I am many things to many people, but I am and will always be … ME.

The Enduring Legacy of the RMS Titanic : 103 Years Later

After 103 years in absolute darkness, 12,500 feet beneath the ocean surface, a light is finally illuminating the ghostly bow of the lost ocean liner. Titanic’s tragic maiden voyage still captures the imagination of the world 100 years later. Many of the facts have become the foundations of a legend; that the ship hit the iceberg at around 11:40 on April 14th, of the insufficient number of lifeboats, and the story of the band who would continue to play, supposedly up until the last moment. At approximately 2:20am the ship perished, taking over 1,500 people into the water.

In the immediate aftermath the world was left shell shocked and wanted answers. The media went into a wild frenzy. Some survivors were applauded as heroes, but many were vilified. J. Bruce Ismay was condemned by the public for not going down with his ship or giving his place in a lifeboat to a woman or child. The huge loss of life left a world seeking someone to blame, and it seemed that the media was not short of culprits. Ranging from Captain Smith himself, to the lookout crew and the survivors in the lifeboats who refused to go back and attempt to rescue those who had been forced to surrender to the freezing water.

The grief stricken public was outraged. Both the U.S and British enquires into the disaster found that the lifeboats were not properly filled, ice warnings had not been adhered to and that the nearby SS Californian could have rescued many, if not all of the passengers. Many felt that the huge loss of life could have been avoided if it wasn’t for the greed driven and arrogant attitudes of the White Star Line and the British Board of Trade whose regulations meant the Titanic did not need to have enough lifeboats for all passengers. The protocol at the time expected that in the event of an accident ships only needed enough lifeboats to ferry passengers from the sinking vessel to a nearby rescue ship. Of course, in Titanic’s case, the only ship to answer the call, RMS Carpathia, did not reach it in time.

The obsession did not end with the enquiries. Post-cards were sold, commemorating the tragedy, depicting the sinking vessel alongside the poignant notes of the bands last song. Artwork, a musical and songs were inspired by the events of 14/15th April 1912. The tragedy has been depicted in film a number of times, most recently an ITV series and James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster ‘Titanic’. These recent portrayals are not a recent phenomenon, the earliest film was released a mere 29 days after the disaster involving 22 year old Dorothy Gibson, a survivor of the sinking. Whilst some condemned the film for being insensitive, it was still a success.

Within days the Titanic had become a legend. She represented a moral lesson, how nature will always triumph over greed and of the limitations of mankind. Its mythology has continued to capture the imaginations and hearts of so many generations. But that’s not why the tragedy of Titanic is so powerful. It is the human stories and the scale of human suffering, an episode in our history which shows the best, and the worst of our nature. People are fascinated with a tragedy which could have been averted. Titanic artist Ken Marschall stated that he felt that by painting the ship he could keep their memory alive. For him, and many others, it’s important to honour the memory of those who were aboard the ship. However, for others it’s the eerie broken body of the wreck, which fascinates them whilst they continue to look for answers, how and why did the Titanic sink? Who, if anyone, was to blame? What should we do with the site of the wreck itself?

Dr Ballard fervently believes the site should be left intact as a memorial to those who lost their lives, said he feared that the wreck would become a haven for treasure hunters. His fears were not unfounded; Ballard has argued that many parts of the ship have been damaged and stolen; the Crow’s Nest is amongst the missing. 

The centennial auction estimated the total worth of 5000 salvaged memorabilia items were worth around £117 million. Items included personal artefacts such as glasses and hats to parts of the ship itself. In 2008 a lifejacket believed to have been pulled from a frozen body in the ocean sold for £34,000. It had blood stains on it. Many salving operations were deemed by many of the remaining survivors as disgusting, the divers were called ‘thieves’ and ‘grave-robbers.’ But is it right to take things from the site or should it be treated as a mass grave? Whilst there is something unsettling and grotesque about selling such items to the highest bidder the sad fact is that without these salvage missions they will be lost forever. The ocean will not preserve them. Even the Titanic will one day be nothing more than a rust stain on the bottom of the Atlantic. Isn’t it better that they are conserved for future generations?

