidi, Suzanne Rhodes, Laura, Stan and probably other members of the Fickes family, Mel, Rod and Rachel Reis, Dave and Marilyn Magnus, Karen Joyce, Margaret Caudil-Slosberg, Helen Perry, Abdi Nur Iftin, Hassan Iftin, Ano Lobb, Jenny Hyslop, Wendy Morgan, Julie Hansen, My brothers, Morgan McDonnell, Richard Mendenhall, Jane Flink, Randy and Toni Dillon, Dan and Diane Friedman, The Prudential committee, Peacham Town Clerk team, Peacham Library (great movie suggestions too), Susan Moran, Natalya McDonnell, Annie Danielson, Meg Harper, Barb Melnick, Pam Parrish, Camille Parrish, Randy Parrish, Claudia Micare, Kate and Kathyrn Roosa, Alex Thorngren, Libby Gill, Marjo Price, Ben Bellows, Jeff Passe, and so many more that I am forgetting just this moment at bedtime. THANKS!

Nests & Nestlings - Images by Sharon McDonnell


Friday, April 29, 2011

Septic Shock Newsletter Part III

There is no place like home!

Sharon returned home from the hospital late yesterday morning. She spent much of yesterday afternoon resting. She gets happy and weepy over the spring flowers.  She slept well last night and remains afebrile today (max temp of 99.6), which is a great relief. She is taking ciprofloxacin for her infection and oral pain medications for her continuing flank and bladder pain related to her large kidney stone and/or the large plastic pipe (stent) that is in place. She still has bilateral pleural effusions (Water in the space between lungs and it’s lining, the pleura).  She is sort of like an insulated thermal cup.  With the fluid and infection it is very important that she maintain her “pulmonary toilet.  This is a process of coughing, and positioning herself to assure that her lungs drain, get lots of air and do not become infected.  She practices inhaling deeply using her inspirometer, which she named “Steve, Too” after her brother who is an  unrelenting and effective advocate that this breathing stuff is a priority activity.  Fortunately, it fits in with great yoga techniques too and is good for all sorts of ailments. 

Today she was eating meals at the dining room table and had  visitors and calls. Her appetite is good and to raise her serum albumin and iron she has relaxed some of her eating practices (Happy meat and plant based diet).   She appears to have lost most of the extra fluid that she accumulated during her illness. People are not as inclined to call her “lumpy” or “sausage girl”. I am not sure anyone was ever brave enough (except mayber our children) to ever call her that really.   It appears that she will not need to take more diuretics at this point.  During her last day in hospital her body decided to sweat — a process called diaphoresis. She sweated at least a liter of fluid off in what she says was like the worlds longest hot flash. No one is entirely sure of the mechanism for this but at one point Sharon said that maybe her body was wise and decided it needed to increase the loss of fluid or alternatively, her body was responding to seven solid days of adrenaline. When they were all pondering this she said “I don’t know, I have been a little stressed”. This was met by silence and then followed by a hearty laugh all around.

Sharon and friend Margaret Caudill-Slosberg were reflecting on life in the hospital and she wondered about what could be learned from a qualitative study of the language used and names applied to a patient as a reflection of how sick they are. Sharon says she was called honey, sweetie and dear for 4 full days and only when she was mostly out of the woods and on the road to recovery did people begin to use her name. Maybe this is something woordle or the like could illustrate — if not for science at least for fun.

It is hard for her to be home and not be involved in all the things she normally does here. She is a slow moving guest trying to keep her whims within reason and yet not forget to ask for help. I am deeply grateful for all of the offers of support and help with grocery shopping, garden clean up, and dinners. On day 3 of Sharon’’ illness I came down with an impressive sinusitis and upper respiratory infection which has been annoying and persistent. Perhaps I have been stressed. Sharon likes to have me around for naps being someone seldom inclined to take them otherwise. We turn into a puppy pile (with cats).  We have not had to send Natalya out with a bow and arrow yet due to the largesse of our friends and family. Morgan has even offered a mercy visit home next week sometime.

Tomorrow morning, Sharon has an appointment with Dr. Nisbit, the urologist, to discuss surgery to remove the stones in her left kidney. Based on our meeting with him yesterday morning prior to Sharon’s discharge, its possible that she might have the surgery next week. We will continue to make updates available on the blog and please feel free to share them with others and leave comments and suggestions. Good articles, books, podcasts or entertainment shows are all of interest. 

