Monthly Archives: August 2011

11 Hornworms on My Cherry Tomato Plant — Count ’em!


This nasty little creature was photographed by http://morguefile.com/creative/MindExpansi0n

Dang. I went out to water my container garden this morning and what do I see? About eight or nine (didn’t count ’em) branches with all the leaves gone from the top. I knew immediately what it was, and I started looking for those ugly critters, the tomato hornworms. One by one I picked them off and stomped on them. Can’t you just see me now,with that look of satisfaction on my face as their green guts poured out onto the brick walkway? YES! Wow, do I ever hate those things. They do as much damage in the night as Japanese beetles do during the day. I had hoped my cherry tomatoes would keep coming until the first frost. But with almost half the plant gone, I’m not so sure now.

Life has a habit of throwing us curve balls. Like most batters, we rarely hit them back in a graceful and pleasing manner, hence my smashing those critters to a gory end and believing that I was right and justified in doing so.

Righteousness and justification are easy for us. After all, we’ve been wronged or we believe our opinion is the only one that matters or we think others really don’t understand the nuances of us being right. I should know. Not only was I a drama queen, but I also justified my actions constantly to anyone who would listen. I righteously believed that many of my problems were caused by the way others treated me, rather than by the way I acted.

Fortunately, I’m not a drama queen anymore. I’ve given up that role to others. I still catch myself thinking I’m always right and feeling totally justified, when in fact I’m just making an excuse. But it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to happen, thank goodness and thank God.

I think God created the hornworm for two reasons and two reasons only. First, there’s a parasitic wasp that lays eggs on the hornworm. When the eggs hatch, the wasps kill the hornworms. That’s nice, but I wasn’t willing to wait today! Second, I think God made these yucky creatures to test our stress levels. Do we run screaming to the house yelling, “There are all these ugly worms on our tomato plants” and quckly get out the pesticide to make sure none of them live on our plants anymore?

You get the idea. As for me, I didn’t run screaming anywhere, but evey time I squashed one, I yelled, “YES!” and a few other choice words not fit to print. I have an unopened bottle of Sevin. But I just couldn’t bring myself to use it tonight before it got dark. I decided that I didn’t want to kill the bees and wasps that pollinatea my tomato blossoms, and had I used the Seven, that’s exactly what would have happened. So, I just said a little prayer and hope I don’t find more of the green uglies tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, I hope you haven’t had any curve balls recently, but if you have, just remember that you are God’s special child and He loves you more than you’ll ever know.

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God’s Bounty


God's bounty, by Ellie Kuykendall 2011

The fruits and veggies in the photo all came from my yard. I didn’t have a “garden” per se this year, but I did grow some vegetables in containers — except for the tomatoes, of course — they’re considered fruits. The Gerbera daisies finally bloomed – about four of my seven plants all at the same time.

If you look closely at the photo, you’ll see that the bell pepper has a spot on it, as do the apples and pears. They don’t have just one spot, though, they are covered in spots. Found out today that I need to spray the apple tree next February and March to have perfect apples next fall.

I love this photo because it represents a wide variety of things to eat. I also love it because God’s bounty from my yard is like God’s handiwork in people…lots of different people with many interests, religions characteristics and, of course, flaws.

I’ve been thinking about my own character defects recently. For a long time I just beat myself up thinking I wasn’t worthy of much of anything from love to God’s grace. I didn’t really look at myself in a realistic way to see what my flaws were and whether I could (or would) change them.

One of my most glaring defects has been speaking my mind whether or not others want to hear what I have to say, often without any tact at all and certainly without thinking of how my words my impact them. Living in the South for so many years has finally taught this California-born gal to think most times before I give my opinion or advice. Notice I said “most times,” not “all times.” Obviously, if it were “all times,” then I would be perfect in that regard. I’m not. But I’m pleased I’ve made some progress along the way.