But amidst the on-going debates and controversies about salvaging the Titanic we should not allow ourselves to get lost in the irony of the tale which was heralded as a moral against greed and arrogance and has now become a billion dollar industry. Nor should we immerse ourselves merely in statistics and numbers. We should remember the horrors, not only of the night when the world seemed to stand still, but also of the days that followed. We should remember that on the 20th April 1912 Mrs Johanna Stunke aboard the Bremen reported seeing a hundred bodies floating on the icy surface of the water, one woman clasping her baby and another clasping her scruffy dog. It should never be forgotten that when seven year old Eva Hart said what would be her last goodbye to her father as she clambered into the lifeboat she was told she would be back on the ship to greet him in time for breakfast.


  • The RMS Titanic, built in Belfast and registered at Liverpool, was an Olympic class ocean liner and the biggest floating vessel on water at the time of her maiden voyage in 1912.
  • She collided with an iceberg at 11:40pm on 14th April and took 2hrs & 4o minutes to sink, taking 1,502 souls with her out of 2,224 passengers and crew.
  • Blame for the lack of sufficient lifeboats and the accident itself has been laid at White Star Line chairman J. Bruce Ismay, though others claim that he was made a scapegoat for larger failings in British shipping regulations.
  • The Titanic’s sinking has been immortalised since in numerous stories, songs, films and television programmes, forming almost an industry in itself today

The Celebration of Easter: Good Friday

Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. It is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover.

And so today begins the Easter Triduum.

Good Friday is what Lent has been building up to – Jesus’ death. It may seem strange to call a day someone died as ‘good’ but at the time it really meant ‘holy’. Christians remember how Jesus was flogged and taken, as he carried the cross, to the hillside where he was crucified with two criminals, even though he had done nothing wrong.

He was nailed to the cross there and left to die. This is why a cross is used as a symbol of the Christian faith.


Today millions of Christians worldwide observe the somber holy day of Good Friday, which commemorates the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus.

The faithful often act it out by carrying a large wooden cross and crown of thorns symbolic of the suffering of Christ.

In the streets of Jerusalem, and even in the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, people will be carrying wooden crosses to remember Jesus carrying his cross to his own crucifixion.

Why is it Good?

At first glance, Good Friday seems like the ultimate misnomer. If Jesus suffered and died on this day, then why is it called Good Friday?

On one level, the answer is about the meaning of words.

The term “Good” as applied to Good Friday is an Old English expression meaning holy. It’s often called Holy Friday also.

But in another sense, Good Friday is always tied to Easter Sunday, which is a joyful celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. He could not have been resurrected if he had not died first.

Have a very special Easter Celebration.

The Celebration of Easter: Maundy Thursday

EASTER is just around the corner – and millions of people around the world are gearing up to celebrate the annual festival.
Numerous different events mark the Christian calendar during lent, including Maundy Thursday, but what exactly is it, how is it celebrated and how did the Christian holy day begin?
Maundy Thursday is also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries.
It is the Christian holy day that falls on the Thursday before Easter and marks three days of Easter celebration.
It honours the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles and is followed by Good Friday.

Dad’s Heart: Chapter Four

It has definitely been a whirlwind of a weekend, and so much happened today, so quickly … you are getting this update, post “Operation Run Forrest, Run!”

I’ll get to the important stuff, but first … I wanted to share a few things I heard whilst waiting and walking the VA hallways over the past few days … It might have been stress, but I found it HILARIOUS!

Nurse to Female Patient: “How do you feel today?  
Female Patient:  “I feel fantastic.  I want you to send me home with a couple dozen of them depositories.”

An older gentleman was brought into the room next to my dad and I heard him talking to the nurse who was doing his intake.  It went a little something like this: “I went to the ER for chest pain.  I tried putting “one of them nuclear explosions under my tongue and that helped some.”   I assume he meant nitroglycerine. 

