Friday, October 2, 2015

Coffee shop therapist


Among the blessings that have accompanied my 2011 hemorrhagic stroke are the many individuals who have showered me with prayers, assistance, encouragement, therapeutic exercise, conversation and laughter.

Anna is one of those blessings. She is day manager at Coffee Fusion, a regular stop several times a week for Husband Walter and me.

Her welcoming approach includes both newcomers and regulars. Along with other aging regulars, Hubby and I enjoy her gracious service infused with a mix of good-natured teasing and an awareness of and concern for our individual challenges.

Hats off to Anna!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Smoky Mountain addiction

Our Georgia clan joins Baboo and Nana in “official” record of a September 2014 Smokies visit. (Photo by Husband Walter)

This time last year Husband Walter and I were enjoying adventures and refreshingly cool temperatures with our oldest son and his family, camping in the Elkmont Canpground in the Smoky Mountains National Park.

Those memories of our grandchildren experiencing the Smokies heightened my anticipation of the July 2015 gathering of 17 members of the Skupien tribe, once again in Elkmont Campground.

A few Skupiens sharing family fun during our July 2015 gathering in the Smokies. (Photo by Husband Walter)

What a blessing it was to me for cousins to discover outdoor fun together and become better acquainted with two generations of uncles and aunts.

Good memories, anticipation, and fun with family in that restorative mountain environment all create a heady mix that feeds my Smoky Mountain addiction.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Karate master

Walker at work (Photo collage by Action Hero Graphics)

Our youngest grandchild, five-year-old Walker, is an enthusiastic student of martial arts. When we visit, he likes to demonstrate his karate moves, often to music his sister Molly Kate ramps up for dancing.

Some of Walker’s movements are more the result of his interest in popular super heroes than his afterschool instruction.

The photo collage above, borrowed from his dad’s Facebook post, captures Walker engaged in some of  the “official” martial arts skills he has learned.

Yes, I am a proud grandma!

Thank you to Kathy, Barb, Sandra and Friko for the welcome back to blogland.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Shock treatment

My stroke-survivor fashion accessory: the cuff in my Bioness L300 foot-drop system

I am test driving a new kind of electrode for the Bioness L300 foot-drop system. The Bioness helps me walk in spite of the effects of a 2011 hemorrhagic stroke.

L300 large cloth electrode

My experience so far with the L300 large cloth electrode has been good. I am gradually increasing my time wearing the Bioness cuff with the new type of electrode.

It may well be the key to avoiding the skin irritation that had developed with the hydrogel electrodes and has plagued me off and on for about a year.

What I haven’t avoided are consequences of losing track of what comes next in tasks I may be involved in. And this time, Dear Hubby suffered the consequences.

He was in the bathroom thoroughly soaking the cloth electrode, a necessary step before snapping the electrode into place on the cuff. I already had my shoes on, including the left shoe with Bioness sensor and transmitter. I also had the control unit attached to a lanyard that I had just slipped around my neck. 

I failed to realize, however, that my husband had taken the cuff with him. And I had totally forgotten that the final step--my putting the cuff on just under my knee--had yet to occur.

I pressed the control unit’s “on” button. Hubby’s voice boomed from the bathroom, “Turn off your Bioness!”

My turning the unit on had delivered a jolt of electricity as my unsuspecting spouse was snapping the electrode into place on the cuff.

Now I check and check again to be sure the Bioness cuff is in place before I attempt to “turn my leg on.”

Sorry Babe!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Reset Mondays

Husband Walter exercised one of the advantages of retirement recently. The day after a weekend with our Louisiana tribe, he declared a Reset Monday.

We have continued to enjoy travel as we have aged, but “reset” days are becoming the pattern when we return home. In fact, I have reset days even when we haven’t been on the road.

Remember the pink Energizer Bunny that keeps “going and going and going”? I definitely no longer keep going and going and going. But I am fine with going then resetting through down time spent reading, phoning, resting.

And I still think that bunny is a great advertising image. See him here

Here’s wishing all you USA blogging buddies a wonderful Independence Day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Dirt under my nails

Today I came inside from an early morning outing a total mess: dirt under my fingernails, dirt decorating my pants and smudged on assorted patches of skin where I had swatted at hungry mosquitoes.

But there were also two tomato plants in the ground, a bit of weeding accomplished and one ecstatic dirty woman. That was my first “grubbing-in-the-dirt” session in months.

I had let the combination of admittedly minor complaints keep me out of the garden and off my feet. I am a weenie when it comes to pain.