Rushing to judgment of a person or a situation is something else I used to do all the time. Now, at least, I’m usually able to catch myself doing that, and it feels good to remember that unless I have ALL the information, I am really in no position to judge. On the other hand, Jesus said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Remembering that helps put me in my place.

What about yourself would you like to change? I’d love to hear some feedback on this issue. And, of course, if you like what I’ve written, I hope you’ll share it with people you know.

Oh, and by the way, the pears are some of the sweetest I’ve ever had, and the spots don’t affect the taste at all. The apples are quite tasty, too. It just goes to show you that flaws or not, you can’t always just a fruit by it’s brown spots. 🙂

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The Chicken Soup Is All Over the Floor!


Spilled coffee courtesy of Stuart Whitmore, http://www.johnny-pixel.com/

Nothing like it, is there? Accidents happen to everyone. I’m talking about the kind of accidents that could have been prevented.

For instance, yesterday I went to the refrigerator to get some water out of my Brita pitcher. It was next to my blue plastic pitcher which happened to have chicken soup in it…delicious homemade chicken noodle soup with fresh veggies, no fat and lots of alphabet noodles. I thought I could pull the water out without moving the soup. Wrong. The blue pitcher fell on the floor, broke and there was chicken soup all over the floor next to the fridge, as well as in the bottom part of the cooling contraption. A few choice words left my lips and then I called out to my grandson to come to the kitchen.

He came, looked at the mess and muttered under his breath, “Seems like all I do is clean up messes.”

I shot him a nasty look and said, “What do you mean by that? You haven’t been doing nothing but cleaning up messes while you’ve been here.”

He said, “I mean since I came down to Atlanta and now here.”

“Well,” I said, “accidents happen. But most accidents happen because people aren’t really paying attention.” And then I proceeded to instruct him for ten minutes about one of life’s little lessons. When a mess happens, clean it up and make sure you look for the cause at some point to avoid it happening again in the future.

So, he learned how to use rags instead of paper towels for cleaning up big messes. He also wound up learning how to clean the bottom of the refrigerator under the veggie drawers. When I took one out to clean up the soup, I realized the whole bottom of the fridge needed cleaning. The stuff was like glue, so he learned how to use hot water, vinegar and a table knife to loosen the grime.

Bingo! At the end of almost 45 minutes, we were finished. I also explained that we really should thoroughly clean the rest of the refrigerator, but that we couldn’t because then I’d be late for my hair cut appointment. We had some laughs during our time together, shared a hug before I left and he went back to drawing.

Last night he decided he wanted some tri-chocolate frozen yogurt with brownies and chocolate sauce (that new wonderful kind that gets hard after a few seconds on cold ice cream). He fixed his dessert and then put the brownies back on top of the half-cleaned cooling machine. Then he opened the freezer door to put the frozen yogurt back into it, and you guessed it. The brownies fell to the floor, the plastic container they were in opened and there was another mess to clean up. This time a few choice words came out of his mouth.

I explained again how his accident happened the same way mine did. We weren’t really paying attention, and so we had messes to clean up.

All in all, it was a busy day made busier by our messes. I relearned the lesson about the fact that you should clean up your messes as soon as possible after they occur. That way, there’s no residue for later. That goes for all kinds of spills, including emotions that boil over during an argument, feelings that come out when we feel we’ve been wronged and chicken soup and brownies all over the floor.

Please share my blog with your friends and relatives and vote a rating and leave a comment. I really love knowing who’s stopped by!

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Food, Glorious Food


Poster for the musical "Oliver"

Click here for the song, “Food, Glorious Food.”  It will open in a new window so you can enjoy the music while you read my blog!

Prednisone is the drug I love to hate. It opens my airways and makes me gain weight and want to eat all the time. So, I decided to write this blog about food, which we all love.

What’s your favorite food? If you had to pick one to take to a desert island (with no mango, papaya or banana trees), what would it be?

