Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Coming Attractions

I'll be heading to Atlanta again soon for a NON-emergency visit with Mama, Buddy, and Daddy. I might even get to see Caryn, too. Mama is doing well and is getting some physical therapy. Buddy is playing the piano for Mama and other residents every day. While I'm in Atlanta I'm also going to get together with several former (I almost said 'old') counselors from Camp Cherokee, where my experiences led me into elementary education. To say that Cherokee was a major influence in my life is an understatement. I'll see a couple of friends that I haven't been in touch with since the summer Judy and I got married, 1976. Besides a meal out, we should have a chance to make a little music. I'll try to have some details and photos upon my return.

Inauguration Day

It seemed so strange that I had to wait until I retired to witness a presidential inauguration on live TV. Then again, not since 1960, when John Kennedy was sworn in, have I seen much to get excited about. Yeah, I know I was only 7 years old in 1960, but I was seriously a John Kennedy fan. I don't remember the Nixon-Kennedy debates, but I do remember the neighborhood debates. My friend Lannie was a Nixon backer, but he was out-numbered. It's well documented that Kennedy was not perfect, either as a man or as president. But to me, his wisdom, vitality, and leadership were evident. We've had a variety of leadership styles among our presidents in the last 45 years, but none of them has exhibited the positives I saw in Kennedy. My early impression is that Barack Obama may exemplify the best of the Kennedy leadership model as I saw it. He has the intellect to think for himself, but has the self-assurance to seek and accept wise counsel of others. Obama's nominees for cabinet positions are being well-received thus far. Where Kennedy was constantly faced with Communism's stated goal of world domination, Obama takes the helm in an age of extremist terrorism. He will have to earn the world's respect, but I think both our allies and some of our adversaries will withhold their judgment to see if his deeds match his words. Washington will remain partisan territory, but perhaps the venom and baiting will be reined in. That would be a big step in the right direction. We've been a lot like a rowboat with rowers paddling in opposite directions, never making real progress in either direction. Our country is too big and diverse to think that all will ever agree on any major issue, but at least we have a leader who will listen and search for common ground. Better yet, he does not seem to be self-serving in any way, nor to have sought the presidency for the power it bestows on him. All my readers have seen and heard enough about the inauguration itself, so I'm not really posting about all the hoopla. If we're going to experience positive changes, it will take place through the citizenry rising up to embrace what is right for our country. So what is right? I think we'll find out.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Today is Not Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Yes, I know today is NOT MLK Day, but I've got to do this post before I can blog about Tuesday's inauguration. By the way, give yourself a prize if you can find 'Ken Loyd's Eclectic Blog' in the above "snow tunnel" picture. It's camouflaged nicely.

When I was teaching I got great satisfaction out of the lessons I taught leading up to MLK Day. I feel they were of great benefit to my students and also helped me build the kind of classroom atmosphere in which all students were accepted by others and could thrive.
In no way do I deify King, but I don't think people should diminish what he accomplished for others. I know many people opposed making a national holiday in his honor, but to me, MLK Day is less about him, than about the ideals for which he stood. And unlike our religious holidays, which are truly Holy days, our national holidays, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day (which was once Armistice Day) call us to be true to the ideals of our nation. Ideas and ideals are much bigger than any one man, but to be a part of furthering noble dreams is a worthy ambition.

My last year of teaching I made a donation in honor of my class toward the MLK National Memorial Project which will create a memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. I recently received a calendar from the sponsoring foundation and would like to share some of the inspirational quotes it contained.

  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  • “At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.”
  • “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
  • “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
  • “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
  • “Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”
  • “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
  • “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
  • “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
  • “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but it comes through continuous struggle.”
  • “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”
  • “When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

As Amanda observed when I showed her the calendar, isn't it sad that fifty years after King's death, we are still struggling with man's inhumanity to man. No one person can end that struggle, and it's not likely any movement or philosophy can. But that is no reason each of us individually should not do everything in our power to ease the burdens and lift the spirits of our fellow man.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday's Top Two Headliners

As all the major news outlets made clear, there were two huge newsmakers in North Carolina Tuesday; the first big snowfall in five years and the presidential inauguration.