Both Hubby and I wanted me healed up for travel planned for May.  

Home treatment has not worked. It hasn’t helped the skin issues that prohibit wearing the electrical stimulation device that helps me walk. Neither have at home efforts helped ingrown toenail recurrences.

Some cutting by a dermatologist and both cutting and chemical treatment by a podiatrist have been more successful.

I am getting back on track. The toe is healing. The skin has healed. And I am building up my wearing time with the estim. I’m walking out with more confidence and more balance, both physical and mental.

Movement, garden, sunshine, gentle breeze, physicians, the patience of friends and family--blessings all.

Thank you, God.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Memories through my window

Space Needle

Front and center from our third-floor room in our motel was the Space Needle, an enduring landmark among  the tourist attractions at Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

During more than 3 decades of summer vacations to the Smoky Mountains we had made the elevator ride to the Needle’s topmost observation deck only once. We mostly avoided Gatlinburg crowds and the summer heat except trips for groceries or gas for our van. 

instead we camped with our two boys in the national park where the campgrounds’ higher elevations and breezes off cold mountain streams kept us cool. 

Plus, kids and adults alike found plenty of entertainment in tubing and splashing in the streams, hiking nearby trails, joining park rangers for campfire programs and walks or just sitting around our campfire with hot drinks and conversation.

But for one evening of each trip, we would load up the boys and take them to Gatlinburg. Sons and dad would rocket down a mountainside multiple times on the alpine slide, a gravity-powered ride at the Ober Gatlinburg amusement complex.

 Next on the agenda would be strolling the main street, checking out new shops and sampling the chocolate, taffy, candied apples, hot pretzels and other goodies.The boys also tested their skills in the block-wide arcade at the base of the space needle.

Now the children who populated those memories are grown and their children are making new Gatlinburg memories.

How sweet it is!

Monday, March 2, 2015

How time flies

Seven years ago today

Younger son Jeremy emailed me the photo above today. It did some major tugging on my heartstrings. Nana (That’s a younger me.) and two of older son Walt’s little ones visit their newborn cousin Molly Kate.

This photo was a ramble down memory lane with these little ones who, with our eldest grandson, filled my heart with joy back then. There are now six grands, ages 12, 10, 9, 7, 6 and 4. The joy continues to grow as they grow.

Blessings abound.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Signs of my times

July 3, 2011:  First trip following my April 2011 hemorrhagic stroke. I posted about that happy time here and about our traditional photo session here. 

Snapping family photos at one the official National Park Service entrance signs in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a family tradition. Our photos once captured a visual record of our two sons’ growth. 

Now they record our grandchildren’s growth and my progress in stroke recovery. The photos also document how Hubby and I age, and how our adult sons and their wives DON’T seem to age.

July 27. 2013: Two years after my stroke

In 2014 we took a record five trips to the Smokies. Of course those trips required five photo sessions in front of Smokies NPS signs.

Several of those Smokies visits were extensions of trips for special family events. 
June 12, 2014: Travel to Virginia for niece Becky’s wedding included post wedding excursions on the Blue Ridge Parkway and in the Smokies. 

That was one of our two non-camping trips to the Smokies when we made a motel in Gatlinburg our home base for exploring the mountains. 

For a July Smokies trip we camped a week in Elkmont, an NPS campground near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
July 28, 2014

We were back in Elkmont in September when our Georgia tribe joined us for a camping adventure. 

Sept. 20, 2014

On a fourth trip we spent two nights in October at Smokemont Campground in the park near Cherokee, North Carolina, and one night in a private campground in the Nantahala Gorge area near the Smokies.

We had tacked that late October excursion on to a trip to visit our son Walt and his family in Georgia. One night in the Nantahala Gorge area and two nights in Smokemont convinced me that cold-weather camping in our van is a lot more challenging for me than cold weather van camping that we did when I was a 30-year-old.

Oct. 26, 2014 

Early December we spent several days with Hubby’s Aunt Sue, his last surviving aunt. She lives in Kentucky now, but they grew up together in Biloxi, Mississippi. With only five months difference in their ages, they seem more like sister and brother than aunt and nephew.

She and her husband O’Neal appreciate the Smokies as much as we do, and they clued us in to the best route from their home to avoid traffic on our drive to Gatlinburg.

We played tourist for several days, enjoying Gatlinburg’s Christmas parade, listening to live mountain music, and driving picturesque backroads. 

