The Marvelous Monarch

We recently visited the Butterfly Palace in Branson, MO with our granddaughter. My granddaughter greatly enjoyed the amphibian room with its creepy, crawly things. I find frogs, lizards and bugs fascinating but the butterflies are my main attractions. We loved feeding them and the release of new butterflies by children.

The visit renewed my interest in Monarchs. These beautiful creatures, so much a part of my childhood, are endangered. Urban sprawl, pesticides and mostly loss of milkweed has lowered their numbers remarkably.

photo by Alex Guillaume

Monarchs are dependent on milkweed to lay their eggs, usually one egg on a leaf. If mistakenly laid on similar looking plants, the hatched larva will die. Surprisingly, milkweed is highly toxic, but this is a good thing for the Monarchs. The poison enters into the caterpillar and stays there through adulthood. The poison in their system makes the Monarchs toxic to predators.

In metamorphoses the Monarch caterpillar molts its skin five times. Four of those times it stays a caterpillar and true to a caterpillars voracious appetite, it will eat its own skin. While in this process the caterpillar is called an instar. The fifth time it forms a chrysalis and begins the process of becoming a butterfly.

photo by Julie North

Adult male Monarchs have a small black spot on the inside hind wings. Their wings are larger and their bodies heavier. The female wings are thicker which helps in migration. Monarchs are a curious creation of God. Their tongue or proboscis draws up nectar like a straw. They smell with their antenna and taste with hairs on their legs and feet. They also do not possess lungs. Small vents in the thorax and tubes called trachea move oxygen through the body.

photo by Kathy Servian

Monarchs normally live from two to six weeks. But the migrating Monarchs are considered super butterflies and live up to eight months. During migration they depend on food consumed in the caterpillar stage. In the Spring they leave the southern forests of Mexico and California. They travel one hundred miles a day and journey two to three thousand miles one way, many arriving in Canada.

I hope you’ll join me. I have planted milkweed to help support the Monarch population. Many greenhouses now carry the plant and it does have a sweet blossom.


My Dementia Dog

As with humans the symptoms started small. The beginning showed with the odd sleeping positions she began to use.

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Crazy way to sleep but okay if that’s your new thing. It wasn’t many months before other things showed up.  She became terrified of haircuts. Whereas before she endured them with patience, she now fought the groomer tooth and nail. We decided just to let her hair grow.

She started being stuck under wheelchairs and walkers as if she’d forgotten how to back up. We had to move the barrier for her.

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Soon it became a constant duty of myself, my husband or our grandson to redirect Peaches out of her dead ends. Sometimes our help wasn’t appreciated and she would pretend to bite us. Having just a few teeth, we weren’t worried.

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She no longer seemed to notice feelings of wet or discomfort. My floor got mopped so much more due to Peaches spilling water several times a day.

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At the end Peaches, though the vet said she had a strong heart, lost strength in her legs. She would stand staring at nothing then slide to the floor when her shaking legs gave out.

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We spent months with our little dementia dog, caring for her as well as we knew how. The beginning years of her life were terrible in an abusive puppy mill and when we got her we had bonded in a very special way. It was hard to let my little girl go. I took comfort in the knowledge that the last half of her life had been filled with love and peace.

The days came when she no longer knew where she was. She began crying as she wandered the house. My own dad had come to a point where he didn’t know us and I prayed God would take him home. He died the next week. Now it was time for Peaches to be at rest. I miss you little girl may you run in the fields of heaven.










Everything Old Is New Again

How do they do it? How do people function without having a God who cares about their lives? I have been endeavoring to reformat my website. I’m a relatively smart person, who has used computers since the 1970’s. But with new technology, my mind becomes a rubber mat. Instead of sinking in, things bounce off. I’ve read myself into a fog , watched YouTube videos till they blurred together and tried solutions until I’ve now lost my touchscreen drive.

The only thing that has kept me sane. The only thing that has kept me from throwing my laptop against the wall is God. When I’ve gone beyond the limits of human endurance, I can stop, bow my head to ask for help. My help comes from God who made heaven and earth. Is anything too hard for Him? Is technology beyond God’s understanding? I don’t think so.