Because I have my priorities right (and all of you watched the inauguration anyway), I shall blog about SNOW!

Judy and I looked outside about 3 a.m. and saw a light covering of snow. Good start. We went back to bed, and when I woke up at 6:30, I had a sinking feeling that we hadn't gotten much more. Greg Fishel had not inspired hope in his closing remarks the night before. His telltale "hedge-my-bet" lines were, "constantly changing situation" and "a difference of 30 miles could make the difference in seeing several inches and almost nothing at all." Doom and gloom.

But, not to worry. The snowscape had changed for the better. We had four inches at dawn's early light and another inch was added during the morning hours. We had a nice early neighborhood walk, and a longer one later. I snapped dozens of photos (including the updated snow pic at the top of this page). We found the snow was not very good for packing; hence, no snowballs and no snowman. Today we found it was no better for sledding. It's just too soft, and the sleds plowed into it. No problem. The walking is safer (considering my history) and the beauty of the winter wonderland is the main thing anyway. We had snow cream (and will have another round of it in a few minutes).
Here are some of my favorite pictures from yesterday.

The snow gave our local birds a greater appreciation for our feeder.

Obviously, there was no fire in this chiminea today.

To use the self-timer, I had to go "dashing through the snow!"

The prayer garden swing is waiting for warmer weather.

One of my favorite spots is our "tunnel."

Good thing this wood is for next winter!

Our shy neighborhood cat didn't realize I could follow its tracks. It really covered a lot of territory yesterday.

It may look like this tire is carefully balanced in the snow, but it's actually a tire swing gently resting on the five inch snow.

Still hard to beat the simple image of a snow-covered dogwood tree. In ninety days its white blossoms will replace the snow. But there may well be more snow before then!

Monday, January 19, 2009


I expect this to be my last blog post BEFORE IT SNOWS BIGTIME! We'll see.

Judy and I have burned wood to heat our home for 30 years. There are lots of stories connected with that. It involves moving many tons of wood every year. What a great workout!

Enter LOAD DUMPER! (The company spells it Loadumper, but I didn't want to confuse anyone) This is absolutely the best heavy duty, all-purpose hauler I've ever seen. A few years ago, Stephen, Amanda, Matt, and Jennifer went together and presented this to me.
Load Dumper is the "gift that keeps on giving." It gets an incredible workout throughout the year, but especially during the winter. This year we had acres of timber cut, and lots of hardwood was left for firewood.

Look at the capacity of this thing!

Load Dumper is so well-designed and versatile it is an engineer's dream (right, Stephen and Matt?)

It can be tipped in multiple positions for ease of unloading.

By putting the pneumatic tires in the position below, I lowered the center of gravity so I could haul a makeshift sheet metal bridge to the wetland several hundred feet from the house.

Load Dumper made this trip a breeze.

Now, I've hauled countless loads across that bridge. I never could have gotten a vehicle through there.

Load Dumper is perfectly balanced to minimize effort.

Don't get me wrong; it's still work! But Load Dumper is like my partner!

Our dear friend Marlene shared some beautiful white oak from her yard. It was a nice welcome home surprise when we got back from Atlanta. That'll be next year's heat.

When the work's all done, Load Dumper becomes a rousing roller coaster for nieces Emma and Jessie. As long as Uncle Ken can hold out, that is. I've gotta stay in shape so those grandbabies will enjoy this treat one day! (By the way, the second picture below isn't Load Dumper, but Emma and Jessie have ridden in ALL our carts).
Let's GO, JuJu!
Tomorrow, Load Dumper gets the day off. Somehow, I think our sleds will be much more appropriate! Which reminds me. . . I'd better doublecheck that number for 9-1-1.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Still a-bloggin'!

