Monday, January 31, 2011

Loving the ride

Husband Walter’s photo of a favorite San Francisco ride
San Francisco has been cropping up in husband Walter’s conversation lately. We haven’t visited that city since June 2008. Guess it is about time to put riding those San Francisco cable cars back on the travel agenda.

In addition to being an image that is distinctively San Francisco, the cable cars have been a National Historic Landmark since 1964 and are the only "moving landmark" on the list. The San Francisco system is also touted as the only remaining manually operated cable car system in the world that has been in continuous operation since its inception.

Our San Francisco activities include more than the iconic and historic cable cars, but the sometimes stomach-dropping rides are a must. One of the first things we do is buy a seven-day passport offered by Muni, the city-run transportation system. The passport means unlimited rides on the cable cars, the vintage streetcars and buses.

Closer to home, however, we hadn’t taken advantage – until recently – of another historic mode of transportation, the St. Charles streetcars. A ride on a St. Charles streetcar was one of our top priorities for a December 2010 two-night visit to NOLA.

Our streetcar operator on the St. Charles Avenue line goes through the “end-of-the-line” routine at South Carrollton and South Claiborne.
Streetcars have been part of New Orleans’ people-moving strategies since the 1800s. Three lines are in operation today. According to Wikipedia, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers accords the St. Charles Avenue line, the longest of the New Orleans streetcar lines, the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world.

Similar to San Francisco’s cable cars, a mix of tourists and residents fills a St. Charles Avenue streetcar.

A streetcar pass that husband Walter purchased for each of us soon paid for itself as we took the Riverfront line and the Canal street line to reach the starting point for the St. Charles Avenue line.

We started our streetcar tour at the French Market stop.

One of the bright red Canal Street cars was our next ride.

We caught the St. Charles line just off Canal Street and rode it to the end of the line. On the return trip, we hopped off for a lunch break at the Trolley Stop Café. For husband Walter’s impressions of that experience, click here.

Lunch break at the Trolley Stop Café

The New Orleans streetcars don’t have the thrill of the steep hills of San Francisco that the cable cars have. On the other hand, in New Orleans we encountered no huge lines and cars came along much more frequently. There never was a long wait.

A St. Charles line operator
All of the operators we encountered on our streetcar travels were friendly, helpful, patient and seemed to take pride in their city, traits their San Francisco counterparts share.

It was an entertaining way to hit some spots we wanted to visit. Summer would be another story. There is no AC on the historic St. Charles streetcars with New Orleans temperatures soaring far above the cooler San Francisco weather.


But for this December visit, cool temperatures prevailed.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What I’m reading lately

The two books of Chronicles in the Old Testament have never been my favorites, although there are some verses I cherish. But in my current read-through of the Bible in a year, something jumped out at me that hadn’t registered previously.

One of my favorite OT verses is God’s command to Joshua as Joshua prepares to lead the Israelites into the promised land. Here it is:
Joshua 1: 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1: 9

That same admonition shows up over and over, and I had always found strength in the promise that God never forsakes one in a fight, be it against one’s personal weaknesses or external malicious intent.

When I ran across similar words in 1 Chronicles 28:20, it occurred to me that God’s command to Joshua refers to more than spiritual battles. In the Chronicles verse, King David announces that his son Solomon will be his successor as ruler. He charges Solomon with building the temple and says, in verse 20, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished."

As an adult I grew to accept that God equips individuals for the work he calls them to do, and 1 Chronicles 28: 20 supplies a welcomed reminder of that facet of God’s character and his grace.

NOTE: Scripture verses are from New International Version. To see other versions click on verse below, choose another version then click update.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

This and that

Yarn bombing
Colorful hand-dyed and knitted scarves installed on post and bike rack outside of Dharma Trading Company in San Rafael, CA


I had never heard of yarn bombing, a form of knitted graffiti, until I saw a photo posted on Hans Roenau’s photoblog. The link he provided led to the blog of artist and yarn bomber working under the pseudonym “Streetcolor.”

From there I hopped over to an enlightening article on the Marin Independent Journal’s Web site where I learned that “yarn bombing is a form of knitted graffiti that has appeared in cities around the world over the past few years.”

