Saturday, April 30, 2011

Linda's rehabilitation begins

Wife Linda was moved to Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, MS on Friday, April 29, 2011 after a seven-day stay at Ocean Springs Hospital.
She would have been moved sooner, but a room didn't open up until Thursday.
The stroke she suffered was from a burst blood vessel in her head. She was mainly affected on the left side of her body.
She has good motors skills on her right side and has been on the cell phone a lot during the past week.
On Friday, during rehabilitation, she was able, with a little balancing help from hospital assistants, to "walk" a short distance on her own power. I heard that it wasn't that pretty of a sight, but progress none-the less.
Thanks for your concern and we appreciate your prayers.

Hubby Walter

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Life's curve ball strikes blogger

Retirement Daze blog followers need to know that my wife, Linda, suffered what we hope is a minor stroke.

She is resting comfortably in the intensive care unit at Ocean Springs Hospital.

The malady occurred Friday afternoon around 3 p.m. while we were in our home. Within a couple minutes we were able to realize what was happening to Linda and upon calling 9-1-1, paramedics were on the scene in less than 10 minutes.

Doctors indicate that what she suffered was not a clot, but a burst blood vessel. A cat scan revealed that it was small. She didn't have any movement on her left side upon entering the hospital.

As of Saturday night, she was showing movement in her left leg and was able to have some movement in her left arm.

She fed herself supper Saturday and is able to swallow water and other drinks. Her voice is becoming stronger, her mind is clear and she is easily able to converse.

Please keep her in your prayers. We will keep you updated as we work through her recovery.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

2010 Easter week memories

Sharp-lobed hepatica
The school district that hubby Walter works for is closed for the week preceding Easter. This year we are staying close to home. Work on our vegetable gardening and some home maintenance projects we had put off has been interspersed with “stay-cation” activities. I’m enjoying it.

But today I am thinking about our last year’s pre-Easter week, a trip to the Smoky Mountains and the pleasure of approaching the trip as a photo safari. Walter captured images of the rushing, cascading and even dripping water that is characteristic of the Smokies in the spring.

My targets were the ephemerals, the first of the spring wildflowers. We were a little early for the big show, but we found satisfying pockets of flowers for me. And no matter where the flowers were, streams were nearby, ready for Walter to photograph water movement in all its variations.

To walk with me down memory lane, click here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Medical antiquity

Out-of-fashion treatment for “intoeing”
A display of medical “artifacts” at the Hattiesburg Clinic resurrected memories and some anger last week when my mother and I were on our way to an appointment with one of her doctors.

When our youngest son Jeremy was just a few months old, I realized his feet had started turning in, extremely. If you hold your arms out straight, turn your hands in perpendicular and lay them flat on top of each other, that is the position his feet took.

For over a year our baby boy wore a brace exactly like the one in the photo above for 23 hours each day. He learned to crawl and sit up with that brace on. As a proud mother, I thought he was especially clever to learn to maneuver at lightening speed with that brace on and to learn to sit up on schedule. The strategy he developed for sitting was to go from crawl to an upright position on his knees then to sit back with his feet splayed out behind him, firmly separated by that brace.

The day finally came when we could all say goodbye to the brace. That is when, for the first time, the orthopedist told us that one of his feet still turned inward.

“Why?” I asked. He said it was because I had let our son sit with his feet behind him. I was astounded that the orthopedist had never said anything about it before, and had not cautioned us about letting him sit that way.

I asked if, in the future, he could supply a warning about that to parents when the brace was prescribed for a child. He hem-hawed around. It seemed clear to me that he was attempting to avoid any responsibility that might stick to him.

Fast forward almost 30 years. After seeing those little shoes and that brace, I went online to see what the treatment is today for our son’s form of intoeing, the medical term for “pigeon-toed.” It turns out that the brace is out of fashion.

Current research maintains that braces or special shoes are useless as a treatment and that intoeing usually clears up on its own as the child grows. And if it doesn’t clear up, the condition doesn’t affect mobility.  The University of Maryland Medical Center site I checked noted that some of the best track and field athletes are pigeon-toed.

And our son is doing just fine. The foot that did not completely straighten is either straight now or straight enough that even Jeremy doesn’t notice it. Jeremy’s wife also had the same kind of brace but didn’t wear hers as consistently. She outgrew the intoeing and danced her way from pre-school through college.

Thanks to the information on the UMMC Web site and, I have cleaned out those lingering feelings of guilt that occasionally cropped up from that last doctor’s visit.