God has lovingly wrapped His arms around me, saying, “Hush, child. I would have helped you in the beginning if you’d just ask.”

My advise today is “Ask God first.”

Give me feedback on the new website. Do you find it easier to navigate? Give me pros and cons, I can handle it. If something doesn’t work, PLEASE let me know. Thanks. Love to you all!


This is call “The Eye of God” – check out the post in archives July 2015

Rescue Dogs; Why I chose them

I had a little debate recently concerning buying a dog from a breeder or getting a rescue. I have done both. The first schnauzer I owned was bought from a breeder. Her name was Mrs. Beasley (My little sister had recently died. Mrs. Beasley was the name of her favorite doll.)

Mrs. Beasley with granddaughter Emily

Mrs. Beasley was a joy although a little head strong, which is normal for a schnauzer. They’ve been called the dog with a human brain. I tried to keep her mind stimulated, while I was at work, by hiding treats around the house.

After a while, we decided to find Beasley a companion. We found one at the schnauzer rescue in Tulsa, while visiting relatives. She had been rescued from a puppy mill. Mrs. Miniver came into our lives. This was our first encounter with a blank slate. She knew absolutely nothing. Though a blank slate, Mrs. Miniver was friendly and loved Mrs. Beasley.

(My granddaughter, Leah, with Miniver and Beasley. Beasley is upside down. )

Minna, as we called her, was not easy to train. To her, I was speaking a foreign language. What a joyous day when she comprehended! She came into the room, stood still, staring at me. I looked at her expectant face. “Do you need to go out?” Her happy dance told me the answer. We could understand each other! I was euphoric all day. I told everyone who would listen – “She talked to me!”


Beasley & Minna playing on the couch






When Beasley and Minna died we went back to the internet to find a needy dog. My experience with Mrs. Miniver had made me partial to rescues. The schnauzer rescue, Angel Pets, had a dog, seized from a really terrible puppy mill. The police were called in for the seizure. They said the dogs were so badly matted, they couldn’t tell the breed. At Angel Pets, we acquired a terrified bundle, we named Peaches. She had been shaved because of the matting. She was older, estimated to be about eight years old. She was not friendly like Minna. Every time we touched her she would quiver, hiding her head. I made a point of touching her all the time, petting her, telling her she was safe. It took  a couple of months before she stopped quivering at my touch. Abused, she had many fears.

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After a few months of working with our Peaches, we decided we could use some backup help. We looked for another schnauzer. The new schnauzer was rescued from the pound. The story went that she had been spoiled by her family.  But, when they found out they were pregnant, they took her to the pound. We named her Sugar. She was a year old and arrived with pink painted toe nails. She also, came with a high squealing bark, which she used frequently. We quickly started training the squeal out of her with saying “Uh-uh” or if necessary a light squirt of water.

Sugar resting with grandson Shaun

 Thinking the dogs would bond like Beasley and Minna, we were surprised, they didn’t. They ignored each other. We’ve had them both for over four years. They have become buddies but never play together. Sugar is always ready for a game of fetch. Peaches doesn’t seem to know how to play. Being a grandma now, maybe she’s too old. She’s just about totally deaf at twelve years old. Her eyesight has diminished. Ironically, this helped with her fears. She no longer hears the thunder or sees people move. She sleeps a lot except when it’s time to eat. Then she dances in front of us, to remind us.

Sugar is still spoiled though I don’t paint her nails. She doesn’t like when Peaches gets confused ending up in her bed. She’ll stare at Peaches until I switch her to the right bed. They both enjoy the yard searching for wild rabbits (which live under our storage), cats and other dogs to bark at. They are both such a pleasure to have around.

Why do I favor rescues over breeders? It’s probably more work. Correction if you get a puppy probably not more. But a different type of work. You have to be patient, kind and loving. But you can’t let them stay in their frightened state. You have to help them face their fears. The reason I pick rescue dogs is because I know I can make a difference in their lives. And in turn they give me love, devotion and a sense of accomplishment.