Understandably our friends are shocked to learn of our latest adventure. They just turned away for a moment and next thing they know the whole shooting match has gone crazy.

Stay in touch, thanks for your kindness to our family and enjoy the spring.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Septic shock newsletter Vermont

Part II

The Good News continues. Sharon is no longer on any intravenous medications, and she no longer requires any supplemental oxygen. In fact, there is even talk of her going home tomorrow, but we are not holding our breaths yet! She had a shower earlier, which she was able to handle by herself, and she is walking independently—though slowly—around her room, showing more strength and stamina than she did yesterday. Everyday another body system seems to come back online, allowing her to dispense with a tube or monitoring system.  She said that the shower reminded her that a physical body can be a source of pleasure particularly if you add warm water.

Natalya and I came into visit Sharon this morning, and I am back this afternoon, while Natalya is studying. Natalya has been taking care of all of the animals at home and many other household chores.

News flash! Dr. Rousse, the hospitalist taking care of Sharon today, just stopped by to chat. All systems look good, and he plans to discharge her tomorrow morning, assuming no setbacks overnight. Sharon’s platelet count is now normal, her lungs sound good, and her albumin—a major protein in the blood stream that reflects liver function and nutrition—is up to 2.6 from 1.9 yesterday.  Her white blood count went up a bit today, but there are no longer any “bands,” a kind of white blood cell signifying acute infection. Sharon has less pain today and less edema in her legs, feet, and abdomen.

Sharon keeps editing my words of enthusiasm, commenting that although her edema is better she will continue to take some diuretics over the next week or two.  She says that she feels a bit like a “tide pool” or estuary, and that has been at high tide for awhile.  In fact, while we are cheering how good she looks, she notes that she feels more bloated than she when she was 9 months pregnant and that she feels decidedly bovine.  Yes, she is thankful that her pain is diminished, but she has spent the last 7 days with at least a couple of major events involving what felt like a Mac Truck driving over her, some howling, and a lot of morphine. She experienced the first few days semi-consciously and, therefore, finds such optimism an act of great faith.

All your offers of support and encouragement are greatly appreciated. She does want to note that the number of people who say they have also had kidney stones suggests that someone needs to do an epidemiological study.

That’s it for now. Hopefully, the next update will be issued from home rather than the hospital.

Gib (with commentary by Sharon)

Feel free to comment on the blog site and Sharon will get the comments or via email.

This is the picture we put on the wall of Sharon's hospital room


Monday, April 25, 2011

The Septic shock newsletter Vermont

Posting from Gib
"It’s been a rough week for us in Vermont, but fortunately it is now much better.

Last Tuesday (19 April) about noon, a large stone in Sharon’s left kidney—Sharon has a history of kidney stones—moved so as to obstruct the flow of urine from that kidney into her left ureter. That blockage caused an infection in her kidney, which later that same day spread to her bloodstream, producing a condition known as “sepsis.” This in turn resulted in a drop in her blood pressure and the loss of fluid from her blood vessels into the surrounding tissue, a condition known as “septic shock.” Sharon underwent emergency surgery early Wednesday morning to open up the blockage. This was done by inserting a small plastic tube—a “stent”—from her bladder through her left ureter to her left kidney. Although the stone wasn’t removed, the insertion of the stent allowed the infection in her kidney to drain. After surgery, her blood pressure remained unstable for several hours, and the hospital staff worked heroically to keep up her blood pressure and prevent further complications of septic shock. By Wednesday night, her blood pressure was reasonably stable, but she remained critically ill. Thursday through Saturday, she gradually improved, and by Saturday night she was well enough to be moved from the intensive care unit to the medical ward at the hospital. On Sunday, she continued to improve and was able to stand unsupported and do most basic tasks by herself (eating, washing, dressing). Fortunately, it does not appear that any of her organ systems sustained any significant long-term damage, and she should recover fully from her ordeal, although it will take several weeks for her to be back to normal. She will still need surgery to remove the stone, so that a similar event doesn’t recur. This surgery will probably take place in early May.