There is no anger about putting our son—and the rest of the family--through that brace experience. What's done is done. Doctors and parents can only make decisions based on the knowledge of the time.

I do hope, however, that the orthopedist refined his techniques for keeping parents informed so that they could be effective partners in their child’s development. My anger is gone now. In its place is thankfulness that Jeremy is okay and appreciation for the doctors currently in our lives and the lives of our supreme elders, our children and our grandchildren.

One of our supreme elders, my mother and Jeremy’s grandmother, examines the historical display at Hattiesburg Clinic.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Enjoying spring

If I had my way, I would have all our children (our two sons and our two daughters-in-law to be exact) and our grandchildren at our home at the same time. It is wonderful when they are all having fun together. I know that is impossible except for rare occasions. But any way we can see them, individually, kids alone, one set of grands or the other, partial sets . . . any combination is a source of joy.

On a recent visit by oldest son’s wife and little ones, the weather was great for simple springtime pleasures. Here are our three granddaughters enjoying bubbles, two visiting from Georgia at our home and our Louisiana granddaughter via the blogosphere thanks to her mom’s blog The Daily Skup.

Five-year-old granddaughter Charlie produces bubbles while little sister Stella works at loading the magic bubble wand.

Almost-three Stella concentrates on her bubble-blowing technique.

After a day at the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans, three-year-old Molly Kate summons up the energy to enjoy a bubble machine on a New Orleans sidewalk.

I’m cherishing these moments while this trio still finds total delight in simple  pleasures.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Two reunions

Daddy’s rose
I enjoyed two reunions last week. One was typical of all the family reunions of my childhood. The other was of the botanical variety.

First, the botanical reunion. My father passed away more than two decades ago. But his memory burns bright, and I am still benefitting from the things I learned from him. That is why the pink rose above is so special to me.

My father approached life with a passionate curiosity about just about everything. That curiosity spilled over into an inclination toward collecting -- books, petrified wood, old handsaws, people, tools, odd shades of latex paint and . . . well, you get the idea.

A child of the Depression, he was not a hoarder, although his workshop looked that way. It was filled floor to ceiling with his bargains and freebies he had picked up. But he knew where everything was. He would eventually find some practical use for the items or use them for another passion -- painting.

We presented canvases as gifts, but they languished unused. Instead he would grab a scrap piece of wood or an old saw while he was working in that shop and paint whatever scene from the natural world that was inspiring him at the time.

Thrill of the hunt
The thrill of a good deal regularly lured him to yard sales, salvage stores and even people’s throwaway piles. All those sources of “finds” were also opportunities to add to his collection--of people’s stories.  

The pink rose is the result of one of those excursions. When he saw a man pruning roses, my father asked if he could have some of the discards in order to root cuttings. By the time he left with his free treasures, he had also added to his collection of stories. He had all the details about how the newfound acquaintance had developed the pink rose, a prize-winning variety.

Mother and I cannot remember the rose's official name, but my father’s cuttings thrived. They eventually found a home in a large bed he prepared for them and for some companion red roses in front of our home. When my mother sold the house in 2008, Joyce Raby, a family friend, took cuttings before Mother’s move into her new apartment in a retirement home. Mrs. Raby has an super green thumb, and presented me a season or two later with a large flower pot with two rose bushes in it. Alas, the red ones succumbed to my erratic stretches of too much attention or total neglect.

But I finally determined, with daughter-in-law Sarah’s guidance, an appropriate spot for the survivor. Now it is in the ground, fed and protected by some super product Sarah recommended, sprouting new growth and blooming. The bloom has yet to compare to those on my father’s rose bushes, but it is beautiful to me. It is a reunion with his aptitude for recognizing the roses of life and stopping to savor the fragrance at every opportunity.

Cousins and cousins-in-law
Cousins reliving memories and making new ones are, clockwise, Mildred, Gloria, my husband Walter, my mother, Jake, Gloria’s husband Robert, and Jake’s daughter-in-law Donna and son George.

My other reunion was a gathering of relatives from my maternal grandmother’s side of the family. Both my mother and father were blessed with an abundance of siblings; and, likewise, my growing up years were blessed with cousins.

Too many of my cousins on my mother’s side passed away as young adults, though. So for me, this gathering was like a distillation of all the good “cousin” times I remember when we were all still living and growing. Sharing laughter, conversation and “remember-whens” with my mother, these cousins and our spouses was another special reunion.

