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LEARN TO CONTROL YOUR DIABETES, BEFORE IT CONTROLS YOU


Late one evening while watching TV with my husband Phil, I reminded him to check his glucose level. His reply was the usual, ‘I’ll do it later.’ Knowing him as I do, I was frustrated. He has the tendency to procrastinate, so I chose a different approach. “Why don’t you check mine and let’s compare.”

Never did I expect my little psychological game to backfire. Pricking my finger, I waited in anticipation. When the meter flashed 468 on the screen, I laughed. “Something’s wrong with your machine. I do not have Diabetes. I do not have any symptoms. I’m fine.”

“You’re always tired,” my husband said.

“Isn’t everyone? If someone else walked in my shoes, they would be tired too.”

While it was true I was always tired, I suffered from insomnia and never felt rested. I worked ten-hour days at work and at home, working as a professional and moonlighting at night pursuing my writing career. My fingers were not numb, I didn’t suffer from increased thirst, and I certainly did not have unexplained weight loss. My mother had Diabetes so it does run in the family. Unexplained weight gain? Could that be a symptom?

The next morning I visited the doctor’s office, confirming the diagnosis of Type II Diabetes. My glucose level at Dr. Knepper’s office was 362. When he opened the door to discuss my condition, I was in tears. How could this happen to me? I ate properly, at least I thought I did. I did not exercise, and fast food was a part of my weekly meals, due to my crazy work schedule. Dr. Knepper reassured me I could recover and he encouraged me to learn all I could about Diabetes.

“I’m a writer,” I said. “I can become an advocate, if needed.”

Soft spoken and kind, Dr. Knepper nodded. “Let’s take it slow for now. We can get this under control. I want you to focus on your food intake, and what you are eating. Watch carbohydrates, increase your water intake and exercise. Check your glucose level at least three times daily and keep a record of it. I want to see you in three months. We’ll do blood work to see what your A1C level is.”

I had a lot to learn about Type II Diabetes. Leaving his office armed with a handful of prescriptions, a meter, booklets, and a fearful look on my face, I chose to learn all I could about Type II Diabetes.

That afternoon, I performed a Google search, typing in the key word of Diabetes. The wealth of information was informative, especially the web site of the American Diabetes Association, http://www.diabetes.org/home.jsp. I was able to click on information about Type II Diabetes, condition and treatment, a listing of resources, and so much more. Recognizing it was time for me to make a lifestyle change; I started building a plan of attack.

My New Years resolution for 2005 was to join a gym and lose weight. After the diagnosis of Diabetes, I was motivated and determined to change my life. I stopped visiting fast food joints for lunch, choosing to eat fresh vegetables and healthy snacks, instead of chocolate, or desserts. After work, I drove to the gym, worked out, and learned more about proper nutrition. I attended a nutrition class with a Diabetes nutritionist, asked lots of questions, and changed my diet, discovering the art of portion control.

Much to my surprise, I learned that sugar was not necessarily the enemy for people with Diabetes. Portion control, monitoring glucose levels, and limiting carbohydrates were the keys to success for Diabetes management.

Checking my glucose levels three times daily encouraged my husband to monitor his levels. He was diagnosed with Diabetes in 1992 and he rarely monitored or practiced portion control. My determination to get my Diabetes under control encouraged him; however, when his levels were higher than mine were, he was defiant.

“I don’t understand. You had the same thing for dinner that I did, and your levels are lower. It’s not fair,” he said, shaking his hands.

“Portion control,” I teased. “You had seconds. I never clean my plate. You go back for seconds, and you always snack late at night.”

“Whatever,” he grumbled.

Our competitive game of Diabetes management was underway and this time, I was the winner!

Three months later, my doctor was amazed how quickly my A1C level had dropped from 8.5 to 5.4. His goal was ‘6.5, but that could take a year,’ he said to me in February 2005. ‘Now, you’re my new poster child for Diabetes.’

Pleased with how quickly my eating and Diabetes management habits changed, I was still a bit annoyed that I was not losing weight. Inches were falling off of me. In three months I dropped two inches from my chest, four inches from my waistline, and two inches from my hips. My weight failed to drop at all.

“It’s hard for a Diabetic to lose weight, especially if you have insulin resistance,” Dr. Knepper said. “Don’t get discouraged. Your A1C level is great. I’m amazed how quickly you got it under control.”

“Insulin resistance,” I moaned. “Is that why my glucose level is so much higher in the morning?”

“Probably. Keep doing what you are doing, and don’t get discouraged. I’ll see you in three months.”

In June 2005 my position at the university ended when the campus relocated. With the closing of that door, I chose to open a window to my writing career. Now I had a bit of freedom to do what I wanted to do. I walked my dogs every day, worked out three to five times a week, and my weight decreased. By August 2006, I had lost a total of 26 pounds, and many inches. A1C levels were averaging 5.9, cholesterol levels were decreased to a healthier level, and I had more energy and self-confidence. Dr. Knepper was amazed and so proud of me. He had no idea how proud I was. Meanwhile, Phil’s A1C levels continued on a dangerous roller coaster ride. His doctors prescribed additional prescriptions and insulin injections. His reluctance to change his eating habits with portion control inspired me to continue monitoring my eating habits and glucose levels. Horrified of needles, I was determined not to join him. Each time he reached for his injection, I left the room.

Controlling Diabetes is now a lifetime commitment for me. My daily routine is a personal allegiance to educate myself and the public about the proper steps to Control Diabetes. My doctor is pleased with how quickly I was able to get my Diabetes under control. As for myself, I am proud of my new willpower. Before Diabetes, I procrastinated about life, my health, and my writing career. I made excuses for everything. Now, as a Diabetic, I want to do all I can to educate others, while educating myself. Diabetes is not a death sentence, but a way of life. A condition that can be monitored and managed through exercise, proper eating habits, portion control, and modern medicine. I plan to live my life as a healthy diabetic. So can you.