The Journal reported on Streetcolor’s installation of knitted graffiti in San Rafael, CA. According to the article, the business adjacent to the installation had nothing to do with the yarn bomb, but employees and manager were enjoying the impromptu decoration. Said the establishment’s manager: "It's just basic knitting, but it's nice — they're really quite beautiful. It's kind of like graffiti but a gentle, soft, whimsical graffiti. It was really pretty in the sunshine."

Closeup of Streetcolor’s knitted graffiti in San Rafael


I wonder if such colorful knitted graffiti will ever expand to smaller cities and appear in our town.

Hallway praying
The concept of “Hallway praying” described in the Jan. 20, 2011, post at Momma Bug’s Blog struck a chord with me recently. Even though I have no little ones at home on a regular basis, the reminder to pray on the way to – and from -- a challenging situation is something I need to remember.

For the record
Right now I am enjoying a visit to Coffee Fusion with husband Walter. 
Looking back from here at the end of month #1 of 2011, I wonder what in the world I have accomplished. This is a reminder to myself that I did NOT put on my list of retirement goals a consistently squeaky clean or even moderately uncluttered house. Among the items I did put on my list was to spend more time with hubby, our grands and our mothers. So there, self, you ARE meeting some of your retirement goals!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Joys and perils of horticultural adoption


“Adopted” amaryllis 
Unusually frigid weather this year may have “done-in” the vibrant red amaryllis plants I adopted when my mother decided to move to an apartment in a retirement community. She and I dug the bulbs, and they made the move to Ocean Springs for transplanting just prior to her own transplant into a new environment.

Bee’s-eye view of amaryllis
I love the structure and vibrant hues of these blooms and hope the plants bounce back and produce blooms in April or May.

A few of our spring 2010 amaryllis
If not, I saved seeds. Not sure the seeds would produce the pure red, but will give them a try.

Thanksgiving cactus
Another adoptee performed surprisingly well, considering I usually kill plants. Mother’s Thanksgiving (or Christmas) cactus always bloomed abundantly for her, but never according to the calendar. It bloomed beautifully in time for Thanksgiving 2010 at the Skupien homestead.

As usual, my gardening efforts provide me with a roller-coaster ride of joyful success and stomach-dropping failures. But as haphazard as my horticultural attempts are, for me they are always invigorating and never boring.

For a glimpse of how serious gardeners get it right at Callaway Gardens in Georgia go here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Caring healers

Plaque seen in examining room of one of Mother’s physicians
The plaque above announces a central truth about the ear, nose and throat doctor Mother and I visited Tuesday. His actions, which speak even louder of his beliefs than the plaque, are typical of the two dozen medical personnel I have encountered in the past eight days. I am including receptionists, technicians and nurses along with the three doctors and one physician’s assistant that I visited with my mother and my mother-in-law recently.

I suspect that not all of these individuals would subscribe to the words on the plaque, but they all subscribe to something greater than self. And they all have contributed to the well-being of “the mothers.”

The tone of a doctor’s office and a hospital’s outpatient operations starts with doctors. I am thankful for these physicians who have surrounded themselves with individuals who respect and value people of all ages, who are patient with the elderly facing multiple challenges, who take the time to listen to what the elder is trying to say, who ask questions that draw out the information needed, and who follow up.

Physicians are themselves facing challenges and obstacles to giving the kind of personal, kind and thorough care that my mother and mother-in-law receive. I found today’s (Jan. 27, 20110) "empathy" post thought provoking at the Placebo Journal Blog: Medical Humor with a Purpose!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Remembering


It has been about a year since the death of Mr. Arnold Grady, the father of a childhood friend and a member of the church I attended from infancy until I married. At the time of his death, Mr. Grady and his wife were residents at Provisions Living, the Hattiesburg, MS, retirement community where my mother lives.

Mr. Grady’s daughter Pattie and I were baby boomers. There were so many of us, even for that large church. That meant that Mr. and Mrs. Grady, my parents and the parents of all those other kids around my age added up to a huge group of parents. Even though I took all those caring adults for granted, they had a powerful influence on my life.