Think about it. Food defines us. It defines our relationships, our health and our looks. Healthy foods make you healthier, right? Well, what if that’s not necessarily right?

I’m proud to be a baby boomer. Back in the 50’s when I was growing up, a lot of families ate dinner together, and the dinner wasn’t from a drive through, not always so fast food place. It was made from scratch from fresh ingredients that weren’t filled with preservatives. Mac and cheese in a box? Heavens, no! Pizza at least once a week? God forbid. Soft drinks whenever we wanted them? Uh-uh. Pizza and soft drinks were a special treat, and what was more of a special treat was lemonade made from freshly squeezed fruit and sweetened with (oh my gosh!), REAL sugar. It didn’t rot our teeth, because we didn’t drink it all the time, and a candy bar was another special treat.

Okay. We ate real bacon, high cholesterol hamburger meat, and  real ice cream (was frozen yogurt even invented in 1955?). We didn’t drink bottled water, our parents made coffee in an electric percolator, and when Banquet introduced their frozen dinners, they were a hit sensation overnight that might be enjoyed once a month or so.

We played outside, went for bike rides and drew hopscotch squares on our driveways, on the street or on the sidewalk. The girls played jacks, the boys played with marbles. Steelies, cats’ eyes, and all sorts of beautifully colored little round other ones.

Commute traffic was so light in the Bay Area you could get to San Francisco from the Peninsula in 30 minutes or so. Is that right? I’m sure one of my devoted readers will correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s what I remember.

I was lucky. My mom didn’t work outside the home. But even moms who worked in jobs for real money cooked many meals at home.

It worked. We didn’t talk about how stressed we were all the time, but of course, families had secrets that were never talked about at all.

Have you decided what food you would take to the island yet? I haven’t.

Today I’m supposed to eat healthier so I can lose the drug I love to hate weight and get healthier. But I don’t want to! I want to eat chocolate ice cream and chocolate-covered pretzels, shortbread (my favorite) cookies, and gooey pizza (well, okay, my favorite is vegetarian). and lox with cream cheese, onions, capers, tomatoes on bagels.

But wait! I also love salads with tons of fresh veggies, broiled chicken with lemon and pepper, salmon with Dijon mustard and capers and all the delicious fruits of summer, such as peaches, watermelon and blueberries.

What’s a girl to do when surrounded by all this food and when supposed to make only “healthy” choices? Well, I’m a work in progress – doing my best to get healthy, but slipping away every now and then into food heaven.

Mostly, though, I’m just grateful that I have food and the money to buy it. So many don’t. I hope you had one of your favorite foods today.

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Yikes! Gray Hair, My Dad and Bruises


My goodness. Someone told me that when you’re sick your hair gets gray faster. Is that possibly true? I don’t know. I’m NOT going to look it up on the Internet…I don’t need to. My hair is noticeably grayer than it was before I got so sick. Shucks.

Who wants gray hair? I don’t. Some people have gray hair and look lovely. I don’t care if I’d be one of them! Time to find the hairdresser to turn my hair back into the age (well, kind of) of my mind – BLONDE. YES! That’s it.

I’ve made a decision and feel great as a result. Unfortunately, there aren’t any stylists available at 10:10 p.m. on a Monday night. Well, I mean, there are some available somewhere, but definitely not here. So tomorrow, that is my goal. Make an appointment. Get my hair done. Bingo, back to feeling like I did when I was young and in love.

Sounds like a plan, right? It is.

Now, about the IV bruises. I remember looking at my father’s arms as he got older and noticing the bruises he had from various shots, scrapes and cuts or bites. I thought,”They look really painful. I hope they don’t hurt him too much.” One time I touched one and asked him if it hurt.

“No,” he said, it doesn’t hurt.” I wanted to wave a magic wand and make the bruises disappear, but of course I couldn’t.