Now I just have to deal with the aftermath of three trips to the dessert tables!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The wages of neglect . . . compliments?

Along with several neglected flowerbeds, some flowerpots that formerly held thriving begonias also languish neglected by the pathway to our backdoor. I confess, I have just kept putting off replanting them.

Now they are filled with plants that I think are Oxalis, what I grew up calling sorrel. Here in our area they take over even fairly regularly maintained beds, which mine definitely are not.
Oxalis or sorrel

A recent visitor, a non-gardening elder who passed by the collection of flowerpots, paused to take a closer look at the tiny blooms. “Your flowers are so pretty!” she said.

Points of view differ on whether the delicate beauty of the blooms is evidence of an aggravating weed or a wildflower. But talk about a low-maintenance perennial!

As we walked our departing elder to her vehicle, I accepted the compliment with a “Thank you” and a smile, basking in the surprising rewards of procrastination and neglect.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Colonoscopy . . . oh joy!

Just had the “consultation” for a colonoscopy that is now scheduled for June. “Consultation” means the doc gives me a warning that anything she does up in my innards could cause a rip, a tear or death!

And then she hands me over to her assistant who gives me the dreaded PREP INSTRUCTIONS. Well, actually not quite that fast. Doc is great and gave me all the time I needed to ask questions, which I did . . . although not all of them were pertinent to the colonoscopy. 

She was gracious, for example, when I asked her if her hair was longer when I was in for the consult several years ago. It was, and her current do is great looking. That’s me . . . always digging deeper into the serious, important issues of the moment.

In my previous experiences, the consult was the only time I saw her until the followup office visit. Oh, except the last one. I had forgotten that one of the six or seven pills I take every day is that darn baby aspirin. So on the BIG DAY, I put on the standard hospital gown (the gown that my 91-year-old mother insists on telling everyone was designed by Dr. Seymour Butts). Doc came in to explain personally that I had to get dressed, go home and come back after I had gone a week without taking aspirin. Danger of bleeding! Duh, Linda!

On the actual BIG DAY, I once again donned the hospital fashion wear. The anesthesiologist came by for an informative chat about how he had ordered 1) something to help me relax and 2) following that a light anesthesia once they took me in for the colonoscopy. Then a nurse came in and gave me that “something” in my IV to “relax me just a little.” Define "a little," please!

For both of my previous colonoscopies, I have relaxed so much that I don’t remember anything until the recovery room and my husband’s voice floating into my consciousness with offers of help to get me dressed so we could go home. That suits me just fine!

Of course, the day before the BIG DAY is the PREP. Humor columnist Dave Barry’s description nails the prep day. Thanks to husband Walter for pointing me to Susie B’s post featuring an excerpt from Barry’s column “A journey into my colon -- and yours.”

I actually liked the original, longer version published Feb. 22, 2008, in the Miami Herald. In addition to the prep account, it chronicles his journey toward the decision to have that first procedure. You can read it here.

Warning: Dave can get graphic, gross, crude and side-splitting funny, so beware. This Barry classic made me whoop until eyes got leaky. I had trouble seeing enough to finish the column. But I didn’t split anything this time and safely finished. You may not want to miss the finish either.

You may not want to miss your own colonoscopy either. And that is no laughing matter.

Monday, April 11, 2011

An Eggs-citing Early Easter

Early Easter activities were on the agenda when our four Georgia grandchildren came down with their mom for a visit recently. We won’t be able to see them at Easter, so they helped me relive two of my favorite childhood memories – dying eggs and then hunting them with cousins galore.

The decorating team is pumped and ready!

Small hands are busy applying stickers once dying and drying is accomplished.

Luke shows off his electric blue egg.

Charlie goes monochrome, adding yellow hair to a yellow egg.

Soon-to-be-three Stella is enthusiastic about eyes and contrast.

Who said “Less is more”?

Finished products

Mom Sarah likes using the “real” eggs for Easter egg hunts, partly as a strategy to limit candy intake. That suited me just fine. Hardboiled eggs were the Easter eggs my cousins and I hunted.

For this year's “early” Easter, Sarah, the Fab Four and I traveled to Hattiesburg to visit my mother. We hid the “real” eggs around one of the patio garden areas at Provisions Living where she has an apartment. After the spirited search, we all agreed the wind was a bit chilly. We hid the eggs a second time in the sitting area near Mother’s apartment.

A great-grandmother enjoys a family tradition with her great-grandchildren.

