Musical Tears

dancing at wedding
March 31, 2017 – Before It All – Zoe and Jordan’s wedding.

Susie Notes:  Our 44 year old son has been diagnosed with Leukodystrophy, and is in ‘an altered mind state”.  Read: dementia


Since all this has happened we’ve tried to find little ways to make us happy.

We’ve been married over 46 years and have enjoyed music that has eventually played out the story of our life together.

Our Bose stereo system was over 20 years old.  After being ‘fixed’ ten years ago, it’s been disabled for a long time, holding cd’s hostage for too many years. Bossman hooked it up to another CD player for a while but I had to use three remotes to run the working  CD player that was on the bottom shelf, a quarter of an inch from the floor. I wear progressive bifocals. Fagedaboudit. I strained my neck trying to figure out what stupid button did what.

A few days ago, I wandered into the living room, stood in front of  the cd player with all my music in it and started to cry.

Bossman said, “What’s the matter?”

I sat on the edge of the coffee table, looking at that blurry old cd player and said, “All I want is my music.” I sobbed and he held me.

Monday he went to one of the Big Box stores, Sam’s or Costco, priced out equipment and came home to share what was on sale.

“Go get it. We need it.”

He went to the bank with his safe deposit key, and took out money from his dad’s estate sale that he’d been saving for the last eight years. (this is very odd, since Bossman will research something until it’s out-of-date) He brought home a new speaker bar and had it set up before dinner was ready.

For the first time, in a long time, we danced with tears in the living room to our music.






Catching-Up is Hard to Do

Happy New Year!

It’s New Year’s Eve and our house is full of modest activity. Bossman is cleaning off his desk, The Queen of English is probably watching a Hallmark movie or is at her desk editing bird pictures from today’s sit-outside. The Man-Boy is in his bedroom meditating after trying to figure out all the problems with this blog over the last few days. I’m sitting here, drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte with Wild Turkey. Don’t judge.

A lot has happened this past year. Good and Bad, of course. The Queen of English has been afflicted with Meniere’s Syndrome for almost a year. It’s horrid. Her POTS, postural orthostatic, tachycardia sydrome has been pretty steady at being just ‘bad’. The good news is that she’s finished her novel and has gone through three edits. I’ll keep you all posted when it goes off to agents. Her birding has also been pretty steady. 99% of her sightings are from the backyard and she’s ranked 6th in the county for species sightings for the year.

The Man-Boy, 43, has moved from Oregon to our spare bedroom. He’s job searching and ready to start over in the south where the weather is warmer and brighter. He’s a helper to all of us and has lifted his sister’s spirits quietly by just sitting and watching Hallmark movies with her during the holidays.

Bossman has played golf two to three times a week in good weather and enjoys poker night with the neighborhood guys once a month. He keeps busy with tons of bookkeeping and paperwork, shuttling The Queen to therapy and appointments, finishing handyman work around our house and anyone else’s who needs it.

Our ‘chosen’ grandkids are the lights of our lives. Kate is almost 17 and Cannon will be five on our birthday. Such fun with these two!

Last year started out with a bang for me. I had basal cell surgery on my nose in February which took six hours because the wonderful, amazing Doctor  William G. Stebbins rebuilt my nostril. I love showing it off. I stick my nose up in the air at a lot of people. In March I had two wisdom teeth removed. The only outcome of that was the tattoo I decided to get of Bernie Sanders. (get it?)

I’ve been active in my three writer’s groups, one which Bossman has now joined, and another with just chicks. I also am a leader in our church’s Poets and Writers group.

I attended two family weddings and four graduations in Mississippi, New York and Atlanta. I traveled to EUROPE!!! It was a dream-trip~ France, Switzerland and Italy. Words fail me. I went with 14 others from the Journey Church Arts Collective and we had an experience of a lifetime. The bonding was unexpected and is still so very strong months later.

Last February I was approached by my friend and Creative Pastor, Brett Mabury. He asked if I thought I could write lyrics. “Sure! I think I could do that.” Meanwhile a little voice was yapping at me, “What? What? You? Write lyrics??? hahahaha”.  Well, those lyrics were for a song that was hopefully going to be included in a movie; which opened this December, and had music from Journey Church people, including my song. I took all my friends and family to the red carpet premieres in Franklin and Nashville. I had to join a union. I met the actors in the movie, Believe, and we have three songs, including mine, that are three of 91 songs submitted for nomination for an Academy Award for best original song in a motion picture. We will find out January 24th if we’re nominated. One song, by Rachael Taylor is Number One on the Christian Music Charts right now. She sings my song, Mother’s Theme (I didn’t name it that), in the movie and on iTunes. The DVD should be coming out in January of 2017.

