Thursday, May 31, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: Beach Therapy

My beachside exercise spot for stroke-recovery physical and occupational therapy
This morning walking buddy Ann Losset and I were out early on the one-mile Ocean Springs, MS, beach walk for some serious beach therapy.

We started out with some of my arm and shoulder exercises on a bench at the checkerboard. Those exercises sure are easier with sand, sun, blue sky, white clouds, water and shorebirds helping out.

The energizing view from my exercise bench

Ann’s mega-effective therapy also included a visit with friend Gayla on location at the shop she and her daughter are opening in downtown Ocean Springs. What a delight to see how they are transforming an empty storefront into a new bath-products business, Queen’s Bath.

We met my dear hubby at a favorite coffee shop for tea and coffee. There Ann provided shopping therapy, tutoring me in locating free Kindle books and inciting husband Walter’s iPad envy with a demonstration of the popular Apple product.

Veggies from the Losset garden
Even though we finally departed to our separate homes, Ann’s therapy continued. Walter and I added to our lunch fresh cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden that Ann and her husband Mark are nurturing this year. What a treat! What a day!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: Gray-Day Meds

Austin, Texas, novelist and blogger Ruth Pennebaker’s humorous post about her relief from a recent gray day gave me a refreshing attitude adjustment just now.

Over the past several weeks I have had my own gray days, the result of a toe issue that restricted my walking to moderate movement around my home. I missed walks on the beach with walking buddies. But I also missed being able to keep up with laundry and the few other chores I had finally taken over since my stroke last year.

I really hadn’t given much thought to my “gray-day” attitude. But Ruth’s entertaining saga led to the realization that walking must provide major release of endorphins into my system. But laundry? What does getting a high from doing laundry say about me?

I guess it is evidence that my ambitions don’t run toward saving the world, just keeping husband Walter and me in clean clothes!

Panini, good for what ails me

And thank goodness for my hubby. Husband Walter is administering a happy dose of another gray-day prescription right now. After excellent dental visits this morning, meaning pain free visits, hubby has taken me to Coffee Fusion. We both have on clean clothes, by the way. We imbibed our favorite coffee and tea orders and caught up on computer time. And just now hubby ordered a panini lunch that we will split.

Hubby is a master at tempting me with food as mood-altering medication. Over the past few days among the temptations were fresh strawberries and ice cream, wonderful fresh salads, a steak dinner. I have to say his steak tastes wonderful, even though he prepares mine sans salt.

Then of course there is the righteous feeling from taking measures to combat high blood pressure. I read an article listing ways to lower blood pressure naturally. On the list was eating dark chocolate. Woohoo!

 Food as medicine is a definite pattern here. I love it, but overdosing is a distinct possibility.

Beyond gastronomic therapy for gray-day tendencies, my toe is healing nicely and a short walk on the beach path should be back on my agenda tomorrow. Time to end your visit, Mr. Gray Day!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: This Little Piggy

My recent footwear

Dr. Rick the podiatrist removed the entire left half of my toenail on an ailing little piggy last Tuesday, including the root of the nail on the painful side of the toe.  

The ingrown toenail was on the toe next to the big toe on my right foot—the one that still has sensation. It had been painful for more than two weeks. Since it was already sore and swollen, I figured a sandal would avoid any pressure on the ailing little piggy after the podiatrist did whatever he was going to do and the deadening injections wore off. It worked, but because sandals don’t work with the brace or Bioness I need for walking, the mismatched footwear looked pretty bizarre.

After my stroke I ditched footwear with any hint of style in favor of shoes I could wear successfully with brace or my Bioness. My priority in post-stroke reality is regaining movement. I am ruthless about wearing what helps rather than hinders, although I have had assistance from therapists in recognizing the difference at times.

I have been off my feet most of last week. Saturday included outings, yes, with my odd footwear, to our favorite coffee shop and to a Saturday evening church service.
My foot is healing and feeling better. I am still avoiding shoe or sock on that particular little piggy. Hopefully by the time for therapy on Tuesday, two days from now, I will be back into shoes that match.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: A Bygone Era Part 1, Shrinking Newspapers

Husband Walter relayed some news to me two days ago that made me a little sad.

