Friday, June 29, 2012

Questions I have asked myself lately

Do I downplay hard things as I post about my experiences and observations of my “retirement daze”?

Friko’s recent post here about blogs that seem to chronicle perfect, fabulous lives sparked an outpouring of lively comments. Her post and the resulting comments led me to critically examine my own blogging habits. The result was this comment that I left on her blog:

“I sometimes blog about the not-so-happy stuff. But usually when I have experienced hard, unpleasant, painful or sad things, I really don't want to experience them again by writing about them unless I can identify a positive element, a launching point for joy, growth, thankfulness, healing or humor.

If I choose to look for the positive, I find it in abundance, at times even in the form of piercing joy. The alternative is a spiral into my susceptibility to crippling negativity.”

Duh! This lesson is so simple, but I still need occasional refresher courses. I am thankful for such blogs as Friko’s and the comments shared by other denizens of the blogosphere. Blogging is fun, entertaining and informative; it creates rewarding connections; and on top of all that, it is good therapy!

How do I let my to-do list get so long and malicious?

Here’s how I do it. Sigh.

1. List several big items and mentally set unrealistic deadlines and expectations.
2. Procrastinate in an attempt to banish the feeling of being overwhelmed.
3. Obsess over the big picture.
4. Forget that breaking the big picture into small, easier to accomplish tasks works.
5. Embrace the paralysis that 1-5 produce.

So here I sit, officially reminding myself: Finish one little thing.

Aha! This post is one little thing, and it is now finished. I am moving on to indulging in Hubby’s homemade pizza. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hospice keeps on giving

Hospice nurse Marilyn ministered to my mother October-December 2011.

A card arrived earlier this month—a greeting from my mother’s principal hospice nurse. She was acknowledging, with the comforting gesture of a card and her words, my mother’s June 12 birthday anniversary, the first since her death on Dec. 6, 2011.

This nurse and her colleagues from Forrest General Hospice were such a blessing to my mother, me, my brother and Mother’s other relatives, friends, and caregivers who were present during her final few months and weeks. Their knowledge, experience and love surrounded Mother and comforted me. And when death came, hospice nurse Becky was quickly at our side to take care of immediate details, creating a sense of calm and respect.

The hospice staff and volunteers held a memorial service in March for all the patients who had died during the previous 12 months. Husband Walter and I made the 90-minute drive from the coast to the service in Hattiesburg. We had arranged to meet two of my cousins who had surrounded my mother with loving care and attention.

The investment of time and effort to organize the memorial was in itself a source of comfort. But I also anticipated the opportunity to say an in-person “thank you” to the nurses who had worked with Mother. They had eased her transition and mine at the end of her life.

It was also an opportunity to spend some time with my cousins Carolyn and Judy who had stepped in when my post-stroke limitations prevented my being with Mother as much as I wanted to be.

Three caring spirits, are, from the left, my cousins Carolyn and Judy with hospice nurse Becky.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blogger Blues

I have been desperately trying to find answers to disturbing quirks in the new Blogger dashboard. The problems I have encountered have generated a severe case of the blogging blues. I did find a post about how to go back to the old dashboard. Now I am back to the old, and none of the plaguing problems occur with the oldie but goodie. How long, though, before Blogger axes the old version that does work in favor of the obnoxious new one that doesn’t work well for me.

From my searches for answers, it appears other people are having problems, too, but not the same as mine. Of course, their problems could be what I am experiencing and I’m just not familiar enough with the nomenclature to understand their complaints.

Some comments I read suggested that the goal of the Blogger powers that be is to weed out certain categories of bloggers. If that is true, and if the technologically inept and elder are among targeted bloggers, they will probably successfully eliminate me. 

Be forewarned. The rest of this post is more of my indulging in a whine with detailed complaints. Among my complaints about the new, improved (Linda said sarcastically) dashboard:

1) Frequently when I try to post, the line that contains the box for entering the post title is just not there. It is the same line that the Publish button is on. I’ve tried all sorts of strategies. The only thing that has worked is to close down, go away, take a deep breath, attempt to control my aggravation and try again another day. This situation never occurred with the old dashboard.

2) I can choose photos from my computer files with no problem. I can hit “Add Selected” and place the first photo in the post that I am working on. When I click on the little photo icon to start the process for inserting the next photo in my post, the only photo that shows up is the one I just inserted. 

If I run my cursor over where the photos were after I had chosen them from my computer files, their filenames show up. I can even click “Add Selected” and move another photo to my post. What I cannot do is see a thumbnail of the photo to be sure it is the one I want next. Again, this problem has shown up on the new dashboard only.