Daily Rituals to Monitor Type 2 Diabetes

  1. Seek professional care. Follow your doctor’s advice and learn all that you can about Type 2 Diabetes.
  2. Monitor glucose levels. I check my levels every morning, afternoon and evening.
  3. Exercise. Take daily walks. You will learn to appreciate the little things in life again – like hearing a chirping bird, saying hello to neighbors, and enjoying the freshness of morning air.
  4. Change your eating habits. Instead of going back for seconds, do not. Learn to eat slower, while enjoying the taste of food.
  5. Get regular physicalGulf Shores, AL 2008 082s. I confess, I did not, until Type 2 Diabetes knocked on my door. Now, I follow the advice of my doctor, and myself.
  6. Do not get discouraged if you have difficulty losing weight. Keep active and have a daily exercise routine.
  7. Visit the web site http://www.diabetes.org/home.jsp and learn all that you can about Diabetes. Knowledge is power.
  8. Diabetes is a lifestyle change, not a restriction of distasteful meals and social restraint.
  9. Think of portion control. Working as a professional photojournalist, there are times when my willpower is put to the test, especially during luncheons or special dinners. When dessert is placed before me, I eat one or two bites and leave the rest. Portion control is the key, not a constraint.
  10. Monitor. Your food intake. Your glucose levels, and your weight. Even a small reduction in weight is better than an increase.

Illegal or Legal Immigrants


Dearest Readers:

Immigration. Illegal? Legal? What about the children???

For all of you viewing just a photograph of a child crying — why don’t you read the full story?

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/border-patrol-agent-involved-dramatic-photo-girl-crying-at-border-speaks-out/

The mother was being searched. Both were exhausted. People are assuming the worst. Yes, my heart aches whenever I see a child crying; however, as a writer, I like to read or confirm the “real story.”

I haven’t spoken publicly about this scenario until now. This is the United States of America. Most of us have a history of immigrants; however, Most of them were legal – not illegal. My ancestors came to America from England in the early 1600’s. On my father’s ancestry, we are related to the Spencer family. When my father showed me the documents, I smiled and said “I’m related to Lady Diana? Well, I always knew I was royalty!” My father chuckled! As for the illegal immigrants,  I cannot fathom any mother leaving her children. There is another unrelated story after a father speaks out, saying his wife and one child left to seek a ‘future’ in America. She left her older children. I ask you, how can a mother leave her children? I could not.

As a professional journalist, and a member of SPJ – Society of Professional Journalists, I must follow the SPJ CODE OF ETHICS. I’ve always researched, confirmed and written my stories with information to back what I say. I do not dream up or allow my bylines to practice “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Years ago, while in Los Angeles, my friends and I took a bus tour to Tijuana. I was excited to find some jewelry. I was warned not to speak to the children who would approach us. Well, let’s just say – I have a soft spot for children, and when they approached me with flowers, I smiled, gave them a dollar and told them to keep the flowers. One little boy rushed over to me, after I was out of one dollar bills. When I told him no, he spit — in my face! I mentioned this to the bus driver and he laughed. “I warned you,” he said! When we left, we got the bus driver to give us a brief tour of Tijuana. I was flabbergasted when I saw stacks of cardboard around the area. The cardboard was used to build a cardboard home. I’ve never forgotten those images. I never will. No wonder they want a better life in America. Who can blame them? I wasn’t a professional photographer at the time, so I do not have images to prove what I saw.

My heart breaks for the people so desperate to cross the border illegally. I do not know if most are criminals, drug dealers, etc. I haven’t confirmed those comments many people have stated. If they are ILLEGAL, they are teaching their children one thing – and that is – in America, you can break the law, just to cross the border! I do not believe ALL that is on the Internet. After all, anyone can post fake articles, or stories. Just because you read them or view the images on the Internet does not mean they are true. So, to my fans, I say, let us all be careful. Images can be made into amazing photo-shopped images. Videos can be edited! Remember, “if it bleeds, it leads…” does not mean it is an image to really believe!

How I wish our media would stop being so critical about immigration. This is America! We support LEGAL immigration, not ILLEGAL immigration! DSC_0013My two cents worth on this steaming, scorching day in Charleston, SC.

I will pray for those who are missing their children; however, maybe next time, they need to enter the USA as legal immigrants – NOT Illegal!

Happy Father’s Day


Dearest Readers:

Happy Father’s Day to all of the father’s in the United States of America. Today is a special day, to give thanks and celebrate our fathers. From the moment we were born, most of us had a father. Maybe you have precious memories of your father, and perhaps there are some, like me, who have — shall I say — interesting, sometimes traumatic memories.

As a little girl, I looked up to my father, sometimes squealing for him to scoop me into his arms. However, at five-years-old, I saw a different side of my father, and I must say, he scared me. At the time, we were living in the projects in Atlanta, Georgia. I hated the projects! My mother loved to go outside and gossip with all of the nasty, ugly, snide women who lived in the projects. On one crisp Saturday morning, my mother was outside. Sitting by the curb, legs spread wide open, wearing a dress. I couldn’t understand why my mother always told me to keep my knees together when I sat, wearing a dress, when she didn’t practice what she preached, but I listened and I didn’t dare open my legs wide in a dress. On this morning, Mom was laughing with the women, talking about the neighbors, the fighting and the ugly gossip always shared when wicked women get together.

I was sitting on the back porch playing with my dolly when Daddy opened the back door, screaming for my mama. She ignored his call. I looked at my daddy, seeing an evil look in his eyes. He pointed his finger at me, shaking it furiously he said: “You go get your mother and tell her I want to speak with her.” He paused, and then he screamed at me, “NOW!”

