Monday, December 19, 2011

Healing Memories

My mother loved to laugh. And sometimes her humor included mischievous and subtle teasing. On one of my visits to Mother after she had moved to Provisions Living, she asked me to type some Scripture references and the words of “A Personal Prayer” from a newspaper clipping for her in big type that she could easily read.

When I was back at home after our visit, I typed the Scripture references first. I posted about those references here.

As I typed the words from the yellowed and worn clipping, it dawned on me that she was giving me a sly little Annette Carpenter nudge about the changes that aging was bringing to my behavior.

I also posted that prayer. But I am posting it here again as one of the memories of my mother that Bob Jones shared in the eulogy he delivered during her funeral service. Bob is seniors minister at Main Street Baptist Church in Hattiesburg. Main Street was Mother’s church and the church I grew up in. And Bob was a long-time family friend and neighbor.

Here are the words from that clipping. There was no author or date on it. And I still need to be praying for divine help in correcting these bad habits!

A Personal Prayer
Lord, you know I am growing older. Keep me from becoming talkative and possessed with the idea that I must express myself on every subject. Release me from the craving to straighten out everyone’s affairs.

Keep me from the recital of endless detail. Give me strength to get to the point.

Seal my lips when I am inclined to tell of my aches and pains. They are increasing with the passing of years, and the love to speak of them grows sweeter as time goes by.

Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Make me thoughtful, but not nosy. Helpful, but not bossy.

With my vast store of wisdom and experiences, it does seem a pity not to use it at all. But you know, Lord, that I do want a few friends in the end.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

After Mamaw's Funeral

Celebrating Mamaw's Life
Front, from the left, are the great-grands of my mother (Annette Carpenter), Luke, Nate, Walker, Molly Kate, Stella, and Charlie Skupien. Back row are her grandchildren, Walt Skupien, Becky (Rebecca Annette), Matthew and Amanda Carpenter, and Jeremy Skupien.

At the fellowship luncheon after my mother's funeral Saturday, Dec. 17,  my brother thought to capture the rare opportunity when all Mother's grandchildren and great-grandchildren were in the same town at the same time. 

My brother and his family are en route home to Virginia today so I haven't seen his photos. But daughter-in-law Katie shared the one above. She also used it as her new header pix on her blog, the Daily Skup

Thanks, Katie! Thanks, Mike, for instigating the photo session. And thanks to Main Street Baptist Church for organizing and providing the meal. And thanks to all those generous cooks from the Main Street family and some from other churches, too, who prepared delicious dishes. As we broke bread with friends and relatives, we relaxed in the chance to laugh, cry and celebrate Mother's life together.

Grandson Nate asked me, "Nana, are you sad?"

I responded with a fairly incoherent "Yes, but I am happy, too." Fortunately, his dad, our son Walt, was on hand to translate. 

Thanks, too, for well wishes, however they arrived, from friends, relatives and sympathetic blogging friends new and long standing.  God bless!  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What I’m Reading Lately

During my mother's last few weeks, I have not been moving forward in this year's read-through of the Bible. Today, in a break from details that are part of the aftermath of the death of a loved one, I took a break to pick up where I left off, at Paul's letter to the Ephesians. 

That letter has been an uplifting read for the circumstances of life right now. And it is added comfort that the Bible I have been reading this year is a study Bible of the New International Version translation that my brother and sister-in-law gave me for Christmas in 1990. Showers of blessings! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Farewell . . . for Awhile

My mother earlier this year with her oldest great grands Nate, left, and Luke

My mother died Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011, at 12:55 p.m. I like to think of her being reunited with my father for their Dec. 9 wedding anniversary, sharing their joy at being together with the Lord they loved and served. Below is her obituary my brother Mike wrote:

Annette B. Carpenter, 1919-2011
Annette Byrd Carpenter, 92, longtime resident of Hattiesburg died Dec. 6, 2011, in her home.