None were perfect. But the fact was that they showed up; they brought their kids to church and worshipped with them; they worked as department leaders, Sunday School teachers, choir members and in other positions of responsibility. On top of all that, they planned, executed and chaperoned all the activities that kept us busy and for the most part out of trouble. There were no paid youth directors, just concerned parents and other volunteers.

From their finite store, they invested time and energy to give toddlers through teens opportunities for fun and adventure. Better than any sermon, they showed us that the walk with Christ includes
- laughter,
- fun, even rambunctious fun,
- including others,
- reaching high,
- joyful giving,
- responsibility,
- forgiveness, and
- unconditional love.

Truly my growing up years were filled with blessings thanks to some of the greatest of the greatest generation!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The scent of memory

During a recent visit to Fairhope, AL, husband Walter’s “odorometer” was operating at the extreme-sensitive setting. Fairhope is one of our favorite day-trip spots. We enjoy casually meandering the 70 or so miles over to this picturesque, squeaky clean, artsy and environmentally conscious hamlet. Downtown Fairhope sparks enthusiasm in both visitors and residents.

Narcissus, early bloomers also known as “paperwhites”
We arrived to find the downtown streets dressed, elegantly as usual, in an abundance of flowers and foliage appropriate for the season. This January, narcissus, also known as paperwhites, bloomed forth tall and proud surrounded by an understory of other plantings.

Greer’s in Fairhope, one in a chain of small Southern supermarkets,is just a few years short of its 100-year anniversary according to its sign.

We dropped by Greer’s Fairhope Market for some picnic supplies. After a lunch of fresh-baked bread, cheese and fruit in the town’s beachfront park, we drove back downtown. Walter went his way; I hit a favorite consignment clothing store. We usually visit Fairhope two or three times a year, and so far, our first visit of the new year had followed our usual pattern.

That changed when we got back together. “Do you smell that?” he asked. “It’s sort of a sewer smell.”

Eyuuuu! But, no, I didn’t smell anything. Unless tobacco smoke or someone’s over-enthusiastic application of perfume is involved, Walter usually doesn’t either. Odors rarely raise a comment—negative or positive--from my husband.

As we strolled around, browsing through various other shops, Walter would periodically get another whiff and would check to see if I could identify the elusive scent. It wasn’t until we were on the road to our next mini-vacation stop that I realized what he was experiencing – the narcissus blooms that were at every corner and in containers along the sidewalks.

The scent of the particular narcissus cultivar that was the star of the town’s plantings was barely noticeable to me and not offensive. Evidently hubby’s odor-registering brain cells were interpreting it differently. It was a weird, but to me, intriguing variation on our usual Fairhope trip.

Writing those words, though, evidently just now jump-started some synapses in my brain and triggered a narcissus memory.

Many years ago, as in more than half a century ago, my Aunt Edna’s backyard was filled with narcissus, a sea of white that was amazing, mysterious and beautiful to my three-year-old eyes. Actually, a lot seemed mysterious to me back then because, unknown to me or my parents, I was extremely nearsighted. But . . . as I remember now, the scent did not match the white blossoms' ethereal beauty. I positively did NOT like the way they smelled.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

'When Does Old Age Begin'


Ronni Bennett, owner of the blog Time Goes By, addresses the question “When Does Old Age Begin” in her Jan. 17, 2011, post. There was much to think about in her post and the comments that followed. My thoughts turned to two birthdays that swamped me with those “You are getting old” feelings.

Birthday #26 came in the 70s at the height of a period when a popular catch phrase was “Don’t trust anybody over 30.” Obviously 26 was on the downhill slide to the ancient age of 30. I survived that birthday and found that life was great on the other side of 26 and that there was even life after 30.

Then there was #45. I was a happy birthday girl that day, cheerfully navigating U.S. 90 on my way home, I forget from where. All of a sudden I felt something weird in my mouth. On further investigation, I realized a chunk of a bottom front tooth had crumbled off. I had started falling apart, literally. Now that was really getting old!

