Saturday, February 25, 2012

“Hydrogen Peroxide and Vaseline”

         About four or five years ago, my mother had a growth on her nose. At first, we just thought it was a pimple and hoped it would go away. It changed very slowly at first. Then in a week it almost doubled in size. I scheduled an appointment with Mom’s internist. He took one look at the spot and said, “Basal cell carcinoma.” He feared it had grown too large, taking up part of her left nostril, so he referred us to a plastic surgeon for removal and fixing the hole it would leave.
         We arrived a couple of days later at a plastic surgeon’s office. She took one look at Mom’s nose and said, “I don’t remove these. I just fix the hole that’s left after they’re removed. You need to go to a dermatologist to have it taken off.” She didn’t abandon us, though. She requested that her receptionist schedule an appointment with a group of doctors with whom she often worked, making certain we saw someone later in the day. Mom and I treated ourselves to lunch and headed over to the dermatologists.
         Basal cell carcinoma hits people with blue or green eyes, fair skin, and blonde or red hair. Mom fit the description 100%. She’d also spent years sunbathing without sunscreen. During her teen years, the common practice for tanning was to slather baby oil all over your skin. Mom explained that she didn’t intentionally sunbathe often because she always burned. As a matter of fact, if she stepped onto a beach it seemed like she burned! I remember her nose often being pink from sun exposure when she came in after hanging the clothes.
         Anyway, the dermatologist sliced off the growth for a biopsy, telling us we’d have results in about a week. He was pretty certain he did not get all of the cancer cells, warning that Mom would need another procedure called Mohs surgery. Sure enough, we received notification within a week to schedule another appointment.
         A different dermatologist with the group specialized in this procedure. His laidback attitude relaxed both of us, and he insisted that I could sit and watch him work. Layer by layer, he went deeper into the nostril until the cells came out cancer free. It left a pretty large whole in Mom’s nose, but he simply “stole” some skin from her temple and quickly fashioned a patch. A few stitches later, and she looked almost as good as new.
         The main instructions for her recovery proved simple. Keep a bandage on the spot for three or four days, clean the area with hydrogen peroxide every day and slather Vaseline on the wound to prevent scarring. Of course, it worked beautifully.
         Since that first Basal cell carcinoma removal, we’ve had to go back on two other occasions to have growths removed from Mom’s nose. Her hands and arms get zapped with cryotherapy, freezing off suspicious areas. The other day, the doctor removed another spot on Mom’s nose (the opposite nostril), handed me the Band-Aids and reminded me to get out the hydrogen peroxide and Vaseline. We know the drill.
         Once I got home, I started thinking of how quickly my mother will heal with the simple “clean and slather” combination. Then I started wondering if it would help Bridget’s hot spots. They still plague her after weeks of cone wearing. I’ve tried Benedryl spray and ointment, Neosporin, too. I went to Polly’s Pet Shop and purchased ointments guaranteed to help, but her spots still linger. So on Thursday I started cleaning her skin irritations with hydrogen peroxide and protecting them with a thick layer of Vaseline. Within twenty-four hours, they looked better!
         Again, it turns out that sometimes the simplest proves to be the best. Two household items we always keep in our medicine cabinet, applied daily, will heal both man and beast.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, February 24, 2012

“Adventures with the Dentist”

         A few weeks ago I began sensing a difference in one of my molars. This tooth, crowned years ago, had never offered a twinge of complaint. Suddenly, I became aware of the tooth. Just a consciousness of its presence in my mouth. I don’t cringe with hot or cold foods. Searing pain doesn’t shoot through my mouth and jaw into my ear. I simply have this sensation that something is amiss. Over the weekend, discomfort entered into the picture. Not pain. Just a low level throb that came and went. Fearing that this throb is a precursor for excruciating pain, I scheduled an appointment with the dentist who had treated the tooth all those eons ago. A quick x-ray and a little more poking and prodding made her refer me to an endodontist.
         This morning, I endured more x-rays. I learned more about the roots of my teeth, the possibility of saving my crown (and money) and the promise of less discomfort down the road. Begging for the first available appointment since my sister’s here for a week, I hit my first disappointment—nothing open on his schedule until the first week of March. On that visit, the endodontist will drill into the tooth through the crown and check to see if the crown is letting bacteria into the tooth. He’ll pack the molar with antibiotics that will “cook” for a week to ten days. At that point, he’ll continue with the root canal and let me know if my crown can stay in place.
         I respect the medical and dental professionals, but I really don’t understand the high costs for their services. I know that this man will try his best to heal my tooth. But a part of me keeps zooming back on the expense of this procedure. I wonder if it’s worth the money, but feel like I have no choice in the matter. It’s like getting the brakes fixed on your car. A terrible expense that cannot be avoided.  

 Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"The Corner of My Eye"

"Star of Wisdom" by David Chapman

Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpse a laughing ghost   
she morphs into my fancies     
as she alters my reality     
I sigh her name and capture her hand—     
but she vanishes into the mist of who I was     
so I release her when she smiles     
recognizing myself reflected in her twinkling eyes
"Dragon" by David Chapman

Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpse a noble dragon     
she sparkles with childhood jewels     
as she flies into view     
I reach out to touch her, to skip my fingers across her scales     
but she slips out of reach    
as she beckons me to follow her flight     
back to simple pleasures     

"Fairy Flute" by David Chapman

Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpse a dancing fairy     
she glimmers with tomorrow’s blessings     
as she throws a kiss my way     
I long to turn my head and follow her as I boogie along     
but she’ll vanish from sight     
so I let her tease me and entrance me all day     
listening for her breath and the whisper of her wings     