I wasn’t acquainted with the huge Easter baskets filled with abundant candy and other goodies until I experienced Easter on the coast with husband Walter’s family. Yum! As a child, though, I don’t recall feeling deprived by the absence of candy treats, maybe because of all the food that was a part of the day’s celebration.

Easter was one of the few times we missed church services. I considered that a treat in itself, although I certainly didn’t articulate that opinion. We would go to Sunday School then head to the gathering of my mother’s family. Mother, her sisters and sisters-in-law were Southern country-cooking magicians. The tables were loaded and I loved it! Plus, the food they prepared was always consumed with complementary helpings of non-stop laughter, family stories, and the adults kidding each other and lavishing attention on everybody’s offspring. Who needed candy!

How about you? Was candy a big part of your Easter as a child?

Granddaughter Stella works on a caramel-filled Cadbury egg.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Viral videos and grandkids

When I see a popular YouTube video, it means just about everyone else in the world has already seen it, discussed it, passed it along and had it come back around to them again. But I can usually count on one other person besides me who is not in that loop -- my daughter-in-law Sarah.

She is usually busy with person-to-person interactions, especially with her four little ones, and spends little time on the computer. I was counting on that when she and the Fab Four came to visit for about five days.

I really needed to sit down with someone else who would laugh hysterically with me at the YouTube video of the baby reacting to his mother blowing her nose.

Mommy's nose-blowing scares baby Emerson.

The other video I wanted her to see was the Super Bowl car commercial featuring a diminutive Darth Vader. I knew she would recognize the “little boy world” of her own sons as the commercial’s pint-sized Darth Vader goes through his home attempting to apply The Force. Plus, the dad reminded me so much of Sarah’s hubby, our oldest son.

My first attempt at embedding video and I have yet to figure out how to get the Darth Vader commercial video to fit. As I continue to work on it, here is the link to YouTube. Maybe I can learn to use The Force to get it to fit. 

Yes, Sarah loved the videos. Yes, we laughed hysterically. The reaction of the four grandchildren surprised me, though. The girls ages five and nearly three kept asking for the baby video throughout their visit. The guys asked for Darth Vader. But all four would group around my laptop, regardless of which request was being honored. The four grands and I shared unrestrained hilarity, over and over and over.

Another source of entertainment for this Nana came after a couple days of viewing the Darth Vader video. The eight- and six-year-old grandsons would march through our home, doing their own full-throttle version of the Star Wars soundtrack and Darth Vader’s application of “The Force.”

Who knew that these videos could bring such joy! I am delighted that these “grand” little kids are following in their father and mother’s footsteps, exercising their funny bones, enthusiastically, often and without restraint.

By the way, the baby video is now at 14,719,969 views; the Darth Vader commercial at 35,712,016. The contribution of the Fab Four and Nana to those totals must surely be in the four digits!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Beyond the blogosphere

Has Linda been abducted by aliens?

No, but the past few days have been spent well outside the blogosphere for the most part. Husband Walter and I have been immersed in the entertaining, exhilarating, energizing and exhausting world of grandchildren!

Our Georgia Fab Four arrived Friday evening, April Fool’s Day, with their mom and dad, our oldest son. Mom and kids stayed behind with us through Wednesday morning while our son Walt left Sunday on the return trip to home and work.

At the end of each day Baboo and Nana were not the only ones exhausted. Mom and the little ones had expended much of their energy, too. There was a little bit of gardening, hikes on local nature trails and the Biloxi Bay high-rise bridge, coloring Easter eggs, an early Easter egg hunt, backyard campfire and s’mores, and good times with their two great-grandmothers.

 I will be inflicting grandkid pix on unsuspecting readers in the next few days. Not to worry, though. There won’t be that many photos. Capturing images of my grandchildren is always a challenge for me. First of all, I am usually totally engaged with them and forget to snap. Secondly, unlike flowers and rocks, grandchildren rarely stay in one place for very long.

Does anyone else in the grandparent category have trouble shooting*, uh, make that photographing, their grands?

*That "shooting" photo terminology reminded me of my last semester or maybe next to last semester before I graduated at the Mississippi University for Women (only it was Mississippi State College for Women back then). It was in the summer. My husband had started a photography business and required my assistance for a weekday wedding. I explained my dilemma to the professor of the Chaucer course I was taking.