Update on arrangements
Visitation is  5-8 p.m. Friday Dec. 16, at Hulett-Winstead Funeral Home of Hattiesburg. Funeral is 10 a.m. Saturday Dec. 17, in the Hulett-Winstead Chapel followed by interment at Highland Cemetery in Hattiesburg.

Mrs. Carpenter was preceded in death by her husband, Cecil L. Carpenter; three brothers, Levi Byrd, Harvey Byrd, and J.D. Byrd; and four sisters: Beatrice Long, Nina Pearl White, Audrey Geiger, and Thelma Clepper. She is survived by a daughter, Linda, and husband Walter Skupien of Ocean Springs, MS; one son Michael and wife Sonya Carpenter of Hampton, VA; three grandsons, Walt Skupien and his wife Sarah of Marietta, GA; Jeremy Skupien and his wife Katie of Prairieville, LA; and Matthew Carpenter of Hampton, VA; two granddaughters, Amanda and Rebecca Carpenter of Hampton, VA; and six great-grandchildren, Luke, Nate, Charlotte, and Stella Skupien of Marietta, GA, and Molly Kate and Walker Skupien of Prairieville LA. Mrs. Carpenter is also survived by sister-in-law Jean Byrd of Beaumont, MS, and nieces, nephews and their families.

Born June 12, 1919, in Perry County, MS, Mrs. Carpenter was a graduate of Runnelstown High School, Jones Junior College and Mississippi Southern College, now the University of Southern Mississippi. She was a member of Main Street Baptist Church where she served for many years as a Sunday School teacher. She was a teacher and retired from the Hattiesburg Public School District. She began her career as a first grade teacher at Runnelstown School in Perry County during World War II and later taught in the Hattiesburg elementary schools Woodley, Davis and Thames.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Christmas memory tree past and present

A tree of memories

Husband Walter has been working on assembling our artftcial Christmas tree today and yesterday. This is its final year. It is shedding needles . . . and branches.

How could that be? We just bought it in an after-Christmas sale a few years ago. A few years? Hubby informed me it was in 1995. That’s sixteen years ago.

As hubby was wrestling with strings of lights, I tossed out the idea that we could just go buy a new tree. No, he had already invested energy and heavy thinking into wiring limbs in place and putting some of the lights on. Besides, paying full, before-Christmas prices for seasonal decorations and “stuff” is not in our genetic code.

At least I haven’t seen any silver duct tape holding the tree together . . . yet.

Now don’t start cringing if you choose to deck the halls well after Thanksgiving. I have a good reason for an early tree set up. I am hoping for a repeat of last year’s tree decorating with grandkids and their moms and dads following our after-Thanksgiving meal Friday.

Grandchildren create the 2010 edition of our Christmas tree.

For each of our sons there is a box containing ornaments that we gave them each year and ornaments they made in elementary school. Although the Christmas keepsakes survive in various stages of wear, tear, and disrepair, the memories still sparkle.

When I hold a little wooden truck ornament, for example, I can see our youngest son as a toddler, lying under the Christmas tree, rolling the truck back and forth on the floor. The ornament was still attached to a tree branch, so he was also pulling that branch down almost to the floor, too.

A still beautiful bright red glittering egg-shaped ornament brings back memories of our oldest son proudly sharing exactly how he successfully blew the raw egg out a tiny hole and kept the egg shell intact for decorating.

Daughters-in-law have added to our memories, too, with now treasured ornaments. And as I “undecorated” the tree last year, I discovered tiny Lego Clone Wars soldiers from the Star Wars’ series, left behind from grandsons' intergalactic battles.

Last year’s decorating chaos was priceless. This year our youngest grand is an active 18 months old. We’ll see how that works!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Grand Pairs of Grands

October and early November visits from grandchildren and their parents were special treats that left me wanting more. If all goes as expected we will see them again for our “day after” Thanksgiving.

In the meantime I am enjoying images that son Walt captured of his four and several I snapped of son Jeremy’s pair.

Brothers Nate, left, and Luke display an obligatory tough guy look while barely suppressing a laugh.

Sisters Charlie, left, and Stella model their matching Hello Kitty apparel.