Today (Monday, 25 April) Sharon’s condition continues to improve. Hooray! She has no fever, her blood pressure is normal and stable; her platelets (important for stopping bleeding), which had been low, are increasing; her white blood count, which is indicative of infection and was very high, is closer to normal levels; and her lungs remain clear, although she has some fluid in the space between her lungs and her chest wall. She is now eating (and enjoying) solid food and is up moving around to use the bath room. All indicators are positive at this point. The foci of treatment at this point are keeping Sharon’s lungs clear and free of infection, reducing the edema fluid that she accumulated during her crisis, and reducing her pain and discomfort from the kidney stone.

This afternoon, I am well enough to contribute to the narrative with Gib. I think of this as the septic shock newsletter and there are a few themes:

1. First hand experience is updating my medical knowledge. All things are connected. The theoretical interactions learned in medical training about fluids, electrolytes, platelets, infection, shock, are amazing. Personally experiencing these terms from my bedside while floating in a spiral fog will take awhile to absorb.

2. The body exists in the moment, in here and now. I crashed into the moment with identical body time, thought time, and emotional time via severe illness, and I am stunned with gratitude.  The kindness of my brothers and sisters-in-law, Abdi & Hassan Iftin in Nairobi (see post about this story! Abdi escapes Somalia) , Gibs' family, and friends such as Mel and Rodney Reis, who knew  what was happening and kept track of our crazy course with support and encouragement is overwhelming.  I kept sending out little messages via Gib saying "hold us in the light," and the notes came back and they helped.  Wednesday night I believed I would live, and I listened to the weekly webinar on "the body" by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in my ICU room.  I had dreams about that community of people and their support that night, and it was a rich source of connection between before and after. (See Sounds true: Clarissa P. Estes and The joyous Body

3. In keeping with "health through imagery" (Health through imagery) I have commented on and critiqued all pictures around me, and people have been very patient with me.  The images in our environment matter-- I have asked Gib to link to two favorite pictures. First, is the trio of barn swallows (Hirundo rustica-- thanks, Mom, for a name I would never have known otherwise) sitting on the strand of barbed wire at evening time. I hope to donate it to NVRH  when I leave here. It would look so good on the wall in my hospital room.   Tres Barnswallows

Second, Ecola Bay State Park and the Oregon Coast. This is a favorite -- the sea air, the sunset, the sound of water on rocks, and wind comes fresh and fully to mind.  Ecola Bay, Oregon Coast

4.  It only hurts when you don't laugh. I have named my spirometer (the little plastic toy-like object for maintaining lung function) Steve Too after my brother Steve, who calls each day to remind me to BLOW BLOW and Blow.  Natalya left me with a drawing on a white board with numerous sayings, including "Never give up never surrender," and humorous greetings from our pets.

My husband is amazing.  I knew how sick I was by watching his face.  His wonderful and even his most irritating trait have wound around each other  into an indistinguishable collection.   He has done so much to help me survive and want to survive than I can say.

I shall leave this to Gib except for the last line about him.'
Love to all"

Sharon (and Gib)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Our voices our stories: Abortion


First Person: Your Voices, Your Stories

“I wish we could offer each other the kindness of respectful listening.”

In 2008 the radio program "On Being" (formerly "Speaking of Faith") asked listeners to write to them about the topic of abortion.   I was moved to respond and now they are updating and re-airing the program they have selected among the comments offered, and mine was posted on their main page.  Check it out.

Our voices: About abortion and how we talk to each other

Moreover, not long ago, Jane Flink sent me this story as part of a conversation we had on the topic of abortion.  One of the wonderful things about it was that I had no idea what her opinion was and so I had to listen carefully and open my mind.  Another wonderful thing is that the story is full of forgiveness.  That is always a good thing when important issues are being discussed.  So, I include a link to her short story.  It is excellent and its is called "God has a good idea"

God has a good idea: Many voices of women

I believe that we must move the topic of abortion back into dialogue, particularly among women of all ages and tell each other our stories and what is in our hearts.  It is a topic so laden with emotional meaning  and political significance that it has become unspeakable.  This sense of danger is often a sign that an issue has become wholly symbolic and is no longer connected to real peoples' lives.  Reductionism has occurred and this is a great pity because polling from many sources show that almost 80% of people agree while only 20% of people are in conflict. This is where the media and our fear of conflict collide to make a difficult situation worse.  I think there is more agreement and forgiveness than we know.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Paths- Abdi flies - escape from Mogadishu

Abdi and Hassan Iftin in Kenya
This is in the category of one the most gratifying things I have done.