Nurses of Normandy

Who hasn’t heard of the terrible battle that occurred on the shores of Normandy, June 6, 1944 – D-Day. I’ve seen newsreels and movies depicting the violent scene of carnage. My heart grieved for the young men struggling up an impenetrable beach. So many men wounded, so many dying.

What I never thought of was the women who followed these men. Most just as young, just as innocent. These women were the nurses. Women who loved America and the American servicemen enough to follow them into war.

nurses(from Gale US History)

Nurses from the 42d and 45th field hospitals and from the 91st and 128th evacuation hospitals arrived at Normandy on June 10, 1944, just four days after the assault. They waded ashore with heavy backpacks to set up care units. They dealt with a steady flow of wounded men, seeing over a hundred a day. They often worked eighteen hour days. One nurse reported, her bathtub was a helmet and the latrine a dugout ditch with a screen around it. Another reported that they had no time for laundry and ended up wearing the same undergarments for a month.

Hospitals close to the front were a relatively new idea but because of the care given less than 4% of US soldiers in WWII died from wounds or disease if they got to a medical facility.

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(Picture from Liz Richardson in National Archives)

The nurses were invaluable, not only did they tend the wounded and the sick, assist doctors, set up facilities, they were also trained to listen to the soldiers stories of loss, fear and loneliness. Soldiers felt, if women could put up with everything they were doing, then they could go on a little more, too.

The government realized the importance of the women in uniform and to boast enlistment, all nurses were commissioned officers entitled to retirement and equal pay. Between the years of 1943 to 1948 the government paid the cost for all student nurses.

There were between 60,000 to 75,000 women enlisted during World War II in the army and navy. Sixty-seven of them served time as prisoners of war.

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These brave nurses dealt with hardship, pain, loss, emotional turmoil and bone numbing exhaustion. But they kept on, hour after hour, day after day, month after month.

Lieutenant Frances Slanger, of the 45th field hospital, said it best in a letter she wrote to Stars and Stripes:

“You GIs say we nurses rough it. We wade ankle deep in mud. You have to lie in it. We have a stove and coal… In comparison to the way you men are taking it, we can’t complain, nor do we feel bouquets are due us. It is to you we doff our helmets. It is a privilege to receive you and a great distinction to see you open your eyes and with that swell American grin, say, “Hi ya, babe!”

Lieutenant Frances Slanger died the day after she sent this letter. Killed by a German artillery shell.

Springtime in Oklahoma

Spring and Fall have been my favorite seasons, but springtime in Oklahoma has a special appeal. It starts so early, compared to Connecticut. The harvesters have already arrived to harvest the massive fields of wheat. Root crops, like carrots, potatoes and beets have been in the ground since the middle of March. Other garden crops, like tomatoes, squash and watermelon are planted around April 15.

We did not plant a garden, this year, but our peach trees are doing well.


I have spent my leisure time, when I’m not sewing or writing, working in the flower beds. I love seeing things grow. I and my siblings inherited this love from a displaced Tennessee farmer, our Dad. He left the farm for the military and ended up marrying Mom and settling in rural Connecticut. He couldn’t kick off the sod, though, and produced beautiful gardens every year of his life.

I feel at peace in a garden. I enjoy watching the soil improve year after year. When we came, five years ago, I didn’t find worms or insects in our soil. Working and mulching have now produced healthy scores of the helpful subterranean creatures.

Morning glories IMG_1510  Lillies IMG_1511

and violas  IMG_1509  have made their appearance in all their splendor. If you’ll notice on the yellow petal, even the lady bugs are out in full force.

Flowers give life. Life for the butterflies and bees who visit but also life to us. God knew we needed things like this to stimulate our eyes. To lift our spirits. Take time today to enjoy God’s nature.

Flower bike

Surgery and Side Effects

I had major surgery last March to reconstruct my ankle. I have CMT (Charcot Marie Tooth Atrophy). It has destroyed a lot of nerves and muscles in my feet and hands. There is no cure and no treatment but new advances can help correct the damages of the disease. Because of the weakness and instability in my ankles, I was walking mostly on the side of my right foot. They cut a bone, straighten the ankle and screwed everything back together. It has been a long year. I no longer have constant pain in that foot and now walk on the sole and not the side. Thank God.