3) A few months into my blogging efforts, I signed up for Google Adsense. For me it has been Google Nonsense. Procrastination and a weird sense of enjoyment has kept me clicking over to check on my Adsense account a couple times a month. Trying to access it through the "improved" dashboard, however, has just led to invitations to open an Adsense account. GRRRRRR!  No problem since I returned to the old dashboard.

My husband has experienced the first problem I listed. Some other differences are slowing him down, but he is hanging in there with the new dashboard. Any advice or chronicles of dastardly dashboard deeds are welcomed!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

On this Father's Day

Husband Walter

A local pastor’s Father’s Day message was a refreshing celebration of men and God’s purpose for them. Instead of admonishing dads about shortcomings, he gave wives a list of things to always do and things to never ever do to help their mates grow into the unique males God created them to be.

I was proud that several items on the list had been drilled into me from the earliest age that I can recall. They were common sense admonitions such as “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” I can remember times when I was aware of the pain, whether temporary or long lasting, that a female friend or relative wreaked upon her husband and children through her attitudes and actions. Mother’s answers to my disturbed and anxious questions reinforced the truth of her sayings. And, of course, she lived what she preached.

Some items on the pastor’s list I had eventually come to realize through living and maturing and eventually recognizing the difference between loving, constructive approaches and selfish, destructive approaches to the daily challenges of living. But I think I was most proud that so many things on the pastor’s list were things my husband taught me.

On this Father’s Day I am thankful for this man who has helped me grow as a wife and mother. I treasure how he recognized negative patterns that sometimes took root in family dynamics with our children and gently suggested to me, in private, possible alternatives. I appreciate how he has stuck and kept working together through good and bad, happy and sad. I am thankful for the example he has lived out before our two sons.

He is not perfect. That would definitely be hard to live with. Not perfect but God’s perfect choice for me. Happy Father’s Day to my husband!

A blogging danger

Succumbing to uncontrollable manic laughter and tears in a public place is a risk one may encounter upon venturing into the blogosphere. Such was the dilemma husband Walter and I encountered on a Father’s Day jaunt to Coffee Fusion, our favorite coffee shop.

The incident actually occurred on Saturday, the day we chose to celebrate an early Father’s Day, but a bit more on that celebration another time. Hubby and I were happily and quietly settled in, both with our earphones.

Husband Walter . . .

. . . and I indulge in unobtrusive listening.

I had clicked on the link to a video of Golf Brooks singing “Senior Moments.”

Even though the video was slow loading and would pause every now and then while the Internet service overcame its own senior moments, the closed captioning kept me on track with the words. By the time he got to the verse about Rogaine and Viagra, my modest giggles erupted into loud, unladylike belly laughs and I collapsed over my keyboard.

An alarmed hubby jerked off his earphones to find out what was wrong.

“Video,” I gasped. “Senior moments.”

I offered to email the link. He declined the offer, confident he could find it on YouTube. But first, he said, he would finish listening to Tony Bennett singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

I went back to reading blogs that I follow. Suddenly I realized Hubby was distraught, slumped forward, shoulders shaking, hands to his forehead. My heart started racing. I saw actual tears falling onto to the lenses of his glasses.


“So funny,” he squeaked out. “The Rogaine and Viagra pill mixup!”

I am placing the blame for our unnaturally raucous behavior firmly where it belongs, on Ronni Bennett and her June 16 “Interesting Stuff” post here.

If laughter is powerful medicine, and I believe it is, then we were dangerously close to overdosing.

Friday, June 15, 2012

This and that

Abby, left, and Linda
Yesterday husband Walter pointed out an error in my post about members of the therapy team at Ocean Springs Hospital Neuro Rehab Center.

In the cutline for a photo of physical therapy intern Abby and me, I had identified Abby as pictured on the right. It is unlikely anyone would mistake me for Abby. Nevertheless, I corrected the error, groaning all the while at my faulty directional genes.

It is all my dear mother’s fault. Along with a bit of natural curl in my hair, I inherited her difficulty with distinguishing left and right. Such directional dysfunction is still inconceivable to dear hubby. But he has ceased exhibiting frustration and amazement. Those reactions I am sure still lurk, but he has become a master at masking them.

When I have made a wrong turn or move, he seems to enjoy saying in a jovial tone, “No, your OTHER left (or right, whichever fits the occasion).” But I don’t think he has ever quite accepted the necessity of my map-reading strategy. I have found that my method is not uncommon. I have met at least a dozen other, okay, maybe three or four, people who do the same.

If I am drafted as navigator and there is any likelihood that I will have to tell a driver where to turn and whether to turn left or right, I have to find on the map the thoroughfare we are currently on. I turn the map version of the road so that it is pointing in the same direction we are traveling on the real road. The next step is to find where we are to turn.