The days following that birthday were, as usual for me back then, filled with family, church and work. They were hectic, often stressful, but not bad, and I continued on my way until a month or two before birthday #46 arrived. I started wondering: Would some other body part fall off on my birthday? Was I destined to lose a piece of something every year on my birthday from here on out?

Birthday #46 arrived. Nothing fell off. And birthdays since then have been great. Oh, there are ongoing changes that signal aging. But the 45th and 46th birthday combo opened the way for a growing change in my view of aging. I gradually found myself more and more often pausing to thank God for simple pleasures, for experiences and relationships I would not have had were I not the age I was at a particular moment, and for seeing things that I would have overlooked in the busy-ness of my younger life.

I think this stage of life is not the same as happiness. Happiness comes and goes. Circumstances of loss and pain occur that cannot be explained and can barely be endured. But is there also the possibility of growing into a contentment and joy that transcends circumstances? I believe so, with grace. This verse gives me that hope.

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

Monday, January 17, 2011

The very eye-dea!

The new glasses
For some reason, after years with progressive lenses, I recently decided to give the old-fashioned bifocals a try. I guess the main reason was that the progressives worked for distance, for seeing our vehicle’s dashboard and usually were okay for the computer, but for serious reading and close-up work, I would take my glasses off or do the tilt-and-look-over-my-glasses maneuver.

Husband Walter went with me Friday afternoon to pick them up. He seemed to think he had done his duty by accompanying me earlier to pick out frames. I am so nearsighted that if I position myself close enough to see the frames, I really only see my nose. Not very helpful for making a choice of something that will be a part of my face except at bath time and bedtime. Hubby was a trooper and helped me pick out frames.

Back to why a companion was necessary. After years of getting new extremely thick glasses, I knew the possibility existed that once I put them on, I would be drunk. Could be I have a slow brain, reluctant to adjust to the changes in shape and strength, even subtle changes. Sure enough, the changes, especially that line where the bifocals begin, were and still are an instant flusterator. Okay, computer, I know that isn’t a word, but that is the way I feel. Walter drove home while I practiced looking at things.

As long as I sit still and don’t move my head, my distance and reading vision is improved over my old glasses. When I move, however, disaster lurks, either from my surroundings whizzing around or from inadvertently looking through THE LINE. I also keep forgetting and looking over the top of the glasses instead of using the bifocals for reading. I can tell adjustment is occurring, although slowly. I expect my brain will fully adjust at some point. 

One other whine: Sitting on the sofa in front of the fireplace to check email and to blog may be a thing of the past. Evidently the distance from eye to screen in that situation is a no-see zone. With a few clicks I can enlarge most Web pages to a readable size, but others defy easy enlarging by this technologically challenged blogger.

Any advice from experienced bifocal-wearers is welcomed!

Through the looking glass(es)
The upside: Walter likes the new look. I mean he REALLY likes the new look.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday sunshine

Until a few minutes ago, this Sunday morning looked gray to me. Even the fact that we managed to make it to our favorite coffee shop for a coffee and tea fix before heading to church didn’t lift the gray feelings.


Then I turned on my computer and hopped over to Let Your Light Shine, a blog I visit regularly. Fellow blogger Ginny came through with a mood-brightener. Here is part of a comment I left on her site:

Your pansy photos make it so cheerful and happy on a gray morning here. I have loved pansies since i saw Alice in Wonderland as a child and there were pansies with faces. A coloring book someone gave me later with those pansy faces was a prized possession. I still love them but have no luck growing them. I just enjoy everyone else's.

Like Sandra (another commenter on Ginny’s site), I first retreated into the world of books as a child. Mine was a happy childhood with loads of cousins. But for various reasons, I just felt I never measured up. Your verse today reminds me of the week in 3rd grade when I realized that I could never "measure up" on my own. At that age I realized that there was a hole in me that only God could heal.

The road has not always been pansies since then. I had and have a lot of growing to do. But when I peel everything away, I can hold fast, give thanks and rejoice in the fact that only God can give me complete, unconditional acceptance and intimacy of spirit. Thanks for the reminder. 


Ginny’s prayer:
"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord."