“Yes Sir,” I said, placing my doll on the floor of the porch.

I ran as fast as my little legs could move. “Mama, Daddy wants you. He’s been calling for you.”

She laughed, scratched her inner thigh and looked at me. “Well, girls I guess I better jump and go to him. You all know how these men in the projects get if the little woman doesn’t obey.”

They laughed. As Mama rose, Daddy met her. He shook her shoulders. Words were expressed, but I can’t remember exactly what he said. She laughed, then thrust her arms at him. He pushed her, knocking her down on to the concrete next to the metal trash cans. Mama hit her head on the trash can and when she fell she bruised her knees.

The gossipy, wicked women rushed away.

I struggled to help my mama up. I looked at my daddy, standing tall. Anger seeping from his eyes. I put my hands on his legs and said, “Daddy move away. Mama’s coming. Don’t push her anymore. That was a mean thing to do.”

I suppose one could say, on that day, I became the referee for our family. I was the middle child, but I refused to tolerate abuse and every time I was around, watching my daddy and my mother fight so dreadfully, I remember squeezing into the middle of the fight, placing my arms out to make them move away. I would always say, “Daddy. Mama. Stop this fighting. If you want to beat someone, beat me!”

When I was fifteen, I stopped the final fight. I arrived home from school. Excited to share that I had a lead in a musical! I was so happy and proud of myself on that beautiful Tuesday afternoon. Walking inside the house, I heard shouting and I knew, another round of fights was on. I listened to the shouts, cursing and the horror. I knocked on the door, then I pushed it open. Mama was bending down, gasping for breath. Her face was blue. Daddy stood, watching her, holding a stack of mail.

“You two need to stop this,” I screamed. “Look at her. She’s having difficulty breathing. You need to stop this fighting before one of you kills the other. One of you needs to leave.”

Daddy threw the mail in my direction. “Look at this. Just look at what she did. She bought a diamond ring and didn’t tell me. Now they’re going to garnish my wages. We’ll have to file for bankruptcy. Just look at what she’s done.”

I glanced at one envelope stamped with an orange Past Due notice.

“The fighting needs to stop before one of you goes to prison,” I said.

Little did I know how things would change.

The next day, I walked home from school, trying to work things out in my head. I knew domestic abuse wasn’t healthy in a family situation. I felt helpless. I had no one to talk to. None of my relatives would understand and I was certain if I said anything to anyone, I would become the trouble maker of our family. I remember hearing people saying fighting in a marriage was “normal”… “A Family Matter…”

Opening the door to the house, my mama was sitting on the couch in tears.  She rushed at me. “This is all your fault. I hope you’re happy now. Your daddy left us today. He’s dead. Dead. DEAD. I never want to hear his name again in this house and you are never allowed to talk to him, or mention his name again!”

The following Saturday, Mama moved us to Columbus, Georgia. Four children. One adult, living in a two bedroom mill village with our grandparents. To say we were crowded for space is an understatement.

I had to follow the rules:

Church on Sunday.

Wednesday night prayer meetings at church

No makeup (I broke that rule)

No rock n’ roll music, only Christian music

Go to school

Nothing more.

I hated this new life and rebelled. No, I never did drugs. Never tried alcohol. I rebelled by staying alone, taking walks, retreating to the Chattahoochee River. At school, I became a wallflower, refusing to try out for plays, musicals, or anything interesting. I wrote to my dad, letting him know I loved him.

Never do I really remember celebrating Father’s Day for my dad as a child. As a grown up, married with a child of my own, I chose to make Father’s Day special. I bought cards for my dad. When he visited us, he was different. I actually heard him laugh, and I watched him playing with my son. Gone from his demeanor was the anger, hatred, and abuse. Never did I hear my dad say anything ugly about our mother after their divorce. He was truly a changed man. No violence. No shouting. Just a kind, and loving man filled with Laughter and Happiness within himself.

In December, 1997, my beloved father became ill with esophageal cancer. Serving as his caregiver until his death on July 6, 1999, I truly saw a beautiful person within his demeanor. On one occasion, he thanked me for what I said on the last day before my parents separated. He admired my strength to serve as the referee. To my knowledge, no one within our family circle knew about the domestic “family matters” of our family.

As a writer, I’ve written many articles about domestic abuse. How it changes a family. How it paints a vivid, horrifying picture about marriage and I vowed to myself that no one would ever abuse me. I suppose I overlooked another side of domestic abuse – the verbal abuse, and for years, my husband who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] from Vietnam, would get into rages, shouting at me. Once, he shoved me and when he did, I fought back, standing firm to him, letting him know he had to stop his rage, or I would end the marriage.

I’m proud to say, we worked those issues out, and now, we do not scream, shout or verbally fight. Our home is a happy home. Father’s Day is always special. I give thanks to God for guiding me and giving me strength.

And so, on Father’s Day, 2018, I give thanks to God for all He has given me and my family. It is my wish for all of you reading this, to please take a moment to give your father a bit of special care and love on this Father’s Day. How I wish I could share Father’s Day with my father, and maybe I can. He is still tucked safely within my heart.

Happy Father’s Day to my husband, and all who are fathers!

 

 

Remembering “Mama”


Perhaps this essay will be another chapter in “CHATTAHOOCHEE CHILD.” [My latest work-in-progress]:

Mama wore her best house dresses when she was in a good mood, which wasn’t often enough. Those days, it felt as if the sunshine from the window kissed the living room with colors of the rainbow, at least for me. 

Mama would smile at me and say, “Honey, can you curl my hair?”