Siblings Molly Kate, left, and Walker prepare to launch into a duet on Nana’s piano.

The MK-Walker duo enthusiastically demonstrates toddler keyboard technique.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: More blessings

Here is another big “thank you” to fellow bloggers for the encouraging comments, shared memories and thoughts, and queries on how my mother and I are doing.

Update on Linda
I have been out of therapy for a number of weeks, or I guess months now, and husband Walter and I have been attempting to keep up with the at-home exercises.

Now there is good news. A call from the outpatient neuro rehab center yesterday informed me my insurance has approved 10 more physical therapy sessions. My physical therapist, Ashley works mostly with improving my walking and getting torso and everything else to wake up and work together.

This morning I called back about scheduling and learned that I have 24 more sessions for occupational therapy. Occupational therapist Amy works with my hand and arm mostly. That is extra good news since other than the severe sensory deficit on the left side, it is the left hand, arm and shoulder that have been the slowest to regain function. Woohoo!

Another happy: With the help of my former boss and a member of the team I worked with pre-retirement, I have connected with another former colleague who is traveling to Hattiesburg for a night class at the University of Southern Mississippi only a few blocks from where my mother lives.

This angel of mercy will pick me and my walker up at my home in Ocean Springs this afternoon, drop me off at my mother’s before class and pick me up for the return trip home after class. I will have the chance for a visit with my mother. I look forward to catching up with my former colleague, too.

Just goes to show that in spite of all the negative news we hear, there are still a multitude of wonderful, unselfish people in this world. They give their precious time, effort and resources to help in large and small ways. My personal experience on the receiving end is that the small ways are only small in the eyes of the giver. For the receiver, each unselfish contact, whether word or deed, is a huge, generous blessing with ripples that expand outward in an enormous circle of impact.

Life is good!

Update on Annette Carpenter
My mother’s strength continues to diminish. But she is still enjoying visitors, breakfast foods and some other dishes. She is thankful for the caregivers who come in 12-hour shifts and make it possible for her to move from bed to wheel chair and to her favorite recliner.

She is on oxygen now. A portable unit allows her some freedom outside her apartment. Our youngest son visited her today and said she had lunch with him in the restaurant-styled dining hall. The caregiver on duty rolled her down in the wheelchair and stayed close to assist.

And the blessings continue to shower down!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: Zap a Dee Doo Dah

For several weeks I have wanted to post about the electronic medical devices that are contributing to my stroke recovery. Specifically, I was focusing on those that use electrical stimulation to zap disabled nerves and muscles into action. In the process they encourage the reeducation of healthy brain cells to take over jobs once performed by their now stroke-fried compatriots.

Just the thought of being zapped prompted a mental leap to a title for the yet-to-be-composed pearls of wisdom: “Zap a Dee Doo Dah,” an alteration of the classic Disney song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

Disney classic “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

The mental leap was quite refreshing, since leaping has been pretty much non-existent since my April 22, 2011, stroke. As happy as I was to execute a leap, mental or otherwise, the problem was that the successful leap derailed my train of thought. My mother must have sung that song to me, and it resurfaces frequently along with the compulsion to break into song and smile. Okay, “breaking into song” might be wishful thinking. More accurate might be “breaking into noise.” 

I am guessing that “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” which we pronounced “zippity doo dah,” was among a repertoire of songs my mother employed to distract me during the frequent ear infections that alternated with bouts of nausea and throwing up during my first four years. Yeah, I know. That was more than you wanted to know.

Details such as song lyrics and timelines from those days are often lost to me. So, of course, I googled "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." I was surprised, though, that my first Google search turned up several articles about whether the song is too racist to sing. Hunh?

"Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" was from the 1946 Disney film Song of the South and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1947, the year I was born. From the columns I read on-line, the authors’ objections were, in part, that the movie portrayed the lives of rural African Americans of earlier times as happy and uncomplicated by racism or hardships.