I heard a female patient tell the nurse she had the “prostrate cancer.”

… and probably my favorite: a female patient who complained to the nurse about ” fireballs in her Eucharist”.

It has been a great experience from the standpoint that the physicians and nurses have been excellent.  With all of the negative press the VA Healthcare System has received in recent years, my dad has received some of the best, most kind and caring care while here the past few days … and this isn’t his first rodeo.


So anyway, on to the good stuff.

Dr. McFalls (Chief of Cardiology) came to Dad’s room to give us the good news. He started by stating that while they did see the past damage that led to the 4 Vessel Bypass in 1995, they do now see another abnormality on his scan that is located near a cusp or connecting point for the ventricular chamber walls and the fact that 1 or more of his bypass vessels may now be occluded.

He talked about the risks and benefits of doing an angioplasty to blocked vessels and placing stents, and he talked extensively about the very real risks associated with Dad’s history with MRSA and the fact that has the VERY real threat of any surgical site becoming infected, which  could grow to a bigger problem.

Alas, after much discussion, the “experts” (4 cardiology specialists and dad) have decided they will closely monitor this for now, and adjust his medications as necessary.  They have determined that since he has been asymptomatic for greater than 24 hrs, he can be discharged to home and they will see him in a few weeks for follow-up tests.

Dad and Mom are okay with that, the doctors are okay with that, Shell and Rob are okay with that and so am I.

Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers over the weekend.  We are so very Blessed to have such wonderful, caring, supportive friends and family.

This probably won’t be the last medical scare for this team, but we’re prepared and rollin’ with the punches.

I can’t thank the staff at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center enough, as well as the staff at Fairview Lakes Medical Center (Wyoming, MN) and North Memorial Ambulance Service.

So … now the BEST news yet … Dad gets to go home.   Have a great night.


Dad’s Heart: Chapter Three

Just a little update:

Dr. McFalls (Chief of Cardiology) just came to the waiting room, specifically to talk to mom and let her know he was impressed with dad’s echocardiogram results yesterday. He said, other than the ventricular damage present from “the big one” back in 1995 (which resulted in quad-bypass surgery and 4 stents), there is no evidence of new muscular damage. 

 Now, this test will tell them if any of the 4 bypass vessels from 1995 are occluded.

 We’re still waiting for him to come back from the first phase of his test. What they said would be 15 minutes, of course has been about 90 minutes so far.

It sounds like it’s gonna be a long day. We were just informed that one of the pieces of equipment used for this test has broken, so they are trying to work quickly to get it repaired. 

More later. 

Dad’s Heart: Chapter Two

Dr Hillard is dads doctor for today 👨‍⚕️ and he was just in. 

After looking at Dads echocardiogram from yesterday, his ejection fraction (cardiac output) has actually gotten better since 2013. It was 33% then and up to 40-40% yesterday. 

 So, that’s good news. 

 The test he’s having today is in 2 parts. He’ll be going in for the first part between now and 10am. They have to wait 3 hours before the second part (the drug that stresses his heart) and hopefully will have the results by 2-2:30p. 

 If it looks good, he can go home, if not … they’ll see what the plan is, which could include an angiogram.
Will update with more later.

Brain Scans Reveal What Dogs Really Think of Us

IMG_7118In the 30,000 years humans and dogs have lived together, man’s best friend has only become a more popular and beloved pet. Today, dogs are a fixture in almost 50% of American households.

From the way dogs thump their tails, invade our laps and steal our pillows, it certainly seems like they love us back. But since dogs can’t tell us what’s going on inside their furry heads, can we ever be sure?

Actually, yes. Thanks to recent developments in brain imaging technology, we’re starting to get a better picture of the happenings inside the canine cranium.

That’s right — scientists are actually studying the dog brains. And what the studies show is welcome news for all dog owners: Not only do dogs seem to love us back, they actually see us as their family. It turns out that dogs rely on humans more than they do their own kind for affection, protection and everything in between.