After I shampooed her hair, I curled it with jumbo rollers. My fingers shook as I rolled her hair. If the curl was too tight, she’d get a headache.  She screamed in pain while her hands slapped my face. If it was too loose, the curl would flop and she’d remind me I had no talent to style hair, or do anything right. Her actions spoke volumes about her lack of love for me.

Sometimes, she smiled into the mirror, nodding with delight when finished. During those special moments with her, I took the time to make my Mama up with makeup. Her skin was olive, as smooth as a baby’s behind. No wrinkles or age spots. When I lined her eyes with black velvet eyeliner, she could equal the beauty of Cleopatra or Elizabeth Taylor. I never understood why Mama failed to make skin care and make up part of her daily routine. 

Mama never believed in routines. She lived her life only for the moment and the next handout from someone else. 

“It don’t matter to me or to your daddy if I fix myself up,” she said. “He don’t care about me. Why should I?”

Never did Mama hug or kiss me with her acceptance. I dare not ask if she liked her hair or makeup. I knew better. The sting of her palm on my face told me when I was not meeting her approval. I prayed she wouldn’t notice my anxiety, or my trembling hands. When I asked how she wanted her hair styled this time, she looked in the mirror, scratched her head, pulling the gray strands out. 

“Stupid girl, you should know how I like my hair styled! Cover the gray roots,” she said. “Tease it high. Don’t let nobody see how gray I’m getting. I don’t care how it looks, as long as the gray roots ain’t showing.”

She refused to get her hair colored, afraid the chemicals would do something to her brain. She said, “Cancer runs in our family. We can’t take a chance to get that disease ‘cause it kills. My great grandmother had head cancer. She had such bad headaches her mind was gone. Don’t you put no chemicals in my hair.  I don’t want my brain, or my head fried with cancer. You listen to me, Rebecca Sue. Don’t let nothing fry my head.”

May, 2002 was the last Mother’s Day I shared with my mother. Reportedly, she suffered a fall at Savannah’s apartment in early April. Savannah shouted at her, shoving her down the stairs. She was in a hurry, and she was tired of taking care of her ‘old lady,’ so she chose to leave our mother suffering on the floor. That afternoon a home health nurse came to check on our mother, discovering her lying face down, her clothing soiled from body fluids and feces. Her face was pulled down to the left side, left lip bruised and battered. When she struggled to move, she could not. The nurse documented her condition, diagnosing a possible stroke.

The home health nurse phoned me. “I suspect your mother has suffered a stroke. She’s at E-R now.”

“I’ll make arrangements and leave later this afternoon. It will take at least eight hours before I can be there,” I said. “Where’s Savannah?”

The nurse hesitated, suggesting I should speak to the doctor on call when I arrived.

I knew something was questionable. This was not the first time my mother had injuries while under Savannah’s care.

On Mother’s Day, Mom was still in the hospital. On that morning, I arrived early, placing a pale blue gift bag on her bed. Her eyes opened. She glanced at the bag, struggling to speak.

“B-Blue skies,” she muttered. Her right arm moved to touch the bag. I reached inside the bag, removing a blue gift box. I opened the box slowly. Mom’s eyes blinked as she struggled to smile, admiring the cultured pearl earrings inside the box.

A few minutes later, I placed the pierced earrings in her ears. Mom sighed, touching the right ear with her right hand. She slurred ‘thank you’ and fell back to sleep.

I stayed with my mother all of that Mother’s Day, feeding her and making her comfortable. That Mother’s Day was the last Mother’s Day we shared.

On September 11, 2002, my mother died under ‘questionable circumstances.’ Savannah spent that night with her at the hospital. When Savannah phoned me in the late evening of September 12, she appeared intoxicated. Her last slurring words to me were, “Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?”

Two years after her death Garrett and I drove to Columbus. We dropped by the cemetery to see my mother’s grave. The years of mental and physical abuse from my mother were buried with her. I placed a bouquet of red roses on her headstone, kissed it and whispered, “I know we were never close, but I hope you’ve found peace now. May you rest in peace, Mom. I loved you.”

Thinking about my childhood, the physical and mental abuse, I found it strange that Savannah was repeating the vicious cycle of physical abuse while I found peace, refusing to allow violence or abuse of any kind within my family.

On Mother’s Day, 2015 I reflect on my mother, our estranged history together and the questionable circumstances of her death. Savannah buried her in a closed casket. Due to another bout of acute bronchial asthma, I was unable to get to the funeral. Perhaps there was a reason for an autopsy to be performed, but now, my mother rests in peace. I hope and pray she died peacefully. Mother’s Day is always a day of reflection, sadness and curiosity and I pray that all mothers will have a wonderful day enjoying motherhood.

Another Saga About Weight Watchers


Dearest Readers:

Last week, I stayed away from my Weight Watchers meeting, all to the credit of the nightmare of traffic congestion Mt. Pleasant, and Charleston, SC is enduring due to the West bound side of I-526 being closed. The bridge is a bit unsafe now, so after finding one of the problems and planning to “temporarily fix” the problem, a nightmare of traffic is tolerated by everyone – including tourists! One can only imagine what will happen with traffic when Spoleto debuts this weekend. Also, tourists will be coming to Charleston and the beaches. Hey people. Guess what! We only have two bridges to cross to get from Charleston to Mt. Pleasant and Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island. Be certain you do a restroom break before you leave! There are no restrooms on the bridges!

Today, I decided to return to Weight Watchers after binging all weekend and this week. I baked a cake on Sunday. Big mistake! It was a butter nut cake with cream cheese frosting. The recipe called for four cups of sugar. I cut it back to one and one/half cups. Believe me when I say, this cake was incredibly sweet. Good thing I cut back the sugar contents.