With the map “correctly” oriented in the direction we are going, I can see in which direction we need to make the turn. And most importantly, I can make a little phantom handwriting motion with my right hand to double check that I have figured out correctly which is actually right and which is left. This procedure must also be accomplished before carsickness from looking at a printed page strikes and causes unpleasant consequences.

Why not go with a GPS thingee? I am not sure. Perhaps hope springs eternal in the heart of man that his mate will one day comprehend north, south, east and west and be able to rotate a little mental map well enough to give accurate directions. Ha!

Brush on the wall

I walked into our bathroom recently and saw my toothbrush stuck to the tile above the sink. Husband Walter had struck again to make me laugh. When my laughter subsided, I decided I liked having it handy but out of the way. Maybe it is childish, but I even find it fun wetting the suction cup on the bottom and whapping it onto the wall.

For about five years I have been buying kids toothbrushes. I started out buying a child-sized toothbrush that was conveniently small for carrying in my purse.Then I realized it was also softer and easier to wield in the hard-to-reach dental regions beyond my front teeth.

My recent purchase was, of course, the least expensive. Past purchases in the least-expensive category have been serviceable, nondescript solid-colored kid versions of adult toothbrushes. The brush above was whimsically molded with an interesting texture on the handle and bright colors galore. And then there is that suction cup with so much creative potential.

I am sure that the delight this toothbrush engenders in me is a sign that I should expand my interests, get more serious about dental hygiene or maybe just grow up.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: My street

Oleander blossom
I am back to walking, trying to rebuild stamina after several weeks of staying off my foot due to ingrown toenail issues and the resulting correction by a podiatrist. Eek! Needles and scalpel! Actually I don’t know if he used a scalpel to remove the left side of the offending toenail. I was a big weenie. After seeing the needle action, I didn’t watch the rest. I just scrunched my eyes shut and did that Lamaze panting. It worked. Evidently it was a perfect toenail delivery.

Anyway, with husband Walter off from driving the school bus for the summer, we are braving the heat and humidity and walking after dinner. Yesterday we paused on the other side of our circle for me to snap a closeup of one of the pink blooms on an oleander bush. As I struggled to maintain balance while keeping the camera steady, fat raindrops started plopping.

I frantically stuffed my little Canon back in its case. A little rain wouldn’t hurt hubby or me, but I didn’t want to take a chance with the camera that I can use with one hand only.

Our rain-spotted street
The precipitation was over in moments. In the few minutes that it took us to make it on around to our side of the circle, the only evidence of the brief event was a pattern of wet spots on the asphalt. The shadows are hubby’s and mine.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: Making a difference

Among the joyful blessings of my stroke – yes blessings – are the individuals who have contributed to my therapy. Leading the way are gifted therapists. But there is an additional cast of characters that has made a difference, too.


The techs who work fulltime and part time with Ocean Springs Hospital Neuro Rehab range from young adults to others who have already retired from one or more previous occupations. The techs are the individuals who escort me in and out of the gym, check me in, take my blood pressure and record pain levels and any dizziness.

Along with my therapist they hold my gait belt and help bolster my confidence when I am wobbling around attempting a new movement far out of my comfort zone.

They offer a spirit-lifting “Good Morning, Mrs. Skupien,” trade tidbits about weekend plans and sprinkle humor and encouragement throughout each session. They add to an atmosphere that encourages hard work and persistence even when discouragement lurks ready to pounce.

Interns from university advanced degree therapy programs are also among the contributors to my recovery. Matt and Abby represented my introduction to the next generation of physical therapists. They spent a term mentored by my therapist Ashley. Although their internships were not during the same time, they both worked with me during a period when I was moving toward a new plateau in my recovery.

Abby, left,  and me
Ashley led them into assessing my deficits and then had them develop exercises to reactivate and strengthen weakened nerves and muscles and to combat negative movement patterns caused by the stroke. It was exciting to be a part of the firsthand experience that an internship provided these gifted young people.

I am in the 14th month of stroke-recovery rehab. I am thankful that I can continue therapy. Improvement comes in tiny increments, but it is coming!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Birthday blessings

Annette and Cecil
Today would have been my mother’s 93rd birthday. She passed away Dec. 6, 2011. I am blessed with good memories:
- her stories about her growing up in rural Mississippi;

- tales of her courtship with my dad;

- her adventures as a newlywed following Pearl Harbor, moving with my dad across the continent in the months between his entering the Army as a private compliments of the draft and his shipping out of San Francisco as a lieutenant bound for the Philippines to fight in World War II;

- her vivid accounts of those early years of marriage after the war;

- her ingenuity, humor and ability to conjure fun out of thin air;

- her example.

