Sunday, August 13, 2017

Life Happens: Plan B

Thanks for the great comments from my last post.  Your memories brought many more things about life in the 50s back to me.  
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This is where I'm spending my days right now, with my mom at the Life Care Center.  

She has good care, plenty of physical therapy, and it's a nice facility.  

Of course, she would much rather be home but it's going to be a good while before that can happen.  

It takes a long time for things to heal when you are 90. 


The dining room is elegant even, with lovely tablecloths and crystal and silver table settings.  

On the left is an ice cream parlor which is open for a while everyday with free cones and bowls for anyone.

There are two therapy dogs who come and go.  

This is Cricket, a teacup Schnauzer.  She weighs six pounds and comes every day.  
They say she gets bored if she has to stay at home.
She is quite used to posing for photos and needs no leash.

Can you believe those ears?!!

And here is Jingle Bell.  She used to work four hour shifts as a greeter at Walmart.
Now she is very old and the pace of a care home is more to her liking.  

Mom isn't fond of the food here so we bring fresh fruit, dark chocolate, and yesterday we brought her favorite grilled shrimp tacos from the marina. 
They are soooo good!

So that's where we are, making life's lemons into lemonade.  

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Fifties Flashback.

My daughters used to say, "Back in the 'olden days' when you grew up, Mom ... " and then ask a question about how things were done.  I came across this recently and it reminded me that the world of the Fifties really was different from the one they grew up in.  No wonder they had so many questions!

Do any of those ring a bell with you?

Me and my sister in the 1950s. 
I'm on the left, the one with sausage curls (just like Shirley Temple, doncha know!) and Nancy is wearing white knee socks with her Easter dress.  

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Some Days Are Socks

A week ago my mom fell in the church parking lot and broke her hip, which put a serious cramp in her style and our hearts in our throats.  
Mom is 90 years young and no one believes it.  She drives her younger friends to the grocery store, works two mornings a week in the church office, belongs to a book club and a card club, flies to Minnesota by herself, and so on.  
Mom lives in Florida.  The rest of us are in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Carolina.
She had a hip replacement and is now moved to a rehab center for a couple weeks.  One of my daughters, (and here's another story -- Sarah is being sent by her company to work in Germany for two years on 3 months' notice.  It's diamond earrings for Sarah, of course, but socks for us as we will miss her so much.) Sarah, is with Mom now and my other daughter (the one with four young boys and a full time job) will be with her for four days this weekend.  Then The Writer and I will swoop down (9 or 10 hour drive) for several days for her return home from rehab, followed by my sister and brother-in-law from Wisconsin. 
There have been at least 2000 text messages flying to figure this all out.  
But we did it, we have a plan.
Early this morning in the garden 
The garden has suffered from the heat but we may get a few more tomatoes yet.  The huge leaf on the upper right is a banana leaf.  
By the way, the raccoons got all my figs before they were ripe.  So disappointing!
The herb garden in the morning light
The Bird Girl on the right welcomes people to our home.
Can you find two "other" birds in the photo?  One is part of the trellis, the other is a real house finch which I didn't notice when I was taking the photo.  Surprise!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Blowing Rock North Carolina

First off I want to say thank you for the comments and suggestions on my post about writing a book based on my father's letters home from World War II.  The encouragement was most welcome and I loved hearing about the experiences others have had doing something similar.  Especially welcome were the suggestions of what to do with the letters after I have finished because I would just love knowing that they will be preserved somewhere.  Thank you, dear readers!
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Blowing Rock, NC

On our jaunt to the mountains last week, we stayed in a small inn in Blowing Rock, elev. 3566 ft.  The town was filled with flowers blooming everywhere.

These were next to our inn and  all along our walk to dinner in an old house with a restaurant below and tourist rooms above.
We ate dinner outside on the big front porch of the house, overlooking more flower gardens.

Flowers, up Main Street ...

...and down Main Street

... and all around the town!

Early settlers didn't arrive in the area until the mid 1800s and they were few and far between.  Soon people from Lenoir were coming up in the summer to cool off and "take the mountain air". The first ones had to set up their own tent camps but then several inns sprang up to accommodate the visitors.