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


she offers him unlimited love—no strings attached     
she has no hidden agenda     
she’s guileless as she wades into the water     
unaware of currents that will toss her aside or pull her under     
instinctively, she fights against the undertow     
taps into her endless energy as she swims toward the farthest shore     
drawing him with her in her wake     
offering him firmer footing on the opposite bank     

Resourceful and resolute     
she opens her heart to him—believes in him     
she focuses on their life together     
she’s na├»ve as they begin to build a bridge     
believing they’ll be met half way, linking and reconnecting     
but flash flooding upstream destroys their efforts     
ripping away the incomplete structure, tearing away their progress     
sapping her strength and snapping his ties     
they cling together on the distant shore     

Unwavering and understanding     
she stands with him—unites her life with his     
she trusts his constancy     
she’s accepting of his assurances of calmer water ahead     
hope persuades her to test the river again     
but rapids downstream leave her cut and bruised     
cultivating a cynical disbelief in ever reaching the other side     
withdrawing protectively back to the river’s edge, she stands     
turning her back to the other shore forever     

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

“Doing Dishes”

         When we first moved to San Antonio in the 1960s, the biggest draw of excitement for the new house came from the dishwasher. The luxury of simply rinsing the dishes, pots and pans and then placing them into a machine that washed them seemed decadent to us. I don’t remember anyone complaining about doing the dishes during those first years that we had a machine.
         This little dishwasher toiled away for ten years before its motor burned out. My father’s comment when he realized the expense for replacement? “I have three dishwashers in this house. We don’t need another.”
Resentfully, the women in the household took over the machine’s duties. My sister usually cleared the table, putting any leftovers into neat Tupperware containers and stacking the dishes in a manageable pile. I manned the sink of hot sudsy water. As Paula brought dishes to me, I’d quickly submerge them, scour them clean, and dip them into the second sink filled with rinse water. I didn’t mind this chore, but I often wished the scenery I viewed wasn’t the dining room table. I swore that if I even owned a home, I’d have a kitchen sink with a window that overlooked the yard. No one listened to my grumbles as I scrubbed. My mother just calmly dried each plate and restacked them neatly so my sister could put them away. I may have complained a little more when it came to doing the pots and pans, but with my SOS Brillo pad in hand no job proved insurmountable.
Me and my window!
When I left home for college and my first apartment, I thrilled in having a dishwasher again. Only I barely used it at first because I lived alone. If I didn’t want ants or roaches invading my place, I couldn’t leave dirty dishes in the sink. If I had to rinse the dishes enough to keep the insects away, then I figured I should just wash them by hand. I didn’t begin to rely upon a dishwasher until I roomed with three other women. We constructed a simple rule. If you cooked, you didn’t clean. Three of us cooked on a rotation. One roommate never touched the stove, so she always did some kind of clean-up, but she never complained.
Eventually, my apartment living gave way to home ownership. When David and I bought our house, which was built in 1966, it had a portable dishwasher. The little butcher block model sat on one wall across from the sink. You had to roll it over to the sink and attach a hose to the faucet. Needless to say, it leaked. We rarely used it, but it didn’t matter.
The sink in this kitchen overlooks a huge back yard filled with trees. I could finally stand on the inside, hands submerged in heat and suds, and watch butterflies and hummingbirds. We lived in our current home seven years before we remodeled the kitchen and added a dishwasher. I didn’t shift back to automation as easily as you’d think. By this time, I had several sets of dishes and glasses that I didn’t want to run through a machine. I still preferred to clean pots and pans by hand. When this machine eventually died, we didn’t rush for a replacement. Eventually, the pace of our daily routine converted dishes into another dreaded chore, and my complaints lead my husband and son to search for a perfect replacement.
Every day, though, I still stand at the sink and gaze out into my gardens. I’ll load most of the dishes into the machine, but hand wash a set of plastic tumblers I bought at Target for under $2.00 a piece! These smoky goblets bore the instructions—hand wash to keep glass appearance. As they look so much like glass that you don’t believe they’re plastic unless you touch them, I figure I’ll spend a little time each day with hands submerged and eyes gazing into the backyard.  

Puppy Koi "helping" with the dishes

 Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, February 20, 2012

“No Ideas”

         Yesterday, for the first time since I started my blog, I skipped making a post. Usually if I haven’t had time to write, I’ll find an old poem or even repost a previously shared poem. Yesterday, the thought crossed my mind, briefly, that I needed to either blog about something or select a poem. Obviously, I did neither. Instead, I grabbed a shovel and a garden spade, headed out into the front yard, and began pulling (actually—digging) weeds.
         The torrential rains from a few days ago left our skies clear and cerulean. A cool breeze fingered my hair as I knelt upon the damp earth while the background of birdsong provided the rhythm to my chore. You won’t hear me complaining about the clover that clumps in large patches in my lawn. I won’t whimper or whine about the dandelions that hit mid-calf and have shot roots three to six inches deep. Instead, I relished the mud that caked my hands and packed under my short nails. When I dug out a weed’s root and found the soil wet, relief flooded through me. These weeds mean the end of our long drought. At least for now, we’ve cycled into a weather pattern of cooler fronts carrying rain. Gray clouds boil across the sky, dump and inch or two of rain, and move on to another location.
          Once I removed the bush-sized weeds, David mowed. To anyone passing by, our lawn looks a lovely green. Most of the grass recovered from the scorching of the summer, and the mowed smaller weeds camouflage most of the damage the drought inflicted.
         So today, I have no new ideas for a blog post. In my mind, I’m kneeling in gratitude among the weeds, thankful in the knowledge that our Mother’s receiving the nourishment she needs to sow.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman