Sunday, March 28, 2010

A spot of calm

Husband Walter and I are keeping four little ones while their parents have a Savannah, GA, getaway. In a stretch of early morning quiet before any other eyes popped open, I enjoyed some long moments of prayer, time with my Bible and starting this post. The peacefulness of that early morning time reminded me that a year ago today my mother, my brother Mike and I were in the whirlwind of moving Mother into a studio apartment in Provisions Living in Hattiesburg, MS.

The movers were scheduled to deliver the furniture and boxes of belongings that would fit in her downsized living arrangements. Mike and I convinced her she needed to coordinate from her house that day while we coordinated with the movers at Provisions. We wanted to have everything in place, the bed made up and boxes out of sight. Our goal was that she would see a tranquil environment when we brought her out to the apartment that evening rather than another of the challenges and tasks that remained in this major change in her life.

That evening she was definitely surprised that everything looked ready for her. Although she is perfectly capable of exaggerating her enthusiasm in order to make her children happy, there was relief in her face and voice. Those spots of calm really can make a difference.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Small, everyday things

My 90-year-old mother and I have learned to cram visiting into every moment spent on the way to doctors’ offices and while we sit waiting to be called into the inner sanctums of health care. My mother has not escaped the conditions that age can bring, but she has always chosen to downplay or keep silent about aches, pains and potentially alarming symptoms. It has taken some work, but she is starting to accept that describing the symptoms she experiences is not the same as complaining. On these frequent medically related excursions, our enjoyment of time with each other and her ability to communicate what she is experiencing health-wise are directly related to the patience of the medical practitioners working with her.

The courteous, caring, competent people we encountered in visits to two doctors’ offices this morning earned an A+ in patience, respect, warmth and charm, all important health benefits!  During one visit a nurse practitioner also administered lively conversation of the Southern-bonding variety, a definite tonic for my mother. Another treat was a spring shower that left drifts of snow-white Bradford pear tree blossoms on our way into the office.

It was a great day. Mother was satisfied that the morning was well-spent, and I was considering how blessed I am that she shares with me the beauty and pleasure she looks for and finds in small, everyday things.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Work as a reward

Stella, the ambitious leaf-mover
Husband Walter’s photo of our 22-month-old granddaughter Stella caught her busy “cleaning” a neglected flowerbed of leaves and depositing them on a walkway to our backdoor during a recent visit. Stella’s fascination with the tools and process of cleaning reminded me of an eye-opening experience more than two decades ago.

I had dropped by for a quick visit with my sister-in-law Lila. Her two girls were both younger than seven or eight at the time. The oldest was the same age as my youngest son. Usually they would be eager to greet visitors. This time, however, the impression grew that they were eager all right, eager for me to leave. What was going on?

“Oh, I promised them that if they cleaned their room really well, they could help me mop,” Lila explained. I was amazed that Lila couldn’t hear the fireworks going off in my head. What a concept – rewarding good behavior with . . . work! I had already missed the boat on that one, but I sure did wish that I had encountered that concept earlier!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Getting our grandkid fix

For 48 hours beginning midday Friday March 19, husband Walter and I reveled in a visit from our oldest son’s four children ages 22 months to 7 years old. The only drawback is that I never get the number and quality of photos that I want of the good times with our little ones. Below are some images that Walter and I captured Saturday at a Biloxi playground. Top priority, though, was being in the moment with them Friday through Sunday noon.

We always try to get the youngest members of the Skupien clan together when our grandchildren are in town, and they were excited about meeting their cousin Ashton at the playground. The wind was fierce in the Biloxi, MS, Miramar Park across U.S. 90 from the beach. The children did not care. They played non-stop. We did manage to round them up for the photo below early on.
Perching for a photo are our four Skupiens from the bottom left, Charlie, four; Nate, five; Stella, 22 months; Luke, seven; and at the top, Ashton Stanley, five.

The first try for a group photo was definitely not a success.
Charlie’s expression says “no” to her being pushed off the slide.

Saturday fun included pretend in a firetruck, swinging, climbing, mastering new skills, playing new-fangled games and just hanging out.
Stella and Charlie staff the firetruck.

Ashton and Luke defy gravity in old-fashioned swings.

Nate pauses for a photo as he climbs in the rope sphere.

