Friday, August 31, 2012

An Archiological Dig

Sorting through Mama's house was akin to a geological dig. She kept every church bulletin, magazine, catalog, letter, card, and bill she ever received. And they were all neatly stored in baskets, boxes, and hat boxes, all in chronological order. I use the word "neatly" loosely - as neat as one can stack, stash, and cram all the paperwork of one's life into various types and sizes of containers. 

So going through any given box or basket was like exploring a time period, layer by layer, newest to oldest, top to bottom . And, it was most interesting because important bills, family pictures, and the occasional $100 bill were included randomly in the assortment, each piece had to be sorted by hand to make sure nothing of significance was discarded. 

After we removed anything of value from the house for safekeeping and security, my brother and I launched into an archaeological dig of the last 60 years of my mother's life. Naturally, much of it was nostalgic, such as the guest book friends and family signed at our mother and father's wedding 58 years ago, our baby pictures, prom pictures (God - those dresses were hideous), report cards (most, I would rather forget), and home made cards the grand kids had made for her. Some of it was bazaar. For example, does one really need four plastic ponchos? Are wouldn't one be curious to see what was on the twelve used disposable cameras that had never been developed? 

A few things we could not make hide nor hair of - various metal rods and pieces of wood that seemed not to fit anything or go anywhere. And, several things made no sense what-so-ever. Does one really need several hundred paperclips, several dozen Sharpie markers in various colors (still in the packages), or three dozen empty picture frames of various sizes (also still in their wrappers)? 

And, while everything in any given container was in chronological order, just because you had just sorted through July - August of 2003, you could not expect the next basket or hat box to contain the papers for May - June of 2003. You were just as likely to find January - February of 1993 or July of 2012. So trying to find a paper or bank statement from a particular date was akin to searching for a needle in a haystack. 

After a day and a half, we had managed to get through the guest bedroom. Exhausted, we began to wonder if we even making progress. Instead of a very full bedroom, we now had a living room with a large stack of empty baskets, boxes, and hat boxes. A dining room table with (fairly) organized stacks of bank statements, insurance bills, medical statements, and other important papers. There was a sun room full of those things "too good to throw away but we have no use for". Piles of what we wanted to keep and a dozen trash bags full of rubbish. 

Her bedroom was next. There was no telling what it would reveal. Given the neat stack of five hat boxes in the corner, as my Daddy always said, "Only the shadows knows for sure."

Photography Post - Cold Morning

A cold misty dawn over a southern pond with a jet trail.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

We're All Cousins

Of course nothing has been simple over the past two weeks. Mama had wanted to be buried with her parents in the family cemetery which I could understand at the time. However, after an emotional week with her in CCU, a day of visitation and then  the following day with the funeral, I had second thoughts when I realized granting her wish meant a third day of "funeralizing" and a car trip two hours away to the part of the state she was reared in - the land of tobacco and cotton. So Monday morning, we all headed north east to the town of Centenary, population 1,728, where my Granddaddy was born. 

The family cemetery is a lovely place dating back to the late 1700's, nestled in the tall pines and oak trees. The old Baptist Church on the site has long since burned. In fact I was not even aware that there was ever a church there. We did not expect anyone except the immediate family to be in attendance since the funeral had been the day before but as we drove up, sure enough there were already a few folks milling around.

Now you know you are sure 'nough in the south when everyone you meet has a double name. There was Betty Doris (Mama was born in her house), Carol Jean, and Martha McMillan. Then there was Francis Jean - yes, even some of the men have double names. 