The trip to Europe and the song have been highlights of this past year. What a blessing to have these happen late in life. I’ll turn, cough-cough, the magic age of Social Security benefits in May. It’s never too late to have some exciting firsts. God has plans for us that we never see coming, sometimes.

Florence, Italy
Florence, Italy


Hangin' in the Paris Metro.
Hangin’ in the Paris Metro.

Teary-Mom Time of Year

I’ve been reading a lot of posts on FaceBook from my friends about kids going off to school. Some are going for the first time, some are returning in the middle of completing steps to graduating from high school and then some are moving on to college which might be hours or days away from home.

My kids are not kids anymore. They are in their forties and I am no longer a young mom, teary -eyed at watching them go through childhood. I am an older and wiser teary-eyed mom watching them go through life’s trials and heartaches. One has a medical disability and the other is looking for a fresh start in a new state.

I wrote these two poems during my younger-mom years. The first was in 1981 when my youngest started Kindergarten.

 The Quiet

The day has come, it’s finally here
They’re gone all day, there’s no one near.
There seems to be one sound I hear,
The quiet; how it hurts my ears.


The second poem is when my first-born son went off to college.

First Son

Why didn’t anyone tell me how I’d feel
when I walked into his room to raise the blinds
and faded squares and rectangles glared from the walls
once covered in posters of fast cars and pretty women?

Why didn’t anyone tell me how I’d feel
when I looked into his closet that used to be
packed with jeans and tee shirts and sneakers
and now holds only empty tangled hangers?

Why didn’t anyone tell me how I’d feel
when I answered the phone on the first ring
and it wasn’t one of his buddies calling
and more importantly, it wasn’t him?

Why didn’t anyone tell me how I’d feel
when I realized this was the end of his
childhood, the beginning of his future
and a new beginning for me?

Did anyone tell him how I’d feel?

Children growing older and doing what we’ve raise them to do is heart-wrenching sometimes. It’s a time of growth for kids and for parents. It can be survived, and looking back, the memories are sweet and real.

These tears will become cherished memories.

I promise.


Overwelming to Overwhelmed


o-ver-whelm-ing adj. 1. So great as to render resistance or opposition useless; overpowering.

o-ver-whelm v.t. 1. to overpower in mind or feeling; overwhelmed by remorse. 2. to overpower with superior force or numbers. 3. to cover or bury beneath a mass of something. 4. to burden excessively.



Where do I start? I like to think that I roll with the punches, so they say, when challenged with hurdles thrown in front of me. I think I handle them pretty well when they’re my hurdles.

In January, I had a medical problem that my regular doctor couldn’t quite fit into a category. After having a physical exam and a CAT scan that showed no abnormalities he diagnosed a pulled groin muscle and told me to rest, don’t lift, apply heat and take ibuprofen. (I rarely do anything strenuous enough to pull a groin muscle. Honestly.) Three months went by and I still had terrible pain in my lower abdomen and both groin areas. So, I went to see a young woman from church who is doctor of kinesiology and chiropractic. She helped me with, what I called her ‘voodoo’, aromatherapy, and weird and wonderfully painful pressure-point torture procedures. Today, I am pain-free and I thank God for her. Hurdle cleared.

A large basal cell carcinoma on my nose was my hurdle in February. My left nostril was rebuilt by my surgeon, Dr. William Stebbins at Vanderbilt Dermotology. I had eleven shots in my nose, was at the surgery center for six hours, had three biopsies and a partridge in a pear tree. It was overwhelming for a day or so when I’d see the quilting job he did on my nose,but I moved on. Those stitches were a hurdle I had to reckon with, and I did it. I reckoned that the surgery probably saved my nose and maybe my life. Hurdle cleared!

On March 23rd I had my two upper wisdom teeth out at the age of 63. They weren’t doing me any good, wisdom was fleeting and they were harassing the teeth in front of them, so I figured, “What the Hell. Get rid of them!” Dentists had been after me for at least three decades to get them out, so I finally gave in. It was a no brainer and I recovered quickly and completely. Hurdle cleared!

April was a reprieve for me, but Bossman had basal cell cancer surgery on his neck. He’s joined the Skin Cancer Survivor Club with The Queen of English (our daughter who has a Masters degree in creative writing), and me.

May was my birthday month, so Bossman gifted me his cold that had staked a claim in his chest producing a barking cough. My present just made me feel lousy. We missed church for the first time in forever. Then all Hell broke loose.

On Wednesday, the 18th of May, I woke up, rolled over to look at the time and couldn’t open my eyes. Damn that Sandman. I felt my way to the bathroom, turned on the faucet and prayed I didn’t have pinkeye. The soaked heavy warmth of the washcloth felt good on my now scratchy eyes. One was pink. Thinking I could catch it early, I treated each eye as an individual. Each one had its own fresh washcloth for its warm water compress and individual towel. I researched which Essential Oils I could use and placed them in odd reflex spots on my toes to help my eyes. (I don’t get it either) I was going to tough this out. Hell, I was turning 64 in less than a week and this childish pinkeye hurdle was not going to get the best of me.