Stella and Charlie work on their bubble-blowing skills.

Luke, Ashton and Nate share their enthusiasm for electronic games.

What a wonderful weekend. Thank you, Walt and Sarah, for sharing your little ones with Nana and Baboo!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happiness behind the curve

This computer user is definitely behind the technology learning curve, and my 90-year-old mother is way further back than I am. She maintains she has no use for a computer, doesn’t want one, won’t use one. As long as someone else is driving, however, she is more than ready to enjoy the benefits of computer technology.

On my visit with her today, we watched videos of our youngest son’s daughter Molly Kate – one of Mother’s three great-granddaughters. Technology of computer and Internet allowed us to share laughter over two-year-old Molly Kate’s recent “dance lesson” featured on mom Katie’s March 15 post on her blog, The Daily Skup. Then we watched a video on Facebook of a jazz group’s performance that included my brother Mike’s son Matthew on bells then piano.

Later, when Carpenter cousins Carolyn Watts and Judy Byrd joined us for a visit, Mother suggested we call Mike “on the computer.” She has become a fan of Skype. I have to admit that when we first started using it, I had to reach out and touch the intended recipient of my call via my cell phone first and get directions for each step. There was a problem connecting this time, and once again I called Mike on my cell. He walked me through the simple – but unknown to me – solution. Soon cousins Carolyn and Judy in Mississippi were talking face to face with cousins Mike, Sonya and Matthew in Virginia.

Behind the learning curve can be quite a happy place to be when creative and patient family members help keep us all connected.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Retro sunny day

Retro clothes dryer
Since my retirement, husband Walter and I have been experimenting with a number of energy saving and money-saving changes to day-to-day activities. Walter had rigged up a clothesline months ago, but cold and wet weather discouraged my participation in that particular energy saver. Monday, however, was a perfect day to return to childhood days of hanging clothes on a clothesline. Sunshine, low humidity and windy conditions did the clothes-drying job energy free. It was a pleasant task, and the towels and washcloths smelled wonderful. At this stage, however, hanging out clothes is entertainment. The clothes dryer definitely has job security at our house!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Close-to-home travel: Fun @ Fazzio’s

Shopping is not my favorite thing with two exceptions: office supplies and gardening supplies. My enchantment with office supplies is founded in reality and a matter for another post. My shopping for gardening supplies, however, is an indulgence in fantasy of the highest order, since I regularly kill all sorts of plants through too much love or sporadic neglect.

Husband Walter fed my fantasy Saturday with an inaugural jaunt to Fazzio’s Home and Farm Center about 30 minutes from our home. Fazzio’s did not disappoint. A symphony – or if you don’t like fuzzy babies, cacophony – greeted us immediately inside the front door of the rustic structure. Little bunnies were thumping around in pens in the center aisle. From an adjacent aisle came the sounds of recently hatched chicks, ducks, guineas and geese.

Day-trip souvenir: My new Ames Classic spading fork
The interior space was large enough to carry a fascinating array of things that serious farmers, pet owners and equestrians would need.  I headed for the gardening tools that were visible on the back wall. They had exactly the spading fork I had been looking for. It had both wooden handle and a wood and metal, D-shaped grippy thing at the top. Clutching my treasured new spading fork, I strolled around looking for seeds.

The search didn’t provide immediate results, but it was a delightful glimpse into totally foreign territory. One alcove featured John Deere toys for tots and collectible Breyer horses. Another huge, huge section displayed everything anyone would need for Western-styled horse-related competition and care, at least that is what it looked like to me. A side exit yielded no seeds but proved to be an extravaganza of vegetable plants with more tomato and pepper varieties than I had seen anywhere else this spring. Plus, unlike at the big box stores, these plants were all healthy -- ranks of sturdy green soldiers ready to do battle in my garden. I managed to contain my enthusiasm and abandoned the plants for my seed list. Onward to seeds.

Inexpensive entertainment: Seeds from Fazzio's
At last! My ultimate gardening fantasy, so many varieties of seeds in bulk, visible in little bins behind a long counter. Even better, the kind people at Fazzio’s had measured out seeds, some in little packets for extra-small quantities and others in small brown paper bags. They were cheaper than commercially packaged seeds, too. But wait! Where were the pictures! I needed pictures!