The Times Picayune, the venerable New Orleans daily, announced the cut to a three-day publication schedule.

Yesterday hubby passed along more news. The Mobile (AL) Register has now gone the same route, cutting publication to three days a week and touting a beefed up Web presence.

Notice I learned of this news via word of mouth, not from my perusal of a newspaper.

My newspaper reading had already diminished to maybe three times a week since my stroke last year. Physically turning the pages and manipulating a targeted section of a page close enough to compensate for vision issues has been frustrating.

I spent a decade and a half in the newspaper business and the first five years of that was on my high school and college student newspapers. I eventually landed in science writing and public relations for a marine science research and education agency for 17 years and a marine biology research laboratory for my last 11 years of employment.

Through the years I remained captivated by the news-gathering and production process of newspapers. But even in college I was aware that we were on the front edge of major changes in the newspaper business. Computerization was easing in even on the student newspaper.

Now the traditional process that so enthralled me is near extinction.

The Hattiesburg American, the Mississippi newspaper of my youth, once a robust source of community news, opinion, sports and entertainment, now operates with a bare bones staff and is no longer produced locally.

The Mississippi Press, a daily newspaper my husband and I worked on in coastal Mississippi, was merged into its bigger parent paper, the Mobile (AL) Register as a regional section several years ago. Then it disappeared entirely. A bit of local news and features appears on the front page and sometimes part of the second page of a “Coast and Local” section.

I find it ironic that I am getting my news mostly from conversations with my husband. He regularly reads actual newsprint newspapers as well as news online. I, on the other hand, rarely even watch the news on TV.

It is also ironic that the same day I learned news of the latest newspaper “shrinkage,” I had just successfully registered my new Kindle and downloaded several free eBooks to see if everything worked okay.

An additional happy success was selecting a larger font size (a really, really larger font size!) so that I don’t have to hold a book or newspaper up to my nose to read. No more printer’s ink on my nose!

 Another irony I recognized in this whole experience: To double check the new publication schedule of the Times Picayune I didn’t go to a newspaper or newspaper morgue but to Google, where else?

And the article I read included typical digital-age journalistic practices of both the irritating and appreciated variety. As I was reading, a video advertisement popped up and hid the text. I don’t really mind most of the less intrusive ads at the sides or top of the screen.

But the nearly full-screen ad, like so much of digital communication today, just seemed rude. Then there was a statement in the article attributed to a source that appeared to be a last name only.

I checked the preceding paragraphs to see if the source had been identified earlier and I just missed it. It wasn’t. I don’t care if it was linked. Attribution should be clear for every reader, not COIK (clear only if known).

I clicked the link. I spent several long, loooong moments trying to navigate the site until I finally found out the surname was the name of the site and of the founder of a type of journalism educational organization.

I like being able to learn more through links. But it seems like a site produced by an organization dedicated to education for excellence in both traditional and digital journalistic media ought to be a little more careful about clear attribution and a little more user friendly.

Okay, okay, I know. Not only am I getting older and even more behind in digital literacy, I am also getting way more crabby.

But I do like my Kindle!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: Birthday Boy

Cool birthday dude

Water babies
Our son and daughter-in-law definitely have a handle on what transports their offspring into realms of ecstatic delight. Both little brother Walker and big sister Molly Kate love the water, and Walker’s celebration was a “splash” party May 19, one week after his May 12 birth date anniversary.

That Saturday Walker and Molly Kate convinced their mom to release them into the backyard where three blow-up pools and three whimsical blow-up water toys were waiting for the celebration to start at 11 a.m.

At her okay, the siblings started partying at 7:30 a.m. and were happily in and out of the little pool all morning until guests arrived. When their two eight-year-old cousins started running then jumping and diving into the “big-boy” pool, Walker launched a determined effort to join them (one end of the bigger pool is visible behind the little pool in the first photo).

