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!

Friday, October 7, 2011

P.S. Grumble, Grumble, Whine

I cut and pasted a photo cutline in a different position as I finished up the post I published today. Blogger took over immediately and changed the paragraph just below the photo and cutline’s original position to a smaller sized type.

I have tried various strategies to get the type size back to the same size as the rest of the text. No success. I have attempted even more measures in the past when Blogger rudely and arrogantly ignored me and decided what my text should look like. I know there is a simple answer. But I haven’t found it. I don’t feel like going over the ground I have already covered in the past.

I am convinced it would be futile. Evidently I am getting more satisfaction out of this grumble, grumble, whine.

Have a great weekend!

One Stroky’s Journey: My New Rehab Center

One thousand steps a day with a walker is not an impossible goal, but with the short unobstructed stretches available in my home it can be a little frustrating. Even so, going outside solo to take advantage of wide open spaces is against the rules for me right now.

Fall decor at my new rehab center

Enter my creative therapist, hubby Walter. He introduced me to my new rehab center last week – Walmart!

The aisles that parallel our local Walmart’s interior walls are perfect: perfect weather inside the store, a perfectly even surface, and wide, uncrowded aisles. I can do 400 steps in one circuit of all four sides, rest on a convenient bench then go again, all while husband Walter accomplishes our grocery shopping. The added benefit is that the potential for shopping therapy is always close at hand.

It helps that we prefer to shop during less crowded times and days, and I keep a lookout ahead of me in order to take evasive action and stay out of the way of other shoppers.

My therapists had only recently turned me loose to walk solo as long as I use a walker. My medical equipment angels, neighbors who have loaned me all sorts of sturdy equipment that has been meeting my stroke recovery needs, also loaned me one of those walkers with wheels and brakes.

Then Brenda, one of the therapists, mentioned that 1,000 is the minimum number of steps that one should take each day with the Bioness L300 foot drop system. She said that number provides optimum opportunity for the electronic “reeducation” of the muscles and nerves that need to get to working to help me walk more safely.

That sounded like a great daily target, and I counted steps of my routine paths at home and at my new rehab center, even though I didn’t have the Bioness system.

The good news is we ordered the device, it arrived yesterday, and we are scheduled for next week to meet with Ashley and have it calibrated to my stride.

And then . . . just call me bionic woman when you see me at Walmart!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Childhood Reading Adventure

Lifelong reader Freda’s post about how the challenges of aging can affect a love of reading hit home today. Her post is here. She took me back to the early days of my discovery that worlds of adventure awaited me in books.

I was transported to an environment where I was no longer the shy, clumsy and inept creature convinced of her own intellectual deficiencies and cowardice.

The magic of books transformed me into a smart, often athletic and always adventuresome, courageous being who met dangers and all manner of challenges with none of the trepidation that was my constant companion in real life.

Fortunately there were other transformations in childhood and my teens that steadily ate away at all those negative and limiting self- images. But that is another day’s stroll down memory lane.

Freda recalls in her post about reading as a child, “I was the typical child in bed at night with book and torch under the covers half-listening for the footsteps and the opening of the bedroom door. Oh it was so worth the inevitable scolding.”

I, on the other hand, never could get away with reading under the covers with a flashlight during childhood. I did do some foolish and sneaky things to read, however. A ladder left leaning against our carport was access to a hiding place beneath a rooftop gable.

Parents would call, but never find me. The downside was that the roof that was cool in the morning turned extremely hot later, blistering my summertime bare feet. Evidently I thought the uninterrupted reading was worth tender soles.

I guess I didn't recognize the dangers in the frantic gyrations I performed as I traversed the hot roof up the front side, down the back and along the edge to the ladder.

To borrow and rewrite Freda’s words, “Oh it was so worth the inevitable” hot-foot experience!