IMG_7116The most direct dog brain-based evidence that they are hopelessly devoted to humans comes from a recent neuroimaging study about odor processing in the dog brain. Animal cognition scientists at Emory University trained dogs to lie still in an MRI machine and used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to measure their neural responses to the smell of people and dogs, both familiar and unknown. Because dogs navigate the world through their noses, the way they process smell offers a lot of potential insight into social behavior.

The scientists found that dog owners’ aroma actually sparked activation in the “reward center” of their brains, called the caudate nucleus. Of all the wafting smells to take in, dogs actually prioritized the hint of humans over anything or anyone else.

These results jibe with other canine neuroimaging research. In Budapest, researchers at Eotvos Lorand University studied canine brain activity in response to different human and dog sounds, including voices, barks and the meaningful grunts and sighs both species emit. Before this study, we had no idea what happens inside canine brains when humans make noise.


Among other surprising findings, the study revealed marked similarities in the way dog and human brains process emotionally laden vocal sounds. Researchers found that happy sounds in particular light up the auditory cortex in both species. This commonality speaks to the uniquely strong communication system underlying the dog-human bond.

In short: Dogs don’t just seem to pick up on our subtle mood changes — they are actually physically wired to pick up on them.

“It’s very interesting to understand the tool kit that helps such successful vocal communication between two species,” Attila Andics, a neuroscientist and lead author of the study, told Mic. “We didn’t need neuroimaging to see that communication works [between dogs and people], but without it, we didn’t understand why it works. Now we’re really starting to.”


Behavior research supports the recent neuroscience too. According to Andics, dogs interact with their human caregivers in the same way babies do their parents. When dogs are scared or worried, they run to their owners, just as distressed toddlers make a beeline for their parents. This is in stark contrast to other domesticated animals: Petrified cats, as well as horses, will run away.

Dogs are also the only non-primate animal to look people in the eyes. This is something Andics, along with other researchers, discovered about a decade ago when he studied the domestication of wolves, which he thought would share that trait. They endeavored to raise wolves like dogs. This is a unique behavior between dogs and humans — dogs seek out eye contact from people, but not their biological dog parents.
“Bonding with owners is much more important for dogs than other pets,” said Andics.

Scientists have also looked at the dog-human relationship from the other direction. As it turns out, people reciprocate dogs’ strong feelings. In a study published in PLOS One in October, Massachusetts General Hospital researchers measured human brain activity in response to photos of dogs and children. Study participants were women who’d had dogs and babies for at least two years. Both types of photos sparked activity in brain regions associated with emotion, reward, affiliation, visual processing and social interaction. Basically, both furry and (typically) less-furry family members make us equally happy.


Dog-lovers have committed a few notable gaffes in interpreting dogs’ facial expressions, e.g., assuming the often-documented hangdog look signifies guilt, an emotion that, most behavior experts agree, requires a multifaceted notion of self-awareness that dogs probably don’t have.

But, as with family, our instinctive hunches about dog behavior are often correct.

“Sometimes our intuition about what’s going on inside dogs’ heads is dead-on,” said Laurie Santos, the lead researcher at Yale’s Canine Cognition Center. “Like, that dogs are seeking out help from us — and that’s true based on studies — which is different from even their closest relatives, wolves.”

The precise wish or worry lurking in a dog’s doleful look may not always be clear. But we can relish the fact that we know our pets love us as much as we hoped, maybe even more. Even if they’re not full-fledged children, they see us as family. And to us? Well, they’ll always be our babies.

Dad’s Heart: Chapter One

I started this series on Facebook, but decided that I want to find a central place for updates that didn’t require someone to be my “friend” on Facebook to see the updates … so, here it goes.

The scoop on Dad …

Instead of using phrases like, “Cardiac Event”, “Ejection Fraction”, “Dilated Cardiomyopathy” and “Systolic Dysfunction” …

I’ll tell it “Dad-style” … He was transferred to the VA last night after being taken to Fairview Lakes Hospital yesterday afternoon complaining that he just didn’t feel good (severe chest pain, shortness of breath and dizziness).