Mom and Dad finally relented and let the birthday boy get into the bigger pool. The cousins’ splashes from their dives repeatedly flooded Walker’s face. His determination to maintain “big-boy” status was clear, though. When a deluge hit, he would just turn his head, sputter and keep possession of his spot in the big pool. The splash party was a big hit with Walker and his guests.

I counted it a real treat to be on hand for his two-year birthday celebration. Last year it was less than a month after my stroke, and I was still hospitalized in the in-patient rehab center when it was time for his first birthday party.

At this year's celebration I was walking around, cautiously. I felt a little too unbalanced to get into position to take many photos in the midst of all the energetic activity. But I was navigating most of the time without help among the kid and adult celebrants. Walker wasn’t the only one who did some fine-tuning of his walking skills in the past year!

Once it was time for lunch, daughter-in-law Katie dressed the brother and sister in coordinated T-shirts and shorts in the party’s crab theme. I am disappointed I didn’t get a pix of them in their outfits, but I am counting om their mom posting a photo soon so I can borrow it and enjoy.

Walker was still more interested in the water than lunch. I, however, gleefully used up my sodium allotment for a month. I enjoyed pulled pork, potato salad, slaw, baked beans, plus my first ever Cajun boudin, a pork and rice dressing stuffed in pork casings. Yum!

Sleepy eyes 
After lunch Walker was all smiles as the assembled relatives sang happy birthday and the older kids helped blow out candles on his cake. Even though he looked about ready to fall asleep, he sampled icing on a cupcake, opened presents with a little help from his sister and cousins, played with a few new toys then told his mother “shirt off”!

Katie obliged, and the birthday boy was soon back in the water, his favorite birthday place to be.

Remembering when!
Baboo soaks up quality time with an almost brand-new Walker.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: Solo Travel

A happy family celebrates my niece Amanda’s graduation, from the left, niece Becky, nephew Matthew, Amanda, sister-in-law Sonya, my brother Mike.

May 10 through May 15 was my first solo travel post-stroke. I can hardly classify my trip to Virginia as a solo travel experience, though. The successful air travel to visit my brother’s family and attend his daughter Amanda’s college graduation was a cooperative effort that got me ready and got me to my destination and back.

Although husband Walter stayed behind to work, he was patient and meticulous in making arrangements and helping me assemble and pack essentials and even things I considered essential but were not.

Family members, friends and neighbors, both in Mississippi and Virginia provided helpful suggestions, encouragement and equipment. Exceptional employees associated with airlines and airports I frequented made the journey a pleasant adventure. And thanks to the kindness and quick action of several strangers on the flights home, I survived a nosebleed of “Oh-my-goodness-the-dam-just-broke” proportions.

Friday night Helen and Steve, friends of my brother and sister-in-law welcomed us into their Lynchburg home in the filled-to-capacity university town so that we were not faced with hours travel on the two days of ceremonies.

Brother Mike, sister-in-law Sonya, and their offspring Amanda, Becky and Matthew had given much thought to my safety, energy levels and ability to cope in new environments and were always ready to help when I needed it.

Each of these individuals was a blessing and contributed to my experiencing so many joyful moments. Here are a few of those moments from my camera and from the cameras of others:

Amanda on the Jumbotron as her solo soared through the Liberty University coliseum during the baccalaureate service the evening before graduation

Niece Becky and boyfriend Josh

With road closures scheduled for 7 a.m. as part of security for graduation speaker Mitt Romney, we were on the University campus before 7 and in place in the handicapped section of the stadium shortly after 7. An early morning temperature of 47 degrees kept us bundled up almost until the ceremonies started at 10 a.m.

Brother Mike and sis-in-law Sonya await the start of graduation in the university stadium.

Recognition by name occurred for Amanda and her fellow music graduates in a brief and emotional ceremony in the music building where they had spent most of the past four years. The professors knew their students well and had obviously invested four years of their professional lives in the young musicians. It was in the communal area of the music facility where families and friends captured their shared excitement and happiness in photos and videos.