She was a beautiful, elegant, white-haired individual and graciously gave me her permission to miss the class for a day, a major big deal since the course was crammed into about four or five weeks. When I returned, some of my classmates said she had announced to the class, with some perplexity and obvious anxiety, that Ms. Skupien was absent for the day because she had to help her husband "shoot a wedding."

They quickly assured her that we were not involved in mayhem. We were just photographing the happy event. Don’t think I was behind the camera, though. In the little north Mississippi town where we lived at the time, I never knew what my role would be. Sometimes it involved helping hubby arrange relatives for photos in a way that did not offer opportunity for any disgruntled in-laws to injure one another.

Other times I was an emergency seamstress. No qualifications needed as long as I had some emergency supplies and could thread a needle or handle a safety pin. Mostly, though, what I wound up doing was organizing a lot of dazed, nervous people . . . getting the right grandparents, parents and members of the wedding party into the right place at the right time to fulfill their part in transporting the bride and her intended into the state of matrimony.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Out of the groove

Mind and body have been otherwise occupied for the past four days – no posting and limited visits to blogs that feed my spirit, tickle my funny bone or supply helpful examples of everything from photography, gardening and Scripture to rock collecting.

Yes, rock collecting. Who knew there were other blogging rockophiles out there? Okay, I know rockophile isn’t an official word. Google keeps asking me if I mean “Francophile” when I try to search for a definition of “rockophile.” I like the word “Francophile.” Using it makes me feel sophisticated, which I am not, and which is why the feeling, always fleeting, is so enjoyable.

Google, ever helpful, does recognize that “official” never stops denizens of cyberspace and proceeded to follow the sometimes snide “did you mean” prompt with citations that included a “rockophile” reference. Most referred to rock music. One had “rockophile” and “pedophile” in close proximity, but I decided I didn’t want to know what that was about.

One of those dictionary sites here did define the suffix “phile” or “ophile” as occurring in words which refer to someone who has a very strong liking for people or things of a particular kind. Well, there you go!

I guess we stone-liking individuals have as much right to use this non-word as rock music aficionados have. In fact some of us could fall into both categories of rockophiles, those who like rock music as well as rocks, although some may be stoned-liking rather than stone-liking.

Sorry about that. Since in the past few days my brain oozed into the Swamp of Non-posting, also known as the Quagmire of Too Tired to Fire Up the Computer, I hit on the strategy to get my brain working by responding to comments on my previous post here. The post mentioned my choice of rocks as travel souvenirs, and the resulting comments surprised me. Okay, here goes:

To answer Ginny’s question, in my early days as a budding rockophile, I ambitiously started edging flower beds with my treasured rocks and small boulders, much as Kathy mentioned in her comment. My natural laziness quickly put an end to that.

In our climate, St. Augustine grass, weeds and various roots quickly worked in, around and under. To weed required major rock removal then returning rocks to their places of honor once the weeding was accomplished, which I did for more than a decade. In more recent years, I haven’t weeded those beds since before Hurricane Katrina. That was in 2005.

I am just sharing this failure on the improbable chance that there is another individual out there as negligent as I am, who needs to know that he or she is not alone. The first year I excused myself to the gardening angel (or is it a garden gnome) in my head by citing the traveling and time required due to various medical issues experienced by our supreme elders. After Katrina hit, I ruthlessly used both the medical issues and Katrina. Now I just tell the angel, or gnome, to get over it. I will (may?) eventually return those beds to a botanical state I can enjoy.

In the meantime, I have learned that the invasion of roots from shrubs and trees on our property line evidently suck the moisture and other good stuff out of the flower beds. Even weeds have a hard time growing there now. So I am enjoying my unintentional rock garden!

Inspiration has also come from the comments of bloggers Patti, Sandra and Freda. When the day comes that I no longer choose to or am no longer able to lug large rocks, the options are there for selecting small stones or even capturing via digital camera “rock” images that I can take home. And Freda’s account of leaving a favorite “comfort” rock as a prayer at the end of a pilgrimage up St. Brandon’s mountain in Ireland is an appealing practice I had never thought of.

And finally, thank you Dianne, Marcia and Anne for the delight you delivered in your deft word wielding. Dianne, articulating what rockophiles have in common . . . “What is it in those rocks that speaks to us?”; Marcia’s turn of phrase . . . writing about not doing anything with rocks other than to “lug them and love them”; and Anne’s understated humor. . . realizing after the meeting of airport security and a suitcase full of rocks that “rocks don’t seem to trouble the screeners.”

Encountering other rock lovers, and their words, are just two more reasons I love blogging!