Late last fall I was introduced to a young man living in Mogadishu Somalia by a Public Radio program called "The Story".  It was an episode from a series called "Messages from Mogadishu," and he was reporting as a covert citizen journalist, known only as Abdi,  he was risking his life to tell us about life in Somalia.

I was moved and left with a fierce concentrated activation.  I wrote to the radio station to thank  Dick Gordon and his staff and I offered to help Abdi in some way if I could. I didn't have anything specific in mind.  Abdi and I were connected by email and began a conversation that continued through the early winter and by Christmas it included our  middle school science class who helped to create video messages for him which we put up here on the blog.

I enjoyed these email conversations  enormously. We ranged across all sorts of topics and in time others were included to enrich the conversation.   But at the core there were four of us -- Abdi in Somalia, his brother Hassan in Kenya,  my friend Ben Bellows in Nairobi, and me.
We evolved from a loose social connection, to a a bi-continental learning group, to a kind of family and then, ultimately, a swat team.

Abdi's messages were becoming increasingly alarming despite his understatement and wry humor.  He was getting direct warnings and veiled threats.  His pictures were galling, dismemberment, fear in every mundane act.   It seemed inevitable that his luck would run out even if no one discovered his reporting for the international media.

By early March he decided he needed to leave Somalia and it seemed wise. The four of us went into full alert.  We researched and explored the options until we had Plan A and B.  We had to be very careful about the information that went to Abdi would not put him at greater risk.

Together we created an underground railroad, a freedom path, a logistical machine.

For nearly two weeks it was an obscession.  I followed his steps through the streets of Mogadishu  and I could taste the danger. The three of us on the "outside" were exploring options and determining what could work -- constantly on the phone or email updating our information. Then we decided on Plan B and were making specific dates when we learned that Abdi's house had been bombed. Forunately, he was shaken, but alright.   Hassan was beside himself and I got the call at a rest stop in New Hampshire, and Ben was on the road in Africa Our messages zinged back and forth between continents. The four of us fretted through the details and moved the dates up for an urgent departure.  I had butterflies in my stomach representing little mementos of his real fear and loss.

And, last week our collaborative logistical machine delivered. It picked up that young man and delivered him free of the war.  Last weekend he made it to Nairobi his voice was filled with amazement and joy.  As we waited and then heard he was safe I kept getting rushes of excitement and the urge to run around in circles.  I am very proud of all us and I break into spontaneous smiling every time I am think about it now or hear from one of them

Please listen to the audio link from "The Story" where Abdi and Hassan tell Dick Gordon and Cori Princell in a live interview at the BBC studios in Kenyaabout the details of his escape .

Listen -- The Story: Abdi flies from Somalia

Now every day he doesn't have to wonder if he will see some awful thing or lose his life. What he has seen is unimaginable.

He has been "given" (and made for himself) the chance to start again.
It is amazing and giddying and overwhelming to be part of a fresh start.
Lord knows that starting again is a great chance and there are thousands of young people all over the world that deserve the opportunity.
But it is not fair. If his life had not been hijacked Abdi would be miles along by now in his path and so would his brother Hassan. they are smart, talented and extraordinary young men.  I know that if my children had to start over again at 25, I wouldn't only be grateful, I would be frustrated too. Being a refugee is actually not a fresh start because you cannot legally work or go to school. It is simply a chance to be safe-- which is not simple and it really matters.  We celebrate this first step in his fresh start but have no illusions that the way forward will be easy. 

Abdi shared a picture he took of his mother on the day he left.  She is one of the heroes of this story.  Her love and courage is breathtaking and an instinctive act of normal motherhood. I am glad to say that yes indeed, he has been able to call her and tell her he is safe.

Abdi and Hassan's mother
I hope when you hear this tale that you will be reminded to leap sometimes.  Don't talk yourself out of doing something kind and maybe a little different.

If you want to learn more about Abdi or Hassan or contribute to their fresh start, all well wishes, seed funds, or connections are welcomed.  Check out additional episodes of their story at APM "the story" in "Messages from Mogadishu"-- messages-from-mogadishu.   It is well worth it.  

Peace and thanks for letting me share this big moment