I'm glad I didn't make a New Year's resolution to blog every day! But you, my faithful readers are mostly family and friends who knew I was in Atlanta with Mama and the rest of my family. I'm so happy to report that Mama is again on the "upswing," having baffled the doctors once more. Her stay in rehab was brief indeed, as she was found unresponsive shortly after eating breakfast on her second day there. She was taken to St. Joseph's hospital where the expectations were grim. Her oxygen level and blood pressure were dangerously low, and we were called to Atlanta. The doctor recommended Hospice Atlanta, a wonderful residential setting. We arrived Sunday afternoon, the same day Mama was moved. We were able to sing hymns and other favorite songs and read scriptures to her, but she slept most of the time. Judy and Buddy tirelessly coaxed her to eat, and kept getting a surprising amount of food in her at each meal. She spoke off and on, and was often difficult to understand. Over the next few days, we began to see a pattern. She was most alert in the mornings, but rallied at mealtimes. By Thursday we were seeing a marked improvement, as were the staff. Mama was enjoying our family time, but we allowed her plenty of rest. She began to speak more clearly, feed herself for the most part, and appear more vigorous in general. She was able to sing "Jesus Loves Me" to both Jennifer and Amanda by telephone. We were a little surprised (we should know better), but really thankful, when the medical staff said that Mama was possibly improving too much to remain in their hospice! She will be reevaluated early this coming week and we will likely be able to move her to a skilled nursing facility that would be more geared to someone who's getting better. They'll get her out of the room more for a change of scenery and more variety of activities. As Judy and I drove home yesterday, Buddy called from hospice to let Mama speak to me. Besides her "Hi, Ken" greeting, she told me about her lunch, how much she had enjoyed our visit, and told how much she loved us, our children, and our two grandchildren that are on the way. She topped it off with, "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!" There was no sadness in Atlanta this week. We had asked only that the Lord do His will, and that seems to be what He's doing. I told Judy today that it's almost like God has said to her, "Anne, my child, I'm ready for you anytime, and I've already given you several chances to join our heavenly family up here. But I'm not in any hurry if you're not, so stay as long as you like." I plan to make another visit soon, God willing. As long as Mama holds out hope for another visit to Ryan's Steak House and The Varsity, she could be with us a long, long time. Whatever the coming days hold, our family will cherish every moment!

Thank you for all the good prayers that have gone up for us and Mama. They have been heard and answered. We appreciate you all and would like to pray for you when you and your family go through times like these. Whenever I'm in Atlanta I'll be away from e-mail and the blog for a few days, but I'll try to get news out to you through contacts at school or church.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Headin' South

I'm heading Atlanta-ward again tomorrow. Mama is back in the hospital after two less than stellar days in rehab. By the time I get there she may be moved to a very nice residential hospice facility which is convenient to both Buddy and Daddy's locations. She seems to be resting comfortably and no one can say to what extent she may yet rebound. I'm looking forward to spending more time with her, reading, singing, and praying together. Thank you to all of you for your prayers and kind words for all of our family.

Friday, January 9, 2009

For Judi and Debi: LET IT SNOW!

This post is dedicated to the two most serious SNOW LOVERS I know: Judy (Judi) and Debi. Though we haven't yet seen any real snow yet this season ( those pitiful "wannabee" raindrops the other day don't count), anticipation of snow is part of the enjoyment. Sure, we don't get snow when we want it, or nearly often enough, but that doesn't take away the fun of imagining, dreaming, contemplating, philosophizing, or--dare I say it--praying for it!

While we wait, I've decided to feature my Snow People Salt and Pepper Shakers. I have many more "thematic" posts planned about my S&P collection and its origins, but if you're reading this--and you are--you're seeing the first in the series.
The Whole Family
(Make up your own captions if you like)

I hope you like my Snow People. Maybe they'll bring us luck. Maybe not. But they're still smiling. And that's what I plan to do. . . while I wait!