At the moment, he is stable and playing on his iPad, watching National Geographic with Alexis.

He’s had a barrage of various tests (lab work, EKGs, radiologic scans), a few other tests, and an echocardiogram. Tomorrow, he has an Adenoscan Test (chemical stress test).

What we know so far is that he had a “cardiac event”, related to congestive heart failure (which his cardiac output is at 30% or less), his chest pain / tightness and shortness of breath has subsided, and after a short stint of a dysthymia (A-Fib), it too is gone for now. An added extra wrench in the works is the obligatory swab for MRSA (which he’s had trouble with since 2003) was positive, so contact precautions for everyone.

I spoke to (interrogated) dads cardiologist this morning (who I’ve decided looks like Ted Danson) who was very good at answering all of my questions.

Of course, Dad is feisty as ever with the hospital staff … which puts my mom at ease, knowing he is still a curmudgeon means he’s still kickin!

Mom is here and doing good. Worried, but she’d never admit to it. After 52 years of marriage, she like to think she’s in control. 😆.

From Dad: “I’m fine.

From Shell (in the lobby eating a cheeseburger): “I’m an emotional eater.”

From Mom: (said to Lexi): “You probably shouldn’t give him that chocolate donut”

From Levi (Rob’s youngest) when the ambulance came to transfer dad: “I come with.”

From the Nurse: (giving him a Sprite) “If anyone asks, you didn’t get that from me.”

Thanks for the many thoughts, prayers and well-wishes. We are all here, so access for calls/texts is limited, but we’re checking emails and voicemails … and, due to the station he’s on, he can’t have visitors.

I’ll let you know more as we know more.


The Bench …

There is a bench in the city where I live. Its structure is simple—three slabs of smooth gray granite. And, having checked with a compass to be certain, I can tell you that bench has been carefully placed so that the long side faces east and the west and the short end points north and south. The sturdy seat has been placed with purpose on the highest ground of the highest hill in the city. So that when the sky is clear on a summer’s morning, you can see almost sixty miles in three directions.

This bench is, in fact, a tombstone in a cemetery. And I would take you there to sit if I could. You wouldn’t feel uncomfortable sitting on it, I promise. You wouldn’t even notice what it was at first. It’s right on the edge of a paved line that curves through the burial grounds. It’s placed so that you are clearly invited to use it. The placement of the bench, the consciousness of the view—all say that someone went to a lot of trouble to be useful in death. A parting gesture of quiet generosity has been made. Funerals have a certain narcissism to them, a focus on self: what I want for MY funeral and what I want for MY epitaph—a very human holding on to identity as long as breath amd granite last. But to me, tombstones are markers of loneliness.

But this bench is another story. Unique. First of all, there’s no name inscribed on it. No conventional epitaph. No dates. Just an open invitation to sit and think. What marks this grave is the gift of silent companionship that bridges loneliness. This bench has become a spiritual retreat for me over the years. And I know that I am not the only one to to use it, because once I found a note taped under the bench. Not for me: for a young woman from a young man who was in love with her and wrote her careless poetry with great passion. And no, I’m not sorry I snooped; and yes, I put it back as I found it; and no I didn’t hide in the bushes and wait and see who came for the note. Secret lovers have enough problems as it is.

But it was on this bench, the summer morning after one of those “milestone” birthdays, that I came to that moment when one crosses over from abstract intellectual knowledge that all human beings die…to the active realization that I will die. Me. I will not be. Sooner or later. Not only did I realize that I will die but I walked away thinking…well…it’s OK.

I connect that moment of enlightenment with the peculiar sanctuary of the bench and whoever provided it. This bench will last hundreds of years. Many people will sit on it and think not of the name of its owner but of the nameless joys of this sweet life… and the mystery of death… and how utterly amazing it all is. And that somehow… sometimes… things are just as they should be.

All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten – Robert Fulghum

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