I wasn’t certain if I wanted to return to Weight Watchers this week. I was skeptical about the traffic. Much to my surprise, the traffic moved well. Arriving at Weight Watchers, I let them know I could be counted, but I was not weighing. Cake does make one gain weight. Yesterday afternoon, I tossed the cake from Sunday into the trash! Proud of myself for doing that, but still discouraged that I allowed myself to binge, I chose honesty as the best policy. Yes, I knew I was binging, and I had to really dig deep to understand why.

I’ve had many issues lately. A class reunion where I felt as if I didn’t belong. Have no idea why, with exception, I permitted old memories of my life as a teenager to creep into my soul once again. Prior to leaving for the reunion, we discovered a leak within our house – just where the leak was, we didn’t know, so our water bill has escalated from an affordable $55-$65.00 monthly to an outrageous $165.00 for April, and May’s bill increased to $265.00 monthly. I haven’t a clue what June’s bill will be! So much for a monthly budget!

After spending over $500 this month to find the leak, I’ve been so worried about my monthly household budget that I chose to stuff my face — with cake!

Now, I’m pleased to say, after a serious conversation with myself, and sharing my binge eating today at Weight Watchers, I’ve decided to get back on the horse and ride. This time — NO BINGING!

I am tracking what I eat and I’m practicing healthy eating. Freestyle. Next week, there will be a weight loss, or a ‘maintaining’ – not a weight gain. And now, my friends, I must get back on the treadmill and my ab machine to get back in the game. I must remind myself: “It’s when things seem worse — YOU mustn’t quit!

Weight Watchers works. Especially Freestyle!

I’ll share more next week, after the meeting. Bon Appetitt!

 

Charleston, South Carolina and the Buick Enclave Graceful but Stately, the Enclave and Charleston Are a Class Act


 

IMG_5327.JPGDearest Readers:

Below, is a story I wrote for Buick Magazine in 2009. Discussing the beautiful, luxurious Buick Enclave, I wanted to share it. Hope you enjoy!

 

 

Embraced along the southeast coast of the Atlantic Ocean lies a historical, romantic city with a European flair and zest for style. Charleston, South Carolina has some of the oldest architecture in the United States, surviving the Civil War, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Charleston is a striking city filled with Southern hospitality, arts, culture, festivals, architecture, gourmet cuisine, and the luxury of the finer things in life.

The ambience of Charleston and the features, design and style of the Buick Enclave have much in common. Driving along East Bay Street in the luxurious Buick Enclave, this amazing vehicle is designed for anyone who enjoys comfort, luxury, and sophistication. Like the City of Charleston, the Buick Enclave has a classic design. The rich, comfortable interior of the leather seats adjust easily to a contented position with lumbar support. The dash is reminiscent of a jet with lapis blue gauges, and everything is placed conveniently within easy reach of the driver.

Graceful but stately, elegant and charming, like the City of Charleston, the Enclave and the city are in a class by themselves. Cruising along the bumpy roads of historical downtown Charleston, the ride is smooth, noise level virtually non-existent. The Buick Enclave is magical. The well-designed stature of the Enclave appears to drive itself. The Enclave has a turning ratio that allows ease in maneuvering the vehicle along the tight parking places and garages of the city. Buick Enclave is the car for dreamers, Generation X, the younger generation of today, baby boomers and the young-at-heart. Designed as a ‘crossover’ this sleek, sweet machine hugs the road, embracing the streets of Charleston, making driving a comfortable experience, not a chore or something to dread. Passengers riding in the car enjoy first-class seating, with Smart Slide second-row seats and cargo carrying convenience.

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Considered One of America’s Favorite Cities

Charleston is one of America’s favorite cities to visit and many residents have stated they moved here because they fell in love with the beauty, charm, and hospitality during honeymoons, reunions, and family vacations. Charleston offers an amazing selection of restaurants, museums, accommodations, shopping, festivals, entertainment, and lowcountry culture for all to enjoy and appreciate. Shag is the preferred dance at all festivals, and locals are happy to teach this easy beach dance to everyone.

Spoleto Festival 2009 is scheduled for May 22-June 7 featuring a variety of arts, music, and culture for all to enjoy. Considered one of the world’s major festivals, Spoleto began in 1977 and has become a tradition to Charleston and the world.

Described by many as “Little London,” the Holy City of Charleston contains an amazing assortment of architecture reminiscent of Europe. The church steeples of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church and St. Phillips Episcopal Church are landmarks that decorate the skyline, giving Charleston the well deserved term of endearment as the Holy City. In downtown Charleston, the architecture of Rainbow Row consists of 18th century Georgetown architecture with brick and stucco painted in a rainbow of pastels.

An impressive tribute for the Holy City is the recognition of Charleston as the number two top destination in America. The charming city has achieved this honor for sixteen years from readers of Condê Nast Traveler magazine. Seven percent of the top 100 hotels are in Charleston, including Charleston Place Hotel, Wentworth Mansion, Market Place Pavilion Hotel, John Rutledge House Inn, the French Quarter Inn, and Planters Inn.

Charleston is a City with a Cosmopolitan Sophistication for Gourmet Cuisine

While touring downtown Charleston, deciding where to stop for lunch or dinner might be a challenge. Charleston provides a cornucopia of restaurants to choose from, with a variety of seafood, specialties, fresh vegetables, sushi, and Lowcountry cuisine. While in Charleston, you must try She Crab Soup. Consisting of a crossover of bisque or chowder, She Crab soup was created in Charleston by William Deas, a Charleston slave and butler. She Crab Soup is such a popular dish that many restaurants offer it as the soup de jour. Locals prefer just a drop of sherry added when serving this Charleston lowcountry soup.