I don’t remember ever seeing the movie although I can retrieve the Disney image of the Br’er Rabbit character from the depths of memory. So if not planted via movie the image must have settled into my brain via books. I found on eBay quite a few Disney Little Golden Books that were copyrighted in 1946, reissued in the 70s and that featured Br’er Rabbit’s escapades. And Little Golden Books were more a part of my everyday life back then than movies. 

What I remember, correctly or incorrectly, is that some character bigger and faster was always after Br’er Rabbit; but he was audacious and survived by his wits. I vaguely remember admiring Br’er Rabbit, probably because I was surrounded by healthy, strapping cousins, playmates and children at church who were all my age but bigger, faster and more daring than I was.

Okay that’s it. This detour has gone on for two days now. When a detour leads to avid virtual window shopping on eBay, it is time to stop. I have to say, though, that it’s been an enjoyable tour through information that is new to me and that brings new dimensions to childhood memories.

Thanks for coming along with me.

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah (the way I remember it)
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

My, oh my, what a wonderful day

Plenty of sunshine headin' my way

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

Mister Bluebird on my shoulder

It's the truth, it's actual

Ev'rything is satisfactual

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

Wonderful feeling, wonderful day!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Help, Denizens of the Blogosphere!

Questions that are bugging me, some a lot, some a little:
I was inundated with spam a week or so ago. Even though Blogger's spam filter worked effectively, I considered going back to having that thingee with the irritating bunch of letters. You know, the one you have to type in as part of the process when posting a comment. The onslaught of spam seems to have diminished to an insignificant trickle, but is there anything I should watch for about spam dangers ahead?

Repeating myself
This is my 315th post and around about post No. 200 I realized there was a good possibility that I was repeating myself. I have spent (as in wasted) time looking back at old posts when I vaguely remember earlier episodes of pondering similar thoughts for a post.

My searches aren’t particularly effective. Recently I have tried to bring a little more clarity to my post titles and labels. Is anyone else out there plagued with such blogging memory challenges and how do you handle them?

Blogging etiquette—acknowledging comments
Bloggers whose blogs I visit acknowledge comments in various ways. Some reply in the comment section of the same post on their own blog. One emails me. Some leave a thank you in a comment on my blog.  

Gracious, creative and articulate individuals have left comments on my blog, and I appreciate, enjoy and even find encouragement, healing and laughter delivered through their comments. But I don’t seem to find an easy way to reply when a reply seems called for.

When I am somewhat consistently blogging, my only consistent acknowledgement of comments is to regularly visit the blogs of bloggers who comment on mine. My visiting and commenting on their posts has little to do with commitment or determination to acknowledge their comments, though. I just enjoy their posts and am already checking in to see what they are up to next. Plus, their posts always seem to spark an irresistible urge to chime in on the conversation.

I do enjoy acknowledgments that come my way, but am I guilty of negligence? Is there any “rule” of blogging etiquette about acknowledging comments?

And what about the length of comments? I find myself prone to leaving paragraphs instead of those concise, witty comments that I aspire to but never quite achieve. Where is the line between an appropriate and an inappropriate length?

What other blogging bad habits drive you crazy or irritate you to the point you might fantasize about what could constitute appropriate cyber mayhem?

I admit I tootle around in a fairly benign section of the blogosphere. My rare discontent runs more to the variety of “Oh drat! Wish I had thought of that,” or, “Wish I had written that as well as they did.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: When You Can’t Be There

Today marks the third week since my 92-year-old mother decided to discontinue dialysis. She has grown steadily weaker. Monday we started 24-hour care with caregivers who are approved for working with residents of Provisions Living where Mother has her studio apartment.

On our Saturday visit she said “not yet” to caregivers. Monday the hospice nurse called and let me know it was time. I made the call, and by 2 p.m. a caregiver was on duty. I know others have gone through the end-of-life experiences of loved ones when physical disability or other circumstances prevented you from being with your loved one daily. I want to be the one there holding her hand every day. But my stroke recovery hasn’t progressed that far yet.

I am working on keeping my focus on God’s care, though. And the evidence of that care helps me fight frustration. Mother loves the ladies who are taking care of her. Their ministrations have brought her physical, spiritual and emotional comfort. Same with the hospice nurse.