During the Civil War people sought refuge from the war in the mountains of North Carolina.  Soldiers sent their wives and children there, the safest place they knew, while they went off to fight.  After the war many of them rejoined their families and made the first permanent homes in Blowing Rock village.  The current population is about 1800 people with very strong legs.  You can't see it in my photos but all the streets are at about a 45 degree angle!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Heading for the Hills to Beat the Heat

Early in the week we drove north and west about 6 hours to the mountains of North Carolina to get away from the heat and humidity for a few days.  This is the area where we lived 35 years ago, where we bought 33 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains and built a log and stone home with our own hands.  

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina on the crest of the Appalachian Mountains between Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  There are scenic overlooks every few miles, cars move leisurely along, and it's one of the most beautiful places on Earth.   

The parkway was begun in 1935 and the last section finished in 1987.  The land and views along it are protected, with no advertising or commercial businesses, and since the altitude was 3200 feet to 4300 feet, the air was cool and fresh.  
Ah, just what we needed!  

Grandview Overlook, 3200 feet

Milkweed in bloom, Stony Fork

We drove down a primitive one lane, steep (and scary!) Pisgah National Forest road to a parking area and hiked out to Wisemans Bluff Overlook.  This view shows Table Rock, Hawksbill, and Shortoff Mountains.

There were two overlooks built out on rock cliffs where you can safely walk out over the edge to photograph.

There were blackberries along the trail but birds 
or other hikers had gotten to the ripe ones first.

At the bottom, some 4000 feet down, is Linville Gorge and waterfall.  

The bushes in the foreground with the red cone shapes at the top are sumac.  You can make a sort of lemonade-tasting drink from them and it's very good.  Pretty too as it is a bit pink.  

On the way back to our inn we stopped here to see if we could buy some horehound candy and sure enough, they had some!

Horehound is an herb in the mint family and it has a taste somewhere between root beer and licorice.  It soothes your throat and when I was a kid my grandpa would pull some out of his pocket, wrapped in twisted brown paper, and dole out a piece if you were a good girl. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

My Book

When my aunt died I became the keeper of the letters my dad wrote home from the war, 
World War II, 

from 1942 - 1946.  

There are somewhere between 800 and 1000 letters, my dad's plus one year of letters written to him by his family.  

He was only a teenager when he left the family farm 
but he was a very good and honest writer.

(Dad in his uniform and his sister on the farm)

The summer after I became the keeper of the letters, I began to read them.  

It was soon too difficult and emotional (my dad was very ill and died that fall) and I had to give it up before I had even finished the first year.  

But l had read enough to know that I was in possession of a little bit of history
 that should be preserved.  

It took me another four years, 
four years of distance from my father's death,
 to dive in again. 
 I had no idea of how to begin what seems like 
a very large project, how to approach it, what direction the telling should take.  
To tell you the truth, I still don't but I knew I had to start somewhere and I have.  I am trusting that the letters will tell me the story I need to tell.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


It's been a long time between posts, maybe the longest ever.  What happened is ... I had a little medical situation and then I STARTED WRITING A BOOK!  So let me catch you up.

Grandson Jack (one of the twins) had a very successful baseball season with his team placing first in their division and going on to play in the city championship tournaments  last Saturday and Sunday. That's Jack in the red batting helmet.  His little brother wandered up to the bench to get some brotherly love.  They are 8 and 3.
Daddy and Mason were the announcers for the games.  The Astros came in second, just barely losing a heart breaker in the championship game. 

I must say, it was tough not to be there!

My medical situation involved several tests over a couple weeks and eventually a biopsy.  I waited another week for the results of the biopsy ... and waited ... waited ... waited.  Happily, the verdict was: benign. And the consensus: we will keep an eye on it. Not fun.
This weekend we needed to get out of the house, away from medical stuff.  

Friday night The Tams, a 60s beach band, was playing in Georgetown at Shaggin' on the Sampit.  
The daddies of these guys were pretty famous in their day, even had a couple national hits.  Of course you've heard  "Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy" haven't you??

It was hotter than blazes and the bugs were biting, but these guys were dancing fools.  I don't know how they didn't pass out.

Saturday night we headed to the beach to sit and commune with the full moon.  


I'll leave you with a little music from The Tams.  
On your feet everyone! 
 Let's (with apologies to my British friends for whom shagging does not mean dancing) shag!

P.S. More about my book next time.  

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

America's Birthday 2017

This year the Fourth  of July holiday feels different.  Rather than celebrating America's past and present, I'm in a more reflective frame of mind about its future.
I don't want to rain on anyone's parade (or picnic, or fireworks) but I am going to share some of my thoughts.  