So, later that evening it was close to 10:30 when the ER doctor, Dr. Handsome, ordered a shot of antibiotics in my hip, put antibiotic drops in my eyes and handed me two scripts for drops and 1,000 milligram capsules for a week by mouth. My painful eyes, almost swollen shut, and the disgusting goop being manufactured at a pace that would rival China’s iPad production were a challenge for the medical staff to contain their “Oh, that’s really gross” face. Zombie PinkEye. I looked as if I did a few rounds with Mohammad Ali and lost. But, I was much better by my birthday on the 24th. Bossman and my semi-pink eyes and I went to lunch and picked up Gigi’s Gluten Free Cupcakes to share with the Queen of English. Then I took a nap. Hurdle cleared!

Little did I know that those hurdles were nothing compared to what lay ahead for our adult kid.

Our medically disabled daughter was diagnosed with POTS [postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome] a few years ago and falls down frequently because of low blood pressure. That’s a twenty-seven foot tall hurdle in itself. She has also been suffering from vertigo over the last few months – a double-whammy if I’ve ever seen one. With her POTS falls, she’ll yell, “I’m fine!” when she goes down like a pile of bricks and we’ll continue to watch TV or eat our dinner as we reply with a mouthful of mashed potatoes, “Okay. Thanks.” If we don’t hear the “I’m fine”, we yell, “You okay?” and she might eke out a weak “yes” and one of us will run or hobble up the stairs anyway. Hurdles everywhere.

During all my temporary medical drama this past year, we’d hear her POTSie falls, later mixed in with the Vertigo crashes, coming from the second floor where she lives. SuperDad/Bossman/ManNurse would fly up the stairs to check on her. I’d cover my head with my soft blanket and pray.

We need a better system.

Lately, her vertigo has become violent. Tests start on Monday with an MRI of her brain and we’ll go from there. Her saving grace has been the nurturing and photographing of our abundant, civil war battlefield/ backyard birds, ducks, turkeys and squirrels. As she pushes her walker to the back door to feed the yard birds, all too often it looks like some ghost of a Yankee or Rebel soldier is pushing her sideways or backwards. She’ll slam onto the hardwood floor, and while I move to help her I yell, “You bastards!!! Leave her alone!!! Sons of Bitches!!!” It feels good to be able to blame someone for this stuff.

Vertigo is an evil hurdle to tackle. The attacks come as if they are set up on her old high school track where she ran miles and miles for years. One after another after another… . When an episode happens, it’s as if she’s being slapped on the forehead. Her head jerks back, she loses her balance and down she goes. Again. She recalls her college days occasionally while she’s on her knees hanging over her fuchsia walker. “I used to enjoy feeling this way once in a while.”

It’s overwhelming.

I am useless. I freak out. In my rush to get to her I might trip and fall on the bed or bang up against the wall. She smiles and shakes her head. When she has an attack in front of me, I automatically turn into Kramer from Seinfeld. That makes her laugh. I try to help her get up and either tickle her by mistake or grab her somewhere inappropriate. We laugh again. “Just helping…” I mutter.

The Queen of English says we’re a sitcom.

We are.

I’d call it, Overwhelmed.


Three Summer ‘R’s’


These summer months in Tennessee have brought family and friends to our home as they traveled from one place to another. South Carolina to Colorado. Texas to Vermont. Florida to Mississippi to Ohio to New York. Michigan to Ohio to Tennessee to Michigan. We’re in the perfect position to nab them as they travel on I-65 and share a evening or two of fleeting quality time.


Though, some stay longer.


This morning I was up at 4:45 baking brownies for our friends to enjoy on their trip back to Michigan. They’ve been here for ten days spending time with our disabled daughter while we were away, and when we returned, with us as a family. Food, games, laughs, long talks and an ER visit that was thrown in for good measure, were shared. The ER visit proved to be a God-send. Discovery that our daughter’s three pulmonary embolisms had disappeared with the treatment of Xeralto over the last three months. Thank you, God and physicians!


Bossman and I missed the field trip to the ER. We were in D.C. attending the stunning and somber ceremony in Arlington Cemetery of the funeral for Bossman’s brother, Major G. R. Dunham. His widow, daughters, son-in-law, aunt, cousins, mother-in-law, Bossman and I all stayed together in two enormous suites in a Wyndham timeshare at National Harbor. Treasured family bonding was experienced by all.


After our Michigan friends headed out this morning at 6:30 and Bossman left to play golf, I felt the need to visit my past.