And they have comforted me with their reports, which, while clear on her weakening condition, also include insightful details about her continued pleasure in visits, brief visits, that is; quiet discussions of Scripture passages with a caregiver; and thankfulness for the simple experiences of a warm shower, sausage gravy over a biscuit and a night’s restful sleep.

I hope to be by her side again soon, holding her hand. In the meantime, I am thankful she is surrounded by other relatives and new and long-time friends who love her.

Friday, October 28, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: Doses of Good Family Medicine

A Happy elixir: Grandma Sugar’s gumbo and shared laughter with her, left; Linda, a friend of Grandma’s youngest sister Sue; my husband Walter; and Sue.

Grandchildren are not the only individuals who have delivered megadoses of healing during my stroke recovery. During the past two weeks, I have been blessed with some good family medicine.

My husband Walter’s Aunt Sue, about five months his elder, drove down from Kentucky to visit relatives and her hometown of Biloxi. Sue has lived in Kentucky for more than three or four decades, and her visits are always memorable.

She is one of those individuals who creates a sense of well-being in those around her, served up with generous helpings of laughter. Her neighbor and friend Linda accompanied her and added to the fun of sitting around the dinner table sharing stories old and new.

A recent visit with my mother produced another memorable family experience for me. Three sisters, cousins of mine who have lavished love and caring attention on my mother, surprised me when Walter and I arrived at Mother’s.

These talented ladies presented me with a beautiful hand-quilted creation in a “Tea for Two” pattern. I know every stitch was stitched with love. These cousins pour on the blessings.

Carolyn, left, and Judy help Mother and me get a good look at the comfy quilt that celebrates my addiction to hot tea.

A whimsical label signed by all three sisters who worked on my happy surprise

Judy was the instigator of the teatime theme. She knows I love hot tea. On a visit during my inpatient rehab, she brought me a box of fruit-flavored tea bags with a Bible verse printed on the little tag attached to the string on each tea bag. What a warm pleasure and comfort that was during my hospital stay.

Carolyn found the backing fabric that featured all the china pieces needed for a fabulous tea party. Not wanting my coffee-drinking hubby to feel left out, my cousins assured him the cups they so carefully created could also be considered coffee cups, and we could share the quilt.

Coffee or tea anyone?

Temperatures are scheduled to dip here tonight. With the new quilt and a fire in the fireplace to warm our outside and hot tea and coffee to warm our insides, I just may be drinking my early morning hot tea tomorrow enjoying a snuggle with hubby wrapped in  the “Tea for Two” quilt. Can you see the hand-quilted stitches in the photos below?

Roses, . . .

Teapots, . . .

Tea kettles and . . .

Teacups, all grace the backing fabric and edge the front in lovely pink and green.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Visit with Great-Grandmother

For the past several years our youngest son  Jeremy has made a point to visit his grandmother, my mother,  every other Tuesday when he makes the drive from Louisiana to check his sales accounts in the Hattiesburg area.

This past week he made a trip on Tuesday and again on Thursday, the second time with wife Katie, 3-year-old Molly Kate and 17-month-old Walker joining him. Husband Walter and I are so blessed that both our mothers have been a loving part of our children's and grandchildren's lives.

My mother surrounded by our daughter-in-law Katie, Walker, Molly Kate and our youngest son Jeremy. I borrowed this photo by Jeremy from Katie's blog, The Daily Skup.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: A Good Night’s Sleep and More

Supreme elder Grandma Sugar, left, joins hubby and me for her first visit to our favorite coffee shop.

A number of things moved me into gear to post today. Yesterday I felt like I couldn’t possibly dredge up energy to post any time soon.

Today has been truly a new day and evidently a new, or at least a less worn, Linda. So I had to post. Contributing factors:

-       An extra good night’s sleep;

-       A slow-moving morning that included breakfast prepared by husband Walter and shared in front of a cheerful fire in our fireplace, also thanks to hubby;

-       A trip to our favorite coffee shop;

-       A surprise visit by Walter’s mom, Grandma Sugar, who saw our van parked outside Coffee Fusion;

-       Having Grandma Sugar enjoy a cappuccino, her first taste of Coffee Fusion, with us.