Beth to the rescue. She helped me through my list, pointed out photos and supplied advice. The trim and high-energy Beth had come out of a retirement that was evidently too tame for her. She said she had been on the Fazzio’s team for one month. One month? She did sound knowledgeable, though; and she did mention her own vegetable garden. “Okay, Beth,” I said, “If these don’t work, I am coming after you.”

“Come ahead,” she laughed, pointing me to the cashier in the center of the building.

That was the best and most entertaining seed-shopping experience I have ever had. I would never have guessed that a farm and home center could rate so high with me as a tourist destination for close-to-home travel.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Today was a weeding day:
- weeding a bit around my red sails lettuce,
- weeding out bank statements and other papers no longer needed,
- weeding out paperbacks and taking them to the library’s swap shelf, and
- weeding out kitchen clutter. . . well, not all of it, but at least it was a start.

Small, satisfying accomplishments and welcomed sunshine. Happy day!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring fashion statement

The elegant boots in the photo above belong to my husband Walter, but I have been the one wearing them to slog about in our backyard quagmire. They are too big for me but just right for easily slipping them on for a quick task outdoors. Another heavy rain last night left little islands here and there in what was once our yard but looked like a lake early this morning. I donned the trusty boots and took a stroll around to see what had budded out. Good thing I had them on. Water was above my ankles.

Things I found to celebrate:
- Red sails lettuce seeds that I recently planted did not wash away in earlier downpours and are coming up.
Bud on blueberry bush
- Two blueberry bushes that we planted last spring survived and are budding out. One, probably a Tifblue variety, is a shoot from blueberry bushes at my mother’s former residence of 40 plus years. The other is a Brightwell purchased at a blueberry festival. The vendors helped potential buyers like me by having samples of the luscious berries from the different varieties available for tasting.
- Tomato seeds that I had started in a small container are coming up.
- Hooray! Spring just might really be here!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What I’ve been reading lately

A trek through the book of Job in the Old Testament is challenging me, especially the King James Version. I finished reading Chapter 13 yesterday in which Job was asking questions that explore the character of God. Job pleads for understanding about why God is letting such bad stuff happen to him when he has led an exemplary life and honored God.

His “friends” tell him that his misfortune is the result of his sin. Those kinds of friends are of little help when someone is grieving. Job disagrees with them, certain that his heart and actions have been right and his woes are not a consequence of sin. The reader can be certain, too. At the beginning of this chronicle, Job 1: 8, God calls Job “a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil.” In the NIV that description becomes “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

Helping me to decipher this story are the notes in the Ryrie Study Bible I am reading plus occasional comparisons to my New International Version. Not for the first time I am struggling to return to regular Bible reading after a period of hit and miss. In my reading yesterday, I found this note I had written in the margin on July 5, 1986: “Reading God’s word regularly opens a hatch for creative power to flow through. After abandoning the practice for 11 months, it took seven months of self-coercion for ease of reading and creative flow to return.”

In years past, when I regularly read the Bible through each year, some verse or passage that had barely registered in a previous year would pop out at me. It would be just what I needed to meet a current challenge. Life is much richer, even in the midst of rough patches, when I don’t let other priorities push aside regular appointments with God’s word.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Helpful reminder

When I get behind the wheel bound for a specific destination, any on-the-way errands seem to leak out of my consciousness. Sunday night I was getting ready for an early morning day-trip out of town. I had one must-do stop on the way. Husband Walter returned from a trip to the grocery store and whispered, “I left you a reminder in the steering wheel.In the steering wheel? His helpful hint worked perfectly. How well he knows me!

Monday, March 1, 2010

New again

Got a call tonight. Grandsons Luke, 7, and Nate, 5, are hooked on a “new” cartoon, and they wanted to tell Baboo and me about it. Tom and Jerry! I couldn’t believe it. Tom, Jerry and Spike were high on my list of favorites when I was about their age, too. Luke and Nate took turns giving enthusiastic blow-by-blow details of the extreme strategies Tom and Jerry exercised against each other. Violent, yes; funny, yes; and the smallest character always figures a way to come out on top. Everything old is new again.

A Google search on Tom and Jerry cartoons showed 28,700,000 sites. I especially enjoyed the Wikipedia history of the cartoon series.