Sunday, November 13, 2016

My baby brother

My baby brother turns 56 tomorrow.

He is my only sibling. We adopted him when he was two weeks old, and I was 13. The first time I held him I knew he was an answer to my parents’ and my prayers.

He is married with three grown children, a son-in-law, a grandchild on the way and another young couple and their two children unofficially adopted into the family. 

But he will always be my baby brother.

Happy birthday, Little Brudder!


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Playing dress up with memories

Beginning our lives together

Next month Hubby and I will celebrate 49 years of marriage. We had not seen my wedding dress since our wedding August 26, 1967.

After the wedding, my mother had thoughtfully looked into a local dry cleaners’ advertisement to clean and secure wedding dresses in a “treasure box” that would maintain them in pristine condition.

And so it resided in its treasure box on the top shelf of the closet in my former bedroom until 2009. The dress then took up residence in our home, still unopened in its treasure box.

Hubby found the box as we were sorting what to take to our new house. He wondered had my wedding dress crumbled to dust, fallen apart or remained in good repair.

“Do you want to open it?” He left the decision to me.

With our Georgia crew arriving for a few days around July 4, I wanted to wait until our daughter-in-law and granddaughters could participate in the “grand opening.”

The day came. Anticipation thrummed through me as Hubby and DIL Sarah worked at unpacking the box. And there it was. Our wedding photos have faded with time, and I had forgotten how pretty it was.

There were, however, signs of aging. The thread that secured the seed pearls adorning the bodice had failed in places, and some of the tiny pearls were missing.

There was also a brown discoloration in a fold along the hem. We had assumed that Katrina’s wind and pine tree through the roof at the back of Mother’s house in 2005 had not damaged the front rooms, but maybe water had found its way into that box.

The seams, however, were in great shape.

Ten-year-old Charlie was entranced.

“Could I try it on, Nana,” she asked, eyes wide.

“If it is okay with your mother.”

“Sure,” Sarah responded. “It will be like playing dress up.”

Granddaughter tugs at this grandmother's heart.

I teared up, snapped photos and cried some more.

“I love it,” Charlie said. “May I wear it for my wedding?”

“Yes, that would make me so happy. But only on two conditions,” I said. “One, you can’t run off and get married, or have a quick wedding, because there are some repairs and alterations that would need to be done.

“Two, when you are ready to get married years from now (Note heavy emphasis on “years from now”), your ideas may have changed about what you want your dress to look like.”

Charlie loves designing, shopping for fabrics and sewing, from dresses to ponchos. And she has never used a pattern.

“You won’t hurt my feelings if you change your mind. Promise you will choose what you want.”

Then Mom Sarah reiterated that a wedding would be far into her 10-year-old offspring’s future--very, very far.

And after Charlie showed her dad the picture of herself in the dress, did I really hear him say “She’s not going to date until she’s 36”?

 Baboo and granddaughter share a sweet moment.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Mighty Mississippi in March—Part Two

A Mississippi River pier in Baton Rouge, La.

The rest of the story
March 17, 2016, Hubby and I arrived in Baton Rouge, La., with time to spare before our 8-year-old granddaughter’s evening performance in the musical comedy “The Boyfriend.”

We headed for the city’s downtown area for a look at the Mississippi River from a beautifully developed section of the levee. Families, couples and individuals were enjoying the mild weather. They were picnicking, cycling, walking, jogging or just relaxing in colorful Adirondack chairs.

Hubby hustled around taking photos. I was fascinated by the lines of a pier. It was a pleasure to have a camera that I could operate one-handed, plus the attractive structure also featured round railings that were perfect for allowing me to hold on and walk with confidence,

As time slipped away from us, Hubby suggested I head back toward the pier’s entrance while he captured a few more images.

At the junction of pier and levee, I took a few moments to plot a route from the security of the pier’s railings to sturdy objects that would give me a chance to hold on and make sure of my balance before continuing.

I had my trusty hiking stick, but my lower left leg and foot had started exhibiting new quirks months earlier. It may be time to consider using a walker. But that decision is for another day.

I stepped away from the pier railing and took a couple steps toward my next target. At that moment a strong squall hit. The wind almost knocked me down.

I managed to turn around and retreat toward the pier. I lurched to the railing and held on for dear life as the gusts buffeted, threatening to pry me loose.

The happy ending was we were unhurt and barely damp when we made it to Theatre Baton Rouge. There we enjoyed our little thespian’s dancing and singing as part of the ensemble cast. 

A lesson learned
When walking I'm usually focused on where to put my left foot next. I had noticed the dark clouds, evident in the photo above; but I didn’t give a thought to the possibility that they meant severe weather. 

And it was severe, though thankfully brief. I learned I must be much more aware of my surroundings. 


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Mighty Mississippi in March--Part One

Pier from the east bank of the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, La.

The lines of this pier begged to be photographed. I was intrigued that a pier could bring me such joy.

Friday, July 1, 2016

We relocate

March 9, 2016. Our new home with completion in sight

For readers who wondered where Hubby and I are now calling home, in the past 16 months we have had a downsized home built on wooded property we bought 15 years ago.

It is less than a mile from our former residence. The downsizing is a major step toward our goal of living more simply.

February 20, 2016. Subway tile backsplash goes up in our all purpose room: kitchen, dining, hanging out.