And, there was a bit of confusion. Martha McMillan, who proudly told me she was 89, said they had told her J'Nelle had died (Mama's younger sister who had passed away six years prior). "Lord, I thought I was losing my mind. Why I knew I had been to J'Nelle's funeral." I assured her that she had been to my Aunt J'Nelle's funeral. "Then someone told me J'Nelle had been buried with Virginia (my mother's aunt who was also buried in the family cemetery) and I thought, now was she buried in the same grave? on top of her? And, that made no sense." I explained to her that J'Nelle had been cremated and her ashes had been spread across my uncle's farm in Virginia. "Well, now that explains that. I knew something was wrong there." Then she stopped, "Virginia, why in Virginia? She always was a little different. I guess South Carolina just wasn't good enough for her." I just added, "I'm not sure what the story was there."

Over the course of the next fifteen minutes or so, these nice people were telling me about kin folks who had died or were nigh unto dead. Oh, where was my Mama when I needed her to explain all this to me. She could always tell me who was whom, who they belonged to, and where I had last seen them. And, now just bits and pieces made sense. There seemed to be more folks and names than I ever could remember.

Over lunch, I was asking my uncle, my mother's only surviving sibling, questions about our relatives. His comment was, "Heck, I had to come to your mother's funeral to learn which of my cousins were
still alive. We only had two. Remember only one of Daddy's brothers ever married." "Well who are all these other 'cousins'?" "Oh, those are Daddy's first cousins." "Not your and Mama's first cousins?" "Shoot no." "No wonder I'm confused, I'm trying to figure out where they fit in and I don't even know their parents." "Not unless you know the names of your great grandfather's siblings."

No wonder Martha McMillan just said, "If you're kin, we just call everyone 'cousin'.

Photography Post - Grand Canyon l

A third and different view of the canyon from the southern rim.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Get Me a Physical Therapist - Now

At one point last week, I felt like I was dealing with Lazarus rising from the dead.

Mama was nigh unto to dead with extremely low blood pressure, on oxygen to breathe, a white blood cell count count of over 51k, and wheezing with pneumonia, and I hear - between god awful coughs, "I want to get a head start on rehab." I reassure her that when she is strong enough she will be moved back to the rehab floor. "No, I want a physical therapist to come and work with me now, right here, in this room." I told her I did not think that was possible. However, before I could begin to make my case she pointed out the door, "There's one now, go get her." Sure enough standing just outside her door in CCU was a physical therapist. "Mama you have to have one assigned to you." "Well, then go get one assigned to me."

I found a nurse and explained the impossible request Mama had. She said, "Well, the Dr. will have to enter orders for one to come and evaluate her." "Whatever. Can you just start the process, so I can reenter her room and honestly assure her that one has been requested.?" She told me she would and turned to find the doctor.

I went back to Mama and announced my success. "Well, when will they be here?" "That I don't know." "Did you tell her I needed them today?" "Yes mam, I explained the situation." All afternoon, I was asked, "When are they coming to start my rehab?" "You did tell them I needed them to come, right?" Later, one of her doctors explained to me that he did not want her to start rehab due to her situation. I just looked at him. "Really? You didn't really think I seriously thought she was in any condition to begin physical therapy did you?" "Well, I wondered. We'll just drop that." "And, you think she is going to forget about that?" "Oh, I am sure by tomorrow she will never remember anything about physical therapy." Uh, yeah, right.

The next morning I walked in her room. "Today's the day I start my physical therapy." I looked at the nurse standing behind her who just shrugged her shoulders."Mama, I don't think we are going to do that." "You told me yesterday that the doctor had ordered it for me." So all afternoon, we sat and waited for the physical therapist to come and work with her. 

She was sane enough to know that she could not do physical therapy, but so competitive, she did not want anyone to get ahead of her and say they recovered faster. So, up until the day she died, "we" were still waiting for the physical therapist, the doctor ordered, to come see her. 

Photography Post - Grand Canyon ll

Another colorful view of the Grand Canyon from the southern rim.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Don't Mess with the Braves

There was a television in Mama's room in CCU that stayed on, usually muted. During the first part of the week, Mama was on oxygen and intobated, to see if they could reduce the pressure on her lung. She just didn't feel well and we would leave her alone unless she asked for something.