Once I finished commenting on Ginny’s blog, my next thought was of my mother-in-law, Grandma Sugar. Today is her birthday, leading me to give thanks for even more rays of emotional sunshine. I am thankful for a mother-in-law who raised her son – my husband – with a keen sense of right and wrong and the courage to live his beliefs. I am thankful for a mother-in-law who welcomed me into the family fully and completely from the moment of my first visit before Walter and I had even talked about marriage. I am thankful for a mother-in-law who is a wonderful grandmother to our children and great-grandmother to our grandchildren. You get the idea. The list could go on endlessly. I will just say a heartfelt “Happy Birthday, Grandma Sugar!”

And wouldn’t you know, as soon as I got to the caboose on that train of thought, I noticed the sunshine reflecting off a nearby building. Gray day no more, and in less than an hour we will be celebrating that fact with fellow believers at Grace Church Gulf Coast.
NOTE: Pansy photo borrowed from Let Your Light Shine.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I’m Lovin’ Lovelace

A couple days after Jan. 1, husband Walter and I spent some of his time off (as in a couple of hours) vacationing locally. We both enjoyed a visit to Lovelace Drugs on the main street of Ocean Springs.

Lovelace has been there forever; and a number of years ago, the owners refurbished the old-fashioned soda fountain and added bright seating and tables reminiscent of the heyday of soda fountains.

Husband Walter enjoys a milkshake in the midst Lovelace’s red and white soda fountain décor.

I suspect the flavors offered have expanded. I told hubby to surprise me. He selected a Snickers milkshake for us to share. Snickers candy bars are among my (many) forbidden pleasures.

Soda jerk Oreyel of Gulfport creates our Snickers milkshake.

I first admired the Lovelace soda fountain almost three decades ago when I started working at the Mississippi Press bureau as a receptionist and jill of all trades then later as reporter, feature writer and photographer. The word “bureau” paints a misleading picture of the shabby WWII-era cottage that provided office space for the official Ocean Springs reporter, an advertising salesman and me.

I counted the location behind Lovelace’s parking area as an advantage, though. It only took a moment to pop over to Lovelace, zip through their back door and pick up anything from office supplies to a prepackaged snack.

It took awhile for the light to dawn about a mirrored area near the backdoor. Hidden behind and underneath stacks of boxes of products destined for the drugstore’s shelves were marble-topped work areas and counter of a soda fountain.

Today the dark wood I admired is a cheerful bright white, and the counter top includes jars of candy that require quite a few more pennies than in years past. But they are still tempting.

Flavors to tempt the candy lover

With our visit to Lovelace’s soda fountain, I can now check off one more item that has been on my “want-to-do” list for quite awhile. But the satisfaction of this little excursion far exceeded the time and money invested.

We savored a luscious milkshake, enjoyed meeting the gregarious young lady who proudly proclaimed her title as “soda jerk,” and renewed acquaintance and had an enjoyable visit with another couple we had lost touch with and who were also on a “mini-date.”

The Lovelace soda fountain definitely created the magic of a bygone era for us!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A New Orleans courtyard

Travel was one of my retirement goals. Lately, travel for husband Walter and me has been occasional overnight getaways to New Orleans. For a few days before Thanksgiving and again before Christmas, we stayed at the Provincial, a family-owned hotel in the French Quarter. A practical plus about this establishment is on-site parking that accommodates our aging high-rise van.

But one of the things I like most about the Provincial is the charming courtyard. It appeals to my senses in spring, fall and winter. We do our best to avoid New Orleans in the summer, so I don’t know if its charm survives the extreme summer heat and humidity. Here is a sensory sampler of the courtyard:

Whether colorful poinsettias in December . . .

Or annuals and perennials enjoying the warm weather of fall, the marriage of foliage, fountain and space offers a visually soothing embrace.

The fragrance of the sweet olive bush (tree?) in the background wafts throughout the courtyard.

 The heavy wrought-iron chair feels cool and surprisingly comfortable against back and seat.

The wake-up flavors of Community Coffee, hot tea and guests’ breakfast conversation . . .