 Hominy Grill

Hominy Grill, located at 207 Rutledge Avenue, opened in 1996, serving lowcountry dishes that keep Charlestonians coming back for more. The atmosphere is simple, a three story building that was a barbershop, the ground floor of Hominy Grill has butcher paper covering the tables. Southern in cuisine and charisma, a local favorite is the shrimp and grits; and who can resist Chef Robert Stehling’s signature dessert, buttermilk pie. Enjoy dining on the outdoor patio and take your camera to capture artwork by local artist David Boatwright. His painting of the Grits Lady has become a popular site.

Charleston is the Place for Ultimate Desserts

Looking for a great place for dessert in downtown Charleston? Among the favorites of locals in Charleston are Kaminsky’s at 78 North Market Street and Peninsula Grill, 112 North Market Street. Kaminsky’s is rustic in charm, Southern in delicious desserts. Kaminsky’s prepares desserts fresh every day. The menu has specialty coffees and a variety of dessert martinis, including chocolate martinis. Order the local favorite, “Kamini’s,” a delicate sampling of homemade flavors, or order the carrot cake. If these just desserts do not tempt your taste buds, try the cheesecake. After shopping at the Market or on King Street, stop by Kaminsky’s to enjoy coffee and dessert while you watch the horse drawn carriages and pedestrians stroll along the popular Market area.

Peninsula Grill and the Ultimate Coconut Cake

Imagine a dream dessert of coconut cake complete with twelve layers of pure indulgence. Peninsula Grill’s specialty dessert the Ultimate Coconut Cake has been described as a ‘little piece of heaven,’ by the New York Times. Chef Robert Carter has made a name for himself and Peninsula Grill with his signature dish. Covered with coconut and vanilla, the Ultimate Coconut Cake has received accolades in several magazines. The cake consists of pound cake, laced with toasted coconut. The recipe for this award winning masterpiece dessert is one handed down from Executive Chef Robert Carter’s grandmother. Recognizing the cake was “one of the best layer cakes he ever tasted,” he refined the recipe, introduced it to the Peninsula Grill, and in 2003, offered it via Federal Express overnight delivery.

Charleston Place Hotel and Charleston Grill

Charleston Place Hotel is located in the heart of historic Charleston at 205 Meeting Street, within walking distance of Market and King Street shopping, art galleries and restaurants. Charleston Place was ranked one of the “Top 10 Hotels in North America.” Charleston Place has the architectural style of a 17th-century residence and the conveniences of modern life. The Italian marble lobby has a signature Georgian Open Arm staircase and a 12-foot crystal chandelier as the focal point.

Located in Charleston Place is Charleston Grill, recipient of many accolades including Mobil Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond and Distinguished Restaurants of North America. Chef Bob Waggoner joined the Charleston Grill in 1997. Nominated by the James Beard Foundation for Best Chef in the Southeast, he received an Emmy for his show, “Off the Menu.” His professional expertise and passion for food have contributed much to the success of Charleston Grill.

The Buick Enclave and Charleston Stand Out

Cruising in downtown Charleston, the Buick Enclave has sleek designs similar to the solid architectural design of Charleston. Architecture around the town is classic Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Italian, and Victorian. Gardens and courtyards compliment the stately homes South of Broad, the Battery and Rainbow Row. Driving the Enclave along Church and Meeting Street reveals the Colonial era. Many of the wrought iron gates in the city were designed by Philip Simmons, the ‘Charleston Gatekeeper,’ a world-renowned blacksmith and a Charlestonian.

A daytime excursion in the quiet tuned cabin of the Buick Enclave should include a visit to America’s first museum, the Charleston Museum. Located at 360 Meeting Street, the museum preserves the history and culture of Charleston.

Plan a day excursion to downtown Charleston in the Buick Enclave and visit the Aquarium, or take a ride to Fort Sumter. The South Carolina Aquarium is located at 100 Aquarium Wharf on the Charleston Harbor and a great place to learn about sharks, river otters, and the Sea Turtle Rescue Program. The Aquarium is a perfect site to take photographs of the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge and Patriots Point. The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge towers above the Charleston skyline with a pedestrian and bicycle lane. Additional daytime excursions could include a visit to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Charlestowne Landing, Middleton Place, Boone Hall, Irvin House Vineyards, the Charleston Tea Plantation and so much more.

Like Charleston, the Buick Enclave stands up to the challenge of a luxurious crossover. Delivering a ride that is poised and polished, it exemplifies an elegant, classic car. The Buick Enclave is one sweet automobile to drive. It could easily become a new form of hospitality for Charleston, the new breed of Southern Belles and everyone who appreciates the finer things in life.

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Barbie Perkins-Cooper is a freelance writer who loves the journey and exploration of travel and health. She works full-time as an editorial photojournalist and has published numerous articles and photographs for regional, health and beauty and travel publications including the Travel Channel. Barbie resides in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, Phil and three precious pups. She is the author of Condition of Limbo and Career Diary of a Photographer. Visit her website www.barbieperkinscooper.com

IF YOU GO:

Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, http://www.charlestoncvb.com/

Charleston Grill, http://www.charlestongrill.com

Charleston Museum, http://www.charlestonmuseum.org

Charleston Place Hotel, http://www.charlestonplace.com

Charlestowne Landing, http://www.charlestowne.org/

French Quarter Inn, http://www.fqicharleston.com/

Hominy Grill, http://hominygrill.com

John Rutledge House Inn, http://www.johnrutledgehouseinn.com/

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, http://www.magnoliaplantation.com/