While I was standing by her bed she asked what time it was. "Almost five o'clock." "Can you change the channel to 21 or 31. The Braves are playing the Dodgers tonight and I'd like to watch the game." I changed the TV channel and sure enough on channel 31, the game was scheduled at 7pm. I turned around and told her it was set. Then she asked for the remote. "I'll keep that. Knowing them, they'll try to mute the TV so I can get some rest."

When I came back at 8 that evening she was flat on her back but the game was on. I walked up to her bedside. "We're not doing so good," she said. "You or the Braves?" "The Braves, they can't get a man on base and the next man up is not one of our better runners." "How do you know who's next?" I asked, not knowing much about baseball. "They announced the lineup at the start of the game."

I just sat down to let her rest. A few minutes later, I was sure she was asleep by sound of her breathing. Then I heard from her bed, "Now, that boy is going places. They paid almost nothing for him and everyone said he would not amount to much but he can hit. He needs to work on his fielding, but he is coming along." There was a base hit and loud applause. 

The nurse came in to check on her. She looked at the monitor, adjusted Mama's covers, and made sure all her wires and tubes were not tangled. Then she came over to me, "She seems to be resting well, finally. Perhaps we should turn the TV off. I really don't want her to be bothered." "I don't think that's the case." About that time, from the bed, we heard, "Now Chipper Jones is up next. You know this is his last season." "I thought he was long gone," I said. With that she started giving out his stats for past few years and when he had been on the disabled list and for what injuries. The nurse looked at me, "Guess, we'll keep the TV on.

Photography Post - Grand Canyon lll

A view of the Grand Canyon from the Southern Rim 

Monday, August 27, 2012

At Least She Had a Sense of Humor

While my mother was in CCU, she did maintain a sense of humor. If nothing else, it amused the rest of us. 

After she was stabilized, moved into her room, and we could see her, I knew she was OK, when she looked up at me and said, "If I thought breaking my hip would bring all this on, I would just have committed hari kari and gotten it over with."

One afternoon, I returned to her room and asked, "Which doctors have you seen since I left?" Her response was "Like I would know who was in here." This was a valid point given we seemed to add at least one specialist to her team every day. After being poked and prodded for several days, by Monday she would simply address any new medical personnel who entered the room with, "Who are you? Have I met you before? Are you going to stick me?"

 At one point I told her one of the family members she had not seen in a long time was on her way up to see her. "Well if she is coming to see me. That surely means I am going to die." When the family member walked in the room, her words were, "Oh God, I'm doomed."

As the week progressed and she grew more weary, she told me, "I don't want to see anyone, just tell them I'm too sick, tell them I died."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I'll Be Back

My worse fears have come true, a broken hip has escalated into a much more serious condition and we have moved from rehab into ICU. I'll be back when things hopefully get better.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

So, I Was Wrong

Etsy is a new world for me. The more I learn about it, the more I feel like I have entered a parallel universe. As I mentioned earlier, my initial impression was that of a market place for knitted stocking caps, hand made soap, and old plates. But, oh no no my dear. How I was wrong.

Besides the "vintage" lunch boxes, old school books, and hard to find milk glass, upon drilling further I have found a world of everything from beautiful antique furniture, fine chocolates, high end soaps and other toiletries, every type of personalized stationary one could want, to exquisitely hand crafted tables and couture   clothes. Getting lost in searches is like some dream or nightmare (depending on your attitude toward shopping).

Who knew one could find everything for her wedding on the site from her dress to the favors for her guests? Or, a pair of shoes, whether you are looking for hand made, used, new, or unusual. Need a particular cabinet for that corner, chances are you can find it on Etsy, and you'll have a choice of new, used, antique, distressed, or whimsical. I will not even start with jewelry. There is everything from necklaces that look something akin to that I made at summer camp when I was 12 to expensive pieces one would find on Fifth Avenue.

So, I will admit right here in front of God and every one. I was wrong. There is more to Etsy than knitted scarves and handmade napkins.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Talk Among Friends

One thing about my mother, she has friends. And, they are all coming out to pay her back for all the thoughtful things she has done over the years. She is truly a kind and generous person - to a fault at times. 

Yesterday afternoon, the physical therapist had her sitting in a chair to gain strength. I know it was painful but she was making progress. After an hour, her attitude went sour. Then she started, "This is what they do. They just abandon you. Leave you for hours - helpless. I know, I've been here." I assured her that they would be back. She continued about her pain and her thoughts of giving up. I didn't know whether it was time to walk out of the room to find a nurse or have a Come-to-Jesus meeting right then and there.

As if my prayers were answered the door opened and three of her neighbors walked in. Within a matter of minutes the pain had passed and thoughts of being abandoned by the therapist were gone with the wind. The four of them chatted away. First, they inquired about her progress. She went into lengthy detail about her determination to get into rehab early. Then they started catching her up on the news she had missed.

"Well, you know Julian is going to have the meeting tomorrow night." "Well who is going to go? You're not thinking about going Sue, are you?" "Heavens no. I wouldn't walk through that gate at his house if you paid me." "Oh, the gate. Isn't that tackiest thing you've ever see. I swannee he comes up with more things for that yard.. Next thing you  know he'll have a fountain out front." "He can't do that." Then my mother added, "He wasn't even supposed to put up the gate according to the bylaws."

Mama's nurse came in to check on her and take her vital signs. Mama just held out her arm and kept on talking. "I wish someone would give him a copy of the by-laws." "I wish someone would throw a copy of the bylaws at him and knock him in the head. Maybe that would knock some sense in him." They all giggled.

The nurse just worked quietly, obviously taking all this in. Sue, then asked, "Have you had any more visitors?" "Oh, I have. You would not believe who was the first person to come see me?" "Who?" "Erlene." "Erlene?" "She was up here with David. You know David what's his name. She is going with him now." "How does she always manage to get these men.? And, she's how old?" "88, she told me yesterday." "And, it was Buddy before David. And, John lived with her for the longest time."

With that exchange the nurse couldn't help but start laughing. Mama and her friends laughed at themselves. Dottie looked at the nurse. "We all live on the same street. You've heard of 'Desperate Housewives'? Well, we are the 'Desperate Widows.'"

Photography Post - Pier on Edisto Island

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

No Visitors, Please

"You just call him and tell him I don't need him back up here." "Your minister?" "Yes, my minister. And, anyone else for that matter." "But, I think you would enjoy some company." "I don't want to deal with anyone. It would suit me if no one knew I was here." Well, that horse had left the barn given that her little excursion to the hospital had involved her, an ambulance, and the help of three of her neighbors. I was just amazed it had not been reported by Anderson Cooper on AC 360, but then it may have, I had not been watching. But, I digress.

Had the neighborhood been tech savy-at all, the Twitter verse would be going nuts. Perhaps there are advantages to not being past CD players and Jitterbug phones. 

"When you go by my house make sure you get my phone book." "For what, I may ask?" "There are a few people I need you to call." I started to say something smart like - so I can tell them, 'Now you know Mama is not in the hospital. And, if she were, she would not want visitors. But she's not, so don't worry.'

"You know you enjoyed you company yesterday." "Well that was different. That was Dottie and Sue and Nancy." "But they still were visitors. And they cheered you up." "Well it would be fine if I could pick who came, when they came, and how long they stayed.

All I could think of was a bouncer out side the door with a list on a clip board and a velvet rope. Friends would be saying, "But, I know her." The bouncer would look at his list and grunt, "Sorry, if you're not on the list, you're not going in. Now stay behind the rope please." or "Not your turn yet, buddy. I said you get 7 minutes at 4:15."

On the way home, I called her friend Sue and told her what time the visiting hours were. "Oh, we got this figured out. One of us is going up to see her every afternoon. She needs the company, whether she knows it or not." "Yes mam. Thank you so much. I think that's exactly what she needs." 

True friends know you best. They can handle the rope line.

Photography Post - Dew Drops

Tiny dew drops rest on the petals.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Drill

They had to put a metal rod in Mom's femur from her hip down to her knee and secure it with nails and screws. When they were through with her, she had a 4 inch incision and a bandade. I inquired about a cast and they looked at me like I was from Mars. "We haven't used casts in ages." Shows how behind the times I am. 

The first day after surgery they wanted her sitting on the side of the bed. With the help of the therapists, she did it. But it was painful and she let everyone know it, then politely apologized for her outburst when it was over. She was told the goal was to move to rehab in 2-3 days. She was determined to do that. Given she had spent months in rehab before for various ensudry breaks, an arm or two, at least one shoulder, the other hip,and her leg. She put it bluntly, "I know the drill.

Her nurse came in the room later, "Oh, I heard you did great in therapy, more than they expected." Mom was thrilled, a star was born. "I told you, I know the drill." The occupational therapists came in the room, "The PTs said you got up on the side of the bed the first time and did great. Are you ready to stand up and take a few steps?" "No. Good Lord! That would be way too painful. Just doing this was about all I could do.

"Well based on the comments and notes made by the PTs, I definitely think you are a candidate for rehab." "Candidate?" "Oh, you cannot go to rehab until you can stand up and take a few steps. We want to make sure a patient is ready and can tolerate any pain they may have." "And, what if they can't?" "Then we cannot accept them into our program and they will need to do their therapy in another facility - like a nursing home.

Mama perked up, "Well I think I can do it." The therapist looked at her. Mama continued,"Stand up, I mean." "No we don't want to push it. You can wait until tomorrow.

Long story short, the physical and occupational therapists were back later that afternoon, and in less than 24 hours after she came out of recovery from surgery she was moving into her own rehab room. Mama asked the nurse who was settling her into the room how long the rehab program took. "Well, it depends - anywhere from 3to 24 days, but the average length is 11 days." I could already those cogs turning in her head. 11 days, yeah right. They didn't get it. After all, she knew the drill.

Photography Post - Farmer's Market

Fresh summer vegetables, straight from the fields.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm Still Here

Gentle readers, I have spent most of the past 24 hrs in a hospital room with my mother who fell and broke her hip. We are doing very well, in some cases her better than I. Naturally I was out of town when it happened, just like her last trip to the ER for a broken wrist, but I digress. Anyway, I wanted to let you know I have not fallenn off the grid and will be back soon. As you can imagine life in a hospital room with this 4ft 8 in spunky woman who is constantly being underestimated by the staff can be quite entertaining.

Photography Post - Line of Dew

A line of delicate dew drops on the edge of the petal.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Grand Affair

I could not help but over hear two older ladies sitting in front me talk before the movie started . "You should have seen that wedding. It was the darnedest thing." "I can't image going." "Oh, It was lovely. And, I don't know who did the flowers but I have never seen such. And, John , he had so many friends, well, they just called everyone bridespeople to keep it simple." All this time she was using her hands to add to her excitement in telling the story. 

"And, there were a lot of people there?" "The place was full." "Of, people we know?" "Mary, Faye, Bill, Mike, and Taylor were there." "I'm not surprised Taylor was there." Ignoring the last comment, the story teller just continued with flourish. "And, they made it fun.They had a photo booth and all these costumes folks could wear for pictures." "Well I've never heard of such." "It was a blast." "I can't imagine." "Everyone was having so much fun with it. Mary and Bill dressed up as a can can girl and a cowboy were a hoot."

"But what was the ceremony like? If there was a ceremony?" "Of course there was a ceremony. It was so touching. John and Mark walked down the aisle together, dressed in matching tuxes. Oh, both of them are so handsome." She paused as if she was reliving the moment. "And, at the end of the ceremony, when they kissed everyone cheered loudly. And, Mark, turned around and said 'Let's Party'".