I am blessed that the love she lavished lives on.

And I am blessed when I see in my children and grandchildren character traits that I loved about Mother, including some that could occasionally drive me crazy.

Remembering has brought tears and laughter today.

I love you, Mama.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Vive la différence

One of the many delights that grand children bring is the chance to observe how each one is unique. A recent weekend visit to our home by our Louisiana tribe offered abundant, and entertaining, examples of the differences in four-year-old granddaughter Molly Kate’s approach to fun and the approach that her two-year-old brother Walker takes.

Grandson Walker’s favorite attire
Walker operates on a philosophy of “less is best” when it comes to clothing. Molly Kate loves clothes and playing dress up.

Molly Kate models her witchy fashion.
On this visit she rummaged in the toy stash until she found a headband fashioned after a witch’s chapeau. Several years ago if she caught a glimpse of that “spider ball” she is holding in the above photo, or any other spider-shaped toy, she would quickly retreat to another room.

She surprised me on this visit. Not only did she ham it up with the spider ball, but she also used two spider bracelets as earrings.

Accessorizing with spiders

While Walker ran, jumped, skipped and hopped nonstop, Molly Kate systematically arranged Fisher Price little people and created her original chronicle of their interactions. At one point Molly Kate, Baboo and son Jeremy assembled various renditions of a marble maze. Both siblings became engrossed in repeatedly sending a marble on its way though the plastic tubes and obstacles.

Molly Kate’s technique involved precision with occasional adjustments to her witch’s hat.

Time out for a quick fashion fix

Walker’s technique was an energetic toss of the marble from farther away.  His aim was surprisingly accurate.
Walker executes a quick toss.

Excitement at the marble’s a-mazing (groan) descent

As a wonderful Saturday wound down, Mom and Dad loaded little ones up, Molly Kate settling quietly into her car seat, Walker protesting vigorously about being confined to one spot. Off they drove with Nana and Baboo waving, and Nana a little teary.

The next day oldest son Walt and daughter-in-law Sarah topped off our weekend with anecdotes of summer fun they were having with our Georgia grands. My cup runneth over.


test post

Thursday, June 7, 2012


My approach to technology has been to blunder along, learning as I go. I had been rolling along in blissful in my ignorance. Well, what I am learning right now is that applying that philosophy in bloggerland is not so smart. Yesterday I rolled into a dark and scary place . . . the territory of consequences of ignorance. Now I am trying to figure out how to rectify my errors and get back to happy blogging.

Teeth gnashing, whining, groaning, and moaning are going on at the Skupien household right now. Sigh. I intend for that to be the last of my public whining, though, and I hope to get back to visiting other blogs tomorrow.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Carnivorous plants and cinnamon rolls

Pitcher Plants
I noticed the cluster of small pot plants as I sat down at a table. We had just entered the small coffee shop located in a building on the edge of the old downtown district in Hattiesburg, MS, the city of my childhood.

I focused most of my attention, though, on my husband and the coffee shop owner. Would there be any of the Saturday-only, made-from-scratch, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls left?

Those cinnamon rolls are my reason for visiting Southbound Bagel every chance we get, which has been once or twice a year for several years.

We were in luck. A single cinnamon roll was left. As usual, it covered a small plate. And it was so outrageously packed with brown sugar, cinnamon and icing that it was definitely a violation of all orders about healthy eating. In fact, hubby and I have learned to split one of the treats.

I even have difficulty finishing my half. I do, however, always bravely soldier on to the finish. Oh, who am I kidding? There is no courage involved, only gluttonous ecstasy.

Southbound owner Chris Hackbarth serves up cinnamon rolls in this photo from a 2010 visit.

I closed my eyes and savored the gooey goodness near the center. When I opened my eyes, the collection of plants in small pots came into focus. Insect-eating plants right there by my cinnamon roll! I could even see the water in the throat of the pitcher plant. Thankfully, no victims were visible in either the pitcher plant or an adjacent sundew.
Carnivore, close-up

I thought it was a weird choice for pot plants in an establishment that serves food, but I have to say I enjoyed both my cinnamon roll and those exotic and colorful bits of nature.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hurricane Season Officially Arrives

Two names for the 2012 hurricane season, Alberto and Beryl, have already been used, even though the official start of the season is today.

My husband Walter has been busy preparing for the season. His most recent preparations have not involved emergency supplies, though.

No, he has been working on his commercial “Hurricane Hut” web site, linking to some of his favorite sites featuring hurricane preparedness recommendations and information, both current and historical, about the potentially lethal storms. I especially liked the interactive sites he showed me today.

Here’s hoping this year we won’t need to activate all those emergency preparedness plans we've worked on.