Sometimes simple things bring much needed balance and renewal! Blessings indeed!

Friday, October 21, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: Energy Conservation

My energy seems to be flagging lately. The result is that my participation in the blogging community will likely be even more sporadic in the next few weeks.

Time spent in person and by phone with my 92-year-old mother, time with hubby, at home, do-it-yourself therapy for stroke recovery, and medical appointments are taking priority right now. I will lurk as often as possible, though, catching up on favorite blogs.

Monday, October 17, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: To post or not to post

I hesitated about writing my Oct. 12, 2011, post Annette Carpenter Decides and putting it up on this blog. Somehow, I felt like decisions that may mean life or death are too personal, too intimate to put out into cyberspace for anyone to read.

The question I grappled with was “Does posting about such profound facets of my mother’s life and the impact on my life and the lives of her loved ones trivialize all that we hold most sacred and dear?

Three experiences have led me to answer “No, posting doesn’t trivialize what is important and cherished.”

First of all have been the posts of bloggers who are on difficult journeys of loss, pain and healing. Some have encountered loss so searing that I cannot fathom how they survived. The experiences they have shared and the discussions they sparked among their readers have often brought light, renewed determination and helpful survival and healing strategies into my own journey.

The second experience was reading comments that visitors have left on my earlier posts. Kind and encouraging comments have led me to a firm conviction that I can trust readers with my truth. They have evidenced respect, even when their own beliefs may be different from mine. And there are blogger friends who have joined the friends, relatives and kind strangers who have sent up prayers and positive thoughts that continue to make a difference for me and my family.

Finally, I chewed on the fact that when I began blogging my purpose was self-centered. I did not want to forget details of this stage of my life, my own retirement daze. Neither journaling via pen and paper nor computer had held my commitment. I have, however, persevered with blogging even though at times sporadic. And my original purpose still applies, but in the past few days, as I pondered what to post and what not to post, I realized Retirement Daze had evolved.

In a continuous state of thinking about the what the next blog post would be, I had fallen into the habit of examining all my experiences from the perspective of what I want to remember. As I continued to post while I was and am coming through some hard things, I began to realize that sifting all experiences through a filter of “What I don’t want to forget” has had an unexpected side effect. It turns out that what I want most to remember are the good things, be they little or big, serious or ridiculous.

That isn’t the unexpected side effect. The unexpected side effect is that there have been so many good things, even in the difficult experiences. That doesn’t mean that I want to erase the difficult or unpleasant.

Perhaps it takes the difficult experiences to strengthen my recognition of the good things, the blessings. And good things shine even brighter for me against the background of the hard things. I wouldn’t choose the hard times, but they are part of the blessings. Now I am ever more conscious of the blessings that are generously and continuously pouring into my life.

I don’t want to forget those blessings. I especially want to remember the blessings of comfort, hope and joy that were part of the challenging times. I want to remember the people and circumstances involved in the delivery of those blessings. It is disturbingly easy for me to forget. Posting helps me remember. And remembering helps me be thankful. And being thankful helps me trust in God’s care of my loved ones and me. And trusting helps me to hope and to heal.

Annette Carpenter Update
Yesterday was my mother’s fourth day since she decided to discontinue dialysis. During that time she has relished being snug in her own studio apartment without the prospect of facing a dialysis treatment.

Lila, a dear sister-in-law, ferried me to Hattiesburg Thursday. We were on hand for the afternoon visit of the hospice admissions nurse. By mid-afternoon my mother, my brother and I were already recipients of the kind of reassurances and comfort that these organizations offer. And by the time Lila delivered me home, the admissions nurse had ordered a wheelchair and it had been delivered, allowing Mother to conserve her diminishing stores of energy.

My mother in her apartment with four great-grands Charlie, left, Luke, Nate and Stella, front. 