"What in the world did you wear?" "My peach colored dress I wore to Meg's wedding." "Weren't you over dressed?" "Oh, no, it was a dressy affair. Remember it was after six." "With the photo booth?" "Who says you can't have fun at a formal wedding? And the band was great. And, I told you we had a sit down dinner. I had such a blast dancing with Harry." "Harry was there?" "Harry and Marge, James and Pearl, oh, and Dick." "Dick?"

"Certainly you don't have a problem with John and Mark getting married?" "Of course not." "I'm just sorry you missed it." "And, you said Harry and Dick were there?" "Everyone but you." "I just don't know what I would have worn to such as affair?" "Oh, I imagine there might be something hiding in your closet."

Photography Post - Congaree Swamp

Reflections in the Congaree

Saturday, August 4, 2012

We Don't Expect Much

Men are so proud to put their dirty dishes in the sink. As if to say "Honey, see I care." Really?

Then why do men fear moving dishes from the sink into the dishwasher and pressing that "On" button? Is there some psychological mental block that runs with the Y chromosome? Is it seen as unmanly, something akin to eating quiche? 

Eric Segal was wrong "Love is [not} never having to say you are sorry." True love is putting the dishes in the dishwasher and turning it on. God bid we expect you to empty it and put the dishes up.

Photography Post - Apalachicola Oyster Boat

The image of an oyster boat at East Point, Florida just out of Apalachicola.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Circles of New Friends

Tired of hearing folks tell me all the time, "You should sell your photography, it is so good," I developed a website. If you build it they will come - not so much. So I found a book - How to Sell Your Photography. And, I could have written the first three chapters, offer local professional businesses pieces to hang in their  offices if you can put a small card with your information and the price of the work, attend craft fairs, yada yada, yada. Then it got to websites, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Shopping carts, links to socials sites - been there and I'm still waiting for the tee-shirt.

Next it mentioned Etsy, the world's market place for handmade and vintage items. No, last time I checked photography did not fall under the category of knitted stocking hats, homemade soap, or antique plates. This was going nowhere. I trudged on. But the more I read, the more I realized that Etsy may be worth looking into after all. Art and photography were big in that market place and setting up an online store was close to being free. (I was paying a lot more than "free" for my current web site host.)

So I went to Etsy and spent the better part of a night figuring out how it worked (extremely easy - after all how hard is it to sell handmade shell earrings), setting up a store, and uploading photos (this took a while to describe, label, and price each image). In a matter of hours, I was done, the store was set-up, and it went live.

But, unlike my former website just sitting out in the cyber universe hoping friendly folks with money would stumble upon it, the "beauty" of Etsy is the connections one can make driving other folks to your site. The idea is to make someone searching for "Baskets" on Etsy find my picture of the "Sweet Grass Basket Weaver" in their search. Human curiosity may very well make them open that picture, then look at the other images in the store, and hopefully fall in love with something. In the mean time a store owner searches for other stores that have items that they think may have potential customers and include their owners in the their "Circles". 

When the owner receives a message that someone has selected their store to be in their Circle, curiosity leads them back and on it goes. Basically, it becomes a game of who can collect the most folks in their Circle, something akin to Facebook, accept you don't have to read comments every hour and, hopefully money is involved. Unfortunately, while I was collecting Circles, I managed to find a store selling antique sterling flatware, that  I collect, with a piece I just could not resist and another that had a Victorian ring that was to die for.

So, if you want to go to Etsy, a great place to start is And, please feel free to visit my Circle of friends. I have no shame in self promotion. 

Photography Post - Creek on Edisto Island

A tidal creek on Edisto Island. The photograph was taken from the current bridge and I assume the pilings are the remnants of a former bridge.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Photography Post - Colorful Bird

A most colorful bird who refused to face the camera. Perhaps he felt he was showing his best side.