Join the sound of the fountain’s waters burbling and tumbling into the waiting pool.*

Spending even a few moments in the Provincial courtyard turns "just being" into a memorable experience.


*Water photo above by husband Walter. See more of his photos here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blessings of ‘undecorating’


Today I finally got around to starting—NOT finishing—taking down our Christmas tree. This is what I found:
Lego clone warrior

Grandsons #1 and #2 had fun hiding their Lego Clone Wars fighters in our Christmas tree. The one above didn’t make it back to Georgia with the rest of the Legos. Luke and Nate, sorry if I didn’t get the names of the Lego characters right!

I always enjoy “undecorating” our tree. The ornaments are reminders of good times, fun places, loved ones, Christmases with our sons when they were little and now their wives and children. Removing an ornament is like picking fruit off a tree, only the fruit is a memory. Undecorating is a happy exercise, giving thanks for good memories, including those triggered by a left-behind Lego.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Update

For those of you who asked about my mother, she came home from the hospital Thursday afternoon. She still struggles to get her breath and tires with the least effort. But she has walked the long hall from her apartment to the retirement home's dining area for meals Saturday and today without having to stop half way for a rest on her walker. At 91, she is a determined lady, still concerned about others, and uncomplaining, sometimes even when she should complain. Her response to "How are you doing?" is routinely "As well as can be expected in my condition"! Thanks to all who have expressed concern and offered prayer.

Cigar tourism by a tobacco-free tourist

The Cigar Factory caught our eye on a pre-Christmas trip to New Orleans.
Husband Walter and I are not smokers, dippers or chewers and ordinarily have no use for tobacco. On a recent trip to New Orleans, however, the sign pictured above caught my attention.

Our goal was to visit the Christmas decorations Miracle on Fulton Street (See hubby Walter’s photos here). Right before we departed our hotel in the French Quarter, one of the 24-hour news channels was reporting on U.S. Customs confiscating thousands of dollars worth of super-expensive Cuban cigars. On our evening walk to Fulton Street, we cut over to Decatur, the street that runs by Café du Monde and Jackson Square, two of our favorite spots.

We had almost reached Canal Street when I saw the neon sign and darted into the factory. A number of men sat at benches facing each other with an aisle down the middle. The benches were stacked with tobacco leaves. What are the chances of hearing about Cuban cigars on the news then walking by a cigar factory just an hour or so later?

Rolling cigars
I tried to snap photos of each step in the rolling process, but these guys were fast. They looked relaxed and leisurely, but every step was an economy of movement. Although tobacco is not part of my life, a glimpse at these pros at work was a treat.
A pro at work

Friday, January 7, 2011

McElroy’s: A family tradition

Nana and Baboo await their table at McElroy’s with eldest son Walt, wife Sarah, and their four little Skupiens.
Our two sons grew up going to McElroy’s Harbor House in Biloxi, MS, for breakfast on Saturdays. The Harbor House was on the waterfront, overlooking the boat slips in the Biloxi small-craft harbor. We could watch the boats, birds and Deer Island while enjoying our breakfast favorites: the fluffy biscuits, grits, hashbrowns, bacon and eggs.

Eventually McElroy’s on the Bayou opened in Ocean Springs, our hometown, but breakfast at the Biloxi restaurant had become a tradition and remained our Saturday morning treat. We introduced Sarah, now our daughter-in-law, to breakfast at McElroy’s Harbor House while she and our son Walt were still in high school. On one of her early visits, she ordered a tall stack of pancakes. The waitress asked, “Are you sure. They’re big.”

Sarah was sure; she was ready for some pancakes. Her wide-eyed shock at the three giant, plate-sized pancakes that arrived in front of her instantly became part of the Harbor House lore that fueled our tradition. 


But the Harbor House in Biloxi is no more, swept away by Hurricane Katrina. These days, Sarah promotes tradition by getting everyone on board for a trip to McElroy’s in Ocean Springs. Our most recent outing once again involved three pancakes that practically hung over the edges of the plate. This time, however, it was one pancake each for Walt and Sarah’s three oldest children. And even six-year-old son #2, the champion pancake eater of the family, had difficulty finishing the super-sized treat, just like his mom years earlier. Ahh . . . tradition!