Market Pavilion Hotel, http://www.marketpavilion.com/

Peninsula Grill, http://www.peninsulagrill.com or http://www.coconutcakes.com

Planters Inn, http://www.plantersinn.com/

South Carolina Aquarium, http://www.scaquarium.org/

Spoleto Festival USA, http://www.spoletousa.org

cropped-arthur-ravenel-bridgeWentworth Mansion, http://www.wentworthmansion.com/

PARENT TO PARENT…CARE GIVING IN AMERICA


IMG_0620_editedHolidays of 1997

During the holidays of 1997, my life was extremely busy until a shocking reality forced me to readjust my schedule, to make time for a new, unsuspecting emergency when my father needed me the most, during his illness.  I was stepping into a new chapter of my life, green and naive of the responsibilities I would endure.  The roles of life were reversing, and before the Christmas holidays of 1997 ended, I learned about new duties while serving as the primary caregiver to my beloved, headstrong, and courageous father, Walter W. Perkins.
On December 9, I sat alone at the hospital waiting for the results of an endoscopy, feeling confident my dad would be okay.  I flipped the pages of a magazine while waiting for the test results.  When his doctor approached, I realized from his body language and the look in his eyes he did not have good news to report.  When he whispered esophageal cancer, I screamed. Standing in the corridor of Roper Hospital, my entire body shook. This cannot be true. It must be a mistake. My dad is a tower of strength. Nothing gets him down. Nothing!
Later, I regained my composure, while the hurtful words of cancer echoed in my head.  How could this be?  I pondered the diagnosis.  Dad would need chemotherapy and radiation.  I did not know if he would agree to the treatments, realizing that if he found the courage to fight such a dreadful cancer, he would become dreadfully sick.  According to the doctors, chemotherapy could help, or because it was so toxic and potent, it could kill him.
The prognosis was not a positive forecast.  The oncologist estimated that he could live possibly six months; nevertheless, he was not able to retain food now and was malnourished.  He needed a feeding tube, to pump nutrition into his stomach.  If he did not respond and maintain food soon, he would probably be dead within two weeks from malnourishment.

My heart palpitated as I realized my role model, mentor and advisor of life was terminally ill with a dreadful disease, and I was helpless to stop it.  My father was my guiding light of life, always strong and healthy.  Now, he would fight the battle of his life, and I did not doubt that I would be by his side for the duration of his illness.  Our roles in life were reversing, only this time, I would become the caregiver to my devoted, charming, and loving 82-year old father.

I was not sure I was ready for this challenge, but I knew I would not allow him to fight the disease without me.  Although I failed to understand the correct definition of a primary caregiver, I would learn, and change my lifestyle schedule to be by his side.  Realizing the nightmarish roller coaster ride I was on was a wake-up call I hope never to experience again.

I was a proud, energetic, fulfilled woman of the baby boomer generation, the generation designated to babies born during the years of 1946-1964.  I was involved in a demanding career, relieved that my son was grown and living on his own, planning to get married soon.  Now, it was time for me to do what I wanted to do until I realized my father would need me now, more than he needed anyone in his lifetime.  I was the parent to my parent.

LIFE WAS SPINNING, OUT OF CONTROL
I accepted the challenge, never understanding how the cycles of life were spinning uncontrollably while I slowly stepped into the dreadful middle age years, stepping into a new chapter of my life as a caregiver.
Americans of the baby boomer generation are aging.  Approximately one of four American households are involved in some form of caregiving.  The number of primary care providers is diminishing because many family members live far away or cannot become involved. They work. They have careers. Demands. No time is left for cancer and caregiving.  Where does this leave the elderly?  Who will feed them, dress them, and provide for their needs and companionship?  Who will see that their medical, financial, and personal needs are met?

In America, hospital and long-term care is skyrocketing.  Medicare will not cover the needs sufficiently.  Only a small amount of American families can afford private nursing home care or long-term medical care.  Approximately 36% of primary caregivers are over the age of 65.  As the baby boomers reach senior citizen status, the elderly population is projected to increase significantly and will require physical, emotional, assisted living and special needs.  Although the majority of caregivers are usually women, many of these women must juggle a full-time job and children still living at home, while managing the care of an elderly parent.  These demands can lead to physical ailments, including depression or burn out.
I was under the impression that Medicare would take care of the medical needs of my father, along with the elderly.  I was sadly mistaken.  Medicare would not pay for his prescriptions unless he was hospitalized; and if he needed long-term care, Medicare would only cover twenty days.  Fighting for his life, Dad worried about the bills, along with how he would afford the expense of cancer.  He was encouraged to file for Medicaid.
While the toxic brown bag of chemotherapy dripped into my father’s thinning veins, I realized I had to take charge of his life, at least for now.  Although I did not feel emotionally strong enough to endure the horrors of filing for Medicaid, I knew I had to become his voice, his nurse, and advocate.

I made an appointment to file for Medicaid. The process to file is a three-hour process where the social worker asks questions dating back to my paternal grandparents and great-grandparents. Since my parents were divorced, I had to find the divorce papers and other documents proving that my father was not a wealthy man.

 

LIFE WAS SPINNING LIKE A WHIRLPOOL
I adjusted my schedule, missing weeks of work, along with months of sleep.  When I visited him, I smiled while struggling to camouflage my emotions.  Dad was so weak and nauseated from the chemotherapy, he failed to notice, and I was thankful.  I wore myself out physically, almost to the point of exhaustion.  My emotional life was spinning out of control, trapped in a whirlpool I could not escape.

Returning to work after a nine-day absence, I had a meeting. During the meeting, I fell asleep, so exhausted I could not find the strength to work. I prayed for God to give me strength to survive.

To my surprise, I found an inner strength within myself, focusing on my father’s medical, financial, and physical needs.  We developed a closer relationship, and although we never discussed how it felt for him to suffer a terminal disease, I still remember his poignant words to me during one hospital visit.  He reached for my hand, whispering, he said, “You know, Barbara, cancer is not contagious.”
Tears filled my eyes as I turned my head away so he could not see me crying.  “I know, Dad.”  I kissed him on the lips, telling him I loved him.  I was proud to be his caregiver, and I was thankful he had confidence in me.