I was prepared, somewhat, for the post surgery pain. I wasn’t prepared for the depression. Facing limitations have always been hard but facing a future with a crippling disease was something I wrestled with this past year. Besides having the surgery, in the last 2 years I have lost the use of my little fingers and most of my ring fingers. This might not seem like a big deal to most, but as a writer it’s hard to adjust to typing with five fingers instead of nine.

I was also following the blog of Julianna Yuri. A precious, precocious little five year old. Her mother wrote her outrageous, hilarious comments. I enjoyed her wit and wisdom. Julianna also had CMT. Probably the worst case known. The sweet child passed away this past year. I felt her loss as if I were a close companion.

But with all this year has thrown at me, I am alive and will continue to go on and adjust when it’s needed. I will try not to mourn the losses ahead but be creative to overcome them.  I face reconstruction of my other foot in the fall but know it will give me more mobility. I wish my dad could have had the advances that I am enjoying. I also know some great writers only typed with two fingers. God is still in His heaven and all is well with my soul.

Hazardous Ingredients In Hygiene Products

In the early 1990s, I worked for Christian Book Distributors. They were a forward thinking company that cared a great deal for their employees. Periodically they gave out health brochures. In one of these, I read about Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and how these chemicals were in our hair products and caused hair loss. I went home and checked, finding out that my hair products did indeed have these chemicals in them.


I did a personal test. When I used them I had a handful of hair, when I used products without them, two or three strands. Needless to say, I watched what I bought for a long time.

Unfortunately as time passed, I became less vigilant. So recently I decided to look these chemicals up to find out if what I read so long ago was true. I find that it’s worse than just a loss of hair.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) are foaming agents called surfactants. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is the worse. These chemicals are found in shampoos, conditioners, soaps and TOOTHPASTE! They can damage hair follicles, skin, give permanent eye damage in children, and cause liver toxicity.


The Journal of the American College of Toxicology in 1983 showed that 5% concentration of SLS could cause skin irritation. 10 to 30% caused skin corrosion. Some soaps have 30%.

Why would companies use these dangerous products? – They’re incredibly cheap and Americans associate suds with clean. Please google these products and read for yourself then check your health care products and make better choices.


My Greatest Regret

We went to Elementary School together, played hop-scotch and jump-rope. She was a beautiful platinum blond with a friendly smile and a kind heart. In junior high I moved away for a couple of years. When I moved back, we were in our third year of High School. We attended Norwich Free Academy which had a school body of about 3300 students. She, being from a well-to-do family, was in the upper crust clique. I was a natural loner and belonged to none. When we ran into each other, our childhood friendship would emerge and we would have wonderful conversations. Sometimes I felt she was dissatisfied with her life. She once shared that she rarely dated. I was shocked. She was gorgeous. She said it seemed guys were afraid to ask.

Thinking of her always made me smile. That is until a couple of years after graduation, when I found out she had died, trapped in a horrific fire in a disco in Connecticut. I realized in my immortal-minded youth, I had never shared the most important information in my life. I don’t believe in forcing God on someone but I didn’t even give her an opportunity to decide if God was who she wanted.

Poems are not my forte, but I  wrote this one to help me deal with the loss of my friend.


 By Carolyn Torbett Johnson

 Why did she have to go so fast

Her very life slipped from my grasp


I did not realize that she

Was part of mere humanity

That’s gone before us through that door

Marked death to live forevermore


But I was blind, I would not see

Her fate it seems had rest on me


I always meant to tell the plan

That God gave down to fallen man

I never seemed to find the time

The blood-stained hands I see are mine


Why did she have to go so fast

I would have told her at the last


I would have told of Jesus’ birth

Of why He came to us on earth

Of heavenly scenes, of beauty rare

Of hope, of joy beyond compare


But life is gone, she can not hear

And I am left here with my fear


Why did she have to go so fast

Her life is gone, my chance is past