This last time in the hospital I had about 15 side effects of Prednisone. Did I say that yesterday? Who cares? I’m too lazy to look tonight. As a result of those side effects, I had to have other drugs, like insulin and a blood thinner. So now I have bruises on both arms and my stomach. They look awful. But they don’t hurt. Thank God for the small favors and graces.

Tonight, however, one of them itched. Now why did it do that all of a sudden? I haven’t a clue. So I scratched it and it got bluer. I think I’ll leave it alone and not scratch anymore.

Dad always scratched his sores. I do too. I popped pimples in high school, scratched off scabs in my middle years, and now I ran my fingernails across a bruise.

You may be wondering…”So what’s the point of all this talk about gray hair and bruises, Ellie?”

Have you ever noticed that when things are changing, you kind of feel itchy, like you want them to change quickly and just GET IT OVER WITH? I’ve had those feelings before, and that’s where I am tonight.

I’m ready to just GET BETTER. I’m ready to take back my life, start living like a normal person and not an invalid, and have the energy I need to have. I’ve made progress. I’m eating more healthily, getting exercise every day and petting my cats more often. Okay, I lied. I ate some chocolate yogurt ice cream and brownies today. But it was just a small slip!

You see, I’ve decided I’m going to be the only person in medical history to be completely cured of COPD.

After all, in 1996, my doctor told me I’d be in a wheelchair in six months if I didn’t stop cleaning houses, which had given me osteoarthritis in my hands, hips and knees. Today, 15 years later, you’d barely know I have that disease. I’m type on my ergonomic keyboard a LOT, can walk up and down stairs with no pain, and so forth. Why? Because I took charge of myself and my health and decided I wasn’t going to let any disease get me down.

It worked.

So, no matter what is going on in your life, you can turn it around if you really want to. I believe that. I’m living proof of it. And I know you can do it too, because I believe in you and most of all, I believe in God helping us.

I hope you have a bright and positively blessed day.

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When There Was Only God and Me


Thanks to Melodi of New Zealand for this photo. http://morguefile.com/creative/melodi2

Tears streamed down my face as Kevin rolled me on a gurney from my hospital room to the first floor for an echo heart scan. I’d been talking with the hospital chaplain in my room when they came to get me. “What is an echo heart scan?” I asked myself. Does this mean I have heart problems on top of my lung problems? And why didn’t the doctor tell me they were going to do this? I have to stop crying. I can’t go in there crying my eyes out. S/he won’t be able to do the test if I’m sobbing like this. ”

I just couldn’t stop the river of tears that seemed to well up from so far deep inside me the light was gone. We got to the area and Kevin left to go transport someone else someplace else. “I want my daughter here holding my hand,” I said to myself. “I want to hug my grandson. I want to stop crying.”

Nobody else was in the corridor. But God was there. Waiting for me. He didn’t have to wait long.

“God,” I prayed. “I’m terrified. I don’t know why I’ve been sick so long; I don’t know when I’m ever going to get better again, and I don’t even know IF I’m going to get well again and be able to lead a normal life. This is the third time I’ve been here in as many months,” I screamed silently.

“Lord,” I said, “I want to do the work you told me to do. But the way I am now, I can do nothing.  And I HAVE to stop crying, Lord, you know I do.

Please, God, give me your peace and help me stop crying now. ”

And, He did. And I was at peace.

And they only found a little bit of pulmonary hypertension on the echo scan. So small they don’t have to treat it.

In that dark and scared place we all sometimes go, there won’t be anyone there to hold our hands, rub a cool cloth across our brows or bring us warm, chocolate chip cookies.

But there is ONE who will never desert us, who will never hurt us, who will always listen to our cares, our deepest secrets and most beautiful joys.

I feel like I could write a book about the last five days. In some ways it was like being in the darkest valley for five days. However, there were also so many blessings.

This is the third time in three months I’ve been in the hospital. Every stay had lessons of its own. There will be more writing about it in the coming days. But meanwhile, I wanted to let you know that I am feeling better, and it’s good to be home again.

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