Emotions were pouring out of me so I rushed to the arboretum at Roper Hospital. Opening the door, I discovered no one was around. I sat down, wiping the gushing ocean of tears from my face. I rushed to the balcony. Opening the doorway, I closed it and started screaming. At first, just a whimper of screams. Listening to the traffic along Calhoun Street, I realized no one could hear me, so I let the fears, tears, and heartache of Dad’s illness escape. Afterwards, I realized I felt better.

PRIMARY CAREGIVER SUGGESTIONS
If you serve as a primary caregiver, be good to yourself.  Find time to be alone, while juggling the demands of caregiving, even if it means you must close the door for a bit of privacy for only a few minutes.  Make the most of your days, especially while caring for your loved one.  Take charge of your life.  Do not feed the doubts, or listen to the negative aspects of your new lifestyle change.  Repeat to yourself that you are taking life one day at a time, and make the most of every day, even if it is a dark and dreary day.  Be thankful for your blessings and the days that you and your loved are sharing.
Learn to speak up and fight for your rights, and the rights of the terminally ill, or elderly person you are caring for.  Watch for signs of depression, in yourself and your loved one.  Some of the symptoms of depression include: inability to sleep, inability to concentrate, and a mind that constantly races, especially at night, sometimes referred to as circular thinking, lack of appetite, irrational behavior, crying, or irritability.  I was in denial of my emotions, unable to see the warning signs.

DYING WITH DIGNITY
While serving as a primary caregiver, encourage your loved one to be strong, to fight for life, and to be courageous.  Let the person you care for make some of the decisions.  Most of all, open your heart, your mind, and share your love.  Never leave your loved one without a touch of affection and the simple words I love you, because you may not have tomorrow to express those affections.  Discover the rights of the elderly.  And when the time comes, allow your loved one to die with dignity, if that is his or her wish.
Search on the Internet for caregiving issues, publications, and become an advocate about elderly care.  I found numerous websites, and I read them passionately late at night, when I could not sleep.  Stand up for your rights, trust your instincts, and support your loved one’s wishes.  Make the most of every day, without making excuses for mistakes you make, appointments you must cancel, or demands you can no longer meet.  Become familiar with the Family Medical Leave Act, and do not allow others, especially co-workers or a boss, to intimidate you.

After I missed so many days of work, my boss met with me, wanting to know why I wasn’t dedicating myself to work anymore. Suddenly it seemed I was not efficient at my job and I appeared not to be dedicated to working so many hours, including weekends. I cannot give my all right now, I said. My priorities are my family, not my job.

One month later, I resigned, taking another job with ‘flexible’ hours and compassion for my situation.
Walter W. Perkins died on July 6, 1999, and although I am no longer a caregiver, I still consider myself an advocate for elderly care, especially where the rights of residents of nursing homes are concerned.

During the many nights I failed to sleep, I wrote CONDITION OF LIMBO,” a memoir based on the stressful experience of serving as a caregiver, and the lack of assistance for terminal illnesses. Published in 2001, the book discusses many of the issues my father and I experienced while he desired to die with dignity.

NO ISN’T AN OPTION

During Dad’s illness, I never took no for an answer, and I learned everything I could about Medicare, Medicaid and the rights of the elderly.  I wanted to be the voice my father could not be because he was so gravely ill and frail.  I have no regrets, and I am proud to say my father was my top priority in life, during his illness, and residency in a nursing home.  Although he died while I was walking into his room for my daily visit, I know that he knew I loved him, and I was devoted to him.  He was my life, and now he is my shining star.  A few days before he died, he reminded me to make the most of every day of my life, and I still strive to live life to its fullest, remembering his wisdom, his love, along with the passions he held for others.

LIFE AS A CAREGIVER

You, as a caregiver, or a baby boomer, could be the next family member to walk into a nursing home or a hospital, while your loved one is dying.  Live for the moment, hoping to see the sunrise and sunset of a new tomorrow.  Never forget to share your love and special times with the terminally ill or elderly.

After the death of my father, I fell apart.  As I dug my way out of the darkness of despair, I realized I was lost in a world of depression, unable to confront my emotional well being.  It was my darkest moment.  I managed to join a grief therapy session, while I learned to accept his death.

WAKE-UP CALL

Watching my father battle the debilitating disease of esophageal cancer, as he struggled to maintain his dignity, gave me a wake-up call I will never forget.  Now, I make the time to search for flowers, rainbows, birds and butterflies  and I enjoy the little things in life while enjoying life’s effervescent sunrises and sunsets.

PROUD TO SERVE

Be proud to be a caregiver, while serving as a parent to your parent, and never look back!  Life is too short to be trapped into a spider web of despair and regrets.  We must remember to make the best out of a problematic situation, feeding the decisive moments, while forgetting the negative and hopeless feelings we as caregivers experience.  We must educate ourselves about caregiving.  We must trust our instincts, and know that what we are doing is not a sacrifice, but an act of unconditional love while we learn to adjust and place our needs aside.  We are sharing and teaching, and growing into the citizens and family members that we need and desire to be.  We must stand up, not only for our rights but also for the rights of those who we love during their hour of need.  With the support of our families, friends and other caregivers, we are building memories to cherish for the rest of our lives.
May God bless caregivers, the family members, and loved ones we care for; and may we as caregivers continue to find ways to improve the lives of the ones we love and want to remember — one day at a time!

 

https://www.amazon.com/Condition-Limbo-Barbie-Perkins-Cooper/dp/1588511774