And I was so happy to meet Amanda and Becky’s friends I had heard so much about and to be part of their milestone experience.

Niece Amanda, left, and good friend Michelle have shared an apartment and their pursuit of a major in music.

Amanda and Michelle pose with proud sisters and moms. From the left are Michelle’s mom Ginny, sisters Amanda and Becky, sisters Michelle and Kirsten, and Amanda and Becky's mom Sonya.

Joining the fun are, from the left, Amanda, Sonya, Matthew and me.

In the photo above I am seated in a wheelchair that Mike borrowed from a church. I would have had difficulty navigating the distances between events and the changes in elevation without it and Mike serving as “pusher.”

An extra blessing was our being together on Mother’s Day weekend, the first Mother’s Day since our mother died. There was no time to be sad. For me there was just happiness in the knowledge of how much joy my mother took in her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and loving spouses.
A poignant moment with niece Rebecca “Becky” Annette, namesake of my late mother Annette.

Friday, May 18, 2012

On the Road Again

 Molly Kate prepares to show Nana her new room.
Husband Walter and I will be heading out early tomorrow morning for Baton Rouge, LA, and grandson Walker’s two-year birthday party. I had forgotten that I had snapped these photos from our previous visit in April.
Molly Kate poses on her comfy new big-girl bed.

The images made me smile at the memories they evoked of granddaughter Molly Kate’s enthusiasm about showing me her new bedroom in the new family home.

Treasured "princess" furnishings

Little monkey feet

I fell in love with her monkey slippers. She was a remarkably patient little subject as grandmother and granddaughter worked together to find a way to show off the whimsical footwear.

I still have yet to recharge from my first solo travel and first travel by air since my 2011 stroke. I will post more about that stroke-recovery milestone later.  I returned home Tuesday, May 15 from the trip, but, even though I am still a little low on energy, I could not pass up the invitation to Walker’s celebration.

And where is Walker in all these photos? I think he was busy romping with his grandfather Baboo in the toy room. 

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Celebrating,May 12

Yesterday, May 12, I was in Lynchburg, VA, celebrating niece Amanda's graduation day at Liberty University. I am proud of her. She graduated summa cum laude with a major in music--vocal performance and a minor in history. And she was a soloist at Friday evening's baccalaureate service.

The graduation ceremony made headlines with featured speaker Mitt Romney. The handicapped seating area in the stadium turned out to be an echo chamber, so anything I know about what he said will be from conversation and news reports. 

Five other family members were engaged in milestone activities yesterday. Our two Georgia granddaughters Charlie and Stella had their annual dance recitals. In Louisiana, it was also dance recital day for granddaughter Molly Kate and for her mom Katie's ballet students. Katie  teaches classes for ages 12-14 and choreographed their recital performances this year. Finally, but big on my list, is the fact that our youngest grand, Walker Vincent turned two yesterday. His parents have set his celebration for a later weekend, though, as a matter of survival!

All these young folks and their parents are a source of joy.

That's all for now. I will be in Virginia with my brother and his family through Tuesday morning, and opportunities for posting, for visits to blogging friends, and for commenting  will be limited until later next week as I will be taking some time to recharge and reconnect with husband Walter. 

Have a great week!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Smoky Mountains: Day One

On a pre-Easter trip in April, our first full day in the Smoky Mountains was packed but leisurely. We had stopped for the night in Dillsboro, NC. An early morning view from our riverside balcony revealed a slightly ominous looking stream and an attractive but wet terrace. In contrast the nearby hillside was a symphony of misty spring green.
No breakfast al fresco on the terrace today

A refreshing view to start the day

Husband Walter found a lifelike model of downtown Dillsboro above the motel lobby. 

Alas, the train, the Smoky Mountain Railroad, once a big tourist draw, has moved operations to Bryson City, although it does include a Dillsboro stop.

Tribal Grounds, our first stop in Cherokee, NC, for coffee and tea

Our second stop was for boiled peanuts. We like them in the Southern tradition rather than the spicy Cajun variety. And our favorite source is the cast-iron cauldron we have visited for years.
Boiled peanuts ready to eat

Jack’s Boiled Peanuts served up about six tons of the salty snack in 2011. They are hoping to hit nine tons this year.