Oh, and for the record, we didn’t introduce our second son Jeremy’s wife to Harbor House. Imagine our surprise to learn early in their relationship that she, a native of Baton Rouge, LA, already shared our enthusiasm for the original McElroy’s in Biloxi. Katie’s grandfather had included her on numerous outings to the Mississippi Gulf Coast during her early years, and the Harbor House was one of his -- and her -- favorite stops.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

When a bath is something more



(NOTE: Written Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011, in the hospital. The featured patient and I are back at her apartment as of this afternoon!)
My mother is in the hospital for what we hope will be just one more night. She has congestive heart failure and had not bounced back from a cold several weeks earlier. Turns out, her right lung was full of fluid. She is doing some better, although shortness of breath is a problem, even from just talking. After several days in bed what she really wanted today was a shower.

The doctor said okay; helpful nurses worked out the logistics; I stood by, helping with drying off, applying lotion and other essentials. The change was amazing. She is still weak, but she sat up awhile before heading back to a clean, freshly made bed. “I feel human again!” she said. Sounds more like herself, too.

The change reminded me of another healing bath. Almost 16 years ago she had quadruple bypass surgery. Even after two or three days and medication that kept her woozy, she was tight and tense with pain, although characteristically uncomplaining. A young woman came in to give Mother her first post-surgery bath. I never knew if she was a nurse, a tech or what. She set Mother on a chair then soaped, sponged, rinsed, patted dry, and applied lotion and powder. As she gently massaged her patient’s skin, I could actually see the tension releasing its hold on my mother’s face and body.

I am convinced that that young woman was a natural healer. Healing was in her hands. That may have been one of the last, if not the last, bath that she gave a patient. The next day her assignment was working with the heart monitors. The woman administering that second post-surgery bath was obviously kind, conscientious, careful and thorough. But there was a difference. What she provided was simply . . . a bath.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

All in the (blogging) family

Son Jeremy has joined wife Katie and his parents in personal blogging.  He launched The Skupien Experience with his New Year's Day post on, what else, resolutions. The blog's tag line -- Faith and family, food and photography -- gives his mom an immediate fix for her addiction to alliteration.

Jeremy wields the spoken word with a skill that spans the spectrum of effects on his audience of the moment -- from an entertaining hilarity to comforting tenderness, from persuasiveness to grrrrrr-inducing button-pushing. His dad and I should know; he started honing those skills on us at an extremely early age.

The written word has held far less interest for him through the years. I am eager to see how this new endeavor progresses. The laughter his first post elicited from me is a promising start.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Son!

Skupien family blogs:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

5 years old today


Charlie at last year's 4th-year anniversary celebration
Happy birthday to granddaughter Charlie who turns 5 today! This young miss arrived in the world as a confirmed girly girl. Among her passions are dance and art, activities she pursues with concentration and joy.

Yesterday I had just been in Lexie Lu, a superlative children's and infants' wear boutique in our hometown, when hubby Walter pointed out the "princess parking" sign. This sign is for you, Charlie, one of our favorite princesses!
Pat Ladnier of Lexie Lu poses with a parking sign that announces grim consequences for non-princesses.

Baboo and Nana love you, Charlie. Happy, happy birthday!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Answered prayers in process


My mother’s family doctor sent her to the hospital today after an office visit for a problem with shortness of breath that was getting worse.

Thankfully, three doctors -- her family doctor, the doctor who makes the hospital visits for the family doc’s patients, and her kidney doctor, all have a  “Let’s get this fixed” attitude. All three have made a positive difference in my mother's health in the past.

Blessing #2 was my brother Mike's and my mother's assurances that she is already feeling better, now on oxygen in the hospital.

Blessing #3 was my brother’s extending his holiday visit, keeping on top of all things medical, and giving Mother the loving support she needs during this particular health challenge. Making that stay possible was the willingness of his wife Sonya and offspring to make the drive from Mississippi to their home in Virginia sans Mike -- husband, father and principal driver.

And #4 is a husband who helps calm my panic.

Thank you, God.