Her Saturday was filled with visitors, including four of her six great-grandchildren. Sunday husband Walter and I visited. She still wants to “do” for me and help with my stroke recovery. She expended precious energy, sitting on the edge of her bed beside me, directing me in clearing out a corner by her chest of drawers where she had stashed books and magazines.

That mother-daughter effort was a gift to me, one little thing I could physically do for her. Since my stroke it has mostly been prayer and phone calls to her and phone calls to doctors’ offices. I am thankful that there is no distance in prayer. It is always right where it is needed.

Every time Walter and I head to the interstate for the 15- to 20-minute drive to visit his mother or the longer drive to visit my mother, we pass a church’s reader board. I have loved the message the reader board has displayed for several days now: “Prayer is the best wireless connection.” Yes!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Annette Carpenter Decides

My 92-year-old mother, Annette Carpenter of Hattiesburg, MS, decided today to discontinue dialysis after eight treatments. As of today, her kidney function was less than 10 percent. With her severe heart problems, the treatments have been stressful on her physically. 

She has been praying about it and says she is at peace with her decision to stop dialysis and leave it up to God for whatever happens next. She has trusted God for guidance throughout the aging experience and the health challenges and changes in independence that have come her way.

Her trust is reflected in her courage, graciousness, kindness, and constant thankfulness for the kindnesses of others and the blessings of love and life. Thank you, God, for Mother and for holding her in your hand.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: Rehab guides

I have delayed posting about my therapists at Singing River Comprehensive Rehab Center because I kept searching for the picture I thought I had taken of a key individual in the days of my inpatient rehab experience there. 

“Okay self,” the voice of reason said. “Enough with the procrastination. It’s been five months. Go without the photo, for goodness sakes.”

As often happens, self is creative when it comes to procrastination, clearly passive aggressive in dealing with the voice of reason. “But I’m not satisfied with the word ‘guides’ in the title,” self whined. “It’s too ho hum a word to fit all my spectacular therapists at Singing River.”

“Then check out synonyms for "guide" at Duh!”

I’ll admit it. The voice of reason does occasionally come up with a good idea. Turns out offered 42 synonyms here for “guide,” which the entry defined as “something that or someone who leads.”

Self is also lazy and promptly eliminated those synonyms that required further research in the form of looking up definitions. That left 40. Another 34 fell to self’s verbal pickiness. Self has strong ideas about how well a given word works in a specific context.

That left six candidates: genie, genius, guiding spirit, guru, mentor, teacher.

“Guru” fell next for purely superficial reasons. “Guru” conjured up visions of emaciated males in unadorned white robes. That wasn’t politically correct, but self didn’t care. The therapists in question were vibrant, pulled-together young women who, even in scrubs, always looked great and who could brighten the stroke survivor’s early days in rehab just by showing up.

“Mentor” and “teacher” were on target and serviceable. “Guiding spirit” worked better as “healing spirit.” But there are two words that best capture the nature of the results produced by the therapists at both Singing River Rehab and more recently Ocean Springs Hospital Neuro Rehab. The critical considerations are that these individuals are geniuses at combining knowledge and experience to help me work through challenges specific to my stroke. And they have strategically applied what I am convinced is a bit of rehab magic. The chosen words? “Genius” and “genie,” of course. Make that “rehab genius” and “rehab genie.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

Who Dat Nation!

There was no doubt that we had entered die-hard New Orleans Saints territory when we stopped at the Louisiana welcome center on Interstate 10 yesterday.

Barbara, obviously a citizen of Who Dat Nation
Barbara, behind the desk at the welcome center, was adorned in Saints’ colors and fleurs de lis here, there and every where. And, she was strategically positioned in front of a Saints poster. The other ladies who were welcoming travelers also wore Saints black and gold.

A far cry from the visit that prompted a previous post about the same welcome center, which is a regular stop when we are heading to New Orleans on a day trip or overnight getaway. The previous post here chronicled a stop that was memorable because of . . . bagworms. 