Emmitt scoops up our quart of steaming hot peanuts.

Equipped with abundant paper towels and determination, we cracked the peanuts open and indulged as we drove to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. We had toured the mountain farm at the location in 2010 when the fields and kitchen garden were ready for harvest. The visitors center was bustling but tiny. 

New Oconaluftee Visitor Center
The new center is spacious and seved a steady stream of visitors. Best of all was the generous porch that overlooks a spirit-lifting vista.

A porch and a patch of shade equals a happy hubby.

Inviting rockers would be even more welcoming facing the farm and mountain.

Now, isn’t that better?

On our way to the western side of the mountains after our jaunt to Waynesville (See that post here.), we stopped at the Cherokee showroom of Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. Walter parked me in a comfy chair surrounded by a visual feast of baskets, quilts and other items created by artists and crafters of the Eastern Cherokee.

The Cherokee babies below were a new addition. Their creator is Mildred Queen. The tag listed felt cloth as the material she used. I just had to get up out of my chair and snap pix of these endearing little ones.

And unlike my grands, these little ones were easy to photograph. They sat absolutely still!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: Is It Age?

Recently I was wasting time and enjoying it, I admit, watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory. My cell phone rang. I grabbed the remote to mute the television before answering my cell phone. I pushed the button. Sheldon’s voice still filled the room. I tried turning the TV off. No luck!

That’s when the disconcerting truth dawned. I was punching buttons on the house phone. No wonder I was having no success operating the TV.

At least I had the comforting knowledge that this episode probably wasn’t stroke-related. Husband Walter had done the same thing the week before.

That comfort was short-lived. Our bathroom is small and counter space limited. I have several different tubes of toothpaste in use and regularly scoop them up and corral them in a cup with our toothbrushes.

Yesterday morning I grabbed a tube and my toothbrush. At this stage in my stroke recovery, I use my knees to hold the tube in place while I squeeze my preferred gel tooth cleanser on to my brush. It is faster than prying my left hand open and fitting a tube into it. I started to unscrew the cap.

Oops! It was hemorrhoid ointment instead of toothpaste. All I can say is that I am thankful I realized my error before application. Yech!

The upside of these mental lapses is that hubby and I aren’t likely to run out of things to laugh about.

Have a wonderful Sunday and a great week!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Love that Old Time Music

Mountain music made here
Husband Walter and I were enjoying our first full day in the Smoky Mountains on an April pre-Easter trip. A series of circumstances sent us on an itinerary-expanding jaunt to Waynesville, NC, where we encountered the musicians pictured above.

Hubby had said to let him know if there was something I wanted to do, so I did. Our ultimate destination was a local art association exhibit of recent work of regional artists. Inspiration was the invited artists' visits to local gardens that were to be featured in Waynesville’s 2012 annual spring garden tour. The mix of local art and gardening was an intriguing combo, expressed in painting, jewelry, metal, clay and wood.

Husband Walter posted about the art exhibit here. But Waynesville had more pleasures in store for us. When we exited Gallery 86, the metal sculptures of mountain music in the making across the street demanded a closer look.
Grandpa on the banjo.

I wanted to capture these delightful musicians, but rain sent us scurrying to our van. After lunch I thought hubby had gotten turned around when he headed back to the town center.

No, he had returned to the vicinity of the super-sized musicians. It was still damp out, and hubby took my little camera, left me snug in the van and fulfilled my wish for photos of the pair.

A giant in the music world, at least 7 feet tall
I have since learned that the whimsical metal sculpture by Stefan “Steebo” Bonitz was the first work in a well-planned project for permanent public art in Waynesville. The photos of subsequent installations and the story here of the process of planning, community involvement and execution has instilled the desire for another visit to Waynesville, NC, on our next Smokies trip.

Bonitz's work ranges from folk art to high design. His bio is here.