Updates and Random Thoughts

What a difference a week makes. Mama moved from hospital to rehab yesterday, and Buddy reports that she was enthusiastic about the move. She saw familiar surroundings and some familiar staff, but the main thing is she knows rehab is one step closer to returning home! He said she was her perkiest yet this morning and her therapists praised her motivation and effort. He also said she tells everyone she's going to be a great grandmother, and even tells them when the babies are due! So much for any thoughts of being confused (unless you mean the rest of us). Buddy will share with her some of the kind, encouraging words many of you have expressed to me on her behalf. Keep on praying, please!

I encourage you to visit Jennifer's and Amanda's blogs (click on the sidebar--Green Grass and The Talbert Report). They have been telling about some of our Christmas time in Atlanta and have many other day-to-day topics of interest.

Judy and I have tried to catch up on things around the house this week. Besides frequent phone check-ins with Buddy and Daddy, and the obligatory three meals a day, we've had time to play a few card games. Our new favorite is "Five Crowns," and I doubt if anyone else in North Carolina except Amanda ever heard of it, but it's great. We also started a medium-challenging puzzle with 88 film celebraties of Hollywood's golden age. The hard part is, there's no picture to go by. I haven't done a jigsaw like that before. We're trying to get back into a walking routine and not use chilly weather for an excuse. I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, but I have taken a few more baby steps toward a healthier diet. Even more fruits, plus lots of almonds. Smaller quantities--sometimes--and trying to be conservative about finishing all those Christmas snacks that are still around. I've gotten a variety of exercise this week, plus plenty of sleep. I've tilled the garden, split wood, and done a little pre-Spring cleaning.

Well, I know this sounds boring to you guys, because it sounds somewhat boring to me! But believe me, retirement is something that allows you to take a deeper-than-usual pleasure in the simple things, and I'm striving to master that! No pictures to liven up this post, but I have more interesting blog posts in the works!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mama Reaches Out From the Hospital Bed

As I shared with my blog buddies and e-mail buddies about Mama's faith amid her dire circumstances, I was gratified by the encouragement, words of comfort, and prayer support so many of our friends responded with. And many mentioned that Mama's faith was an inspiration to them as well. That was so gratifying to me that I thought it would not be inappropriate to share some of the kind words that were shared with me.

Your mom should be an inspiration to all of us! We'll keep her in our prayers.

I know that you treasure every day that you have her here on this earth with you. Don’t we learn so very much from these wise folks! I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

It has been said that the Good Lord wants the good ones too, but even though your mother is one of the dearest, he does have other plans for her here on this earth.

What a powerful word of a living epistle being written in these last days. My/our prayers are with you, but if you could place me on HER prayer list I will humbly be obliged. God bless you all for your perseverance and holding fast in so many issues of life. We really are praying on this end.

What a testimony. May God bless you all with many more years. I am sure God is not through with your mama here on earth yet or he would have let her slip away quietly with all of you by her side.

The Lord is leaving your mama here because He knows she has lessons still to teach all of us. What a faith story! She is such an example of how to live a Christian life. She still has messages and lessons to teach (and good food to eat!

We were blessed reading about your amazing mother and awesome testimony she reveals reaching others, like us, who don't know her, nevertheless, touched by her spirit and love for the Lord and others through a wonderful description of your love for her. You have truly been blessed to have a mother like her and we will keep you and your family in our prayers even though she is in His perfect hands already.

Wonderful news...I love it when elderly people beat the doctor's odds!!

That's enough for me to share today. To paraphrase the song, "I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow." Thank you all for your prayers and kind words of encouragement. God bless you!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Mama

Below, my long-time friend Mike Ayers presents Mama and Daddy with a special certificate honoring them for hosting our traditional Christmas singalong and get-together for more than three decades. This year, 2009, Mama had fallen the night before, and had to listen flat on her back in the next room. Two days later would find her in the hospital.