Part of me is grieving for the America I believed the country was created to be,
 the one where the poor and the oppressed were welcomed and aided, were grateful to be here and sought to assimilate, 
where "anybody" could become President (or Congressperson, or mayor) and money didn't buy the political offices of the land.  
One where science was respected and acknowledged as the way to a great future, where people didn't pollute their Earth home,
 were polite to each other and  
learned from their differences.
An America where the poor and elderly, the mentally and physically ill, weren't blamed for their situations but assisted with the most basic needs of life.  
A country where the President was respected and didn't 
make a fool of himself to all the world.

You know -- the America I wish I could leave
 to this little guy and the rest of our grandchildren. 

 I care so deeply about these issues and scramble to avoid succumbing
to negative thoughts.
So, last night after the summer crowds left for dinner we sat on the beach. 

The beach is our go-to thinking place.

We weren't alone, there were a few families left, taking photos, playing in the waves, walking purebred fancy dogs, walking mutts, speaking Spanish, speaking English.  People who were a rainbow of colors (mostly red - from sunburn!) smiling at the children (one little guy would not keep his swimsuit on!), greeting  each other
on a gorgeous clean beach, the surf in front of us, a spectacular array of clouds above, the sunset behind. 
I thought about Leonard Cohen (1934-2016), a Canadian, who wrote some pretty wonderful songs and poems about America's democracy.  He believed that the achieving of it was an ongoing thing and that democracy wouldn't be put right through governments and laws but through the protestors and left-behind workers of the heartland, the oppressed women from the deserts (Middle East), the feminists, and the real Christians, the ones who patterned their lives on Jesus. 

Sail on, sail on, he sang,
Oh mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squall of Hate.
Sail on, sail on.

Need, greed, hate -- they are rampant and it's gonna be a rough trip.
 I do hope we make it through, and soon!

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We don't have any celebration plans.  Too many traffic jams and tourists, the family picnic is in the Midwest, 1300 miles away.  We'll go to the gym, grill some turkey brats and corn on the cob, and go about our regular Tuesday business.  
Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy your day.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Back to the Charleston Aquarium

Here is the little alligator from my last post and apparently no one spotted him there between the second and third pickets of the rice gate.  He's just a baby and it took us a few minutes to find him, too.  

There were a couple of questions about the albino gator in the comments.   Alabaster is eight years old.  There is a group of alligators in a remote swamp in Louisiana that regularly produces albino alligators. An alligator hunter keeps his eye on the nests and when he spots an albino hatchling he has a permit to catch it and provide it to a zoo to be cared for.  Most of the 50 albinos in the US have come from this one place. 

I really do enjoy reading your comments 
and I thank those of you who take the time 
to leave a few words!

Here are a couple more creatures of the deep from the Charleston Aquarium.

Moon Jellies

A favorite snack of sea turtles and certain fish, moon jellies can grow up to a diameter of 12 inches, depending on how much they have eaten.
Depending on what they have eaten, they can turn transparent purple or pink.
Because of the depletion of ocean fish and sea turtles, jellies are increasing in alarming numbers.  

Sea Nettles

The graceful swooshes on the left come from the body in the center of the photo, swirling down and back across the body in slow and graceful movement as it floats. 
These tentacles have stingers on them that are used to paralyze its prey.  The prey gets caught on the tentacles and the jellyfish pulls it into its stomach in the bell.  The bell can grow up to eight inches across.  
These pretty things sting many swimmers over the course of the summer.  
It won't kill you when they do but it sure hurts!

Monday, June 26, 2017

'Wait! It's Real?'

We walked up to an exhibit at the Charleston Aquarium Saturday where, looking for all the world like a plastic figure in a creepy blackwater swamp diarama, a huge white alligator posed motionless on its back legs in the glass window.  Every bit of him was bright white except his pink eyes, which suddenly ...
Meet Alabaster, a rare albino alligator, one of only 50 in the U.S.  

There are no albino alligators in the wild because UV rays in sunlight are deadly to them.  They are reptiles and need the warmth of the sun to regulate their body temperature but sunlight will burn them because of their lack of pigment.  In the wild they die within 24 hours of hatching.


Alabaster has lived in a temperature-controlled dark tank for his  eight years of life.  

He is 8 1/2 feet long and still growing. 


"Grandma, what big TEETH you have!"

One more alligator in the Coastal swamp exhibit.  Can you find him.

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