After the months of decisions, decisions and more decisions, we moved in about two months ago. We are loving it, even though we still face many more decisions about disposition of possessions, photos and paper accumulated in nearly 49 years of marriage.

Hubby had an idea last month that we both embraced with a relieved sigh. We set a six-month moratorium for ourselves on any purchases for the house other than those absolutely, positively critical to our well being.

We are repurposing and using furnishings, linens and other necessities of living for six months. Hodgepodge d├ęcor it is! A little more than four months remain.

As new patterns are evolving in our new spaces, we are more confident that any future purchases will be in harmony with our home’s design and this season of our lives.

More details to come.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Saying goodbye: Blooming memories

Saying goodbye to our former home of 46 years is an ongoing process as we gradually deal with nearly half a century of accumulation.

We had just pulled into the driveway of our old home on the first morning back from a four-day trip to visit family. We faced another session of sorting possessions into “keep,” “share” and “toss” categories.

One of Hubby’s bloomin’ favorites
A sense of goodbye to a season of life slammed into me. There I sat, absorbing facets of springtime at our former address. Hubby’s hibiscus bush that had survived the winter sported two vibrant red blooms.

Confederate jasmine
In the background, the confederate jasmine vine that I had given him several years ago had erupted into bloom, covered with more of the small fragrant flowers than ever before. 

Blueberry survivor
A foray into the backyard included a visit to a blueberry bush. It originated from one of several skinny sprouts my mother and I had dug up in 2009 from around one of the Tifblue blueberry bushes in her backyard. That was shortly before she moved to a studio apartment in a new assisted living home.

Her original plants were pass-alongs from Levi, her oldest brother and one of my favorite uncles. Now he, Mother and all their siblings are gone. 

The sole sprout that survived in our backyard is now a respectable size. It had lots of blooms on it this year. It also has plump berries ripening now. 

A number of “babies” are sprouting up around it. I hope some of its offspring will survive their move to our new property.

Three plants, three goodbyes. But the memories go with me to our new address.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter 2013: Memories

 Easter 2013 (Photo by Son Walt)

Thanks to Husband Walter and our Georgia Skupiens, we observed family Easter egg traditions of more than five generations at our home for Easter 2013:

- Tradition 1--Dying boiled eggs on Easter eve;  

The 2013 egg-coloring team:





Tradition 2--Adults hiding eggs the next day;

Tradition 3--Children scrambling to fill their baskets;

Easter gift for the egg hunt

Grandma Sugar, my mother-in-law, crocheted the Easter baskets above for her great-granddaughters and filled the baskets with treats and love.

That was the last Easter Grandma Sugar celebrated. She passed away in August of that year. The baskets that her great-granddaughters have used in their egg hunts ever since are a happy reminder of how much she loved her family and loved making every holiday special.

Easter Sunday morning March 31, 2013, our four visiting grands dashed about in our backyard to find the hardboiled eggs they had dyed the night before.

Sudden shrieks from Charlie sent parents, grandparents and siblings rushing to her side. An unwelcomed visitor was oozing out of a small circular crack in the egg she had just found. 

It was a baby slug. Ewwww!

Seven-year-old Charlie resumed her search. She screamed again. Another slimy invader. Yuck!

Tradition 4--Eating one or more of the colorful eggs after the hunt.

When everyone returned inside, Mom Sarah offered to peel eggs for the children. There were no takers. Neither kids nor adults indulged. 

The surprise attack of icky fauna fractured the egg-eating tradition that Easter morning.

This year we again spent Easter weekend with our oldest son and his family but this time at their home. I was glad to see that they continued traditions using real eggs.

There were no slugs this year, and a few eggs disappeared along with Easter bunny candy. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Travel in 2015

As the weeks of 2016 fly by, I am still enjoying looking back at 2015 travel:

- a nine-day Baltic Sea cruise in May that embarked from Copenhagen and included stops in Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland and Sweden;
Selfie with our home for nine days, the Norwegian Star on the left in the background

- two trips to the Smoky Mountains; and
The Skupien clan July 25, 2015 (Photo by Hubby)

- multiple trips to Georgia and Louisiana to visit family and attend grandchildren’s events.

But our most challenging trip started in the spring of 2015 when we put things in motion to have a “downsized” house built on property we had purchased more than 15 years ago.

Almost finished (Photo by Hubby)

Now move-in day is less than two weeks away--if all goes as planned. And we won’t actually have a move-in DAY.

Instead, the coming move will be more of an “ooze-in month” or maybe more than a month. And we won’t put our current house on the market until we are settled in at our new address. I am happy with that slower pace. It takes pressure off.

The journey continues.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Southern Spring

Azalea indica ‘Formosa’

Our old-fashioned Formosa azaleas have been trumpeting the arrival of spring even while temperatures at night were in the 30s several weeks ago.

Azalea indica ‘Formosa’ is native to southern India and is common in landscapes in the American South. Growing up in south Mississippi, I loved the vibrant display of magenta blooms that covered the azalea plants for a brief portion of our all too short spring.

And Spring is an even briefer season here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, about 80 miles south of where I grew up. Here on the coast, it sometimes seems that we slide right out of winter into the suffocating heat and humidity of our Mississippi summer. 

But for at least a few more days we have spring with mild temperatures and azaleas blooming. And while I am still wearing a light weight jacket, some warmer natured residents and visitors are already in shorts and flip flops.