One Stroky’s Journey: A Year Ago Today

A Gulf fritillary, one of last year’s fun Florida photos
Cooler temperatures and a long weekend, thanks to Columbus Day, made me start wondering what husband Walter and I were up to on Oct. 10, 2010. Turns out we were camping in the Florida section of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

We had taken our bicycles with us. We pedaled around Santa Rosa Island, visiting Fort Pickens and hiking to both the bay side and the Gulf side. We managed to be on the beach for sunset our first night and for sunrise the next morning. I reveled in our joint photo adventures.

Last night I looked back at my blog post here about that jam-packed weekend from the vantage point of my fifth-plus month into stroke recovery. I could have been tempted to dwell on what I could do then that I can’t do now. But joyful memories effectively demolished any such temptation.

I have to say blogging helps me keep such memories vibrant. Memories seem to come more alive for me when I can tool down memory lane via past posts. The blogosphere with its inspiring and encouraging fellow bloggers and its power to keep me posting is a mood-altering addiction. And that’s a good thing.

More about that 2010 weekend in my post Retirement Camping here.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Lunch at Lulu’s

Last week featured a special treat. Two colleagues from my former workplace picked me up for lunch with my former boss and another colleague. This was also my first visit to Lulu’s Corner CafĂ© in downtown Ocean Springs.

The list is long on why this new eatery and coffee shop made lunch a memorable and festive event. No. 1 on the list was catching up with these special folks. I miss the creative energy that these individuals brought to the projects we worked on together. I love having people around me who are better in areas that I appreciate but don’t excel in, and working with these individuals was an adventure.

That same synergy buzzed in the conversation, banter and laughter we shared during lunch. Here is the rest of my list:

- A funky festive atmosphere livened up the old cottage that is home to Lulu’s. The structure is a part of our town’s early days and still stands thanks to creative repurposing from residence to commercial property.

- Metal sculpture roosters and fanciful art gave the establishment an authentic vibe in keeping with the thriving Ocean Springs arts community.

- One of the town’s famous roosters visited the back porch where we were seated. More about these feathered Ocean Springs residents here. I thought I saw a second one behind some shrubbery, but he didn’t approach the porch, so I am not certain there was any type of fowl there at all. I am usually not a fan of roosters due to a childhood encounter, a story for another post.

This rooster was definitely an exception. He strutted about like royalty. He was a beauty with striking white and black feathers in a symmetrical pattern. I had no luck finding his breed on the Internet.

The closest I came was the photo below of a Barred Plymouth Rock. I borrowed it from Breeds section of The Poultry Project blog

Barred Plymouth Rock breed
The chicken above is a hen, I think. Our kingly visitor sported more white than the one above and was extra long on the wow! factor.

We obeyed the don’t-feed-the-roosters sign, and he sniffed disdainfully and left. I am not sure if chickens sniff, but it was all a ploy anyway to blackmail us into feeding him because he eventually came back to try again. When we didn’t oblige with his favored bran muffin, he departed for a more lucrative venue.

-The young lady who took our orders was super patient with my new dietary requirement of low sodium. I ordered a salad sans anything with salt in it. I also asked if she could just splash a couple tablespoons of any kind of vinegar and a little less than one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on it. One of the things I have learned since this doctor-ordered change is that salad dressings are astronomically high in the salt department.

The helpful waitress mixed me up some oil and apple cider vinegar. With the toasted pecans that came on the salad (toasted with sugar, not salt) and the tasty fresh greens and other veggies, I had a scrumptious no-salt meal.

I was surprised that I had something that tasted so wonderful and distinctive with no salt. Hubby Walter has been creating tasty low- to no-salt meals at home, but I have been avoiding eating out because everything is usually so heavy in salt. This experience gave me hope that the occasional meal out is in our future.

- There was a noticeably relaxed atmosphere at LuLu’s that was infectious. Patrons were sitting at small tables on the front porch, in the tiny inside seating area and on the back porch, some with their newspapers or novels, others busy visiting. It was great! The only downside was I suffered a bad case of operator error with my little point and shoot, so no photos to share. Heavy sigh!