We even had the unexpected delight of observing a plump black bear during a traffic backup while a road crew cleared the park highway of trees downed in the previous night's storm. 

The bear gave his captive and extremely appreciative audience an extended bear-sighting experience as he casually ambled around the mountainside near the road.
Dec. 9, 2014

Hubby’s posts on parade here and bear here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tooth fairy

Each of our two six-year-old granddaughters lost her first baby tooth recently. 
Molly Kate beams evidence of lost tooth.

Molly Kate lost her tooth literally. Munching on chicken nuggets, she realized her tooth had disappeared along with her bite of chicken. Her dad, our youngest, lost his first tooth in similar fashion. 

Stella’s front tooth parted company with her mouth in a more traditional fashion. I don’t have a photo of her new smile, but I am hoping to get a first hand view when our Georgia tribe travels to the coast this weekend. 
Stella prior to losing first tooth 

Their experiencing this childhood rite of passage had the tooth fairy busy making visits to Molly Kate in Louisiana and Stella in Georgia. I welcome this sign that they are growing up. 

The occurrence of these dental events’ early in 2015 is a plus, too. After the busyness of November and December 2014, I am savoring a slower January and February along with memories of these two imps as infants, toddlers and emerging scholars and dancers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Techno oops

Scene 1: Husband Walter and I meet with friends at our favorite coffee shop. We are looking for lightweight alternatives to laptops for travel. They give us hands-on introductions to their iPads. 

She likes her new iPad Air for Web surfing, family photos, recipes, books, games and keeping in touch. He uses an iPad Mini for his work in the shipbuilding industry. 

He appreciates its light weight for carrying it in the shipyard and the increased speed and accuracy it provides for the documentation of specifications, products used and progress of projects.

Questions bounce around my brain about the advantages and disadvantages of each. I open my mouth to ask a question. 

What comes out shuts me up after the first few words: "The differences in the mini-pad and the maxi-pad . . . Oops!" 

I could feel the red rise in my face. What a difference the inclusion of the lower case "i" would have

Scene 2: I find the number for a local dermatologist online and start dialing. This aggravating house phone is dead again. Drat! 

Oh, wait! It's the TV remote.

The silver lining in such increasingly frequent technological blunders is that my goof ups spark chuckles when a recollection pops into my head days or months later.

And laughter, even at my own expense, is a treasured pleasure.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Catching up

Four of our six grandchildren, clockwise from top left: Walker, 4; Stella, 6; Molly Kate, 6; and Charlie, 9.

Year 2014 was extra busy for Husband Walter and me. I let happy events as well as computer woes derail my blogging for awhile. 

As I work toward getting back into a blogging routine, I will be catching up with posts about some 2014 experiences that I don’t want to forget.

One of those was a visit to Bellingrath Gardens for the opening of the Mobile, Alabama, attraction’s annual Christmas lights. It has been several years since we visited Bellingrath. This visit fulfilled my desire to experience the exceptional display once again. 

Adding to our enjoyment was having family with us—our son Jeremy and his family as well as our oldest son’s daughters. The cousins’ chance to be together and share their excitement and energy was another wish fulfilled.

A visit and photo with Santa closed our walk through the “Garden of Lights." Those faces told the story of a happy evening!

A post about one of our earlier visits is here.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Record temperature and reading fun

The thermometer showed 19 degrees Fahrenheit this morning on our screened porch. That is a record low for this date in our usually mild coastal region. 

Not cold enough for a real igloo, but chilly enough to remind me of igloo photos languishing on my laptop.The kids’ reading hideout above was featured at our local library on a warm day in October.

Milk jug building blocks

Snowflake to boost curb appeal

The igloo was something I would have loved as a child. Even as an adult I appreciate it as a tempting hideaway for reading.

Of course, gone are the summer days of childhood when I would hide to read uninterrupted. My best-remembered early morning escape was the scramble up a ladder my dad had left propped against the carport roof. 

The rough texture of the roofing shingles somehow heightened my anticipation of opening the day’s chosen library book. I would climb farther up to my perch against a gable. It created welcomed shade for reading.

Around noon hunger would call me back down, but the black shingles would have absorbed the intense heat of the South Mississippi summer sun. Their heat would send me into a frantic dance to the ladder. 

That hot-foot experience was no match, though, for my summer urge to ditch shoes and to read without spending time doing chores.

My parents did not discover that particular hideout for most of one summer. I don’t remember being punished. I do remember that Daddy moved the heavy ladder, eliminating my access to the roof.