I grew up in the ’50’s in a small village in upstate New York. All my relations lived within walking distance. Hot summer days were greeted with the women getting out the hose and washing down the front porch or stoop and the sidewalk. I remember my Nanny Donovan, neighbor ladies and Mom with the green hose, and pointy nozzle hosing down the dust, dirt, bugs and grass clippings from the porches and sidewalks.


So, I did that this morning. Pulling the hose up the steps I shot water at the cobwebs, the wasps, the grass clippings and the dirt. Brick and cement turned dark as the water washed over them and the old dirt and cobwebs dripped over the porch and ran down into the mulch that drank it all up. Blades of mowed grass, nudged out of corners of steps, washed away into the street.


The fragrance of wet brick, water, humidity and grass were a natural cologne in this morning’s summer heat. A prescription for calm.


Relief. Reflection. Relaxed.

Wet Porch_July




The Gift of a Birthday

I’d like to share a photograph of the gift my husband and daughter presented to me for my birthday on the 24th of May, along with a poem I had written about the same subject: Building Eight at the Factory in Franklin Tennessee. It’s where God found us. Our church. Journey Church. We’d never gone to church regularly in all our thirty-seven years of marriage. We went occasionally on Christmas Eve, the kids and hubs kicking and screaming most of the time.

In 2007 our adult daughter and her dog moved in with us while a mysterious illness started to attack her body. We had a tornado shelter installed in the garage and agreed to show it to any potential customers for the shelter company. One couple wanted to see it. Bob and Amy. They came, saw our daughter’s obscure little dog and said, “Is that an Affenpinscher?” Really? They had one. “Do you have MS?” That was a suspicion of doctors. Amy had MS. We all became friends and Gretchen agreed to go to church with them. Odd. Very odd. After a few months she asked us to go. We declined. A lot. She begged. “Go for me.” Fine. That was 2008 and Journey Church. We’ve never looked back.

Church is in flux right now. Searching for a new home. The Factory is reinventing itself and we are not part of the plan. I’ve written a poem about Building Eight and the memories it carries for many of us. My daughter took a photograph of the inside where we were loved and allowed to sit, ask questions, disagree, cry, sing and find Christ over the years. A friend from church turned the photo into a painting. Here are the painting and poem:


Building Eight Painting


This Place
Remembering Building 8
Journey Church, The Factory in Franklin
By Susie Dunham

What is this place once filled with the trust of a paycheck and food on the table,
where lunch pails held coffee thermos’ and dreams,
and men told stories of family and faith in good times and bad?

What is this place now filled with rails and chains and pulleys and rust,
walls of brick mortared with the sweat of decades of work days and,
floors where ghosts resided in bird filth knee-high?

What is this place where sweat, love, hope, and grace has lived,
this place where voices and instruments blazon the story of Love,
where the Spirit has danced and held us if only for a breath?

Where is this place after the rust and brick are surrendered,
where the sanctuary, the safe haven, the church will live,
where souls will heal and awaken to God’s love and joy?

Ah, poise is warranted, for our God has much work to do in our world.

We will trust.
We will be patient.
We will never forget.


This Island Is Not For Sale

Lady Liberty_Palm tree

There were about thirty creative types sipping coffee and conversing at round tables with black wax spattered tablecloths. Our Aussie Creative Director sauntered to the front with his affable smile and explained the topic of the night.

Some groaned, others gave confidant nods and I froze. I leaned into my friend. “Did he say, ‘exorcise’?”

“Susie! Exercise. We’re doing an exercise.”

I inhaled and blew out a soft breath. “I knew that. I was joking.”

“Imagine you have an island,” he said. “You can do anything with this island. It’s yours and yours alone. Name it. Do with it what you will. Then tell us if you would or would not live there.”

No exorcism, no worries. I can become a real estate developer for an hour.

At the end of the night there were quite a few islands where special coffee shops were developed. A clear sign of the times. One island developer had all the CEO’s of mega corporations and World leaders on their island and if those leaders failed a morality test, they died. There was an “ultimate retreat for mind and body” island and another developer just put her island up for sale because she didn’t like beaches or water.  Another island had every male prisoner in America on it.

My island was created for people with disabilities. On my island was the ideal amount of gravity so bodies no longer carried the weight of their disability. The air was the purest ever found on Earth and regulated its temperature according to the owner of the skin it kissed. The sky was a splendid blue and the sun a beautiful buttery yellow that warmed but never burned. The water temperature was sublime, turquoise in color and turned crystal clear when kaleidoscopic fish came into view. If someone wanted to experience the water, but not be submerged, they could walk on it and only get their feet wet if that was their desire. Wheelchairs, walkers, canes and crutches were out of sight and mind while their owners enjoyed their sabbatical.

I would name this island, L’PAJ. Liberty, Peace and Justice.

My daughter would be the resident Guardian of this island.

I just might go into real estate after all.