Our Christmas plans didn't originally include Mama being in the hospital, but after her second fall in four days, that's where she ended up. Just as when she was hospitalized 10 months ago, the doctors gave her little hope of recovery and called our family in to say goodbyes. Well, as some of you have come to expect, Mama has surprised the experts once again. Her doctor as much as said that she has used up three or four of her nine lives, but the fact remains, she is progressing to the point she should be able to be moved to a nearby rehab center in a day or two.

Yes, my Mama, Elizabeth Anne Black Loyd, is an amazing woman with an amazing story. Only those fortunate enough to know her well realize what a strong woman she is, even at age 88. Physically, she has defied logic, not breaking any bones in these two recent falls. She has emerged from unconsciousness and erratic vital signs to beat the usual odds for her demographic group (take my advice, don't bet against her). Spiritually, she has awed her caregivers with her quiet faith, acceptance of her circumstances,and determination to get stronger so she can go home. She has overcome one health obstacle after another, and we have learned not to set our goals too low--she'll make us look foolish every time.

When Judy and I were called back to Atlanta after the second fall, Mama was on a respirator and her chances looked bleak--everyone thought. A day later, my brother received a 3 a.m. call that she was fading fast, and we rushed back to the hospital. What we saw was not a slipping away, but the beginning of her marathon struggle to cling to the life she cherishes so much. Now, one week after being admitted under dire circumstances, she is feeding herself, asking when she can get her hair done, and focusing on getting stronger so she can return home. She brought tears to my eyes when she said with great effort, shortly after her breathing tube was removed, I'm trying so hard to stay alive. I know that in theory, you should give your dying loved ones permission to die so they can go in peace, but that wasn't the way things transpired. On a lighter note: it would be flattering to think she wants to live just to see her family, but my brother says all she talks about is when he can take her out to eat again!

Even my family, who has seen her do these wondrous recoveries before, dared not hope for such a dramatic repeat. Mama's pastor, according to a friend, referred to Mama's startling recovery from the pulpit Sunday morning as "Lazarus-like." I don't presume to think we deserve or that God owes Mama such a blessing as we are receiving. But I do believe that God is pleased to glorify Himself through his outpouring of mercy. I also believe that He has chosen Mama as a vessel worthy of bringing praise to Himself by her longsuffering faithfulness, and her visible testimony, both to those who believe and those who doubt God's sovereignty. I do believe it would be both selfish and presumptuous to ask God to give Mama to us longer if He has other plans. So I choose the prayer that is referred to in my beloved Mitford books as "the prayer that never fails"--Thy will be done!

In her latter years, God has continued to bless Mama with surprisingly strong eyesight, and she has used it to read scriptures and devotional books diligently every day. Much of the time she's not reading, she's deep in prayer. Not for herself, but for others. It struck me, that her life has been a fulfillment of one of her favorite hymns, Others, from the old Cokesbury hymnal.


1. Lord, help me live from day to day

In such a self forgetful way

That even when I kneel to pray

My prayer shall be for Others.

2. Help me in all the work I do

To ever be sincere and true

And know that all I'd do for You

Must needs be done for Others.

3. Let "Self" be crucified and slain

and buried deep: and all in vain

May efforts be to rise again,

Unless to live for Others.

4. And when my work on earth is done,

And my new work in heav'n's begun,

May I forget the crown I've won,

While thinking still of Others.

Chorus: Others, Lord, yes, others,

Let this my motto be,

Help me to live for others,

That I may live like Thee.

Of Mama's countless favorite scriptures, one she draws strength from is from Philippians 4:8:

Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things
are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever
things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue,
and if there be any praise, think on these things.

While Mama lies in a hospital bed, still dwelling, not on herself, but on her family and her God, He uses her still as a testament to those of us of notably lesser faith. God may choose to take her at any time, but she has fought the good fight and kept the faith, and perhaps she will inspire more of us, her loved ones, to go and do likewise. More miracles will be reported in this space in the coming days-- I'm sure of it!